Title: Die Welt zerschmettert
Pairing: Axel/Roxas (Roxas/Naminé, Xaldin/Axel, Selphie/Kairi)
Warnings: sensitive themes regarding the Holocaust, World War II and Nazi Germany, passing promiscuity, adultery, mentions of drug use, sex and language
Beta: the BetaMistress alovelysilence
Word count: 9500+
A/N: This was born out of a class I am currently taking, about Berlin in the mid-twentieth century. What started as a potential kink prompt for ‘1920s Berlin: cabarets and gay clubs’ became this monster. Basically, it kicked me in the face obnoxiously until I wrote it. The title roughly translates to “the world shatters” – German has never been my strong suit, but I think it’s close enough.
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, but I do get a kick out of writing for the fandom. The song mentioned here is called “Streets of Berlin;” it was sung by Mick Jagger in the movie Bent – which comes highly recommended. While early 20th century Germany does provide most of the backdrop for this story, it is not a wholly accurate representation of events; neither is it meant to downplay the horrors and trauma experienced by victims and survivors of the era. It is my field of study, and I have the utmost respect for their stories.
Summary: For Roxas, a regular of the gay clubs and bars of 1920s Berlin, the loose morals of the city are a welcome diversion from hard times - especially in the company of Axel, a wide-grinning jazz saxophonist just a few morals short of a hooker. But with the reign of Hitler and the Nazi party on the horizon, they are about to find their world turned upside down and shattering all around them.
Streets of Berlin
I must leave you soon
Oh, will you forget me
Was I ever really here
Find me a bar on the cobble stone street
Where the boys are pretty
I can not love for more than one day
But one day is enough in the city
Find me a boy with two ocean blue eyes
That show no pity
Take out his eyes he never needs to see
How they eat you alive in the city
Even halfway across the city Roxas could hear the jazz band calling his name, luring him back out to the clubs for the night. The low notes of the bass, the flare of the trumpet, the saxophone melody . . . all pulled him out onto the street in their direction. After a long day trying to find work, Roxas had been looking forward to leaving his frustrations behind in favor of the company of others in the same boat. Most of the men had probably spent the day in a similar fashion, and the girls had their own troubles to deal with.
Roxas grinned, overwhelmingly and inordinately giddy, as he made his way over to his favorite club; the sounds of different jazz bands filtered out onto the streets and deep into his soul. He could not have imagined living anywhere else but Berlin – the city of sin and the new modernity, where a woman could walk the streets with whomever she liked, where men could drink, flirt, and dance with each other and women could do the same. Roxas had always counted himself lucky, growing up and coming of age in the twenties, especially in Germany’s capital; people had always been tolerant, and the blond never felt like he was being mistreated due to his inclinations. After all, it was times such as these that made men – and women – equal. They were all looking for something to take their mind off of the inflation, unemployment, and political unrest, whether their distractions took the form of girls dancing burlesque or a casual fuck.
For Roxas, it was the latter. Nothing against the girls, some of them were like his sisters.
Catching sight of his destination, Roxas smoothed out his crisp white shirt and breezed through the door, nodding to some of his friends. He stole a glass of champagne off someone’s table and downed it quickly. The low lighting in the club was offset by the blaring sounds of a particularly enthusiastic band, which had most of the club’s inhabitants out on the dance floor. Roxas picked his way over to the bar, winking up at one of the musicians on the stage; the redheaded alto saxophone player winked back and reasserted his dominance of the set in response, bravado and sex appeal dripping from every pore. The blond shook his head and sat down at the bar, ordering two drinks and handing over the marks as the song came to an end.
Within minutes the much taller redhead dropped into the seat beside him and swiveled to plant a wet kiss on his cheek. “That was for you, babe. I thought you’d never come.”
Roxas pulled out a cigarette and lit it, then offered his companion a light. “Sorry darling, got a little tied up.” Once the flame caught on the end of the redhead’s cigarette, Roxas clicked the lighter closed and took a drag.
“Getting started without me? And here I was under the impression you hate being tied up.” The twin teardrop tattoos under the man’s eyes – a bold statement, to be sure – scrunch up just a little when he grins.
“Don’t be jealous, I wanted to make sure I had the marks for tonight,” Roxas reasoned. “Can’t exactly come here broke. Besides, you wouldn’t want anyone to think we were actually exclusive, would you?”
“Actually, that’s the exact impression I’d like that bear in the corner to have; please, just play along.”
Roxas snorted. “You make for quite the damsel in distress, I must say. Shall I whisk you away out of the beast’s sight?”
“He’s undressing me with his eyes, so I say yes.”
Roxas glanced over his shoulder, following the redhead’s vibrant green gaze to verify his story; even in the dim lights and the crowded floor he could pick out the redhead’s ‘assailant.’ He was tall and overly muscular with biceps the size of Roxas’ head, and thick black hair that formed muttonchops along his jaw line. His arms were crossed over his chest and several buttons of his shirt were open, revealing coarse black hair all over. And he was leering most suggestively.
“See what I mean? He’s been staring at me ever since we started the set,” the redhead muttered anxiously.
“Maybe you should go with him,” Roxas suggested, cocking an eyebrow. “Look, obviously he’s well off. He has the money to buy a decent amount of food and time to waste bulking up – you could probably live pretty comfortably for a while.”
“I’m not saying I don’t see your logic, just . . . ugh. I’m getting the leather and chains vibe from him. He’d probably never unchain me from the bed. Nope. Even I have my limits. Fine right here, thanks.”
“You can’t keep living in that apartment,” Roxas said seriously. “Alexanderplatz isn’t a good neighborhood, Axel.”
“What’s wrong with it? They’re shady, I’m shady,” Axel took a sip of his drink. “I’ll survive.”
Roxas shrugged, dropping the subject. “So. You don’t want to go with fuzzy, you want me to be your knight in shining armor,” he took a sip of his gin and leaned against the bar with his elbow. “Where do we start?”
Axel placed his glass of gin down and tugged gently on Roxas’s silk scarf. The blond complied, leaning in closer until he could almost taste the cigarettes and gin on his breath and could smell Axel’s cologne – something vaguely spicy with a hint of musk – on his neck. There were other little things he could appreciate up close, like the way Axel’s bottom lip was always a little swollen after playing the saxophone, the way his green eyes glowed brilliantly in the bar light, the way his facial tattoos actually looked purple. He grinned broadly, setting aside his gin and stubbing out his cigarette before brushing a wayward strand of long, violently red hair out of Axel’s face.
“Make it look good, babe,” Axel whispered, his breath ghosting over Roxas’ lips.
“Shut up,” Roxas muttered, closing the gap between them and pressing his lips against Axel’s, hard. The redhead responded quickly, parting his lips and deepening the kiss. Roxas moaned, pulling back just enough for their voyeur to catch a glimpse of his tongue sliding into Axel’s mouth.
Roxas always likened kissing Axel to having sex with him; he usually had to fight him for dominance, and depending on Axel’s mood it would either get hot and heavy real fast, or he would favor slow intensity. Either way, he wasn’t picky.
They were not by any means together, either; Roxas likened it to a very open, casual relationship. Both were free to have sex with whomever they pleased, but more often than not they ended up in each other’s beds. Axel was a more comfortable choice for him; they had known each other for several years, Axel knew what he liked and how to please him and vice versa, and all in all, they were comfortable with each other. After nights like those they often spent most of the morning fighting over blankets and curling together against the lack of heat, all the while threatening to kick the other out – but rarely ever seriously. The redhead was more apt to bring men home or be brought home, yet Roxas was never jealous. Axel had always kept an eye on Roxas, reassuring that the blond was doing fine and no one was bothering him; Roxas often performed the same duties for Axel.
Axel broke the kiss slowly, allowing Roxas to nibble on and lick his swollen lip. “I love pretending to be possessive of you,” Roxas murmured, nipping his lip again.
“It’s quite the turn-on,” Axel said, giving him a wide, dangerous grin.
“Do you need to be taken outside?”
“Only if you’re going to let me fuck you against the wall out there,” Axel leered, his hands roaming over the blonde’s hips. “We can put on a show.”
Roxas smirked. “You still owe me a line of cocaine. If we go outside you’re the one getting fucked, baby.”
“You’ll get your cocaine, be patient,” Axel huffed, tossing the rest of his gin back. “Let’s go.”
They picked their way to the back of the club and out to the back area, where couples could go to have sex. As the club was built overlooking the banks of the river, there were various smaller patios connected to it. There were already several couples occupying the patios, the smell of sweat and cum filling the air. Roxas caught sight of two female dancers he was friendly with as they hunted for a spot – Selphie and Kairi, who usually worked one of the cabarets in the neighborhood, both still mostly dressed in their performing outfits; Selphie had Kairi backed against the wall with several hooks on her corset undone, whimpering in ecstasy. Selphie’s mouth and one hand were on Kairi’s breasts while the other hand fingered her, and through it all Kairi’s perfectly coiffed auburn hair remained undisturbed. She saw Roxas watching and winked suggestively.
Roxas turned and pushed Axel against the wall, giving him time to bend over slightly and brace himself against the bricks. The blond wasted no time shucking Axel’s trousers down just until his ass was exposed, then unbuttoned his own, pulling his hard, flushed cock out. Axel trembled and groaned as he pushed into him slowly, shifting his hips just slightly; Roxas held his hips tightly, nipping Axel’s shoulder as he sank into him. The redhead shuddered as he adjusted to Roxas’ cock, arching his back like a stretching cat and glancing over his shoulder, waiting.
The night is young and they fuck at a frenetic pace, still almost completely clothed, until they both reach their climaxes.
The night is young and the two boys roaming the streets of Berlin in search of meaning are untouchable, if only for the moment.
The last few months turned everything upside down for Roxas, and even though the changes were really his idea he wasn’t too sure about them anymore. He hadn’t been to any of the clubs in weeks, and word had reached him that Axel was getting agitated about his consistent absences. Roxas was just unlocking the door to his apartment when he heard Axel’s voice carrying up the stairwell.
“Hey, where’ve you been?” Axel asked, bounding up the stairs towards him. “You can’t just disappear like that, you had us all – why are you covered in grease?”
“I found work,” Roxas answered simply. “Come on in.”
“You found work and didn’t see fit to tell any of us? What if there were more open spots?”
“There aren’t. The only reason I got this one was because of a favor –”
“Well shit Roxas, if everyone could suck their potential boss’s dick to get a job, we’d all be doing it!”
Roxas went over to the sink to wash some of the grease off his face. “It’s not like that at all.”
“Then what is it like?”
“My girlfriend,” Roxas answered, his throat feeling like sand paper. He stared down at the sink as he tried to rub the grease off his hands with a towel. “Her brother got me a job as a mechanic.”
Roxas cleared his throat. “My girlfriend.”
Axel swooped behind him and grabbed his shoulders roughly, forcing him to turn around. His expression was somewhere between horrified and disbelieving. “Excuse me, could you repeat that? I could have sworn you mentioned something about a girlfriend.”
Roxas shoved him away. “You didn’t hear wrong,” he growled, stalking away from Axel over to his bureau.
Axel scoffed. “Um, maybe you forgot, but you’re gay. Remember that? You suck cock and take it up the ass, and God knows, you’ve been known to wear glitter on special occasions.”
“I can’t do that anymore.”
“So you just woke up one morning and decided you weren’t going to be gay? You can’t just do that, that’s not how it works!”
“You don’t get it. It’s a part of who I am, I’m not denying being gay, just . . . hiding it.”
Axel didn’t respond for a few moments. “This doesn’t make any sense. You have a girlfriend,” he bellowed, sounding hurt and confused. “What sick and twisted world did I wake up in?”
Roxas rounded on him. “The real one, Axel. Have you not been paying attention, do you not know who they’ve elected and appointed Chancellor?”
Axel shrugged. “The National Socialist Workers, Nazis or something. That guy Hitler’s their main man. What’s the big deal?”
“He’s taking over, I can feel it. The Reichstag fire – that was all him, I’m sure of it.”
“So in what way does that translate to you suddenly deciding you’re not queer? Word around the clubs is that one of Hitler’s pals is gay. You think he’s going to go after us?”
“I don’t know. People are changing, Axel. They’re starting to treat us different. This . . . this is for the best.”
“Well, maybe if you leave now and shit actually does go down you might be safe. I mean, I’ve heard this guy go on about the Aryan race and how the Jews are the reason we lost the war and some such, and you’re nothing if not the Aryan poster child.”
Roxas made a face. “Please don’t say that – I don’t want to leave. I’m no soldier.”
“Yeah, can’t see them trying to make you join their illustrious army. You’re too squeamish.”
“They’ll force me to join the party,” Roxas said seriously, “if I keep this job. But I won’t do it because I believe in it or anything. I don’t trust them.”
“You really don’t, huh?”
Roxas shook his head vigorously. “They make me nervous. I feel like I have to watch my back with every step.”
“Be careful then,” Axel said seriously.
“Take care of yourself, too. Don’t do anything reckless.”
Axel nodded, but deep down Roxas knew his warning was in vain.
Roxas was twenty-five when he married Naminé, a pretty young woman with ice blond hair and icy blue eyes who had a talent for art and liked to cook; she didn’t mind being married to a mechanic who was admittedly not the soldiering type, and in fact spoke of taking a job in a factory soon enough.
The wedding was small and beautiful, though markedly empty as far as Roxas’ family was concerned. He had been left largely alone in the world following the Great War, which was how he managed to enter Berlin’s gay clubs so early. His father had been a soldier; when officers arrived to relay the news of his death – Roxas was seven, remembered this clearly – his mother had simply stopped existing. Naminé did not mind his lack of family and seemed to be quite truly taken with him.
He was cleaning out his old apartment a few days after the wedding, just trying to gather everything together, when Axel arrived again.
“You married her?”
Roxas continued putting photos and other mementos into a shoebox. “Yes.” A jar of glitter paint, a porn magazine, and a corset he had worn on a very special occasion revolving around Axel’s birthday went into the box.
Axel seemed to struggle with the idea. “I should have been there,” he hissed, dragging fingers through his hair agitatedly.
“I would’ve liked that. You would have been at least one familiar face.”
“I should have been there to yell ‘I do!’ when the priest asked if anyone wanted to object. It would have been very dramatic. And probably embarrassing for all of us.”
“Thank you for not doing that.”
“Yeah,” Axel sniffed. “Sure.”
“Listen – you know Röhm was assassinated, right?”
Axel nodded. “Hitler’s queer, yeah. Heard something about that. They killed everyone he was involved with.”
“It was a statement,” Roxas said; the air stood stagnant between them, souring with that information. “It’s not safe anymore for us,” he continued quietly. “We have to be careful, now more than ever. Keep yourself out of trouble, fly under their radar, and whatever you do don’t give them a reason.”
“Are you afraid?”
Axel nodded soberly. “Before you go and disappear again, I need to say this. I loved you, you know. I think I really did.”
Roxas felt cold and dead, like the apartment that had been his home felt now that it had been stripped bare. “It’s too late for that.”
“Yeah, I know.”
Roxas put the shoebox on the ground and lit a match. The fire felt warm and dangerous between his fingers. He dropped it into the open box, not hearing Axel’s shocked sound. Then Roxas left the apartment and the burning memories and Axel, who struggled to salvage the tarnished remains.
Roxas and Naminé had been living very quiet lives, he as an all-around car mechanic and she as a factory worker when everything began to spiral out of control. The appearance of the Gestapo, even as an old family friend, was enough to shock Roxas to his core and almost give him a heart attack. “Riku,” he started as he stood in the doorway. “What’s the, uh, what’s the problem?”
“Sorry to trouble you at this hour, Roxas. I believe you may know that the Gestapo has been selected to conduct raids on known homosexual clubs and residences?” Riku was always straight to the point and serious, traits Roxas always thought made him and his older brother seem like the odd couple. Nothing, not the Great War nor the death of his best friend had changed him.
“I am aware. And I can assure you, you are looking in the wrong place.”
Riku smiled indulgently. “Yes, I know. But you went through a phase where that can’t really be said. I’m not here to arrest you; you’ve proven to be a good German and have found yourself a good German wife. I am here to warn you of something: a warrant has been issued for the arrest of an old friend of yours. He will be arrested if he doesn’t find a better hiding place.”
Roxas felt the blood drain from his face as he nodded shortly. “I understand.”
Riku tipped his hat to him and walked away. Roxas watched as Riku marched away, his insides twisting at the implications.
Roxas found Axel a few days later in his Alexanderplatz apartment, looking lonely and very much unsure of what to do with himself. He bristled at Roxas’ entrance. “I don’t fuck little boys who run and hide in a closet,” Axel said, blowing cigarette smoke in his face.
“I’m not hiding in a closet. It’s called self preservation,” he tried to explain, but he could tell Axel wasn’t listening anyway. “Listen. Pack up your stuff, you’re coming with me.”
Axel snorted derisively. “Who died and made you the Aryan prince? Fuck off.”
“They have you marked! Riku came by himself and told me to get you off the street before you disappear entirely!”
That got Axel’s attention. “What, they have a warrant for me?”
Roxas nodded. “It’s not like, you know, you’re the subject of a search yet, but if they find you, they’ll take you. Surely you’ve noticed most of the old crowd has disappeared.”
Axel stubbed out his cigarette in an ashtray. “Word on the street is they’re castrating some of the guys. Others are taken away and never seen again.”
“It’s true. It’s happening all over.”
“That’s a sucky situation, Roxas. So what are you going to do?”
“First off, I’m taking you with me now. You’ll hide out in my house until we figure out the next step.”
“And Mrs. Lehmann?” Axel asked, very carefully.
“I’m not telling her. With any luck she’ll never know you’re there.”
Axel nodded and began gathering his things for the move. “You know,” he said casually, “you’re lucky you came when you did. I only just moved back in here a few days ago.”
“Where were you living?”
“Remember fuzzy? His name is Xaldin.” Axel paused, his back still to Roxas. “You were right, by the way – about him having money. I ate like a king for two months.”
“I can see that. You’re not skin and bones anymore.”
“But I’m not fat,” Axel insisted.
Roxas allowed himself a small chuckle. “No, you’re just fine.”
“Really?” Axel turned around, trying to get a full glimpse of himself.
“Yes, now come on. Put this on,” Roxas offered him a hat. The redhead took it, sticking most of his hair inside.
“Thanks.” Axel threw his bag of books and clothing over his shoulder and went for the saxophone case.
“You won’t be able to play it,” Roxas warned as he picked up the handle.
“I’m not leaving it.”
“Fine, let’s go.”
He hunched in the passenger seat of the car on their way back to Roxas’ house, looking out the window at the neighborhood. “Is Mrs. Lehmann home?”
“She’ll be home from the factory in a few hours, so we have enough time to get you settled in.”
Axel nodded. “Thank you for this.”
They drove the rest of the way back to Roxas’ house in silence; when they arrived Roxas parked behind the house, allowing them to sneak in without much prying from the neighbors. Once inside Roxas dashed around, gathering things Axel could use and not attract Naminé’s attention; Axel had barely moved, watching Roxas run restlessly from room to room and taking the house itself in as he went.
“She’s domesticated you,” Axel chuckled lightly, mostly to himself since Roxas was preoccupied.
“Huh?” the blond prompted belatedly, stopping with an armful of blankets.
“Nothing,” Axel said quickly. “You just . . . you have a really nice place,” he finished, quite sincerely.
Roxas gave him a small smile. “Thanks. Come on, down here.” He opened up a door underneath a staircase, revealing another, much steeper staircase. “This is the best I have,” he said, leading the way and turning on an electric light in the stairwell. Axel glanced around, taking in the solid gray stone walls, piles of boxes and trunks, and a little workplace with tools and other hardware. “You can set up wherever you’d like,” Roxas continued, handing over the supplies he had procured upstairs. He glanced up at the ceiling briefly. “She’ll be home soon, I have to be upstairs. I’ll come back down later on tonight, I’ll bring you dinner,” he said apologetically, backing up the stairs.
Axel nodded numbly, and began to settle in.
That night Roxas crept down into the basement to check in on Axel with a plate of leftover chicken and potatoes. He had taken over a well-hidden corner of their basement, pulling an old mattress over and covering it with the blankets Roxas had provided earlier. Other than that Axel had an oil lamp as well as a little electric light, his bag of clothes, and a few books he’d salvaged from his apartment. His saxophone case was propped up against the wall behind him.
“I’ll bring you some more books, if you like,” Roxas offered, handing him the plate of food. “I have a feeling you’ll get through those pretty quickly.”
“Anything you can spare would probably entertain me,” Axel said, attacking the chicken ravenously. “So how will we do this?”
“Well, you’ll stay down here – it’s too risky for you to be upstairs, in case Naminé or someone else sees you. I’ll bring you food as often as possible, though there are things down here that you can help yourself to,” he said, referring to a shelf of non-perishable food items. “Naminé never comes down here, so you shouldn’t have to worry about her. There’s a washroom just over there, with a sink and some soap.” Roxas paused a little awkwardly. “I’m sorry this isn’t the best. I just – I want to keep you from disappearing.”
“No chance of me disappearing when I’m right beneath your feet,” Axel said seriously.
Roxas faltered. “You know I’m not trying to control –”
“Yeah,” Axel interrupted. “I know. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate what you’re doing here. You’re risking a whole lot for someone who doesn’t mean a whole lot –”
“That’s not true,” Roxas cut him off, visibly deflating. “You do mean a lot,” he murmured.
Axel didn’t answer, but when he did it was to beckon Roxas onto the mattress beside him. Roxas complied, feeling uncomfortable in the obvious inadequacy of the conditions. He could not provide the food and comfort Axel might have received when he lived with Xaldin, and instead was confining Axel to a basement for an undetermined period of time. The tender touch of fingers on his cheek startled him out of his reflections; he looked up and tried, in vain, to dissect the most curious expression on Axel’s face.
Then Axel kissed him, and all of those thoughts dissipated. Even the ones regarding his wife, who was sleeping just upstairs completely unaware of their guest, and the Gestapo and their horrible timing flew away. Roxas didn’t stop him, not when he deepened the kiss and not when Axel pushed him back until he was securely pressed between the mattress and Axel’s long, lean body. There were hands crawling up his sides, sliding the straps of his suspenders aside; Roxas gripped the back of Axel’s shirt tightly, using him as an anchor when he felt like he was losing control.
“How long has it been,” Axel whispered, his breath warm against his earlobe, “since you had a man?”
“A long time,” Roxas conceded, allowing Axel to unbutton his trousers. He shifted on the mattress, finally finding a comfortable position and gasping when Axel slipped his hand behind the fabric and cupped him. His trousers were pulled down his hips, leaving him in his underwear. Roxas lifted his hips and moaned as he felt Axel’s hand rub his cock and balls through the thin material. “Ax,” he breathed. “You don’t – you don’t have to –”
Axel nipped a patch of skin next to Roxas’ belly button. “Shh,” he murmured, pulling his underwear down languidly. “I want to.”
Roxas reached down, threading his fingers through Axel’s hair; a keening whimper escaped his throat as Axel swallowed his cock, his mouth slick and hot and sinful. He sucked wetly on Axel’s fingers when they approached his lips until they disappeared moments later and then there was a wet finger prodding the tight muscles of his entrance, breaching him experimentally.
“I – nggh – not ready – can’t,” he gasped, trying unsuccessfully to formulate a coherent sentence.
Axel drew back with a soft wet pop, massaging the tensed muscles in his upper thighs. “It’s ok, we’re not going any farther than this,” he said quietly, and returned to his task of setting sparks off in his brain and turning Roxas’ body into jelly. Roxas thought vaguely about how odd it was that Axel, with whom he had done incredibly kinky things and probably tried almost every sexual position, was assuring him they were only going to have oral sex.
Roxas groaned and lifted his hips as Axel hummed around his cock, fisting his hands in the blankets and Axel’s hair. He came quickly, almost unexpectedly, dropping back to the bed gasping. As his breathing and heart rate calmed Roxas brushed Axel’s hair out of his face. The redhead released him from his mouth and crawled up, placing a kiss on his jaw. Roxas tilted his face towards him, returning the kiss. Then he felt the hard line of Axel’s erection against his hip.
“I have to go upstairs,” Roxas murmured miserably.
“I know,” Axel said huskily in his ear. “Go on, I can take care of myself.”
“I’ll come back, you know that. I’ll give you the best blowjob you’ve had in years.”
Axel nodded, and gently pushed him up. “It’s alright.”
The war was going well, or that was what Roxas’ coworkers told him. He nodded and performed his role as the dedicated party member, but worried about the progression of events. As the winter turned bitter so did the local sentiment against the chosen scapegoats of the war.
After a brisk jog home from work Roxas burst through the door, swirls of snowflakes accompanying him as he closed the door behind him. Even though he was dressed in several thick layers, with a woolen scarf, hat, and gloves the few exposed areas of skin, particularly his cheeks and nose, were deep red. He slowly started stripping off layers and left his boots at the door.
“Naminé?” Roxas called, looking around the sitting room, kitchen, and dining room. Not seeing her anywhere, Roxas realized she probably wouldn’t be home from work for a little while. He unwrapped the package he had just procured and quietly unlocked the door to the basement. Within seconds he heard a harsh, violent cough and was hit with a wall of cold air; he shut the door behind him and ran down the stairs. “Shit,” he muttered. It was far too cold as it was, and basement air felt colder. The coughing did not cease.
“Axel,” Roxas called, jogging over to the corner where Axel’s pile of blankets was hidden. Axel himself was curled up against the wall with all of the blankets wrapped around him. He was lurching forward with each cough, and his skin looked white and clammy. Roxas knelt next to him, rubbing his back and feeling his forehead. “Christ, you’re burning up.” He shook out the new blanket and wrapped it across the redhead’s chest and arms.
“Flaming,” Axel muttered, sounding delirious. He turned his head towards Roxas, looking up at him blearily.
“Shh. It’s ok.” Roxas cradled Axel’s head against his shoulder and combed his fingers through the long red hair.
“Rox,” he coughed. “I feel terrible.”
“I know. It’s going to be fine, I’ll get you some medicine.”
“Mmm, I love you.”
Roxas placed a kiss on his hairline. “I know. I love you too. Just hang in there, alright?”
Over the next few days Roxas spent every spare moment available caring for Axel, just trying to get him through the worst part of the pneumonia. As the week progressed Axel slowly got better; Roxas would leave work several times a day to check in on him. One day, upon returning home with more medicine, Roxas made his way down to the basement. He was shocked to find Naminé sitting with Axel with his head in her lap, petting his hair. There was a steaming bowl of half-eaten soup on the floor nearby.
Cold, paralyzing fear swept through him, freezing his breath in his lungs as he watched his wife treat his lover with tenderness and care. Naminé looked up at Roxas; there was no accusation or betrayal in her expression, but that didn’t curb his fear. He couldn’t help but wonder wildly how much she knew already.
Axel suddenly noticed his presence, and smiled. “Hey Rox, I like her. She brought me soup.”
Roxas didn’t respond, but moved closer and knelt beside both of them. He took Axel’s outstretched hand, glancing up to meet Naminé’s eyes briefly. “I’m sorry.” Naminé blinked.
Roxas’ attention was redirected by Axel’s hand squeezing his own. “I think it’s ok,” Axel whispered. Roxas rested his palm against Axel’s cheek, his thumb brushing over his cheekbone.
“He’s out of the woods,” Naminé said quietly. “He needs rest and warmth now, but he will be fine.”
Naminé nodded and gently helped Axel sit up. She stood gracefully, smoothing out the wrinkles in her house dress. “I’ll leave you,” she said, walking back towards the stairs.
Once she was gone Roxas relaxed exponentially. “You’re looking a lot better,” he commented, pressing his palm to Axel’s forehead to test his temperature. “And your temperature is down.”
“Your girl knows how to make soup. Kinda wish I had one of those,” Axel chuckled.
“The thought of you being married frightens me, to be completely honest.”
“Scares me too, babe. Not sure I’d survive.”
“Did she . . . what happened when she came down here?”
“She knew, she brought the soup down with her. I think she was a little surprised, but . . . she just sat down with me and offered me soup.”
“I’m glad you’re feeling better. I was worried for a while.”
“Can’t get rid of me that fast. As I recall, I still owe you a line of cocaine. Can’t die owing someone.”
Naminé was sitting up in bed in her dressing gown when he entered the bedroom, reading but not reading. Roxas knew something was going to happen.
“How long has he been here?” she asked, as if inquiring about the weather.
Roxas paused. “Six months.”
“What do they want him for?”
“He’s Catholic,” Roxas said. “At least, only in name. He hasn’t been a practicing Catholic in years, but apparently that’s enough now.”
“Is that all?”
Roxas paused again, biting his lip. “He is gay,” he answered carefully. “The party believes he has criminal intentions.”
“They believe many homosexuals harbor criminal intentions, and yet you are protecting only one. What is going on here, Roxas?”
Roxas thought over his answer carefully. “Axel . . . Naminé, until four years ago he was . . . my lover,” he said, trying to make the situation sound a little better. They had, in truth, had sex several times in the secrecy of the basement since he had arrived, but he didn’t want to tell her that.
“I thought as much.” She nodded, seeming to accept his answer at face value.
“Not at first. But . . . when we were downstairs, the three of us . . . I could sense it. There was something between you two, but I couldn’t quite place it. You care for him very deeply, don’t you?”
“What is your plan?”
“To keep him alive and out of the Gestapo’s hands. Eventually I want to try and get him out. Maybe to America, I’m not sure.”
Naminé nodded. “You’ve put us in a great deal of danger, taking him in. Especially not telling me about it, what if we had different explanations for things? We could have all been killed, Roxas.”
She glared at him sharply. “It is nice to finally discover just how much you value our marriage.”
“Don’t start, I had to take the chance.”
“I understand that. Just . . . I wish you took the same care in keeping me informed as you did taking care of your former lover. Did you think I would whisper your betrayal to the Gestapo?”
“I couldn’t take the risk, I’m sorry.”
“Well, I only hope that you will trust me now,” Naminé said coldly. “I will not turn him in.”
“You are an uncommon woman,” Roxas answered quietly. “I’ll admit that that was what I feared. Thank you.”
“I had always wondered why you rarely wished to speak of your past, but now I understand: it was because you were living a wholly different life until we met.”
“You aren’t horrified or disgusted by me?”
Naminé shook her head. “Though I’ll admit it was a difficult concept to grasp, and it may take some more time.” Then she paused, drawing herself up; Roxas braced himself. “Did you ever love me, or was I simply a convenient tool for you to hide from the Nazis?”
“I fell in love with you – and I still love you,” Roxas answered honestly.
“Then I will help you keep him a secret,” she said decisively. “If you hold no objections, that is.”
“No, no objections. I greatly appreciate it.”
“I may be able to help you get him to the States. One of my cousins makes frequent trips, and may be able to give us information.”
“You will contact him?”
She nodded. “We will see what he has to say.”
“You’ve lost weight.”
They were lying on their sides on the blanket-covered mattress in the basement, fully clothed and comfortable. Roxas was curled with his back against Axel’s chest and the redhead’s arm draped over him, fingers tracing lazy patterns on his ribcage.
“How do you figure?” Roxas asked.
Axel nuzzled into the crook of his neck. “I can feel it. Your face is thinner, your body feels smaller, and I can feel some of the notches in your spine. Are you sick?”
Roxas shook his head. “We’re still buying the same amount of food we did when it was just the two of us. We split it between us three evenly. If we buy too much food we’ll give it away that Naminé and I are feeding more than ourselves.”
Axel tensed. “I’m sorry.”
“We’re surviving. Don’t worry about it.”
“You know, I’ve tried so hard not to fall back in love with you. You make it very difficult.”
Roxas frowned and put his hand over Axel’s, his thumb brushing over his knuckles. “Don’t,” he whispered.
“Shut up,” Axel growled, pulling him closer and pressing his forehead against the back of Roxas’ neck. “Just let me, alright?”
Roxas nodded solemnly and reached back to rest his palm against the redhead’s cheek.
When Roxas came down the stairs after one particularly boring day Axel looked up at him lazily. “It’s days like today that I miss cocaine,” he said miserably. Roxas chuckled and handed him a new book.
Roxas and Naminé were awoken one night to the sound of shattering glass and screaming. The blond bolted upright in their bed, his eyes darting to the window where the glass was tinted red. He stood up and headed for the window with Naminé following close behind in her nightgown. Pulling the cloth window treatments aside they could see a small shop, not a few doors down from their house, in flames. Several people had gathered out in front of the burning building, looking up at it in shock.
“That’s the tailor’s shop,” Naminé breathed, clutching her heart. “What is going on here?”
They found out the next day that it had happened everywhere, that people had disappeared with the night, that others had been killed. All those left behind were walking with yellow stars on their chests.
The trust Roxas might have had in the new regime had been destroyed after it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to be himself under them, so when he was told that the purpose was to take money and employment back from the Jewish population, Roxas had to curb the urge to raise and eyebrow and ask, “What the fuck?”
What he did make note of was that the other nations were looking to allow refugees into their countries; he filed that away for later illegal operations.
Axel had been living with them for over a year when, during one of Roxas’ weekly ‘book drops’ Axel discovered a German-English dictionary in the pile.
“Why’ve you given me a dictionary?”
“Start studying,” Roxas advised.
“What are you planning?”
“We’re getting you out of here, and you’re going someplace else. Probably America.”
“You’re coming with me.”
“Of course you can, just come with me!”
“I can’t. Do you have any idea how suspicious that would look, a party member picking up and leaving Germany for the States? No. I’ve found a way to smuggle you out of here, and you’re going to take it. End of discussion.”
“So you’re just . . . going to ship me off someplace strange, probably never to see me again? Do you know what they do to queers in America? The American jazz players told me –”
“Do you know what’ll happen if the Gestapo finds you?” Roxas bellowed. “You’ll be killed. But wait, there’s more – not only will you die, but Naminé and I will be branded as traitors for hiding you. Maybe they’ll kill us on the spot, or maybe we’ll get shipped off to the camps with you. Now, I don’t know what the situation is over in the States, but it’s got to be better than here. Take the chance and hide where they can’t find you.” He stalked back up the stairs.
Roxas showed Axel a picture of a man with a long red ponytail, who looked alarmingly like him. “This is it,” he muttered.
“Really? That’s what I have to look like?
“Yes,” Roxas answered, brandishing scissors at him. “Sit down.”
Axel flinched and sat in the chair. “Who is he?”
“I’m not sure.” The scissors began snipping away at his hair. “But he looked enough like you to let you pass through.”
Axel sniffed. “I’m going to look ridiculous.”
“Say that again and you’ll really look ridiculous.”
Axel stayed quiet for the rest of his haircut. Roxas finished cutting, ruffling his hair when he was done. “There.”
“When am I leaving?” Axel asked quietly.
Roxas turned away, putting the scissors down. “Tomorrow.” He deflated as he felt Axel’s long arms wrap around him snugly, fitting himself against all the right spots. “You’ll be fine,” he muttered, reassuring himself more than Axel.
“You have to take care of yourself too, you know. Stay safe.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Just come with me,” Axel whispered. “Please.”
“Can’t. You know I can’t.”
“Then you’re staying here with me tonight,” Axel announced cavalierly, pushing them over to the mattress and flopping down on it, pulling Roxas on top of him. Leaning back against the wall Axel guided him to straddle his thighs. “Hope the missus doesn’t mind.”
“She’s upstairs, you could go ask.”
“No thanks,” Axel chuckled weakly, already working on the buttons of Roxas’ shirt. The blond pulled Axel’s shirt off and leaned in swiftly to kiss him hard on the lips. The last shirt promptly disappeared as they kissed, Roxas pinning Axel to the wall as he ground against Axel’s hips and swallowed the resulting moan. Their movements grew increasingly desperate, hands working furiously to remove articles of clothing and only stopping to exchange heated touches and shuck off their trousers. Roxas resumed his place in Axel’s lap quickly, using his control of the position to grind against him; Axel had found their tube of lubricant under his pillows and covered several fingers with it before reaching around Roxas’ body to tease his entrance. He stretched out the muscles as quickly as possible, the increasingly erotic moans from above spurring him on.
In the meantime Roxas had gotten hold of the lubricant and began stroking Axel’s hard and weeping cock as he moved. He thrust down and Axel removed his fingers; his cock slid up along the crevice of the blonde’s ass until the head reached his entrance. Gripping Roxas’ hips Axel angled his pelvis down and pushed until he slid inside, groaning wantonly. The blond took control on the second thrust, taking him in completely, riding him hard and constricting his inner muscles around Axel’s cock just to hear him moan.
Roxas surrounded Axel; he filled his field of vision, coiled his arms around his shoulders and embraced him, invaded his mouth with his tongue. He was taking Axel inside his own body and he burrowed deep into Axel’s heart. His was the name Axel murmured in his sleep, when he screamed in pleasure, that he called when he needed a companion.
Roxas wondered briefly if they would ever share another moment like this, and abruptly redoubled his efforts to make Axel orgasm harder than he ever had. After all, this was their ending.
They spent the rest of the night together, curled up in a tangle of sweaty limbs and blankets, trading memories, false hopes, and rosy dreams throughout the night. Sleep seemed a terrifying, awful thought that only served to make them hold each other tighter.
When morning came they managed to rouse themselves to wash up and get ready for the big day. By the time they emerged from the basement Naminé had laid breakfast out on the table. She fussed over Axel’s newly-shorn hair and looked between him and her husband sheepishly. Roxas did his best to ignore her blush, but realized their activities last night were probably pretty evident.
Rufus, their chosen human smuggler, arrived shortly after lunch carrying not only Axel’s new forged papers but some articles of clothing as well.
“You’ll basically be my servant,” the man said frankly as Axel changed into his new clothing – black trousers, a crisp white shirt, and a black topcoat. “Sometimes my bodyguard. I will explain more in the car.” When Axel finished changing he handed over a revolver. “You will use this only if necessary. I trust you know how to shoot a gun?”
Roxas remembered the Axel of several years ago responding to a similar question with something to the effect of ‘I’m a lover, not a fighter’ and smiled inwardly; instead Axel simply nodded, examining the gun with a critical eye. Their old lives were truly gone now, Roxas realized. He wondered briefly just who this Axel was, who easily traded his beloved saxophone for the cold steel of a gun, and if his Axel was still in there somewhere.
“Well,” Rufus said, turning to face Roxas. “We’ll be off now. Naminé,” he said, tipping his hat to his cousin. Then he glanced at Axel. “Be quick.” The door closed behind him.
Roxas stood awkwardly as Axel hugged his wife and thanked her for the soup recipe she gifted him with. He felt like he was going to throw up from nerves and agitation. When Axel released her and turned to him, he rushed forward and hugged him. As his eyes burned and watered he whispered in Axel’s ear what he’d been afraid to say, that he loved him, too; it was love and cruelty, and it was all he had left.
When Axel turned to walk out the door Roxas felt the world fall from beneath his feet and shatter.
War is never, ever kind. Not long after Roxas smuggled Axel out of Germany he was forced to join the army – given that Germany was close to defeat, there was a surge in enlistment as a last-ditch attempt to win the war that couldn’t be won. Roxas knew it was a pointless effort, but there was no way to resist.
So Roxas went to war. He saw things no human being should ever see, did things no decent person would ever do, and hated himself for it. During one battle he was shot in the hip and leg; no matter how many times he protested and pleaded with the other soldiers to leave him behind one forced him over his shoulder, taking him back to the base. The field medic who worked on him did the best he could in repairing the multiple bullet wounds on an uncooperative patient, and Roxas knew before he said anything that he’d walk with a limp for the rest of his life.
Towards the end, since he was deemed pretty useless on the battlefield, Roxas was among those sent to the concentration camps to finish the dirty work and kill the survivors. In each haunted, hollowed face he saw friends and lovers from what seemed another lifetime; their eyes bored into his soul and chipped away at his sanity as he was forced to lead them to their deaths. He threw up for hours after that first day, wanting nothing more than die himself. In the end they simply sent him home to wallow in his own weakness.
Nightmares plagued him day and night, of the people he killed in battle and the ones he killed in the camps because he couldn’t help them. They ripped at him, tore him apart from the inside and watched him bleed and he didn’t stop them. He had wanted death, hadn’t he?
He knew Naminé was afraid, but whether it was of him or for him he had no clue. One day she startled him in the kitchen and he almost stabbed her with the butcher knife; he screamed at her in frustration and fear, because he really didn’t want to hurt her. He couldn’t lose his last anchor to sanity, he knew he needed her. Then Roxas curled up against the wall, attempting to control the panicked, untamable feelings. Twice she’d walked in on him with a revolver in his mouth. His guns were locked away in the basement now.
Within months the German army accepted defeat and the announcement of occupation by Allied forces was made. Roxas, with his cane in hand and Naminé on his arm, watched from his window as American tanks and soldiers marched through the neighborhood. Roxas thought it lucky the Americans had gained control of their sector, not because he was terribly impressed with their generosity, but because he believed the chances for emigrating to America would be marginally greater.
The surge in German refugees placed everyone in close quarters, especially after the Soviets cut Berlin off from the west. Roxas agreed to take in as many as the house could hold, but it was far too crowded. He sought escape routes, but there was misery at every turn; his nerves frayed at being surrounded by so many people – he was constantly on edge and paranoid. Naminé did her best to sooth his daily fears and behavior, but it took him years to feel normal again.
After the Russians ended the blockade West Germany became a republic, and travel to other countries from western sectors became much easier. Roxas bought two plane tickets out of Germany as soon as he was able and slept with the slips of paper naming an airport in the United States under his pillow. He had no idea where the airport was or even how to pronounce its name, and only knew a few words in English. He was getting out; that was the important thing.
Roxas had expected life to be difficult in America, but for many years he thought it impossible to be accepted, especially so soon after the war. He and Naminé managed to find small pockets of German immigrants in a few places, though most were second and third generations. One of Naminé’s distant cousins got them off to a pretty decent start, allowing them to rent an attic apartment while they found work and learned English. After a few years they decided to move farther west for the open spaces, where Roxas didn’t feel so closed in and anxious. They bought a little house in Minnesota and lived quietly in a small town. Townspeople knew them as the quiet little German couple who never made trouble for anyone; Naminé would often tell them they were just looking for a little bit of peace.
They never had any children, a fact which was lamented by various people in town since they both retained their fine features as the years went by. Roxas and Naminé had plenty of pets however, usually cats and the occasional dog, which proved to be a welcome distraction for Roxas’ mind. The barking of some dogs reminded him too much of the guard dogs from the camp, so he tended towards smaller, quieter breeds. The injury to his hip would sometimes get agitated, especially during wet months, exaggerating his limp even further. He took a mechanic’s position at a local repair shop just to keep himself busy and motivated towards something, which was better than turning to the alcohol he knew was stored in a cabinet in the kitchen.
It took many months of relentless searching, but Roxas eventually found Rufus again. The bastard was old now, living comfortably in Florida when Roxas got in touch with him. He reported that Axel had indeed arrived safe and sound in the United States as planned, but that he had lost contact with the redhead years before. And yes, he could pull a few strings to find him again.
Axel was in Pittsburg. He even had an address to follow.
So Roxas took the station wagon and drove from their little town in Minnesota all the way to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania. He left his car parked at the motel, and began exploring the suburb Axel had settled in. Eventually Roxas found a quaint town center, with a local market and hardware store. The main road was lined with blossoming trees and sidewalks filled with local people. As he walked the sounds of an alto saxophone playing freestyle jazz reached his ears, calling him, awakening him as if from a dream. Roxas followed the sound until he reached its source: a tall, wiry man, probably in his late fifties, playing from the comfort of a wooden bench. The blond stopped, leaning on his cane as he watched the older man, taking in his angular bone structure, faded tattoos, and his reddish-brown hair, flecked in gray.
As the song faded Roxas beamed. “You play beautifully,” he said, letting his German accent through.
Axel recognized the accent and returned the smile, fiddling with the buttons on the instrument. “Not so well as I used to, I’m afraid,” he answered in German.
“I think you are wrong,” Roxas said, meeting his eyes and noticing how the bright green had dulled some with age.
Axel stood up abruptly, his eyes raking over Roxas’ face and finally resting on his eyes. Suddenly he cursed and rushed forward, pulling him into a tight hug. “It’s you. Shit,” he said weakly, burying his nose in the crook of Roxas’ neck. The blond held him tightly, feeling his knees buckle under his emotions.
“You look good,” Roxas murmured, feeling his eyes burn.
“What happened?” Axel pulled back, his hands firmly on Roxas’ shoulders, looking at him up and down, finally eyeing the cane. His eyes darkened in recognition. “They sent you to war,” he whispered.
“Can we sit somewhere and talk?” Roxas asked plaintively.
“Of course. Come on, my house isn’t that far away. I’ll make us coffee.”
“That sounds wonderful.”
Along the way he took in little tidbits of information Axel revealed about his life after leaving: he had worked jobs as a farm hand, a bartender, a German tutor, and finally as a short-order cook; he never married and hated kids more than ever; playing the saxophone in public was just a way for him to get out and do something; he’d gotten a college degree in music, but no one at the college appreciated his love for jazz.
“I meant to go find you, you know,” Axel mentioned casually as they got closer to his house. “To go back to Berlin and bring you here.”
“We left in 1950,” Roxas said, leaning on his cane more now as he’d been walking for a while. “Stayed on the east coast for a few years, then moved out to Minnesota.”
Axel stopped and stared at him with a goofy, almost disbelieving expression. “What the fuck is out in Minnesota?”
“Nothing,” Roxas answered with a small smile. “That’s why we went – to get away from the cities. I needed a place where I didn’t feel like I had to keep running and hiding, that wasn’t so stressful.”
“You don’t have to run anymore,” Axel said sadly.
“But we still have to hide,” Roxas countered. “It’s almost as bad here as it was back in Berlin,” he said, looking down at Axel’s hand. “I still can’t walk down the street holding your hand.”
“Berlin’s kind of a high standard to hold anyone to,” Axel smiled wistfully and began walking again, slower this time so Roxas could keep up. “But I understand all too well what you mean. Have you ever thought about going back?”
Roxas shook his head. “It’s not our Berlin anymore. Everyone’s gone, and it is a dark shadow of its former self. I have no business there.”
“I suppose you’re right. Sometimes I think about it and miss it. Other times I miss your basement.”
Roxas glanced over at him skeptically. “You’re joking.”
“If it makes you feel any better, I missed you more. I was worried sick about you and the wife. Is she here?”
“No, she stayed back in Minnesota. She didn’t want to intrude.”
Axel smiled warmly. “Tell her that soup saved my life a few times.”
“Oh, and remember that cocaine I owe you? I can’t keep it anymore, it’s burning holes in my pockets I’ve owed you for so long.”
Roxas shook his head, snorting. “I haven’t done that stuff in years, and I don’t think I could start again now.”
“You’re right. Besides, I don’t think hard drugs really matter in light of the other debts I owe you.”
“I don’t recall you being in my debt, Axel.”
“You saved my life, brought me here to safety. We both managed to survive despite the odds, and can heal the rest of our wounds now. I’d call that being in your debt.”
“Let’s just call it even,” Roxas smiled, and the dark, hurting world seemed just a little bit brighter.