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In the interest of (a) guilting myself into working on this more than once a month and, (b) not completely forgetting it for the zombie AU thing or [community profile] kh_100, I'm posting the first part of this fic.

Wordcount: 2126
Rating: PG because Axel likes swearing
Characters: Axel, Roxas, Luxord, Diz, Demyx, Saix
Summary: Faced with the loss of his two best friends, Axel makes a plan.

Axel can hear Roxas’s boots thumping along the road, but he doesn’t look. Not yet. Until he sees Roxas, he can still pretend that everything will still be alright, that he doesn’t have to choose between his two best (only, really) friends. Roxas comes into view all too soon, though, and Axel starts on the script he’s worked out in his head. Roxas’s response is so utterly stupid—something about the Keyblade and destiny—that Axel breaks character and shouts at Roxas. It doesn’t make any difference. Roxas says, “No one would miss me,” which is all sorts of fucked-up, and why did Axel have to pick two completely oblivious, suicidal twits to befriend? Roxas is walking away again by that point, so Axel manages to stop himself from warning Roxas about what’s going to happen to Xion when the Org catches up with her or trying to get Roxas in on his plan. Backup plan. Maybe both his friends will manage to survive the rest of the week, and Axel can move onto teaching Roxas how to go on the run properly and Xion how to not throw your life away on the word of some stranger who beat you up the first time you met him.

It’s a week later when Axel finally casts stop. Heartless freeze, as usual, and something drops to the ground, not as usual. Axel grabs it. It’s a piece of paper wrapped around a seashell. He puts the shell in a pocket with one hand and flicks the paper open with the other. It starts:
“Hi me.
Tear off the top half as soon as time starts again. There was a girl named Xion who”
which starts a throbbing headache, and then the spell finally ends.
Words start fading off the paper as if they’d never written, and Axel ignores his headache to rip the paper in two. He incinerates the first half, already blank, in case that will help, and watches the words on the remaining sheet flicker gray and half-erased for a moment before they come back. Then a bunch of fucking Neoshadows jump him, and Axel shoves the paper away.

He finds the note later, digging through his pockets for a blazing gem, and frowns at the torn piece of paper. Axel almost throws it away, but it sort of feels like it’s important. He smoothes it out instead. It’s a list in his handwriting that he doesn’t remember writing. Huh. So CO then.
Except the first item on the list is “DO NOT GO TO CASTLE OBLIVION YET”, and Axel figures he knows what he’s talking about. Even if he doesn’t remember it. So instead he looks at number two on the last, which is “Talk to Luxord about time spell ”. Axel figures that means “hint around and watch for reactions” because he knows himself, and he’s a manipulative bastard. Also, he doesn’t know what the fuck the list is talking about, so he has to bluff anyway.

Starting a conversation with Luxord isn’t that hard—he’s been hurting for poker partners since Marluxia kicked the bucket. Fortunately, Axel has a stash of munny and gems set aside in case ever needs to spend an evening losing to Luxord.
Demyx joins them for some reason—maybe Xaldin threatened to hit him if he kept playing inside—and they both spend a few hands losing miserably before Xigbar and Saix finally wander out of the room. Axel figures that’s his cue, but Demyx beats him to it. “Any bets on what sort of shitty missions they send us on tomorrow?”
Luxord smirks. “You don’t have the munny to bet on that.”
Demyx scowls, and then Axel cuts in glumly, “Bet they send me after Roxas.” The glumness isn’t even faked entirely. Yeah, he wants Roxas back, but the kid’s stubborn enough that one of them’s probably going to get hurt to do it.
Luxord shakes his head. “I’m not fool enough to take that bet. But do try to bring him back, won’t you? I’m running low on players.”
“Roxas played poker?” Axel asks. The kid’s face is an open book, and Axel figures between ice cream and worrying about… something, he didn’t really have time.
“Yes, and he was better at it than Demyx. We played,” the pause there is slight pause, almost unnoticeable, but Axel’s been manipulating Nobodies for years, “while you were at Oblivion.”
That sort of makes sense, except that it feels like a lie and there’s the hint of an expression on Luxord’s face that Axel can’t place.
Later, after Demyx loses the last of his munny and wanders out to find somewhere to play where he won’t be maimed by annoyed Nobodies, Axel fishes the seashell out of his pocket and tosses it to Luxord. The other man catches with a flash of surprise that isn’t any more faked than the rest of his emotions. He turns the shell over and over in his hands, slowly, with that expression on his face again. Axel catches a glimpse of a Q and a spade painted on the inside before Luxord pockets it.
“I thought you might want that back,” Axel drawls when he figures the silence has gone on for Luxord to wonder what Axel’s up to but not long enough to realize it’s a bluff.
“Thank you,” Luxord replies in a carefully bored voice. Or possibly not carefully. Axel’s not entirely sure if Luxord’s seeming disinterest in the politics of the Organization is real or not, even with the evidence of the letter.
“Consider it repayment for the letter.” Axel’s only guessing that the two are related, but since they showed up in the same pocket and he can’t remember anything about either of them, he figures it a pretty good guess.
He sees the strange expression once more right before Luxord starts to deal a new round and realizes it’s confusion. Huh. Maybe Axel isn’t the only one who needs to visit CO. He figures he’s accomplished his goal for step 2, which seems to be establishing that (a) Axel isn’t the only one with memory problems and (b) Luxord was in on whatever plan Axel had cooked up and therefore shouldn’t go talking about anything odd he notices unless he wants to get in trouble as a co-conspirator.
Axel focuses on poker after that and manages to keep half his emergency betting stash somehow. He thinks it has something to do with the way Luxord keeps rubbing his temples in between rounds.

Axel’s right: Saix does send him after Roxas, with a sneered comment about fake friendship. Axel spends a moment wishing that he and Saix could be like Lea and Isa were—it’d make his job so much easier if Saix was still on his side—and then entertains himself fantasizing about lighting Saix’s hair on fire until he gets to the end of the Dark Corridor.
Demyx’x intel is good, so far as it goes, which is to say that Roxas is indeed in Twilight Town with the would-be imposter, and probably not there willingly. It utterly fails, however, to mention that the fucker and his buddy (and Namine—he probably should have killed her back in CO) have Roxas locked up in some sort of virtual reality while they kill him by inches. Axel’s tempted to just burn the place down, but he’s not sure what that would do to Roxas, so he refrains.
Instead, he sends in a few Dusks, since Axel hasn’t found a weak point big enough to let him in himself. They fail the first day in either bringing back Roxas or finding Axel a way in. He gives them another chance, which isn’t entirely successful, either, but creates enough of a hole that Axel can worm his way in.
The next day, Axel picks the most dramatic time to appear, mostly so he can watch Roxas fight for as long as possible. He sucks almost as bad as he did those first couple of weeks, which is all the proof Axel needs that something is Very Wrong. Axel still sort of hopes that Roxas will remember his name or respond to his teasing or something, but Roxas doesn’t. So Axel skips to Plan B, which involves knocking Roxas out and trying to reason with him somewhere safer. There’s a part of his mind protesting that this didn’t work very last time, but Axel can’t actually remember what that last time was.
Then imposter boy’s buddy tries to break in, and Axel doesn’t have time to track down his doubts. Axel almost tries reciting Roxas’s old title, just to see if it’ll ring a bell where Axel didn’t, but then he remembers that he’s not actually supposed to be bringing Roxas back, according to the list, so Axel goes for something else instead. “Roxas, this place isn’t real. In the real Twilight Town, we used to sit up on the clocktower eating ice cream. I told you why sunsets are red, remember?”
Roxas winces, sort of in pain, but sort of also like he’s sad, and that pisses Axel off a bit. Those had been happy memories, hadn’t they? Axel hits a bit harder that he originally planned to, but Roxas’s getting a bit of his old groove back, so it balances out. The fucker in red shows up before they can really get started and kicks Axel out. It doesn’t matter, though; Roxas is still brainwashed enough that he calls for his fake, digital friends.
Axel spends the next hour, in between trying to find a way back in, debating whether it’s worth it to light a bunch of digital people of fire and wondering when he started feeling human enough to feel jealousy again.

He drops by the Castle, intending to stay just long enough to hand in his report, but Saix orders him to Where Nothing Gathers. The boss is waiting for him there with new orders, Xaldin looming in the background. Axel’s not planning on staying with the Organization long enough for that to matter, but he argues against killing Roxas anyway. He pretends to give in after they descend to threats.

Before he heads out, Axel makes sure to grab some more munny and supplies. Not everything, not even most things—if someone decides to check his room, he doesn’t want them to think “deserter”. Admittedly, that’s exactly what he’s planning to be, but Axel prefers his enemies misinformed. (He tries not to think too hard about the enemies part because even without a heart, the thought of going up against the Organization scares him shitless. But there’s Roxas, and something else, and apparently he’s been planning this for a while. Axel figures he’s fucked either way, so he might as well try to hang out with his friend again before his inevitable messy and painful death.)
The bastard in red has upped security in so Axel sends the Dusks ahead of him to find Roxas while he tries to pry an opening wide enough to fit through. By the time he gets in, the Dusks have cornered Roxas, which probably isn’t the best way to win his friend over. Axel decides to try his sales pitch one last time.
“Right, so we don’t have a lot of time, Roxas. You’re my best friend, the guy in red put a bunch of fake memories in your head so you wouldn’t fight back, we need to leave before you end up dead, which will happen very soon so I don’t have time to give you the long explanation first. Got it memorized?”
Axel resists the urge to beat his head against the wall and then gets a brilliant idea. He pulls the envelope with the popsicle stick out of his pocket and tosses it to Roxas.
“We worked for a group called Organization XIII killing Heartless to collect hearts so we could make something called Kingdom Hearts so that we could get our hearts back. We don’t have them because we’re Nobodies. We used to sit on the clocktower eating ice cream after missions,” and by now Roxas is hunched over with his hands on his temples like he’d been the last time Axel tried to remind him, “except when we were searching the worlds for… something.” Weird, that last thing kind of gives him a headache. It knocks Roxas right out, though, which was the whole point. Axel scoops him up, opens a portal to the most remote, boring world he’s ever been to, and flees before someone shows up to ruin his plans.

Roxas wakes up not much later and promptly tries to break Axel’s jaw. He takes this as a good sign.
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