Roxas stared at the ceiling. It would probably be morning soon. He hadn't looked at the clock yet. He hated this feeling. Axel had deserted him. The only person he had left was Xion. He was going to find her, no matter what. She was the only one left.
He forced himself to look at the clock. Time to get up. He wondered if he'd slept at all after Axel left. He couldn't remember. All of it was caught up in the blur of alternating pain and numbness.
Roxas walked to the gray area. He almost turned around when he saw Axel standing there. He was talking to Saix. Roxas's body froze. He doesn't care about you, Roxas thought. It doesn't matter if he sees you. Just ignore him.
It was still painful. They were the only people in the room. Saix waved him over. Roxas's legs felt like lead as he walked towards them. His whole body resisted.
"The imposter has been sighted again."
"Imposter?" Who did that mean? Maybe that was who he'd seen yesterday at the beach –that felt so far away. He pretended like Axel didn't exist when he replied, "You mean the one that Xion-"
Saix interrupted him. "He's prowling about Castle Oblivion as we speak."
"Castle Oblivion?" That had to be where Xion was. He had to find her. "I'll go."
"Not by yourself you won't. The target is extremely dangerous." Roxas feared what was coming. Axel had been staring at him during this whole conversation, and Roxas had been looking intently at Saix, blushing, trying not to catch his eye.
"Then how 'bout I tag along?" Axel asked. Roxas looked at him momentarily, begging him not to go through with this plan. He was acting like nothing had happened . Roxas found this upsetting, although he realized he shouldn't be surprise. Still, Axel could at least pretend like maybe he'd been having a hard time too, or maybe he'd wanted things to end up differently. That's what he'd said, but he'd left Roxas anyway.
Roxas stared at his shoes. Anything was better than looking at Axel, but Axel was staring at him.
"Castle Oblivion, huh? Ask and ye shall receive," Axel muttered, glancing at Roxas and opening a portal. What did he mean by that?
Axel gestured for Roxas to enter. Roxas just wanted to find Xion and leave.
He stepped into a bright white hall. The place was clean and bright, but still eerie somehow. He didn't like the feeling it gave him.
"So this is Castle Oblivion…" he mumbled. Axel was standing a safe distance away. Roxas was thankful for this. He reassured himself that he was only here to find Xion. He hadn't asked Axel to come along.
Then there was sharp, intense, and horrid pain. His brain felt like it was on fire. He clutched the sides of his head as a million images flashed before his eyes.
They subsided briefly and Roxas remembered the promise he'd made to himself and to Xion – he had to stay, but Axel wanted him to leave. "No," he said, struggling with each word, "we have to find Xion." Then more shooting pain, just as before. He couldn't focus.
He heard Axel scream his name and the words "We're leaving. Now!"
"No! Wait… there's something…" Roxas finally saw something concrete. It was a boy with gray hair. He was familiar, Sora's friend. Axel was trying to pull him into a portal. Roxas fought back. He had to know what was happening – had to reach him. "I can almost…" then there was a fresh burst of pain and Roxas's world went blank.
He heard a voice in the whiteness, filling his mind: "giving up already? I thought you were stronger than that." He recognized the voice. It was the boy with the gray hair, the same one from the beach, well, sort of.
He suddenly remembered the name. RIKU!" he yelled, reaching out a hand to the boy holding one out to him, but his eyes were open now, and it wasn't Riku in front of him, it was Axel.
"Whoa, you okay there?" Axel asked, holding out a hand to help Roxas up. Roxas didn't take it. He wanted Axel to go away.
"What happened to me?" he asked. He looked around. They were in Twilight Town. He was sitting on the ground. Axel was standing nearby. He looked concerned. It didn't make sense.
"You collapsed right outside the castle doors…don't you remember?"
Why did he look so concerned when only yesterday he had rejected him? He hadn't cared then. "I remember going in." Roxas sighed out of frustration and exhaustion. "That's it."
He tried to stand up, but his body wasn't strong enough to support him. He struggled for a second. He wanted to get away.
"Hey, you should take a breather," Axel was trying to take his arm, but Roxas wouldn't let him.
"I'm fine," he said, pulling his arm away. "We need to go back to Castle Oblivion." We need to find Xion. He felt the madness returning. He just had one goal –to find her. And get away from Axel.
"Hah," Axel said, taking his arm back again. Roxas was too weak to resist. "I don't think so."
Then they were both distracted by the sight of two cloaked figures behind them.
"Xion?" Roxas thought it was her. Could it really be? He was afraid it was yet another vision. No, Axel saw her too. She had to be real. A portal opened. She was leaving.
"Xion, wait!" he yelled. She couldn't leave him now.
Roxas gathered the strength to walk towards her, but the other cloaked figure stopped him. "Get out of my way!" he yelled again. He didn't have time for this. She was all he had.
Xion walked through the portal, but the one who had opened it remained.
"Roxas, wait up," Axel said breathlessly, appearing beside him. Roxas ran and Axel followed. The figure disappeared through a grate.
"Wait!" Roxas yelled, putting out a hand, trying to pull him back.
The figure was too fast. "No," Roxas said, before he could stop himself. "Xion…" He'd lost her, like he had lost Axel, like he was losing everything.
"Ain't no way that was Xion," Axel said, shaking his head. He was almost out of breath.
"The other one was. The one who escaped. But… I don't get it," he said, thinking aloud, "Why would she run from me?"
"Come on Roxas," Axel said, "Let's go get ice cream. My treat?" He almost moved to put an arm around Roxas, but he stopped himself, clearly remembering that Roxas didn't want him there. Good, Roxas thought. He finally understands.
They ended up at the clock tower, but Axel sat far enough away that Roxas found his company bearable. "Why would she do that?" Roxas would have liked to ask the same question about Axel's behavior yesterday, but he didn't want to have that discussion right now – or ever.
"At least we know she's safe. She'll come home when she's ready."
Why was Axel so sure of this? "But won't they turn her into a Dusk?" Roxas shivered. The idea frightened him.
"Not necessarily," Axel said flatly. He didn't seem concerned at all. It was making Roxas upset.
"Who was that guy she was with? Why is she cooperating with him?"
Axel looked away. He didn't respond.
Roxas started to stand up. If he wasn't going to get answers he wanted to leave.
Axel took his hand, preventing him from moving. "Do you want to come back to my room? I, um… I don't want you to be alone after you passed out like that."
Roxas couldn't explain why he was doing it, but he followed Axel down the stairs.
They were both sitting on Axel's bed, as far away as possible, silently, awkwardly. Roxas wanted an excuse to leave, badly.
"Um…I need to brush my teeth… I should probably go or something…" he mumbled, walking toward the door.
"You can brush your teeth here," Axel said, somewhat forcefully.
"I don't have a toothbrush."
"Oh come on, Roxas. My tongue has been in your mouth. I doubt my toothbrush will be any worse," he said rolling his eyes, but smiling slightly. Roxas blushed, and walked into Axel's bathroom, closing the door behind him. He stared at himself in the mirror. What am I doing here? He asked. I should go. I should leave right now.
But why had Axel invited him here in the first place? There was no way he could bring Roxas here and want him to stay and not like him. Yesterday had to be a mistake. Maybe Axel just needed some convincing. He clearly still liked Roxas. Why else would he have brought him here?
Roxas was nervous as he opened the bathroom door. Axel was sitting on the side of the bed, looking at him oddly, but at least he was looking.
He walked toward Axel until they were face to face. With Axel sitting on the bed they were the same height, for once. Axel's hands moved to Roxas's waist. He seemed to be trying to push him away and pull him closer at the same time.
Roxas was looking at Axel and Axel was finally looking back. Giving him that look that meant they were more than friends, that unbreakable look that meant he wanted this to be happening. That he was cherishing this as much as Roxas.
Roxas leaned in to kiss his neck. Gently. "Roxas," Axel said, and Roxas knew he was being reproachful, and he was trying softly to push him away, but the name came out sounding more sensual than reproachful, and it just made Roxas more determined.
He kissed Axel's cheek and his forehead and smoothed back his hair. He looked into Axel's eyes. Axel's look was confused and helpless. For once Roxas saw a little of himself in Axel's eyes. He looked so vulnerable and unsure. It gave Roxas a strange kind of confidence.
"I've missed doing this," he whispered, tracing a finger down Axel's jaw. Axel was silent.
Roxas moved his face closer. Axel's hands were digging into his waist now. He wanted Axel to kiss him. Their noses were touching, and their lips were so close. Roxas could feel the breath from Axel's mouth, but he didn't want to be the one to make the final move. Axel had to do it. Roxas waited.
Then he felt Axel sigh and release his grip on Roxas's waist. "I can't do this," he said, moving away.
Roxas was more angry than he ever remembered being. This wasn't fair at all. He'd been so close.
He turned away from Axel. He realized that tears were flowing, and he just hoped Axel wouldn't see them and know.
He heard Axel get off the bed, and then Axel was standing front of him. Roxas didn't know what he was going to do, what he meant by this. He held his breath. Axel put his arms around Roxas and held him close. Roxas's head fit perfectly under his chin.
Roxas felt like weeping. He wanted desperately to forget what had just happened and possibly what had ever happened. He wanted to pretend like Axel was just his friend, like this was okay, but then he remembered that Axel had lied to him and pretended like he didn't exist and had just rejected him in the worst way possible.
He couldn't do it anymore. He removed himself from Axel's arms. His green eyes looked helpless again as Roxas moved away and he momentarily wanted to go back, but he couldn't do it, couldn't stay.
He turned his back on Axel. He left the room, and realized he had nothing. Except maybe his past, or rather, Sora's past. Maybe he could still save Xion.
Still, he knew he'd have to see Axel again. He would pretend like they were just acquaintances, treat him like anyone else.