Bullet requested I write a canon-verse drabble to No Lights, No Lights by Florence + the Machine. Merry Christmas.
There was a place that overlooked the town and repeatedly witnessed when the sun seeped into the horizon like an open wound draining into dirty fabrics. This place was a keeper of time. The keeper of two men with chests internally blown free of its contents, and this hollowness haunted their fabricated heartbeats rooted behind sternums possessing involuntary darkness. Together they were anything but pragmatic because they could manufacture imaginary emotions with competent ease. Parted lips where laughter between them interwove to make fictional emotions such as happiness and hurt, and it was a catalyst for many things. Many obstructing moments that left one redheaded man alone in his self-deprecation, and the ocean eyed prince hurdled toward a minefield of recognition. In between these moments where legs swung over the brick edge and the sticky sweetness of salt speckled dessert trickled down the webbing of their fingers were promises. I promise. I promise. I promise.
Before Roxas stopped believing in the brilliant haired man, and before the soft spoken girl with a raven head and sea eyes dissolved, there was a time when Axel discovered he was phenomenal at pretending he was in love. It started with a hushed promise that this was how best friends were, and a series of pacing along that narrow pathway in front of their clock tower. Sometimes Roxas watched him stride, but he never knew how to ask what was wrong because it appeared to him Axel was bothered, but wasn’t that impossible? Nothing was supposed to eat at his internal organs. Guilt didn’t exist within any of them, and Roxas never thought to wonder if the man’s human urges were the reasoning for him to not meet his eyes after they kissed. Kissing was a bizarre and foreign concept to the blond, but when Axel brought him onto his lap and told him they were best friends, then it was okay. Whatever Axel said was okay.
He was approximately fifteen years old, and he kissed with the feeling of someone who had spun himself through twenty different lives of want. Axel always cupped the back of his neck while Roxas clung to his shoulders as if there was no other anchor in the universe. Sometimes Axel believed that—as soon as he was able to regain his heart—he would love the boy unconditionally. There would be nothing to stand in his way, but then there was the faux-fear that he would feel nothing. The entire thought of not wanting Roxas as he was brought on the faint memories of terror he still possessed. Those moments made him cling harder, kiss rougher until Roxas whimpered because Axel had broken the skin of his bottom lip, again. Axel sucked away the blood, kissed him softer and couldn’t explain himself. Sometimes the blond asked if he was okay, and the man just laughed. Always, he sounded so bitter.
“Isn’t that it for us? We can only be neutral?”
Roxas took the answer in stride because—for someone who clearly felt more than Axel ever could—he was also somehow more of a drone. Axel wanted to ask him if he felt that flutter in his throat when their kissing morphed into hands reaching for zippers and weighted breathing. Did everything in his guts burn up like the worst kind of ailment, too? Was that why Roxas clung to him with biting nails hell bent on leaving crescent scars when Axel murmured his name during unexpected sex? Axel wanted to make more promises. He’d made one before, but this was different. Sometimes the words threatened to drip from his tongue like a stream of eloquent confession, but he distracted himself with Roxas’ soon-to-be bruise splotched clavicles. I promise I’ll love you someday, and then I’ll love you forever. I promise. I promise. I promise.
If they had the opportunity to make sternums explode like the faces of porcelain dolls, then they let it happen without a moment’s hesitation. The festering lacerations of those settled within their basement were a tamper-proof secret, and the padlock was only opened in the name of admiration. Gloating at mangled corpses being eaten by intertwining mildews and the natural process of decomposition was its own hobby. In a way, when Roxas’ boots greeted each dry rotted step, the anticipation was equivalent to the evil queen opening the box for Snow White’s heart. All those hearts, and that’s where it had started. There was nothing more void filling than digging teeth into the human vascular tissue after the screaming had relinquished with a final wet gurgle. It was only more fulfilling when Roxas knelt down beside his redheaded counterpart and dug his fingers into sticky torsos opened like busted treasure chests. He had worked his lips against Axel’s with a still congealing corpse near their knees so many times before it was growing habitual. The pretty cardiac organs were always heavy in Roxas’ palm, and he could only compare it to mining for diamonds.
“Is this wrong?” Roxas joked as he whipped a knife around and let out a sickly satisfied laugh when the blade met flesh and tore downward. As he went about the practiced motions of a purposely messy disembowelment he had kept his gaze focused on the man with peridot eyes and a smirk dribbling amusement. “Do you ever think we’re doing something wrong? Christ, these guts fucking stink.”
Axel stained his cigarette filters with bloody prints. He smoked them then burned the remainders in small piles beside the viscera they preferred to let settle into already stained concrete. Graves were tedious and getting caught wasn’t a matter of automatic concern, so they let what happen come at its greatest force. They were the token gay couple in the neighborhood where no one would’ve guessed what they were. By the way they uttered such friendly greetings and how Axel flirted with his weight shifted onto a single foot and a cigarette dangling out of the corner of his mouth; well, it was all so inconspicuous. Roxas liked to think they were good people. They watched children play from their orange Victorian’s front stoop; beat out every house with their abundance of Christmas lights; fed the local stray animals. Evil was subjective anyway, and he had no tie to the entire concept when he firmly grasped onto a little girl’s wrist and tugged her free from the stinking mud settled behind the block’s cluster of aged homes.
“Nothing’s wrong when you look so damn good doing it,” Axel murmured, and he plunged his lengthy fingers into the bubbling wound in search of their gem.
It was weighty, and there was the underlying sensation where both of them understood their forever was only tangible through interminable volumes of restarting. How they knew wasn’t the problem. In that silent moment where Roxas was sitting directly across from Axel on a soggy park bench with their knees touching, Roxas was comfortable; but Axel was gangly with that edge of alien grace the blond had attempted to understand more than once in their swaying cradle of kindly cultivated friendship. His motions were mercury in a thermometer where he shifted with the temperature of their ever driving emotions. When their lips meshed together in drunken slurries he shown like molten silver; though Roxas preferred to think of it as polished platinum. When guttural screaming matches ensued over the toaster’s bagel setting he watched Axel creep into the frostbite negatives. Roxas preferred him hot and burning with wickedly white leers that put him on edge because—at the end of the day—Axel was purely dangerous in his own formidable right.
He had been twenty and Axel twenty-five when the redheaded man professed a drunken confession through shit eating grins. Axel swore on his momma’s maggots that Roxas would marry him in a New York courthouse during the dead of winter. It would be spontaneous and he would kill the cherry of a cigarette with the heel of his boot before returning to his black Firebird. There they would consummate the entire practice in the leather backseat with digging nails and shameless exclamations. The skin along Roxas’ spine would stick to the interior, and in a single sweeping moment they would be forever entwined. Axel had gone into brilliant gesticulation before reaching for the rest of Roxas’ beer, and Roxas had laughed in his face. There had been an exchange of some days, maybes, possiby, and then after a short pause—“yes, please, I’ve never wanted someone more.” Drunkenly proposed to before he had even finished his sophomore year of college had been a terrifying experience brimming with a thrill. The next morning Axel had called him his best friend before pushing his fingers through tousled sandy locks and correcting himself—fiancé.
But people change, and six months later when Roxas stepped into their apartment with the guilt boiling his blood, he knew the title would be refuted. Any other time Axel could have greeted him with his snarky demeanor that used to send his hormones through every phase of the moon, but Roxas stopped him short the second the redhead strode into the living room. Instantly, Roxas waned their Harvest moon perfection to a thin crescent like the indentions his nails had made on Axel’s olive skin during spontaneous intimacy. His lips were bruised from kissing a stranger too hard and using them to speak to Axel left him screaming with curdled blood wetting the sound. Choked up was an understatement, but he couldn’t spend another second in his presence pretending he hadn’t tattered the balance of something that could have been good. Too young to marry the perfect man and he hated himself because he had given up those sleepy mornings where his fingertips lightly traced the inked skin protecting Axel’s spidery fingers. He had gotten B U R N B A B Y needled across his knuckles during his freshman year of college, and Roxas had watched him laugh at himself while working on his final thesis paper because, “Babe, I’ve changed so much.”
“You know,” Axel said on that park bench. He was smoking like a freight train. “You’re still my best friend.”
And Roxas wasn’t surprised when he had no reason to correct himself.
A quick hodgepodge of Akuroku feelings.
They slept together on periwinkle sheets speckled with dandruff and cum stains, and some nights, when there was nothing but ringing silence between their rising and falling chests, Axel wondered why he had been born with an instilled thankfulness for Roxas. Filtering through life with displaced anxiety over someone he had only known for two years left him high and dry, but there was never a question from Roxas when Axel reached over in the middle of the night and lazily slung an arm around his waist. Axel always scrambled for the other’s hand, and as if they were waiting on disseverment with bated breath, their fingers intertwined and nails bit into skin until Roxas stifled a grunt of acknowledgement. Every sunset carried uncertainty and perpetual déjà vu, which was why the redhead buried his face into the nape of the other’s neck with shaky breathing and the kind of apprehension brought on by an unprecedented crack in his internal hard drive.
Mornings were when Roxas spent half an hour staring at his hair as if someone had poured acid on the follicles, and when his lips began forming a thin line, Axel knew it was time to swoop in and throw an arm around his shoulders. He would mention the news or how Roxas was going to end up the master map for frown lines if he didn’t stop looking so fucking glum, but there was always a familiar urge rattling within his thorax. Most of the time he continuously fell into a state of disbelief because Roxas was his and the apartment was theirs, but he was always on the verge of reiterating how Roxas was nothing but pure perfection wrapped up in snarky paper and a bow that was talented at giving him shitty looks for being a continuous flake. When Roxas spoke to him, Axel occasionally found himself pausing because everything hurt in a way that didn’t really hurt at all. He was obsessed to the point of being cautiously aware of every step he made. Roxas couldn’t leave, and when the thought alone flitted through his brainwaves, the lump in his throat crew cancerous.
He doubted things. Axel doubted every single day of his life, but whenever he had Roxas’ legs over his shoulders and the blond was groaning out his name with the slop of his navel rapidly rising and falling, his mind was clear. Trembling thighs, and half the time he didn’t want to dwell on Roxas returning favors because it wasn’t a favor in the first place. When he murmured everything Roxas wanted to hear before sucking purple and yellow splotches to the surface of his skin, the man’s focus was on making sure there would be a short spree of begging for more and that sense of connectivity where he could hear the desperation in the pitch of Roxas’ breathy words. Sometimes he dragged it out until he was certain Roxas would punch a hole through his neck, and other times he shoved him over the kitchen table and watched him white knuckle the edge of the table. However they started didn’t matter, though. The follow up was always playful kisses and quiet words, and those moments were when he treated every exposed inch of skin with the kind of care meant for people who were destined to never see each other again. Axel knew forever wasn’t tangible, but he wasn’t going to accept the inevitable.
Sunny yellow mornings when they weren’t assed to leave the bedroom were the ones when Axel smoked through an entire pack of cloves and Roxas tried to explain why poetry was for the pretentious upper-class. He’d bitch and groan about things that should have fallen on deaf ears, but Axel stared and absorbed himself in the conversations with a kind of undivided attention he wished he would have had when he tried out that failed first year of college. He always ended up dragging the book of poems directly from Roxas’ hands, and though he could never place the author once he was done reading, he ended up amused because what he read contained semblances of love. Roxas stared at the ceiling fan and listened, and when he was tired of reading out loud, Roxas glanced over and asked him why they were in love. He asked every sleep Sunday, and the insecurity was continuously answered the same.
“If people could always explain why they love someone, then do you think we’d have all the problems we do?”
Roxas never answered, and Axel typically arched an eyebrow with a smirking smile before tugging him over. There was no genuine reasoning behind what they were, but somewhere along the line of fate and the things Axel claimed he had no belief in, there was a celestial intertwining that left their pectorals split open like an armoire for the other to pick through.
“Do you have any idea what you’re doing right now?”
“Absolutely fucking not.”
Roxas fumbled with the black helmet Axel tossed his way, and with pursed lips, he gave the taller of the two the kind of look implying someone was going to die in acid, and no, it wasn’t going to be anyone with blond hair. There was a smoldering exchange of looks where Axel was unforgivably sardonic and Roxas was straight-faced, but neither of them won the expression war. Allowing his shoulders to sag as Axel pulled on his own helmet, he looked his best friend over, and he did so with mock distaste. This was a challenge because anytime Axel wore an all-black motocross suit Roxas’ eyes swept along every seeable inch of the man’s toned frame like an oppressed school girl on the brink of sparking from hormonal charge. He was unforgivably gorgeous, and Roxas wondered how they had ended up running in the same circle. Sure, a fierce love for anything Ducati was bound to make their paths cross while living in the same neighborhood, but that didn’t seem reason enough.
“If we die, you’re not my friend anymore.” Roxas reached out and slammed Axel’s visor down, which made the redhead cackle. “I’m serious, you ass wipe.”
They had met at a fight club, and the first memory of Axel Roxas had was watching the behemoth of a beanpole spit out a bloody mouth guard. His finger joints had flexed as he rolled ridiculously broad shoulders, and globules of pink saliva had oozed from his gleaming lips and onto the pavement. There had been a hypersensitive view of Axel abruptly throwing his shirtless torso tattered by the endless meet and greets with pavement at another human being. Taut muscles had shifted between bones and olive skin, and Roxas had never before found the nodules of a spine as entrancing. They were anatomical baubles encrusting an expansive ribcage crafted from platinum, and he had fleetingly romanced the idea of them becoming friends. He hadn’t expected it to actually happen.
“Relax, Roxas.” He grasped onto Roxas’ shoulders and slid his palms down to his biceps. Axel’s grip tightened and he began to spiritedly shake the flaxen boy. “Trust me, and trust me some more.”
“Want to know what happened last time I trusted you?” He grumbled through the continuing shakes.
“I made you question your sexuality?”
“I like how you continuously seem to avoid anything to do with your multiple arrests and all the time I’ve spent behind bars because of you.”
Axel let him go so Roxas could yank on his own helmet. “That was once.”
“Because you were too drunk to remember the other two.”
He coughed and somewhat nodded. “Possibly.”
“That smells terrible,” Roxas murmured while Axel lit up a cigar he had stolen from his dad’s desk. As he gave the older boy a critical stare, his back was pressed against the trunk of a maple tree, and there was a fresh copy of The Little Prince settled on his upper-thigh. The moment he had seen the redhead approaching him, he had made the conscious decision to dog ear his page because Axel was impossible to sit in silence with. His mouth ran a mile a minute, and there was always that snarky edge to every word dripping from his tongue like molasses. There had been syrup to his tone and grit in his words since they had met, and it was a hodgepodge of characteristics that shouldn’t have peacefully coexisted, but well, they did. At least, they did from Roxas’ perspective, but he was biased, which had a lot to do with how they had grown up together. Axel had been there to shove him down in the sandbox and make him eat raw worms, and Roxas had been there to cry about how the older boy up the street bullied him and made his slacks dirty.
“I’m enlisted,” Axel said with a grin Roxas wanted to slap off his face with the back of his book. “Those Germans are going to lick the underside of my shit kickers when I get there. You could go with, you know. Just because you’re helping your daddy run a fucking lumber mill is a pretty piss poor excuse not to fight.”
“We’re contributing, which is why I’m not going. I’m doing my part.” Roxas opened his book so he wouldn’t have to stare at Axel’s accusing face. “When do you leave?”
“Two weeks, boy.” He leaned forward to pull the book down and move his face into Roxas’ line of vision. “Gonna miss me?”
The sweater he was wearing was suddenly too scratchy, and Roxas couldn’t bring himself to look Axel in the eye, so he stared at the clump of autumn tossed leaves directly past Axel’s face. Then would have been a convenient time for Roxas’ mother to call out from the back door for him to come inside for dinner, but she didn’t. Had she, then they would’ve rose to their feet and Axel would have assumed his spot at the table the way he always had when with Roxas at dinner time. His parents would coddle his decision to go to war because all the boys were heroes for making the decision Roxas didn’t have to, and he wouldn’t have to answer Axel’s selfish question.
That being said, there was no scapegoat for the moment, and he subconsciously rolled his lips against each other before gritting his teeth. None of their friends had come home outside of a casket, and there were too many who would never come home in any form. Roxas didn’t want Axel to be intangible. No matter how thick their bond was, the blond knew he couldn’t just pretend he felt close to Axel when he was rotting in a trench. The always reserved Roxas wanted to punch Axel in the face and make him eat clumps of dirt and grass until he was choking because he wasn’t just going to kill himself. He was going to kill Roxas. There was absolutely nothing for him in their small town without the Axel, and he was the only person who understood.
“Roxas,” Axel said before glancing over his shoulder to make sure the blond’s mother wasn’t leaned out her kitchen window. There were too many tree branches for them to be seen, but he was paranoid as anyone would be in his situation. He grabbed his shoulder and squeezed. All of the cockiness had faded, and the cigar had been abandoned in a pile of damp leaves. “Promise me something?”
“As if I owe you any kind of promises,” he murmured, and god, he was bitter. He sounded caustic, but he finally looked up at Axel’s face with cerulean eyes faded from the kind of disappointment only a violent world could instigate.
“I don’t know how long I’ll be gone.” Axel’s grip tightened. “But do us both a favor and marry some pretty girl your dad wants to set you up with. She better be a real stunner with blond ringlets and eyes prettier than yours. Have a massive wedding with champagne and cake, and eat a slice for me. Make sure you get twenty babies out of her so someone will have me as an uncle, and paint your picket fence white because that’s the kind of life people like you are supposed to have. Love that woman with every ounce of your being, and write her love letters before you send me anything. Kiss her goodbye every day, and on most days, don’t even think about me. Put me last in your life from here on out, and I’ll die the happiest man in the world. I don’t want to be a priority anymore because if something happens, then it’ll be easier.”
“Stop talking bullshit like—” Roxas was interrupted by the other boy’s lips against his own, and without any sort of resistance, his hands were fisting the fabric of his jacket until his nails threatened to rip clean through the cloth. Tears were trickling, and he didn’t want to make any kind of promise to Axel because that made things definite. Even when he punched Axel’s shoulder in mid-kiss, neither of them pulled away because this was an early goodbye. Had they waited until the last minute, then nothing would have been said. and they knew. For some reason, Roxas was sorry. He didn’t know why, but he had never wanted to apologize to another human being more than he did Axel. He wanted to be the one shot at and strung up with barbwire for the crows to peck, and he wanted Axel to trade places with him.
“Tell me you’ll do all of that,” Axel breathed out his words against Roxas’ lips before following with a chaste kiss. “Do that for me.”
“I hate you for doing this.” His words were choked up through the want to sob. “I hate you.”
Taking that as Roxas’ compliance, Axel let him go with his lips still tingling only to brush his fingers through blond hair and pick up the cigar. Getting to his feet, he left Roxas with a sympathetic smile and a curt wave of two fingers. There was a sigh when he turned on the heel of his boot, and Axel strode away while pulling a lighter out of his pocket. Roxas watched as he lit the cigar from a distance. Smoke was trailing behind him when he vanished into the front yard of his house, and Roxas sucked in a stuttering breath as if an ethereal hand had ripped his heart straight from his chest.
Roxas would marry Naminé in the summer of the following year beneath the same maple tree. There he would eat two slices of wedding cake as he had promised, but their children would never meet their uncle Axel beyond the pictures in the hallway. He would paint his fence white, and he would kiss his wife goodbye, and he composed the most sincere love letters for the woman he had said his vows to. These letters would be senseless confessions of his adoration for her, and he would apologize for all the misgivings she would never understand. These letters would fill her dresser drawers, shoe boxes, and she never questioned why Roxas refused to use her name at the top.
He wondered how they had gotten to this point. With a boot digging into back of his neck and a face full of scum slickened pavement, Roxas squeezed his eyes shut and allowed the granules to scrape stripes of skin open across his nose and chin. There was sewage pooling in with pricks of blood, and anytime he screamed, the bottom of those Doc Martens pressed down. Rubber ripping open his skin with a digging heel, but he knew better than to plead with someone like Axel. They had been back and forth over the years to the point of leaving each other in hospital beds with hefty lacerations gooey from the infection they had disregarded until blood poisoning, and he had stopped trying to count the times Axel had sent him flowers. They were always accompanied by a hand written note, and the note always said, “Sorry you’re a pussy.”
This wasn’t the same, though. He had gone too far, and it wasn’t just Axel who understood this. Roxas should have never tossed the urn, and he should have never tried to act like he wasn’t remorseful because maybe then he wouldn’t be licking the spread legs of a back alley. As bitter as it made him, Axel had always loved Isa more, and he had been so happy when the man had eaten a bullet. The debt had piled up, and when his daughter had been raped and murdered in the back of her boyfriend’s car, Roxas saw it coming, and he’d anticipated it. He had been waiting for Isa to end it all with bated breath. He was the only thing standing between him and Axel, and Roxas had practically lathered in knowing he didn’t have to get his hands bloody to rid them of the man.
He let out a sharp cry when Axel kicked him in the ribs, and the moment cold metal rested against his temple, he knew. Axel wasn’t going to let him fester and end up in a hospital. This was all for the morgue, and he promised himself he wouldn’t cry because then Axel really would leave him in a dumpster to play house with the maggots. Everything would be fixed if he’d humor an apology, but Roxas couldn’t lie to the person who held his life in hands, and Axel had always had some semblance to god for him. The only noise he made from then on was when his hair was gripped too hard, and he whimpered.
Axel wasn’t afraid when he pulled the trigger and neither was Roxas.