Warnings: angst, little bits of sap scattered about, mild language, mild allusions to sexual activity.
Characters/Pairings: Axel/Roxas/Xion, Marluxia/Naminé (tilt your head and squint), Riku/Sora/Kairi, Hayner, Pence, Olette.
Disclaimer: Standard disclaimer applies.
Summary: Everyone keeps telling him that everything’s okay, and he’s not sure how long he can keep believing it.
Comments: I knew it would happen eventually. I knew I’d write them as a pairing, and I know some people aren’t going to like it either, but whatever. Don’t like, don’t read. :P Those of you who haven’t been frightened off, enjoy!
He finds it almost funny how, in dreams (sometimes), events and people can seem so familiar, even though he has never experienced said events nor met said people. He dreams about the beach often, even though he and Axel and Xion have only been a handful of times, and he dreams about other places too—places with a garden, and a castle that is entirely unlike the one he is currently residing in. He doesn’t know why he dreams of these places, and he doesn’t know why he dreams of unfamiliar faces, either.
This is not the first night he’s dreamed of the silver-haired boy with green eyes, either. The boy always seems to be looking for something, and Roxas doesn’t know what that ‘something’ is. He thinks he might offer to help, but his dreams always take a different direction, and suddenly he’s somewhere else—on the beach with the tide coming in or in some cave that is dark and yet not really creepy, or—
He’s jolted awake by his own name resounding in his ears, and by the sets of hands on his shoulders and on his chest, gently shaking.
He’s breathing heavily, eyes wide open and body trembling for reasons he doesn’t understand, and Xion’s looking at him worriedly, her gaze soft and her touches tender.
“Roxas, man,” he hears Axel grumble, “you had to have been having some wild-ass dreams—I was getting rather fed up of you constantly elbowing my chest and I really don’t think Xion appreciated your knee in her spleen and—Roxas?” He leans in closer, eyeing Roxas as well, green eyes slightly narrowed. “Was it… You’re acting like it was a bad dream.”
“There was… this green-eyed guy….”
Axel is at once all smiles and teasing again—one of his typically failsafe methods of reassurance. “Oh, Roxy, it’s nice that you dream about me and all, but the real thing is always better, so--”
“Axel,” Xion says softly, meeting his eyes, brushing her fingers against his cheek. “It’s something else.”
Roxas does dream about Axel (on a regular basis) but that’s beside the point at the moment. “This guy… had silver hair. I dream about him sometimes and I don’t know why. He’s always looking for something. Or someone. And I dream about all of these different places….”
Axel’s brow furrows and then he shakes his head, lying back down and pulling Roxas and Xion with him. “It’s just a dream, Roxas. There’s no explanation for dreams. They mean nothing. It’s all right—you can go back to sleep.” Axel’s fingers run soothingly through his hair, and Roxas finds that particular action to be quite unfair, because he knows that Axel knows he has a weakness for that.
“We’re here,” Xion whispers, curling around him from behind, kissing his cheek. “We’ll keep you safe.”
“Mm,” Axel agrees. “Everything’s all right.”
Roxas lets himself believe them—he closes his eyes, listening to the familiar, calming sounds of their soft whispers.
The dreams that come later that night (when he is once again deeply asleep) are about them and no-one else, and he figures that that is how it should be, and everything feels all right after all.
He is roused from sleep not by his own dreams but hers, and she’s wriggling between them, trying to get as close to both of them as she possibly can. Axel is already awake and is trying to shush her, hands fluttering over her hair and face and shoulders and back, trying to comfort her.
“I keep thinking that in these dreams… I remember stuff,” she whispers, shaking, nearly nose-to-nose with Axel. “But I can’t remember things, can I? I never did, before. But this is different, and there’s—and I don’t know, and--”
Roxas’ hands join Axel’s, lips pressing against the shell of her ear, murmuring nonsensical words that he hopes will somehow calm her down—make her feel better.
“I’m useless, he says. I’m a useless puppet and nothing more, and then these dreams, and memories, but I don’t feel like they’re really mine, and I just want to know who I am….”
“You’re Xion,” Axel says fiercely, chin resting against the top of her head. “You’re Xion, and no-one else.”
Roxas thinks he’s missed something very important—wonders why it sounds like Axel is trying to convince himself as well as Xion. He puzzles over it for a moment or two, and then decides that he can ask about it later, because she needs him (needs both of them), and this is more important right now.
“It’s all right,” he whispers against the skin of her neck, because it’s what she would tell (has told) him, and because he doesn’t know what else to say, really. “Everything’s all right, Xion.”
“How do you know?” she asks, an edge of desperation in her voice. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. We don’t know--”
“You’ve got us,” Axel interrupts smoothly, that trademark crooked smile of his falling into place. “That’s how you know.”
“Yeah.” Roxas is quick to agree. “We’re not going anywhere. You should know that by now.”
Her smile is only a half-smile—not as bright or as wide as it typically is, but it’s better than nothing. “Egotistical jerks,” she teases, but her voice is different; it’s like she can’t quite get the words out right, like it’s just this side of breaking.
It makes Roxas ache, somehow.
“But you’re right,” she adds, closing her eyes again. “It’s getting chilly. Keep me warm, ‘k?”
And they do.
Axel swears that he doesn’t dream—no bad dreams, not even any good dreams. However, sometimes Roxas will wake up to find Axel gazing at him (them), and Roxas doesn’t understand that, either; he doesn’t understand why Axel sometimes looks at them like he won’t have the opportunity to do so anymore (like he doesn’t see them every single day as it is).
“It’s creepy when you do that, you know,” Roxas says pointedly. Xion is still sleeping, fingers gripping at his shirt.
“What is?” Axel asks, tilting his head like he’s genuinely curious.
“Waking up and finding someone staring at you, for one thing,” Roxas replies (because it sounds like something Axel would say and can therefore appreciate), testing the water before trying to wade in (he doesn’t want to drown and he can, even though Axel’s element is fire).
“I’m sorry.” But he’s not (why should he be? How could he be?), because he goes right on staring, not breaking eye contact. “I’ll remember to not stare at you until you wake up next time.”
Roxas won’t hold his breath. “Why… You’re looking at us like you won’t see us again.”
Axel half-shrugs. “Might not—never know what’s going to happen, after all. You know how unpredictable missions are for us. You know what could have--”
“Don’t,” Roxas interjects, because he doesn’t want to remember (not that he can forget). “… You’ve got us, though. Isn’t that what you said?”
Xion makes a soft sound in her sleep, and if Roxas didn’t know better, he’d think that she’s agreeing with him.
Axel huffs softly and then grins. “Yeah—leave it up to you to fling my words right back at me. Everything’s all right, Rox. I just think too much sometimes.”
“That’s very out-of-character for you, so stop,” Roxas says, leaning up (carefully, so as not to disturb Xion) and pressing his lips to Axel’s.
As if it’s that easy.
Roxas would like to believe it is.
He doesn’t know how things can so easily (and suddenly) turn from good to bad to worse to the worst, but that’s exactly what happens. Before he knows it, Xion is gone (again), and Axel is dodging his questions and leaving him with little more than the bitter taste of betrayal on his lips, on his tongue (he thinks of the name ‘Judas’ and isn’t quite sure why).
“If you’ll just stay, Rox, everything will be all right.” There’s an edge of pleading to his voice, but Roxas isn’t listening anymore. How often has Axel really listened to him?
“You,” Roxas snarls (and maybe that’s some form of anger coiling low and dangerous in his belly or maybe it’s just the illusion of it), “are a liar and no, Axel, it won’t be all right!”
He walks away and Axel keeps talking, telling him very sensible things, things like: “You know they’ll kill you over a betrayal like this.” Roxas already knows, but he doesn’t care. Not like anyone here would miss him anyway, right?
Very soft (and defeated) comes: “I would.”
Roxas hears him but pretends he doesn’t, because pretending (to be more than he is, to be real, to be whole and happy and hopelessly in love) is what he’s good at, after all.
He goes back to the clock tower (their place), because, in the end, he doesn’t know where else he should go. He doesn’t expect to find her there, and he doesn’t.
She finds him instead.
But something is wrong—he realizes it from the start. She isn’t making much sense (she’s talking in riddles, which is Axel’s forte, not hers), and when she lowers her hood, the face he sees is not hers, but another’s: a boy’s face. Sora’s face.
Then everything is a blur, and Roxas can’t even properly recall what’s happened once it’s over—he only knows that she is hurt and has the strong suspicion that he is the cause of it.
She tells him that he isn’t. Tells him that it’s not his fault; asks him do her a favor and release the hearts that they’ve captured.
They say that Nobodies cannot die because they have never truly lived. They say Nobodies can only fade.
But she dies in his arms.
She promises everything will be all right, but he doesn’t understand how anything can be all right now.
He has two Keyblades now, and one is a gift from her. His memories of her are at present – for whatever reason – disjointed and he can’t seem to remember her name, even though he knows that he should be able to remember it very well, knows that it should be etched into that empty place in his chest where his heart isn’t. Etched into that emptiness, just like Axel’s name is.
He isn’t looking for a fight here along the outskirts of The Land that Never Was, but of course the Heartless find him. Something always finds him.
He recognizes the face immediately: This is the boy he has sometimes-always dreamed about, and has always wondered why (and Axel has always dismissed it, telling him that dreams mean nothing, though clearly, in this case, his dreams meant something).
Why do you wear a blindfold? he wants to ask, but doesn’t, because right now, this boy (Riku, something – or nothing – tells him; this boy’s name is Riku) is standing in his way. He’s meant to accomplish something important, and he can’t if he doesn’t get past Riku first. This silver-haired boy (wearing the Organization’s garb) seems intent on heading him off at the pass.
Roxas won’t let him.
He is strong, and perhaps some part of Roxas expected that. He is strong, but Roxas is determined and desperate and refuses to lose. He made a promise.
“Do you think getting yourself killed will help her? Do you think it will bring her back? Do you think you’ll all be reunited again?”
His questions are cruel and hit something-nothing somewhere-nowhere deep, but Roxas tries to ignore them, because he has to focus. Some of his blows connect and some do not—this boy is no pushover.
And then, his tactics change: “Come on, Sora. I thought you were stronger than that!”
And Roxas replies in a voice that is (but is not) his own: “Get real! Look at which of us is winning!”
The words leave his mouth and he doesn’t understand—doesn’t know where those words came from; doesn’t know why Riku is addressing him as someone that he isn’t.
“You are his Nobody.” The statement might be triumphant, if not for the slight discoloration of near-sadness there at the edges of the words.
“I am me and no-one else!” Roxas argues (nevermind that he doesn’t even know who he is), taking both Keyblades in hand once more, preparing to charge, but then—
Riku isn’t Riku anymore. He looks more like Xemnas and there’s some creature behind him, and this strange dark being lifts Roxas effortlessly, choking the air out of his lungs.
He thinks he hears Riku-not-Riku say that he’s sorry.
Before his world goes dark, he hears: “Everything’s going to be all right now.”
Roxas thinks Riku isn’t talking to him.
He thinks he’s talking to Sora.
He severely dislikes the fact that summer vacation is coming to a rapid close. They have seven days left now, and that’s all. They’re trying to raise money to make it to the beach, and Roxas isn’t entirely certain that they’re getting anywhere at this point. They are still trying, though, so perhaps that counts for something.
Perhaps he should simply be grateful for the fact that he gets to spend time with his friends like this: That they get to sit atop the clock tower and watch the sunset together and talk and laugh about mundane and silly things. The past, the present, the future (even though they can’t see it).
And he is grateful for this, for them. He really is.
For Hayner, who is as reckless and bold; impatient and adventurous. He and Roxas sometimes have a semi-rivalry going on, but it never amounts to anything serious, and Roxas knows that it never will. They are on the same side; always have been and always will be.
(Sometimes Roxas thinks his recklessness and his impatience—
[or maybe it’s the way his hair seems slightly spiked]
—remind him of someone else, but for the life of him, Roxas can’t remember who.)
For Olette, who is sweet and responsible and giving. She’s always looked after them, and has always been the voice of reason amongst them (“If you don’t do your assignment now, you’re never going to get around to it, you know!”).
(Roxas thinks it’s her eyes—they way they shine sometimes when the sunlight hits them just right. Or maybe it’s the soft lilt of her voice.)
Pence is as fiercely loyal as he is bright, and his laughter is loud and contagious; he always makes Roxas laugh, too.
(It’s the laughter—boisterous and heart-warming and familiar [just as it should be, because Roxas has heard it a thousand times before, right? Right]).
Sometimes, he thinks he might be missing something (someone—maybe more than one someone), though he can never quite put his finger on it, and if he thinks about it for too long, his companions always worry about him and snap him out of his reverie.
Today, Hayner has the honors of doing so: He nudges Roxas lightly, handing him an ice cream bar. “What’re you thinking about, man?” he inquires, and Roxas doesn’t know how to answer that question—doesn’t know how to say that he thinks he’s chasing thoughts that were never really there to begin with.
He tells himself that he has them, just like he always has (and they have promised that he always will)—he tells himself that he’s being ridiculous, that he’s not missing anything because everything he’s ever known is here.
Due to his silence, he supposes, Hayner continues: “Rox, are you okay?”
And that is a question that Roxas can actually answer. He gives his friend a sunny smile and replies, “I’m fine—just daydreaming a little. Everything’s all right, so don’t worry.”
They turn their attention back to the sunset, all four of them smiling, and Roxas knows that he’s not missing anything from before, because there was nothing for him before them that he can recall.
He’ll miss this, though, when summer is over.
(Sooner than he expects).
He finds it very strange that he doesn’t remember this red-haired man that keeps coming to visit him. When he visits, time as Roxas knows it stands still, and Roxas doesn’t like it. This ‘Axel’ character claims to be his best friend, but Roxas knows that Hayner is his best friend.
If Axel were who he claims to be, Roxas knows that he would remember him.
So he does not remember once-upon-a-time sunsets and brilliant smiles and laughter (that wasn’t hollow) and sharing sea-salt ice cream with anyone else aside from Hayner, Pence, and Olette. He does not remember almost-love or betrayal. He does not remember walking away from the sound of “I would”, falling like broken glass and making everything hurt that much more. He does not remember holding her (who never should have been) in his arms while she spoke her last words.
He doesn’t remember (because he thinks there is nothing to remember), but he almost wishes that he could, because the look in those green eyes haunts him and leaves him feeling guilty and alone even when he is anything but.
He’s never met her before either, and she’s not some princess trapped in a castle (though he has a feeling that she would fit such a role very well), but she seems so achingly familiar, too. If he looks at her just right, blonde becomes auburn becomes black (and shorter), and he shakes his head as if to clear it.
“Have I met you before?” he asks her, and she smiles, lays a hand over one of his.
“Not exactly,” she answers. “I’m Naminé. I’ll explain things. Everything’s all right, Roxas.”
And in spite of all the confusion—the dreams and the voices and the people he does and does not know and the things he can’t remember… he wants, more than anything, to believe her.
He visits her when he can (when it’s safe, she says), and she does tell him some things: she tells him that Axel used to be his best friend; she tells him about Organization XIII, she tells him a little about the Keyblade and about what being a Nobody means. She tells him about some of the things that he’s lost, and it makes him feel more alone and confused than ever.
One day, he gets the nerve to ask: “Have you lost someone too?”
Her gaze flits away, to the opposite wall, and her smile is that of a broken doll. “I’ve lost nobody,” she answers, and Roxas understands (it’s not ‘nobody’, but ‘Nobody’).
There are a few tears rolling down her cheeks before either of them truly notices, but then he’s got his arms around her and he’s cradling her, telling her that everything’s going to be okay.
He holds her while she falls apart, hoping that it’ll help hold him together.
She’s taken away from him by a man in a strange mask, who claims that Roxas has no right to ask or feel or be, and he wants to save her—to take her back with him, but he doesn’t know how. Doesn’t know if he can.
She promises that they’ll meet again—she tells him that everything will be all right.
And he’s left wondering why this feels so familiar.
Axel finds him again in a place that is not home (although… is anywhere home at all for him?), and Roxas truly remembers him this time—remembers leaving, remembers that Axel was the only one who tried to get him to stay. He remembers—
“That’s not true! I would!”
--and it makes something twist deep down inside, makes him clutch at (nothing) his chest.
He doesn’t know why the redhead wishes to fight him, but before he can blink, there’s the heat of Axel’s flames and the clash of metal against metal, and when it’s all said and done…
He deeply suspects that Axel has let him win.
“Let’s meet again, in the next life.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
“Silly. Just because you have a next life…”
And then Axel is gone, as if he’s vanished into thin air. But Roxas knows it’ll be okay—Axel’s still around, somewhere. Everything will be all right.
They’ve made a promise, after all.
He knows he is supposed to be here; perhaps it was written in the stars; perhaps this is a good enough ending for one who isn’t supposed to exist to begin with.
He gazes at the slumbering Keyblade Wielder—this boy who has been haunting his dreams; this boy who does and does not look like him; this boy who holds their heart within his chest. They are incomplete, without each other. Halves of a whole.
Sora won’t wake up without him, and so many people are waiting for him and looking for him.
Roxas knows now what he has to do, and he is at peace with his fate.
Everything’s going to be all right. Summer vacations always come to an end, after all.
(Nothing lasts forever).
Seeing them again (Hayner, Pence, Olette) through his eyes seems so surreal and out of place. They don’t remember him (they never really knew him, so why should they?), but he remembers them (or, rather, he remembers the illusion that he believed to be them), and this is why wetness creeps its way down Sora’s cheeks. Sora doesn’t understand it, but Roxas does. Those are his tears, after all.
Sometimes (just sometimes), he misses ‘the good old days’.
The ones that never really existed in the first place.
And sometimes, he misses the ones that did.
He thinks of Axel and sunsets and someone else that he can’t quite remember—
The tears continue to fall, and Sora continues to wipe them away.
He is left wondering just how many times his entire world can fall apart as he watches Axel fade (again, through Sora’s eyes)—stupid Axel and his stupid… nobility, or something like that.
No, it wasn’t supposed to end this way. Axel wasn’t supposed to sacrifice himself all for the boy who reminds him of someone else—wasn’t supposed to sacrifice himself, period. It’s just not his style, and never has been.
Roxas wants to ask why, but of course Sora beats him to it, and Axel’s answer nearly bowls him over: “I wanted to see Roxas. He was the only one I liked. He… made me feel like… I had a heart.”
Roxas knows what heartbreak feels like now (oh, the irony), and he wishes that he didn’t.
Why search for a heart? Why want feelings when, in the end, they’re this damn painful?
And nothingnothingnothing feels like it can be okay ever again.
(He’s lost someone else before, this way; someone important. If only he could just—)
“Why did he choose you?” he demands to know—wants to hear it from Sora’s mouth even though he could simply take a look inside his (their) heart. The answer isn’t so difficult. He has a feeling that he knows it already even though Sora probably doesn’t.
Sora is stronger than him and it is Sora that wins.
“So that’s why. You make… a good Other.”
Perhaps the heart isn’t always a weakness.
(--if only he could just remember. Or maybe he doesn’t want to, anymore.)
He thinks he must be dreaming, because he can hear Axel just as clearly as if the redhead were actually there with him—can see him too, and worries that this is a hallucination instead of a dream.
Axel smiles—that old, crooked smile that he’s used to. It makes him feel warm and not so broken.
“What—how?” It’s all that Roxas can manage, because he knows that he watched Axel fade-die, but now here he is, standing in front of him on the clock tower and smiling like nothing ever changed even though everything did.
“This is your subconscious,” Axel says like that explains everything. “It’s the only way I can still speak to you—took some time to get through to you, too. What’s wrong with you, man?”
“I…” watched you die.
“Cat got your tongue?” Axel smirks and moves to sit beside him, and it’s just like before except for the missing piece of this puzzle—the piece that Roxas isn’t sure he’ll ever be able to recover.
“This isn’t real,” Roxas says. “It can’t be, because you left, Axel.”
Axel shrugs—an easy, casual roll of his shoulders. “Who’s to say what’s real and what isn’t? This is just a different version of our reality, Roxas.”
For a stretch of countless moments there is a comfortable silence between them as they sit and watch the sunset—Roxas is almost content. And then:
“Hey, Roxas. About… before. The lying and stuff? Uh.” Axel scratches the back of his head, which is something he’s always done when feeling awkward. “I’m really so--”
“Stop,” Roxas interrupts. “I don’t want apologies right now, Axel. I just want….”
Axel’s eyebrows raise. “What do you want, Rox?”
For it to stay like this. For you to not go away again. For everything to go back to the way it was, maybe.
But he can’t ask for any of that, so instead he scoots closer and rests his head against Axel’s shoulder. “This is enough for me.”
And when it’s time for them to go (neither of them wants to, but they don’t exactly have a choice, do they?), Roxas sees the tears and says, “See you”…
Because ‘see you’ sure sounds a hell of a lot better than ‘goodbye’.
Sora wakes up abruptly, sweaty and maybe even a little frightened, and Roxas is acutely aware of it—wonders if the nightmares that woke Sora were actually Sora’s or his own, or some mix of the two. Sora’s heart is pounding, though—hard and fast within the confines of his chest, and of course Roxas feels it, too. Feels Sora’s anxiety along with his own. This is the downside of having another half: the stress is doubled, but also shared, in a sense. Sometimes, they can take comfort in each other, lean on one another.
Sora’s movements cause his partners to stir: Kairi mumbles something and Roxas can tell that she’s somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, but Riku is almost instantly awake and alert, tense as a bowstring: he has his own haunted past, his own nightmares to deal with, and Roxas can understand why it’s so difficult for the silver-haired boy to relax fully, even in sleep.
“Sorry I woke you,” Sora mumbles, leaning in close, letting Riku’s body support his own. “Just… a nightmare, I guess, and Roxas keeps seeing these… things. Remembering bad stuff. Difficult for either of us to sleep, that way.”
Sorry, Roxas wants to say, knowing that his own memories can be quite a burden sometimes.
“Mm,” Riku murmurs, less tense now, and he drags Sora closer. “No need to apologize for that, Sora.”
Kairi’s head is pillowed against Sora’s chest within the next moment, her hands fluttering over Riku’s, which are absently stroking along Sora’s bare skin. “What were you dreaming about?” she queries, nuzzling at Sora’s chest, and Roxas knows it tickles because Sora does this funny half-laugh, half-gasp, and combs fingers through her hair.
Roxas remembers this: Remembers being held between two Nobodies (who were always and would always be considered people to him), remembers being comforted by them, cherished by them. He remembers skin-on-skin-on-skin; remembers how she’d gasp when he’d touch her there, and how he’d gasp when he kissed that particularly sensitive area below his jaw.
The memories still sting, but they aren’t unbearable anymore. Sometimes he’s jealous of Sora—until he remembers this: if Sora isn’t alone, neither is he.
“… The darkness, when it came to the islands,” Sora finally answers. “The night I thought I’d lost both of you, for good.”
“You didn’t, though,” Riku says pointedly, lips against the shell of Sora’s ear, making Sora shiver.
“And you won’t,” Kairi adds, all smiles and sweetness and surety, her breath warm against Sora’s neck.
Sometimes, if Sora’s lashes are at half-mast, Roxas can see Naminé’s smile on Kairi’s lips, and sometimes… he can see black hair and eyes that are a different, deeper shade of blue, but that illusion is gone just as soon as Sora blinks.
Even so, it brings Roxas a sense of comfort.
And sometimes, if Sora is on the verge of sleep or wakefulness, walking that thin line between, Riku’s laugh sounds a lot like Axel’s: cocky and arrogant and self-assured. Sometimes his eyes seem more emerald than sea-green.
Roxas misses him. Misses them.
At the same time, he knows that this is where he is meant to be—he’s meant to make another life whole, to make another’s happily-ever-after possible, and perhaps it’s good enough to be able to take part in something as warm and special as this.
“Everything’s all right now,” they whisper, and the words resound in Sora’s heart: Everything’s all right now.
And for the first time in a long time, Roxas actually believes it.
FINALLY FINISHED WITH THIS THING UGH. It started off smoothly and then I hit some rough patches and I didn’t know if I would ever get finished with it! Even so, I am quite pleased with how it turned out—all of this happiness and then sadness and then a little ray of hope at the end. :) But come on, guys, when it comes to Axel and Roxas and Xion, you can’t expect it to all be happy happy joy joy.
I hope you all enjoyed the read. ^_^ There are some parts that I am particularly proud of—I hope some of those moments stuck out to you.