CHAPTER 12: Out with the Old

Nightshroud: Well, it's certainly been some time since the last update, but things have been very hectic for me lately. I've graduated college though! Yay! But the real good news (for you guys anyway) is that there's only one chapter left after this! They're going to be long ones too, so enjoy! =)

The office was tense the following Monday as Larxene's band of followers quietly went about their work, looking for opportunities to take as much as possible with them when they all quit. It was, perhaps, fortunate that none of the Xehanort squad appeared to be around, as not everyone knew how to be nonchalant. Poor Demyx's hands shook so much from nerves that he dropped his cup of coffee - twice - and before lunch he accidentally went into the wrong rest room.

"I'm not cut out for this sort of thing," he lamented during lunchtime as he, Zexion, Lexaeus, Roxas, and Namine sat in the breakroom.

"As if there were any doubts," Zexion muttered dryly, taking another bite of his sandwich. There was a smattering of quiet laughter before everything went quiet again.

"Have you guys been able to get anything worthwhile?" Roxas asked, leaning in closer. Zexion checked to make sure the door was closed before shrugging.

"Nothing too remarkable," he replied. Lexaeus nodded at this; apparently, his findings fell within the same lines.

"I haven't gotten anything," Demyx sighed, stabbing at his chicken salad forlornly. "I guess I wasn't nearly as diligent here as I thought."

"More earth-shattering revelations from Demyx," Zexion quipped, rolling his eyes. Roxas began to speak, his mouth full of his burger, but Namine hit him on the shoulder and gave him a firm look. He gave an apologetic grin and swallowed before speaking.

"Yeah, I haven't had much luck either," he said, patting Demyx consolingly. "But at least-"

Everyone stopped as the door opened, but quickly released the breath they had all inhaled. It was only Luxord, looking composed but a bit pale.

"Hey, Luxord," Roxas whispered, "how's it going?"

"Assuming no one catches on before we leave today, excellently," he said, forcing a tight smile onto his face. "Let's just hope that holds true."

He didn't stop to sit down and eat with the rest of them but grabbed some kind of protein shake from the refrigerator and turned to leave. Evidently, he had too much to get done to take time for lunch.

"What about Xaldin? Have you seen him?" Zexion prompted as the Brit reached for the door. He paused, nodding slowly.

"Yes, but he's located even closer to the heads than I am. It's really difficult for him to get anything useful without notice, but he's trying. Cross your fingers," he said quietly before leaving. The others turned back to each other, exchanging grim looks before finishing their lunches in silence.

"Don't you think it's a little soon to be looking for office buildings?" Axel asked Larxene as they stood outside a rather nice complex on the other side of the city. Larxene, feeling energized by the notion that they could really pull this off, had dragged the redheadwith her to find some suitable locations for their new business.

"Of course not," Larxene snorted impatiently, survering the grounds and building carefully. "They're all in the lion's den trying to get us everything we need at the risk of their jobs and professional reputations. The least we can do is show some initiative by contemplating our office setup."

Axel supposed that made sense, to a degree. But the real issue for him was being out together like this. It was the first time they'd been together like this since their big argument where they were trying to save themselves from corporate intrigue. Even now, Axel could sense that her attitude toward him was one of desperate comraderie, not any sort of affection. He felt a hollow pang in his chest as he tried to think of the last time he really had felt any sense of lingering feelings from her. There were periods where they'd gotten along well enough, or at least hadn't been at each other's throats, but..

"Maybe I'm the only one who still thinks there's anything left," he thought, taking in her form and everything he liked about it. The current situation brought back the realization that there had been a time where he had given up his job that he'd valued so much to make her happy. What had changed? He could finally admit that it wasn't her; she was still the same strong, determined woman that he'd always admired and even come to love. Was it him then? Was it really his fault that all this had fallen apart?

"Hey, Axel? You all right? You kind of spaced out there.." came a voice suddenly from in front of him. Axel's consciousness snapped back, and he realized he was staring into Larxene's face as she waved a hand impatiently at him.

"Oh, Larxene!" the redhead blurted out, taking a step back. "Err.."

"Were you expecting someone else?" she asked, eyeing him suspiciously. He shook his head, scratching his neck sheepishly.

"It's.. nothing," Axel said lamely. Larxene, however, seemed to be distracted by more important things than his sudden mood swing. She was nodding and smiling proudly up at the buildling, as though she'd built it from scratch.

"It's decided," she said, grinning. "You're looking at our new office! Come on, let's head back and see if the others have arrived yet. I'm eager to get started."

As Larxene turned back, she suddenly halted at the sight of Axel smiling fondly at her. She blinked in surprise before scowling at him, hands on her hips.

"What?" she demanded moodily, trying to hide her embarrassment at the unexpected look with annoyance. But he merely shook his head dismissively once more.

"You just remind me of when you first started," Axel reminisced quietly, remembering those days that seemed like such distant memories. They both stared at each other, unsure of what to say as a host of thoughts crossed through their minds.

"We.. should get back," the blonde repeated once more, heading to the car. Axel remained for a few more moments, gazing at the culimination of Larxene's hard work and determination.

"Yeah, we should," he muttered, turning and following after her.

By the time Axel and Larxene had finished their search for a new office building, the others had already arrived at Larxene's place, where Marluxia was serving them refreshments.

"What have you guys got for us?" Larxene said, feeling apprehensive. Luxord smiled and pulled out a disk, waving it back and forth slightly for her.

"Pay dirt!" she cheered, snatching it up for him. In response she tossed the financial whiz the camera with the pictures of the new office building.

"You guys take a gander at those," the blonde said, grinning. "But first.."

Axel watched as she paused on her way to grab her laptop from the dining room table, staring intently at the disk.

"First.. I think I'm going to pay someone a visit," she said softly, a vindictive smile crossing her face. Axel bit his lip, beginning to worry.

"Larxene, what are you.." he began, but she had already breezed past him, grabbing his hand on the way.

"Let's pay that old goat a visit," Larxene said, voice dripping with vicious pleasure.

"This is crazy," Axel said as they sat in the car in the parking lot of the Organization's building. "You know that, right?"

Larxene rolled her eyes and got out of the car, with Axel sighing and following after her.

"It's not like he can do anything about it now that the info is in our hands. He'd have to implicate himself," the blonde reasoned. "Anyway, the risk is worth seeing the look on his face."

Axel wasn't so sure he agreed, but Larxene was like a force of nature; once she got going, you just couldn't stop her.

As they approached they exited the parking complex toward the building, they suddenly noticed police cars in front of the building. Both of them froze at the sight of police offers leading Xehanort, Ansem, Xemnas, Saix, and Xigbar out in handcuffs, followed by-

"Xion!" Axel said, spotting the petite blackhaired girl. Larxene tried to grab his arm, but Axel brushed past her to run toward his friend. The police immediately stepped forward, asking him to step back, but Xion intervened.

"He's a friend of mine. Can I just talk to him a minute?" she said quietly, not quite meeting Axel's eye. The police conferred for a few moments before nodding.

"Xion, what the hell's going on?" Axel demanded, watching as the Organization bigwigs were loaded into the police cars. Xion bit her lip, attempting to keep herself composed.

"I couldn't.. couldn't do it anymore. I went to the police with everything I knew," she said softly. "They won't make me serve jail time, but I'll have to stay in protective custody until the trial can get settled."

She stopped, wiping her eyes from tears as she continued to avoid looking directly at Axel, while Larxene continued to stare at them from a distance.

"I'm sorry, Axel. I'm so sorry. I-"

Xion stopped short as Axel wrapped his arms tightly around her. The young girl's defenses crumbled, and she sobbed into his chest while his warm embrace soothed her guilt. After the emotions subsided, she pressed her lips to his cheek for a brief moment before pulling back.

"Thanks, Axel. Tell Roxas I said bye," Xion said quietly. Axel smiled and nodded.

"We'll see each other again, okay? I promise."

Xion smiled weakly, glancing over at Larxene briefly in an apologetic look, before backing toward the police cars.

"Tell her, Axel," she whispered, "Before it's too late."

Axel's expression softened as he watched her get into the squad car, her eyes lingering on him until the door was shut by one of the officers. Axel wasn't sure how long he stood watching the cars vanish out of sight before Larxene walked up beside him.

"Can we go now?" she said, her voice unreadable. Axel swallowed, taking a deep breath as he tried to bring the words up. After a moment, he simply nodded. For a few moments, he watched Larxene walk back toward the car before he sighed and followed after her.

Nightshroud: Yes, we're down to the last chapter! With the Organization scheming wrapped up, there's only one hurdle left to cross. That's right, the wedding! So get excited people! I'll be updating soon, so make sure to review and pump me up for it. =D