Disclaimer: Square rocks. I do not. It's like… making a play with someone else's marionettes.



Anarchy: the debate was based on whether or not such a thing could 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 would always seek guidance, though – even after the apocalypse, there would be gangs, groups, minor hierarchies dotted throughout the survivors. Those that chose anarchy would inevitably perish alone, shunned by the natural, unbreakable laws of order, which held no time or concern for the idle fancies of man.

Of course, before said perishing, those possessing minds corrupted by anarchy would wander, and any who fall in their broken path would be destroyed. There was no light in their eyes, except for that born from external sources. They became like the undead: mindless hunters.

There could 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 the crazies were at their most numerous. Instincts cracked but senses terrifyingly acute, these broken beings prowled as lone units or occasionally symbiotic pairs. Day was no better – looters roamed during the sunlit hours, littering the streets with bodies, survival of the fittest having turned into some awful, bloody battle royale. This was where the taste for flesh had sprung into being for the 'zombies', as Demyx had heard them dubbed. 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, militant killers roaming freely – fuck. Life wasn't supposed to be like this. Perhaps true anarchy couldn't exist, maybe it was just an abstract notion, but society was still seeing how far it could push breaking point til it admitted defeat. Right now, there was no end in sight to the ruin that Demyx's world had become.

He survived on a day-to-day basis, scavenging what he could, making sure never to stay in any one place too long. He existed alone; everyone he'd known or cared about had died a couple days previously, on the other side of the country, when the first of the madness had exploded. No one in the immediate area had been willing to take on a lone wanderer – ruthless paranoia ran rampant. You couldn't know the difference between who was genuinely in need or who was part of one of the newly hatched looters' cartels until it was too late. People had broken down into their family units, protecting only who they needed to – those, that is, who had managed to make it thus far.

In Demyx's mind, anxious for a way to make sense of the nonsensical, it had become like a board game. Everyone had their own piece, each individual and every group, and they were all taking part whether they wanted to or not in a race to the end. The thing was, one by one… they were losing. Pieces were removed from the board like a whole Monopoly set being thrown across the room, a vicious culling that occurred with every breath being drawn.

Demyx wasn't interested in the board game anymore. Before, it had been all that there was, the big, shiny prize at the end being 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 for those that were still strong enough to try and regather the torn apart threads of their society and find a way to rein it back in. It was the promise of a slow restoration, a hope of sanity returned, and the determination to not be crushed by the violent circumstances that had befallen them. Perhaps this was why anarchy would never properly take hold – there would always be some hero 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 these days.

More rumours had emerged, these ones whispered with less certainty, an air of incredulity, of fearful wondering. They promised a place where the madness had yet to reach, where stability reigned and the world's psychotic claws didn't relentlessly scrabble. Squatting on a step in water-weak sunlight, Demyx had listened two days ago to a man relate this fairy-story of something called 'the border' to him. From what the guy said, it sounded like the portal to another dimension. Demyx didn't know how that was meant to work, but whatever, right? He could believe in other dimensions if it meant leaving behind the reality he knew.

The blond's eyes had brightened, his spirit lifting with desperate, painful hope. It was the end of the world, or something like it – so why couldn't a portal to another dimension exist as well? Of course, before scurrying back to his bolt-hole, the guy had followed the tale up with an uneasy dismissal of its verity. Nothing that convenient could possibly exist. And even if it did – it would find a way to lead to some fresh hell, he was sure. It was frightening how deeply fatalism had gripped the hearts of those Demyx had 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 everyone else did – the panic. It took root in the hollow of the chest, engorging and festering, whispering incessantly that Demyx 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. The fear was like endlessly dripping acid, and 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, Demyx wasn't the guy. He wished those that would well, and went on in search of greener pastures – somewhere you didn't have to feel the dread 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. And now, he was on a mission. He would find the border, and he was getting the hell out of dodge.

The closer he got to his goal, the emptier the streets became. The loneliness of the area was unnerving. As he'd progressed through the city the last couple nights, always skirting around the edges, he'd noticed the faint human presence becoming thinner. It's not like there were people all over the place to begin with, but it was like – the air was warmer where he'd been, and colder where he was headed. This end of the city felt distinctly deserted, empty cars lining the streets, buildings turned to skeletons in the wake of having been pillaged and torched. He moved quickly, lightly, sneakers barely making a sound against the sidewalk as he scurried from one pool of shadow to the next, the moon a curse determined to light his every step for all the twisted creatures of the world to see. God, he hoped this worked out, and he didn't end up eaten in some industrial back alley. He didn't even know what he was looking for, but anything had to be better than all this, right? He knew this was a dumb idea, but… anything was worth trying. Anything was better than having nowhere to go, and just waiting to die.

As he moved, Demyx did his best to ignore the hollow grizzling of his stomach. He couldn't even remember the last time he'd sat down for a proper meal, or stopped for a shower. He missed hot water like it was the soulmate he'd never realised was right in front of him all along. He wondered if they had hot showers at the fabled border. And food. Like, a gigantic steak. With some fries.

Oh, man, he was hungry.

One thing that was weird: Demyx noticed a weird emptiness developing the further along he went, an edge to the air that grew gradually more palpable. It felt… slick against his skin, a slight oiliness that rolled through his lungs. And then, eventually, it started relaying the faint scent of carrion. As this new detail hit his senses, Demyx tensed, pulling a face, and slowed slightly as he tried to figure out which direction it was coming from. He turned in a circle, peering through the gloom, trying to ignore just how damn silent everything was. He couldn't get used to it; the world was never meant to be this quiet. Now, it was quiet all the time.

At least the immediate hush meant that there was nobody bad around, he dubiously guessed. It kind of unnerved him that he seemed to be the only one pursuing this path to freedom, though. Sure, 'the border' was a crazy idea, and sounded ridiculous in a normal setting, but – was he really the only one believing that an escape route might be possible? When he'd heard about it, he'd been sure that there would virtually be a waiting list to get to this side of the city – who cared if it turned out to be a lie? It was an option, right? And yet – the road to possible salvation remained deserted. Not even the flesh-eaters resided around here, drawn to more populated areas, piles of bones left in their wake.

After a couple of minutes, Demyx got moving again, unable to pinpoint the source of the death stench. Honestly, he really didn't want to. He'd avoided seeing an… eaten body so far, and he kind of wanted that to continue. It might have just 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 holy shit, tasted like death. Demyx gagged, covering his mouth and nose, halting again. His eyes widened as he wondered, with a spike of panic, what the heck was going on. Was there some kind of zombie nest nearby?

Oh, shit. Were they – were they collecting corpses and bringing them here to feed? Maybe this was why there weren't any others making the pilgrimage to the border – maybe they were all already dead! Or, wait – what if it was the zombie-people-eaters spreading the rumours about the border, to get people to come, so they could eat them?

…No, wait, they couldn't even 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 anymore. They were shattered – as a result, there'd be no plans for world domination from that side of the fence. Not that there was much left of the world now, anyway.

So, what then? Where was it coming from?

As Demyx's blue eyes darted around, desperately seeking, against better judgement, the source of the horrific odour – he suddenly paused. Hand still clamped tightly over his nose and mouth, the blond lifted his gaze hesitantly to the sky, where something was – oddly amiss. He spent a long, puzzled minute staring, before he realised: the moon… had a reflection. He twisted, looked up at where the moon was supposed to be, and, yep, there it was – then he turned back, and stared up at its mirror image, shimmering slightly in the black sky. And even that, even the sky itself – it looked different somehow. It was like a glossy film had been drawn across the world, maybe half a mile away. And it was… it was reflecting the moon.

There were a whole bunch of buildings in the way, though. He needed a clearer look. Heartbeat quickening, throbbing at his throat, Demyx went in search of an intersection. The city was laid out like a massive grid – if he could find a gap where the horizontal streets interlocked with the vertical, then…

He spotted one in the distance, and made a run for it. Shoes scraping, he bounced into the middle of the intersection, and stood with one arm hooked over his lower face to filter each rancid breath, studying the horizon solemnly past the thick material of his sleeve. A quiet, ominous awe slowly filled him.

That was… definitely a border. Of some kind.

It shone like a bubble against a deeply black background, a knife slice cutting a perfect line across the city. It was different to regular darkness. It swallowed up everything beyond it. If you just glanced at it, you'd never notice, because it reflected the city so convincingly – but that sky was not a night-time pitch. It was very definitely unnatural, and no matter how Demyx craned his neck, he could see no end to it. It just – spanned on forever. Obviously, it had to end somewhere, but from here, he couldn't see where. There was a good chance it was covering the length of the entire city, and an even better chance that it was the reason this place was deserted… but – the stench. There had been people here, at some point – and now they were decomposing somewhere. Nearby. It… smelled like an en masse kind of thing. The black bubble in the sky… was it the cause of this? The source?

Was this the end of Demyx's rainbow? It didn't look very… pot-of-gold-y. In fact, it was downright scary. 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 instinctively deep breath, grimacing as, even through the sleeve, he could taste the putridity of the air. He lifted the collar of his baggy sweater, hooked it over his nose, virtually useless but an effort nonetheless. Psychologically, it made Demyx feel better. Kind of. Or… not. Either way, he was doing this. He shook his hands nervously by his sides, eyeing the darkness warily, then started walking.

Gradually, he moved up to a jog. The black veil became a wall, shining like a body of water, the blond's feet taking him inexorably toward it. Never the bravest guy to begin with, Demyx's fear was powerful – but his curiosity, and the sick knowledge that there were no other options, was enough to keep him from turning back. His heart was pounding with the 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 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 mass loss of sanity? Had it caused it? Was this – some kind of magic, or what?

The problem was, the closer he got, the more intense the stench grew. At last, he could go no further – it was too strong, like a billowing wave. He dithered, unsure of what to do next. He was finally here, close enough to see the darkness undulating, but at the same time he was terrified. The smell, it was coming directly from the wall. It stretched high into the sky, seemed the merge with it, so that Demyx couldn't even tell where it finished and the stars began. He didn't know what to do. This black reflection, 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 get in on that.

Obviously, something had gone terribly wrong. This – this thing had appeared, and the world had gone mad. Were there others like it? Had everyone been wrong about the 'zombies', and this blackness was in actual fact spawning them?

There came a low scrape from somewhere behind Demyx, the blood freezing in his veins. He stood stock-still, eyes wide, staring into the shimmering darkness. Slowly – very, very slowly – he turned around. He'd have given his left testicle for a flashlight, but could only blink blindly into the gloom, wondering what was out there. He heard another sound, a clatter this time, like someone had walked into a trash can, and his every nerve went tight enough to snap. The sound had come from around the corner of the building Demyx was next to, an alleyway he'd passed a few feet along. If – if anyone had been down it, they would have seen him, would have heard his footsteps, and his panting breaths.

He heard the staggering slap of footsteps, and started groping at his stomach, eyes fixed on the darkness, feeling at the pouch at the front of his sweater and grabbing the handle of the steak knife he'd been carrying since everything had 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.

There was another clatter, then, steadily, a shadow stepped from the alleyway. The moon's reflection bouncing from the veil lit the newcomer up, just as it illuminated the blade of his knife for them to easily see. The person turned towards him – and oh, fucking god damn shit, it was a zombie.


Demyx shuddered, whimpered, fingers tightening around the quivering knife. He heard a low, grating noise come from the throat of the dead-eyed man, the creature taking a step towards him. Demyx shook so hard, the knife slipped from his sweaty hands and fell to the ground.

He ran.

He heard the zombie give a snarl and come after him, Demyx too terrified to even scream. Without thinking, he had turned on his heel when he'd started running, and, without thinking, he now sprinted straight into the black wall.

This time, he could have screamed, had there been any oxygen in his chest with which to do so. But the veil wrapped around him, swallowed him, entered his lungs, eyes, muscles, bones, wormed deep into his soul and tore it apart. He felt it, heard the rip, heart nearly stopping from the shock before it was all abruptly put back together again.

When he opened his eyes, a bare second later that also might have been a million years, he was standing on grass, blinded by a light so bright it could have been the sun. The rotting stench 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, a screaming horror setting up shop within his skull. This was a putrescence he would never forget – not ever. Forever onward, Demyx would smell death and be violently ill.

Squinting through the brightness, raising an arm to shield his eyes, Demyx tried to discern his surroundings, disorientated and nauseous. Instead of the city, he found himself in a curiously empty space – a field, it looked like. And the brilliant light – it wasn't just one light, but a row of them, spotlights set up in a long line, the night beyond them deep.

Then, Demyx turned to his right, saw that he was three feet from a pile of corpses, and shrieked hysterically. He got three steps to the left before a gunshot split the air, the bullet pelting the ground near Demyx's feet. The blond froze, swaying slightly from leftover momentum. Eyes wide, heaving in the putrid air, Demyx stared into the blinding light until, a little distance away, a silhouette appeared in front of one of the spotlights. Demyx could make out an glimpse of red hair, before a megaphone crackled to life and a dry voice drawled out, "Hold it right there, zombie piece of shit. Your ass is grass." Demyx did exactly as he was told. He didn't move a fucking hair, gasping frantically. "You got three seconds," the man announced to Demyx's stiff form, "to tell me what's five times five."

Demyx's brain went blank, 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 before it clicked 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 lowered the megaphone and raised his voice, 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 quickly stripped the blond of his brief burst of relief: "Tranquies, open fire."

Gunshots, despite his efforts. Demyx howled, felt a sharp, piercing pain –

Seconds later, he was gone.


Twenty-seven days later, Demyx was sitting in a small, white-walled room, on a cold, hard, metal chair.

With his elbows on the table, he moved a thumb slowly across his palm, eyes fixed blankly ahead. 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 everyone viewed him. He certainly wasn't the same person who had stepped through the black veil nearly a month ago, into ShinRa's grasp.

Demyx blew out a sigh, placing his hands on the metal, quickly drumming out a beat on the chilled surface, eyes darting around 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 felt normal. He couldn't really remember what that was like anymore. Not while he was here, wearing white hospital pajamas with an identification strap around his left wrist. One thing that Demyx had discovered in the last twenty-seven days was that maximum-security mental wards sucked like little else. Every now and then, cold, creepy laughter echoed down the halls – and that was from Doctor Hojo, the physician in charge of his case. That man gave him the unholy heebie-jeebies.

Demyx been waiting for him for nearly thirty minutes, shifting restlessly 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 that he was nearly out. He was determined, dedicated, and – and everyone agreed now – quite, quite sane enough to mingle with regular society.

With this thought came a tingle of nervousness, anxiety dampening the stirring of anticipation. He had no idea what to expect, no clue what was coming. 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 wouldn't feel right again until he was out of here.

For twenty-seven days, he had been incarcerated, trying to prove that just because he came from a world suddenly infested by cannibals didn't mean that he was going to go out and start chomping on people. His world, which he'd thought was the only world that existed, had been recently connected to a much broader network… only to prove itself to be beyond hope. The connection had been severed three days after Demyx's arrival – if he'd delayed, he might not have made it. Facing the thought of entering an entirely new society was – frightening to him. But not nearly as frightening as the thought of what might have happened if he'd been stuck in his own world. They'd told him – they'd told him that his world's heart had been sealed. If he'd remained there, he'd most likely be dead by now.

Suddenly, the little white room didn't seem so bad anymore. It kept happening like this – he swung with great regularity between bouts of 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 rumour Demyx had heard about 'the border' was a watered-down version 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 came, would be quick, painless, and preferably non-edible.

At last, the heavy, steel door swung open, startling the blond out of his thoughts. He bit back a scowl as Hojo entered, a placid look on the doctor's face, ponytail hanging limply down his back. He approached Demyx, eyes glittering over his glasses, then stopped and simply stared, studying him. Demyx wanted to glare in return, but didn't dare to in case they decided it was an act of aggression and decided to keep him in longer.

"Well, Demyx," Hojo said after the pause, his cold voice filling the tight space. "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 reptile 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."

Demyx released a low breath as the little man, black shoes thudding against the thin, grey carpet, went over to the door, stuck his head out, and called, "Sir Auron?"

There was no response, but a man appeared a moment later, looming in the doorway. He was tall, greying, and scarred from here to Sunday. Demyx gulped at the sight of him. He hadn't thought that someone more intimidating than Hojo existed, yet here he was, wearing the most forbidding expression the blond had ever in his nineteen years laid eyes on. The dude wore a dragon-red robe, and sunglasses indoors. Bizarre.

Ignoring the scrutiny taking place, the man directed his attention to Hojo, saying 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 sat up straight and spluttered, "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, the blond shifting uncomfortably. Even with the glasses, the guy had one hell of a daunting stare. "Then, as you say," he said quietly to the doctor, "I'll be careful."

Hojo nodded, turned on heel and left the room, the sound of his footsteps quickly fading. Demyx was left alone with the man, who spent a long moment looking at him. Demyx fidgeted, able to meet his gaze clearly for only a moment before glancing away.

"My name is Auron," the man gruffly said, at long last. "I've been appointed your guardian." He stepped closer to the table, taking a small bundle from 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 in his measured, deep tone. "Together, we'll find you somewhere to live, a way to make money, and some form of education."

"Ed-education?" Demyx blinked. "I don't – I never really wanted to go to college."

The man shrugged. "They want to see what you know." He indicated the bundle by the blond's elbow. "Those are your clothes. Put them on. Once you're ready, and have fixed your hair, we leave."

"My…?" A hand pausing halfway to his head, the boy was confused. Realisation dawned with a growing sense of indignation. In four weeks, he had only been able to wash his hair 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 determination that suddenly didn't want to be walking around like a victim anymore.

He met Auron's gaze and nodded once, a frown in place. The man nodded back minutely, and left the room to allow Demyx to get changed. The clothes were plain, but still managed to feel – different, bearing the foreign mark of a different world. There was no comb, no water, and sure as hell nothing for gelling, but Dem did his best, running his fingers through the mass of blond, 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 – never again.

With this, Demyx was ready. He was cold, because the shirt was sleeveless, 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 urge 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 fused around his wrist catching his attention. He hesitated. He wondered if he would ever be able to forget that he was from a world that was now officially known as 'insane'. He grimaced, lifted his left arm, gaze moving slowly down the smooth, black-and-white skin – covered in tattoos he hadn't had when this first started. 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 everyone else behind. But – it wasn't as if he could have done anything 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, yet Demyx was suddenly more than happy to leave with him. Strangers with candy were a damn sight better than doctors 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, then said, "My car is in the parking lot." Together, they went to get Demyx checked out of the mental ward, the ID 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, Demyx 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 was 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, keys out and jangling, sent him a hard look.

"You know you wouldn't be allowed to wear it even if I did," he said, an edge to his tone. "I know the procedure with your kind – don't try to fool me."

Sighing, the boy shook his head. "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, and twisted the vents to face Demyx's chilled skin, ignoring the grateful thanks the teen returned.

"You'll be staying at my place until we find you one of your own," Auron said, wrenching at the gearstick. Demyx hesitated, nodded. Great. Living with some battered old guy. Sounded like fun. He swore, rules or no rules, if Auron tried to touch him inappropriately, 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.

Demyx rested his head upon his frosted window, letting the warmth from the heater flow over him, and although he had planned to spend the care ride watching this new and foreign world go by, before they were even halfway to Auron's apartment, the blond had fallen asleep.