Title: Crow's Nest
Disclaimer: Do we see Zexion selling himself on the street corner, wearing nothing more than lacy underwear? No? Then I don't own the series.
Notes: Oops, forgot to thank everyone in the last chapter. So here goes! Much thanks to everyone for reading, reviewing, or otherwise acknowledging that this fic has ruined your existence in some lovely way. It is much appreciated, especially when your reviews help guilt me into working on the next chapter!
On the beta thing, a friend of mine has offered to read over my work when I need her to, so I think I'm pretty much set on that front. Thanks to those for offering though!
Anyhow, work continues very slowly on this fic. School has started again, and with it law school applications, which will be my constant excuse over the next few months for why the story is not being updated. I rather would like to have a monthly update schedule; it's a bit long between chapters, but I think it's something I could manage. As an aside, if you're ever wondering where the next chapter is or what the status of it is, I tend to update my profile about every two weeks with a progress report, just to pretend that I'm actually doing something productive….
chapter 3: curiosity killed the cat
Zexion was what some people would term a creature of habit. It was especially applicable when it came to his sleeping patterns, or perhaps more precisely his waking up patterns. For every morning, regardless of the time he had gone to sleep the previous night, he would awaken at precisely eight without need of an alarm clock or any sort of signal.
Waking him up prior to this point, however, was the equivalent of suicide. The point was aptly made when Cloud had once upon a time inadvertently awakened Zexion at seven-thirty. Needless to say, forgiveness was not particularly high on Zexion's list of priorities—before the hour was up, all of Cloud's hair care products had been thrown off the nearest dock, causing the blond great distress for countless weeks due to an increasing resemblance to a chocobo as the days went by. This in turn resulted in potentially scarring incidents, which at its climax involved a wild chocobo attempting to mate with what seemed to it a very sexy individual, causing much trauma to both Cloud and anyone within eyeshot.
So to put it lightly, waking Zexion up prior to the exact time he wanted to wake up was not an endeavor most people would willingly undergo, particularly those who worked closely with him and knew from personal experience that Zexion's brilliant mind was sadly at its most brilliant when coming up with complicated and cruel revenges on anyone who dared disrupt his sleeping schedule.
Demyx, however, was not privy to this very important fact.
This was really quite reasonable, seeing how he had only met Zexion the day before and they had not really had the opportunity to talk, let alone get to know intimate details of how each person's biological clock operated. Carrying the pirate clear across town had seemingly robbed Zexion of his already little-used vocal cords, and Demyx had not really been in any condition to talk either when every step seemed to jar his stomach and made him want to projectile vomit. Luckily he had managed to resist the urge, as it was doubtful Zexion would appreciate vomit on his person anymore than he appreciated it on the floor he had just spent two hours scrubbing, but either way Demyx did not know of the sacred rule of not making any sounds near the Seventh Heaven prior to eight in the morning, as besides being a creature of habit, Zexion was also a light sleeper.
The combination of these two characteristics was not ideal, and when Demyx was included it was close to self-imploding. Particularly since Demyx's opinion of an early morning—early morning being approximately six-thirteen, give or take forty-three seconds—greeting came in the form of banging on the door and yelling in an obnoxiously cheerful voice, "Good morning, everyone!"
Reactions to this wake-up call varied. Tifa simply turned onto her other side, mumbling in her sleep but showing no other signs that she was even aware of the ruckus going on at the front door. Either that or she just didn't care, seeing how nobody would dare break into the bar when there was a certified black belt 'I can kick your ass in forty seconds or less and still look completely gorgeous' martial artist sleeping upstairs, as well as the 'I am not compensating' sword-wielding delivery boy crashing in the guest room.
(And Zexion. We dare not forget Zexion, even if he did have stick-thin arms.)
Cloud, on the other hand, did awaken. However, he also convinced himself that it had to be a hallucination, since nobody in their right—of which many people were of the opinion that Cloud was not, but nobody dared point out this fact due to the 'I am not compensating' sword—would want to disturb the serenity of the early morning. So three seconds later, he had gone back to cuddling a rag doll with silver hair and was fast asleep in five.
Unfortunately for Demyx, Zexion was not Tifa or Cloud. Zexion could not ignore the noise or simply fall asleep again. After all, another characteristic of his sleeping patterns was that it took him a long time to fall asleep in the first place; again, not exactly the most ideal thing ever, especially considering his other habits. Still, this did explain why the other two residents of Seventh Heaven remained blissfully unaware of Demyx's pounding on the door, and why they were equally unaware of when it stopped as suddenly as it had started, courtesy of one knife to the throat and a half-snarled, half groggy, "What the fuck do you think you're doing?"
Demyx squeaked, sufficiently traumatized even though Zexion looked half-ready to fall asleep on his feet. This, combined with the fact that Zexion apparently slept without a shirt (which may or may not account for the puddle of drool slowly accumulating at Demyx's feet, which luckily went completely unnoticed by Zexion) could have been construed as comical, if it wasn't for… well, the knife at the throat. That sort of thing was not exactly butterflies and rainbows, and it got the message through quite efficiently.
Perhaps a little too efficiently, considering how after three minutes Zexion was still waiting for an answer and Demyx seemed to be suffering a panic attack that made it sound rather like he was hyperventilating. Tempted as he was to let the pirate have an asthma attack and die, Zexion sighed and released Demyx instead. After all, he didn't have much interest in having an angry hoard of pirate minions coming after him for doing in their captain, no matter how much of a blessing it was to the sanity of the world. Slipping the knife away, he stepped back and crossed his arms, glaring at Demyx through unbrushed hair.
Again, this was a comical sight, but Demyx knew better than to laugh at his unkempt appearance. Instead, he gave Zexion a nervous smile as he said, "Um… well, I thought I'd come over to say hi. I mean, I feel really bad about what happened last night, and I just wanted to apologize for the trouble I caused you. It was really nice of you to help me back, and I know you didn't have to but you did anyway, and-"
"Tifa made me," Zexion interrupted bluntly. He would have answered more quickly but the words were taking a bit longer to process than usual. All he really wanted was to go back to bed. Even if he didn't manage to get back to sleep—and he probably wouldn't—he could at least try to smother himself with a pillow until he lapsed into a comatose state. Perhaps then, he might not be able to hear Demyx no longer how hard he banged on the door. "Otherwise, I would never have bothered."
With the likes of you went unsaid, but it hung between them.
Demyx gaped at him as if he had just threatened to eat his pet bunny with a side of his favorite goldfish, "That's… that's not a very nice thing to say!"
He shrugged, "And it is the truth."
"But it isn't very nice!"
He rolled his eyes before replying coolly, "Nobody ever said the truth was supposed to be nice." With that helpful advice, he turned to walk back towards the bar before belatedly adding in a low voice, "And I am not a very nice person."
As he did so, he wondered vaguely if he would be able to climb the tree back up to his room. He wasn't entirely sure how he had managed to get down in the first place, too enraged to think of anything else but death, destruction, and clubbing baby seals. And drunk as he was on these visions of killing, he had conveniently forgotten to bring his keys down when he had (somehow) made his way to ground level in order to confront the blond terrorizing his sleep.
But in the end it did not really matter, as (luckily or unluckily, depending on one's opinion of Zexion's tree-climbing skills) Demyx grabbed his arm to stop him from leaving. "Wait! Please don't leave! I just wanted to—um…."
Demyx's voice trailed off as Zexion was jerked back. Unprepared as he was for this, Zexion ended up losing his balance and falling backwards onto the ground in a stupendous crash—which in turn caused Tifa to snort and roll onto her other side while Cloud just squeezed the doll tighter. And seeing how Demyx had failed to let go, he was sent tumbling on top of Zexion, his weight causing the smaller man to gasp in pain.
As the dust settled, Demyx squeaked, "Sorry… don't be mad?"
Zexion closed his eyes, trying to fight off the headache that was threatening what precious little was left of his sanity. He settled for pushing Demyx off so he could put sufficient distance between them, although not nearly enough. Demyx would have to be halfway to Antarctica for the distance to be enough. "I am going to kill you."
"Don't you think you're overreacting?" Demyx whined. "It's not like I did that on purpose or anything like that, and I wouldn't have done that if you would just listen. I just wanted-"
"Do I honestly look like I care what you want?" he snapped. He could not believe the… nerve of this pirate, looking so hurt that witnesses would have sworn that Zexion was the guilty party instead of it being the other way around.
Yet along with the obvious irritation he felt, he also felt almost… ashamed. Which was ridiculous because Demyx was the one who was being an ass, yet somehow that fact just was not registering. Even when he reminded himself quite firmly that Demyx was a pirate, and therefore usual cases of morality and kindness didn't apply to them seeing how they made their living by pillaging other people's (theoretically) hard-earned possessions, he still could not help but feel like he was doing something cruel.
Was it because Demyx seemed so damned incompetent when it came to the entire pirating business? But that was the thing; appearances, personality, and first impressions aside, it was clear that Demyx could not be nearly as moronic as he seemed to be. Skewed or not, there had to be some explanation for his reputation, and Zexion somehow doubted it had anything to do with the constant apologies and apparent desperation to be on everyone's good side. No, despite the almost self-depreciating way he acted, Demyx still carried himself with a sort of casual confidence that people unconsciously respected. Low opinion of the man aside, Zexion had to admit that there had to be a reason why Demyx was one of the most formidable pirates now sailing the seas, and he had enough of an analytic mind not to pin it all to luck.
Unfortunately, it was at this point that logic failed him, as he could not come up with any other reason why Demyx would be as good at this business as he was.
This was a key point, for as it turned out, besides being a creature of habit Zexion was also quite curious. Mysteries and anomalies bothered him; he wanted to know why things were, how they worked. He needed to be able to explain things that made no sense. It gave him something to do, especially on this island, where it didn't take long to figure out how everything worked. As much as he deplored them, pirates at least offered something for him to think about, such as why everyone seemed so damn enamored with them when they were usually nothing more than drunken thieves.
And Demyx? Even when he was drunk, and even though he was a thief, Demyx seemed different from all of that. And Zexion could not help but be intrigued. At the very least, he wanted to know why people seemed to be genuinely scared of this… kid who did not know how or when to stop apologizing, or the subtleties of keeping his mouth shut. Everything about Demyx logically stated that he should have been in the bottommost rung of the universal pecking order, yet people respected him despite a personality that seemed decidedly ill-suited for the pirating world.
"You are not like the other pirates." It took him a moment to realize that he had spoken this thought out-loud.
Demyx blinked at him, open-mouthed, before asking hesitantly, "Um… thanks? Wait, is that even supposed to be a compliment?"
He shrugged, even as he realized that he might be getting a little too curious for his own good. He had a feeling that this was going to end up being more trouble than it was worth; but then, what else did he have to do now? Working at the Seventh Heaven had never been the most satisfying of occupations, but it had provided a distraction from his desire to leave, a desire that continued to eat away at him each day. There was only so long that would last though, and it had not taken him long to recognize that his desperation was starting to go up in spades. This mystery might, at least, be interesting enough to distract him for a little longer, might work to keep down that urge to throw himself off the nearest cliff and back into the water to escape this damned island that offered so little stimulation for his mind.
Of course, this didn't stop Zexion from wishing that it could have been someone else to pin his curiosity onto, but beggars cannot be choosers or however that saying went.
… Speaking of clichés, the practical side of his brain was reminding him of a different saying that was also quite applicable to his situation. He chose to very maturely ignore it. Instead, he forced himself to focus on Demyx's worried expression, fighting down the wave of irritation that immediately followed and threatened to put a damper to his plans. That and the desire to sleep, but he pushed both aside as he ran a hand through his bangs and wondered for the fifteenth time that morning if being stuck on this island was starting to affect his brain cell count.
He let out the breath that he had been holding, careful to keep his voice bored and uninterested as he said, "Fine. I accept your apology. Now what is it that you want, exactly?"
Demyx beamed at him, and he was suddenly struck with the inexplicable urge to run away. But before he could act on this impulse, a jacket—well-worn material of faded blue, still warm to the touch—was placed over his shoulders. He blinked again, unconsciously clutching the too-large coat closer, but before he could ask Demyx said by way of explanation, "You looked cold."
He said nothing, not having even realized that he was cold, and Demyx's face seemed to take on a look of panic as the pirate said quickly, "Um, but if you don't want it you don't have to—I mean, I just thought that… you know, in case? I don't want you getting sick or something like that—Tifa would kill me! Well, not kill me, but she would definitely hurt me… or at the very least lecture me, and then she'd probably make me stick around to clean! But I guess this is sorta weird so maybe if you want your own stuff…?"
"It's fine," he said quietly as he fingered the jacket, the acceptance cutting off Demyx's ramble. Demyx grinned at him sheepishly, and Zexion thought quite firmly that the reason why he had agreed was purely because he did not want to try climbing the tree and potentially embarrass himself. Nor did he want someone like Demyx going through his personal belongings—of which there was admittedly little, but it was a matter of principle. And it was most definitely not because he could not help but notice how the light blue shirt seemed to bring out the color of Demyx's eyes, giving them an almost sparkle that was really quite attractive, or the fact that the pirate had a nice smile when he actually meant it, rather than sheepishly apologizing for every perceived sleight, no matter how tiny.
This observation was immediately followed by a wave of disgust, causing him to scowl and quickly walk away, not even bothering to wait to make sure that Demyx was coming.
It turned out that what Demyx wanted was simply someone to talk to. Zexion failed to see how this miraculously translated to him being the prime candidate (although he supposed it was possible that Demyx had gone to other places, but Zexion was simply the first person insane enough to entertain his demands) for said attentions, especially considering how they had only met less than twenty-four hours ago. That and how they had essentially nothing in common, but for once he staved off his curiosity.
After all, it had taken Zexion less than two minutes to realize that asking Demyx questions was a really bad idea when the idiot's was seemingly incapable of answering simple 'yes' or 'no' questions without what seemed like an hour long monologue on… well, something because Zexion had cleverly tuned it all out the moment he realized that things were going severely off-topic. He did not even want to imagine the lecture—a dry laugh, considering the irony that Demyx had been the one afraid of a lecture from Tifa—he would receive if he dared to ask a question that required more than a single-word response. Therefore, he decided that it was in his best interest to keep his mouth shut.
But while it had taken him less than two minutes to come to this realization, it took exactly two minutes to decide that keeping quiet was not really an option either, as Demyx seemed determined to fill up the silence with words, no matter how unwanted or unnecessary they were. Zexion wondered if this ever presented an issue when it came to stealth missions, as he had assumed—perhaps a naïve sort of way—that pirates were more occasionally required to do that sort of thing when escaping law enforcement. And considering how Demyx was standing here and not in prison or better yet at the gallows, Zexion could only assume that Demyx actually was capable of keeping his mouth shut.
The idiot simply had no interest in utilizing that skill right now.
His eye twitched as Demyx opened his mouth—most likely to launch into the story of his birth or something equally ridiculous—and he asked before he could stop himself, "Do you ever shut up?"
The question was not so much an insult as it was an actual inquiry, but Demyx's mouth immediately closed and he found himself fixated with a hurt expression that made the pirate resemble a kicked dog. This sort of expression—combined with Demyx's kind blue eyes that Zexion did not care about—was more than enough to make anyone with half a heart feel guilty, including Zexion, who was not the type of person to feel shame for speaking his mind to those he deemed inferior to himself. But before he could apologize, or at least try to explain that it was not really meant to be an affront, Demyx sighed, "I guess not. I really did think I was getting better at it, but I guess I was just kidding myself."
He looked so thoroughly depressed at this that Zexion felt obligated to try and make him feel better. Although this was something more easily said than done—it was easier to pull teeth out of Bahamut's teeth than it was to get an apology out of the young man.
"I'm… sorry," he finally said, and the fact that he actually meant it made the moment all the more significant. "I did not mean to offend you."
Demyx gave him a small grin, "Hey, don't worry about it. It's not like you're the first person to tell me that I talk too much. Axel used to tell me that all the time, even though he knew I didn't like it. Or maybe it was because he knew I didn't like it that he kept telling me that…."
"Who?" Zexion asked before he could stop himself. Damn curiosity.
"Axel… you've never heard of him?" When Zexion didn't respond, Demyx continued, "Well… he was my first mate a while back. But there were, y'know, issues."
"Issues," he repeated, not sure if he wanted to know what that meant.
"Serious issues," Demyx nodded. "He was a pyro."
The absurdity of this concept was so great that it actually took a few moments to sink in. "You cannot be serious."
"Ask anyone. He's famous for it! I mean… he's an okay guy and all, besides the fact that he has a short temper and gets pretty obsessive and he's sort of an asshole… but all of that stuff is pretty typical. It's just that when he starts trying to blow up my ship 'cause he's bored… well, even he can't stop a fire when it really gets out of control! Which it did… twice. So I asked him really nicely to leave—even asked the others for help and wrote it down and everything but then he set my notes on fire and I might have messed it up a bit... well, he was pretty upset over that, and then there was that weird incident with Roxas and the honey so now he hates me even though I didn't even do anything! But then he really tried to set fire to my ship on purpose and if it wasn't for the fact that-" Demyx suddenly stopped mid-sentence, gaping at Zexion as he turned bright red, "But you probably don't care about any of that, right?"
A part of him wanted to agree, but it was a very small part lacking veto powers over the rest of his brain. "So why didn't your ship sink?"
"Oh… no real reason!" Demyx laughed nervously. "I mean, there's no reason why it wouldn't not sink, right?"
His only response was to give the pirate a look, a long, steady gaze that was excellent for prying information from the most unwilling of sources. Demyx, whose ability to resist pressure was more or less on par with a paper bag's capacity to withstand a hurricane, fidgeted for two seconds before sighing in defeat, "Promise not to laugh?"
Zexion shrugged, which was as close to an agreement as anyone was going to get. But it was a fairly easy promise to make, seeing how he never laughed at people. For why laugh at them when he could verbally abuse them instead? He was actually quite famous for this interesting trait, although like his sleeping patterns, it seemed that Demyx was not yet acquainted with this fact.
Yet, being the operative word.
"Well…" Demyx started slowly, but then said in a rush of words so quick that Zexion barely had time to comprehend them, "I sorta kinda use magic."
Immediately Demyx cringed, obviously expecting him to laugh or degrade the words as silliness. Instead he stayed silent, keeping his face completely calm as the pirate realized that he was not going to laugh, causing Demyx to perk up and say excitedly, "Well… it's not quite magic, I guess. That's just what I call it 'cause I don't know how else to explain it. But I'm not the only one. Axel, for example, controls fire—which is actually more useful than it sounds when he's not trying to burn the main mast. A lot of the more famous pirates have powers too. I've heard of one guy who can control the wind so that he's unmatched by any other ship for speed, and even Sephiroth is said to-"
"What about you?" Zexion interrupted, keeping on his expression of general disinterest although he was fairly certain his face had twitched slightly. "What do you control?"
"Oh… well, I don't really control," Demyx corrected. "It's more like I just… ask. And the ocean listens."
"You have power over water?"
Demyx flailed at this terminology as he turned to face Zexion for the first time since the conversation started. "Ask! I just ask! She listens, most of the time. She's not as bad as most people think; it's not like she's deliberately trying to hurt us or anything. She just has her own way of doing things. And sure, she has her bad days, but who doesn't? You just have to make an effort to understand." Noticing that Zexion was staring at him as if he'd grown an extra head, Demyx said in a half-accusatory, half-petulant tone, "You promised not to laugh."
"I was not laughing," Zexion replied calmly. "And I have no intention of doing so either."
"Then does that mean you believe me?" Demyx asked.
He shrugged, "I doubt that even you would make up such a fantastical story if it was not true."
"Thanks!" Demyx said brightly before the full implications of Zexion's comment sunk in. "Wait. Are you making fun of me?"
At this, Zexion could not help but smile slightly, "A bit."
"That isn't very nice."
"And I believe we already established why that is," Zexion said dryly.
"Yeah, but still!" Demyx frowned at him, "I thought I was supposed to be the pirate. I can be quite fearsome, you know."
"Of course," he said, suddenly bombarded with the mental image of Demyx poking someone with a sword while screaming apologies. That was, before he passed out at the first sight of blood. Fearsome indeed. Well, at least this explained how Demyx had earned a reputation as a successful pirate despite the many factors—his personality, for example—that seemed to be working against him.
Demyx grinned at him, the same, cheerful and real smile that Zexion found himself liking despite himself. "You know, I don't think you're nearly as mean as you try to be."
The moment was broken, and Zexion suddenly felt like he was coming out of a haze that had momentarily obscured the real facts. Both of them had gotten too comfortable, but while Demyx was now just saying what was on his mind, Zexion had gotten complacent until being reminded of exactly why he tried to be 'mean' in the first place.
"Really," he said, narrowing his eyes at the pirate.
"Yeah, really," Demyx nodded, apparently not noticing the slightly dangerous tone Zexion had taken. "I think you're just lonely. And I know that we pirates aren't exactly the best company, but we're not all that bad and maybe if-"
"And what do you care?" he snapped, cutting Demyx off as he got to his feet. Demyx looked shocked at this reaction, but before he could say anything else, Zexion was off like a shot, not even waiting for the inevitable apology as he turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. With some flailing, punctuated by a yelp-slash-curse, Demyx stood to follow but ended up walking right by where Zexion had concealed himself in his haste.
Zexion waited to make sure that Demyx would not unexpectedly be returning. Once he was certain, he emerged from his spot, scowling and cursing himself for allowing himself to be so easily led again as he quickly started towards the Seventh Heaven, sticking to the alleys to ensure that he would not be running into any pirates on the way back.
As you might have, ah, noticed, the category for this fic has been changed from humor to drama. I'm not sure if because this story just doesn't want to lend itself to the humor category, or if it's because I just fail at writing funny stuff nowadays. Perhaps both?
Sorry this chapter took a bit longer to get out than I expected. The characterization just felt a bit awkward at times, so I ended up having to rewrite a few times before I was satisfied with what was going on in the fic. Hopefully I can figure out how I want to tackle this fic, especially since there are approximately seven more chapters to go….