"Come on, Demyx, put a little effort into it!" Axel admonished. "I know you hate fighting, but it's part of the job description!"

Demyx was panting for breath. "Whose bright idea was this, anyhow?"

"Yours, doofus. You said you were getting out of shape." Axel was barely breaking a sweat; he was kind of enjoying the workout. "Would you rather be doing pushups with Lexaeus?"

"I have to say...fighting practice was not what I had in mind!"

"Well, you needed that too! If I let you pick an activity, you'd sit on your ass and play sitar all day! That's probably how you got so out-of-shape!" Axel flung a chakram at Demyx, intentionally missing by a fairly wide margin. Demyx flinched and ducked anyway. "Come on, do something besides dodge! Try fighting back, for instance!"

"How?!" Demyx was at a severe disadvantage in this fight, and not just from inexpertise. There was a magical field around the practice arena that blocked their elemental powers, except for summoning weapons, which not only robbed Demyx of what otherwise would have been a substantial advantage element-wise but made his sitar essentially useless as a weapon.

"I dunno! Swing it like a club?"

The sitar was much lighter than it looked; even exhausted as he was, Demyx could pick it up and swing it at Axel's head without much trouble, and plenty fast enough to hurt. Axel had been expecting the move, however, and dodged. "It'd work better if you didn't duck..."

"I'm not in a hurry to get hurt either, got it memorized?" Axel flung the other chakram, neatly catching it as it zipped past Demyx's head and ricocheted off the wall. "Admit it, you feel healthier already!"

"If I had a heart, I'd be having a heart attack..."

"Poor sport you are. This is good for you." Axel carefully estimated his trajectory before throwing his chakram again. He'd developed an excellent eye for where his weapons were going to bounce off after being thrown and where they'd go from there - he'd had to. By now, his judgment was almost flawless.

Not this time. The chakram hit a rough spot in the wall, ricocheted in a slightly different direction than he'd expected, and nailed Demyx in the shoulder, hard enough to make him stagger. Then it fell to the ground and rolled a little ways on its spiked edge before toppling, leaving a bloody trail.

"Oh...shit..." Axel recalled and dispelled his weapons as Demyx collapsed. "Fuck it all...are you okay?!" Not waiting for an answer, he raced over to Demyx's side.

The Melodious Nocturne's shoulder had been laid open to the bone, literally. Axel felt a little sick just looking at the gaping wound. "Think...something broke," Demyx gasped.

"Damn it all to hell. Come on, repair time." Axel unzipped his robe and tore a stretch of fabric from the T-shirt underneath, wrapping it around Demyx's injured shoulder as best he could, before hauling him more-or-less upright and teleporting both of them into Vexen's lab. "Hey, Vex...you'd better be in here - emergency call!"

"I keep tellin' you...it's not your fault...just a stupid accident..." Demyx's voice was still a little slurred, a lingering aftereffect of the anesthesia he'd been under while Vexen repaired his broken shoulderblade and stitched his shoulder back together.

Axel buried his face in his hands. "Give it up. I'm not gonna believe it." The two of them were in Demyx's room now; Demyx was lying in bed, bare above the waist except for bandages and a sling, and Axel was sitting in his desk chair, keeping an eye on him just in case. "Well, maybe the stupid part."

"Shit happens, you know that..."

"Yeah..." Axel rubbed his forehead. "No denying, that was shitty. How long's it gonna be before you can play sitar again?"

"Vexen said a month or more," Demyx murmured, closing his eyes.

"A month. Shit. I am so sorry," Axel groaned. The crack he'd made earlier about Demyx's choice of activities was only the truth - give him the choice between playing sitar and doing anything else, and only eating and sleeping stood much of a chance. It wasn't possible for a Nobody to love anything, but if it was, Axel would have said Demyx truly loved playing his sitar. Going without it for a month - well, he didn't have any good basis for comparison, but he figured it would suck worse than going around on crutches for the same length of time.

"But...what does Vexen know." Demyx sat up carefully, removed the sling, summoned his sitar, and started playing slowly but flawlessly.

Axel could only stare in awe. "Doesn't that hurt?!" he demanded after a while.

"It hurts like hell. But it only hurts just once." Demyx took a deep, shaky breath. "As long as it doesn't stop hurting and then start again, I can handle it."

Axel shook his head in disbelief. "It'll stop hurting when you pass out."

"Well, since it won't stop hurting before then, I might as well play sitar as lie there, don't you think? And I prefer playing sitar."

There was something about his logic Axel just couldn't argue with. He thought hard, trying to come up with a workable argument. "...You know, you might just be hurting yourself worse if you keep playing with a broken shoulder."

Demyx blinked, still playing. "How do you mean?"

"I mean your shoulderblade is being held together by a metal plate and the rest of your shoulder is being held together by stitches. It wouldn't be hard to, say, tear something a little further, mess up the healing process, hurt yourself so badly you'll never be able to play sitar properly again."

Demyx sighed. "Okay...that's a threat." He set the instrument aside and lay back, biting his lip.

"Hurts less now, doesn't it?"

"...It's only hurt once since I woke up."

Axel rolled his eyes. "It just hasn't stopped hurting, am I right?"

"I told you...it only hurts just once..." Demyx actually seemed to be in more pain now than he had been while playing sitar. His face was paling to grey, and he was starting to sweat. "It's only broken bones..."

Axel sighed. "Maybe you should try some of these painkillers Vexen gave you."

"My head doesn't need any more fucking with..." Demyx held out his good hand. "What the hell. Give them to me anyway."

"Well, if it stops your shoulder hurting..." Axel handed him a bottle equipped with a flip-cap that he could open and close with one hand. "Anything else I can do for you?"

Demyx swallowed two pills and nodded weakly. "Yeah...if I'm not allowed to play, at least I can still listen...put on some Breaking Benjamin..."

Axel crossed over to the stereo and started searching through Demyx's CD collection. "Any album in particular?"

"Whatever you find first. I don't care." Demyx drew a hissing breath through clenched teeth. "Kingdom Hearts, that's awful."

Axel shook his head. "I can imagine. I'm sorry." He opened a CD case, checking to make sure its contents matched the cover, before popping it in Demyx's stereo.

Demyx's voice was starting to slur again, and his eyelids were drooping. "I tol' you not t' be...it's jus' one of those...stupid things..."

"It's gonna suck, you not being able to play for a month..."

"Ax, I can play. You jus' heard me. It's jus' not a...good idea..." Demyx's voice faltered, and his eyes closed. Axel knew he'd fainted, or was at least going into a painkiller haze, but kept a close eye on him for the next few minutes, just in case. He turned the volume down low before pressing "Play".

"At least it'll only hurt once after you wake up," he murmured.

AN: This fic was inspired by a picture of Demyx with a bandaged shoulder by elvendragon on deviantArt, entitled "It Only Hurts Just Once". I recognized the line as coming from "Unknown Soldier" by Breaking Benjamin, hence Demyx's request.

Chronologically, this comes before any of my other fics, including "Katrina". Axel and Demyx may even be members of Organization XI or XII at this point, which would explain Roxas's total absence.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, got it memorized? And "Unknown Soldier" belongs to Breaking Benjamin.