"No, wait!" Roxas yelled. He wasn't sure how it had happened, but Axel and Xion were in combat. She had pointed her keyblade at Roxas moments ago, and now Axel was fighting her, defending him. But he's not doing it for you, Roxas reminded himself. He is just obeying Saix's orders. They had been sent here to destroy Xion, his only potential friend. And now even she had turned on him.
Roxas stood helpless, and watched fire follow Axel's movements. Axel rarely looked more alive than when he was fighting. Usually it made him so happy, or at least self-satisfied, but he wasn't smiling as Xion deflected his weapon, leaving him completely vulnerable. Roxas didn't understand. Axel was a much better fighter than Xion. He was better than anyone. Roxas, in spite of everything, couldn't watch him get hurt.
"Stop!" he yelled at them, stepping closer. This caused her to look at him, a very strange look. Was it even Xion he was seeing? Their eyes were locked for only a moment and then Axel hit her over the head, hard. She collapsed.
Roxas looked at Axel, completely confused, hoping for an explanation. Axel opened a portal, and then their eyes met. Axel's were defiant, daring Roxas to stop him, or maybe he was asking for forgiveness. There was something odd about his expression. Then Axel looked away, dragging Xion along, and they disappeared into darkness.
Roxas went back to headquarters right away, his mind racing. He couldn't comprehend what he'd just seen. For a second, he had been terrified that Axel was going to get hurt and in the next he feared for Xion. What the hell was Axel doing? You shouldn't trust him, Roxas reminded himself. If he didn't keep telling himself this he knew he would forget, and he couldn't let Axel keep deceiving him. Axel was there, at headquarters. Roxas yelled his name, running towards him, angry. It was weird to say his name, weird to have to speak to him at all. He had an odd desire to punch him in the face. Axel had rejected him last night again, and now he had taken his only remaining friend. Even though she had pointed a weapon at him, Xion could never hurt him the way Axel had
"Hey Roxas," Axel said, exasperated.
Roxas was livid. "Where is she?"
Not safe. "How could you do that to her?"
"You didn't have to use force." Roxas could feel his face getting hot. The desire to physically attack Axel was getting stronger. Roxas had never felt like this before. He hated him. This wasn't about Xion. This was about Axel, and Roxas wasn't going to let him off the hook this time.
"No... Of course not! We're supposed to be best friends."
"This isn't about friendship." Roxas just glared at him. Of course it was, of course. They were supposed to be friends, all of them. Roxas couldn't speak from anger and disappointment.
"If that's all, I gotta go," Axel said, turning around and walking the other direction. Roxas wanted to throw his keyblade at him as he walked out the door.
"He's the connection."
"He is what makes you and Xion a part of each other's lives," Xemnas explained. "Just as he is the reason I placed Xion among our number. And if you want her to stay that way, I must insist you get your mind off these needless distractions. I will have Xion return to her duties tomorrow. Today, you must focus on yours."
Sora – the missing connection. Roxas pondered this. Xion would be back tomorrow. He breathed in deeply. All would be well, he thought. And then he saw Axel.
"Hey Roxas," Axel said nonchalantly. Roxas was still angry, and he needed to think. He walked past Axel and into his room, slamming the door behind him.
Xion was back today. Roxas had gone to the clock tower to look for her, and she had been there – with Axel. Roxas would have left, but Xion saw him and waved him over. He wished he had explained to her what had happened between he and Axel, but he never got the chance. He wasn't sure if he wanted to talk about it anyway.
Even though they were finally all together again, things could not have been more different. Roxas could feel Axel's eyes on his, but he refused to look at him. He stared at the sunset and then left without a word.
Roxas had been having nightmares. He never slept anymore. Every day felt like a blur, and last night, he'd had a dream that about Sora again. Roxas had seen his face – knew for sure what he looked like. And that boy with the grey hair, Riku, he was in the dreams too. Roxas didn't want anyone to notice, but he was doing horribly at missions lately. He was exhausted from the lack of sleep brought on by these visions of Sora, and he didn't know where to turn.
Now he was sitting at the clock tower with Xion. She finally spoke.
"I guess he's not coming today."
"You want him to?" Roxas couldn't say it without sounding accusatory. How could she, of all people, want him to come back? He'd betrayed her.
"What, did you two have a fight?" She asked
Why would she ask that? Did she know what had happened? Roxas pretended like she didn't know anything. He hoped she didn't. What if Axel had talked to her? "I can't believe that jerk would actually attack you."
"So he's a jerk now?"
Why didn't she agree with him? Maybe Axel had been messing with her head too.
She sighed "Roxas, I wouldn't be sitting here with you if Axel hadn't done that." She looked at him intently. "He's your best friend."
She didn't understand. Best not to explain. "So are you," he said, looking at her. He wished this was true, but if she was on Axel's side he didn't want her to be his friend anyway.
"It's just not the same without all three of us..." she said. Roxas agreed with that. It wasn't the same, and it was never going to be the same again. But sometimes he wished it didn't have to be that way.
Maybe he was starting to miss him. He was so exhausted every day. He just needed to rest, needed a friend who knew what he was feeling, but no one would understand. The nightmares continued, and there was nowhere to turn.
Saix was proposing a mission to him. Roxas could barely understand what he was saying, and he didn't care. He would do whatever he was told. "S...sure... Leave it to me!" Roxas said, fighting sleep. What did he care?
Then he heard Axel's voice – something he'd been missing for a while now. "Hey, whoa whoa whoa... Roxas, you really wanna do that?"
"Why wouldn't I?" Roxas said, not looking at either or them.
"It's just, lately you—" Axel had been paying attention to him? Roxas looked at him briefly and then at his shoes.
"Shouldn't you already be out on your mission, Axel?" Saix interrupted.
"Yeah, I need to get ready, too," Roxas said, shrugging the whole thing off, but Axel stayed, looking at him intently. Roxas managed to look back. Maybe they could be friends again? "Let's…. catch up later?" Roxas suggested. He immediately hated himself for it. Why was he so weak? It could have been anyone, he told himself. He just needed a friend. But deep down he knew he wanted it to be Axel.
Axel and Xion were at the clock tower after his mission. Roxas felt like they were miles apart. "Been a while since we all hung out like this, huh?" he asked, trying to diffuse the silence, but he knew he sounded desperate.
"Well, we have had our share of drama," Axel said. Roxas remembered what made Axel so terrible – he trivialized everything. He didn't understand Roxas at all. How could he have been so deceived? "Hey, I just remembered," he continued "did you guys know you should be checking your ice cream sticks?"
"Really? For what?" Xion asked.
"Once you finish your ice cream bar, check the stick. It might say WINNER."
"Hey, wait a second... Oh yeah!" Roxas had found one of those a long time ago, but for some reason he didn't want to tell Axel – he didn't want him to know anything about his life. Axel had lost the right to know anything.
"Oh yeah" what?" Axel said, looking at him.
"Uhh...n-nothing… So… what do you win?"
"Heh, beats me." Axel shrugged.
There were moments of silence, and then Roxas felt something deep inside of him rebelling, and he couldn't stop himself from asking, "What if we all ran off?"
Xion looked at him. "What?"
"The three of us. Then we could always be together," he said. What was he thinking? He regretted saying it already. But the lack of sleep was catching up to him. He felt crazy, like something had to change in his life, but he knew this wasn't the answer. He would be miserable with the two of them. Maybe even more miserable than he was now.
"We don't have any place to run," Xion said. He was glad she'd said it so he didn't have to. Of course it was a bad idea.
"I know. Heh," he said, looking away, "I was just thinking out loud."
"Well, even if things change," Axel said, looking directly at him, "we'll never be apart."
What the hell did that mean? Roxas wondered.
"As long as we remember each other...right? Don't worry, Axel-we got your hokey speech memorized," Xion said, laughing it off. Axel was still looking at Roxas. What did that look mean? Roxas couldn't bring himself to look back.
"Just checking," Axel said, finally looking at Xion instead.
"I'll have these moments memorized for a long time. Forever, I hope," Xion said.
"Me too," Roxas said absentmindedly, looking down at the ground far below him. Who were these people sitting beside him? He didn't recognize them anymore – didn't recognize himself. "Forever…" he said, as he stared at the sunset, and he wondered how he could get away from them, away from this place, away from the organization. He wondered where he could start again. Away from Axel, forever.