His mission had been miserable. The fact that Xion was missing made everything worse. He just didn't understand why, and he hadn't seen Axel for days. Where was he when Roxas needed him most? He felt like someone was with him right now, on the clock tower, but he realized he was probably just paranoid. No visions today, at least. Maybe they would go away.
He just wanted Axel to come sit next to him like old times. Just to talk. The sun set, and it was dark outside except for the few twinkling lights of Twilight Town.
Axel wasn't coming. Roxas admitted it to himself for what felt like the millionth time. He hadn't seen him anywhere. Not at the clock tower, not in his room, not during missions, not at meals. Roxas wanted-needed- to find him.
But he resigned himself to another night alone and arrived shortly back at the Organization's headquarters. He knocked on Axel's door, something he'd never dared to do before, because he was feeling particularly desperate and lonely. He thought he heard someone shuffling around. His heart beat faster. Axel was in there. Roxas was about to see him for the first time in weeks. What should he say? I missed you? I'm going crazy. I'm seeing things. I need you.
But no one came to the door. Silence. "Axel, are you there? It's Roxas -well, obviously." He was feeling flustered, and he knew it was obvious that he was desperate. He tried the doorknob. It was locked. He felt terrible. He walked quietly to his room, trying to take up as little space as possible. As soon as he closed the door, he collapsed. Tears were falling from his eyes. Nobodies shouldn't be able to cry, he thought. So much for that.
He was at the beach. There was someone who looked like Xion. It was Xion. And some other guy –two guys? Maybe they were the same person. They looked kind of familiar, at least, but from where? It felt so real, but he might be crazy. It couldn't be Xion. She'd gone missing weeks ago.
He was walking to the clock tower now, out of habit. No idea when he'd left the beach or how he'd ended up here or why. What was the point of going to watch the sunset alone? He knew no one was going to show up.
Where was everyone? He hadn't even talked to Demyx much lately. It seemed like all his friends were leaving him. He wondered if somehow he'd made them all up, along with his past. Maybe the visions were his real life somehow. Could a nobody even really exist, he wondered. Maybe not.
He got his sea-salt ice cream, still deep in depressive thought, and walked the steps up to the clock tower, resigning himself to solitariness.
His stomach fluttered when he saw that Axel was there. Really Axel. Not a vision, not an illusion. The real thing.
Axel was staring at him curiously, so he spoke. "Wow…. You're actually up here…"
"Been that long, huh?" Axel responded, leaning back on the palms of his hands, staring at the sunset.
Roxas thought about telling him how mad he was and asking why he'd been ignoring him and where he'd been, but he didn't want Axel to go away yet, and the fear of it happening was too great. He needed to talk, so he did. He told Axel what had happened at the beach, or at least what he could remember. How he thought he'd Xion, but he didn't know, and how maybe, and this thought scared him, he had seen her there because he wanted her to be there and not because she really was.
In his mind, he was thinking of the same strange wish he couldn't stop wanting. The wish that everything could be like it was before everything –maybe even before he'd first asked Axel to kiss him. He stopped himself there. How could he ever wish that?
The silence was uncomfortable. Axel probably thought he was crazy. He wasn't looking at Roxas. He stood up. His profile looked so noble. He was so tall and thin and just beautiful in the light of the setting sun. Roxas couldn't explain what he was feeling. This person didn't look like Axel. He looked like everything Roxas had always wanted Axel to be and still couldn't help thinking he was – the center of a crumbling universe.
Axel looked at him and smiled. "You wanna go look for her?"
This took him by surprise. Could they just do that? Run off and look for her? Axel probably wasn't thinking this through. "But Xemnas's orders…" Roxas said, looking back at him.
Axel leaned down and put a hand on Roxas's shoulder. He leaned in close and confidently spoke, "Orders schmorders. Starting tomorrow, we'll use our spare time between work and coming here to try and find Xion."
Roxas noticed that Axel hadn't mentioned anything about their activities outside of work. Were their nights together over? Something had changed, but what was it? Roxas deeply held on to the belief that Axel should never be parted from him, but he feared that they couldn't stay together forever, despite all his wishes. Maybe that's why Axel hadn't been around him much; maybe he knew it too. Maybe everything Roxas used to believe about them was a dream. It was becoming harder to tell what the truth was. Everything was so constantly changing.
He wanted Axel to kiss him, to reassure him that their past was real, that he remembered something. Axel's hand was still on his shoulder. This was where Roxas had his first real memory, the day he met Axel. And it was where they'd first kissed. But he was supposed to be thinking about Xion.
It was true that they needed to look for her. She was somewhere out there, probably alone, and maybe as confused as he was
"Okay," he said looking at Axel. "Yeah, it's a deal."
Axel didn't respond. He faced the setting sun, and Roxas followed his gaze.
Now he saw Axel every day, and they always had the same conversation. Did you find her? No. Where did you look? Mumblings of places. We'll find her. Yeah, we'll find her, Roxas responded, pretending like he knew it was a fact, but, to be honest, he wasn't sure.
He felt like a zombie most of the time. He couldn't sleep. First, there was the seemingly impossible challenge of finding Xion and then there was Axel who was behaving so strangely Roxas couldn't remember what their relationship had been like anymore. All his memories seemed to fade into nothingness and blur. Nothing seemed real.
He was going insane. He was losing it. He didn't know what to do.
It was the beginning of the day. He walked toward Axel who was standing in the Gray Area, waiting. Axel made sure no one was within ear shot, and said reassuringly, "I'll look again after work today, see if I can find her."
Roxas nodded. Axel didn't smile at him. He never smiled anymore. Neither did Roxas. They were getting nowhere. Both of them seemed to know it, but Axel kept pretending, so Roxas did too. "We'll find her, I promise," he'd say. "Yeah, we'll find her." Roxas would repeat the words, but he never meant them.
Roxas arrived at the clock tower feeling exhausted and hopeless.
"It's no use. We're never gonna find her," he said, avoiding eye contact. He couldn't survive another fake conversation.
Axel didn't look at him. He never did when they were alone together. Roxas noticed. "You sure there isn't someplace you're forgetting to check?"
"I've been everywhere I know how to get to." He sighed. He wanted to be clear. He'd tried everything. Everything to find Xion, everything to remember his real past, everything to get Axel to pay attention to him. Everything.
"Right." Axel said. He scratched his head absentmindedly. From what he could observe without directly looking at him, Roxas thought Axel looked uncomfortable.
"The only place I haven't looked is Castle Oblivion." At this point, Roxas wasn't afraid to bring it up anymore. What else did he have to lose? "Xion was asking about it, remember?"
What if Axel didn't remember? What if Roxas was making all of this up. "And…the day before she disappeared, you said she was put on an important mission." Didn't Axel say that? Roxas waited for a response.
"Yeah, but…" Axel didn't seem to know how to proceed. "The place has cleared out, man. There's nothing there."
"Xion might be there," Roxas said seriously. Why hadn't he considered it before? It was the only possibility left.
"You know…" Axel said, vaguely trying to look at Roxas but settling on looking at his hand instead, "that's where she comes from. Castle Oblivion."
"That's probably why she was asking about it," Axel shrugged.
"I had no idea…" Why hadn't he put the pieces together? Nobodies had to come from somewhere.
"Neither did I. I only found out about it a little while ago…" Axel trailed off. Roxas wondered if he was telling the truth.
"She must have a lot of questions." Roxas imagined that wherever Xion was, she was probably having the same feelings as him. They were both alone. "Poor Xion."
Roxas knew that tone. Axel was on the verge of asking something. Roxas was too nervous to speak, but he managed to mutter a "yeah?"
He paused. Then sighed. "I'm really, really sorry."
"For … for what?" Roxas managed to whisper. There were so many things Roxas was angry about. So many things Axel could be sorry for, but which one was he thinking of?
"I'm sorry this is how things ended up. I ruined everything." He paused and took a deep breath. "I fucked it up, like always."
This confession gave Roxas an odd kind of courage. "I have trouble remembering the past," he admitted "I…think I'm insane. I don't even know if everything I think happened really happened… Do you…remember when we kissed here?" Roxas looked at Axel who wasn't looking back at him.
Axel's voice came out sounding very weak, almost as though he might cry, the same way Xion had cried before she disappeared, the same way Roxas had cried over Axel. "I want you," his body shook. He sighed. He almost didn't continue. "I want you to forget that, okay? It doesn't matter."
Roxas had to leave. He stood up but felt immediately dizzy. Don't fall off the ledge, he thought to himself, but what did it matter. Then his mind went blank.
He woke up in his room. The ceiling came into focus and he realized that someone was holding his hand, and he recognized the hand and the person attached to it who was sitting on a chair by his bedside. Axel's other hand was on his forehead, and he hadn't noticed that Roxas was awake yet.
Roxas observed him for a second. He looked worried.
"Hey," Roxas said. His voice, freshly awoken from his sleep was quiet and muffled. His head hurt too, he noticed. The last thing he remembered: falling, and before that the fatal words "It doesn't matter." We don't matter. You do not matter.
Axel looked at him and smiled slightly, but he quickly looked away. "You passed out," he said, getting up to leave, but Roxas was still holding on to his hand, as tightly as his tired body would allow.
Don't go, he thought. Don't keep leaving me. He was too weak to say it – too afraid. He was completely helpless.
"You don't want me here, Roxas. Trust me," Axel said, and Roxas unintentionally relaxed his grip. He wanted to scream at him, tell him that it was a lie, but Axel was already gone.