Persistent Melodies
By: Koorino Megumi

KHII Nobody spoilers. This one's for Northern Cross, for his birthday! Special thanks to Ginger Ninja for her wonderful beta help.

"Hey, you awake over there? You listening?"

It wasn't until the sounds began to register that he even realized he was conscious. "Huh?" He blinked, but something wasn't quite right. Wasn't there something missing here?

"So you are awake. C'mon, get up. What's your name?"

"...huh?" Oh, right, that was it. He couldn't see. Or could he? Wait, had that swirl of colors been there a minute ago?

He heard a snicker. At least sounds were coming in loud and clear. Then again, didn't they always? "Maybe you'd better stay put for a minute. Do you even know where you are?"

That was an odd thing to say. Shouldn't he know where he was? But come to think of it, maybe he didn't. What was the last thing that had happened? There had been something dark; he remembered that. Lots of dark. The music had stopped...sound had stopped...

"Hey, are you even listening?" The man snapped his fingers at him. It was only then that he realized he was starting to see for real. The swirl of colors was coming together, forming a person on a dark street. A man with wild red hair in a black coat. "Snap out of it. You're okay now, uh...what is your true name, anyway?"

True name?

"Who're you?" he countered, "And where am I?"

It was the best solution his muddled mind could manage. If he didn't know any answers, why not just ask for a few? And look, he'd even formed a couple full sentences! This was a definite improvement.

"I'm Axel."

He was surprised to hear the man answer but was glad that his questions had accomplished something. At least, one of them had. Was Axel going to tell him-

"And this place..." A snicker. "This place doesn't exist."

As proud as he had been about saying more than sounds of confusion, it just seemed to fit way too well at that moment. "It what?"

Axel rolled his eyes. "It'll all make sense real soon. Trust me. Here, you ready to get up yet?"

The redhead held out a hand to him, and it was only when he stuck out his own arm to take it that he realized he was wearing a coat just like the other man's.

"Whoa, what's with the new wardrobe?" he blurted.

Axel quirked an eyebrow at him. "Wardrobe? This is what we wear, so you're gonna have to get used to it. Hmm...looks like I'm gonna have to tell you everything myself. What's the last thing you remember?"

Why were all these questions so hard? The last thing he remembered? The darkness--that was definitely last. But why had it been dark? Where had he been? What had he been doing?

It was the music that came back to him first. A concert. But what was he doing at a concert? Oh, right, he gave concerts! Okay, he'd been giving a concert. And then what?

"I was on stage, just doing what I do," he said, more to himself than to the other man, "And then...there was this funny dark thing. And then a lot of them...and lots of screaming...and the music stopped. That's the last thing I remember."

Axel was giving him a funny look. "Music, huh? Wonder what you did to keep your memories."

Yet again, the only response he could give to that comment was, "Huh?"

The redhead shook his head at that. "Too fast for you, right? All right, let's try this. What do you think that darkness did to you, anyway?"

He blinked. "What did it do?" He took a look at himself and his strange black coat. "I thought it killed me." Then, a sudden idea striking him, he looked up at Axel, with his black coat and wild hair. "Whoa! So are you like...the Grim Reaper?"

Axel just gawked at him for a minute before laughing. "You're not dead," he offered by way of explanation, "Well, actually, that's not true. The person who you used to be is 'dead.' But you're not."

He took a minute to consider these words and what they might mean. Coming to a conclusion, he broke out in a wide grin. "So I'm a walking, talking dead guy? That's cool!"

Axel stared at him and then sighed, putting a hand to his head. "This is the last time I let them sucker me into picking up the new member..."

He blinked at that unexpected comment. "New member of what?"

"Hah, now we're getting somewhere!" Axel sounded very grateful for the question. "Welcome to Organization VIII! I mean...IX. So, what's your true name?"

Resigning himself to the fact that he probably wasn't going to be getting an understandable explanation anytime soon, he actually tried to think of the answer to this repeated question. Although, he still had no idea what "true name" was supposed to mean. "I'm...uh..." Come on, how many posters had his name been plastered on? And didn't he like to gaze at them as he headed down the street toward the club? He was... "I'm Dyme."

Axel quirked an eyebrow again and then started snickering. "Dyme? I wanted your true name, not your stage name."

"Hey!" he cried, almost reflexively. Did he get this sort of reaction a lot? "That is my real name! You got a problem?"

Axel was outright laughing now. "Dyme! Is that what you made per performance or something? Oh, that's too good!"

He could feel anger boiling within him. "Heeeey!" he cried, "Don't you even..." But he trailed off then, jumping as something unexpectedly materialized in his hands.

Is that...? His eyes widened.

Axel, meanwhile, was also staring at him. "A guitar?" he cried in disbelief. He looked about ready to burst out in laughter again.

"It's a sitar!" he replied reflexively.

It is. But it's a different shape from mine... Where did it come from?

"Whatever! It's your weapon! What's it supposed to do?"

He gave the redhead a look. "Weapon? It plays music. Duh."

Unfortunately, Axel was too busy dying of laughter to listen to him. He tried to calm himself down, though, wiping at his eyes. "All right...all right, we'd better get going..."

"Going where?" he demanded, by this point not entirely sure he even wanted to go with this man.

"Back to the castle. Unless you wanted to stay out here and...put your enemies to sleep with your guitar?' Axel started snickering again.

He eyed him angrily but realized he probably didn't have a lot of choice in the matter. Where was this place supposed to be again? The dark streets definitely didn't look safe... They were empty, but he could feel something from them. A cold presence, and a familiar one at that. Were more of those funny dark things out there? He shivered. "Fine, lead the way."

Axel grinned. "About time." He turned and started forward, but then he paused, glancing back at the blond. "Oh, hey! You haven't picked a name yet."

His eye twitched. "I told you. My name is Dyme."

"Your name was Dyme," Axel corrected, "Or, at least, to your adoring public!" He resumed snickering.

He would have made a comment in response, but he couldn't help blinking at this odd rule. When you were dead, you were supposed to pick a new name? "So what, I can pick whatever I want now?" He started trying to think of something really catchy and eccentric. A good band name. Like maybe the Melod-

"Nope. You were Dyme, right? But now you're not Dyme. I was Lae and now I'm Axel. Get it?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Your name was Lae and you're laughing at me?"

Axel twitched, and the blond cheered inwardly.

The redhead interrupted his joy, however, continuing as if he were speaking to someone either very young or very stupid. "You're not Dyme, so take the name and add an 'x' to it somewhere. Got it memorized?"

"Ohhh." He shook his head, a little disappointed. "Well, that's not very creative."

Axel was clearly getting exasperated again. "Creative wasn't the idea. What's your name, Number Nine?"

He blinked. There were nine walking dead guys out there? That must have been what he meant by the Organization IX thing.

Still not entirely sure he wanted to go along with this, but seeing some dark creatures rising up from the ground not far away, he decided it was probably the safest course of action. For now. Which meant he needed to pick a name. He frowned in thought. Xydem? No, that sounded like a badly-named hunk of rock. Dymex? No, that sounded like overpriced medicine. Or a watch. Mydex? Who in their right mind would walk around calling themselves Mydex?

Knowing there was only one way to solve this, he shifted his grip on the sitar, brushing his hand across all the strings. He grinned at the sound it produced. It really was a beautiful instrument--and already in tune! Plucking at the strings a bit, he tried to forget about Axel's presence (and the black things that were beginning to creep toward them) and lose himself in the music. A name... He needed a name...

The music did the trick; it always did. Even if he wasn't the same person anymore, that at least hadn't changed. But something else had. He could feel something inside him--something cold and...dark?...that hadn't been there before. He could feel it squirming in his body, as if it were trying to fill up a hole created by something that was missing. He didn't understand that sensation, either, but he knew it was true--something was missing, and something cold was trying to make up for it. And whatever this cold was, it was beginning to permeate his senses. He could feel it coming from his heart and filling his body with its chill. And with that chill came the sense that it was somehow right. It belonged to him.

Grinning, he let it out, watching as ghostly figures came up from the ground around the two of them, wavering and curling like waves coming in with the tide.

The translucent figures immediately darted in their flowing manner toward the black creatures. A brief battle ensued, and then the water was alone. It was only then that he stopped playing the sitar. He paused for a moment to savor the last notes echoing in the open space around them as the water sunk back into the ground.

When he turned back to the redhead, he found that Axel looked quite shocked, if not a little impressed. The man whistled. "I stand corrected. Well, maybe."

There was a curious gleam in his eyes that the blond found unsettling, but he shook off the feeling. And to his surprise, as his calm returned, the sitar disappeared from his hands. "Whoa."

"What, did you think it'd stick around when you didn't need it?" Axel asked, rolling his eyes again. The man just blinked in response. The redhead sighed and put a hand to his head, starting to look a little impatient. "Okay, flashy. You've made your point. But we should get back before more come. And did you decide about that name yet?"

Somehow Axel's displeasure was having less effect on him before. He could still hear the music echoing in his mind, filling him with that cold that was so unreal and yet so right. So he grinned at the other in response, flipping his hair out of his eyes in the same manner that Dyme used to turn women's knees to jelly.

But he wasn't Dyme anymore, and the only response the gesture got was another roll of Axel's eyes. When the blond felt his grin widen as if by reflex, he realized that he was starting to enjoy annoying the other. Maybe he should make a habit out of it.

"So?" Axel insisted.

Black began to come up on the edge of his field of vision again, and he realized that all good things had to come to an end. Oh well. Maybe on their way back to that...castle, was it?...he would have the chance to do an encore.

But for now, his adoring public was waiting to know the name of their new hero before he headed off into the darkness. And if there was one thing he'd always do, it was give his public what they wanted. "It's Demyx," he stated, striking a pose, "My name is Demyx."

In the back of his mind, he heard Dyme's old theme music playing behind the name. He grinned. If the music accepted the name, it had to be right. And not just right. As of now, it was him.

The cold inside him flared in silent agreement. And as Axel turned from him and started walking away, shaking his head, Demyx followed, whistling a familiar tune as he went.