Brothers on a Hotel Bed

but even at our swiftest speed
we couldn't break from the concrete -
in the city where we still reside.
---Death Cab For Cutie.


The doorbell rang.

Now, when the doorbell of the only occupied apartment on the third floor of a run-down old building rings, it is generally not wise to ignore it.

Unfortunately, the owner of the only occupied apartment on the third floor of this run-down building was not only incredibly dense when it came to protocol and wisdom in general; he was also asleep. Dozing on the equally-dilapidated faded blue couch in the lounge-cum-studio room, to be exact.

The doorbell rang.

One arm snaked up to rub his brow, then dropped back to hang uselessly by his side. This young man was going nowhere anytime soon.

The doorbell rang.

However, at the same time the microwave beeped: a heavy scent pervaded the air, a strong waft of curried chicken reached the nostrils of the sleeping, black-clad man. His nostrils twitched in response; the irritatingly cheery, repetitive sound of the age-old electronic doorbell went unnoticed. The youth rolled over.

A smash resounded through the small apartment, and the youth who had been simply rolling over instead rolled off the couch with a muffled landing thud and an unintelligible yell of pain. Lurching to his feet, he stumbled the twelve steps – he had counted, many a time – to the front door, with its splitting fake wood finish and its tarnished door knob. Grabbing the handle with one slim hand, he yanked it open.

And ended up on the floor. Again. With an armful of person.

There was a grunt, and the intruder gave a sour grunt as – he? It had to be a he, by the voice – placed his hands on either side of the flat's owner and shoved himself off. Baleful aquamarine eyes glared down into sleep-muddled green ones.

Demyx shook his head. And shook it again, trying to get rid of that damned ringing. His vision clouded, he stared up for a few moments, waiting for his mind to register what he was seeing. His hands scrabbled to find a purchase somewhere, anywhere, and settled on the hips of the being currently sitting astride him.

A fist crashed into his jaw.

"Fuck."

And thus, with that single expletive, Demyx Iglesias met Riku Hamasaki.

-x-x-x-

"So, who're you?" Demyx asked the – guy? He still supposed it had to be a guy, but that silver hair was really long and really pretty – at his dinner table, the one that was actually a coffee table seated in front of that couch where he'd so comfortably drifted off to sleep earlier. Well, they were eating dinner at it anyway. He saw no reason to be nitpicky about such insignificant details, like whether or not he really owned a dinner table. Or whether this mysterious stranger who he'd just offered a bowl of chicken and rice to was male or female.

Those piercing pale eyes looked intently at him again. Demyx pretended to not notice and instead forked a few more mouthfuls of chicken into his mouth. A guest was no reason to diet.

All was silence for a few moments more, and just as Demyx was becoming slightly unnerved, the youth – he must've been only two or three years younger than Demyx himself – moved. Green eyes blinked suddenly as a folded piece of paper was thrust between his nose and his bowl. Slowly, he put his dish and cutlery down and took the sheet; unfolding it, he scanned the words.

He found he had to read them through several times. Even then, he still didn't understand, and finally glanced up, ignoring a spike of honey-shaded hair dangling in his eyes to scrutinize the youth across from him.

Riku spoke up, at long last. "Read it?" He queried, with a hint of impatience.

Demyx nodded. "But I don't get it," he told him earnestly.

The silver-haired boy sighed, irritated. "Quote, 'Riku, your mother and I have decided that it's time to tell you… half-brother from a past marriage, here's the address… blah, blah… money to go find him… take your time, cheers! Love, Dad.' Unquote. Explain enough for you?"

"…Hell, no." He answered, still confused.

There was another sigh. "You're not particularly quick on the uptake, are you?"

Demyx wrinkled his nose. "Refrain from insulting your host, please. Especially if this is real and you're my – what, my little brother? What the hell."

"Half-brother. Or half-little brother. Little half-brother. Shit, that's confusing." Riku said moodily, looking down at his barely-touched bowl of chicken. "And not even that, maybe. My mum or whoever she is probably got around too. Worse than Dad." He snorted, gently blowing away silver strands.

Demyx felt a sudden pang of sympathy. "So, our dad sent you." He enquired gently, leaning forward impulsively, hands in his lap. The letter was lying on the table. "What's he like?"

Riku looked briefly surprised for a second. "Like anyone's old man. Tough bastard, honey sweet when he wants to be, a real jerk sometimes. Dad-like. Loves golf."

"What's his name?"

Now the look of confusion was overtaking the surprise. "You don't even know what your own father's name is?"

Demyx shook his fair head. "Nope. Mum never told me. D'you know what your mum's name is?"

The suddenly young-looking boy glared at him again. His silence answered for him. After a quick flurry of thoughts, the older rose, grabbing his plate on the way up. "Get it," he said, inclining his head at the bowl before his new-found brother. "Might as well stick it in the fridge if you're not going to eat it now."

It was strange, feeling the presence of someone pattering after you in the home you'd been accustomed to living in by yourself for so long, but Demyx quickly adjusted. Holding out a box of cling wrap to the other boy without looking at him, he pushed the dishwasher open with one foot, rolled out the bottom drawer with the toes on said foot, and dumped his bowl and fork in without aplomb. A second fork slid in with a rattle beside his own; he glanced up to see the boy turning away to contemplate the space in the fridge, no doubt wondering where to put his leftovers. Demyx grabbed it off him and shoved the bowl in beside a container of apple and blackcurrant juice, pushing the door closed almost as he did so.

He walked back out to the lounge room, again sensing Riku following after him, and collapsed on the couch. A minute passed before Riku sat beside him, keeping his limbs to himself unlike Demyx who was sprawled over more than half of the already small space.

"We're a mess, aren't we." Demyx said after a while. Riku didn't look at him, just kept watching straight ahead at where a television set stood, black screen enticing with all the well-known mysteries it contained. Demyx frowned at him and flung his arms over the back of the couch, sighing. "I mean, look at us. Two guys who are probably half-brothers and only just found out, one dad in common. One of us doesn't know the name of his dad. One of us doesn't know the name of his ma. You're freakin' miles away from home now – where did you live anyway, kid? – and I've suddenly got some new roommate for no reason at all. You probably haven't even finished school –"

"Have so."

"Okay, so you're just out of school, and you've got no clue about what kind of person I am, or me about you. You're like a little kitten thrust out into the big wide world by its owners. Given to me, of all people. Who the hell'd trust me with anything, let alone anyone?" He snorted again, blowing at his short gelled fringe. It had become a habit. "To top it all off, I've got a bloody bruise on my chin – why'd you do that anyway?"

Slim silver eyebrows snapped together and Riku turned to look him properly in the eye for the first time in over an hour. "You groped me." He offered by way of explanation.

Demyx gaped at him. "I – what? Okay, I don't know what kind of world you've been livin' in, kid, but not every guy you meet is a gay child molester. I couldn't see, okay? And some random just fell on me. What would you do if you were in that situation?"

There was no reply. Demyx scowled at him and felt around on the tiny table beside his armrest for the remote control. Finding it, he flipped the TV on and chucked it to the boy.

"You should probably get some sleep. It's past nine already, and traveling makes people tired. I'm going to bed too. Don't wake me up. We'll sort this out properly tomorrow." He flapped a hand at Riku and sauntered off without so much as a 'good night'.

Riku stared after him, then turned back to the TV. When the overhead light went off, he didn't blink an eye, just kept staring at the bright moving images on the TV screen.

He started about an hour later, when a navy blue woolen blanket landed on his head. Looking up to see a Demyx in white pyjamas, he blinked and locked eyes with him.

Demyx spoke first. "Don't get cold." Was all he said, face emotionless; he then spun on his heel and headed away again, presumably back to his bedroom. Riku wasn't sure; he hadn't yet been given the grand tour, not that there appeared to be much else to the apartment anyway. He watched the dark hallway for a little longer, then faced the television again, settling the blanket under his neck and ignoring his legs. The black-and-white light flickered eerily over his impassive features.

-x-x-x-

"Oi."

"Mm…"

"Oi. Demyx. Whatever your name is."

"…bugger off, Riku. Didn't I tell you yesterday not to wake me up?"

Riku, sniffed, straightening up and crossing his arms. "Whatever. The eggs are burning."

Demyx shot bolt upright on the kitchen chair he'd fallen asleep on waiting for the eggs to cook. "Shit!" He hissed, leaping out of the chair and grabbing the frying pan, flipping eggs at incredible speed. "Why didn't you do something about it?" He growled at Riku, who pouted disdainfully.

"I don't live here."

"You do now, apparently. Get some plates unless you don't want to eat today."

Riku rummaged through the pantry and returned with two plates, onto which he tossed the salvages of the morning's cooking attempt on two separate plates, patting each pile of black and white and yellow mournfully with the spatula. "Hope you didn't want 'em with runny yolk," Demyx commented, pulling the salt and pepper out of a cupboard below the thin bench.

"I did, actually."

"That's too bad. Do it yourself next time."

Riku eyed him grumpily. "O' gracious host," he intoned, but wisely chose to eat instead of saying anything more.

Demyx eyed him warily over his steaming plate, but also decided to stay silent, simply shoving the salt and pepper towards him, something Riku accepted with skeptically wide eyes – was he trying to make peace?

"Anyway," the host of the household said, after a while. "You're lucky I didn't just make you eat the curry from last night."

There was no response, but, glancing up, Demyx managed to catch a glimpse of the flash of a smile. The mere ghost, but it still felt rewarding. His lips curved upwards slightly as he looked back down at his fork, egg impaled on the end of it, feeling absurdly pleased with himself.

-x-x-x-

Demyx chuckled as the thump-thump-thump of following, rushed footsteps echoed down the hall. A small time later, a head popped over the balcony. Riku looked different from below, he mused to himself, laughing at the ridiculous thought. His face was almost completely shadowed by that long silver hair; the hands on either side of the head made the picture comical.

"Where are you going?" Beneath the irritated mask, there was a thread of panic. Probably thought he was being ditched or something.

"Steady up. What kind of family did you come from, kid?" The older man queried. He didn't even consider the possible insult involved in calling his 'half-brother' a kid, stripping off one black glove and rubbing his hand. The fingers were tender – he'd written scores of music last night, pages and pages that would never see the light of day. It was just something he did when something major happened in his life; and by anyone's standards, a brother showing up out of nowhere counted as something big. "What, did they abandon you or something? Or don't tell me you were so pampered you were never alone."

Above, Riku narrowed his pretty, good-at-looking-angry eyes in disbelief. "What – okay, you're seriously screwed in the head." He shook his own, and tried repeating his question. "Where are you going?" The second attempt was much more controlled. More anger, less worry. He found he was quite proud of himself. He had always been good at fooling people.

A snort sounded up the stairs from the floor down. "Bullshit." Demyx clearly didn't believe any of the bravado, something Riku tried to ignore. He could make anyone believe him. "You want to come?"

Riku nearly snarled. "But where the fuck are you going? That's what I've been asking!"

"Haha. Oh." Those slender fingers scratched at his skull for a moment. "Out to see some friends. You coming? If you're going to be staying here, which you clearly are since your parents obviously don't want you around –"

"Take that back."

"– taken back already, sheesh. Anyway. You might as well meet the people I hang with, or you'll never get to know the place."

They stared at each other for a moment, then Riku gave a terse nod and disappeared from the balcony. Demyx stood watching the spot he'd been, pulling on the leather glove again and shoving his hands deep into the pockets of his jacket. When Riku reappeared, he was still gazing upwards. The boy only took a quick look over to see if he was still there, then raced down the stairs.

For someone who was taller than him, he seemed strangely childish. "Sheltered life," the older of the two muttered to himself as they continued to the front entrance.

"What?"

"Nothing."

Riku smacked him on the back as they exited the building, and Demyx laughed. Demyx liked laughing.

They continued down the street, Riku firing off questions like an inquisitive little kid all the while. It was such a change from the dour withdrawn personality from before that Demyx didn't know whether to act amused, irritated, surprised, or all of them at once.

"When did you move into the flat?"

"My apartment? About… eleven months ago."

"Why?"

"Mum told me it was time to move out."

"Why?"

"What? So I could be independent, I suppose. I didn't get turfed out like you apparently did, if that's what you mean."

"Shut up. What's your mum like?"

"Like Dad, I guess. Tough. A real bitch when she wants to be. Look, why the hell are you asking this?"

"No reason. Why is it only your apartment that's occupied on your floor?"

"Huh? Let's see, I'm number nine. Well, number twelve decided to move in with number eleven, in some miraculous twist of fate. Never been so happy in my life. Twelve was a bitch."

"Mm. Do you work?"

"Yeah. A video store not far from here. Now would you kindly shut the fuck up?"

Riku pulled to a stop at that. "Oh, am I annoying?" He asked innocently, tugging at the hems of his sleeves to cover his hands.

Demyx sighed exasperatedly at the act. "Yeah, you are. Why are you asking all this stuff anyway?"

"Because I figure I should get to know you. And I have the right to annoy you, don't I? You're my big brother, after all."

Green eyes thinned at that comment. "When last night you were telling me we're only half-brothers at most, eh?" He asked his charge, tapping one foot.

"So? People change."

Demyx swore most unbecomingly under his breath after hearing that statement, kicking loose gravel into the closest puddle of mud. Tall, dull buildings rose up on either side of them, and only pigeons seemed to be around to witness this exchange of words. It was like a film noir. All blacks and whites and greys, except for their eyes and his own hair. A quick inspection of his reflection in a nearby puddle that hadn't been stirred up revealed that a streak of sunlight must have made it through the clouds – his hair was all lit up. Like gold. He touched a strand.

"What are you doing?"

He jerked his hand away from his hair, straightening up. He'd forgotten the boy was around. "What are you talking about? Let's go."

And they played follow-the-leader once again, through empty streets and past dark windows that gave no impression of being vacant – rather, it felt like the windows themselves were not just eyes, but they also had eyes of their own watching and trailing along after them. Both young men found themselves shivering more than once.

All was silence, until Demyx, leading the way, abruptly turned a corner and announced: "…We're nearly there."

Ten minutes of no talk had made the sudden sentence sound out of place. It hung in the air as if deciding what to do, and vanished as though it had never been there. Riku blinked, startled out of his reverie. "Where?"

"Where we're meeting my friends. Idiot." As if to prove his point, he raised an arm and indicated the milling black crowd out beside the half-pipe. A few more people huddled under the shelter a little further away.

Riku scrunched up his nose. "In a skate park? That's so… clichéd."

Demyx punched him in the shoulder softly. "Dear brother, don't let it fool you. There isn't a person here who can stay on a board for over a minute."

"Then why –" he began, and broke off as Demyx walked towards the group, calling greetings. "Never mind," he muttered, following after disconsolately.

The man looked happier than he had ever seen him before, though. So, okay, maybe a single night wasn't enough to judge a person's character on, but Riku had really got the impression that Demyx liked to fill in the silence with words, not laughter. Now, however, he seemed genuinely excited, much more animated than he was in the lonely, dull apartment and much more of a people person than Riku would ever have guessed.

"Hey, Riku!"

The words broke into his musings, and he looked up to see Demyx waving him over to a large square-jawed man and two smaller black-clad figures. They all seemed to be wearing the same long black trenchcoat, and he stifled his laughter as he walked over to them. They looked like they were in a gang, Demyx along with them, and Demyx's image certainly didn't fit that of a thuggish mobber.

"This is Lexaeus," Demyx said as soon as Riku was within clear hearing range, indicating the giant with the heavy features beside him. "And Marluxia. And Vexen." The two shorter men – at least, Riku assumed they were both men, although one of them seemed very, uh, feminine – nodded at him. Maybe Demyx was the only talkative one.

He became slightly unnerved when the giant kept staring at him, and raised a hand to fidget with his fringe embarrassedly. "Uh… hi?" The silver-haired youth eventually said with a false note of cheeriness, hoping to break the ice. The ice that was currently two metres tall and sporting an intent look of concentration directed at him. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea to come meet Demyx's friends, after all.

Marluxia bit his lip when Demyx elbowed him in the ribs, but got the message soon enough. "Uh, Vexen. Why don't you explain to Riku what our group's about? Well, anyway, what you do. I think that'll be enough. Oh, and take him over to meet Luxord. He'll like Luxord." He grinned brightly, latching onto Demyx's arm and taking him away to a lesser-used, smaller half-pipe. A cluster of backpacks sat at its entrance. Curious, Demyx darted away to look at the graffiti on the walls.

"Who's the kid? One of your new boytoys?" Marluxia could inject all kinds of cynical undertones into his voice, and Demyx winced as he spun to face the man.

"He's my little brother, apparently." He offered by way of explanation.

"Are you sure?" Marluxia asked skeptically, arms crossed and one eyebrow raised. "You two don't look anything alike."

Demyx laughed, a brittle sound. "Yeah, we get that a lot." He told his friend, his words dripping with sarcasm. "Because, y'know, we've been brothers for such a long time –" Suddenly remembering something, he spun and darted over to the pile of bags, picking out the black-and-yellow one and rifling through its pockets.

Marluxia watched. "Three things. One, if it's true, you've been brothers ever since he was born. You just didn't know it. Two, you've got bags under your eyes. How late are you staying up?"

"Up all last night writing music." Demyx rubbed a black sleeve over his face as though he could erase the purple shadows beneath his eyes.

"Wow. This whole brother thing is really getting to you; you only ever actually write music when you're frustrated. Anyways. Three, Larx'll skin you alive and feed your balls to piranhas if she ever catches you." he informed Demyx, a hint of amusement tinting his voice.

"Smartass. So don't tell her." He'd finally found what he was searching for; he quickly pocketed the two pencil-thin white rolls with a feeling of triumph before anyone else saw what he was doing, zipped the bag up hurriedly and slipped back to Marluxia's side where he'd been only scant moments before. "You won't tell, will you?"

The pink-haired man laughed. "And die myself because I didn't stop you? I won't tell." He said, ruffling the youth's hair.

"Good." Demyx smiled.

"That's not saying I won't turn you over if she figures it out, though. Better one than two, and better you than me."

Demyx pouted. "Got it," he sighed dejectedly.

Marluxia chuckled and laced his fingers around the nape of his friend's neck. "Now, how about we head back. You'd better go see Larxene or you might die before she even has the chance to kill you for stealing her stuff, and I'm supposed to tell you about a funeral."

"Funeral? Who'd she kill?" The mullet-haired boy piped up, interested. They began walking back. In the distance, they could see Riku gesturing animatedly to a tall blond; the gambler Luxord was showing off his card tricks again.

"Just the cat. Twinky. Well, she claims she didn't kill it, but we know different, don't we?"

"Twinky? That murderess! I loved that cat!"

"More than it loved you or life, apparently."

Demyx replied with a poking-out of his tongue and dashed forward to watch Luxord with Riku. Marluxia found himself wondering just which one was the elder; if indeed they were related at all.

-x-x-x-

"They're pretty cool. Your friends, I mean."

"I guessed that. You couldn't possibly be talking about my amazing collection of vinyl over in the corner there, the collection that you're currently crushing with your feet." Demyx responded dryly. "Who'd you like the best?"

"Luxord. By far. That Vexen guy is creepy. But I know how to do some tricks now, too."

"Agreed. About Vexen. And Luxord lives in number ten here, he's just never around. Don't know why he still rents the place, really. Whatever. What size are you? They look like clown feet!" Demyx sniffed a little, prodding one long toe protruding from a hole in a sock.

"Thanks ever so much," Riku said lazily from his spot on the edge of that worn blue couch. "They're big, I know. I got it already. But you know what they say about big feet…" He let the comment hang in the air, adopting a sleazy tone.

A pillow hit him in the face. It was moved to reveal Demyx's features. "Should you say that to your own brother?" He retorted, smacking him once more and ignoring the muffled yelp. "I'm not some crackwhore you can try your shitty pickup lines on whenever you want to get laid."

"Believe me," came the muffled answer; the boy had decided to cover his face with another of the numerous cushions, in case of future attacks. "I wouldn't be trying them on you. Don't you have any pretty girls around? My age? Your age, even? I'm not picky, as long as they're hot."

"Horny little bugger, aren't you?" Amusement leaked through the words.

"I'm a healthy seventeen-year-old. What wouldn't be normal," Riku rejoined, flipping himself onto his stomach, "is languishing here, day in, day out, without a woman to keep me company."

Demyx's face contorted into an expression of disgust. "Seventeen and sexing it up? Keep your pants on while you're here. I don't want any girls coming around telling me all weepy-like that you've broken their hearts. I'm sure you were such a lady-killer back at your home, too."

Aquamarine eyes flashed as Riku raised his head. "So now you're my dad?"

"Why does the conversation always come back to how we're related?" the honey-haired man grumbled, grabbing two glasses out from the cabinet the TV rested on. "The point is, my apartment, my rules. If I don't want this dump turned into a warzone then it's my choice. Not yours."

Riku growled deep in his throat and threw himself back down on the couch, ignoring the juice Demyx sat on the table beside him.

At length, Demyx finished his drink, and, with a parting tug of Riku's blue bedsocks, he left.

Riku didn't move.

-x-x-x-

The next day was a much lighter affair, what with preparing for the kitty funeral and all. Riku found himself chatting cheerfully to his newfound brother as though nothing had ever happened, joking and laughing. A late morning start felt like just the thing needed to forgive and forget.

"Tweed? I never figured you were one for tweed, Demyx."

"Shut up." The man grunted sourly, struggling to get all the buttons down the front of the old jacket done up. "It's for Larxene. Well, it's for Twinky. I wouldn't be doing this if I hadn't liked the damned scraggly thing, and if I wasn't so bloody scared of Larxene, either. She claims to have loved the poor thing, but I wouldn't have put it past the cat to have deliberately stepped out in front of that car, what with all the torment she put it through at home."

Riku cackled, buttoning his own dress jacket and smoothing the sleek black fabric down cockily. "She sounds like an honest-to-gods bitch."

"She's the number twelve I was telling you about. The one who lived across the hall."

"Oh. Well, yeah. She is a bitch, then."

"Yeah." Riku fingered the laces of the shiny shoes he held in his left hand, and looked over at Demyx. "You should get a new suit, Demyx."

"Never needed one before, really. And I don't waste my cash on them."

"So, instead you spend it on new CDs and shitloads of music you'll never see once you get it home?"

"Well, I like music. I don't like dressing up. Makes me feel funny."

Riku stuck his tongue out, smirking. "'Pretty, witty, and gay'?" He quoted humourously.

"What's that from?"

"Dunno. Suits, though. You should get a black suit. One with coattails. And a black silk tie, and a tophat and cane. And a hot pink shirt."

"Who's feeling gay now? Did you want a white cat to go over your shoulder with the ensemble? How about a feather boa?"

"Real men wear pink. Where have you been this past year?"

Demyx grinned and strummed an air guitar, feet far apart and knees bent. He'd finally given up on wrestling with the buttons, and was letting it hang loose. "Living in the eighties, baby!" He crowed.

Riku grinned, caught up in the moment, then frowned and walked over to where the older youth was now playing an imaginary riff, fingers moving wildly on the invisible neck. "Stand still." He told him solemnly, reaching out to catch both sides of the jacket in his hands. "I'll do it."

Demyx sucked in a deep breath and looked down, eyes wide. "Since when did you become my mama?" He asked the focused boy, hardly moving.

"Since you couldn't do up your own clothes." He popped two more buttons through their respective holes and stepped back. "There. Have you worked out how to zip your fly yet, or did you want me to do that too?"

Tension coiled thick in the air, unnoticed by the oblivious Riku. "…It's fine," stammered a flushed Demyx, after several failed attempts to get his voice working. "You're supposed to act like the bratty little brother, not the older one." Riku fluttered his eyelashes at that one, and Demyx coughed discreetly into his hand, stepping away.

"Well, geez." Riku stamped his foot, suddenly annoyed at being ignored. He'd been expecting a quick wrestle or something – that was what all his mates did back home, when they mucked around like he and Demyx had just done. It was the small things that reminded him of how different his situation was now – small things like that nagging little bit of disappointment in the back of his mind that told him that his older brother was not what he had expected. "Are we going?" He stomped grumpily to the door, and jerked it open, not looking back over his shoulder to see what Demyx thought. After yanking his shoes on each foot, not bothering with the laces, he disappeared down the flights of stairs.

Demyx ran tired fingers through still-wet hair, and followed after, nearly forgetting to lock the door behind himself.

-x-x-x-

The funeral service of small Twinky was a short one. No tears were shed, but an abbreviated eulogy was given in honour of the dead cat. Demyx suspected that Marluxia had simply based it off others he'd heard – from Zoolander, perhaps, or other more serious films. All in all, though, he did a fairly admirable job, and it was a content if dry-eyed crowd that dispersed back into the tiny house with its decorations of dead and dried daisies for refreshments.

Riku wasn't overly comfortable with the group yet, so Demyx made their apologies early and, grabbing his brother's sleeve, pulled him out the door after him. They walked home slowly, both with hands in their pockets, speaking in terse sentences about everything important and nothing relevant. When they arrived back at that apartment, Riku bundled himself into the pile of blankets that had become his temporary home. Demyx went to his room, and didn't come out. Riku heard a few dissonant chords of some strange composition or another skittering down the hall towards him a few times during the long evening that slowly became night. Each time it happened, he turned the TV's volume up.

It was sometime after four in the morning that the silver-haired boy's eyes closed against the bright lights of the television. From a place in the hall just beyond the door, his older brother shook his head and padded quietly back to his room.

The morning of the fourth day, before Riku untangled himself from his nest of blanket and pillows and long silver locks on the couch, Demyx yelled for him. He came, eventually, after a brief and undecided match with the hairbrush and a glass of orange juice, scratching at his blue boxers.

When he finally found which room he had been summoned to, Demyx raised a light eyebrow at his attire, but said nothing, just shaking his head and continuing to loot a large plastic container that must have been at the bottom of the cupboard, which stood open beside him. "You wanted your own room, I guess, right?"

A little uncertainly, the silver-maned boy replied. "Yeah."

"Good. This is your room now."

The boy blinked cutely, looking around in sleep-induced puzzlement. "In here?"

His half-brother pfted. "Yeah, in here. Not suitable for the princess?"

"…There's no bed."

"That's why you're sleeping on a mattress you will drag in here in five minutes from my room. There's a spare under my bed. I usually don't have people stay over, and this room was just an extra space for keeping my instruments and shit."

A yawn could be heard after this explanation, and Riku hastened to cover it up with speech before his head was bitten off. "You play music?"

Demyx rolled green eyes. It was a pretty stupid thing to say to someone who had ACDC memorabilia decorating the wall above the television, and a different instrument in every corner of the loungeroom. "Are you an idiot or something?" He asked. "I live music. I eat, breathe, sleep with, and talk music. You hear the shower running, you know I'm probably composing, or singing, or using that water to make some rhythm or another. Hell, I might even be dancing. I'll probably die and dissolve into a million billion semi-quavers or something. Did you somehow miss the record player stacked on the tape deck and the few dozen CD players lying around? I don't wear a 'Kiss the Cook' apron, either – mine says 'Back in Black'. With a lightning bolt and everything. Hair, too. A total throwback to old-school rock. I was playing last night, too. Seriously. How did you miss it all?"

Riku looked suitably shamefaced, although that may have just been a mix between non-awakeness and confuzzledness. Demyx, on the other hand, felt rather smug. It felt good to list all the things that made him him, sometimes. "So yeah. To answer your question, I play music. And this is your room. So get your bags from beside the couch – they stick out that far, I don't wanna know how long you were planning on staying here – and put 'em in here. You're moving in."

He rose and went to leave the room, but was halted by a hand on his arm. Glancing back, his gaze was caught and held by that of the adorably sleepy boy.

"Thanks."

"…Don't mention it. Bro."

They both smiled, just the tiniest bit.

-x-x-x-

Getting his own room was not without its cons, Riku had deduced. For one, he couldn't just sit and watch TV whenever he felt like it. For another, there was a pile of dead cockroaches in one corner of the room, hidden behind an ancient drum kit. He found himself fascinated by one of them; it had managed to crawl inside the biggest drum and was still in its death throes, something that had probably been going on for over a month now. Its legs were up in the air and twitching every now and then. He counted the seconds between each spasm, unaccountably spellbound.

Somewhat sourly, he recalled the last argument they'd had as he lugged the last of his bags into the musty-smelling room. Rocking back on his heels, he scowled.

"Fucking shitface. Now I won't even get laid while I'm here."

He spun, crouched still, when a laugh resounded, relaxing when he noticed it was only Demyx leaning against the doorframe. The mullet-headed man inspected his fingers. "So, some people really do talk like they look," he said, amused.

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Well, you just sounded like an arrogant asshole. Really fits your image."

Riku sneered. "And if I turned around and said 'I love you' instead?" He replied in honeyed tones.

"Then I'd add 'player' and 'gay' to the list – oh, wait, player is already on there. Well, wouldn't put the second one past you. How many straight guys have hair as long and silky as yours?" He couldn't resist lifting a strand and running it through his fingers.

The younger man knocked his hand away. "Fuck off," he growled, a clear warning. His eyes were a poisonous green, and Demyx figured he should probably listen. Grinning, he held his hands up in surrender and backed slowly out of the room.

As he walked away, the boy yelled after him. "Any 'I love you's coming from me will be purely platonic, anyway!"

Demyx shook his head ruefully, still smiling. "But you still love me anyway!" He shouted back. There was no reply, and he wasn't expecting one.

-x-x-x-

"So, how'd your final exams go?"

There was a pause in the scrabbling sounds coming from in the closet; a few seconds later, a frustrated face framed with silver strands popped out. "What, did you just pull that question out of your ass or something?"

Demyx shrugged. "Dunno. Figured, you said you're finished school, so I should ask. See if you've got brains or not."

Fine silver eyebrows knitted together in consternation, and the head disappeared back into the closet. "Fine."

"Fine?"

"Just, fine. Sheesh, 'ma'. What, were you going to pack some lunch and send me to another school if they weren't?"

A light laugh followed that comment. "Only if you promised to wear the uniform for me."

"Disgusting, perverted brother mine." Riku growled as a thought struck him. "Wait on. How come you're allowed to make these filthy sexual innuendoes to me – about me, more to the point – but I can't talk about sex with a girl?"

Demyx actually considered his query. For all of four seconds, that is. "Dunno. But I don't care, either. My house, my rules." The mullet-headed one strolled off, hands in pockets, whistling a merry tune and leaving his younger sibling sitting with a scowl on his face.

-x-x-x-

The ugly little digital clock read 2:41 A.M.; he thought for a moment that maybe he ought to go to sleep, but there were a thousand notes, semiquavers and minims and quirky little triplets that all wanted to get out of his head. It was strange that it was so busy in there – he thought he'd got on pretty well with Riku that day. Almost normal. As normal as it can be with a brother you've just met.

A creak sounded from his bedroom door; Demyx glanced up, squinting bleary eyes as he halted in his soft strumming. "Need something?"

The boy really did look bizarrely adorable in his little blue boxers. With a faint grin, he decided he liked seeing him look so exhausted. Unfortunately, whilst he made this decision he missed the muttered reply, and had to ask Riku to repeat his words.

"I said, 'so you really do play'." Riku said, sounding defensive in his sleepy state.

Laying the sitar down softly, he looked up again. "Yeah. What, think I was lying?"

"Not really…" he hesitated, evidently trying to find the words. "It's just, I wasn't really expecting you to be so… well, so good."

Demyx grinned outright this time. "Ah, honesty. Doesn't it feel good, Riku?" Ignoring the hackles rising on the boy, he picked his instrument up again and ran his fingers over the strings, feeling the chords form and resonate as much as he heard them. "But anyway. Why're you up this late? Or early. Either way."

"Why're you up?" Was the calm retort. Riku closed the door behind him and sat down against it.

Shaking his head, he focused on his music. Soon, he was lost in the melodies again, occasionally pausing to scribble down another formation of notes, sometimes even humming a few to himself. He was always mindful of his silent audience; the one that watched without a sound, covering a yawn now and then but never breaking concentration.

-x-x-x-

"…His name's Dave."

That spiky fair head popped literally out of the oven; Demyx had been trying to fish out a couple of chips that had fallen down the back. "Wha'?"

"M'dad. Your dad too, I guess. His name's Dave Hamasaki." Riku handed a damp tea towel to the awkwardly straightening man, currently cursing at the numerous small burns that decorated his arms after that attempt to clean out the oven.

"Oh. Um, okay then. So is your mum – the one right now – his second wife?"

"Fourth. Were you forgetting about your mum? And there was one between the current one and my actual mum, I think."

The elder scratched his head for a second, processing the sudden information. "…Wow."

"Huh?"

"So, you follow in your dad's footsteps, then. A player."

A punch in the shoulder responded admirably to his cheap shot. He took it with a grunt and strutted off haughtily, throwing the towel back over his shoulder. "Hey, Riku?" He called back, stopping as he remembered something.

The boy shook his head, dislodging the worn piece of wet cloth. "Yeah?"

"How does a road trip sound to you?"

"…What?"

Demyx smirked at the disbelieving look on his brother's face, and left the room. "Dinner at a restaurant tonight first, though." He let him know, not bothering to wait for the next expression. The last part of his comment came back in only just intelligible snatches; "Because roasts hate me."

"…no, really: what?"

-x-x-x-

Riku wore the suit again. Demyx had suspected he would. In fact, he had rather been looking forward to it. There was something about the younger boy in a suit, with that long silver waterfall bound back in a low ponytail, some of it left hanging about his face, and –

No.

Needless to say, by the time the second course came out – the seafood entrees this particular place served were their pride and joy, not that Demyx could see much amazing in a plate of oysters, although the garlic prawns were perhaps just a wee bit better than he could do at home – Riku was well and truly in the realm of insanity, falling somewhere between the laugh-your-face-off kind and the nearly-asleep-in-the-soup type.

"Hey."

The boy nodded sleepily, making his older brother snort and lean in close. "Hey." He said again, a little louder.

Still no response.

"Riku."

Silver strands whipped about his face as his head snapped up; his angular eyes were wide and startled. "What?" He retorted, rubbing one eye unobtrusively.

"Do you want to go home?" Demyx asked him, nursing the fingers that had been nearly crushed by Riku's solid chin. He knew better than to lean in that close to a nearly sleeping Riku from now on. "We haven't actually had our mains yet, but we can go if you want."

Riku looked at him, not speaking. The turning of the clogs in his head was nearly audible – audible and painfully slow. Sighing, Demyx finally grabbed one slim wrist and hauled the youth out the door, waving quickly to Aerith as she watched them leave with round eyes. He was probably going to have to make it up to her now; the restaurant was always busy and Organsmic hadn't really had enough space for them until he'd begged. Well, begged and promised to lend her his Bonnie Tyler record. He was regretting it already. What was supposed to be a brotherly bonding night, a chance to show Riku he was willing to make the best of their bizarre situation, had become a flop.

The brat knew it, too, he was willing to bet. It wasn't as if Riku had planned it – likely, the sudden travel and the rush that had been the last few days had finally got to him, not to mention getting up in the middle of the night to listen to him play just last night – but Demyx still couldn't help but feel the tiniest bit irked by the situation. As if to compound the indignation, the boy practically draped over his shoulder gave a tired giggle. Demyx glared down into the smooth silver head, trying out his mental powers and willing it to explode. It didn't work.

"…Sorry."

Demyx grunted at the sudden, sleepy apology, but said nothing.

"I mean. Um. It was a really nice restaurant and all..."

"…"

"Um…" The boy yawned widely, peering at his older brother. "I liked the lighting?" He finished lamely.

Demyx raised a quizzical eyebrow, then gave the mental equivalent of a shrug and started up the stairs to level three of the dilapidated apartment building.

-x-x-x-

The next morning – or afternoon, rather – when Riku awoke, Demyx was gone. Although he found it difficult, he managed to calm his rapidly beating heart after searching through the house a couple of times for his wayward brother, and eventually settled enough to find the bowl of pork and warm salad that had rather cleverly been left for him, not in the fridge, but on the small table before the television.

Chasing the last piece of pumpkin around the bowl as he sat cross-legged before the TV, watching the footage of some race without having it sink in, his ears pricked at the slight sound of the front door opening.

"Dem?" He called, not really expecting an answer. The door closed firmly, and Riku decided to finish off his food and dump the bowl and utensils in the kitchen before going to greet him.

He didn't really get the chance. The tapping of a foot alerted him to a presence behind him, and turning slowly, he met the brown eyes of a woman.

"Who are you?" She asked him evenly.

Riku, seated on the floor, hands full, could only gape up at her, mouth opening and closing like a fish out of water. He felt much like the proverbial fish right now, actually – she certainly looked like she knew what she was doing. She also appeared rather intimidating; decked in some sort of school mistress outfit, with a plain skirt and a white high-necked blouse that did nothing to hide her, ahem, attributes, however regularly-sized they may have been, and straight hair. He almost expected her to brandish a cane any second to complete the look, and he didn't even dare consider that in a kinky way. A key dangled from one hand – evidently she had normal means of access to the apartment.

Throat working, he finally put his dish to the side and rose, stretching out one hand. "Riku Hamasaki." He offered by way of introduction. He had to clear his throat once or twice to actually get some sound out of it.

She stared at him a moment before taking his hand in her own firm grip, eyes trained on him all the while. They were a disconcerting colour, all browns and yellows and with a tinge of hazel-green strangely like Demyx's, although hers were muddy freshwater to his oceans. "Jane Porter." She finally said at last. "I'm Dem's aunt. You must be the long-lost brother."

Something about the way she said it combined with her intense scrutiny made Riku flush bright pink. "Yeah. Nice to meet you." He muttered, thrusting both hands into his pockets. He knew he looked like a surly teenager, but he didn't really care.

A corner of the woman's lips twitched. "Charmed," she responded dryly. Arching one slender eyebrow at him, she moved away, picking up a sock lying only inches away and dangling it from her grip. "I see you don't clean up much," she noted with amusement in her voice.

Riku's face still burned dully; he ignored that and turned to head to his room.

"I'm just tidying up a bit!" She called after him cheerily; about as cheerily as Demyx on happy meds, to be exact. That scared Riku considerably, and he sped up.

-x-x-x-

Riku got bored easily. It was a cast-iron fact, and Jane was someone he'd never spoken to before, not to mention rather cute. Figuring she'd be infinitely more fun than flipping through Demyx's cassette tape collection – it was astounding, seeing how many different copies of the one Green Day tape the guy could amass in one place – some three hours later, Riku made his way warily back out to the kitchen–

–and was rewarded with the delicious scent of roasting chicken. Cursing the stale mothballs in his room to high heaven, he granted the busy chef with a glimpse of his beautiful smile.

It didn't work, much to his dismay. The woman seemed impervious to his charms. Miffed, he simply sat before the telly once again, grabbing the remote and flexing his toes.

"Lazy-bones."

There was definite amusement in the comment, and it rankled. "Tell that to Demyx," he said airily, flipping back and forth between two cooking shows for a while. "Are you his housewife or girlfriend, or something?"

There was an audible crack, and Riku nearly peed himself in shock when he spun to look at the expression of – indefinable horridness, by the looks of it – on the young woman's face.

Brandishing a carrot in one hand and a very, very large cleaver in the other, the petite woman looked ready to explode. "I. Am. His. Aunt." She said again, pointing the carrot – not the cleaver, thank the gods – at him sternly. "I have never been and will never be romantically interested in that boy. I would choose an ape over him. In fact, I just about did."

The boy wasn't sure whether to take that comment literally or not, and opted to ignore it. An ape? That was pretty… um, extreme. He himself didn't think his older brother was all that bad. Handsome, even, in a way. A big-brotherly kind of way. Familial pride, and all that. Yeah.

That line of thought was quickly broken when a parsnip chip landed in his lap. He blinked at it, confused.

"Eat it," the woman behind the kitchen counter said. "Is it any good?"

Not one to deny himself the free pleasures of life, he did as she said. "It's good," he told her in slight surprise after a few chews. She didn't actually appear entirely capable of cooking a good meal. Cleaning, ironing and the like, yes, but not cooking.

He was gifted with a snort behind his back. "Of course," two voices chorused, and for the second time Riku nearly wet his pants in a most embarrassing manner. What was with people and sneaking up on him?

Demyx waltzed into the kitchen, giving his aunt a quick peck on the cheek and dropping the plastic bags beside the microwave. "Aww, honey, you baked!" He said to her in an infuriatingly cloying voice.

She beamed somewhat beatifically at him. "And if you call me 'honey' again, sweetie-dumplings-pie, I'll cut off your left testicle and feed it to Tarzan's pets." She informed him happily, waving that cursed cleaver once again.

Riku couldn't stop the strangled sound that escaped the confines of his throat, but that was okay, because it seemed it went unnoticed.

Demyx grinned. "I know, but I can get away with it at least once, can't I?" He dropped into a chair around the other side of the bench from his aunt, stripping off his black jacket with his back to his half-brother, who felt decidedly left out all of a sudden. "So are you cooking that here for any particularly charitable reason – dinner for us, for example – or were you just taking advantage of the relative quietness of my place to use the kitchen?"

Jane huffed, blowing a wisp of hair out of her eyes irritably. "A bit of both. I'm taking half of this home. He's decided to look after one of the sick ones at home again, would you believe? And the place is already a menagerie. But this way, you get a clean house and a meal for the night, and I – well, I get the latter, at the very least." She appeared very focused on the leek beneath her blade.

"Mm." The young musician smiled fondly at a moment, before apparently remembering his brother was in the house. Swinging his legs off the chair and striding over him, he bent over and poked him square in the forehead. "Yo, bro. Want to play Scrabble or something?"

Somehow, Riku was rendered speechless, and simply gaped at his idiot of a brother. What horrible beast had gone and switched the person he thought he knew with someone even more immature and possibly brain dead? The cruelty of it all was too much. Opting to simply ignore him, he flicked a bit of his hair out of his eyes and leaned forward to watch the television, which was unfortunately on static – Demyx had chosen to stand in that irritating place that blocked the signal. Figures.

"Not talking to me now?" He asked, bending down more until he was just about level with his brother. Then he committed a travesty, something Riku would deny had ever happened if asked later. He flicked him on the nose.

Riku yelped, flinging the remote at him. The bulky handheld object hit his ribs and skittered across the floor, the batteries coming out and rolling away as the back fell off. "Fuck off!" He growled, glaring fiercely into those ocean eyes. He felt angrier suddenly than he had for ages.

Demyx in turn grimaced, automatically holding the place he'd been hit. "Little fucker," he snarled back, still crouching, moving in just a bit –

"Boys!" Came a severe voice. Breaking eye contact, they glanced to the side; Jane was standing there, cleaver raised in admonishment yet again. "Swearing?" She held first Demyx's, then Riku's gaze, waiting until they both dropped their eyes.

Demyx scowled when his aunt returned to her domestic work, stalking away like a cat with a wounded pride. This pent-up frustration was wreaking havoc on his nerves and manners both, it seemed. "I'm going out," he announced shortly, grabbing the leather trenchcoat draped on one of the stools.

"Oh, so soon, honey?" Came the syrupy response. Jane's arsenal wasn't just a large blade, apparently, although Riku had already noted that. "But you only just got back!"

"…Yeah, well." He flipped the apartment in general the finger and left with a definitive slam of the door.

Jane looked at Riku with her eyebrows raised, as if daring him to say or do something. He held his hands up in a placating peace sign and left the room too.

-x-x-x-

It was late when Demyx returned. Very late, in fact. Riku, tired of waiting out in the TV room, had moved into his bedroom. He moved not a muscle when an apparently pissed man shoved open his door, stood there silently for a minute, and turned. Once he had disappeared back down the hallway, Riku grabbed a shirt – black cotton, half-buttoned – and snuck out of his room and down the hall after him.

He found traces of blood on the carpet going down, and wrinkled his nose. The idiot had probably lost a shoe along the way and sliced open a toe. Drunk bastard. He ignored that niggling little wave that washed over him – why the hell would he worry? – and entered the kitchen.

Demyx was slumped against the wall, shoulders shaking. Trying to maintain his composure, the silver-haired youth wandered quietly over, coming to stand before him.

The seated man looked up blearily as a shadow fell across him; seeing a familiar face, he lifted his index finger in a half-hearted acknowledgement, not really wanting to do more and finding that his hand wouldn't move itself from his knee anyway.

"Afraid I was going to disappear in the middle of the night after a piddly little argument like that?" Riku joked in a lax attempt to lighten the mood, sliding down to sit cross-legged beside his brother. He didn't get a response, but that was to be expected. What was not expected, however, was when his brother's head found purchase against his shoulder.

Barely moving – barely breathing, for that matter – Riku tried to inch backwards, knowing that he wouldn't disturb the elder much anyway. He eventually gave up, however, when Demyx voiced a tiny sound of dissent, relaxing into this new arrangement. At least, sitting beside him, he didn't have to look at the wallpaper, which was an ugly faded peach-yellow shade behind him.

"Why did we argue?" Came a sudden query.

Riku blinked, nearly wanting to laugh. "Something stupid. 'Cause you flicked me on the nose."

The other's lips quirked sleepily into a lazy smile. "Ah, yeah."

"Why did you drink?" Riku asked him right back, remembering why exactly his brother didn't seem to have the energy to sit up by himself.

The answer was a while coming. "Mar'xia invited me out. Said we'd get pissed and forget our sorrows."

"'Our' sorrows?"

"Larxene… kicked 'im out. Happens all the time." Demyx responded in a drawl.

Riku didn't quite know what to say to that; nothing came to mind that wasn't ignorant, condescending, or both.

With a sigh, the sandy-haired man seemed to regain a hint of life, and reached into his trenchcoat pocket. Riku paid little attention to his movements apart from keeping out of the way of the elbows, until he heard the click of a lighter and glanced quickly across to see the man fumbling to light up a white roll.

Cursing, he rose and snatched up both objects, hissing when he touched the flame that quickly dissipated, and hurled both lighter and roll across the room. "Fuck, no." He snapped, fine silver brows knitted together as the other looked up in wide-eyed perplexity at him. "You're not fucking getting high right now. You're already off your fucking face, and you expect to make me sit back and take it?" He added in a low-pitched voice that rose with each passing second.

The man before him was pouting now, like a child who had just lost his favourite toy. He stretched a hand out forlornly towards the slight cloud of smoke that heralded the location of what was going to be his future source of enjoyment, as though he could persuade it to come back to his hand through force of mind. Riku almost pitied the sight, but kicked that outstretched hand softly. "Not happening," he told him sternly. He could hardly believe it. Pissed and ready to get high at the same time? After he'd been worried sick?

Except, he hadn't been worried sick. Or so he told himself, crushing the thought brutally as it struggled to reach his lips. He observed his brother's pathetic motions until they subsided and the black-clad man was flopped against the wall once again, then walked quietly over to the dusty record player. Touching the needle gently to the record inside – it read 'Eric Clapton – Greatest Hits' – and hitting a few buttons until a scratchy sound emanated and evolved into soft guitar chords, Riku ran his hands through his hair and wandered back to his brother. Sitting down, he found the elder's head once again came to rest on his shoulder.

"You got it to work," Demyx mumbled, sounding tired. Coherent, probably sober, but mostly tired now.

Distantly, Riku felt himself nod, pleased. "Yeah. Never used a record player before though."

"Thought so." The man's eyelids slid shut. "Didn't have the magic touch…"

With a soft snort, Riku leaned his head atop the other with an awkward sense of tenderness. "Whatever. Go to sleep, dickhead."

A 'fuck you' response may have come, but never entirely escaped Demyx's throat. Riku sat quietly until he drifted into an uneasy but dreamless state of sleep, barely registering the heartbreaking tones of 'Tears In Heaven' echoing through the small apartment.

-x-x-x-

"Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. Fuckity fuck fuck."

"You have a hangover." Riku could not have sounded more amused had he been watching a comedy gala.

Demyx glared into the comforting darkness of his folded arms on the table, willing it to be Riku's head and deigning not to answer.

"How bad is it? Does your head feel like it's going to split apart? Does it seem like you're going to throw up every couple of seconds?" Riku leaned in, grinning. "Or is my incessant babbling driving you insane and making that poor head of yours throb even worse?"

Groping about him blindly with one hand, Demyx found nothing save a plate of scrambled eggs to throw at the cocky youth. "Shaddup," he mumbled, bringing his hand back to massage his temples.

Riku smiled contentedly at the ceiling and its tiny spidery cracks. "Payback's a bitch," he murmured quietly to himself, leaning back against the couch a little. After waking up at some ridiculous cheery hour of the morning – seven or eight o'clock was not appropriate after last night – with his legs cramping horribly and his neck cricked, he felt perfectly justified in treating his wayward half-brother like that.

"Wha'?"

"Nothing." A more serious thought crossed his mind, and he leaned forward again, eyes stern. "You should go to the doctor's today."

That finally convinced Demyx to lift his head, wincing. "What? Why? You think I went out and slept with some drunk bastard of a stranger and got myself AIDS or something?"

"Pfft. You ain't that attractive," Riku told him airily, feeling a vindictive pleasure in the rather spiteful jab. "No, because you cut your foot. Where the hell's your shoe anyway?"

The sea-coloured eyes looked faintly uncomfortable. "I couldn't find it after I left Marluxia. He said he'd call if he saw it."

Right. Wisely, Riku chose not to voice his opinion. "Well, anyway. When did you last have a tetanus shot?"

Demyx sat bolt upright, face a comical mask of horror, collapsing to the table when a thousand hammers banged in his skull with the movement. "Fuck no. I'm not getting a bloody needle."

-x-x-x-

"I hate you." Demyx muttered, half an hour later.

"I know you do," Riku answered wryly. It wasn't that the waiting room of the local medical center was all that much of a happy place, it was just that there wasn't much funnier to observe than a glum Demyx, he was slowly learning.

"If I'd known you were going to call a frickin' taxi…" The musician left the sentence hanging with a bitter promise of threat.

Pointedly ignoring the girl across the room staring at him, dressed in yellow and sporting a brown bob and a wide-open maw, Riku thumped him softly on the arm. "You weren't going anywhere on that foot," he told him firmly. "Until we make sure it's not going to get infected, you aren't doing much at all with that foot."

"I'd use it to kick you right now if it didn't hurt like a bitch," Demyx informed him petulantly, shrugging down in his seat and kicking the leg of the glass-topped table before them with his good foot for emphasis. It didn't hurt last night, he caught himself thinking morosely and instantly stomped on the moronic thought with metaphorical steel-soled boots. That even sounded like a gay sex comment, he realised, and deep within his mind brought out the metaphorical bazooka at such a notion.

Riku's lips twitched. "I wouldn't have it any other way," he replied.

"Demyx Iglesias?" Came a sweet voice; both glanced up to see a tall, buxom woman with long black hair. "Right this way, please," the woman continued, trotting crisply away from them.

Demyx blanched rather unattractively. Rejecting Riku's silent offer of assistance, he pushed himself off the white leather and limped after the doctor. He couldn't be entirely sure whether his sudden urge to throw up stemmed from the hazy drinking binge of yore or his upcoming ordeal.

-x-x-x-

Exiting the doctor's room with a stinging but clean and bandaged foot and a promise of a checkup, Demyx frowned immediately when he located Riku, who was standing some distance behind a tall potted plant, gazing pensively at his phone.

After settling the bill at the counter, he approached the brooding boy. "Girlfriend dumped you?"

Aquamarine eyes narrowed at his jocular comment, but he simply shook his shaggy silver mane and thrust the phone into his pocket, moving toward the large glass doors.

-x-x-x-

Dinner was a sullen affair, not at all fun or a brotherly bonding session like Demyx was expecting or hoping for. Even his talented attempt at gourmet omelettes and the not-so-impressive chocolate mousse dessert didn't get much of a response. Eventually, Demyx sighed and pulled the remote from his preoccupied brother's hands after watching the same channel go by six times in the space of two minutes. "What is it?" He asked bluntly, settling himself in for a good long grilling, even propping his injured foot up on a pillow, thus making it hurt even more than it had simply lying still on the hard carpet.

"Mm?"

"Don't play hard to get, darling. " He teased. "You and I both know I don't like to be led on."

Riku snorted, but the faraway expression in his eyes remained.

Demyx heaved a great big sigh of discontent again, realising his generally laugh-provoking comment hadn't done anything incredibly important. Like, say, actually make his brother look at him. "If it's about last night," he began, "I'm sorry, okay, man? I didn't really mean it. And Aunt Jane, y'know, she always makes me kind of angry. So sarcastic and all –"

"It's not that." Came the quiet interruption; Riku's eyes were downcast, but at least there was none of that remoteness about him anymore. Rather, he seemed to be suddenly, painfully and awkwardly, in the moment.

Demyx didn't quite know what to say when he noticed that.

"Grandma d – Grandma passed away," Riku said eventually, throat hurting as though it had been rubbed raw. He swallowed convulsively, wondering if he was supposed to cry and pretty sure he shouldn't. He was also pretty sure that he wasn't supposed to refer to her as 'dead', even if that were the irreversible truth. What was the technical term for that, honeying the words and changing some around a bit to soften the blow, even though it was saying the same thing? He couldn't remember, and only just remembered that he perhaps ought to listen to the words spilling from his half-brother's mouth in an apologetic flow.

"–I mean I never knew her myself and I'm sure she was a great lady and all – how old was she anyway? – and I s'pose that makes her my relative too depending on which side she was on, and God I hate saying 'was' because it makes a death even worse, and was she on my – our – dad's side or your mum's? No, don't bother answering that, it's kinda insensitive of me to ask now, I should be asking 'are you okay' or some shit like that –"

"She was on Dad's side." Riku interrupted once again, still as quiet as before, smiling a little bit and wondering if he'd be thought of as a girl if he gave in just this once and sobbed into his big brother's shirt.

The few words seemed to have a considerable calming effect on Demyx, who opened and closed his mouth several times before clicking on to the fact that it made him look like a fish and was, all in all, largely useless expenditure of energy. "Right," he finally said, lamely. "So, um, I guess this means no road trip, then."

Riku frowned a little at that, remembering the earlier conversation with his tearful mother. "No," he said. "She… passed away a few days ago. The funeral's the day after next. They've been getting everything in order and want me back for it. I have to be there. And they said they want to meet you too."

The light-haired musician pushed away the tiny niggling thought of 'why didn't they tell you earlier?' and instead mulled over this new information. "So, instead I drive you there?"

"You can drive?"

Demyx smiled despite the sobriety of the moment. "Got a bike licence all geared up."

"…We're going on a bike?"

"Well, yeah. Luxord's motorcycle, to be exact. It's pretty classy. And black." He bit his lip at the connotations the colour held, but Riku didn't seem to notice. "Don't worry," he added hastily. "It's a full licence, seriously."

Riku sat chewing on his own lip absently, comprehending all that had just been told to him that day.

With a stretch, Demyx decided to leave him to it, standing and thumping him softly on the shoulder. "Don't stay up too late. And pack your stuff, looks like this little stint's ended for a while."

-x-x-x-

Despite the early morning start – seven thirty was too early for a growing teenager, dammit – combined with the night of hell during which he'd spent thinking rather morbid thoughts about what it was like to die and to have someone close to him die, Riku found himself possessed of surprisingly good cheer and spirit. In fact, there was something fun about sitting with all the bags packed and surrounding him on the couch he'd become so accustomed to while Demyx had just ducked across the hall to rap on Luxord's door and make a last-minute booking of the man's prized motorbike. A hasty phonecall had assured the two of them of accommodation in a not-entirely-shady cheap hotel only a few kilometres from the church the service was to be held at. Knowing it was going to be an all-day journey interstate, Riku pondered the merits of bringing along a sandwich or six.

It was, of course, while Demyx and Luxord were busy discussing the law of equivalent exchange or some such obscure point of philosophy, that Marluxia knocked on door number nine, marched right in since said door swung open so invitingly, and deposited a solitary shoe on the coffee table that Riku somewhat distastefully remembered eating dinner and, indeed, breakfast that very morning, at. He blinked once at the article of footwear and slowly looked up at the pink-haired man, who gave a wide-mouthed, mocking grin in a poor imitation of Heath Ledger in Ten Things I Hate About You.

"Shoe." The man said, pointing proudly.

Good boy. Admirably, Riku held back from actually saying the biting words, and instead settled for a blank stare.

"Where's Dem?" The older msn continued, peering at the bags around Riku as though the man in question was hiding in them.

"Over at Luxord's." The comment came out as somewhat of a retort.

"Right." Without another word, the melodramatic man spun on his foot and exited the room, leaving a quietly fuming Riku to sit in slight confusion.

Upon stepping into Luxord's apartment – Demyx had been lucky to catch him, by the looks of it Luxord was packing for yet another trip to some luxurious penthouse with a woman or four – Marluxia grimaced, dodged the stack of porn and poker magazines sitting by the door, and walked further in to where the sound of voices were louder.

Both of them stopped talking at the approaching footsteps, but completely dismissed Marluxia as a threat when they saw who it was and continued loudly debating the value of premium petrol over standard. Marluxia wasn't sure if he liked that, and took his own seat at the strangely average table-and-chairs set that served as the kitchen table. It wasn't like Luxord to stint on expenses.

Thus it was that Riku became increasingly bored while the three in the other apartment spent almost half an hour chatting. He was almost relieved when Marluxia ducked back into number nine, but quickly masked those feelings with a scowl which turned into curiosity when Marluxia pointed Demyx to his wayward shoe and left with a 'don't do anything' comment that Riku had no idea about. He caught the clinical observation that Demyx still looked shit-faced, though, and muffled a snigger.

Demyx pretended he didn't understand it, either, and instead hauled the bags downstairs, leaving Riku to lock the door and follow.

-x-x-x-

The smell of fuel was actually quite pleasant when Riku became accustomed to it, and there was something wholly enjoyable about hugging the warmth in front of him, his hair blowing constantly in his face and the skin on his face almost numb to the touch. By the time they stopped for lunch at a small roadside hotel, which appeared to be mostly a coffee shop with a few rooms attached, Riku had had almost enough of his deadened ass, however, and welcomed the chance for a warm mug of chocolate. They chose to sit on the floor around a small coffee table, no doubt an unconscious imitation of the style at home.

"What time does it start?" The elder asked suddenly.

Riku glanced up from the steam that was warming his nose. "Tomorrow… nine thirty." He said, looking back down. The silver bangs fell in front of his eyes, but he made no attempt to move them, instead leaving Demyx wishing he would.

Change of topic, then, Demyx decided. Whistling a merry albeit fragmented tune for a minute or two – The Fratellis somehow suited the atmosphere – he peeled off a glove and reached for the tiny sandwiches the waitress had just delivered with an especially friendly smile to Riku. "So, bro. Remember that night I took you out to dinner?"

"Yeah…" The boy got a bit of a tiny smile, remembering the lovely proprietor and how tasty some of it had been. He couldn't remember much, but Demyx, dressed up and concerned about him, was definitely standing out in his mind foremost.

"Nn. Do you remember what you said?"

Those alabaster cheeks tinted with red. "Maybe… no?"

"…You liked the lighting of the restaurant." Demyx said levelly.

Riku didn't meet his eyes, fidgeting just a bit with the tassel on one of the couch cushions.

The elder sighed, raking fingers through the cropped hair on his head. "Could you have said anything lamer to prove that you couldn't pay attention at all?"

"In my defense, I wasn't feeling too well," Riku grumbled.

"Really." There was an iron undercurrent of unsympathetic disbelief in the single word. "You were giggling, too." Demyx added in a casual air, quashing a grin as silver hair whipped across the other's eyes when the outraged boy flung his head up.

"I was not!"

"Was too."

"Not!"

"Too!"

"Not!"

Demyx gave up and collapsed in a fit of laughter. "You are such – a – kid!" He managed to choke out, folding his arms behind his head on the floor in an attempt to breathe easier.

Riku looked thoroughly affronted. "Am not," he protested, and ducked behind his fringe, turning a merry cherry red as another hoot of mirth sounded from the amused Demyx.

"You did it again!"

A loud throat-clearing brought their attention to the waitress, who looked unusually stern. Demyx soothed her ruffled feathers with a three-dollar tip for the food.

-x-x-x-

Back on the road was even better than before; grey skies stretched above, roiling with the wind. It felt like they were invincible. Demyx even accelerated in jest at one stage, telling Riku that he'd try to take off and they could fly. Riku didn't even tell him it was childish, just waited for him to slow down until he could stand up slowly, ever so slowly, with his arms outstretched, watching the endless expanse of empty road and wishing it would continue forever. He could forget his worries in a world like that. But mortal concerns would ever keep him tied to the pavement securely, and he knew it, and so he enjoyed what he could at the time, until they came to the outskirts of a country town, approximately six thousand people, and headed to the motel.

-x-x-x-

The beds were grey lumps, by the looks of them. A dull wool blanket covered them with white-ish sheets beneath, and Riku swore under his breath, eyeing the floor and wondering which would really be better. He didn't stop his appraisal even when Demyx breezed past him, clapping him over the shoulder and shoving him forward.

"Cheer up, mate." Demyx said cheerfully in the dimly lit room. "It's not that bad. One night, that's all."

Riku shuddered. One night on one of those beds was far too long. Opting for hopefulness, he tossed his pack beside one of the beds, and pulled out a pair of boxers. "Fine then. G'night." Somehow, it wasn't really how Riku had imagined his last night in the company of his half-brother, but it all fit anyway as he quickly got changed, pulled his hair back from his face and squeezed his eyes shut as he walked back into the room to find Demyx changing into his own pair of boxers. He decided on touch and felt around with a wrinkled nose until he reached his bed, pulling the sheets back clumsily and only opening his eyes when he was under his covers.

Demyx didn't go to bed for a while longer, instead pacing and making strange little scratchy sounds as he moved about the bare room; Riku could guess what movement belonged to which noise and surprised even himself when he thought he accurately identified such an odd thing as his brother crossing his legs even while imprisoned in the odd light-dark state of his shroud. Pulling the sheets back to get a small, refreshingly cool whiff of air from the room instead of the warmer air stagnating beneath the blankets, he blinked as Demyx flicked the light switch and climbed onto his own bed with a sigh in the sudden black.

And then everything was quiet in that irritatingly distraction-filled silence night provides when one decides they must sleep but they really don't want to. And amongst all the cicada calls, croaking frogs, faint, faint sounds of occasional distant traffic, weird little creaks and uneven breathing with an infrequent cough or sneeze, Riku couldn't take it anymore. Trying not to think of anything except how horribly difficult it was to find a decent expanse of flat mattress on his bed or how the air got kind of stuffy under the blankets and getting continually sidetracked by things like Demyx's sighs and how he was starting to sweat and shiver at the same time because his toes were freezing but his belly was hot, he eventually said, just for the hell or it, "I'm cold."

Somehow, it said and didn't really say anything he'd wanted it to.

A sigh, in the darkness, like an escaping thought put into sound. "Come here." It wasn't a command; just a simple request phrased as a statement. Without a word the younger slipped out of his tiny bed and slid under the sheets Demyx held up.

It was much more comfortable, whether because of him somehow choosing the less bumpy mattress or because of the warmth of another person. Riku was careful to keep a slight distance from the body the heat emanated from, out of some awkwardly ingrained respect for personal space or something else. Then he heard another sigh, from behind, and two arms encircled him and pulled him close. Suddenly, Riku could feel muscles beneath the warm, dry skin, and his own heart hammering. He squeezed his eyes closed, realizing all too painfully that his brief not-quite-reunion with the man he'd come to be so close to was going to end soon.

Demyx heard it, heard the dry sob that passed as a shuddering extended breath, and carefully pulled and cajoled with his hands until the boy was facing in towards his chest. The glittering aquamarine eyes of his half-brother gazed up at him, brilliant even in the night, and the mullet-headed musician felt his heart wrench and hugged the boy in his arms fiercely.

And Riku went along with it, and when he realised he was closer than ever to him, tilted his face up blindly and pressed his lips to Demyx's in a completely unconscious, unplanned, unexpected move. The shock the older man felt soon turned to a blind frenzy of pleasure seeking as the two landed kisses wherever they could on each other in the dark of the dingy hotel room.

Wandering hands left no part of either body unexplored, yet when warm fingers caressed a growing arousal Riku had to bite back a yell, arching into the pressure and leaning his forehead hard against Demyx's chest. He could hardly make out the rushed, soothing words coming from the musician's mouth, didn't want to when he got harder and the stroking got faster.

Fumbling, still in the dark, and slightly slippery hands slid his boxers down to his knees, and the silver-haired boy didn't think anymore as he touched and received like in return. He turned his face back up to capture those lips again, eyelashes fluttering with the intense pleasure but never opening them – out of some instinctual, somewhat ridiculous desire to keep them closed lest he spoil the moment, and moaned breathlessly as his kiss was returned with passionate fervour.

When the more solid body shifted suddenly to slightly above him and their arousals met, everything even remotely related to coherent thought packed its bags and fled through the window. With a heaving breath he ground up against the pleasure, so extreme it nearly stung, wanting more, more, until Demyx grabbed his hips and pulled him up.

And when it came to preparing him he couldn't even form words, clutching at the sheets beneath his fingers and the ones draped over their bodies, too, and pressed back into that probing pain and the pleasure that became more powerful with each increasingly deeper thrust. And when those fingers were replaced with something hotter, throbbing and huge and fuck but that would never fit –

And they fell into a rhythm of sorts, the kind that had no set pattern but went something along the lines of fast, furious thrusts and indescribable pain and raw pleasure and then switched to something slower, and Demyx was leaning his face into his shoulder, sobbing with every strong thrust and his hands were on his chest and Riku, with his head thrown right back and turning, still without opening those beautiful, passionate eyes, found himself murmuring mindlessly, half-sucking, half-biting any patch of skin he could reach until he finally found that hungry mouth again.

Raw fucking, a give and give and no take at all, and cruel pain intertwined with even crueler pleasure; nothing gentle about it at all except for the feelings that both were trying desperately to show and hide at the same time.

Then suddenly, it was all over, with a mindblowing end in an orgasm that made Riku confusedly wonder later just how he'd thought his previous girlfriend was good. And although he most certainly could hold himself up, he felt Demyx collapse on his back, pulling out with a gasp and a great deal of wincing on Riku's part, and he fell to the mattress too, ignoring the sticky wet patch beneath his belly and listening to their shared pants.

When those harsh breaths slowed to a more dignified pace of breathing, and the body that was on top of him shifted to the side and wrapped comfortingly protective arms around him, Riku finally opened his eyes, which could make out only faint outlines; the table in the centre of the room, the white expanse that was his own bed with the covers thrown back.

The breathing at his back became the sound of sleep, and Riku followed suit, worn out emotionally and physically, sliding his eyes shut and at last letting his consciousness slip away.

-x-x-x-

The family members were supposed to be the last to arrive at the official service, but Demyx and Riku were there much earlier than even most of the guests. Both had awakened at around dawn, and, finding the situation awkward, had opted for silent, separate showers and a hasty dressing. They skipped breakfast, and Demyx quickly paid the bill for their night's lodgings before slipping away to where the silver-haired boy was waiting at the sleek shiny bike. The trip was brief, and no conversation was even attempted, until Riku made the mistake of trying to sneak his hand into Demyx's gloved one in a futile request for comfort.

Demyx pulled back as though that small touched burned, but took the hand in a more solid grip and dragged his brother off further into the grounds. They were beautiful grounds, an expanse of green grass dotted with dark willow trees.

"Fuck you," Demyx sighed, running gloved fingers through his hair and casting a furtive glance about before repeating the same gentle gesture on Riku, who subconsciously leaned into it, eyes closing momentarily before snapping open. "You know why this won't work out. We can't even tell anyone, can we?"

Riku glared at the ground, knowing he was acting like a little kid deprived of his favourite toy but unwilling to do anything about it. "No, I don't," he said stubbornly. "I don't understand it at all."

Demyx spread his hands in a placating manner, before realising the motion was useless and dropping it. "You do. So would you just give me a hug and let me get out of here?"

Riku met his eyes for the first time in ages; they were wide. "You're ditching me?" He cried, grabbing his elder half-brother's arm. "You're fucking around, right? It's my grandmother's funeral – yours too, if you think about it – and you're just going to run away?"

He got an uncomfortable shrug in reply. "Well, it's not like I knew her or anything…" The musician mumbled, stepping back automatically.

Riku suddenly realised he had nothing to say about it. Two guests passing across the green, green lawn dotted with willow trees obviously kept looking toward them; he wrench his head out of Demyx's easy reach, stepping back and rubbing his arms as though he was cold. "So, I suppose this is goodbye." He said hollowly.

His brother's laugh was equally unfulfilled. "S'pose so."

They both stood in silent reflection, one looking at the ground and the other wishing his gaze would be met.

"Riku…"

Said boy glanced up and immediately looked at the grass again. Ants. There were tiny ants, climbing over blades of green. A tiny breeze ruffled the trees around them, and one little brownish ant fell off his stem.

"Just thought I should say, these last few days have been fun." Demyx paused awkwardly. "I mean, it was all good. Right from the start. But it was great, getting to know you and all."

He didn't get a response; just like previous times, he hadn't expected to. Instead, he stretched out a little, and pressed a crumpled piece of paper into Riku's hand, who flinched at the contact but grabbed and clung to it a moment longer instead of dropping it like a hot coal. "Do us a favour, and read that?" The musician smiled crookedly, nodding to the now closed hand. "Don't cry too much for your grandma, 'kay?"

Riku half-heartedly pouted, refusing to think. "I won't cry," he said, not even pretending he knew what he wasn't going to cry about.

Demyx stepped back, looking him over appraisingly, then shook his head, engulfing his brother in a bear hug that was over all too soon. "Remember what I said, okay?" He called over his shoulder, already striding away, out of Riku's life and there was nothing the youth could do about it but watch.

Riku nodded, throat constricting painfully, clenching the scrap of paper.

Demyx waved, without looking behind him, and in moments had disappeared in a new swirl of guests. Riku fancied he had heard a motorbike start up and rev away, but he couldn't have been sure. That could have been minutes away, or maybe hours – he had lost track of the time.

And during the service, where there was hardly a dry eye in the chapel, Riku sniffed with bright eyes like all the rest, but even as the eulogy was being said and his mother was leaning on his father's shoulder in tears and his father whispered a query to him about the current location of his other son then quickly stared straight ahead again, he carefully unfolded the piece of paper, glancing down surreptitiously and reading the words.

Hey. Hope you already know, but you were more than a brother to me. See ya on the flipside, whatever that means – if we meet again, let's pretend we don't know each other.

Love, Dem.

Fin.


This freakin' mammoth baby was written for my One True Love, The Glass Slipper, without whom this would have breathed its last on a scrapheap long ago. Love you so much I'm still searching for a fake ring, and if I can't find one then I'll buy myself a real one. The roadtrip isn't quite so impressive as it was supposed to be, and some bits feel flat, but all will be edited in due time.

Brief life update – wisdom teeth are out and rather painful, little sister has headed on back to Brisbane (probably for another ten years, dammit), school is officially done and results shortly available, plotbunnies are running rampant through my head and I feel like jumping up and down like I'm on speed while listening to the Killers' Sawdust, I transferred my manga from my computer and it literally gained half its storage back, I'm writing a novel and would like any information anybody can provide me on nixies, my bro and his best friend went on a midnight roadtrip the other night to collect best friend's dad from train station because the train had left with him on it, just had an injection and my arm huuurts, I have a poll up on my profile that I wouldn't mind some feedback on, aaand Omar Sharif in Doctor Zhivago is quite possibly one of the sexiest characterizations in any film, never mind that it was made nearly half a century ago. Oh, and Leave The Bourbon On The Shelf by the Killers seriously reminds me of The Fratellis, at least a little bit. Everybody Knows You Cried Last Night, methinks. Much love.

Here's hoping I managed to convey some feelings through this. The main ideas I was toying with were that of realism, and hopelessness in the face of inevitability. All suggestions welcomed, all editing mistakes greeted with tea and cupcakes. Love you all. Is it a rushed ending? I hope not.

TALLY! From The Dentist (at home again, and hurting like a bitch.)