Hey, would ya look at that. I'm alive after all! I'll leave the agonizingly long author's note to my eljayy.
Disclaimer: not mine, etc. etc.
Also, I hate formatting with a passion usually reserved for britney spears.
THE VERTIGO SHOT
Demyx was nine years old when he remembered.
It was during his ninth birthday party, too. The irony of the timing had escaped him then, at that young and blissful age. It had been when the last of his friends trickled out of his house, when the air in the house was settling and his mother had begun stooping around the living room, retrieving trash and mislaid gifts from underneath the furniture. It had hit him, sharp and sudden and almost cruel, and it had hit him hard.
He remembered that he'd suddenly collapsed on the sofa from where he was gathering his presents--toys packaged by his friend's mothers, clothes and little necessities from his relatives--when the wave of memories crashed into his head. His mother had written the fainting spell off as fatigue from too much cake and soda and play, so she'd picked him, carried him upstairs, and tucked him into bed. When his mother was murmuring good-night and laying a soft kiss on his forehead, Demyx was dreaming of a life that both belonged to him, and one that--before now--he had not known at all.
He saw himself, older and cocky, in a tall black cloak, he saw himself surrounded by water and music and shadows, and he saw himself dying at the hands of a boy not much younger than he. He saw the disbelief etched into his face, and he felt the sadness that came with the quiet death of a young man that no one had really cared for, or would live to care for. He saw the organization, he saw the keyblades; he saw who he used to be, in another world, far, far away, in another life. And when he woke up and saw his bedroom ceiling and the soft glow of his night-light (his friends had teased him mercilessly about it but he did not care), he felt much older waking then he had gone to sleep.
When he was nine and he remembered Demyx of the Organization XIII, he hadn't fully understood. He'd turn to look at his closet mirror, and a short little boy with chubby cheeks and wide eyes and soft dark-blonde hair just beginning to grow long had been looking back, faintly bewildered.
"I'm not him, I think?" Demyx had announced to his bedroom. He frowned; the sound of music, the ocean, crashed in his head. "But he was me."
"I'm sorry--what's your name, again?"
"Um, Demyx." The blonde scratched the side of his face, smiling sheepishly, and trying not to feel horribly misplaced in the campus office. He failed. "--uh, Melzer. Demyx Melzer."
"Melzer, huh? Let's see... 'M', 'm', 'm's..." The clerk--TIFA LOCKHART, the name plate on her desk read--hummed a little under her breath, fingers flying over a keyboard. She beamed. "Here we go--let me see. You accidentally got registered for...third block, advanced english lit, right?"
"Yeah. Words, you know? Definitely not my thing."
Lockhart giggled heartily, still tapping away. "Oh, I hear you. One of my friends took that class and she couldn't get out of it fast enough. Swear she was hitting the bar almost every other night." Her dark eyes scanned the monitor, and she frowned. Demyx knew that this was a sign of doom. "Um, well, the courses you mentioned you wanted to switch in to (they were all related to music, music, and more music) are all filled, or not offered for this time block."
"...all of them?"
"Yeah." She flipped her hair over her shoulder and began tapping away again. "The rest of your schedule's pretty much set in stone, too. Not much we can do."
Demyx smiled pathetically. "Damnit."
She smiled sympathetically, reaching over to pat his shoulder in a comforting way. "Hey, well, look at it this way. It means you've got a free period!" She smiled bright. "Or, you know, you could take an elective course for kicks--interested in quantitative economics?"
"No," Demyx mumbled, still sounding and feeling rather pathetic. He lived a good forty-five minutes away from campus, so leaving during third block and just coming back to fourth would be a waste of time. He didn't like the campus enough either to stick around for two or three hours until his fourth period, so he didn't have much of a choice but to take on another class. He guessed he'd rather be busy with a little extra coursework then bored with nothing to do. "Uh, anything else?"
A minute or two later, she'd rattled off a list of available openings, through which Demyx had sort of zoned out and listened to in a zombie-like state. Tifa glanced at his unfocused eyes, rolled hers, and chuckled softly. Snapping her fingers in his face to gain his attention, she said, "You wanna try psychology and social behavior?"
He said: "Guh?"
"Psychology," she repeated.
Demyx frowned, scratching his head again. "I dunno if that's a good idea," he replied, doubtfully. "I think all that junk would go right over my head."
"Nah, I heard from another friend of mine that it's pretty fun. Supposedly, it's taught by the youngest professor on campus."
"Would that, by any chance, be the same friend that dropped english lit?"
"Oh, shush." She laughed cheerily, and the typing resumed. "Psych it is, then."
The blonde man blinked. "Wait what?"
"Heh, don't worry 'bout it." A new schedule was printed for him, he was winked at, and then he was promptly shoved out of the office. Demyx stared at the slightly creased paper in his hands. PSYCHOLOGY AND SOCIAL BEHAVIOR screamed up at him from his third block, with the room location, time block, and professor's name in a neat line following it. He wonderedly vaguely what he'd gotten pushed around into this time, and resolved that he'd have some kind of wayward revenge against Tifa Lockhart in the future.
Certain that he had condemned himself to a fate worse than advanced english, Demyx stuffed the paper in the back pocket of his jeans, re-shouldered his schoolbag, and trudged off to hallway exit.
Demyx's roommate, Luneth, had always been something between amused by the young man and intensely weirded out. There'd been a time when he had left a massive pile of homework and projects in his room for a sandwich break in the kitchen, and he'd found Demyx there, swinging around wildly with a mop in one hand, his cd player in the other, and a pair of bulky headphones perched over his fauxhawk (he insisted that expensive, head-encompassing headphones were entirely necessary for the best quality sound; Luneth maintained that he looked like there was a large, cancerous growth coming of his face.) He was dancing in circles, not really mopping the floor, and singing at the top of his lungs. Luneth might have enjoyed his fine voice if he hadn't promptly stepped onto a large wet spot and fallen onto his butt with a rather unmanly shriek.
"Damnit, Demyx! I thought you were supposed to be cleaning, not making more messes!"
Demyx had not heard him. He swung his hips awkwardly, still singing, and swung the mop around with him, nearly beaning Luneth in the face.
"DEMYX IF YOU DON'T LISTEN TO ME RIGHT NOW I AM GOING TO SLASH ALL THE STRINGS ON YOUR GUITARS AND NOT LET YOU BUY NEW ONES AND YOU WILL REGRET IT."
The blonde had paused to remove his headphones; music pounded into the still air. "Oh, hey, Luneth! Did you say something?"
Luneth gaped at him. He caught himself before he let out another girly screech, got to his feet, and, sputtering, stalked off. (Normally, he had a much more cheerful disposition and he and Demyx usually got along very well, but physics projects are enough to drive anybody into something like PMS.)
"Luneth? Luneth! ...Was it something I said?"
Demyx had blinked then, shrugged, and was about to slip his headphones back on when he'd noticed the faucet was dripping, meaning he'd probably forgotten to tighten the knob all the way. He was reaching out to do so when something in him whispered: water. It had clicked then, something warm and familiar, and instead of shutting off the tap he'd turned it on all the way. He'd run his hands under it, the cool stream cascading over his palms and fingers. And he stared at it and remembered again.
Water, he mouthed silently. Dance.
It had only streamed steadily into his cupped palm and over the edges of his broad hand. It would not dance for him. The element did not belong to him anymore. He'd felt sad then, closed his eyes and remembered a time when all it had took was a sweep of calloused fingers over wire and forms had taken shape in the fluid, kept him in company in the long and lonely nights of the World that Never Was.
"If I could still summon water-forms," he had joked aloud to the empty kitchen, "then I wouldn't have to do the stupid mopping."
He'd turned the tap off, had gone back to his mopping, had stared at the white lineolium flooring and thought of white castles, in another time. The faucet dripped behind him, but he hadn't bothered to turn the tap off all the way on purpose. The steady dripping was a lonely sort of noise, one that permeated the hollow ache of his bones when he dreamed, comforting.
Unlike Demyx, Zexion had remembered from the day he was born.
Not in the sense that he'd opened his still baby-blue eyes in this brand new world and thought: I am Zexion, I was Ienzo, and now, I am alive again. No, it had been a gradual release, new--or old, arguably--memories occasionally drifting into his consciousness as time passed. He knew, in his past life, he had been reserved, quiet unless necessary, and a conniving little son of a bitch. Without the influence of his memories, he thought he probably would've grown up that way, regardless, because there are things that simply do not change, through worlds and realities. But because of those memories, he was a young boy haunted, and he would grow into a man haunted. The memory of the buzzing emptiness in his past-life's chest had served to make him curious in this life too.
He'd recorded each of the memories he gained, year by year, month by month, in a journal, in an attempt to understand. When he was a solemn little boy, he had not known it then, but by the time he was eighteen he realized he had written the diary of a deceased man who had always walked the fine line of existence. When he was nineteen, he realized that it was him. When he reached twenty, he entertained the idea that his new life was some sort of crappy joke, as if it were a time extension to agonize more over a past he did not need to remember but did anyway.
In the notebook's much, much, older, yellowing pages: I am a Nobody. We do not have hearts; we do not exist. In red ink, underlined.
Now, much later, he re-read that line and realized that that had been the defining factor of his non-life. He realized then, with a cold sense of not-yet-fear, that he had died before he had regained a heart. It implied that he was reborn because his matter needed somewhere to go, another world to invest in, but it still lacked the vessel inside him that qualified all emotions. It implied that all he had felt up until then--peace, anger, sorrow, pride--was, as in the last life and now in this one, a fake, a substitute for real emotion created by his mind and the mind alone.
In that moment, he'd laid the journal down, as fear gripped him in a paralyzing hold. He had never known what it was like to feel. How would he know now if anything was real? The scientist's mad desire to know surged in his brain. On the outside, his composure did not break--dark eyes unblinking, slate-colored hair unruffled. In the first moment of insecurity he'd felt in a long, long time, he'd laid a hand over his chest where the heart was intended to be, and closed his eyes.
When he felt the stillness beneath his fingers, his breath caught in his throat, and he almost imagined that he did not feel the resounding thud of a skipped heartbeat shortly after, as if it were an answer to any of his questions.
When Demyx met Zexion for the first time, in the hallway of the Castle That Never Was, they'd briefly exchanged glances; Demyx waved, and Zexion merely turned to face forward again, striding off into the inky blackness.
When Demyx meets Zexion for the second time, their eyes lock, and he can almost feel his jaw drop. Because when the schedule Tifa had handed him read Ikeda, Z. under the professor column, it has not even crossed his mind that it could possibly be--
Zexion turns his head to the sound of his classroom door closing, and Demyx says, intelligently, "Um."
The other male is a striking image, still a little on the short side, still stoic and radiating a commanding presence. He looks down at his desk; eyes briefly scanning the paperwork he needs to do, stacked on its surface. "Melzer. Am I correct?"
"See me after class. I will give you the syllabus and assignments you will need to make up then. For now, take a seat." His dark eyes linger for a second, and then he turns back to the rows of expectant students, who are intrigued by this new young man and his reaction to their also young teacher. "You will start taking notes on chapter two, section three. Fifteen minutes to the hour, we will discuss the material. Begin." His voice is crisp and precise. Demyx thinks he's heard more come out of the mouth of this Zexion then the span of all the years he had known Zexion of the Organization. It is unsettling, and the older man has to send him a reproving glare before he starts and quickly scurries to an empty seat.
He wonders how stony, silent Zexion could possibly have wanted to take on a job like teaching, where he would have had to talk considerably, something he remembered the past Zexion not being very fond of. He wonders how how he's changed. When he looks up from the corner of his eyes, he sees Zexion at his desk, hand poised to write but not actually doing so, face twisted into what he had once dubbed the "I am clearly lost in thought and if you disturb me I will eat your face" expression and almost snickers (he also very nearly breaks Zexion's class rule, number one: do not talk in my classroom, ever. Unless you are addressed, which will also be never.)
He bows his head over his paper to make it look like he is productive, but inside, he is silently counting the seconds until the next bell rings.
Demyx could almost have screamed for joy when the period finally ended. Among the flurry of activity, he placed his notes haphazardly in a binder, closed his textbook, and shoved both objects in his bag. He waited until all the other students left, and then--felt all his bravado take a long walk off a short cliff. Chewing on his lower lip, he approached Zexion's desk in what he felt was a ninja-like, stealthy fashion, worrying all the while. What if he doesn't remember? What if he thinks I'm...I'm insane! What if I scare him and he hates me and he fails me?! AUGHHHHHHHHH--
"Demyx, get off the floor. You look ridiculous."
The young blonde man laughed nervously, pulling himself up from the crouch with which he had sneakily approached. Zexion stared at him blankly. There was a long moment of silence, then:
"Yes." Zexion interrupted, one hand massaging his temple. "I remember."
More silence, and the quiet shuffling of paper as the shorter man retrieved the necessary course paperwork for the other.
"Oh, man." Demyx finally said, grinning madly. "I can't even believe it." Zexion handed him a packet, neatly stapled; he frowned at it, and it was about to join the tiny cesspit of papers once held and never seen again in his bag when bolded words in the heading caught his eyes. "'Psychology,'" he read aloud. "'The science of mental processes; the study of emotional and behavioral characteristics of an individual.'" He quirked an eyebrow at Zexion teasingly. "You teaching psychology makes total sense, except for the teaching part."
Zexion shrugged. "I needed a job."
"The subject was interesting." The look in the other man's visible eye declared that that particular point of their conversation was at an end. "Are you not supposed to be at your next class by now?"
Blue-green eyes scrunched up in thought, and then Demyx shrugged. "Eh, the prof's insane, he prol'ly won't even notice I'm gone." He sat on the desk nearest to him, ignoring Zexion's glare, and swung his legs the way a child would, humming at little. Minutes ticked by, with Demyx watching the other man curiously--he looked almost bored, chin propped up in one hand, the other marking a pile of student essays with a red pen.
He'd never dreamed, in a million years, that this was what their future would hold. When he was living in the World That Never Was, the air stank of such hopelessness that it was impossible to think much farther then the day, the next week, month, or year--they were all too preoccupied with their own selfish goals and dreams. His nails tapped out a rhythm on the desk as he thought; he wondered.
When there was no verbal reply, he looked up, and saw that indigo eyes were focused on him, so he went on anyway. "Do you think... the other are here? On this world?"
Pause. "I do not know."
Demyx started tapping again, and the sound echoed in the room. "D'ya think we'll find them?" He sounded almost hopeful, and Zexion almost rolled his eyes. The organization members had rarely associated with each other in the past unless necessary, and here was Demyx, wanting to find them, of all things. He couldn't imagine that any of them could be much different, in this life. He thought that they'd probably acknowledge each other's existence, and then move on. If even that.
"I do not know," he said quietly, eyes drifting back to the paper laid in front of him. He skimmed it idly as Demyx launched into some sort of idle chatter. He marked a 'D', circled it, and began slashing criticism into the margins below.
His next question awoke him from the grading-induced stupor: "D'ya think they remember, too?"
Zexion laid his pen down but did not otherwise move. He saw the journal in his mind's eye; the red, red words: I am a nobody. The curiosity that had driven him to become a scientist, two lifes ago, slept in his aching mind, and he'd only managed to ignore the buzzing feeling in his chest with the amount of work he purposely put on himself. It was the cruelty of it that kept him awake long into the night, searching...
"I hope not," he bit out shortly, and resumed grading.
Demyx watched him interestedly, both intrigued and a little disappointed. The appearance of another ex-organization member had thrown another wrench into his life--before, Demyx had just gone on living like an ordinary boy, grown into teen and then college student; the memories of his past life had only served to remind him to make the most out of the one he had now, so he'd done just that.
But Zexion... he was shocked when he discovered that he was a teacher of all things, but besides that, he did not seem to have changed at all. He talked just as little as he had in his last life, to Demyx anyway, but Demyx sensed a certain change in him, one that was not visible so much as that it prodded at his senses.
He now lacked the sixth sense that all nobodies once had, the one necessary to control and understand their elements, but the lingering remnants of that sense told him Zexion had changed in some infinitesimally small way. He figured the fact that they had both once been evil peons for the same organization qualified as having similar interested and that he could therefore be considered a prospective friend, rather than a stalker. He wanted to know how the other man had changed, and found himself wanting to know more about him. Zexion had spent most of his past life either locked his labs, the library, or at Castle Oblivion, and as a result he was one of the only members that everyone else knew very little to nothing about.
Curiosity killed the cat, Demyx thought idly, and smiled. Good thing I'm not one.
Nearly an hour later found Demyx still perched on the desk, though sitting with his legs crossed indian-style, and Zexion getting through the last of his papers. The blonde man hadn't seen a reason to leave so he hadn't bothered, opting to watch Zexion before eventually drifting into daydreams, staring through the classroom's tall french windows at the beginnings of dusk. He sang a little under his breathe, tapped incessantly, and occasionally air guitared, an act which annoyed Zexion to no end, though not enough to snap at him. When he finally got up to start gathering his materials and stow them in the black messanger bag he carried, Demyx, too, broke out of his tiny musical trance and smiled at him, hopping to his feet.
"Hey, you wanna go out and hit up a resturant for din--"
"I am busy," Zexion said shortly, did up the buckles on his bag, and slung it over his shoulder. He glanced pointedly at the door; when the other man made no move, he looked back at him, and sighed at the absolutely crushed expression on Demyx's face (one that the blonde man had cleverly perfected from many years of begging cookies, as he was currently half-giggling and half-hoping on the inside.)
Something was definitely wrong with him, Zexion decided. "...Perhaps another time," he conceded.
A sunny smile blossomed over the young man's face, blue-green eyes lighting up. "Great!" he cheered, stooping to slip an arm through one of the straps on his backpack, which had been woefully abandoned on the floor through the course of the afternoon. "See ya tomorrow in class, then, I guess. Oh hey..." Zexion was fairly certain the expression on the other male's face was as close to devilish as it would ever get. "Since you're the professor and all, you could, you know--"
"No, Demyx, I will not give you automatic top marks in my class on the merits of once being antagonistic servants of the same organization."
Although he has not let it show, Demyx's appearance in his classroom startled Zexion in a way that he is unaccustomed to. He has, of course, imagined that perhaps the other organization members were also reborn, perhaps in to his very world. But by some irrationality he would have assumed that, had they also existed in this plane, they would have made their presence known by now, and Zexion berates himself for his careless oversight. It is clear now that he is, at least, not the only surviving ex-organization member, and clearly not the only one that remembers a world now locked away.
Demyx is so full of vitality that he disturbs Zexion. He wonders if Demyx, too, contemplated his existance in this world, the reliability of the flare of emotions in his mind. But he watches Demyx in the next few days in class and thinks he probably hasn't, or if he has, he probably does not care. He always was the one, in that world so long ago, to insist that he was not lacking a heart. He watches Demyx the university student, who does not really pay attention to his lectures, who daydreams out the window, who taps a frenetic rhythm on the desk with a pair of pencils, one of the earbuds of his headphones tucked into his shirt, the other into his ear.
He realizes, one day, when he is writing chapter standards and assignments on the whiteboard and turns around--faster than Demyx can look away--that Demyx is watching him. So he watches Demyx watch him, and in the same disturbing way that Demyx barreled into his life for a second time, he is vaguely interested.
When his classroom is ringed in silence and he works long into the afternoon on his own projects, Zexion finds his attention drifting from his work and through the windows near his desk. His eyes trace the shadows and he wills them to move, to bend and shape themselves to his command, but he has known from his birth that in this world his only powers were books and documents. Recorded cases of what has happened, what could, and what never will. The infuriating rage of helplessness echoes, soft and biting, in his head.
He needs this, he thinks, picks up his keys and locks his room, striding off to the library. He needs to know why, and how.
And then, he thinks, he needs to know how to fix it.
Befriending Zexion is not easy. Zexion sure as hell didn't help. Demyx felt, after a month, like he'd done everything possible that a normal person would have responded to. Zexion did not pick up his phones (Demyx thought, then, that having his contact infromation listed ont he syllabus was rather useless, but it was clear that Zexion expected his students to be self-sufficient, mostly), be it weekday or weekend, or respond to e-mails; he always locked his classroom doors as soon as his third block was over with and refused to emerge until much, much later, when Demyx was invariably forced to go home and, god forbid, do his homework; outside of his lecture hall, Zexion was more or less a ghost, one that Demyx, who usually attracted people to him by his bouncy nature, could hardly grasp.
But water hadn't been Demyx's element for no reason; he had oceans of patience and good cheer, and, like water--which, given enough time, could wear through even rock--he kept nagging and pestering (and leaving little boxes of dark-white chocolate truffles on his desk every other week, from a pastry shop close to his house) until, eventually, Zexion broke. (He had once peeked a blue-green eye through the little window of the classroom door after hours and beheld the shorter man munching on the treats, looking almost guilty.)
Demyx had one day, fairly late into the evening, tested the lock on the door, and to his delight and satisfaction, found it open. He then proceeded to fling open the door in a completely unnecessarily loud fashion, and then flung his body into an accusing pose he'd once seen a rival lawyer on Phoenix Wright do. "AH-HAH," he said dramatically, with a downright obnoxious grin, "I KNEW it would be the chocolate!"
Zexion quirked an eyebrow at him, calmly peeled the wrapper off the bottom of one of the chocolates, and took a bite. At Demyx's pointed stare, he rolled his eyes and obliged him by giving a curt nod. From the corner of his eye, he inspected the carton; there were only three left. Damn.
Demyx straighted, brushing imaginary lint off his jeans awkwardly. His grand entrance being made and all, he hadn't really had any idea what to say anymore.
They stared at each other.
"So, uh." He smiled, palming the side of his head. "How 'bout that dinner date, yeah?"
"'Date,'" Zexion echoed, bemused.
"Yeah, yeah. Come ooooooon. I'm hungry, you're hungry--I think, after pigging out on truffles--" the remark earned him a half-hearted glare-- "--and you promised." He scrunched up his face in an attempt to narrow his eyes, fluffed his few bangs over the right side of his face, and said, as low and gravelly as his boyish voice could go, "'Perhaps another time,' maybe when I am not at home having no life and watching Grey's Anatomy all the time 'cause it's all deep and introspective and I like watching people get cut up."
The comment did earn him a smack, and when he was laughing he thought he had seen the ghost of a half-smile on Zexion's pale lips. "You mistake me for Larxene," Zexion said dryly. He looked down at the pile of paperwork on his desk (he had quickly learned in his career that his snappish exterior took care of his students easily, but the agonizing part of being a teacher was the mounds and mounds of damn paper), remembering that he had been rushed this morning, hadn't eaten breakfast, and since he normally skipped lunch, hadn't had food all day, aside from the truffles. His stomach grumbled at him agreeably.
Curse you, random reactions of gastric juice and enzymes. The childish thought made him nearly snort at himself.
Zexion decided, then, in his first true moment of procrastination and utter shirking of duties, that he guessed he could maybe take up Demyx's offer, or something. He could lock his materials in and come in early the next morning; he had always made a point to have his lesson plan for the week readied the sunday evening previous, anyway. Demyx's eyes grew wide when the shorter man got up to retrieve his coat and slip it on. (They both wore long black coats, Demyx 'for old time's sake,' and Zexion simply because little other styles or colors suited him.) He very nearly let out a girly little giggle of joy, the sort that teenage girls do when their crush calls them back for the first time.
"--You are paying," Zexion said.
The shorter man smirked, locking his classroom door behind him.
"...Oh, fine. I can," Demyx flung an arm dramatically across his forehead, "lavish even more money on you." Laughter, light and loud. Zexion decided that it sounded alright. "I mean, who'da thunk it? Great Cloaked Schemer Zexion, master of all illusions and brain-fuckery has a thing for dark-white chocolate truffles."
Zexion did not bother dignifying him with a response; but Demyx slanted a look at him from the corner of his eyes, and saw him focused on the tile floor and frowning slightly as they walked, which meant he was kind of embarrassed (he'd first recorded that particular...Zexion-version of an expression when a young woman in the class had raised her hand to ask if they would be discussing any related...sexual disorders soon in a smoldering voice. Demyx had contained his snickers until he'd caught Zexion's cold expression, a very slight scrunching of his visible brow and the barest hint of a flush on his pale skin, and had promptly laughed himself stupid. He had also earned extra-extra homework.)
They stepped out in the freezing air, Demyx shivering as a blast of chill wind blew through his nose, and hastily re-wrapped his scarf. Zexion tilted his head back, just a little, and took a deep breath. The cold stung his lungs in a pleasant way, and the air smelled clean and cool.
"So," Demyx said, smiling, "Where to?"
Zexion turned to face him, though he couldn't see his eyes from the angle. "..."
"Heeeeeey," the blonde said, defensively, "I figured I should be all manly and chisel..er...ous and, uh, let you pick."
Zexion rolled his indigo eyes. "Chivalrous, you mean?"
The spirited young man beamed. "Yeah! That thingmabob."
Zexion shook his head, sighed softly, and turned on his heel. Demyx caught up to his purposeful stride in a few quick steps, and the walk to the nearest train station was a silent one.
The town they lived in now (one Zexion had grew up in, and Demyx had moved into) was remarkably like the Dark City that now laid, sleeping, behind portals choked in shadow--it sprawled over the landscape, and in the nightfall it loomed over their heads, sharp corners and smooth stone shimmering faintly through the damp air, reflecting neon lights. It was a huge strip of lives that had settled into the earth, raised by the continuing generations of blood and sweat, stretching for miles in all directions, and boasted a fair ease of transportation with a huge city-wide network of bullet trains (most of which were in odd states of random disrepair, as far as the interior went). In a two-minute wait, they flashed their boarding passes at the stationmaster (he was a long, spiky blonde-haired man with what might have been charming blue eyes if he didn't look constantly depressed) and boarded the eastbound train. Zexion sat, and Demyx stood, rocking on his heels.
In the silence, Demyx sang.
"'...I could make you see the beauty of a new sun...'" He broke off into humming, still standing and rocking and gazing through the windows at the darkness that lashed past them.
Zexion watched him and the fluorescent glow of skin. He looked, Zexion thought, in this moment, exactly the same as he did in the last life. The lights--in this car, broken by chance, and occasionally buzzing to life before flickering out--made his skin eerily pale and his hair a dusty shade of brown-gold, and he would have looked every inch the organization member if it wasn't for the pale green scarf tucked haphazardly around his neck. His eyes shone, and Zexion thought they were very like the aquamarine sea-color of the Riku Replica that had murdered him.
They got off at the next stop into a street that swam in red and gold and green. When Demyx stopped looking around in wonder, he noticed that Zexion had already started walking off, and had to jog lightly to catch up. They turned into a small resturant tucked in a nook across the street from what looked like a souveneir shop and seated themselves. A fairly young-looking woman stopped by the table, introduced herself as Mulan in an accented voice, and she and Zexion spoke in rapid Chinese.
Demyx, feeling horribly confused, drummed lightly on the table with his chopsticks. When Mulan left, Zexion threw a disapproving look at him, and he stopped, smiling sheepishly. "I didn't know you were, uh, Chinese."
"I am not." Zexion shrugged off his coat and draped it on the seat next to him. "My mother married an immigrant from The Land of Dragons before the pathways of the worlds closed again. My father grew up in a country called Japan in that world." He sipped his tea idly, and caught the blonde man before he began another drumming solo with a glare.
"I didn't know that so many people immigrated from different worlds. Woooow." He fidgeted a little in his seat, trying catch a glance at their waitress as she ducked behind a red curtain. "Somehow, I can't really imagine a warrior like Mulan being a waitress in a little café."
"That Mulan is the great-grand daughter of the original Fa Mu Lan."
"Oooh." Demyx made an understanding noise in his throat, and began drumming again.
Mulan stopped by again with a small pot of rice and another of tea, and Zexion ordered for both of them (when Demyx had launched into a particularly enthusiastic solo and had used the teacups as substitute cymbals, he had considered purposely ordering the most expensive items on the menu.)
Of course, the chopsticks contrived to get their own wayward sort of revenge.
"...Goddamnit. How the hell do your people eat with these things?!" Demyx stared at the chopsticks and his utter inability to use them in despair. Zexion smirked at him (in what Demyx thought was a considerably evil manner) from across the table, easily helping himself from the large plate of stir-fried noodles placed between them.
Demyx also learned early on that stabbing at the food and hoping to spear something usually didn't work either. He cursed the Chinese for the liberal amounts of oil used in their cooking, and finally conceded defeat with a sniggering Mulan stopped by and inconspicuously left him a fork, under the guise of refilling their tea pot. Had Zexion been that sort of man, he would have teased Demyx mercilessly.
Conversation over the meal consisted mostly of Zexion quietly eating and Demyx chattering in between mouthfuls. The slate-haired man honestly had no idea how the other male managed to inhale food at such a rapid pace, talk incessantly, and breathe at the same time, but he guessed it was a skill that came from much practice. Demyx, unperturbed by Zexion's obvious lack of will to participate, talked about everything and anything; the weather, the music of this world, his guitars ("they have nothing on sitars, I swear, but I can't find any! Can you believe it;"), the latest gossip, his university classes, his roommate, and himself.
Zexion discovered that night that Demyx believed in cd players, not ipods, preferred his pizza with anchovies, that he liked the colors blue and purple and green the best (mostly blue), and that--more from watching and listening to the man, rather than his actual speaking--he was insightful, if air-headed and flighty, and there was a certain cheerful kindness that curtailed the obvious lack of guilt in anything he did. Demyx was one who believed in living without regrets, and it showed.
The blonde man had--intentionally or not--avoided the subject of their shared past, and the at least subconscious tactfulness made Zexion wary, and the wariness kept him entertained.
They finished the meal with fresh orange slices and tea, a pair of fortune cookies, and a bill that made Demyx wince and Zexion smirk (those chocolate truffles weren't cheap, damnit; his wallet was already barely clinging to life).
Zexion was carefully peeling one of the orange slices, feeling vaguely--content? he wasn't sure, and he quickly refocused on Demyx's noisy shuffling before the dull roar of repeated questioning awakened from the back of his mind. Demyx cracked open the cookie and stuffed half of it in his mouth. "'Success is living up to your potential. That's all,'" he read aloud, and made a face. "How come I don't get something cool, like... I dunno... Hey, Zexy--" The nickname made him twitch unpleasantly. "--aren't you going to have a cookie? Even if they taste kinda bad..."
"No." Zexion sipped his rapidly cooling tea. Outside, the lights of the souveneir shot flickered once, then snapped off. He wondered idly how late it was, remembering that the weather forecast this morning had predicted a chance of rain. In the December chill, the rain would quickly freeze into hail or snow.
"In that case, I'll just eat it for you." Demyx grinned and reached for the lone cookie, tearing open the plastic and pulling out the small cracker.
When he broke it, it was empty. He frowned, munching on one of the two halves anyway. "Woah, fortune cookie dud. Weird."
Silence hung over the table, not as awkward as their first silences, but not entirely comfortable, either. But the empty fortune cookie seemed to inspire Demyx somehow, because when he looked up at Zexion, his face was scrunched into thought, blue-green eyes clouded.
"Psychology, huh," he said, smiling absently. He wondered where the other organization members were. If the pathways of the worlds could have been traveled, he would have discovered all of them, with time. A tall red-haired man and his blonde best friend, frequenting the same arcade after school with an alarming regularity. A blackjack dealer living in Port Royale. A librarian, a quartet of scientists, a revolutionary botanist, a man who ran a shooting range on his free days. He looked at Zexion, still smiling. "I think you changed a lot."
Zexion, who had been pulling his coat on, stood up, and began making his way to the exit. "Demyx," he said, "you do not know me."
Demyx jammed his arms hurridedly in his own coat, throwing a random tip on the table and quickly following the shorter male. "Zexion!" he shouted, but the other did not turn from where he was walking down the street, in the opposite direction of the station they had come by. Demyx figured he lived near here. When he caught up to him and laid a hand on his shoulder, he felt him tense. "Yeah, well, I don't know you, sure, but I want to." Zexion did not bother facing him, or he might have seen the sincerity of the statement shining in Demyx's expression. "But I do know that..." Hesitation; he plowed on anyway. "I know that you're doing what you're doing now for some reason. And--" he spoke gently, so gently-- "--I wanna know. I wanna know you."
Over their heads, it started sleeting. The cold circled around the lonely pair on the street.
The moment stretched on forever in Demyx's mind, but Zexion merely shrugged his hand off. "Goodnight, Demyx," he said finally, and walked away.
Demyx shoved his hands in his pockets and watched Zexion's back until it disappeared into the darkness, and he shivered. Pulling up his hood against the stinging particles of ice and wind, he started heading home.
When Demyx arrived in his shared apartment he'd given Luneth a cursory smile and nod and an absent greeting. His silver-haired roommate decided he'd looked cold and a little forlorn, so when he knocked on his door and quietly entered to leave him a cup of hot tea, he found Demyx looking thoughtfully lost, one of his guitars perched in his lap, strumming lazy arpeggios. Luneth knew that Demyx tapped when he bored, sang when he was lonely, and played instruments for a variety of other emotions, so he'd left the drink on his desk and wished Demyx a quiet goodnight; Demyx was a man of music, and his own melodies were much better consolations to him then Luneth's words could have been.
Hours later, Luneth decided to turn in for the night, and was brushing his teeth when he heard the first clear strains of melody over running water. Demyx made a point to try to master every intstrument he'd come across, and though his true talent laid with his guitar, he was no slouch with the keyboard stowed in his room. The chords he'd struck on the guitar earlier had all been slightly off with a purpose, a little sour sounding, in a way that created a bittersweet song. On the piano, the rise and fall of scales and random bouts of improv were a sweet serenade, just a little bit sad.
Luneth slept to the sound of Demyx's voice, and Demyx sang and hummed and strummed and played long into the night before he too finally slept, bowed over his keyboard with his head pillowed on crossed arms and lengths of sheet music. When he dreamed, he dreamt of cold gray oceans, and tried to imagine what Zexion would sound like, if he sang.
Their friendship is a tremulous one that grows from Demyx's care and Zexion's carelessness.
He grows on him, in a strange kind of symbiosis, an unwelcome parasite that he is gradually getting used to. At first, Demyx does all the legwork; he pops up into Zexion's room at random intervals and does nothing. He sits there, hums a little, does his homework or projects until the twitch Zexion's right eye had developed settles down. When Zexion gives up on immediately throwing him out (he had once bodily removed Demyx; for a man so short and skinny, he sure was strong), Demyx takes cue--to, little by little, coax Zexion into speaking, an effort that takes many weeks and boxes and boxes of chocolates. Eventually, he sits at the desk parallel to Zexion's with his chin propped up and they talk.
He finds that he is beginning to enjoy the spiky-haired blonde's company, if only because he did not expect nearly as much of Zexion as every one else seemed to. He never left the conversation topic up to Zexion because he knew the other man would never begin voluntarily; he is never offended by Zexion's caustic responses to his silly antics, and he knows not to bring up their past after the first few sharp glares Zexion threw at him. Even if he doesn't like it, he understands that silence, too, has a place in conversations. He is resilient in a way that Zexion knew he would be before he even knew his name.
They make an odd pair, a tall blonde musician and he, a professor shadowed by his student. They are careful to never let their relationship appear as anything but a teacher and pupil to the public, but when Demyx drops by to visit him at his apartment (how he got his address he did not know, and had the suspicion that he did not really want to) he is wild and free, a riptide in the monotony Zexion once toiled through. He irks him and amuses him in a way that is completely foreign, and perhaps a little unsettling.
Before long, they have nearly an established routine. Monday is Zexion's day, all to himself, in which he usually spends researching or reading or learning. Tuesdays and fridays Demyx stops by his apartment near five o' clock, where he insists on cooking (his skills in the kitchen are surprisingly good) and after dinner and a mostly one-sided conversation, he cleans the kitchen until it shines (even more surprising). He leaves at nine o' clock for his dorm across the town, and silence settles in Zexion's place again.
Wednesdays and thursdays, Zexion stays after hours to work in his classroom, and Demyx arrives shortly after his sixth period at three o' clock. Sometimes he pulls out his textbooks and complains about music theory ("If I can play it fine why do I have to know what the hell the inversions of an a minor dominant seventh are anyway?"), or works quietly; somedays, he pulls out his work and it lies on his desk, abandoned, and he simply watches Zexion in a way the older man has now grown accustomed to.
Weekends, Demyx occasionally pops in on the mornings, but mostly spends them sleeping in or doing odds and ends around his dorm. He plays for the jazz band at a bar downtown in the evenings, a fact he had not disclosed to any one except Luneth, so he is pleasantly surprised when he and his weekly bandmates are strumming out blues and he finds Zexion in the audience. He stands up on the small stage and announces gleefully that the next song's to his newcomer-friend, and the audience peer at each other interestedly, trying to figure out the who the popular young blonde's accompaniment is. Zexion hides his face behind a drink, and makes a point to save half of--so that when Demyx breezes over to his table much later in the night--he can dump it down his shirt.
Demyx laughs and jokes and whistles and Zexion finds that a certain kind of controlled chaos enters his life now, that he is along for the ride (like it or not), and that he is not really complaining, much.
But fate has different plans, and just as the dark-haired man thinks he could get used to this, he has The Discovery. It is not so much a Discovery as it is him randomly stumbling on a page in one of the campus bookstore's many psychology texts, this one in particular covering mental illnesses. The shuffling noises of students and teachers browsing shelves around him dulls into a murmur, and he feels all his energy drain out of him.
He is getting careless. He cannot believe that an answer--or, at the very least, a lead--to all his questions has been staring at him for so long and that he has not seen it in his preoccupation with Demyx. Zexion snaps the book shut and shifts it to the crook of his arm and in mounting rage and insatiable hunger and feels hollow, all at the same time, and he grabs all the nearby titles that could have any possible revelance, piling them into his arms.
He blows four week's of paychecks on the pile of heavy textbooks and scares the daylights out of a clerk who timidly offers him her assistance, but he is so far gone that he does not notice. The next thing he knows is that he is home and reading, reading as fast as he can, making notes and outlines and highlighting and cross-referencing. He needs to know more.
Cotard'ssyndrome, he mouths into the silence of his reading, Negation delirium. ...neurological disorder...delusions. ...subject believes that he or she is dead, or... do not exist.
Demyx was not pleased.
No, Demyx-Lord-of-all-he-surveys-on-occasion was not pleased at all (title self-imposed.) He slouched at his desk, frowning slightly, blue-green eyes surveying the room. The other students were alternatively bent over the test they were having today, finished and attempting to quietly exchange notes, or oggling the substitute.
Leonhart had stood in for Zexion for the last two days and it was beginning to bother the blonde-haired man. He was an excellent teacher in his own right, patient and well-read, but he just wasn't the same as other male. Demyx hadn't been around the university long enough to know for sure (he had transferred here in spring semester, last year), but he was fairly certain that Zexion had never missed a day of his teaching career.
Up until now, that is.
Demyx returned his attention to the test packet and the answer form placed in front of him, unenthusiastically bubbling a letter at random. He grumbled. He twitched, he sighed, he tapped, and he fidgeted, until Leon noticed and was quickly getting irritated.
Fifteen minutes later, the musician gave up any hope of getting a decent score and circled 'd' for every remaining question on the test. Leon accepted it when he turned in both forms with a arched eyebrow, but didn't bother asking; he'd established, in his two days of substituting for the class, that Demyx was more or less a wild card and figuring him out would be a general headache and a waste of time. Demyx smiled at him somewhat apologetically, quietly made up an excuse about a dental appointment that Leon saw right through, and left the classroom.
The blonde quickly decided that the rest of the day was a lost cause too, so he stopped by his apartment to drop off his schoolbag and pick up his keys. He had one to Zexion's apartment, not because the shorter man had given it to him, but because he'd stealthily removed it from Zexion's spare key-ring in his study, made a copy, and then returned it later. Tucking the keys and his wallet in his back pocket, Demyx armed himself with his CD player and favorite pair of bulky headphones and stepped out again.
The April air was warm and sweet-smelling after rains from the previous day. On the way to the trainstation, he splashed in random puddles, air guitared, and made a general fool of himself in public, not that he particularly cared. He decided that, when he got Zexion's place, he'd do him a favor and do his spring cleaning for him. Demyx enjoyed cleaning mostly because it gave him a legitimate chance to play with water, but he also knew that Zexion was either a complete slob on occasion or so busy that he simply forgot to pick up after himself. On the streets leading from the Bella Vista University, there stood a park named similarly, a tiny picture of greenery in the cityscape. Demyx had only strolled through it once or twice to admire the trees and quiet little lake towards the center when his muse was particularly dead, but today he noticed that that there was a girl sitting under the wrought-iron arch of the gateway, surrounded by flowers.
The splash of color caught his interest. Ambling over, he found that the girl was a tiny whiff of a child, with blonde hair and white skin so pale that, in addition to her simple white sundress, she looked the picture of a tiny angel. The thought made Demyx smile. He looked closer, and, eyes widening, realized he recongized her.
He greeted her cheerily. "Hello!"
"Good morning," her quiet response was. She peered up at Demyx through a pale blonde fringe, smiling slightly.
"Demyx," the older blonde introduced himself, and held his hand out.
Hesitantly, she placed her delicate hand in his, and they shook, very gently. "Naminé."
Demyx crouched, so that he was eye-level with the girl, who hadn't given any indication of recongizing him. Maybe she didn't remember, Demyx mused. He guessed that not everyone did.
She sat on the flagstone entrance that stepped up to the park, a sketchbook held loosely in her lap, with a small gray money-box placed besides her. Buckets filled with water and clusters of bright flowers surrounded her, painting a brilliant splash of color on the gray city sidewalk. She looked like she couldn't be more than nine or ten years old in this life, much like her last, but the quiet sense of maturity radiated from her that told Demyx she was probably a little older than she appeared.
"Are you selling the flowers?" Demyx asked, curious.
"Yes." Her fingers drummed lightly on the cover of her sketchbook, which she then lifted slightly, to show Demyx. "I sell pictures, too."
"Can I see?" She nodded.
The pictures were drawn in an assortment of color pencils and crayons, each different from the last, all of them carefully drawn in an amateurish sort of way that was charming. She'd drawn city and landscapes, animals, flowers and trees, and occasionally there were pictures of people passing by. The shapes were blurry sometimes or the lines shaky, but the small details and the delicate touch Naminé infused in them told Demyx that she had natural talent and a great love of art. He held up the book to the young girl, tapped a finger against a picture she'd drawn of the ocean at sunrise. It was near the beginning pages of the book, not particularly good but with a kind of quality he knew a professional would never be able to duplicate or capture. "Can I buy this one?"
Naminé nodded again.
She shrugged, taking the sketchbook from him and carefully ripping out the page on its preforated lines. "How much you want to give," she said softly, and handed it to him.
Demyx blinked, accepting the paper. He glanced at it again, then looked back at Naminé, who was watching him. "Why are you out here, anyway? I mean, um... selling stuff. You should be in school, with the other kids, you know?"
"My papa needs money, so I never went to school," Naminé explained. "Mama got in a car accident so Papa says she's going to resting at the hospital for a long time. He says we need money so that she can stay there, and so the doctors can make sure she'll have good dreams." Eyes downcast, she continued, softer now, "Papa says if we can't give her the best care, mama'll get hurt, and she might not wake up, or not remember us. So I want to help." She looked down, whispering now. "I want to take care of her memories."
"Oh." At a loss, Demyx chewed on his lower lip. He studied the picture of the ocean again, and then carefully folded it into eighths, placing it in his wallet. "I'll take good care of it," he said, to fill the silence, and pulled a twenty and a ten dollar bill from his wallet, pressing it into Naminé's hands. As an after thought, he bought the bucket of particularly vibrant-looking daffodils too, and added another five-bill to the small pile in the blonde girl's hands. She stared at the money, surprised, and when she looked up to say something, Demyx smiled at her. "Um, hey, I have to go, but are you gonna be okay here by yourself?"
"Yes," Naminé said quietly, tucking the money into the safe-box. "Thank you very much," she added.
"Okay." Demyx beamed. "Listen, if you and your papa ever need somethin', just ask for Demyx Melzer over at the Bella Vista apartments, okay?" Naminé nodded, and he got to his feet, taking the bundle of flowers she'd wrapped in paper for him.
Funny how things work out. Demyx didn't like goodbyes so he didn't saying anything else, and he was sure that they'd meet again, anyway. He trotted off down the street whistling, earning a few odd stares at the large boquet daffodils cradled in the crook of his arm. To him, it seemed like he and the other organization members, the people he'd known in a past life, had spent so much time and blood together that their beings resonated in the same circles now, drew themselves to each other.
A ten minute ride on the rails brought Demyx to Zexion's complex. Pressing an ear to the door, he knocked in the special way he knew annoyed the hell out of the shorter man, and waited. When there was no response, the dirty blonde tried the handle, found it locked, and took the liberty of letting himself in.
As soon as he did, he frowned, letting the door close behind him with a click. The air in the entry hallway was stale and nearly dank, as if the windows had not been opened in a long time. The kitchen wasn't much better; a few plates and a cup had a collection of what looked like a couple day's worth of crusty remains and mold scaling on them in the sink. The room Zexion used as a study of sorts had books lying all over and a thin layer of dust developing on the shelves.
"Ooookay," Demyx said aloud to the house, "Zexy has definitely not been taking care of you."
Silence. If Zexion hadn't poked his head out of some room or other and grumpily told Demyx to keep it down by now, he figured he must be out. At least something in the house was getting air.
He left the boquet of daffodils on the kitchen counter and set about opening windows; he deposited his CD player and headphones, along with his wallet and miscellanous crap in his pockets, on the counter next to the flowers, rolled up his sleeves, and cleaned.
A few visits back, Demyx had found an old radio crammed in the corner, and to Zexion's increasing head ache he'd fixed it. Today, he turned it on and tuned into a random station, hummed a few bars along with the music, and set to work.
The dishes went first, neatly dried and stacked in the cabinets; he wiped down the counters, mopped the floors, and dusted the study, picking up the books and piling them in groups on the desk and bookshelves, hoping (with a little bit of fear) that he hadn't horribly destroyed some scientific connection Zexion had established between their arrangement (an irate scientist was a very scary thing, Demyx had learned in the last life and in this one as well.) He fished the forlornly abandoned vaccuum cleaner from the closet and vaccummed the carpets, starting in the entry way and going through the living room and the hallway leading to Zexion's bedroom and bathroom.
He was dirty himself, but feeling satisfied with his work nearly done. Demyx re-rolled the sleeves of his shirt and got himself a glass of water. Then he was struck with An Idea. Grinning wildly, he pulled out Naminé's artwork, and pinned it to the refrigerator with the silly, brightly-colored alphabet magnets he had brought over, on yet another visit awhile back.
Demyx glanced at the wall clock. It four-thirty and Zexion hadn't returned from where ever he had disappeared to. Demyx figured he could whip up a quick meal and leave it for the slate haired man before he had to beat it; he had promised Luneth on pain of death that he'd be back to cook that night, if only to prevent Luneth's friend, Renka, from making another disastrous meal for them (and had spent the evening glaring down their backs as they torturously ate it.)
The daffodils peered at him innocently from the counter, a brilliant splash of golden-yellow against the shady gray counter. Demyx had another Brilliant Idea; up until now, Zexion had made a point to make sure the curious young blonde never had a chance to sneak into his room. But now that Zexion wasn't around... "Demyx, my man," he cackled, "you are Brilliant!" He found a tall glass from one of the cabinets and filled it half-way with water, then removed the paper wrapping of the daffodils and gently pushed them in. The flowers seemed to grin at him, so he grinned back.
"Get with the beat, yeah!" Demyx sang, snapping the fingers of the hand not holding the make-shift vase as he wandered down what he'd dubbed The Forbidden Corridor, despite his vaccuming it a half-hour earlier. He stopped at the door he presumed to be Zexion's bedroom and stepped in.
If he'd thought Zexion's place was messy earlier, than his bedroom looked like, as his mother had been very fond of saying to him, like a tornado had ripped it through.
Thick volumes of what looked like medical texts littered the floor and bed; clothes were scattered across any free space that could hold them. The desk looked like it was groaning under the sheer weight of precariously balanced satcks of papers and documents, binders, folders, and other office goods Demyx never really bothered himself with; a laptop sat, running on top of a briefcase crammed with yet more paper, and besides it, the desktop monitor of another computer was enveloped in Zexion's great coat, from where it had fallen from the hooks set in the wall above and to the right of it.
Zexion was a bit of slob sometimes, but usually never this bad. But something else threw Demyx off about this room. He shrugged uncomfortably and swallowed, if only to make a sound in the silence, which now felt heavy and condemning. The blonde set the glass of flowers on the only free space--the nightstand that stood guard to the bed--and made his way to the table.
It was with a prickling sense of dread, rising irrationally in his throat, that he began to inspect that contents of the table, both attracted to it by his sheer curiosity and repelled by a sense that told him he was intruding and he should have kept away.
"'Cotard's delusion'?" The blonde read aloud, brow furrowing. "'A rare neurological disorder in which a person holds the delusional belief that he or she is dead, does not exist, is putrefying or has lost his/her blood or internal organs'... what the fuck?" He did not notice his hands were shaking now, as he picked up the textbook that had first caught his eye. "'...Can arise in the context of neurological illness or mental illness and is particularly associated with depression and derealisation...'" A yellow sticky-note was attached at the end of that sentence, naming another book and page number in Zexion's spidery handwriting.
"What the fuck?" It clicked, then; how Zexion always managed to cleverly manuever whatever conversation Demyx struck up about the past, in whatever form, into some other meaningless babble; how he tensed whenever Demyx brought it up, until the blonde had eventually stopped, just for the sake of his being cautious around the other man. And, judging by the state of the room, how he had disappeared for the last two or three days.
Before Demyx knew it, he was drowning, wading deeply into yards of research Zexion had compiled in some frenetic drive that horrified Demyx for reasons he was not entirely sure of. All he knew was that the books, the notes, they all felt wrong, out of place and dangerous and it made the fine hairs on the back of his neck stand on end.
He didn't understand half of the psychobabble the medical and sociology texts went into. He didn't really want to, but he kept reading anyway.
"'Depersonalization, the experience of feelings of loss of a sense of reality. ...he or she has changed...the world has become less real.'" The words tore at his throat when they escaped, harsh because he realized, with a sinking feeling, that this was how Zexion seemingly diagnosed himself. "Why...?" Demyx mumbled, staring at the lines of text blankly.
"A very good question," a voice ground out from his left. "As in why. are. you. here."
Demyx nearly dropped the book with a squeak, simultaneously snapping it shut and knocking over the desk chair as he faced Zexion. The blue-gray haired man stood the way he always did, and if it were not for the expression in his eyes and the ice that dripped from his voice he would have looked completely and sounded normal.
"Should not be in here." Zexion strode swiftly in the room, snatching the text from Demyx's surprised hands. He glared up at the taller male, a near snarl curling his thin lips. "Get out."
"Why?!" Demyx burst out, completely ignoring the command. The sinking feeling in his stomach was quickly turning; it flopped in his belly, a sick and screaming feeling. "What the hell is all this? Zexion!"
"It is none of your concern. Get out."
Zexion glared at him with ice that could have rivaled any of Vexen's creation. He ran a hand through his slightly knotted hair, and in that moment Demyx took in his haggard appearance; the slate-haired man was paler than normal and he looked simply exhausted, with bags under his eyes and rumpled clothes that he had probably slept in.
"Why?" Zexion thought he heard the blonde man--oh, but in that moment of icy clarity he saw Demyx for the boy he still was--voice cracking slightly. He moved past Demyx, setting the chair he had knocked over on its feet, and sat down on it, resting one elbow on the desk surface and propping his head up on it. His mind ached for days spent too long awake, for the lack of food or water.
"Why not?" He answered sarcastically.
"God damnit, Zexion!" In an uncharacteristic display of violence, Demyx slammed a fist onto the surface of the desk, sending a stack of paper flying. It startled the other male, and when he looked up, he saw the burning, passionate rage, illuminated by the stale light slanting through his shuttered windows, on his face--the rage that had kept him in the form of a laughing blonde Nobody when the heartless had stolen first stolen him. Demyx was a peaceful boy but when he was mad, oh, when he was mad Demyx was nothing short of a hurricane.
"Are you joking me?" Demyx gritted out, softer than a whisper. His voice rose. "Why are you doing this to yourself?!"
"We died without hearts, Demyx," Zexion said sharply, sending him a piercing glare. "Have you not questioned your existance now?" He let out a choked snarl when Demyx, towering over him, seized his shoulders and shook him violently.
"QUESTIONING," Demyx roared, "IS WHAT HELPED LOSE US OUR HEARTS IN THE FIRST PLACE!"
This was the rage (they stole this from me) that had kept Demyx's spirit from devolving into a mere Dusk; this was the hidden grief (all I wanted was my music) and anger (what did I do to deserve this) that kept his spirit buoyant and endlessly cheerful (I gotta get through this), what none of the other organization members had realized the air-headed blonde contained.
But this has moved/past love to mania. This has the strong/clench of the madman, this is gripping the ledge of unreason... Zexion closed eyes and the poetry and silence made perfect the anguish in mind, unvoiced. The poetry and the silence and the image of Demyx before him almost breaking, not quite because Demyx was unbreakable, but the image of Demyx's deep dive in the last months for him and now--his near drowning, because god knew Zexion had dived yet deeper and suffocated--
Demyx had sunk to his knees, but his hands still clenched at Zexion's shoulders, and he was still staring at him with the raw sort of misunderstanding in his eyes that it blinded Zexion to look at him.
And, true to form, true to the impossible depths of the friendship and whatever else they had carefully crafted, Zexion answered before he spoke: "If we live now...we are simply reborn into another life and shape...but we have never regained our hearts. If the heart is the source of emotion... the mind, however, processes it. It tells us how to think and feel. When I found out about Cotard's syndrome, I thought... I thought I might have found the connection. If we were unable to determine what emotion of ours is real or imagined...it invariably must have had something to do with the mind. If what we felt the loss of feelings was the loss of our realities...if I researched the disorder, I thought I could have found the recovery." Zexion took a deep breath. "I thought I would know why we failed in our last life."
The grip on shoulders had slackened. When he opened his eyes, he found that the blonde man--the boy--had slumped over in the course of his only admission, his forehead lightly resting on his chest.
"Can't you... just...why does knowing matter?"
"Demyx," Zexion said, and Demyx thought he must have sounded the most gentle he had ever heard him, "no one can live being forever ignorant."
"No," Demyx whispered miserably, "no one can live being afraid to feel."
In the silence, Zexion sat there, arms useless at his sides, Demyx still bowed to him, broad hands at his shoulders. His eyes caught the glass of daffodils, bold and bright in the gray, and it felt like the rest of the world had slipped away, in a rush of sudden, dizzying vertigo that panged in his chest. Just him, Demyx, and the flowers.
"Our lives then, in that world..." he fancied he could feel Demyx's breathe ripple through him, straight to where his heart could--could not--have been. "...they ended when we died. In that world. Can't you just let go of the past, Zexion?"
The sense of dettachment sharpened. Derealization. His hands curled into fists weakly, and in a rush of exhaustion he let his head lower, forehead resting in Demyx's spiky blonde hair. We live in a world where sleeping demons will not lie. He thought he might have felt a spark, when Demyx sighed.
In that grudging, beautiful, destroying moment, Zexion admitted the words that hurt him most: "I don't know."
"Yo. Luneth speaking.
"...who is this? ... Oh! Demyx! Hey man, where were you? ... ...OH YEAH I'M PISSED AT YOU. I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT RENKA MADE THIS TIME BUT--
"...oh. So you're, uh, sleeping over at this guy's house?
"Yeah, I understand. Don't worry about it, I'll take care of it for you.
"Heehee. Who're you staying with, anyway? ...what? Sorry, I can't hear you when you mumble like that... 'old friend'? wow, Demyx, I didn't know you had friends.
"Right, right, alright. Okay. FINE. Jeez, what's up with you tonight? I think my ears are bleeding... g'night, Demyx. Have fun at your girly sleep-over. Make sure you let the nail polish air-dry before applying the second coat--
"...ears definitely bleeding."
Zexion woke up to the muffled sound of Demyx singing and iron clanging from the vague direction of his kitchen. He closed his eyes again and heaved an uncharacteristic sigh, trying to get his bearings, before it occured to him that the sun was shining on his face and that could only mean he was horribly late for work.
The Zexion equivalent to rushing out of bed, was, of course, more or less hauling himself from the warm sheets in a slow, measured fashion. Last night... the dark-haired man frowned, rubbing at his eyes before ambling in the direction of the bathroom. He remembered that his brain and body had finally shut down from two day's worth of exhaustion, and he'd guessed Demyx had been the one to move him to his bed and tuck him in. The mental image of Demyx as a matronly figure (the singing from the kitchen and sizzling sounds only helped convince him that, in yet another life, Demyx was probably a soccer mom) nearly made him snort his toothpaste.
"Good morning, Zexy!"
"Stop calling me that. Good morning."
Demyx rolled his eyes good-naturedly, tipping french toast from the pan onto a plate. Zexion made a half-interested, half-grumpy noise in his throat (Demyx was amused to have learned that Zexion was a man of many foods, but he had a sweet tooth nobody would've guessed) and intercepted the plate before it made it to the table. He ate standing up, leaning against the kitchen counter, and watched the blonde man bustle around his kitchen. Demyx had undoubtedly raided his closet, sporting his jeans from yesterday, soap stains and all, in addition to an old university polo the staff had been forced to wear on fridays. He also had a rather pinkish apron tied around his narrow hips (soccer mom!) that Zexion had no idea existed, but then again Demyx had a talent for uncovering objects of unknown in the Ikeda household.
Demyx frowned at him when he finished the last bite of his toast. "Jeez, I spend all morning cooking--" Zexion snorted. "--okay, well, twenty minutes maybe, and then you scarf it down in five? Where's the loveeeee?"
"I am late to class already," Zexion pointed out.
"Oh. Don't worry about it." Demyx grinned impishly, starting on his own breakfast.
"...What did you do?"
"Called you in sick." Blue-green eyes twinkling innocently, Demyx grinned at him around a mouthful of toast, lips lightly dusted with the powder sugar. At Zexion's exasperated look, he added, "What? You were on a roll already."
"..." Zexion sighed, and knew already that Demyx had some sort of devious plan, and there was little else he could do now but play along. "Why?"
"'Cause I decided you needed a break." The answer is simple enough, and Zexion also knew Demyx well enough to know that he had no real ulterior motives, and that whatever his reason was, it was truly as simply as his explanation for it. "Which means you're not gonna spend all day stuffed up in your room angsting, 'kay?"
Laughing, he dodged the wadded up napkin Zexion lobbed at his head.
They stopped by Demyx's apartment (so that he could properly "dress down" Zexion, whose entire closet contained disappointingly respectable clothing) and then spent the day sneaking aimlessly around town--or, more accurately, Demyx wandered about to whatever places caught his fancy and dragged Zexion along. The bubbly blonde was content to stroll through the city, window shopping (Zexion had to pry his face off the glass of a case of music equipment when the manager began shooting them dirty looks), randomly sampling foods from vendors and small resturants, and just spending time with the shorter male.
It was nearing dusk when their impromptu adventure looped to an end in front of the park Naminé frequented but was not seated at today.
"Aw man, I'm stuffed." Demyx chewed happily on the end of a takoyaki skewer, which they had purchased not long ago.
"I would be more frightened if you were not," Zexion said dryly, "judging by the fact you eat like a horse." Demyx snorted and gave him a friendly punch in the shoulder.
They walked down the street in comfortable silence. Demyx spat out the skewer and slanted a look at Zexion, humming a little. When Zexion noticed and quirked an eyebrow, he asked, voice hopeful, "Did you have fun today?"
Zexion didn't answer directly, but giving a very slight nod, he asked back: "Why?"
"Why do you..." Zexion frowned; he'd never found words difficult before, but now he was having trouble shaping them. "Do you...bother...with this?" With me, was the unvoiced part.
"Oh, silly Zexy," Demyx sang in the way he knew annoyed him. "It's 'cause I care about you."
"What if... you couldn't?"
Demyx threw an arm around his shoulders, and waited until Zexion looked at him from the corner of his indigo eyes. "See," he said, humming nonchalantly, "I know I'm not smart or anything, but this is where I know I beat you and everyone else in the organization." He smiled fondly. "It's the same with music. You can't really play anything beautiful if you're not totally into it.
When you love something, care about it a lot, it has nothing to do with the heart.
Real feeling comes from the soul. I don't need a heart to know I'm alive and I'm real. So--" with his free hand, he reached up and pinched one of Zexion's cheeks, to which the other male shot him a positively evil glare. "--'don't worry, be happy!'"
"I don't like that song," Zexion muttered half-heartedly. Demyx only laughed, his arm slipping from around Zexion's shoulders so that he could snap his fingers together, singing loudly and earning several odd looks and smiles as they walked. And that was that. Demyx and his clumsy, understated elegance.
When they turned into the train station, Demyx piped up, "Hey, Zexy?"
"This place--" Demyx gestured around them, "--I think it's too much like the Castle and the City. We should go somewhere else." His grin was infectious, and Zexion felt a tiny smile pulling at his lips from the blonde man's sheer irrationality. "We'll start over! Again. For real."
"No," Zexion said flatly. At Demyx's hurt look, he smirked, and said, "...'perhaps another time.'"
The smile he was rewarded with was blinding in intensity. "Okay," Demyx agreed, "I'll hold you to that. Guess it's a good thing you said later, 'cause I'm kinda tired."
In the minutes before the city's later rush hours, the car they boarded was nearly empty, and Zexion noted with amusement it was as poorly maintained as the other ones, with broken lights and ripped seating. Nonetheless, Demyx flopped onto the hard cushions, bobbing his head to an imaginary beat and zoning out.
Zexion studied the other man. Because I care. When they came to the stop near Zexion's street, he ignored it, and Demyx, hovering somewhere between a day dream and a light doze, did not notice. The train took them on the rails near the coast front property, and the dimness of the city skyscrapers were suddenly and completely erased by the glowing twilight of the sun setting over the sea.
He studied the way the dusk lingered in Demyx's hair and
highlighted the tilt of his broad shoulders, the way that the weak
sunlight reflected off the chrome casing of the windows and painted
shining dappled spots on his cheeks. The window made a frame, a
sleepy Demyx caught against the ocean and the red sun.
I don't need a heart to know I am alive and I am real.
Zexion closed his eyes and imagined the picture stuck to his refrigerator at home. The gray, choppy ocean, painted over with films of orange and red and gold. They were Demyx's colors, he decided, hopeful, happy colors.
In his mind, he had his notebook, and in his imagination he was standing on the edge of the beach. When he raised his arm over his head and hurled the journal as far out to the sea as he could, he imagined also that the ocean rose in a tidal wave to snatch the notebook from the air, and buried it in the sands far, far, below. He imagined that sooner or later, the tsunami would echo out of the depths again and envelop him too, but until then...
"I'm going to get through this," he tells himself.
Demyx cracked an eye open. "...Zexion?"
In the twilight, Zexion leans forward and kisses him.