Rating/Warnings:: R, i suppose, for overuse of the words 'swallows'. Spoilers for CoM and up through entry into TWTNW.
Summary: There's no solution.
AN: Thanks to laylah for letting me wibble about this constantly for the last week. Also, you get a Math Crystal if you get the dweeb humor that spawned the title.
"But you lose," Roxas is giving him that look again, the exasperated nose wrinkle back over his shoulder as he's trying to go on his way while Axel trots along after him. "You lose every single time, and this time won't be any different."
"Yeah, but it's…" Axel shouldn't use the word, but Roxas is still probably new enough not to know he should tease Axel for it. "It's fun!"
"Nobodies can't have fun," Roxas turns the rest of the way away, and Axel frowns because Roxas is using the 'I've been talking to Saïx again' voice.
"Only the ones who don't know how to do it right," Axel insists, skipping a half-step forward so he can bump Roxas's shoulder and whine until Roxas turns back to him with a new and improved look, the one with the upgraded eyebrow, and says fine, fine they can spar and geez does Axel have to be such a whiny baby about it, but Axel just smirks because he's got a dark corridor open fast enough to make Roxas trip into it with a startled curse, and also because he likes it when Roxas gives him the look.
He even likes being knocked on his back with Roxas's keyblade at his throat, although Marluxia would just say that that's because Axel doesn't really remember what liking things is like.
Axel remembers just fine.
Fine enough to know that what he really likes is knowing that Roxas is seeing only him. And what he really doesn't like is how every nobody and their heartless is constantly sniffing around for Roxas's attention. It's always "Want to play a game with me, Roxas" and "Check out this new combo, Roxas" and "Come down to my creepy laboratory and don't you think it's hot in here feel free to take off your robes, Roxas" until Axel starts to smell a little like something that's been in the microwave twenty seconds too long.
"Had enough?" Roxas asks, stepping back a few paces. He's got one keyblade, the girly one, resting against his shoulder, and is twirling the other one over the back of his hand in smooth circles. Instead of reflecting the greasy neon lights of the city, the metal seems to swallow it as it whooshes through its lazy arcs.
"I'm just getting warmed up!" Axel grins, then doesn't so much get to his feet as uncoil in the right way, quick enough that he can sweep Roxas's feet out from under him and enjoy the wide blue of Roxas's eyes all the way down. It seems to take longer than it should for Roxas's back to hit the ground, long enough that Axel can almost see his own reflection against all that blue, slicker and cleaner than the neon.
Roxas is on his feet again almost as soon as he touches the ground, keyblades sparking against Axel's chakrams in a shower of black stars. Their sharp, cold edges sting Axel's cheeks just a little where they graze, and Axel thinks that when he has to go, he wouldn't mind being swallowed like the light.
"What are you staring at me like that for?" Roxas is glancing at him out of the corner of his eye when Axel finally can't come up with any more excuses for them to stay outside, and Axel barely gets his mouth open to say some smartass thing before Luxord appears in front of them and asks if Roxas might have a little time to spare.
But he can't help laughing when Roxas says Luxord should know.
Maybe Castle Oblivion is finally starting to get to him, Axel thinks, then laughs and tugs on one of Larxene's convenient bangs and wonders if there was ever a time this place, endless staircases none of them need to use and white rooms they all use too much, didn't get to him.
If there was, it was before the kid, the duck, and the…whatever that other thing is showed up. Not exactly the heroic group Axel had been expecting when Marluxia was capering about in orgasmic glee and cackling about the advent of the keyblade master.
Sora's not even doing anything that great, so far as Axel can tell, he's just beating up a bunch of things that he's already beat up in real life over again. He wants to tell Marluxia that he doesn't see what the big effing deal is about this kid, but Marluxia wasn't the one giving Sora and his big blue eyes the whole song and dance about finding the other side of his heart, about keeping his head on straight.
He just got turned around, is all, any nobody would after swimming through this kid's head and out the other side, where every other memory is somebody giving a speech about light and hearts and friends and promises and maybe the sooner Namine puts her mojo on the little overachiever, the better.
Axel frowns just thinking about it, and bends the card he's holding in between his thumbs and forefingers just a little more roughly, back and forth, back and forth. He's been watching the kid ever since, loitering near the globes and trailing him floor to floor.
"Just like a little puppy," Larxene had smirked at him as she smoothed the ragged edge of a nail with the tip of a naked blade. "Just like…"
"Shut up," Axel snaps, the taste of singed hair on the back of his throat, because saying Roxas's name in this place makes Axel itch. Because watching Larxene fool around with this Sora kid feels like the same kind of itch, and Axel doesn't bother to swallow the laugh when Larxene's blades are knocked out of her hands, pink cards spilling across the floor like a Marluxian temper tantrum.
His fingers flex with the desire to call his chakrams and go down there, to be the only thing reflected in Sora's wide eyes and girly Fairy Harp keyblade, flex with enough force to nearly crease the card in half before he realizes what he's doing. He scowls at himself, tucks the card in his pocket, and takes two steps towards the door before Larxene comes storming in, then Vexen just has to get his two cents in, and before Axel can escape he's stuck in an official Castle Oblivious staff meeting, which means the castle princess himself has to make his grand entrance and give the keynote speech.
Axel snorts a sigh of relief when Larxene and Vexen both go off to sulk, the urge to work off some of this nervous energy still buzzing in his fingertips.
"And you," Marluxia says as though he's just had a casual thought, but he's eyeing Axel sharply and tapping his chin with two fingers, "don't meddle."
"You just stay right here and keep an eye on things until Vexen makes his move." Marluxia smirks and slides a gloved palm over the slick curve of the glass globe. "I believe you like to watch, don't you, VIII?"
So Axel grits his teeth and waits, and when he just can't take it anymore, he goes ahead and tosses Vexen the card he's been thumbing the corners of in his pocket for the entirety of this ridiculous farce of a mutiny.
"Make a good experiment, don't you think?" Axel asks, eyes keen for the catch because Vexen cannot honestly be this stupid, but then again if curiosity can send this idiot down into the crystal catacombs of Hollow Bastion with nothing but a flashlight and a sack, handing over a card to the keyblade master probably seems like the sort of menial task Vexen ought to be ordering Zexion to do, regardless of what's printed on the front of it.
Vexen's body looks like it should put up much more resistance against the slick edges of the chakrams, instead of shredding like the onionskin paper in the notebooks he still keeps, and Axel thinks that he should have asked Vexen if he thought it was too warm in here while he could still hear.
The joke kind of dies somewhere in Axel's lower brain, however, when he looks up to find Sora's eyes glued to him, wide and scared, but angry too, the dark of his pupils swallowing more of the blue even as Axel watches, and that keyblade won't be dangling limply in Sora's fingers for too much longer.
"I thought you wanted a fight?" Larxene snaps, still sulking, when he pops into her room. She's got a scratch down one cheek that's oozing sluggishly.
"Not with him." Axel's robes feel too tight, his skin feels too tight, and it takes him several seconds of hissing his breath through clenched teeth for him to will his chakrams away successfully. "Where's that thing of Vexen's?" he demands, and when she tells him, slams through the door because he doesn't trust that he won't accidentally teleport himself someplace that he wants to be even less.
And he's definitely been hanging around these freaks too long, because he's got this theory, this hyp-o-the-sis Vexen would have chanted it like he was saying an Ave Maria, that one nobody with a keyblade plus one somebody with a keyblade all over those innocent baby blues equals…
…well, something bad, anyway. And Axel thinks he knows how to test his theory. Even Zexion looks intrigued, just before Vexen's toy finishes him off.
Axel figures absorbing the strength of one of the Organization members must be basically equivalent to being trained by the Organization. When Axel gets a good look at where the real Riku is before sending the replica off, he tells the replica that it's only fitting and doesn't bother to explain.
The experiment has sobering results. As Vexen's toy fades into shadowed wisps, Axel shivers from something he can't name, and when he tries to laugh it off, Zexion's empty room echoes the noise back at him, brittle and sharp, until Axel escapes the blue walls at a pace that would be embarrassing if there were anyone left to see.
Or maybe Castle Oblivion is just starting to get to him.
"It's fine!" Roxas snaps, pushing at Axel's hands, but Axel refuses to stop smoothing fingers over the bruises and welts littering Roxas's chest and sides. They're fading, but Axel didn't happen to have a hi-potion on hand and the healing is starting to slow already, and Axel is going to get up and find another potion just as soon as he can pull his hands away from Roxas's skin.
"Who was it?" he asks, sliding his thumb over a yellowing patch.
"His friend." Roxas turns his head away on the pillow when Axel sinks his thumb deeper into the bruise. "He said they needed me to…"
"I'll get you another potion." Axel stands and gets halfway turned before Roxas's fingers close around his wrist.
"I said I'm fine!" Roxas yanks Axel towards him, leaning up on one elbow, and Axel blinks at him for about half a breath before stripping off his robe and kicking off his boots and tumbling into the bed to curl himself tightly around Roxas's back. "Ow, your elbows, you ass!"
But Axel squeezes him tighter because he knows damned well who it was and he didn’t have to be there to see how Riku's eyes glitter with adrenaline when what he's selling is a one-way ticket to the void.
Roxas twists to turn himself over in Axel's arms, to tug Axel's weight on top of him, his noises pained and hungry, his arms curling over the back of Axel's neck, and Axel presses him down into the sheets harder, letting his knees slide down to dig into the mattress on either side of Roxas's thighs. He can't get any closer, can't get close enough, although he tries when Roxas digs fingers into his hair spikes and presses teeth against the skin under Axel's jaw.
"OW, fuck," Roxas gasps when Axel presses fingers into the curving purple slash across Roxas's shoulders, "don't stop," and Axel grinds their hips together until Roxas's eyes snap open again, wide and dark and blue-ringed like an eclipse. "I want…"
"I don't give a fuck what you want," Axel says harshly against Roxas's lips, then shoves himself down, dragging the rest of Roxas's uniform down with him and tossing it aside, out of his way, before sliding arms around to bind Roxas's hips firmly still, and Roxas is so thin that Axel can almost get his hand around flat on Roxas's stomach on the other side.
Axel waits until Roxas is staring at nothing but him before he swallows Roxas whole.
"I did what I could," Naminé had said, eyes constantly shifting to the side to watch for DiZ, then back to the notebook in her lap where she was drawing thick spikes of yellow and red, and Axel is nobody enough to admit that he has no fucking clue what comes next.
He's sitting on an overpass in Twilight Town, the real one, not that sick joke of DiZ's, watching the people drift below his swinging feet who never look up, and groping desperately for the secret weapon that will make his next shot at Roxas better than all the previous ones, but all he can think about is the fact that he's only got one, maybe two, more tries at this.
In the pavement on either side of him, the assassins make lazy loops through the concrete like it's water, nothing showing but the glint of their spines. Roxas always liked their sleek glimmer, liked running his hands over their razored backs as they rose up and slipped back down, circling him. When Roxas was here, the assassins did tricks like dolphins sometimes, shooting into the air and rolling, doing loop-de-loops and rainbowing over his head and letting Roxas hold up fingers to skim their bellies.
But now that it's just Axel again, they stay underground unless he orders them to surface, only swirling up until the tips of their spikes brush Axel's palm when he holds out a hand.
He can't just sit here though, he knows, plan or no plan, and if the feeling of thousands of invisible electronic fingers probing him and breaking him down into ones and zeros makes his stomach churn, it's nothing compared to that split-second of being reflected in Roxas's eyes again, only to watch the recognition be swallowed by vacant blue.
Besides, he's been in one place too long, and the dusk that wobbles around the corner, limbs stuttering as it scents the air, finally pushes Axel into action. He keeps his eyes on the dusk as he steps backwards into the corridor, making sure it keeps sniffing in the wrong direction, and wonders if maybe he's been everyplace too long.
Not that he's got much experience with brilliant ideas lately, but Axel thinks he's got enough of a handle on the situation to know a really bad idea when his brain spits one out.
The hallway in front of him twists in a sickening spiral of oranges and pinks, the keyblade—a candy cane, is this kid serious—is arcing red and silver through the sea of lurching nobodies, but all Axel can see is the glow of determined blue under the sweat-damp spikes of hair sticking to Sora's face.
Axel bets those spikes are soft, figures they must be, and shakes his head when an assassin slides from the ground and loops Axel's wrist once before sinking back down, its spikes hissing softly against the leather of Axel's glove.
"You damn brat," Axel grumbles as he starts forward, waving the assassins back, and the recognition in Sora's eyes when he notices isn't quite what Axel's looking for, but still feels better than anything else has in longer than he cares to think about.
And it feels good to go all out, to see the keyblade flashing out of the corner of his eye, to press his back against somebody's in fleeting brushes, and to wonder if getting Roxas back now would mean that he would be as tall and finely muscled as Sora's gotten over the last year, or if Roxas would still be small enough for Axel to throw over his shoulder and tumble into bed.
"Don't they ever end?!" the kid demands, and the anger, real anger, in his voice startles Axel almost as much as how deep his voice is, and then he yells Axel's name and lunges to cut the nobody leaping for Axel clean in half, and Axel finally has the completely insane idea that he really needed, like, a week ago.
It's such a bad idea that it's genius, and the flames on Axel's chakrams shiver from the adrenaline of just thinking about it as Axel steps away, clear of Sora. There's a moment of distraction when Sora turns and Axel gets another good look at that keyblade and wishes desperately that the kid would have gotten some sort of decent, grown-up weapon for Christmas.
"Watch this," he says, and when Roxas's other has wide blue eyes fixed only on him, Axel realizes that he's really going to do it, and laughs as the metal of his chakrams starts melting his gloves, because this is not at all what he'd imagined would happen at the end, but it's almost close enough, and then everything goes red and orange and black.