I admit, I was terrified. I can't think of anything that sucks worse than seeing a friend in a downward spiral - and now that I knew what the hell was going on, I realized he'd been in this spiral for months - and that morning, it looked like Demyx had hit rock bottom. He'd stopped laughing and smiling weeks ago, he only ate when Roxas or I forced him to, and now, he refused to even get out of bed.

The worst part is, I couldn't blame him. I'm not a musician myself, but if I was, and I went deaf, I'd go crazier than that.

I think I can safely say I have no reason to get up this morning. I'm not hungry, I know I won't have a mission, and I can't think why anybody would want me for anything, he signed to me before pulling the blankets over his head.

I pulled them back off. I outrank you and I told you to get up. Now do it or I'll set your sheets on fire.

Go soak your head. He sprayed me in the face with water.

I wiped the water out of my face as he replaced the blankets - it was seriously tempting to carry out my threat now. I took a few deep breaths, reminded myself that he was trapped in what was probably his personal definition of Hell and hadn't done anything to deserve it, grabbed a corner of the blankets, and pulled. Demyx squealed and clung to the bedsheets as he slid off the bed. It took him three minutes to untangle himself from the blankets once I got him on the floor, mostly because I was trying too hard not to laugh to help him. Not like he'd have heard me laughing at him, but it would have been mean anyway.

Thanks a lot, asshole. I can't catch a break with a net, can I?

Well...deaf musician. Obviously not. I don't even want to start that discussion, I told him, before untangling him the rest of the way. Breakfast time.

He glared at me like he was considering breaking my face. Does "I'm not hungry" mean something different to you than it does to me, or do you just not understand the idea? The temper was an entirely new development. Demyx used to be as bad-tempered as a candy bar. The old Demyx would already be finding this a little funny.

Then don't eat. Just show up and grab a cup of coffee or something and prove you're still alive.

I remembered about a second later that he didn't like coffee, but too late. He reminded me himself. I hate coffee.

Then get something else. I don't care. Though if you want hot chocolate, you'll have to make it yourself, and endure a certain amount of mockery on the side. Like getting razzed by Luxord was going to have much of an impact. Luxord didn't know sign language. But I was trying to stay casual.

It didn't work.He just went from angry to depressed. Axel...please stop trying to make me act normally.

Damn it, he had a point. Staying casual was just not going to work - there's no way to go back to normal when the whole foundation of your existence has just fallen out from under you, and trying to pretend there was wasn't doing him any favors. But it was hard, damned hard, to look at those sea-blue eyes and think the Demyx I used to know wasn't in there anymore. He had to be - I still saw little bits and pieces of him occasionally. And I liked him too well to give up on him, even if this depressing stranger who looked like him was all that was left. I just shook my head. You've probably had it up to here with Roxas and I complaining about how you're not the same anymore. Normal's changed. I just want to keep you alive, got it memorized?

Demyx looked like he wanted to walk off a bridge - though what harm that would do to someone who could probably grow gills on command, I have no idea. If I'm not the same, why do you care?

For the life of me, I had no idea what to say to that. I did have some idea what to do, though - go get backup. I portaled down to the kitchen. "Hey, Roxas...a little help?"

Roxas sighed and pushed away the breakfast he'd apparently only barely started. "What's he doing this time?" No need to ask who "he" was. There was only one possibility.

"Not a damn thing. Including get his ass out of bed."

He gave me a suddenly fearful look. "Please tell me he's just tired." It seemed a lot better than the alternative, which I was afraid was the truth: Demyx had finally given up on existence.

"I don't know what's going on in his head. But I'm not letting him skip breakfast again, got it memorized? Come on." We portaled up to his room together. Demyx was curled up on the blankets I'd yanked off the bed with him, apparently not even bothered to put his bed back together to sleep in. Roxas grabbed one arm, I grabbed the other, and we pulled him onto his feet. He just stood there, looking stunned.

You haven't totally changed - Demyx will probably always be surprised that someone cares, Roxas signed. Silly of him. Then we dragged him down to breakfast between us. He struggled, but he wasn't kicking and screaming - I thought that was a good sign. Meant he still cared.

Seriously, you two, I would like a little privacy every so often. After this morning, when he couldn't even be bothered to wake up, Roxas and I were reluctant to leave Demyx unsupervised for too long. Up to a point, he hadn't minded. We were past that point.

Are you sure you're going to be okay?

He rolled his eyes at Roxas. Yes, I'm sure.

Fine...We stood up. We'll be back in time for lunch. Demyx shook his head and pulled out the sheets of music he'd been working on for well over a week - Roxas had been helping him with his new composition, being a 'listening ear' who could tell him whether he sounded good or not, but it was Demyx's opinion that mattered, and Demyx still hated it. That worried me too - he'd always been a gifted composer, and he'd tried to keep composing after losing his hearing, but if he gave that up, that was it; the old Demyx would be completely dead. Roxas and I went back to his room and killed some time with his PS3. Roxas kicked my ass. He usually does, when we use his console. But it was still fun enough to distract us both for a while.

Someone cleared their throat. I looked at Roxas, but he was looking at me. Then we both looked at Zexion, who had suddenly appeared in the doorway. "Um...hi. Is there something you need?"

"Yes. Four believes he has created a device which we hope will restore at least part of Nine's hearing."

Once we worked our way through that sentence, Roxas and I spent the next few minutes yelling and cheering and high-fiving and exchanging man-hugs and shoulder punches. Zexion cleared his throat again. "I emphasize 'may' and 'we hope'."

My face probably fell a yard; I know Roxas's did. "If you're not sure it's going to work, why tell us about it?"

"Let me rephrase that: we're very hopeful. Four was working from plans for similar devices known to be beneficial in cases of sensorineural hearing loss."

Roxas figured out what he was saying before I did. "Meaning...he made something like what's worked before for other deaf people."

"That is what I just said, yes."

"And why did you come here to tell us about it?" That part was still confusing me, especially since he'd interrupted just when I was starting to win for once.

"Support. He'll need some, whether this works or not."

"So, you want us to be there when he tries it out for the first time?" It seemed as good a guess as any.

"If you would." Well, why wouldn't we, but I didn't ask that out loud. The three of us just portaled up to Demyx's room.

And we all stopped dead. Because deaf or not, Demyx was playing the most beautiful and awful piece we'd ever heard. It was - I can't describe it without using the word "heart". Heartrending. Heartbreaking. A long, musical cry of despair. He'd told me before that losing his hearing was like having his heart right in front of him in a glass jar he couldn't open. I thought I understood then. I really understood now. That's what the music did - explained all the feelings of hopelessness and grief and loss of something so vital that was still so close to you in a way that not you not only understood, but felt. Even if you weren't supposed to feel.

Roxas was in tears by the time it was over. Zexion looked like he'd been hit with a brick, which was about how I felt. I think I understand now, I told Demyx once he actually looked up and saw us. He looked a little embarrassed, like we weren't supposed to hear that.

While Roxas and I tried to get our heads back on straight, Zexion went and talked to Demyx. The two of them portaled away, and a few moments later, the two of us followed.

It was my idea to hide someplace Demyx wouldn't see us, but he'd be able to hear us - presuming whatever Vexen had worked. I also had the idea to start singing, though I didn't make Roxas join in - his singing voice is even worse than mine. I thought it would be appropriate if the first thing Demyx was able to hear was music of some sort.

Why "Molly Malone"? I still can't tell you.

"In Dublin's fair city, where girls are so pretty, I first laid my eyes on sweet Molly Malone, as she wheeled her wheelbarrow -"

"Eight, what in Kingdom Hearts's name are you doing?" Apparently Vexen didn't like my singing. But then, Vexen doesn't like my existing.

"I'm singing! - through streets broad and narrow, crying 'Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh! Alive, alive, oh, alive, alive, oh, crying 'Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!' She was a fi-"

Zexion was rolling his eyes, but he was in front of Demyx, signing to him, and didn't want to give the game away by saying something. Roxas was rolling his eyes, too, and shaking his head. And he was in the back room with me, where Demyx couldn't see us. "Axel...I've gotta ask, why?"

"Because it seemed appropriate. Quiet, please. She was a fishmonger, and sure 'twas no wonder, for so were her mother and father before, and they each wheeled their barrow through streets broad and narrow, crying 'Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!' Alive, alive, oh, al-"

"Appropriate for what?"

"So Demyx can hear it! Now shush! Alive, alive, oh, crying 'Cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh!'" Vexen was finally handing his creation over to Demyx, and Zexion told him how to put it on. I just kept singing. "She died of a fever, and no one could save her, and that was the end of sweet Molly Malone, now her ghost wheels a barrow through streets - shit, catch him!"

Yes, as soon as he had the first hearing aid on, and heard me singing, the first thing Demyx did was pass out. If Vexen hadn't been standing right behind him, he'd have hit the floor. Roxas and I promptly ran up to help - no point in staying hidden anymore. Zexion shook his head. "Face went white, eyes went huge...body went limp."

"Apparently, they work," Vexen said dryly.

"They? As in plural?"

"Yes, I created one for each ear."

I nodded. "Well, that does seem like a good idea, I guess..." Demyx's eyes were starting to open. "Okay, I think he's coming around now." He blinked at me in confusion, and I took him off of Vexen's hands and helped him sit up. "Way to faint, idiot."

Apparently it was taking some time for the revelation to filter through. I fainted? What? he signed, as if he was still unable to hear.

Roxas laughed. "You don't need to sign anymore - talk!"

"And you may wish to put the other hearing aid on." Vexen handed it to him, but his hands were shaking so badly - do you blame him? - he came close to dropping it more than once. Eventually I just took it and put it on his other ear for him.

"Yeah, you fainted," I explained to Demyx. "According to Zexion, as soon as you got that hearing aid in and heard me singing, your face went white and your eyes got huge for a second, and then you just went limp. I was behind you the whole time, so I couldn't see your face, but I saw you just sag and topple over. If Vexen hadn't caught you, you'd have fallen right off the table." I thought for a moment. "And - sorry about that song, but I just couldn't resist, no matter how awful my voice is. Did you pass out just from the shock of being able to hear or from the sheer awfulness of my singing?"

He shivered a little and took a deep breath. I guessed shock. "Axel - your singing voice is not that bad. And right then, it was the most beautiful sound I'd ever heard." He kept running a finger over the first hearing aid; I don't think he even knew he was doing it.

"Thanks a lot..." I tried to think of some way to describe the look on his face. "You look like you just walked into a lifetime's worth of surprise birthday parties being held in a cave full of treasure. It's priceless. I wish I had a picture."

I heard a shutter click. The disbelieving grin on Demyx's face widened a little further when he did too. "Wish granted." Zexion was the usual unexpected photographer, but that had been Roxas's voice.

"Rox, where'd you get the camera?" He smiled at me and shrugged. I turned back to Demyx. "So how is it?"

Demyx looked like he might just pass out again. "I can hear," he whispered. "That's all I can think. I can hear. I...I...give me a second." Then he reached into the air, summoned his sitar, and started playing.

It was the complete opposite of the song we'd heard earlier. This one was - joyful. Ecstatic. Full of awe and amazement and delight. Like finally getting the lid off that jar and reaching in and taking your heart back. But it didn't make me feel the same way. I already felt like that.

Demyx was back.

AN: D'awww.

Okay, my real reason for writing this was to find out if I could actually write from a first-person POV. And I kind of wanted to explore what was going through other characters' heads during stories where I'd been sticking to a third-person POV and following one character exclusively, instead of bouncing from character to character - "The Sound of Music" had been written entirely from Demyx's POV. And I wanted more of Axel singing "Molly Malone". I liked the image.

Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts and all its associated characters belong to Square Enix and Disney.