Disclaimer: Square rocks. I do not. It's like… making a play with someone else's marionettes.
A/N: I. Feel. So. Sick right now. I feel like I'm hung-over, only without the initial alcoholic benefits. Bleh. Early night. Early, early, early night. So, the Zemyx is now officially underway, yay for two plots. It was a little weird switching from one to the other, but hopefully they sound individual enough. Definitely trying to make it so. Many thanks and hugs to finem for helping dig my head out of the fathomless chasms of, "WTFAMIWRITING?" last night, and also for inspiring me to pick this story up with a Zemyx pairing :)
Anarchy: the debate is based on whether or not such a thing can ever possibly exist. The utter destruction of society's structured walls, the tumbled status quo giving way to an endless wave of red-eyed rats swarming mindlessly from the ruins. Everyone for themselves, rules and laws burning like witches at stakes, the loss of mass sanity.
Humans will always seek guidance, though – even after the apocalypse, there will be gangs, groups, minor hierarchies dotted throughout the survivors. Those that choose anarchy will inevitably perish alone, shunned by the natural, unbreakable laws of order, which hold no time or concern for what man chooses to, or to not, do.
Of course, before said perishing, those possessing the minds corrupted by anarchy will wander, and any who fall in their broken path will be destroyed. There is no light in their eyes, except for that born from external sources. They become the undead, groaning and hunting. There can be no salvation for, or from, their kind. Such was the train of terrified thought racing through Demyx's head as he ran. Cannibalism was on the rise – this was all he knew to spur his exhausted self on – cannibalism was on the rise. Such a pretty face, Dem – don't let it fall to rotting teeth.
Night was when they were at their most numerous. Instincts cracked, senses adapting far too quickly to accommodate, they prowled in shuffling, lone units, occasional symbiotic pairs. But – day was when the looters roamed… Bodies littered the streets from their ruthless hands. This was where the taste for flesh had sprung into being for the zombies, as Demyx had heard them dubbed, agreeing heartily. Left to their own fumbling devices, they all may well have starved to death, eventually, but the buffet had been laid, and now they had developed a taste for it. Zombies, killers roaming freely – fuck, but life wasn't supposed to be like this. Perhaps anarchy couldn't exist, maybe it was just an abstract notion, but it still held elements of reality, because, right now, there was no end in sight to the ruin that Demyx's world had become.
He survived from day to day, alone because everyone he'd belonged to had died a couple days previously, on the other side of the country when the first of the madness had exploded, and no one in the immediate area was willing to take on a lone wanderer – the paranoia was fantastic in its proportions. Demyx didn't really blame them, in the corner of his heart that wasn't busy feeling fear and rage. People had broken down into their family units, protecting only who they needed to – those, that is, who had managed to survive thus far. It was like – a board game, to Demyx's mind. Everyone had their own piece, every individual, every group, a race to the end, and one by one… they were losing. Their pieces were removed from the board, a vicious culling occurring with every breath being drawn.
Demyx's piece was blue, dark blue, and very much on its own on this particular night. The closer he got to the border, the emptier the streets became. There was an abandoned air covering this end of the city, choking, empty cars lining the streets, skeletons of buildings that had been pillaged and torched. He moved quickly, lightly, sneakers barely making a sound against the sidewalk as he melted from one pool of black shadow to the next, the moon a curse determined to light his every step for all the twisted creatures in the world to see. He had heard about the border two days ago – it had only been five days since everything went to hell with its refusal to return – and he'd been travelling frantically ever since.
Demyx wasn't interested in the board game, anymore – before, it had been all that there was. The big, shiny prize at the end had been stability, safety, some kind of fabled place where the nice, normal, frightened people could convene and find a way to make this all go away. Rumours had spread like wildfire of somewhere they could achieve this, a resistance taking place, those that were still strong enough trying to regather the torn apart threads of their society and find a way to rein it back into place. A slow restoration, a hope of sanity returned, a determination to not be crushed by the violent circumstances that had befallen them. Perhaps this was why anarchy would never truly take hold – there would always be some bright fucker with a sword and a sidekick ready to save the world. Anarchy could only exist within them all.
Demyx's eyes, however, were fixed on a different prize. More rumours had emerged, these ones whispered with less certainty, an air of incredulity, a fearful wondering. They promised a land where the madness had yet to reach, where stability reigned, where this world's psychotic claws could not reach. Demyx had listened, that day, squatting on a step as the man had related the fairy-story of salvation to him. His eyes had lightened, his spirit lifting with desperate, painful hope. Of course, before scurrying back to his bolt-hole, the man had followed up the story with an uneasy dismissal of its verity. Nothing so perfect could exist. And if it did – it wouldn't be perfect at all; it would find a way to become hell anew. It was frightening how far fatalism had fallen in the souls he'd encountered so far. No one really believed they were going to win the game – they all knew their pieces were about to be plucked off and thrown away. The only reason they kept going was, well, because – what else was there?
Demyx felt it, just like anyone else did – the panic. It took root in the hollow of his chest, multiplied and festered, and told him that he wasn't special enough to survive this. When the reality of the survival numbers was so drastically low, it was only sheer luck and fitness keeping any of them continuing. After all – it wasn't just the zombies and looters they had to watch for. The madness wasn't just – local. There were far too many others that could obliterate you without you even having a chance of knowing the end was imminent.
And Demyx… he didn't want to feel that anymore. He didn't want to wait for his life to be snuffed out by statistical insistence. He knew – knew he wasn't strong enough to come through this alive and okay. He would be one of the corpses, one way or another, and the resurfacing of society would belong to those that walked over his bones.
He just – he wasn't brave enough to stay here. If they wanted someone who could stand up and fight to regain this world – they were after the wrong person. He wished those that would well, and went on to find greener pastures – somewhere you didn't have to feel the fear eating at your insides every time you paused to inhale. Demyx didn't want to be a hero.
He was just a goddamn musician looking for a break.
Another day had passed, the fear growing stronger, fear that he'd get to the border and somehow have been too late. He didn't even know what was going to be there, didn't know how he was going to manage this – all he had was a driving ambition in the back of his head, to find a way to abandon this sinking ship as fast as possible. That, and he was hungry. Like, crazy hungry. Well – not crazy hungry, as such, because that was what the zombies were, but – hungry enough to be distracted by the hollow grizzling of his stomach, and there sure as hell wasn't anything to eat around here. It was the industrial part of the city – he didn't know it well. As he scraped his tired way down the road, he eyed the deserted buildings dotted here and there, a factory, a tannery, a meat-packing plant… and what was gross, was that the thought of the meat really appealed.
The loneliness of the area was unnerving. As he'd progressed through the city the last couple nights, always skirting around the edges, he noticed the faint human presence becoming thinner. It's not like they were all over the place to begin with, but it was like – the air was warmer where he'd been, colder where he was headed. He could feel the emptiness growing the further along he got, an edge to the air that grew gradually more perceivable. It felt… slick against his skin, a slight oiliness that rolled through his lungs, relaying the faint scent of carrion. Demyx tensed, pulled a face, quickened his step, eager to find the end of the rainbow, whatever it was, wherever. There was the slight anxiety that this journey had, after all, been utterly for nothing – but hell, at least he would have tried.
What he couldn't quite get over, though, the part that perhaps made him the most uneasy about the whole endeavour, was how it didn't seem like anyone else was having the same idea. He hadn't yet come across anyone heading his direction – if anything, they were all going the other way, some instinct driving them from the area. Sure, it was a crazy idea, and sounded ridiculous in a normal setting, but – was he really the only one believing in an escape route? When he'd heard about it, he'd been sure that there would virtually be a waiting list to get to this spot – who cared if it turned out to be a lie? It was an option, right? And it wasn't like things were exactly operating on 'normal' now, anyway – no one he'd encountered so far even knew what had caused this early Armageddon. Tales were told of some places bombing others, but the very first thing to go had been TV and radio, like some kind of alien-invasion movie. They were all floundering in ignorance.
And yet – the road to possible salvation remained clear. Not even the flesh-eaters resided around here, drawn after their meal-tickets, piles of bones left in their wake.
Demyx kept his gaze firmly up, ignoring the strengthening stench of carcass, too afraid of what it might have once belonged to. He'd avoided seeing an… eaten body, so far, and he kind of wanted that to continue. Of course, it might have been an innocent victim of looters, fly-ridden where the blood had crusted across their slit throat, but… Demyx wasn't taking any chances. He didn't need that burnt into his brain. He had enough nightmare material to last a lifetime.
He was getting closer now, he was sure of it. There was a definite change in the quality of the wind, although the stench only increased, riding it, taking it into his mouth to form an oily coating that tasted like death. Demyx gagged, covering his mouth and nose, halting. His eyes widened, as he wondered with a spike of terror what the heck was going on. Had he stumbled upon some kind of zombie nest? Were they – were they collecting the dead and bringing them here, and – and the rumours! Were the rumours spread by the zombie-people-eaters to draw innocents here?
No, wait, they couldn't form coherent sentences. They couldn't think anymore. Demyx had heard stories of them, news had travelled fast, and he'd even encountered one himself, briefly. They – didn't have hearts or souls anymore. They were shattered – as a result, there'd be no plans for world domination from that side of things. Not that there was much left of the world now, anyway.
Oceanic eyes darted around, desperately seeking, despite better judgement, the source of the horrific odour. He hesitated, brow creasing, as a glimmering caught his gaze, high in the sky. He spent a long, puzzled minute staring. His eyes shifted slowly, first to one side, then the next, following what was visible of the horizon. It looked like – the moon was being reflected? It was like – a glossy film drawn across the world. It was about a mile away, he realised after further scrutiny. He twisted, seeking out the moon, then turned again, saw that, yes, the light was bouncing back. Someone had pulled a curtain across the city.
His feet shifted slowly, almost without awareness. He stopped. He was near the corner of an intersection, tall building blocking off the majority of the – anomaly. Heartbeat quickening, arm still muffling his lower face, breaths hot and unsatisfying, Demyx faltered, started inching forward again. It revealed itself gradually, the strangeness in the sky, the grid-like structure of the streets allowing him a clear view once he was beyond the obscuring edifice. Shoes scraping, he went to the middle of the intersection, stood with his free arm hanging loosely by his side, studying the horizon solemnly past the thick material of his sleeve. It was… definitely a border. Of some kind.
From here, it had the shine of a bubble, against a deeply black background. It was different to the regular darkness; it wasn't a night-time pitch… it was very definitely unnatural, with no end in sight. It just – spanned on forever. Obviously, it had to end somewhere, but from here, Demyx couldn't see where. There was a good chance it was covering the length of the entire city. An even better chance that it, whatever it was, was the reason this place was deserted… but – the stench. There had been people – they were now decomposing somewhere nearby and… it smelled like an en masse kind of thing. The black bubble in the sky… was it the cause of it? The source?
Was this the end of the rainbow? It didn't look very… pot-of-gold-y. In fact, it was kinda downright scary, when you took into account the rotting going on. And yet – Demyx didn't think he could turn back. Now that he was here, there was no way in hell he was scuttling off – not unless things got really scary.
He took an instinctive breath, grimaced as, even through the sleeve, he could taste the putridity. He lifted the collar of his sweater, hooked it over his nose, virtually useless against it, but an effort nonetheless. Psychologically, it made Demyx feel better. Kind of. Or… not. Either way – he shook his hands down by his sides, eyeing the darkness warily. He started walking, moved up to a jog, though his heart hammered, pulse jumping. The blackness became a wall, shining like water's surface, the blond's feet taking him inexorably toward it, fear powerful, curiosity enough to keep him from turning back. His heartbeat increased, with his certainty that this was precisely what the rumours had been about. Demyx didn't really get what was meant to be so great about a big black something-or-other, but there was only one way to really find out what it all meant. Besides which – he'd never seen something like this in his life. Where had it sprung from, and why? Had it been caused by the loss of sanity? Had it caused it? Was this – some kind of magic, or what?
The closer he got, the more powerful the stench grew. At last, he could go no further – it was too strong, like a billowing wave, yet Demyx was finally here, close enough to see the darkness undulating. He was terrified – the smell, it was coming directly from the bubble. It stretched high into the sky, seemed the merge with it, so that Demyx couldn't tell where it finished, and the stars began. He didn't know what to do. This black film, it was – some kind of hell substitute. It was housing more death than this world could possibly dream up, a living nightmare, and all of this just in olfactory form.
But damn it, he'd come all this way!
Despair rose, clutched him, made his shoulders sag, because he was finally here, and he didn't think he could take the final step. He couldn't move close enough to even touch the barrier, because he was frightened of what he would become if he did. It reeked of decomposition, and the blond wasn't eager to join in on that.
Obviously, something had gone terribly wrong. This – this thing had appeared, and the world had gone mad. Were there others? Had everyone been wrong about the 'zombies', and this blackness was in actual fact spawning them?
There was a groaning from behind Demyx, his blood freezing very, very suddenly. He stood stock-still, eyes wide, staring into the churning darkness. A powerful energy throbbed from it, made his hair stand up, but maybe that was just the realisation that there were anarchy-broken humans coming up behind him as much as anything else. He twisted, gasped in a cracking breath, couldn't see them yet, but could hear them. Had they caught sight of him, or were they, too, drawn by the Siren's song of the border? He groped at his stomach, felt in the pouch at the front of his sweater, grabbed the handle of the steak knife he'd been carrying since everything first lost control. He jerked it out, shaking badly, not knowing what to do. He – he wasn't a fighter. He ran – always, he ran. He'd been running since his first middle-school bully. And now – zombies were coming?
Demyx shuddered, closed his eyes and whimpered. The black wall, it was cutting everything off, it fell across the world in a straight band, absorbing portions of buildings, roads, a dead-end. The flesh-eaters were shuffling around near the only exit, growing louder. If they caught him – he… and – and they were fast, he'd seen it in the one he'd witnessed, four nights previously, exactly twenty-four hours after he'd realised everyone he loved was dead – they were fast enough to catch people. They were animals, now – hunters. They didn't need to be in a pack to take someone down, all on their own, they were ruthless and brutal, with no mind for screaming, or, or begging – if they trapped him here, he was as good as gone.
Hell, he was as good as gone already. Here he was, back to a bubble that swirled with decay, faced with imminent, agonising, eaten-alive demise – exactly which of these was meant to be the lesser of the evils? So. He'd come all this way, then, only to die. Hoping for a chance to get away… well. He'd end up away, eventually. Death could be counted as 'not present' in the human race, right? Sure. He'd die. And then, he wouldn't need to be scared anymore. He wouldn't need to think numbly on how his family were gone, or how the world was fucked six ways from Sunday, or how life would never be the same again – because life wouldn't be. His piece was about to be jerked off the board, cast aside, just like he'd always known it would. Because people like Demyx didn't survive horror movies – the most fearful, sweetly cowardly characters, they were the ones to die the most brutal way. Yeah. He'd seen those movies, and cringed for his type-cast counterparts each and every time. Somewhere out there, a leading lady and dashing hero were getting ready to pull everything back from the brink, save the survivors in some daring manner, and Demyx would have pointlessly died three hours beforehand. He could feel the cameras, recording it all, ready to relay to the big screen.
Damn it, though – he wasn't an actor, he was a musician.
And so, with a ragged sigh, he decided to quit the movie business. He didn't want to be eaten by ghouls, closer than ever, muddy shapes developing in the far shadows. He gripped his knife tight, pulse fluttering, and stepped backward into the greasy, obsidian depths. It wrapped around him, swallowed him, entered his lungs, eyes, muscles, bones, wormed deep into his soul and tore it in two. He felt it, heard the rip, heart nearly stopping at the shock, before it was all abruptly put together again.
When he opened his eyes, a bare second later, a million years, he was still standing there, staring at the black bubble. Only this time, it didn't reflect the moon – it blinded him, reflecting a thousand moons, and the putrescence that he had thought to be bad a moment ago was now powerful enough to wrap fingers around the meagre contents of his stomach and wrench them out. Demyx bent, coughed vomitously, and, for a long moment, the only sensation within his skull was screaming horror. This was something he would never forget – not ever. Forever onward, from that day, he would smell death and be sick. It could be road-kill, it could just be a raw steak someone was in the early stages of cooking – one way or another, he would end up running from the room with a hand clamped over his mouth. He sure as heck never looked at meat the same way again.
Before any of this could be discovered, however, before time would turn him into a puddle of misery at the merest whiff of such like things, Demyx had to turn around, whipped by the remembrance of the zombies. Instead of the city, though, he found himself in a curiously empty space, grass under his feet instead of asphalt, brilliant spotlights glaring from a seemingly endless line – about as long as the bubble extended, in actual fact.
Demyx held up an arm, trying to cover his eyes, saw in the new relief that he was three feet from a pile of corpses and screamed hysterically. He ran a few steps, stopped sharply as a gunshot fired. Demyx had never heard a gun outside of TV, but it was a pretty unmi-fucking-stakeable noise. He was a deer, locked in place, eyes wide, heaving in the putrescent air in the middle of some kind of field, as, several hundred feet away, a profile appeared in front of one of the spotlights, an almost-glimpse of red hair, a megaphone crackling to life and a dry voice drawling, "Hold it right there, zombie piece of shit. Your ass is grass, yo." Despite the fact that the man could be easily heard, he chose to raise his voice. "You got three seconds," he called to Demyx's frozen form, "to tell me what's five times five."
Demyx's brain went blank, eyes widening, terror shorting out any form of coherent thought. You don't stand next to dead bodies, near people with guns, and start reciting times tables. It just didn't happen that way. He panicked, heard a grunt from the megaphone, it clicking off a moment later. Suddenly realising that his three seconds were up, Demyx screamed, "Twenty!" There was a pause, in which he wasn't shot dead. A second later, he shrieked, "No, wait, twenty-five!" He was gonna die, because he was shit at mental maths, just like all these others apparently had – zombies, incapable of uttering anything more than a guttural moan; and maybe – others like him? Who couldn't think in time?
The megaphone hissed back to life, the voice returning, sounding almost – amused. "Well, I'll be damned – you've still got a fuckin' mind. Impressive. Welcome to Midgar, you crazy fucking psycho-worlder." He raised his voice again, while Demyx struggled to come to terms with his continued existence and outrage at the easy tone in the man's voice. His next words chilled the blond, brought the petrification roaring back up. "Tranquies, open fire."
Gunshots, despite his efforts. Demyx screamed, felt pain, intense, tearing agony.
Seconds later, he was gone.
Twenty-seven days later, Demyx sat in a small, white-walled room, on a cold, hard, metal chair. His arms lay on the table, a thumb moving slowly across his palm, eyes fixed blankly in place, staring, seeing nothing. His mind was quiet, a calm, gentle resignation filling his being. Today was the day. He felt like a dangerous criminal being released on parole; for all he knew, that was precisely how they viewed him. He certainly wasn't the same person who had stepped through the black bubble nearly a month ago, into ShinRa's grasp.
Demyx blew out a sigh, leaning onto his elbows, quickly drumming out a beat on the tinny surface, eyes darting about the familiar space. He'd spent a lot of time in this room – too many hours, with too many frustrated tears resentfully wiped away. It had memories adhering to the walls, the little doctor's voice whispering at him even in the loneliness like this. It had been… such a long time, since he'd been normal. He couldn't really remember what that was like, anymore. Not sitting here, in his equally white hospital pajamas, an identification strap around his left wrist. One thing that Demyx had found was that maximum-security mental wards sucked like little else. You could hear creepy laughter every now and then, and, well, half the time it came from Doctor Hojo, the physician in charge of his case. The man gave him the shivers.
Demyx was quickly losing patience, growing restless, shifting from side to side and sighing. He rested his chin on the table glumly, but couldn't help the flutter of excitement in his belly at the realisation that this was probably the last time he'd have to be here at all. The agony he'd suffered over the last week, the aching in his left arm, hand and shoulder, was proof enough. He was determined, dedicated, and, for once everyone was agreeing, quite, quite sane enough to mingle with regular society.
With this thought came a spike of nervousness, anxiety dampening the stirring of anticipation. After all, he had no idea what to expect, no clue what was to come. There was a little hope in his gut that refused to die down, but it was surrounded on all sides by apprehension. He just – he wasn't entirely sure what he was doing here. Sometimes, when he woke up in his room, saw the pictures on the walls that they had made him draw, humming all the while over his colour choice and subject matter – a frightening experience, nerve-wracking, because he was terrified of doing the wrong thing and being labelled psychotic because he'd drawn a bunny with larger-than-average front teeth – he'd had to take a good five minutes to calm himself down from a spontaneous panic-attack. His mind was still getting used to the new settings, and to open his eyes somewhere so foreign, when he was expecting posters of whales and guitars and movies and bands, was more jarring than sometimes he'd thought he could handle.
It had helped knowing that there was no alternative, though. He'd adjusted relatively quickly to his surroundings, after being reassured that everything he'd thought had happened actually had, and he wasn't being kept here for the simple fact that he'd gone crazy in the middle of a family restaurant, imagining he was being chased by zombies in some kind of post-apocalyptic world. Nope – the zombies had been real, alright. It all had, which made easier the knowledge that he could never go back. He'd never see that black bubble again; never again, or so he'd been told, have to live through a walking nightmare of society's death, because this world's society was too strong for it.
This world, unlike his, wasn't bat-shit fucking loco.
Funny, to think of other worlds existing. To think that he was on one, in one, living here. Sad, with a stab of panic, to think that his own was now very firmly cut off, plunged into darkness, too dangerous for this world to stay connected to. They'd told him – they'd told him that his world's heart had been sealed. The black bubble still existed, but was policed permanently. Demyx had been one of the last to get through – if he'd left it, just by three more days, he'd have lost his window of opportunity. He'd still be there, and most likely by now be dead.
Suddenly, the little white room wasn't so bad anymore. It kept happening like this – he swung with great regularity between depression at the knowledge he had gained, and wild, heady almost-exhilaration at the fact that he had escaped. The path from his home-world to this one had been open for one week only, before ShinRa, in charge of military and world development, had shut it down. The rumours he'd heard were watered-down versions of ShinRa's own people coming through and attempting to make contact, welcoming a new world to the chain that already existed. Demyx silently, fervently thanked the man who had felt the urge to pass the story on, hoping that his death, when it, of course, came, would be quick, painless, and non-edible.
The silver door with the mesh-covered window opened, startling the blond out of his thoughts. He scowled as Hojo entered, a placid look on the little doctor's face, ponytail hanging limply down his back. His eyes glittered at Demyx over his small glasses as he approached the table. He drew to a halt, studying the musician, who instinctively wanted to glare in return, but was afraid that, even at this point, they would decide to keep him longer, until it was fully ascertained that the expression wasn't born from aggression. Because it wasn't: he just thought the guy was creepy.
"Well, Demyx," Hojo said after a long moment of studying, his thin voice filling the room easily, making the blond wince a little. "It would seem that this is to be our last meeting while you are an inpatient. Of course, I'll be seeing you regularly, checking up on your progress, etcetera, but from this moment on…" He smiled thinly. "You are no longer within my care." He reached out a hand, Demyx staring at it for a couple beats before realising he was supposed to shake it. He didn't want to, it made his toes curl a little, but he forced himself to take the appendage and quickly squeeze. Hojo's hands were always so damn cold. Cold and dry – they'd always felt like some kind of alien probing him, during the physical evaluations Demyx had had to endure. As the doctor released him, Demyx fought the urge to wipe his fingers against his pants. The narrow curving of lips never fading, Hojo added, "I'll leave you now, to get acquainted with your new – mentor, I do believe they're calling them."
The way he said it, it was like foreshadowing. Demyx gulped and squirmed, as the little man, black shoes thudding against the thin carpet, white coat rustling silently, went over to the door, stuck his head out, called in his naturally reedy, high tone, "Sir Auron?" No response came, but a man appeared a moment later, almost startling in his direct contrast to everything that was Hojo. Tall, leathered skin, dragon-red robe that looked like it had been dragged through three separate mud-wrestling matches on a wet day and had the filth beaten out of it, heavy boots, face mostly obscured by a – thing… and – little sunglasses indoors? Demyx noticed all these things, his first glimpse of anyone outside of the medical profession in the last four weeks, but outright stared at the scars and thickened muscles visible on his one exposed arm. The other one must've been injured or something – it hung against his stomach, bent at the elbow, covered by a flap of material from his robe.
Obviously aware of the scrutiny taking place, the man directed his attention to Hojo, said flatly, "I'll take care of things from here."
"Be careful of him, Sir Auron," Hojo cautioned, wagging a finger in his face. "We're not yet entirely sure he won't turn out to be some kind of danger."
The man regarded him for a long, apathetic moment, before asking, "Then why are you letting him loose?"
Demyx gasped, choked a little, cried, "I'm not a danger! Not to anyone!"
Hojo, meanwhile, just rolled his eyes. "Apparently, chances must be taken. Civil rights to be observed, and other such-like things."
"I see." The man turned his gaze to Demyx, made the blond shift uncomfortably. "Then, as you say," he said quietly to the doctor, "I'll be careful."
Demyx sighed, propping his face on his hand. Hojo nodded, turned on heel and left the room, the sound of his shoes fading quickly. Demyx was left alone with the man, who spent a long moment staring. Demyx fidgeted, met his gaze clearly for a moment, looked away. "My name is Auron," he said at last. "I've been appointed your guardian." He stepped closer to the table, a small bundle under one arm that he placed down in front of the blond. "It's my job to make sure you do well out there," he continued, calm, deep-voiced. "Together, we'll find you somewhere to live, a way to make money, and some form of education."
"Ed-education?" Demyx lifted an eyebrow. "I don't – I never really wanted to go to college."
The man shrugged. "They want to see what you know," he stated shortly. He indicated the pile of clothing by the blond's elbow. "Put those on. Once you're ready, and have fixed your hair, we leave."
"My…" A hand paused halfway up to Demyx's head, the boy blinking in confusion, then realisation. In four weeks, he had only been able to wash it twice, and the most he ever got for combing it was a quick few minutes in the morning. When he thought about the effort he usually put into his hair, it was almost appalling how far he'd fallen from who he'd once been. A sort of – sort of stubbornness filled him in that moment, a quiet fire that suddenly didn't want to be walking around like a victim anymore. This guy, Auron, he was obviously here to keep Demyx in line, get him going in this world – he had new clothes, an absolute chance to start over fresh. It just wasn't good enough that he was cowering all over the place, so deflated. It just wasn't good enough that he had shit hair!
He met Auron's gaze, nodded once, a frown in place. The man nodded back minutely, observing the change in the boy's bearing, reminding himself firmly to keep an eye on this one. He left the room, left Demyx to get changed, the clothes so similar to the sort he'd used to wear, but bearing the foreign mark of a different world. There was no comb, no water, sure as hell nothing for gelling, but Dem did his best, running his fingers through his locks, straightening it at the back, spiking it as much as possible at the front, attempting to bring his favourite style back into play. He didn't really get it right, there weren't the right materials at hand to get it back to its truly awesome state, but it was a start. No dude in a ratty robe was going to tell him to fix his hair – not again.
Demyx was ready. He was cold, because of the lack of sleeves, but he was physically prepared, and maybe even just a little bit mentally, for whatever new start at life these people were offering. They'd had discussions, suggested scenarios, but the musician hadn't been expecting for things to fall into place this quickly – he'd had visions of Hojo, Hojo and more Hojo for the months to come, while they systematically tore him to pieces in search of some kink that would have him trying to destroy a class of kindergarten kids with his teeth and a home-made Molotov.
The blond took a breath, smoothed himself down, the ID bracelet catching momentarily, bringing his eyes down with hesitation. He wondered if he would ever be able to forget that he was from a world that was now officially pegged as 'insane'. He grimaced, lifted his left arm, gaze moving slowly down the smooth, black-and-white skin. No. He'd never be allowed to forget – no one would. He was marked now, and would be for the rest of his days. He could only hope that the people outside the hospital were as accommodating, if not slightly warmer in behaviour, as those he'd encountered within. That other doctor, Lucrecia – she'd been nice to him. Maybe, if there were people like her out there, this would all go okay. And hell, even if there wasn't… "It's better than a dead world," he murmured to himself, "with a sealed-off heart…"
Sometimes, he felt a twinge of guilt at having left them all behind. But – it's not as if he could have done anything in the first place except add to the body count. He was just one nineteen-year-old wannabe. And he had a big, scary-looking guy waiting for him outside the room… Demyx was more than happy to leave with him. Strangers with candy were a damn sight better than strangers with needles. His new life was calling.
He met Auron in the hallway, timid outside of his hospital pajamas, arms folding instinctively over his chest, hunching in a vague attempt to hide himself. The man looked him up and down, said, "My car is in the parking lot." They got walking, down the long halls, taking the elevator to Ground. Demyx was checked out, the band snapped from his wrist by a pair of sharp-nosed scissors.
Emerging into the new night was – wow. It was something else. It had been raining recently, he'd heard it against his window the last few nights, and the road glittered with it under the streetlights. The rich smell of earth filled the air, the blond inhaling deeply, loving the sound of the sharp splashes underfoot. This was what freedom smelled like.
By the time they reached the car, however, Demyx was shivering. "I d-don't suppose you've g-got a sweater I can borrow?" he asked softly, of his silent companion. Auron paused, keys out and jangling, sent him a hard look.
"You know you wouldn't be allowed to wear it if I did," he said, an edge of sternness in his tone. "I know the procedure with your kind – don't try to fool me."
Sighing, the boy shook his head miserably. "I wasn't. I forgot. It's okay, I'll be fine."
The man was quiet as they climbed into the old car, the vehicle swaying first to one side, then the other as the extra weight was added. Their doors slammed shut. As the engine started up, Auron leaned across, turned on the heating, twisted the vents to face Demyx's chilled skin, not acknowledging the grateful thanks the teen returned. "You'll be staying at my place until we find you one of your own," he murmured, wrenching at the gearstick. Demyx hesitated, nodded. Great. Living with some battered old guy. Sounded like fun. He swore, rules or no rules, if the guy tried to touch him in any way inappropriate, he was going kung-fu on his ass. He'd seen enough karate movies in his day to be able to pull it off, he was confident.
Or, he might get thrown in front of a firing squad out of spite. Wow – the options were limitless.
Demyx rested his head upon the frosted window of the passenger's side, letting the warmth from the heater wind in and out of his muscles. It was a firm plan that he watch the world go by, all the lights, the other traffic, but by the time they weren't even halfway to Auron's apartment in the city, the blond had already fallen asleep.