AN: This comes after Whoever Katrina Is, but it's not necessary to read Katrina to understand this.
"'Laissez les bons temps rouler' means 'Let the good times roll'."
Axel looked up from his video game. "...The hell did that come from?"
Roxas shrugged. "I remember when Demyx hauled us to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, you asked what it meant. And I just found it in this book I'm reading."
"Ah...no idea how you could remember that..." Axel went back to blowing things up on a screen - almost as much fun as doing so in person.
"Are you questioning my memory, Mr. Got-it-Memorized?"
"Well, no, but...hey, if you can remember that well, then explain why somebody didn't tell me what it meant then."
"Because you said 'Laissez les bons temps rouler - got it memorized?...What the hell does that mean?' and Demyx laughed so hard he couldn't talk for ten minutes."
"Jeez, you can remember little conversational details months after the fact and you can't remember who you are or where you came from...aw, dammit!" Axel threw his controller at the TV screen as he himself was blown up. "Say, where is he, anyway?"
"Probably in his room, either with headphones glued to his ears so you have to grab him and shake him to get his attention or listening to his stereo with the bass cranked up loud enough to break windows. Like he's been for the last month, when he wasn't in meetings or on a mission." Roxas turned the page. "You could yell his name with a bullhorn and he wouldn't hear you unless you were actually in the room with him, I swear. Actually, it's got me kind of worried."
"Bah." Axel selected "Load From Save Point" and hastened back to a happy place where he could start fires and cause explosions to the content of that empty spot in his chest without getting in trouble for it. "He's flaming batshit insane about music, got it memorized?"
"Well, most of the time I've known him, he's only been crazy about music. You've known him a lot longer than I have - does he usually wear headphones to meetings? Or to meals? He's been pretty withdrawn recently too."
The redhead was caught off-guard, and missed a chance to violently obliterate some harmless object. "I guess you're right. There must be something eating him, or he's just gotten dumber in the past month. Wonder what s-"
Axel dropped his controller. Roxas's hair stood even more on end as a tortured wail rose from the Melodious Nocturne's rooms.
The Key of Destiny and the Flurry of Dancing Flames looked at each other silently. Axel didn't bother to pause his game; Roxas didn't waste time finding a bookmark. They both dropped what they were doing and ran to see what had happened to Demyx.
The musician's precious sitar lay abandoned on the floor. Demyx himself was curled up in a ball on his bed, clutching his head and sobbing uncontrollably. "He looks like he's lost his heart all over again," Roxas said softly. He raised his voice a little. "Demyx? Are you all right?" There was no answer from the distraught Nocturne.
"He wouldn't be having a major meltdown if everything was dandy, Rox..." Axel took a step closer. "Hey, what happened?" he asked in a louder tone than Roxas had used. Still no response. "Demyx? What's going on?" Not even a twitch to show he knew they were there. Axel walked up and touched his shoulder. "Come on, talk to us."
Finally, Demyx looked up and realized they were there. "Go away, Axel," he sobbed in a loud and oddly distorted voice. "I don't want to talk."
Axel sat down next to him. "Seriously, what's eating you? You haven't been on any big missions in the past few days, you can't have -"
"I don't want to talk, Axel. Go away." Demyx buried his face in his pillow.
"Demyx, you have to talk sometime..." Roxas said. "A regular bad day couldn't make you scream like that; there must be something seriously wrong." For all Demyx responded, he might as well not have been there. Roxas turned to Axel and shook his head. "I don't think we're going to get anywhere."
Axel and Roxas jumped as the door slammed and locked. Demyx didn't so much as blink. "At least I got here ahead of most of the rabble," Zexion said disdainfully. "And what, exactly, are the two of you doing here?"
Roxas stepped back defensively. "We wanted to see if he was okay," Axel said. "What's wrong with that?"
"Of course," the Cloaked Schemer sneered. "Now that it's blatantly obvious he's not okay, everyone and their Heartless wants to make certain he is."
Axel drew back a little. "Well, then, could you in your infinite wisdom tell us what's wrong with him?" he asked challengingly.
Zexion didn't answer. He walked over to where Demyx was still sobbing quietly into his pillow and withdrew a pencil from his pocket. Holding it no more than an inch from the other man's ear, he abruptly snapped it with a noise like a pistol shot, making Axel and Roxas nearly jump out of their skins.
Demyx didn't react.
Zexion pocketed the broken pencil. "Now do you understand?"
Roxas saw the light before Axel did. "He...can't hear at all, can he?" he said softly.
Zexion shook his head. "His hearing began to fade mysteriously months ago. Four and I were the only ones who knew about it - Four because Nine came to him in hopes of a cure as soon as he realized what was happening, myself because I happened to be in the laboratory one day, overheard their conversation, and wouldn't be satisfied until I had the whole story. He swore us both to secrecy - he wanted to pretend everything was normal as long as possible. He even taught himself to read lips, I believe, so he could carry on a conversation and pretend to hear what the other person was saying perfectly well. When his hearing loss became so severe not even lip-reading could carry him through, he took to wearing headphones and blasting loud music day in and day out to conceal it. He did admirably well - clearly, not even you two suspected anything." The Schemer sighed heavily. "But there was one eventual loss even he realized he could never compensate for. I believe tonight's breakdown originated when he finally realized he could no longer hear his own music."
"...Oh," Axel said in a very small voice. Music meant more to Demyx than it should have been possible for anything to mean to a being without a heart, and now he'd lost that forever. "I...can't imagine what that would be like," he added, but some small part of him that remembered how to love and what it was like to have a heart said It would be like watching someone you love die slowly in front of you, and It would be like having your heart torn out over several months.
Roxas slowly walked over to the grieving musician and tapped his shoulder. When Demyx sat up, he received a comforting hug. "I'm sorry," the younger Nobody said, making sure the other could see his face clearly before he spoke.
"It's...okay," Demyx replied. The strange, distorted sound of his voice didn't seem so strange now that they knew he couldn't hear himself speak. "It's not your fault. I should be sorry."
Axel put an arm around his shoulder. "Why didn't you tell anybody?" he asked, as soon as Demyx was facing him. This'll be strange, having to make sure he can see you before you talk to him...
Demyx shook his head. "I didn't want anybody to know. I hoped...I hoped it would get better...somehow..."
"It's not gonna get better, is it?" Axel muttered, turning his head so Demyx couldn't see.
"Not likely," Zexion said.
The redhead rounded on the slight Schemer. "What about you? You don't seem to be in a hurry to help - or are you just here to spit out some bullshit about how we can't feel anything because don't have hearts so he can't possibly feel like he's just lost his all over again?"
"If I believed that would do some good in this situation, by all means, I would. However, I'm reasonably certain it would do substantial harm."
Axel was not in the mood to listen to academic blather. "Then what are you still doing here?"
Zexion looked pointedly at the door, which was rattling slightly under a nine-sided assault. "Imagine if the entire Organization barged in here at once. What would that do to his mental stability? He may not even realize he screamed; he certainly wouldn't expect everyone else to storm his room demanding to know why. We'd be lucky if the entire castle was flooded out." Demyx was looking up at him, trying to puzzle out the conversation, though he could only see Zexion's face and missed Axel's part entirely.
"I wouldn't flood the castle," the musician said loudly. "I'm not...angry..."
Axel stood up and waved at the window, drawing Demyx's attention to the driving rainstorm outside. "You might anyway."
The Nocturne shrank back a little. "...Oh...I didn't know I was doing that." He reached for the sitar and played a short, flawless melody, and the rain immediately slackened. But as soon as he set the instrument down, his face crumpled again and he began to cry.
"What - wait..." Roxas sat down on the bed and put a hand on Demyx's shoulder. "How could you play like that? If..."
"I remembered how. I remember what notes to play - how it should sound..." Demyx shook his head despairingly. "I just wish I could hear it..." he wailed. "But I've lost it...I've lost it..."
Roxas tapped Demyx's shoulder again to make sure he had his attention. "Lost what? The music?"
"It was everything I had..." Demyx curled up on the sheets again, closing his eyes and shutting out the world.
The rain was intensifying again. Axel stared at Demyx's stereo - he didn't want to think about how much or how long he'd saved for that sound system, but it was a beauty. Even the Flurry, no audiophile himself, could tell at a listen - it was something a truly dedicated lover of music would give their eyeteeth just to drool over.
All that investment. All that care. All that...screw it, all that love. Wasted.
He sighed and idly started it up. The beat immediately came pulsing through the speakers, hard enough to make them vibrate. Roxas and Zexion both started as the music began, but the stereo's owner - who'd poured his nonexistent heart into music - couldn't hear it.
Like existence hasn't pissed on us enough already. Axel leaned on one of the rattling speakers and listened.
"Don't you wanna go for a ride, just keep your hands inside and make the most out of life - now don't you take it for granted..." "This is How a Heart Breaks" wouldn't necessarily have been Axel's first choice of song, but it fit this situation, he thought morosely.
"Life is like a mean machine, it made a mess out of me, it left me caught between, like an angry dream I was stranded...I was stranded..." Didn't it just make a mess out of you. The music was pounding out - his hands were starting to feel kind of strange from the vibration. Leaning on the speaker like he was, he was feeling the music almost as much as hearing it.
Feeling it... not hearing...but still feeling...
Axel suddenly grabbed Demyx's arms, hauled him off the bed, and put his hands against the speaker.
"And I'm steady but I'm starting to shake...and I don't know how much more I can take..." Demyx's eyes widened as he realized what was happening.
"This is it now - everybody get down - this is all I can take - this is how a heart breaks!" The musician's lips soundlessly formed words as he pressed his entire body against the speaker, as if he was trying to absorb the music into his skin. "Take a hit now - feel it break down - make you stay while I wait - this is how a heart breaks!"
The rain didn't stop entirely; neither did the tears. But Demyx was smiling.
Zexion saluted Axel and went to unlock and open the door. "Thank you very much for guarding the door, Lexaeus - leave him alone, Ten, he needs some privacy - you'll hear everything you need to know later, Three - Eleven, make one move in that direction and I'm certain Eight won't need much encouragement to send your flower garden up in smoke -" The voices faded as the door closed again.
Once he was through the crush immediately in front of Nine's door, Zexion made his way to the library - it seemed likely that he would find at least one book on sign language. While he'd have to teach himself before he'd be any use teaching Nine, it would be easier in the long run than relying on Nine's ability to read lips and speak for himself. His speech defect would only worsen the longer it had been since he'd heard his own voice, and reading lips was more difficult than it seemed - Zexion knew that firsthand. He was still trying to puzzle out Nine's last few words before he left. The first part was fairly easy - Thank you, Axel. I can feel it.
The second part - well, it might have been It's like my heart, referring to the beat. But Zexion was reasonably certain the word "like" had nothing to do with it, and Nine had said It's my heart.
And perhaps he had only meant that metaphorically - that he had music to compensate for his missing heart.
Zexion wasn't the least bit certain.
The three men I admire most
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
On the day the music died.
AN2: Oh noes. Deaf Demyx is sad Demyx. D: Vexen will invent a hearing aid for him sooner or later.
The last verse of "The Day the Music Died", aka "American Pie" by Don McLean was my original inspiration - I imagined Axel, Roxas, and Zexion (the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost) surrounding a crying Demyx. But "the music died" made me think of Demyx dying, which he obviously hadn't in my imagined scene. So how could the music die? That's what I came up with. The song Axel randomly starts playing, "This is How a Heart Breaks", is a. a good song, b. appropriate, and c. possessed of a strong beat that makes my wimpy laptop speakers vibrate noticeably.
Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts and its associated characters belong to Square Enix and Disney. "American Pie" belongs to Don McLean. "This is How a Heart Breaks" belongs to Rob Thomas. This document is certified to be free of typographical errors by the author. However, she did manage to misquote the song the first time she submitted it. D'oh. (facepalms)