Author's Note: This is the first chapter in what will be a four-chapter story I'm working on for an OC challenge on the OC Challenge Community on LiveJournal. The challenge was to write a story with an OC (of course) paired with Axel from the Kingdom Hearts games. The story can basically be about anything, but the prompt to use for writing it is fire and clouds.
Since we don't know any of Axel's backstory before he became a member of Organization XIII, I thought it would be interesting to explore his past a bit and even - in a way - explain what prompted Roxas to leave the Organization in the first place. Hence this story you're about to read.
Since this story is, technically, a crossover... I have recently re-categorized it as such. However, I still consider it mostly a Kingdom Hearts story. It just happens to take place in Azeroth.
All standard disclaimers apply. I'm not trying to make any money here, just having some fun exploring the backstory of a character whose life we know nothing about.
Chapter One: I Want To Forget...
It was nearly midnight in a small village nestled in Elwynn Forest, and though the local tavern wasn't exactly crowded it was busy enough that no one took much notice of the cloaked figure standing in the corner by the doorway. He had been there for almost an hour, never moving, simply observing the patrons as they drank and talked over freshly-cooked meals of charred wolf and boar meat.
There were only four people working in the tavern: the aged innkeeper who rented out the rooms on the second floor, the barkeep, the cook in the back kitchen barking out orders to pick up prepared meals, and the single barmaid who was serving the food and drinks. He was especially interested in her.
She had long, black hair that was mostly pulled back into a long braid that nearly reached her waist. A few loose strands kept falling into her soft brown eyes and he watched her as she kept tucking it behind her ear, wishing he could be the one to do it for her.
It was hard to believe it had only been a year since he had been able to touch her, hold her. He remembered the way she laughed whenever he did something stupid, trying to show off for her. He remembered the way she would curl up next to him, placing her hand over his heart before falling asleep. He remembered their first kiss, the way they met... everything. All of it remained in his memory in such vivid detail it seemed like it hadn't been so long ago it had happened.
The cloaked figure turned his head to the left, looking at the figure who had just entered the tavern to stand next to him. He nodded in acknowledgment to the shorter figure before returning his attention to the girl again.
"What are you doing here?" the second figure asked, lowering his hood to reveal a head full of spiky blonde hair and wide, innocent blue eyes. "Where are we, anyway?"
"Azeroth," Axel replied.
The blonde boy followed his companion's gaze to the raven-haired girl, who was now taking the order for a table full of small, but sinister-looking men. A slightly larger man with a long beard and bushy hair came up behind her and pinched her rear, then guffawed loudly as she jumped, squeaking in surprise. A smile broke out on the boy's lips as she turned around and yelled at the stout, hairy man. Axel's reaction was quite different, however. His entire body tensed and his hands clenched into fists as his side as he took a single step in their direction.
"Hey!" the boy said, laying a hand on Axel's arm to stop him. "What's gotten into you?"
"Nothing," Axel assured him, pulling his arm out of his grip and turning to leave the pub.
"Who is she?" the boy called after him as he was just about to walk out the door.
"Leave it alone, Roxas," Axel warned him.
"Come on," Roxas whined, jogging the few steps to Axel's side and punching him playfully in the arm. "I'm not going to tell Xemnas you were here. I just want to know who she is."
Axel reached into the pocket of his black, hooded cloak and pulled out a golden locket on a long chain. his thumb traced over the delicate engravings that covered the surface of the locket before pushing the button on the side that caused it to flip open. Inside was a picture of the girl with her arms around the neck of a young man about his age, with bright green eyes and messy brown hair - the person he had been before losing his heart. They were smiling at each other, foreheads touching. The picture had been taken on the steps of Stormwind Cathedral on their wedding day.
He sensed Roxas standing behind him and snapped the locket closed as he turned to see the boy straining on his toes to see over his shoulder. His rueful smile was hidden under the hood of his cloak as he placed thenecklace back in his pocket and turned to continue his way out of the inn.
"Her name is Esme," he told Roxas as they emerged together into the night. A chill hit him and he looked up into the trees.
"Did you feel that, too?" Roxas asked.
"Yes," Axel replied, leveling his eyes to the ground and searching for any signs that something unfortunate was about to happen.
The cold gust of air faded as suddenly as it had come, but the memory of what it meant left a chill in Axel's bones. His eyes rose once more to the sky and he watched as clouds moved in to cover the brightness of the moon.
"Those clouds," Roxas said in awe. "They're... green."
"It's an omen," Axel told him nonchalantly. "Come on, we have to get out of here before Xemnas starts wondering where we went off to."
Axel opened a gateway back to their world and Roxas entered it. Axel hesitated, looking back at the tavern full of people who were unaware of what fate would soon befall them. Among them was his dear Esme. He had sacrificed his own heart to save her, and he would be damned if he let his sacrifice be in vain. Making a silent vow to himself to return in time to save her from the coming horror, he turned back to the dark portal and jumped through it just before it disappeared.
Esme McLaren felt like her head was going to fall off. It was her third night in a row working at the Lion's Head Inn without any help. The other barmaid, Nessa, was at home tending to her ill son. It was just as well. Money had been tight ever since her husband's disappearance almost a year ago, and even though it hadn't been particularly crowded the past few days, some of the best tippers had been in for a meal and something to drink.
"Good evening, gentlemen," she drawled with a smile as she approached a table full of mages and warlocks from the magic counsel of Ironforge.
"Esme!" squeaked one of the short men, waving frantically at her as she set a basket of crusty rolls in the center of the table.
"Hello, Burbix," he greeted the pink-haired gnome. "It's been a long time. How are you?"
"Good, good," the mage replied, nodding his head as he reached for her hand, taking in between his two small hands and pulling her down until she was bent far enough that he could lower his voice and still have her hear him.
"I was sorry to hear the news. If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know."
"Thank you," she whispered back, her smile only faltering for a brief second, "but I'm managing."
It wasn't the first time someone had offered her a helping hand since her husband's disappearance. She always politely declined, not out of pride but out of denial. By accepting help from someone, she was admitting to herself that her husband really was dead and would never be coming back.
As she straightened up, she felt a sharp pinch in her backside. Yelping, she spun around to find one of the tavern's regulars, a dwarf by the name of Flintlocke, grinning at her and wiggling his eyebrows.
"How many times do I have to tell you to keep your hands to yourself?" she shouted at him, causing several nearby patrons to turn their attention to the outburst. A tall, female night elf with long purple hair came over and apologized to Esme for the dwarf's rude behavior before dragging him back to the table where he had been sitting with the other members of his party.
Esme sighed and turned back to the table of gnomes to take their orders, noticing two figures out of the corner of her eye. They were both wearing lengthy black cloaks, but one of them had their hood down, revealing the face of a teenage boy. The second person had their hood up, but appeared to be looking directly at her. The one watching her was taller, so she assumed this person was older than the boy.
"I'll have a blood sausage and some of that delicious sweet rum you server here," a green-haired warlock said, bringing her attention back to the men seated around the small table. She made a note of his order, as well as the orders of the other men, then turned to take them to the barkeep and tavern cook. She looked back in the direction of the doorway to see the hooded figure watching her again briefly before disappearing into a sort of dark portal.
"Es?" Innkeeper Farley called her name, laying a hand on her shoulder. "You feelin' okay?"
"I'm fine," she answered quickly. "Just a little tired, I suppose."
"Not surprising," Farley laughed, patting her on the back before limping back to his spot near the bar where he could keep an eye out for rowdy customers. Esme continued to stare at the point where the hooded figure had disappeared for a moment longer before getting herself back to work.