[KH] Desperate Reflections 19

Chapter Fourteen – Remember Me

Axel looked at the door somewhat apprehensively. He could still remember the probing stares of the council when he had been introduced to them, and the smallest of shivers spread down his spine. They scared him; he could admit that now. In ways he couldn’t understand, those eight faceless shadows behind a television screen frightened him. Far more than Xemnas ever could and that Nobody was powerful.

Vincent must have sensed his hesitation but he remained silent. Perhaps he knew that if Axel couldn’t go through with it, then there was no hope for Roxas. Because Vincent didn’t have that connection with the other male. He wouldn’t be able to remind Roxas of his past.

Taking a deep breath and steeling himself, Axel summoned his chakram and blew out the door with a burst of fire, not even bothering to sneak in. He burst through the doorway, eyes quickly sweeping the room. He counted three guards and the television sets, all turned on.

Fury blanketed his emotions and without even stopping to think, Axel narrowed his eyes and threw his chakram at the eight screens. He ignored the other guards, able to hear Vincent quickly dispatching them. Instead, he watched as his weapons crashed into the monitors, destroying them all in fiery sparkles of electricity and flame.

He realized that he wasn’t destroying the actual evil behind Gaia’s Grotto with the attack, but it made him feel minutely better. That raw clenching of the planet’s mysterious magic on his memories seemed all that lighter. Perhaps it was all in his head. He couldn’t even guess.

“Roxas is not in here,” Vincent murmured, suddenly appearing at Axel’s left side. “He must already be heading to the Cleanser.”

That jumpstarted the firestarter in a second. He whipped his head to the side, keen gaze easily catching sight of the door that he remembered from a little over a year past. The same one that he had crossed through. Roxas had to have been there. He only hoped he wasn’t too late.

“But the gatherer?” Axel demanded, already starting towards it. “Shouldn’t he still be here?”

Vincent shook his head, moving to the door they had entered and barricading it. The flimsy chairs wouldn’t hold for long but perhaps it would buy them some time. He reloaded his gun while he was at it, wishing he had some sort of magic as well. Two were just not enough to storm the Center.

“You were an exception,” Vincent explained. “Because I stayed to plead your case, I offered to be the one to show you your home.”

But Axel was only half-listening. He reached for the handle to the door, growling in frustration when he realized it was locked. Not that it would stop him. Fire surged through his fingers, melting the knob and turning it into bronze mush. He jerked the cooling mass from the door and shoved a shoulder into it, causing the door to slam open and hit the wall.

The firestarter didn’t waste any time in charging through, his heart beating a frantic rhythm in his chest. He was close, so close. Behind him, he could hear the sounds of soldiers approaching, probably summoned by the destruction of the monitors. He left those for Vincent to handle as he hurriedly scanned the overly large room that housed the Cleanser.

And then he saw Roxas. The whole world shrank to a pinpoint, nearly freezing him in place and he swore that his breath caught in his throat. It was him; it was really him. He couldn’t mistake his eyes, or that messy blond hair. And that girl, the eerily grinning girl had Roxas by the hand and was hauling him towards the Cleanser, Roxas following her with a vaguely zombieish look on his face.

Axel’s heart sank with realization. Roxas could not remember.

“Stop!” he yelled, his feet moving before his brain even registered the whole situation. But the girl ignored him. “Roxas!”

They didn’t stop or even pause. Axel put on a desperate burst of speed, surging past them and skidding to a stop, cutting the two off from the Cleanser. He grabbed the girl with the eerily dead eyes and threw her to the side, ignoring her cries of protest as she struck the ground. Axel gripped Roxas’ shoulders, forcing the blond to look at him.

“Roxas!” His fingers squeezed familiar shoulders as he leaned down to look directly into beautiful blue eyes… which held no recognition. His heart clawed into his throat, a worrisome ache beginning to settle inside of him.

What if… what if he wasn’t enough? What if he had only imagined their bonds? What if he couldn’t wake him up?

“Roxas, please?” he demanded, squeezing the blond’s shoulder’s so tightly that he was probably leaving bruises. But his desperation was more than he could take and he could feel it burning through him. There had to be something.

“Remember!”

There was a stirring as the other male blinked at him. “There is… nothing to remember,” Roxas replied, lifting his eyes to Axel and speaking in a dead tone. “Here… is paradise. The past… is forgotten.”

“No, it’s not! It’s not!” He searched his mind frantically but as always, the words failed him. Why couldn’t he ever speak when it was important!?! “This is no future! Please!”

He was pleading now, and he could feel tears prickling at the backs of his eyes. Axel rarely cried except for those few moments recently but now, he could feel them coming. His entire body shook with anxiety and he felt helpless, as if everything was spiraling out of control. What could he do? What could he say?

“Remember me? Me. Axel. Your best friend in the Organization. Try, Roxas! Try to remember!” he urged, shaking the blond a bit in his desperation.

There was no reaction. Roxas said nothing more. He didn’t even blink, as if Gaia’s Grotto had sucked every last bit of life out of him, leaving nothing behind but an empty shell. Clamor in the doorway alerted him to the fact that the guards had broken through Vincent’s barricade. The winged man was doing his best to stave off the hordes of soldiers surging forward but not even he could do so indefinitely.

Axel gritted his teeth, wanting to scream in frustration. It hurt, it clawed, it ripped at him from the inside. Would he come this far to fail? He felt the press of time, knowing that within seconds the guards would come bursting through in more numbers than he and Vincent could handle alone. And there was no guarantee Roxas would come willingly if Axel dragged him along. They just didn’t know.

He released one of Roxas’ shoulders with his hand, flicking his fingers through his hair and resisting the urge to tear it out. His eyes darted past Roxas, seeing Vincent rapid-firing but steadily falling back. And then his fingers encountered something in his hair. The glasses… Reno’s sunglasses.

The idea hit him so fast he believed he was an idiot for not thinking of it sooner. “If you won’t remember me, maybe you’ll remember you!” he said, digging his hand into his pocket. His fingers wrapped around the Oblivion keychain, the sharp edges cutting into his skin in his haste as he gripped it and yanked it out of his pocket.

He grabbed Roxas’ hand. “Remember this, please!” he pleaded as he slapped the memento into it, hard enough to draw blood.

“Remember me!”

He hoped with everything that he had inside of him, praying that this would be enough. He kept his hand clasped over the keychain as he pressed it into Roxas’ hand, smashing the appendage in his grip. The fingers were slack, limp in his hold. The other male felt so cold, his gaze so lifeless. Even that enduring sparkle was fading. Desperation clawed at him, despair gripped him and his knees buckled. Tears banked at his eyelids and he knew, that if this failed he wouldn’t be able to hold them back. He couldn’t… if Roxas… he couldn’t–

Fingers curled around the keychain, brushing briefly across Axel’s own. His gaze, which had fallen, raised hopefully to Roxas’, finding the blond blinking as if coming out a dark daze. Blue eyes dropped to the keychain before returning to Axel, something indistinguishable swimming in his eyes.

“Axel…” Roxas murmured. “I thought… you were dead.”

Axel’s hands left Roxas’ grip, moving to cup the blond’s face. A smile brightened his entire expression, chasing away the dark shadows that were beginning to encroach in his mind. He hadn’t even realized the darkness was creeping in, hadn’t recognized its dark desires until after they were gone.

“You remember!” he cried. “You know me this time!” He wanted to say more, to do more, but he seemed frozen. He wanted to dance a Demyx jig and shout his happiness to the heavens.

He wanted to kiss him.
Roxas didn’t say anything else but Axel understood. He was still reeling from everything, not to mention Gaia’s Grotto was tugging at his memories, trying to pull him back into the fold.

And then a hand gripped his elbow, drawing his attention. Axel stood up straight, glancing to his left to find Vincent had suddenly appeared there. “We’re not going to make it to the gummi ship,” he explained grimly, already pulling the two of them backwards, away from the onslaught of guards. “We’ve got to go now.”

Crimson eyes bore into Axel’s gaze, his meaning clear. “We have to use the portals,” Axel finished for him. Dread filled his heart. He feared those portals, he feared the power used to call them and the pain involved in traveling them. But he also knew that Vincent was right.

Axel nodded. “We’ll use the portals.” They had no choice but to risk it again. His gaze slid to Roxas. “Do you remember how to summon them?”

Blue eyes rolled. “I was better at it than you, Axel,” Roxas retorted stubbornly, his jaw set with that familiar obstinacy. In that moment, Axel wanted to kiss him out of pure joy. Yet, he refrained from doing so. It wasn’t anywhere close to a good time for that.

Axel smirked, his grin widening in sheer joy. “That’s what I wanted to hear,” he replied before grabbing Roxas and pulling him close, muffling the other boy’s protesting sputters. Vincent laid his hand on Axel’s shoulder and the firestarter nodded.

He closed his eyes and searched for the darkness inside of him, the coiling, shifting blackness that he pushed aside all the time. Only now, he invited it closer, cajoling and coaxing the clinging shadows to do his bidding. He concentrated on his fear, his despair from earlier, his desperate desire to leave Gaia’s Grotto.

It curled around his voice, responding eagerly to the long awaited call. And inside his mind, Axel grabbed hold and yanked viciously. He called for the necessary portal with every fabric of his being, wanting to be somewhere, anywhere that wasn’t there. And he could feel it, a tingling in his extremities that crept up his legs, using leech-like holds to crawl up his body and completely surround him.

It was as if he were being eaten by cold shadows, leaving nothing but numbness in their wake. Axel squeezed his eyes shut, the disorientating creep leaving his mind spinning. The darkness tugged at his heart, demanding that he give in, demanding that he return to its lifeless hold. It wanted to make him part of it again, to rid him of his useless heart.

He thought he heard Roxas cry out in pain, somewhere through the dim encroaching of shadows. But Axel couldn’t be sure. He just squeezed Roxas all the tighter and waited for it to be over. He prayed that the journey would be quick. Darkness curled, darkness craved, and darkness swallowed them whole, until there was nothing left but…

…madness, sheer and utter madness. That was the only way to describe this venture. Was he a fool? Or was he a wise man for attempting the possible against impossible odds? Or was it impossible with possible odds?

It was love, everything was love and yet nothing, nothing at all. He was nothing, if he thought about it. Everything was nothing and nothing was everything and he was something but he wasn’t because there was nobody to love him. And love made him him. Love made him be. Love was…

Something that he never expected to see again. Those cold amber eyes, narrowed in anger, narrowed in exasperation. It was a power he couldn’t hope to combat.

And she was beautiful, so beautiful. He fell in love with her all over again. Her face was sweaty, her skin flushed and in her arms, crying from her recent step into reality, was his future, his life, and Lae fell in love all over again.

“No, stop! You can’t leave me!”

“Daddy!”

“Remember! Remember who you are!”

Why? Why was he so useless? Why did he always fail and why, why was he nothing. What had he done? How much had he stolen? There were things he couldn’t give back, things he couldn’t make up for. Burdens on his heart, on his mind, on his soul. They were stains, taints, and no matter how hard he scrubbed he would never be clean.

“Axel?”

Tears. Had he ever cried so much in life? Spilling down his face, snaking through his fingers. He sat huddled on the floor, knees pulled up to his chest, hiding behind his hands. No one could see his pain; no one could see how much he struggled. He was alone, so alone. And there it was again.

The world tilted, it cracked and he fell through into the never-ending darkness. He cried out for someone to save him but his feet found no ground. He was falling, flailing out for a hold, anything really. But his voice was gone, cracked, numb and bleeding were his lips. He didn’t even know if he could feel anymore.

“I’m sure Sora will find the answer. Because he’s me.”

But he was already dead, already fading away into the shadows.

It was as if light had disappeared from the world and love… love was a mere memory.

“See you Axel.”

“See ya… partner.”

It was one, just one tear. And a tossed ice cream bar, thrown to the wind, thrown out of the memories. Why did it hurt so much if he didn’t have a heart? Then what was the clawing pain inside of his chest? Why deny what he felt, what he knew?

They were memories. He was swimming through them. Except they were garbled, mixed together. Two lifetimes trying to join as one and then resort themselves out again.

No, three now. Three times to live. Three times to die but only two deaths. Three times to love. He experienced them all, over and over, until he was bombarded with the truth, and the lies, and the betrayal, until he was begging and pleading for something to…

… soften the inevitable landing. The three males were spat onto the ground, as if the portal had twisted itself on its side before depositing them in another world. The three men hit hard, Axel on the bottom with Roxas and Vincent landing on top of him. Fatigue clouded his senses and he groaned when an elbow jabbed into his belly, cutting off his air.

But they were free. They had escaped from Gaia’s Grotto, and this time Axel had saved Roxas as well. He coughed, weariness assailing him as he blearily looked around. He felt so drained and a bit light-headed but he could have sworn that they weren’t in Radiant Garden. In fact, this looked just a bit like…

“Twilight Town,” Roxas exclaimed, slowly removing himself from the pile of limbs they had landed in.

“It is certainly not my home,” Vincent added, extracting himself with ease.

His wings twitched irritably, angered by Roxas landing and nearly crushing them with his body. He stood over them, crossing his arms over his chest as he stared around them somewhat warily. It was understandable, considering he hadn’t received that warm of a welcome at Radiant Garden.

Roxas clambered to his feet, stumbling slightly from weariness but Vincent quickly reached out to steady him before offering a hand down to Axel. The firestarter accepted it and was promptly hauled to his feet, though the ensuing dizziness made him sway precariously. His limbs had that noodley feeling again, as if he were barely holding himself together.

And there were whispers as well, tiny whispers trying to urge him back into the darkness. Anywhere, anything you want, they said. All the power in the world. All that you need to make things right. The damn voices, they knew exactly how to exploit him as well. Guilt exploded and faces flashed before his gaze – Vexen’s terrified bluster, Zexion’s shocked despair, and Quistis’ vacant plea.

“Well, looks like the kid was right after all, eh, Squall?” came a voice from behind them.

There was an immediate response, surly and in a familiar monotone. “It’s Leon.”

The three males whirled around, none more so than Vincent who immediately recognized one of the voices. “Cid!” he exclaimed before slumping just a bit, the darkness having sapped just as much of his energy as it had Axel’s. “How did you… why did you…?”

“Sora,” Cid explained as he strode forward, offering up a shoulder to his weary lover. “He said to come here. That you guys would show up here and not back home.” Vincent leaned on the blond gratefully, the trials of their attempt evident in the strain on his face. His cloak had gotten even more tattered.

A tremendous surge of relief filled Axel but his knees buckled and he felt the black of unconsciousness beginning to creep into his mind. But he couldn’t resist one last barb at Cid. “Hey old man, how attached were you to that gummi ship?”

Cid managed an outraged splutter before Axel’s legs finally gave out and he crumpled, barely hearing Leon call his name as very strong arms caught his body. He was thrust into another memory when he sank into blessed oblivion, one that he had nearly forgotten.

“You want me to kill, Roxas?” Axel questioned incredulously, nearly leaping off of his raised seat in his surprise. He was met with several impassive stares, most hidden by the deep hoods of the Organization garb. Most in the Organization were like that, so enmeshed in their non-existence as entities of nothing that they didn’t even like to reveal their identity.

Saix set his jaw. “He’s a traitor to the Organization,” the berserker declared, a hint of lunacy glinting in his yellow eyes. He licked his lips, displaying fangs as if he wanted to eat Axel alive. “He will die.”

Axel narrowed his eyes, determined to argue himself breathless if he had to. “He did not betray us. He only went to find some answers. That’s all!”

“And if that damn meddler gets to him first we’ll lose all advantage,” Xigbar inputted smugly, for once managing to not sound like a brainless idiot. Axel absolutely hated Xigbar’s faked accent; it irked on every one of his nerves.

However, this petty argument was more than the Superior could endure. “Silence!” Xemnas stood and slashed a hand through the air, cutting off any and all argument. He centered his ocher gaze on the firestarter. “You won’t do it?” he questioned lowly, a hint of warning in his tone.

“I didn’t say that,” Axel argued, straining for something to say. He wouldn’t… couldn’t kill Roxas. But they would strike him down in an instant if he said no and Axel rather liked living. “I’m just pointing out that it’s in our best interest not to.”

Xaldin laughed mockingly. “Your foolish pretend affection for the Key of Destiny is laughable at best, Number VIII. But it will not keep him from his death. He chose to leave the Organization.”

“So make your choice, dude,” Xigbar added, gesturing towards the firestarter. “Kill Roxas or die here, it’s your choice.”

Axel crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the whole of Organization XIII, now significantly reduced thanks to Sora’s appearance at Castle Oblivion. He had nothing more to say to them without somehow implicating himself. He didn’t plan to do either.

“Don’t be so arrogant, boy!” Xaldin snarled, summoning his lances and spearing one of them at Axel. It struck the chair near his head yet Axel didn’t even flinch. “Just do your duty… or will you betray us like you did Marluxia?”

“Relax, Xaldin,” Xemnas murmured, cutting into the tension. “Axel has always been one to choose his own side. But he knows where to return his alliance in the end. He will do his duty. Isn’t that right?” Ocher eyes piercingly returned to Axel.

The firestarter grinned in his usual condescending way. “Yeah, I’ll do my duty. Got it memorized?” he responded. But he didn’t mention what he thought his duty was. They didn’t need to know that his duty was to Roxas. He was all that mattered to Axel. Roxas and no one else.

The memory continued to linger in the back of his mind, even as he slowly stirred into wakefulness. The extent of his feelings, the sheer strength of his determination, even he had been unaware of it until then. He had told Sora long ago that Roxas made him feel as if he had a heart and truly, back then, he had always sworn something was beating in his chest. The Organization couldn’t force him to kill Roxas, because it would have been like destroying his heart, and above all things, a Nobody coveted a heart. It was something he would not give up.

Axel’s eyelids lifted slowly, somewhat blearily as he shoved himself into a groggy, half-sitting position. He rubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hand, trying to ignore the pulling weariness on his body and the aching of his muscles. It was a good kind of ache, however, the ache that comes in knowing he had accomplished something. He and Vincent had successfully returned to Gaia’s Grotto and escaped again, this time with Roxas in tow.

Roxas.

At the reminder of his best friend, Axel peered around the room, finding that not only was he alone, he was not at Leon’s house as he had suspected. In fact, judging by all the strange artifacts and more books than even Leon collected, it was Merlin’s home. And honestly, the room was too over-crowded to house more than the thin, narrow bed he was currently occupying. No wonder he was alone.

Biting back a yawn, Axel swung his legs over the side of the bed and rose to his feet, stretching his arms up above his head. He heard several cracks as his bones popped but paid them little mind, already on a mission. He had to make sure Roxas was all right. With sleeping pants draping dangerously low on his hips, making him momentarily wonder who kept undressing him when he was unconscious, Axel reached for the door and pulled it open, stepping out into the hallway.

Silence met his ears. The house was eerily so. It didn’t even creak and groan when it settled, as most houses were known to do. Leon’s certainly made a racket. Axel peered down the hall, but found it empty. From visiting Merlin before, he recalled that there were several guest rooms on this wing and one was just to the left.

Closing the door quietly behind him, Axel padded down the hall and cracked open the other door, determined to peek inside before actually entering. He caught a flash of blond hair poking out from a nest of covers and it was all the proof he needed.

The firestarter edged his way into the room, suddenly feeling as if he were a thief or something similar with the way he was skulking about. But he just didn’t want the questions at the moment. Or the congratulations, or the bounciness or the knowing eyes. He just wanted to see Roxas, to prove to himself that the other male was really there and that he wasn’t dreaming.

Roxas was still asleep, chest rising and falling in equal intervals. Axel perched on the side of the bed, his slim body fitting in the meager space that Roxas left behind. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest as an immense sense of relief overwhelmed him. The dream that he had just had, the memory, and the decision he had made even then, it was as if the fates that had been conspiring against him had finally decided to take a break.

He lifted a hand, brushing a few stray strands of blond hair from Roxas’ face but his best friend didn’t stir. Something surged inside of him, a subtle shuddering of his body and hotness burned at his lids, threatening but never spilling past. His fingers trembled and it was as if an epiphany had suddenly struck like a bolt of lightning straight through the heart. In that moment, he came to a startling realization.

He had loved Roxas all along.

“He is just tired,” a voice announced softly from the doorway, startling Axel. He jerked away from the bed, stumbling over his feet and making a general fool of himself as if he had been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to.

After clapping a hand over his mouth to cover a very undignified yelp, the firestarter turned towards the door to issue a thoroughly blistering glare at Vincent. The winged man, however, was not perturbed. “Merlin says he will awaken soon.”

Green eyes flickered to Roxas for a moment. “How soon?”

Vincent chuckled lightly before tugging on Axel’s arm and practically pulling the firestarter out into the hallway, causing him to stumble. He stepped in front of the door, blocking it from Axel. “Not so soon that you don’t have time to shower, change and eat something before refusing to move from his bedside.”

He could feel an uncharacteristic blush staining his cheeks. He fought it off by producing a very believable smirk, crossing his arms over his chest. “What? You don’t like my manly odor?”

Crimson eyes regarded him for a moment before Vincent shook his head. “Sometimes I wonder why I decide to still associate with you.” He raised one hand and pointed to the last door on the hall. “Go. Shower. I’ll watch over him.”

Axel sniffed haughtily before realizing that he did, indeed, have quite an unappealing aroma. Instead of making a snappy comeback, he turned on his heels and stalked towards the shower, grumbling under his breath. He wouldn’t be surprised if Vincent was smirking behind his back either, but he didn’t want to turn and check. Besides, the winged male had a point.

– – – – – –

The shower turned off with an audible hiss, leaving only the steady drip-drop of the leaking faucet in the background. Axel was surprised that Merlin hadn’t already fixed it, considering he was a magician of sorts. Yet, it also proved that the older man was fallible enough to not bother with a leaky faucet. Made him seem less mysterious and a lot more human, not that Merlin was hard to approach anyways.

As Axel rubbed a towel viciously through his hair, which returned to familiar spikes without any effort on his part, he heard the sound of many voices all speaking in excited tones. Curious, he slid on a new pair of pants that Vincent had so kindly left for him in the bathroom and peered out into the hallway.

People were crowded in the doorway of the bedroom Roxas was currently inhabiting, most notably Leon and Vincent were blocking the door while he could only assume the others were within. Which meant Roxas had woken up while he was in the shower. A bit perturbed with Vincent’s misinformation, Axel slipped out of the bathroom and pushed his way through Leon and Vincent without even an apology.

Past them, he encountered an obstacle shaped like both Aeris and Merlin so he edged through them, feeling desperate to see Roxas awake. Yuffie was talking to Roxas in her excited tone, but he couldn’t even make out her words, his eyes only for the former Nobody. Finally, ignoring Aeris’ bemused stare, Axel forced his way through the cramped space until he was able to see Roxas sitting up on the bed, looking weary and vaguely annoyed, though he was hiding it well.

Bright blue eyes looked up in that moment and their eyes met, a moment of uneasy quiet passing between them. His heart thudded painfully in his chest and once again, that terrifying feeling of being unable to breathe clouded his lungs. It was like they had seen other for the first time all over again, as if that moment back in Gaia’s Grotto had never happened.

Silence descended on the small room, increasing the tension until it was nearly palpable, a strange taste of intrigue and desperation and sorrow and need. There were so many unspoken thoughts, so many unvoiced questions that they practically sang in the air, begging to be expressed, yearning to serve their true purpose. Axel felt them pressing on his brain, knocking on his heart and stumbling on the tip of his tongue.

His eyes fell to the side, unable to keep the penetrating grip of Roxas’ stare. In that moment, he had been reminded of all that he had done.

“Ah, yes, well, I’ve got to go start breakfast,” Aeris announced, shoving both Yuffie and Cid towards the door and by proxy, all of the others crowding around behind them. “Come help me you guys,” her voice held a note of urgency.

Yuffie protested immediately. “Aw, but it looked like things were finally going to get interesting,” she grumbled, kicking at the floor. Yet, she allowed the kind woman to push her out and soon the room was empty. Aeris even went so far as to quietly shut the door behind them, leaving the two males alone to talk.

Yet, neither it seemed was quite ready to offer up any words. Silence descended, broken only by the faint sound of the fan whirring overhead and the constant tick-tock of what Merlin had called a cuckoo clock. Axel fidgeted, watching the swirls in the floorboard. Now that he was here, he didn’t know what to say. He felt like a fumbling idiot.

“What the hell did you think you were doing?”

Axel blinked, jumping a little at the sudden end to the silence. He lifted his head. “Huh?” he responded stupidly, surprised at the range of emotions that he found flitting through bright blue eyes.

Roxas’ mouth twisted and Axel found his gaze captivated by the movement. “That had to be the most idiotic way to try and get me back!” Roxas shouted, distracting Axel from his staring.

What was he… wait a minute… what? Indignation rose up strongly in the firestarter. “Hey!” he denied in annoyance. “You didn’t have to leave in the first place. Of course, I had to do something.”

His jaw set in that familiar stubborn manner as it always did when they had argued before. Suddenly, it felt just like old times, the tension gradually lifting away. “Yes, I did!” Roxas argued obstinately. “I needed to find the truth.”

“Che.” Axel sniffed haughtily, crossing his arms over his chest. He turned his head to the side, staring determinedly at the wall. “What the hell else was I supposed to do then? Sit around and wait for you to make up your damn mind? Like that would have gone well with the Organization. They wanted me to kill you.”

It was Roxas’ turn to blink in surprise. “You’re such a stubborn bastard,” he countered lowly. “And you probably always will be. Why didn’t you just say something before I left?” The blond shifted on the bed, the sound piercingly loud in the questing silence. A spring squeaked.

Axel snorted. “What good would that have done?” he mumbled, hating that it sounded somewhat petulant. He was pouting, for all’s sake, and no one pulled that off except for well, Sora and Roxas. He, however, just looked like a child. It wasn’t cute at all.

There was a moment of quiet before Roxas finally responded, his voice soft. “I might have asked you to come, dumbass.”

Green eyes widened in shock as he whipped up his head, feeling as if he were gaping. “What?”

Roxas threw back the covers and rose to his feet, standing right in front of Axel and staring directly into his face. He looked rather cute like that, blond hair in disarray and a sleepy flush to his face. Axel wanted to kiss him but he refrained.

“I’ve been stuck in Sora’s head for the last dozen months or so, seeing and experiencing everything he does,” Roxas began to explain, his eyes sliding to the side before returning to Axel. “And I understand now.”

The firestarter was quickly losing grasp of the conversation. He wasn’t stupid but Roxas had the annoying habit of speaking in riddles sometimes. “Understand what?” he asked, crinkling his brow.

Roxas shook his head, giving Axel that familiar ‘you’re so damn stupid look’ that he had perfected when they were best friends back at the castle. He reached up and curled his fingers around Axel’s head. “You’ve always been a bit slow for your own good,” he murmured. “And you had the nerve to tease me about it.” With that, he pulled Axel down and pushed their lips together, invoking a passionate kiss.

Emerald eyes widened in complete shock as a noise of surprise escaped Axel’s mouth. Roxas took full and complete advantage of that, slipping his tongue through Axel’s lips and tangling briefly with Axel’s own. Their mouths moved together, languidly caressing as Roxas’ tongue flitted over all the sensitive portions of Axel’s mouth he hadn’t even known existed.

A low purr rumbled in Axel’s throat as his hands settled on Roxas’ hips, pulling the blond towards him and bringing their bodies flush together. It was as if they were a perfect fit, Roxas’ other arm snaking up and curling around Axel’s back. Roxas’ hand felt so warm against his bare flesh and he swore his skin tingled at the touch.

He never expected Roxas to make the first move. Truthfully, Axel hadn’t ever been sure if Roxas returned the same sort of feelings that he was just beginning to understand himself. He had thought it one-sided, and he would have been content with that just having his best friend back. But this… this was so much better than he had anticipated.

And while kissing Vincent had been arousing, kissing Roxas was an entirely different experience. It was more than arousing. Just like before, his senses heightened. He could hear the rapid pulse of his heart, could feel the silky slide of Roxas’ shirt over his bare chest. Roxas’ lips were soft, softer than he had imagined they would ever be and he tasted sweet yet salty, like that damn ice cream he was so fond of.

Roxas’ fingers were curling against his head, entangling in fiery red strands as they continued to kiss, lips and tongues enmeshing as if they were starved for it. And perhaps they were. It wasn’t as if either of them were thoroughly skilled in warmth and fondness… affection. He found himself drowning in Roxas’ taste, giving in to the blond’s subtle directions.

Until a sound in the doorway brought him crashing back down to the ground, restoring his spiraling thoughts to reality. The two former Nobodies broke away from each other as if they were children with their hands in the cookie jar, Roxas dredging up one of his famous glares and aiming it at the doorway. Sora was peeking in, a huge grin on his face.

“They said you were talking,” Sora started to say, his gaze flickering between the two mischievously. Axel turned away from him, raking one hand through his hair as if to rearrange his spikes. “But I told them you wouldn’t mind if I… interrupted.”

Emerald eyes rolled. “By all means,” Axel responded, gesturing towards the brunet though he didn’t turn back around. “Come on in.”

“It’s my room,” Roxas shot back crossly, folding his arms over his chest.

“Temporary room,” Axel corrected, wagging a finger at his best friend.

Roxas sniffed. “Whatever.” He tilted his head towards the door. “You might as well come in.”

Ocean blue eyes beamed in response as Sora pushed the door completely open and bounced inside, dragging along with him an obviously reluctant Riku. “I heard you were awake,” the brunet chirped, finally releasing his boyfriend’s hand once they were fully inside the room. He bounded up to Roxas, sticking out a hand. “It’s cool to meet you for real this time.”

Behind him, Riku rolled his eyes, well used to his lover’s playfulness and boundless energy. Axel glanced over his shoulder, watching as Roxas took Sora’s hand and let the brunet enthusiastically shake it. They really did resemble each other, but only in a distant sense.

“I can take this chance to get to know you now,” Sora said excitedly. “Right Riku?”

The silver-haired boy shook his head, a small chuckle escaping his lips. “Right, Sora. Now stop shaking his hand before he loses it.”

Sora pouted rather cutely but listened to his boyfriend, finally releasing Roxas’ hand. “We were glad to help. Well, I was. Riku was being stubborn but I convinced him.”

“Thank you,” Roxas said, probably glad to get a word in edgewise. It was sometimes difficult to speak when Sora was in full energy mode. He might have saved the universe twice over, but he was still the same Sora. Which was probably the reason Riku loved him so much.

The brunet waved him off before tilting his head to the side, a sudden thought occurring to him. “Now that you’re not a Nobody… can you still use a keyblade?” he asked, crinkling his brow in thought.

Axel shrugged. “I don’t see why not. I use my chakram.”

“Good point.” Sora brightened considerably. “Why don’t you give it a try?”

Roxas nodded and Sora stepped back, putting some space between them. Taking a deep breath, the blond lifted his hand and held it out, trying to summon up the keyblade. There was a brief surge of power, then a sparkle of energy before a weapon appeared, definitely a keyblade, but not of a design Axel recognized. Before he could question it, he was interrupted.

“Breakfast is ready!” The loud shout reverberated up from downstairs, obviously Aeris’ voice. As if on cue, Sora’s stomach grumbled loudly, echoing his hunger. He rubbed it with his palm as he looked at them all sheepishly.

“Guess I’m hungry.”

Riku rolled his eyes. “I think we all are. Let’s go, Sora.” He turned towards the door and was gone before anything else could say a word. Not that Axel minded. Though the silver-haired brat had helped him, he still didn’t like the kid. Something about Riku just rankled on his nerves and he had the overwhelming urge to strangle the kid sometimes.

“Ri~ku,” Sora whined playfully, chasing after his boyfriend. “Wait for me! Last time you got all the pancakes and I–” His voice cut off as the door shut behind them with an audible click, once again leaving the two former Nobodies alone.

Axel chuckled to himself before moving to the dresser, rummaging around for some type of shirt to wear. He could sense Roxas’ eyes watching him as he did so and he couldn’t help but feel as if he should fear for himself. It was almost… ravenous. He was somewhat nervous and excited both, wanting to turn around, grab Roxas, and finish whatever it was they had started before Sora interrupted.

He exchanged glance with the blond from the corner of his eye. “So… does that make you my boyfriend now?” he asked, sliding a hand through his spikes and pulling them back into a tie as he attempted to pass off the question as a joke. But it was far from one and he felt as if he were dangling on a thread, waiting for Roxas to answer.

He didn’t have to wait long. Roxas rolled his eyes. “Yes, you idiot. It does.” The smile that took over Axel’s face was bright enough to light Radiant Garden for a year. “Now, come on. I’m hungry.”

Axel couldn’t help it; he laughed. Gesturing for the blond to precede him, he followed Roxas down the hall towards the massive den. Merlin didn’t have a large dining room like Leon, which Axel still hadn’t figured out why Leon would need one. The magician preferred the comfort of his living room, the floor littered with couches, chairs, and small tables. It was this room that the others had gathered in, scattered among the many furnishings.

Laughter floated to Axel’s first, and as he and Roxas stood in the doorway, he caught sight of Yuffie doing an impression of someone, he couldn’t quite be sure whom. Judging from the large guffaws emerging from Cid, however, it was quite amusing. Roxas paused in the aperture, a bit uncertain about entering. Until he was spied by a certain thieving ninja.

“Roxas!” Yuffie exclaimed, twirling towards the door. She bounded for him, gleefully gripping onto his arm. “Come sit by me! I wanna know all about you!” she continued, ignoring the vaguely frightened look that Roxas was casting back at his new boyfriend. It was almost a plea for help.

Axel snickered and let Yuffie drag Roxas away before he too, entered, taking one of the last empty seats. Unfortunately, it was right next to Riku himself, the boy who could rival Leon for surliness. Without any reason, the two immediately glared at each other and subtly edged away from each other, putting as much space between them as they could.

The sound of a clucking tongue captured Axel’s attention as Aeris swept into the room, plates full of food floating on the air after her courtesy of Merlin’s magic. They glided to the hungry hands of all those scattered around the room.

“You two should quit this foolish and unnecessary rivalry,” Aeris reprimanded as she moved to take a seat, Leon rising to his feet to let her take the chair he occupied.

Axel snorted while Riku crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s his fault,” they managed to mumble at exactly the same time, causing them to glare at each other once more.

Sora laughed, fork already scraping hungrily against his plate. “It’s just ‘cause they are so much alike,” he explained, poking at Riku with his elbow. The silver-haired boy was not amused.

“True.” Aeris nodded, completely oblivious to the annoyed looks both boys were sending her.

Conversation began then, rising and falling around Axel but he paid little attention to it as nothing was directed towards him in particular. Yuffie laughed about something, Cid was teasing Vincent, and even Riku seemed to be distracted, he and Sora in a semi-serious discussion about something. Axel’s eyes kept getting inexplicably drawn to Roxas, watching the blond from beneath his lashes and trying to force down unexplained flushes that rose to his cheeks.

It was almost like a dream. Just a few days ago he had thought all was lost. He never expected to even see Roxas again, except in his memories. And now there he was, sitting there with the rest of the people that were becoming Axel’s friends and subtly trying to guard his few possessions from Yuffie. She seemed fascinated by the Oblivion key chain, which was confusingly not the true chain for the blade since Oblivion hadn’t been the one to appear earlier. Axel couldn’t fathom that.

He felt a stirring inside of him when looked at Roxas, a renewal of the longing that had always simmered beneath the surface, confusing him with conflicting emotions. It was strange how quickly and deeply affection ran, transforming a fond friendship into something deeper, more concrete. It was almost frightening how quickly it had become love.

“So,” Cid cut in, his loud voice cutting through the conversation and gathering everyone’s attention. “Did ya have any difficulty at the Grotto?”

Vincent frowned. “Their security, usually nonexistent other than protection from the beasts, was in full force. It appeared our earlier escape had been noticed.” He shook his head, shifting position from where he sat perched on the arm of a couch near to his lover, and his eyes flickered to Sora. “How did you know we would appear in Twilight Town?”

The keyblade master shrugged. “Instinct, I guess,” he replied. “Sometimes, it’s like the keyblade is speaking to me or something. And I just knew that you guys would run into trouble. Especially after the third day of you being gone.”

Axel blinked. “Third day?” he repeated, a bit surprised by that even as he accepted a plate from invisible hands. The smell of pancakes filtered to his nostrils but he wasn’t really that hungry. He still felt the weariness of using the darkness. “How long were we gone?”

“A week,” Cid responded quietly, a strange expression crossing his face. “We were considering going after you.”

“Except that Sora said to give you a bit more time,” Leon added from where he now stood, propped up against a wall. “So we took the time to prepare for when you got back.”

Axel raised a brow. “Prepare?” He felt somewhat like a parrot, only able to repeat what they were saying. His eyes fell back to his food and he began to eat slowly, half wondering why Aeris had cooked breakfast when it was nearly sundown.

“Yeah,” Leon replied dryly. “I want my house back. We found you a small apartment in town not far from Cid’s warehouse.” A smirk crossed into his expression. “That way you won’t be far from your job.”

The firestarter scowled, well remembering the backbreaking, sweaty work that Cid had so graciously given him. “Why, thanks for the consideration,” he replied sarcastically.

The brunet waved him off. “My pleasure.” Leon was equally mordant. “Except that it won’t be ready until tomorrow so you’ll have to stay here for the night.” Again, that shadow of a smile crossed his usually surly appearance.

“Right,” Merlin agreed, nodding his head as he sagely sipped at a cup of tea. “Then again, it’s not exactly for free. I’m interested in speaking to Roxas… if he doesn’t mind, of course.” Penetrating blue eyes turned to the former Nobody.

Roxas, who was trying and failing to sneak away from Yuffie, nodded distractedly. “I don’t really have anything interesting to say,” he responded.

Those mysteriously ageless eyes sparkled. “More than you know,” Merlin hinted, winking at the blond.

“Pssh,” Yuffie interrupted, blowing air out of her mouth noisily. “You guys only want to discuss boring things. This is supposed to be a celebration!” She pumped a fist into the air, having already finished her own meal.

“So it is.” Aeris smiled at the exuberant ninja. Her keen eyes and senses, however, knew that not everyone was up to snuff. “Perhaps the celebration should be saved for another day, though. All of us are not entirely energetic as you, Yuffie.”

The ninja pouted. “You should be,” she grumbled good-naturedly. “We just got started.” That inspired a spark of laughter from those gathered, though it was muted.

“And it appears Leon has already taken his leave,” Merlin mused aloud as he twirled one finger in the air, his magic collecting what few dirty dishes there were and sending them floating back into the kitchen. “He must have slipped out when we weren’t looking.”

Cid scowled. “That bastard,” he muttered in annoyance. “He knew I was trying to discuss the plans for the water system with him.”

“Leave him alone, Cid,” Aeris scolded. “He was just as worried about Axel and Vincent as you, even if he didn’t show it. He hardly slept the whole week and neither did you.”

The gummi ship builder automatically blustered but his protests were promptly cut off as Aeris rose to her feet. “I think we are all just a bit tired.” She tipped her head to everyone. “Good night. Come on Yuffie, let’s go home.”

Yuffie stuck out her lip but couldn’t hold the pout and ended up smiling cheerily. She bounded across the room to Aeris’ side as she waved. “Good night! See you in the morning,” she chirped as the two women headed out the door.

Gradually, the others said their farewells and went home. Riku and Sora for their hotel room, and Cid and Vincent back to Cid’s house. Merlin disappeared into the study, mumbling something about physics as he puffed on his cigar, letting both Axel and Roxas know that they were free to use anything in his home. The two former Nobodies were left on their own, Axel somewhat suspecting that it had been planned that way. The others weren’t stupid; they probably knew the two wanted time alone.

Still, Axel wasn’t entirely certain how to progress from that point. He was silent as they headed towards their rooms, his mind rapidly churning all of the recent events. They had happened so quickly that he barely had time to absorb them, much less react to them. And now he and Roxas were left alone again and he still had nothing to say.

Where was all his flamboyance, his usual charm and confidence? In that moment it had gone out the window, leaving nothing but Axel behind, just plain Axel. No longer even a Nobody, he couldn’t hide behind a pretense of false emotions. And he refused to admit that he didn’t know what to do. Were there lines he couldn’t cross yet? Having just reunited, was it too early for intimacy? And why the hell was he even thinking so much about it? Shouldn’t it have all been… instinct or something?

A hand grabbed his arm, dragging him to a halt. Axel blinked as he was yanked from his thoughts, surprised to find that it was Roxas that had grasped him. He turned, somewhat confused.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Roxas asked, his brow furrowed slightly.

Axel glanced around. He had nearly passed Roxas’ room, which meant… his face slid into a grin. “Well, I was heading back to my room but I guess not anymore.” He shifted into Roxas’ hold, pulling them together. “Is that your way of saying you want me to stay with you?”

Before giving Roxas a chance to answer however, he leaned down and pressed their lips together, a kiss that was more gentle than he thought he had in him. He understood, after all. Having escaped from Gaia’s Grotto himself, he recognized the fear of loneliness. He was familiar with the raw feeling of something pressing down on you, as if it were suffocating your emotions. He wouldn’t want to be alone either, and was only glad that Roxas had not been stuck long on Gaia’s Grotto.

Roxas didn’t even resist the embrace, hungrily returning the kiss with a voracity that surprised the firestarter. But then again, Roxas had been gradually losing himself with Sora, able to see an outside world that he could never reach again. It was understandable that he would attack life with tenacious desperation.

The blond slid one arm around Axel and dug his fingers into Axel’s back. Roxas’ back hit the wall as Axel pressed him up against it, lips pressing hungrily against his. Axel’s tongue teased against Roxas’, coaxing him to slide the wet appendages together as he settled a hand on the shorter boy’s hip. It was as if he needed an anchor, something to remind him that it wasn’t just a dream.

He couldn’t think either, not when his fingers encountered a strip of warm skin between the hem of Roxas’ shirt and jeans. His thumb stroked the pale flesh, gliding over skin that seemed far too soft. His hips pressed forward, pushing urgently against Roxas’ abdomen as he felt the evidence of Roxas’ own arousal slowly hardening against his thigh.

A purr reverberated in his throat, sounding startling loud in the hallway. Roxas pulled away, leaving Axel somewhat breathless. Emerald eyes were mesmerized by the reddened and slick sheen of his lips, Roxas’ eyes bright with something akin to need and want and… love.

“Of course, I want you to stay,” Roxas responded quietly, one hand groping blindly behind him for the doorknob. “Now come inside before I change my mind.”

Axel grinned, his heart flip-flopping in his chest though the sensation was nothing compared to the arousal threading through his veins. “Yes, sir,” he responded in his typical droll fashion, giving a fake salute.

Ocean blue eyes rolled as Roxas pulled open his door with one groping hand, yanking Axel in after him. The firestarter stumbled a bit, just managing to get inside before he was pushed against the door, the weight of his body slamming it shut. One of Roxas’ hands pinned his shoulder as he was kissed senseless by the younger boy. His other hand was pressed to Axel’s chest, fanning his fingers against the thin cotton material.

Axel was surprised by Roxas’ aggressiveness but found he rather enjoyed it, all of his blood rushing southwards and leaving his thinking processes in the dust. He threaded his fingers through Roxas’ hair and pinned the other boy’s head in place, deepening the kiss with his tongue. Their mouths meshed as Roxas rolled his hips against Axel, their groins making delicious contact.

A moan reverberated in the firestarter throat before he could stop it and he practically felt Roxas smirk against his lips. Treacherous hands reached for his shirt and started to slide it upwards. Fingers brushed against revealed skin and they broke off the kiss long enough for Axel to throw his shirt to the side before it began anew.

He dipped his head, dragging his lips and tongue from Roxas’ mouth and over to his jaw, nibbling gently on the flesh right below his ear. Roxas tilted his head to provide him more space as Axel’s hands wrapped around the blond’s waist. He rubbed along the younger boy’s sides, pulling Roxas flush against him as blood burned in his veins. And then Roxas’ fingers found his chest, splaying across the bare skin before brushing over one of his nipples, which hardened immediately.

Axel groaned. It was only getting harder to think logically. He forgot that they were at Merlin’s home and that there were probably others still downstairs. He simply didn’t care. He finally had Roxas with him, at his side, and kissing him. He didn’t need anything else.

“A bed,” the firestarter managed to gasp out, biting down on a very unmanly whimper. “To the bed.”

Roxas smirked and took a slow step backwards, dragging his taller boyfriend with him. “Good idea,” he responded.

It was only three steps to the rather small bed, but along the way, they shed garments as if they were serpents, clothing slithering down to the floor in abandoned piles. It was strange. There was no awkwardness, no faint blushing as skin was revealed. Axel was too lost in the kisses and the touches to even think about it and Roxas, it seemed, didn’t mind either.

They fell onto the bed, a tangled mess of limbs and for a moment, there was a small fight for position. It was an entirely unconscious struggle that Axel didn’t mind losing in the slightest. It hurt his pride but it seemed that whenever it came to Roxas, he didn’t have any in the first place so it didn’t matter when the blond emerged on the top, perched between long pale legs.

Roxas attacked his neck, lips and tongue hungrily sucking up marks that Axel knew would show up on his pale skin for days. The firestarter sighed beneath him, one of his hands clutching at Roxas’ hip while the other snaked between their bodies and reached for the younger boy’s arousal. He wrapped his fingers around Roxas and stroked him, pleased when the blond arched his back and moaned in his throat. Roxas grew more ravenous, one hand tangling in fiery red strands and pulling Axel’s head back to reveal more of his throat.

Balancing on his elbow, Roxas reached down and removed Axel’s teasing hand and began grinding his groin against the taller male. Sparks of desire flashed through both males, dissolving them into masses of want. Limbs rubbed and grabbed, fingers sliding along flesh and gasps filling the air. Reason, conscious thought, all such useless things were tossed out the window, leaving nothing but instinct and lust behind.

It occurred to Axel that they had just been reunited and that nothing had really been discussed between them. Nor did they really know each other since so much time had passed since the last time they had spoken. Axel hadn’t told Roxas how he truly felt, hadn’t told him anything and neither had the blond returned the favor.

But there seemed to be something entirely instinctual about the whole encounter, something needy and desperate between them that could not be denied. Each was like a starving man for affection, starved for the taste of bare skin and the warmth of another person’s body. Axel couldn’t stop himself from wanting to touch Roxas, from feeling the blond with his own fingertips, as if to assure him that his best friend was really there.

All of the words and such he would save for later as they were unimportant at the present moment. Right now, Axel only wanted one thing – Roxas’ lips back on his. He reached up with his free hand and tilted Roxas’ head towards his, claiming the blond’s mouth with his own hungry lips, tongue stabbing inside and dueling with Roxas’.

It was a needful kiss, tongues sloppily slurping together, their lips turning red and bruised from the force of it. Teeth knocked together jarringly and a moan slipped free from someone’s mouth but it was a toss up whom. One of Roxas’ hands slid along Axel’s slim hip before easing its way between his legs. Axel instinctually parted them, vaguely realizing what was to come even if a part of him wanted to war against it.

A warm hand flitted across his length before it delved lower, cupping his scrotum then venturing towards his hidden entrance. Fingers brushed the puckered muscle and though he was prepared for it, Axel jumped in surprise nonetheless, a whimper of need escaping his lips.

Roxas smirked, pulling back slightly to look at Axel’s face while his finger continued to trace the fire starter’s anus with teasing touches. “Not a sound I expected to ever hear from you,” he commented huskily.

Emerald eyes rolled, struggling to find coherence but losing it amid a haze of desire. “Keep doing that and you’ll hear more,” Axel practically purred, wondering if it was too late to turn the tables and change places with Roxas. He would love to see the blond sprawled against the sheets, face flushed with desire.

A slight hint of red decorated Roxas’ cheeks before he suddenly pulled away, a strange look on his face. Axel was a bit miffed, uncertain what to make of the desertion until he realized Roxas was digging about in his pants pockets, obviously looking for something. After a second, Roxas returned, holding something in his hands which Axel belatedly recognized as unscented lotion.

“Your friend Vincent is a weird guy,” Roxas commented with a half frown, more of confusion than irritation. “He pressed this into my hand earlier.”

Axel’s brow climbed upwards. “I can’t argue with you on that,” he replied, as his fingers automatically rose, reaching for the bottle as Roxas clambered back onto the bed with little grace. However, the blond jerked his hand back, dangling the lotion just out of Axel’s reach.

“You don’t think you’re getting this, do you?” Roxas asked with a hint of mischief, perched on his knees between Axel’s legs with desire sparkling in ocean blue eyes.

Emerald orbs were serious. “I’m supposed to be on top,” Axel commented, a smile curling at the corner of his lips. Mostly because he knew he was just teasing Roxas, and it was always fun to bait the blond. It was as if they were dueling again, blades locked and wondering who would break first.

“Why’s that?”

Axel gestured with his hand vaguely. “Because I’m bigger and older and stronger… well, maybe not stronger but yeah, bigger and more experienced,” he responded smugly, watching as a strange flash of emotions played across Roxas’ face.

“Oh?” the blond demanded, just a hint of possessive jealousy creeping into his tone. “With who?”

“Does it matter?”

Roxas frowned slightly, his gaze shifting to the side as he appeared to contemplate the question, lotion dangling nearly forgotten from his fingers. “Not right now,” he finally answered, dragging his eyes back towards the firestarter. “Especially since I’m on top.”

The red-haired male squirmed slightly, his body flushing under that intent gaze. Arousal was stirring within him, making the petty argument seem like it was just that. Still, on principle alone, he felt he had to fight back. “But I’m taller and…”

“And what?” Roxas folded his arms across his chest, lifting a brow.

“And you’re more Sora-like,” Axel argued back sensibly, certain that it was the winning argument.

Unfortunately, he was the only one in the room that thought that. Roxas shot him a dead stare. “You think Sora bottoms more than Riku?” he asked, using that tone of voice that proved he knew exactly what he was talking about and Axel had no idea what he was getting himself into.

“Umm, yeah?” It didn’t come out so certain however.

For a moment, there was silence in the room before Roxas suddenly laughed, making the fire starter grin happily, loving it just as much now as he did in the past. There was something about that throaty chuckle that made his blood stir, bringing up the memories and reminding him of why he had fallen in love with the blond in the first place.

“You’d be surprised,” Roxas said in a slightly erotic whisper, one hand seductively sliding forward and wrapping itself around Axel’s straining erection. “Besides, I guarantee that you won’t be disappointed.”

Emerald eyes glinted. “Is that a challenge?” Axel asked, desire burning behind his gaze.

Something passed between them, nameless and primal before Roxas suddenly dipped forward and slammed their lips together, mashing their mouths in a hungry, desperate kiss. Their bodies moved together, skin sliding slick with sweat and hands groping what could be reached. It wasn’t until then that Axel realized nothing had changed between them nor would it.

They were still themselves, still arguing and fighting, still challenging each other over the littlest thing. There was no awkwardness between them, just pure emotion and need, cresting over them in waves that didn’t seem to end. The heat in the room ratcheted up several degrees and Axel knew that if someone were to barge in, neither of them would even care to stop. A fireball would be flung and one of Roxas’ famous death glares, but heaven help them, they wouldn’t stop.

Axel moaned beneath the possessing kiss, Roxas even purring in his throat before the blond reluctantly drew away. He slid one of his hands along Axel’s side before locking eyes with the firestarter. “Roll over,” he murmured, unable to resist the urge to lean down and run his tongue across the taller boy’s rippled abdomen.

Emerald eyes blinked as he shivered from the feel of the warm tongue. Then a smirk fought its way to his slips. “Roxy wants to stare at my ass,” Axel teased before doing as he was told, wriggling his ass slightly once it was propped up in the air.

A warm hand settled on his left cheek, squeezing it in the same moment that he heard the sound of a lid snap open. “Don’t call me that.”

Axel chuckled lightly. “I’ll call you whatever I want tooooo…” the last word trailed off on the end of a moan, his back arching as a pleased rumble reverberated down his spine. Two fingers had entered him in that moment, slickened by the lotion and cold, but unerringly curling to stroke something inside of him that burst with pleasure. Axel didn’t know what it was but it felt damn good, completely overriding the slight pain of the unexpected penetration.

His fingers curled against the covers as he panted, his hips unconsciously moving backwards to meet Roxas’. Inspired by his response, the blond curled his fingers again, watching with satisfaction as Axel arched his back invitingly, hard shaft bobbing between his legs and wanting desperately to be touched. Roxas’ free hand slid along Axel’s hips before his nails gently raked down the fire starter’s back, leaving light lines of red behind. Axel could only guess that he had learned so well from being stuck within Sora for so long.

“Roxas,” Axel panted, turning his head to look over his shoulder so that one eye gleamed invitingly. “I won’t break.”

Something shadowed and formless flashed across Roxas’ face before it was quickly replaced by desire, burning hot and deep in ocean blue eyes. “Are you sure?” he teased lightly, curling his fingers one last time over Axel’s prostate before withdrawing them. His other hand groped for the lotion, squirting some of the cool liquid onto his fingers and slathering it over his own aching erection.

Axel felt hands settle on his hips as Roxas pulled him backwards, until the blunt head of his arousal nudged at the fire starter’s entrance. Without verbally answering, the older Nobody merely shifted his hips back, taking in the first few inches of his lover. There was a hitch of breath, a tightening of the fingers on his hips before Roxas finished the distance, pressing deeper inside of him.

Everything inside of the fire starter immediately tensed at the penetration, clamping down on the intruder. A stabbing pain shot through him, which would have been a lot worse if Roxas hadn’t prepped him a little first. But Axel clamped down on any cries of pain, after all, he had claimed he wouldn’t break. It didn’t stop his body from tensing, however.

Behind him, a low moan escaped from Roxas’ mouth as he panted lightly, fingers spasming in their grip on Axel’s hips. “Relax,” he breathed. “Or it will be worse.”

“I am relaxed,” Axel countered through clenched teeth.

“Stubborn,” Roxas murmured, one of his hands leaving Axel’s hips, rubbing gently up his spine and causing goosebumps to pop up over the fire starter’s flesh.

Axel moaned lightly, something inside of him easing and uncoiling as the pain in his ass lightened into a dull throb. That he could handle. “Bet you’re ass I am,” he panted.

“No, I bet yours,” Roxas smirked. Then, as if going by some silent cue, he chose that moment to slowly withdraw before sliding in again, deep and full.

A shiver raced down Axel’s spine as the blond’s cock rubbed against that spot again and he arched backwards, body rising needfully to meet the next slow and deep thrust. A throaty growl rumbled in the fire starter’s chest, his fingers curling into the plush covers.

“H–harder,” he cried, practically growling out the demand. “Don’t hold back.” He pushed backwards, shoving Roxas deeper inside of him with each thrust.

A light moan echoed from behind him. “As if I could,” Roxas panted, leaning forward and dotting kisses down Axel’s back. The firestarter could feel the brief flickers of his tongue along his sweaty skin and purred lightly. The sounds of flesh slapping flesh filled the air, the heavy scent of sex musk filtering through to Axel’s nostrils, yet, he couldn’t find it in him to care.

Suddenly, Roxas let loose a growl of need and annoyance all swirled together. Hands grasped Axel’s hips and the hard shaft penetrating him disappeared before he was abruptly flipped over, bouncing onto the bed on his back. The blond was on him in an instant, lips and mouth and teeth clashing and sliding slippery together. Axel’s legs lifted and wrapped around Roxas’ hips as the blond thrust into him again and his back arched, a light whimper escaping his lips before he could stop it.

There was desperation in their movements, a sweaty, exhausting and frantic need to reach that plateau. Axel’s fingers unconsciously dug into Roxas’ back, leaving half-circle marks behind as something familiar coiled and tightened inside of him. Warmth flooded down his spine.

“Axel,” Roxas moaned, drawing out the last symbol of his name as he panted breathlessly in the fire starter’s ear, warm puffs of air blowing teasingly over Axel’s skin. “Mnnnn.”

The blond’s hand wormed its way between their bodies, grasping onto the fire starter’s aching arousal and stroking him firmly, in counterpoint to his frantic thrusts. Axel gasped, his body arching into the touch as he threw his head backwards and moaned his pleasure. He was close, he could feel it, hovering on the edge and just waiting for something to push him over.

Roxas dragged his lips over, latching his mouth onto Axel’s and jabbing his hips forward, unerringly sliding over the fire starter’s prostate in the same moment that he stroked Axel’s erection. It was the last that Axel could take, pleasure spiking up and down his spine. He came with a low moan that rattled in his chest, Roxas’ name muffled by their lips. He spilled his seed all over Roxas’ hand, splashing between their bodies.

His body clenched around Roxas and with several more thrusts, the blond followed him over, pushing his face into Axel’s neck and crying out his release. His hand tightened on Axel’s hip, leaving red handprints behind as he spurted deep within the taller male’s body. Roxas moaned deeply before collapsing limply on top of Axel, his breath coming in sharp pants.

Axel lay limply on the bed, his limbs feeling drained and weak as he accepted Roxas’ weight above him. “We should have done that a lot sooner,” he remarked on the end of a pant, heart pounding a fierce rhythm in his chest.

Roxas stirred, sliding off to the side and pulling out of Axel gingerly, shifting until he laid on the bed and not forming on a human blanket on top of the fire starter. “Yeah,” he agreed, throwing an arm over Axel’s chest and idly tracing lines with his fingers. He ignored the mess they had made of the bed, simply too exhausted to do anything about it at the moment.

The redhead couldn’t help but smirk. “Speechless are we?” he teased in his usual manner. “With my skill, I’m not surprised.”

Ocean blue eyes rolled. “Your ego never ceases to amaze me,” he responded dryly. “Now go to sleep, I’m tired.”

“Bossy,” Axel countered, slinging an arm over the bed, his fingertips just brushing the corner of someone’s t-shirt. Paying no attention to who it belonged to, he dragged it closer and used it to make a half-hearted attempt at cleaning them up. With that finished, he balled it up and tossed it to some obscure corner of the room.

Roxas pressed closer to him as if desperately needing his warmth. “Thanks,” he mumbled in a sleepy tone, fingers twitching where they lay sprawled against the fire starter’s chest.

Axel watched those fingers, a part of him astounded by the simple sight. Because it was proof, proof that Roxas was there, with him and not simply some memory he was struggling to keep. It was an intimate picture, the darker tone of Roxas’ arm against the pale of Axel’s chest and it made his heart swell with affection for no reason at all.

All of the sudden, he had a million things he wanted to say, a thousand questions he wanted to ask, and no words to speak of them. He had things he wanted to share and hurts to express. He wanted to scream that he loved Roxas a million times. He wanted to press their lips together and feel the warmth of Roxas’ skin beneath his fingertips once more.

Axel simply wanted.

“Roxas?”

The blond stirred. “Hmm?” he asked, somewhat sleepily, cutely shifting closer and throwing one leg over Axel’s pale, long limb. One hand groped for some sort of cover, throwing the comforter haphazardly over the both of them.

The former Nobody shook his head. “Never mind,” he murmured, sliding his eyes closed and tipping his head to the side until his nose was buried in blond hair, smelling faintly of raspberries, Aeris’ shampoo he recognized.

There was always tomorrow.

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