Disclaimer: Not mine.

Summary: In the year 2326 C.E., the commoditization of intimacy has reached a state of global legality, though its acceptability leaves much to be desired in the industry of cool. Axel, uncool web design enthusiast, hasn't had time for a girlfriend in two years. FleshCo has the answer to all his depraved (and otherwise) needs.

Answer Key: 1.) the catharsis of fetishization, 2.) the serenity of actuality versus the perversion of the ideal, 3.) pedestals: why we need them and when we don't, and 4.) the necessity of being a well-oiled machine.

Rating: M

Warning: Sex and articulations of sexual abuse, bordering on mecha guro. WHAT A SNOOZEFEST!

A/N: For woodbox: bon anniversaire, ma petite étoile. To the entire fandom: Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Happy New Year/Whoa, Let's Get Loaded, you crazy motherfuckers.

Two years after his last relationship and people started to wonder if there was some illicit affair, something hushed and secretive being carried out in alleyways and forgotten corners. Maybe she was married, engaged, someone high profile glamorous, needing their love kept under wraps, between the sheets. For his part, Axel did little to dissuade the gossip, chuckling with tight, manic glee at the messages his mother left on his answering machine.

"Axel, it's your mother. Don't you ever call your mother? Your mother wants to hear about this new one." It took five messages for Axel to understand that she wasn't talking about his new project, eighty hours logged on Vivarin and glassy eyed staring at Rothko prints. He'd been in the process of formulating something charming and reassuring about streamlining forms, minimalist abstraction, when he realized, as if the earth had cracked and given way beneath him, that his mother was asking about a girl.

It was, of course, only a matter of time until he caved to peer and parental pressure, no longer able to stomach another round of good-natured elbow jabs as he sucked at his second PBR and tried to laugh along with everyone. The tried and true excuses of work, time, and effort did little to allay his friends' belief that he needed "to get laid, man!" It was the 24th century! The world's synthetic flesh was ripe for the picking! How exactly did he do it, anyway? Internet porn?

"I actually do work while I'm at the computer, guys."

Demyx, in a show of liquid brazenness, pumped a fist against his crotch. "Work it, baby, work it." Cue the laughter, the drunken clash of bottles sloshing in a toast. Yeah, good one, bro. "You know they have these fuckin' like sex doll shits. You buy 'em off your wonder machine. Cost like a month's rent, tops."

"Sure, I got that lying around," Axel said, signaling the bartender for another. The blonde—set of the nicest plastic tits Axel had seen in his life—slid a fresh bottle of PBR into his hand, smiled in that way chemically engineered to get him talking, dick hard, and ready for another beer in ten minutes. At least, that's how it was supposed to go. Either Axel's dick was broken, or his chemical engineering was short-circuiting.

"Serious, man. Don't tell me you're not shitting money with that gig you got while we slave away in that fucking fortress." The fortress in question, FibOp, phallic like protrusion fucking the sky in the middle of the city, provided fiber optic communications and employment to nearly every techie kid Axel had ever known. The newest top secret "tell anyone and they'll make me cut your balls off, dude, I swear" project in development at FibOp: net at the blink of an eye, Demyx and his drove of computer whiz kids programming and running simulations at an inhuman rate.

"Yeah, well, when I'm knocking on your virtual mansion in twenty years, just remember I followed my heart while you and your minions followed the dollar signs."

But the damage had been done, Demyx's seed of needy degeneration worming its way into his cerebral cortex, his cerebellum, his medulla oblongata, until he found himself skimping on the baser, drool-inducing aspects of web design and instead browsing the countless sites dedicated to the sale of post-human synthetic delights, sex toy simulators of engineered skin, all seamless, breathing, and ready for the fucking. The idea, if Axel thought about it on a surface, savage level, wasn't that bad at all. Not that he had a lot of time to jack off, but those rare moods of suffocating shower steam, light dimmer at a restaurant quality drowsy, made him shudder from the congealed loneliness in the marrow of his bones.

Eyeing the month of rent price tag on an S-class post-human, Axel closed his eyes and tapped the purchase button before flicking back to his design, an electric thrill firing under his skin. His long, raven-haired S-Class Chariot™, customizable eye color (a searing hazel) and cup size (full Cs—he felt Ds would give him an unreality complex) would arrive at his apartment in 4-6 business days, excepting holidays.

Over the next couple of days, Axel didn't go more than an hour without fantasizing about how truly incredible the sex would be. With her there had been that breakable quality, something he'd first found endearing, precious even. Her fragile self-esteem, her insecurities. Feeling the tremor run down her thighs as he pulled her legs open, plucking petals, was exciting, adorable. But with time, the gentle, systematic love-making became nothing more than pained ritual, fucking something moist, silent, and immobile. Toward the end, coupled with her frigidity, he might as well have been fucking a corpse.

"I'm a human, Axel. I have feelings." She was twisting her hair into a bun, shoving one of those dark jade chopsticks through it like spearing a wild boar.

"It was one drink, sweetheart, not a marriage proposal." He'd gone out for drinks with the guys again, the second Sunday in a row. Apparently there was some boyfriend code he'd violated? "I'll make it up to you," he'd whispered into her neck. She tasted of sulfur, nicotine clinging to her fingers as he sucked them while they were in bed, thrusting into a dead, empty thing. What had he thought? That she would change? Grow into someone fun? Spontaneous? Why he had been with her for three years, he would never know.

"You think I want to have sex right now?" she snapped, shrugging him off. Her nails were a glossy, translucent pink, fresh from the salon. He'd dreamt about them, nails like glossed lips, tearing into his chest and clicking down his ribcage. "Look at my face. Does it look like I want to have sex with you?"

Axel, unzipping his pants, appraised her. She'd never looked like she wanted to have sex with him, not even when they were having actual sex. He figured there was some innocent, school-girl quality that was supposed to be in high demand with males. His friends certainly made it no secret that any one of them would love to take her off his hands. Deciding to be a little daring, he leered generously, licking a streak of spit against her collarbone.

"Look at mine. You think I give a fuck?" That, apparently, was the wrong thing to say. She was out the door in less than a minute, back a week later for her share of their things. Maybe, his friends said, she was annoyed that he hadn't proposed, had taken her out to too few dinners, had snored at night, forgot to shower more than twice a week or wear deodorant or drive a nice car or cook anything else other than the best grilled cheese the world had ever known.

"So I have faults!" Axel shouted, disgruntled, into his beer. The bar quieted and looked over, thirsty for more. "She didn't have to take the fucking mattress, guys. Do you know what it's like sleeping on the floor for a month? It's like geometry, planes and angles, and geometry is hell."

"You're too fucking cheap to buy a new mattress. Stop bitching. Buy a new car, or a dog or something."

So he bought a dog, lost it within the space of a week. It hadn't been a real dog, a simulated beagle he'd woefully named after her, but he didn't think the loss of a real one would've felt all that different. After thirty-two ounces of black, iced coffee, Axel realized he didn't feel all that sad they weren't together anymore. Two years later, and the most he could say about her was that she was 1.) boring in bed, 2.) boring at fellatio, and 3.) only passable at making interesting sandwiches. She was pretty, sure, but boring, and we all know that we must never, ever be boring.

No, this new sex with this new, big-titted anthropomorphic sex toy would be disgusting, would be vile and full of lewd obscenities. Anal, yes, finally, and he'd coach her through the head until it was perfect, unbearable. Up in the middle of the night, Axel was cataloguing dildos, vibrators, tabs of synthesized lust, able to make the leap of faith, to convince the parts of him that needing convincing that he wasn't alone, that this wasn't fake breath, that making a Y incision wouldn't reveal intricate fiber optics, pulses of light and tubes and no blood at all, no heart, no guts. He became fixated on the thought, cutting open his month's rent of salable flesh, touching the nerve constructs, ejaculating into the bowels of circuitry, the pain threshold dialed to its lowest setting while she screamed in what should be fatal pain.

On the third day after his order, things reached a new level of perversion, Axel outlining various ways to decapitate the post-human, wondering if it was possible to fuck the neck cavity without sustaining serious injury to himself. Would the reactions, pain threshold setting aside, be reflective of how hard he fucked her? It wouldn't be as fulfilling if she shuddered and moaned breathily while he tore into her. He hoped there was an abject terror setting.

Smiling before turning his face into a pillow, Axel's dick throbbed with anticipation.

The shipment arrived in a discreet, unmarked package just before noon, Axel flicking away his design screen and all but bounding to the door of his distastefully furnished apartment, marble and steel like an ultra-modern mausoleum, absent of useful things like electric lighting, televisions, and perhaps most concerning, a refrigerator. After a rousing game of Make Fun of Axel For Fucking His Hand For Two Years, Demyx staged an intervention, dragging Axel by the cuff of his shirt back to his apartment to "assess the damage" (read: drink some beer and burn the rest of the bitch's belongings). Demyx had been there all of two minutes before he strode casually into the kitchen, gaped unbecomingly for two more minutes, then spun a slow circle in confusion.

"Um, dude, where's the fridge?" "Fridge" in this sense most certainly meant "beer" and possibly "leftover pizza."

"Oh," Axel said, bent over the back of his chair and flicking around his computer, concerned with his lack of e-mail. "I don't actually own a fridge."

Demyx was out the door before Axel looked up again.

Signing for the package, Axel couldn't keep the smile off his face, the delivery boy winking at him with a knowing glint as he wished Axel a pleasant afternoon.

Pleasant, Axel thought. That's one way of putting it. But by the time he'd dug his way through the packing peanuts, "pleasant" moved quickly to "abysmal" to "goddamn it." The top of the post-human was a sunny blonde, wisps of exquisitely rendered synthetic fibers all but indistinguishable from the real thing. It wouldn't have been too much of an issue—blonde, brunette; didn't matter much as long as Axel could fuck it—except, as Axel cut away the rest of the packaging, he found there was a significant problem. For an S-Class Chariot™, a female model mid-level post-human sexual adept, there was an awful lot of dick.

"Fuck," Axel said, examining the receipt carefully. It was all there, down to the customizable eye color and cup size, so why was there a blonde, blue-eyed, no-titted boy standing in his living room? "Fuck" Axel said again, leaning forward to frown at the pre-packaged fetish and everyday wear. Whose ever bright idea it was to make post-humans power on upon contact with human skin was certainly not Axel's favorite person, especially not after scrutinizing the miniscule print on the return policy: all sales final on powered post-humans. Fuck, indeed.

The post-human's eyelids fluttered down before opening again, a mimicry of rising from human slumber, genetically engineered down to the nanoseconds of synaptic firing, a hundred thousand man-hours logged to make being alone just a fraction more bearable. Axel nearly jumped out of his skin when he felt a hand descend on his shoulder.

"Hi," the post-human said, voice a soft tenor, genetically engineered, no doubt, to sustain choirs, arpeggiated orgasms in puffs of pure, boyish vowels. The hand on Axel's shoulder slid up the curve of his neck, warm, faintly chemically scented skin: sweat, grass, pepper, and something low and wet floating just on the surface. Axel quickly stopped breathing.

"Hey. Can you give me just one second?" Axel said, darting away toward his computer. This was a mistake, clearly, and one that he would find a solution to. Take it to the factory, maybe, and demand a switch. It's not like he was asking for a refund; he just wanted some tits. Some nice tits and an open mind. Was that too much to ask for?

Scanning the FleshCo website, Axel found that the post-human currently dressing himself in his living room was a C-class Cherub™, almost entirely customizable, down to the size of his… well, the parts Axel didn't really see the point of customizing. They were choral supplements, weren't they? Entertainment adepts? At the same moment his eyes trailed over "optional sexual adept enhancement," he felt thin limbs encircle his waist, the jut of a chin pressing into his spine in a needy, insistent way.

"Can I have a name now?" The post-human's hands locked around him squeezed lightly, dipped under the hem of his shirt. Axel thought of national landmarks; austere, removed. There was a memory of him standing behind her, head ducked down behind the nape of her neck, fingers working against her abdomen.

"Hey, baby." Perfume on her skin; lilacs, pink grapefruit. Her hair always smelled like smoke and medical brand sterility.

"I'm so sick of being grabbed; could you not?" The click of kitten heels clattering down the hallway to the bedroom, Axel's left arm extended out after her.

"There's been some mistake," Axel was saying, rubbing at his temples. "I didn't ask for—"

"If you don't give me a name, I'll answer to my model number." Bending forward to retrieve the receipt—the post-human had forgone his everyday wear pre-packaged threads for an errant pair of Axel's sweatpants—Axel noticed the model had a nice ass. Perfect height, really. "R0X45," the post-human read aloud. "Is that okay with you?"

Small planets turned to regard him, the modern marvel of indifference and slight curiosity nearly human on the model's face. Axel felt a distinct click go off in his chest, something snapping into place. "How does 'Roxas' sound instead?"

On the whole, Axel felt that he got on pretty well with Roxas. He didn't know if this meant he should've joined a band instead of practically plugging himself into his computer monitor when he was still in secondary school, but they had an easy camaraderie that Axel wasn't sure could be entirely attributed to genetically engineered disposition. By the second week, he worried that there was some disorder he was suffering from, enjoying the way Roxas stared at him with an enthusiasm bordering on unreasonable. For his part, Roxas didn't seem to require food or water, though he never tired of watching Axel eat, blue eyes trained on utensils sliding into Axel's mouth and coming out clean. Axel was acutely aware of each and every time he licked his lips to catch a stray crumb of takeout, darted out to swipe at a molecule of beer.

If Roxas ever felt bored, he didn't show it, sitting quietly on the couch and reading design magazines while Axel worked at his screen, chancing glances at Roxas every half hour. There was something distinctly appealing about him, the way his hair swept upwards, the way his lashes laid across the top of his cheeks when he blinked. Axel figured the interaction, limited though it was, benefited him after two years of staring at his monitor all day. There were times when, after three or four days of work, he'd head out to Q's with the guys and find his voice pathetically unusable, raspy with disuse.

On the Monday of the third week, waking up slumped in his computer chair and looking over to find Roxas still reading a goddamn design magazine, Axel excused himself, later returning with a 72-inch digital projector, innocuous onyx cube rotating until it found the right frequency and began projecting the welcome screen. 3,465 channels of static free television, all at the intuitive press of a finger. Smiling, Roxas pressed the cube. Axel was charmed beyond belief when an archaic anime series seared across his living room wall, delicate chins and wide, glossy eyes. He'd never been much for television, especially not with the hyper-reality shit they had on these days, though he could sit through classics every now and again. Curiously, the dated Japanese not only didn't interfere with his work aesthetic, but he found it suddenly infinitely easier to focus on the minimalist aspects, cutting away forms and triteness for a tight, sleek interface. His client would be pleased.

There was the issue of the no sex, Axel having once again retired to the use of his hand when the mood struck, strangely more frequent since Roxas' arrival, though he attributed this to his physical excitement at finally being able to fuck the living shit out of something sailing toward a concrete wall at the speed of light. It had to go somewhere, he figured. Steamy showers aside, Axel figured he could deal with it. Sure, there'd be an issue explaining his weird pet if one of the guys ever came over, but he was sure it would fly with minimal humiliation. After all, there were those freaks that kept their post-humans in cages, marched them around in public collared and scantily clad. The idea was attractive, sure, if Axel was honest with himself, but now having first hand experience with a post-human, he wasn't so sure he'd be able to live with himself after.

How, he wondered, did people manage to differentiate between what was acceptable and not acceptable behavior toward somebody less than human? Roxas didn't feel pain, Axel having turned his pain threshold off after Roxas got a paper cut turning the page of a magazine and burst into rivulets of saline tears, furious at having hurt himself. The sight of Roxas crying was unsettling enough for Axel to set aside late night thoughts entertaining rough, violent sex in favor of never, ever having to see Roxas cry again. And that was it, wasn't it? That he'd spent his entire life immersed in fiber optics, letting the current of electricity swat lovingly against him as he lost hours, days of his life to network illumination. Of course Axel could never treat a post-human like something less than human. His computer was practically his best friend; knew all his secrets in five password protected enclosing folders, rants on how much of a bitch his ex was, how sometimes he felt like the only man on the face of the earth. The idea of using Roxas like a slave was revolting, Axel spending one heated shower both masturbating and formulating a treatise on the vindication of the rights of post-humans.

"Hey." Roxas, clad in traditional Japanese wear and standing next to Axel's computer chair, smiled while Axel put finishing touches on the minimalist design after nearly a month of work. The pre-packaged fetish wear hadn't been previously explored by Axel, but chances were Roxas had grown tired of wearing dirty laundry. Axel spared one distracted glance at his impromptu suitemate before pausing, saving his file, and swiveling back to stare appreciatively at Roxas. This… this was something he could get used to.

"Are you wearing girl's clothes?" Axel asked, having the decency to feel at least a small embarrassed flush climb up his neck as he envisioned approximately forty-five different ways to undress and consequently fuck Roxas. How had this even happened? Didn't he like women?

"Your ethnocentric arrogance is astounding," Roxas chirped, dragging Axel, still in his wheeled computer chair, toward the couch. "Will you watch with me? It's the finale." As of the fourth week, it seemed Roxas' television consumption had made him more daring, at one point the blonde opening the bathroom to fix his hair in the mirror while Axel was in the full glass shower, hoping the steam obscured his obvious, soap covered erection. Aside from being bolder, Roxas had quite a mouth on him; Axel considering outlawing any more reading of snarky media reviews.

A cursory glance back at his monitor left Axel with an itch to finish the project, but twenty-three minutes of three hundred year old anime wouldn't hurt. "Sure, why not." Sending the chair wheeling back toward his desk with a shove of his foot, Axel slid onto the couch, Roxas showing initiative and climbing onto Axel's lap, reclining against him comfortably. Or, at least comfortable for Roxas; Axel felt a tremor course through his body, holding very still while he orchestrated his breathing.

"This is the one where he dies," Roxas whispered conspiratorially, shifting what felt like his entire weight against the front of Axel's pants.

"And you know this how?"

"Spoilers," Roxas breathed, eyes glued to the projection on the wall where some pretty boy in a white jumpsuit swiveled his hips and made a complicated flourish with his hand. "I read them on your computer when you went to the bar last Sunday. I deleted the history."

"Sneaky," Axel admitted, wondering what else Roxas had been looking at.

The anime was fairly advanced, lots of war talk and political bullshit Axel mostly tuned out to focus on the nape of Roxas' neck. He was legitimately concerned when Roxas gasped against him as the main, sort of flamboyant looking, protagonist got ran through with a sword, the blonde going rigid against him. Alarmed, Axel felt around for the source of pain—hadn't he turned that damn pain threshold off?—when his hand lit on something entirely unexpected just under the hakama Roxas wore.

"Sorry," Axel said, withdrawing his hand from Roxas' erection.

The blonde scrubbed at his eyes, shrugging. "I'm not apologizing for squashing yours." Axel swore his heart stopped pumping. "I can't believe he died. He was my favorite." Roxas promptly burst into tears again.

"Hey," Axel said, rubbing the blonde's back. Roxas trembled against him, trying to catch breath to fill his non-existent lungs. "'Sokay. It's not real."

"Neither am I," Roxas whispered, broken and fierce all at once.

The fevered hush of the statement made Axel's breath catch, and he turned Roxas around, pulling the small blonde up toward him, sealing theirs mouths together. Licking across the seam of Roxas' lips, he thought abruptly of ripe fruit splitting open, swollen and intoxicating. He felt it across his palms when Roxas' engineering kicked in, limbs waxy and taking on a slight sheen of sweat, his body temperature raising, pupils dilating. Axel didn't think he could take another second of Roxas' open mouth breathing into his, hands scrambling at the complicated knot in Roxas' fetish wear, sweats uncomfortably tight against his body.

The sex was, if nothing else, feverish, Axel shaking with the effort and the, if he was honest with himself, sweet relief. Roxas was beautiful, quaking, full of delicious sounds that he wanted to hear again and again, how Roxas' chiming tenor would climb an octave if he gripped hard, forced his way in past a perfect diameter of warm muscle, really fucking Roxas, how there was just breath and quiet muttering when they were close, his hands in Roxas' mouth as their bodies slid against each other, his sweat dampened hair falling into Roxas' face. Axel wondered how he ever thought he'd need chemicals to make him think this was real, that Roxas wasn't more than just warm plastic. This was real. This was real, ejaculating onto the smooth curve of Roxas' ass before fucking his come inside the blonde, something his ex would've cut his dick off for even thinking about. Afterward, turning Roxas around and making him open his mouth to lick every last trace of DNA from Axel's cock, a floating content settled in Axel's chest. It had felt more lewd in his head, fucking some empty slut's throat cavity until he came. In reality, he almost couldn't stand the sight of this small blonde boy, cheeks hollowed out, diligently sucking his dick. Too cute to suck cock, that's what Roxas was. Axel was pleased when he discovered the C-class Cherub™ model number R0X45 with customizable everything came stock with wet dreams and the ability to have both anally and orally stimulated orgasms. Though Roxas came ejaculate-free, the electric shiver rocketing through the blonde's body made Axel feel accomplished, happy on some internal, giving level.

Sweat drying on the sheets, Roxas' fetish wear littering the apartment from the couch to the bedroom, Axel was pleased to discover that Roxas liked to fall asleep after having sex, pulling the blonde close and feeling the weariness seep out of his body, layered over with pillowy clouds, cotton candy, and other things Axel thought were soft, perfect approximations of the easy joy settling into his bones.

The first time Axel found Roxas crying brokenly was after a particularly boisterous Sunday, five swipes of his fingerprints at the door before he twisted his wrist properly, the door sliding open and dumping Axel unceremoniously into his foyer. Roaring drunk, dick already salivating at the prospect of some much needed attention, Axel waved an imaginary Roxas over to him. When the blonde didn't materialize, Axel stumbled unbecomingly all over the apartment until he found the boy in bed. For a long moment, he thought Roxas was laughing.

"Babe," Axel said stupidly, reaching out and missing Roxas' shoulder. Had he walked home like this? Why was Roxas laughing in bed? "Babe, I'm so drunk." His self-referential giggling sounded insane even to his own ears, and he wondered why Roxas wasn't already responding to his pet name. The first time Axel used it, Roxas bounded into his arms and nearly sucked his face off, tongue running over the hard lines of Axel's jaw, lapping up body oils and a spot of cologne Axel had taken to wearing. He didn't know if Roxas had a sense of smell, but it made him feel more attractive, at least.

With more choked gasps coming from Roxas, Axel lowered himself onto the bed, sliding his body up behind the blonde's. The pillow under Roxas' head was nearly soaked with saline.

"Rox? What's wrong?" The dizzying sensation of actively trying to make his mind care about something directed a thunderbolt of nausea-inducing head throbbing straight from Zeus himself, Axel rubbing his face into Roxas' neck. "How long have you been crying?" Roxas, unresponsive save for a horrific shudder as he pulled one of Axel's arms around him, continued his empty, broken crying.

When Axel awoke the next morning, hangover protesting loudly at being dragged into consciousness, Roxas was staring at him with a lazy smile, bringing up a palm with two painkillers sitting in a compulsively spaced row.

"Morning," Roxas said. It was customary enough, the same "morning" the blonde uttered the first time they woke up together, Roxas mumbling about having to "clean the receptacle" for five minutes before Axel realized Roxas needed the bathroom, but there was a strange, cautionary tilt to it, as if Roxas were keeping something hidden. It was strange, language and technologically savvy vocabulary coming out of the mouth of someone who looked and sounded like they were talking about this crazy song they heard on the radio, about how lame algebra was. There was a disconnect that took Axel a while to understand, Roxas' easy, teenaged speech at odds with his talk about resetting his tear ducts or calibrating his internal thermostat. It was easy to forget Roxas wasn't a real boy, rough and rowdy, eating all Axel's food vicariously through his eyes, grabbing the sheets loose from being tucked under the mattress as they had sex. Or made love. Was that possible? Making love to a post-human? Because, from the hurt that pooled in Axel's chest as he noticed Roxas' changed greeting, Axel thought it had to be possible.

Pulling the blonde's hand toward his mouth, dry swallowing the pills, Axel dropped a kiss against Roxas' palm, pulled the boy closer to settle on his chest as Axel leaned back against the bed. Into the corner of Roxas' mouth, Axel imagined crossing his fingers and asked, "Everything alright, babe?"

Roxas made a small, positive sound, but Axel felt clearly, impossibly, that Roxas was lying.

This fear snowballed into full blown desperation when, two days later, after getting off a conference call with a new client, Axel found Roxas stabbing at his own circuitry, his left wrist sparking as the steak knife dulled upon impact. His synthetic skin was torn there, the small reserve of synthetic blood long crusted on the granite countertop as Roxas stabbed at himself again and again. The sight made Axel physically ill, wrenching the knife away from the sobbing blonde and crushing him into his chest.

"What's wrong Roxas?" Axel forced the words past his teeth, felt like tearing open his own skin and screaming, screaming up into the sky. Why? What was happening? Roxas only cried and quaked against him, beautiful pitches in a cacophony of tortured devastation, as if someone Roxas loved had died. "Please, Roxas," Axel whispered, trying and failing not to give a damn about a fucking sex toy, fiber optics and a fake, plastic personality. He loved him, he loved him, and what would he do now?

"I'm broken," Roxas whispered into Axel's chest. "Take me back. I'm broken."

"You're not," Axel said, shaking the blonde. "You're fine. Everything is fine."

"There's something wrong," Roxas wailed in a bright, staccato crescendo.

It became something of a ritual; one day Roxas was fine, and the next, Axel was setting aside his design to hold Roxas as he sobbed, tried to make Axel promise to take him back and trade him in. Axel felt, quite distinctly, that his soul was being torn from his body, ripped from him slowly as Roxas grew worse, his appetite for sex both obscene and ravenous, dragging Axel away from his work, from his peace of mind. It shouldn't have been difficult at all, trading in something used for something new, something packaged incorrectly, short-circuiting. Roxas was salable flesh, was meant to be upgraded. Thumbs petting the faint arcs of Roxas' eyebrows, watching his tear ducts empty themselves as his chest filled missing lungs with hasty breath, Axel listened as Roxas told him in whispers about how he would never be right, that he was made wrong inside, that Axel would have to power him off by force, push him out the apartment window.

"Let me go," Roxas breathed, the pillow they shared damp beneath them.

"No," Axel said, painting smiling faces onto Roxas' cheeks with his almost tears. A touch here, a touch there, index finger sweeping upward. One day Roxas would be happy again, would recalibrate his logic board to something resembling functionality. One day Axel wouldn't feel uncomfortable leaving the boy alone in the apartment, locked in the bedroom and away from things he might try to hurt himself with. But, if Axel was honest with himself, even if Roxas never smiled again, the time to save himself had long passed. "I can't," Axel said, pressing Roxas closer, listening to the sound of one heart beating against a billion circuits of light.