In the first days after his... rebirth, Demyx couldn't stop mentally prodding at the empty space inside him. It was like poking a sore tooth with his tongue; he cringed every time, but was unable to resist doing it.

He sometimes caught himself standing in the middle of a room, sure he was forgetting something but baffled as to what it was. He would start absently searching – checking to make sure he'd remembered to lace his boots or turn off the fire under the kettle – until he remembered. Oh. Right.

Music distracted him a little, made him forget to poke the gap in his being to see if it was still there.

It was comfortable to sit on the balcony of Naught's Requiem with his sitar across his lap, and the place was named for music, and seemed designed to be filled with the sitar's lush sound. He leaned against one of the balcony pillars and settled the sitar slantwise across his lap. Unlike the true sitar that Emyd had played in life, it wasn't necessary to hold this one right to get a good sound out of it. He could play it slung haphazardly up against his shoulder; he could play it standing up; he could play it underwater. But when he could, he held it properly. He couldn't say why.

He plucked one of the drones to fill the empty room with a rich resonance and then let his pick wander over the melody strings. The trickle of notes gradually became "Lost Island of the West," a complex and melancholy ballad. It had lyrics – it had many verses, actually – and had been a favorite of his in his first life. "Lost Island of the West" was either a straightforward sea-song about setting out for adventure and leaving your home behind, or a song about a lover long gone, depending on how literally you chose to interpret it. But he didn't want to dwell on either home or love, so he played it without singing, focusing on the way the sound resonated through the room, and the path his hands traced over the strings. The sympathetic strings hummed and almost, almost could fill the empty space within him, like they filled the sitar's resonator with sound.

The intricacies of the piece absorbed him so fully that he didn't hear footsteps until they were almost on top of him. He jumped and nearly dropped his pick off the balcony. It was Xigbar, and he slanted a look that was sharp with amusement, which told Demyx that he'd noticed the jump. Whoops.

"Didn't mean t'scare you, kid," Xigbar said, which was funny because Xigbar was fairly scary even if he wasn't sneaking up on you. After all, he'd surely lost his eye in some way more dramatic than running with a sharp object, and Demyx was just as sure that whoever had given him the scars hadn't survived to admire their handiwork. On the other hand, he wasn't scowling, and he'd never seemed the kind to bite without reason – unlike some of the others.

"You don't have to stop," Xigbar added, which did make Demyx relax a little.


He had no trouble remembering where to pick up again – fifth stanza, the lines about the clear water beneath the three moons, right before the bridge with the complicated fingering – and it was really a shame that he could remember ballads word- and note-perfect even if they were hours long but had trouble keeping other things in his head because they weren't set to a tune. It was just as well he had chosen a song he knew backwards and forwards, because he couldn't help but be distracted by Xigbar's presence a few feet away.

It wasn't long before he struck the last series of notes and let the sympathetic strings carry the fading, throbbing sound through the room.

He dared to look up at Xigbar – well, he worked up to looking up at Xigbar by first looking at Xigbar's boots and then at Xigbar's hands on the balcony rail and finally at Xigbar's expression, which was difficult to read, especially as he was sitting on the eyepatch side. It was a little too eager, too much like a puppy, but couldn't stop himself. It was as ingrained to gauge his audience for a response as it was to hold his sitar just so – even if his audience was a terrifying and unresponsive audience of one.

But Xigbar surprised him. "Know anything a little bit more catchy, kid?" His voice was. . . not kind, surely. . . .

. . . maybe?

"Catchy." He grinned, and he knew that the expression was too earnest and too goofy and couldn't do anything about it, didn't care, because somebody was asking him to play. It was like coming home.

"Yeah. You know. Up-tempo. Something with a beat. You ever play for an audience, or what?" Xigbar was grinning, too – a close-lipped grin, half-mocking and half-friendly. And not really that much less scary, but less intimidating. Somehow. It didn't make sense, but if Demyx stopped to think about everything that didn't make sense --

"Oh, yes. Um. Lots." His considerable repertoire of songs was proving to be a problem, because he could think of three dozen songs that could be considered catchy and up-tempo and was having the Dweller's own time picking one, particularly now that Xigbar had turned his head just a little and was looking at him with his good eye, sharp-yellow and amiable but definitely not overburdened with patience.

He finally settled on a reliable crowd-pleaser, one his Other had favored when entertaining a dockside tavern or the crew of a trader-ship. "Sailing Between the Teeth" started fast and rhythmic, with a driving beat and chords you wouldn't hear in more classical music. It had no words, which was just as well, because most of the fast songs had lyrics that demanded a half-drunk chorus from the audience.

Halfway through the song, Demyx heard Xigbar walk away, boot-clad footfalls like gunshots, almost falling in with the beat. He craned his neck to watch Xigbar go. What he saw made him smile so wide it felt like the top of his head might come off, and he knew he looked dorky but he didn't care, because Xigbar was nodding faintly in time to the music.


Author's Note: I did my best to research sitars and sitar music, but since I've never actually played a sitar, I'd be delighted to hear about it if I've screwed things up so I can fix it.

Still trying to get a good fix on Demyx's voice; he's slippery.