"Morning, Rox. Take it Axel's gone for the day?"
Roxas set the plate with Demyx's breakfast on it on the bedside table, then helped Demyx sit up in bed. The Melodious Nocturne was recovering slowly after last week's not-totally-inexplicable collapse and subsequent illness, but he was still more-or-less bedridden. "For a couple days, I think. It looked like he got a thicker envelope than usual."
"Ah. Well, in return for breakfast this morning..." Before touching the plate, Demyx summoned his sitar and handed it to Roxas. "There's your mission for the day. I've been letting you slack off, and you need to keep in practice." He smiled mischievously as Roxas stared at it. "I hope you haven't lost the mezrabs I gave you yet."
"Well, no, but, um...they're in my room."
Demyx chuckled softly as he ate. "Then borrow a couple of mine. I'm not letting you run away and not come back when I'm in no position to chase you down. Just because I'm too sick to get out of bed, you think you're entitled to a break - well, you got one, but it's over now."
Roxas sighed with mock dejection. "Anyone who thinks you're all sunshine and marshmallow candy has never tried taking sitar lessons from you."
Demyx snorted indignantly. "Me? Sunshine and marshmallow candy? Who thinks that? I'll have you know I'm not especially fond of marshmallows, except in hot chocolate...they get all stuck in your teeth..." Roxas laughed at that. "Seriously. You should count yourself lucky. There are some real slave drivers out there."
"Sorry, I don't know any of them, and if I did, I don't think I'd ask for sitar lessons from them."
"You'd probably have made a hell of a lot more progress under them than you have from me...I think for today, you should just practice. Don't quite have it in me to teach you anything new at the moment, and you're probably a little rusty anyhow."
"Scales," Roxas muttered under his breath as he took his shoes and socks off.
"Yes. Scales. Scales, scales, and more scales." Demyx chuckled at Roxas's glare. "Don't look at me like that. I'm not putting you through anything I didn't go through once."
Roxas took the sitar and sat down in playing position on one of Demyx's numerous floor pillows. "Knowing you, you thought it was a blast."
"Hey, don't get snippy with me; I outrank you." Demyx set his now-empty plate back down and lay down, on his side so he could watch what Roxas was doing. "At first, yeah, I did think it was a blast, but months and months of nothing but scales - eventually it bored the hell out of me too. You know what my grandmother used to say when I complained about it?"
"I suspect I'm gonna hear it anyway."
Demyx shook his head and clucked his tongue. "'Ah, Edmy! I know how this must bore you, with your gift impatient for greatness, but think!" He sounded exactly like an old Indian woman lecturing her grandson. "Without this basic foundation, all the talent in the world will come to nothing!"
Roxas howled with laughter. "Is that exactly what she said?"
Demyx shook his head. "No, she really would have sounded like -" He repeated it in Hindi; the only word Roxas recognized was Demyx's Other's name. "We always used Hindi at home, because my grandmother's English was always pretty terrible. But I thought you'd get more out of it if I said it in English."
"Yeah, you're probably right...that was an excellent imitation, though."
"Gee, thanks, I'm so flattered. But you are absolutely terrible at focusing on what you're doing sometimes, got it memorized?"
Roxas just about fell over. He had to look around quickly to make sure Axel wasn't really in the room. "Don't do that!"
Demyx gave him an aloof, vaguely irritated look. "Do be so kind as to explain exactly what you would rather I not do, Thirteen?"
"...Has Zexion ever heard you do that?"
Demyx laughed and winked at him. "As if. Don't think he'd find it all that funny, dude."
Roxas could barely stop laughing long enough to talk. "Can you do the whole Organization?"
"Oh, probably," Demyx said in his normal voice, "though Larxene and Xanrivash would give me trouble. But you're supposed to be practicing scales, not listening to me doing impersonations." He laughed. "I'm a bad teacher. I'm over here distracting you instead of helping you learn."
As Roxas obediently started playing the scales he'd been directed to, Demyx pulled the blankets up to his shoulders and watched, offering occasional pointers or words of encouragement. When he was quiet for a little too long, Roxas looked up and discovered he'd fallen asleep. "Oh, for...Demyx! This is not the best time for a nap!"
"Uh...wha? Oh...heh...sorry." Demyx's pale face flushed a little. "Sorry, I'm having a little trouble staying awake. You could see it as a compliment," he offered. "If you were screwing up, I wouldn't be able to relax."
Roxas rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You managed to keep yourself awake and composing for five days straight, without food, and a week later you can't stay conscious for two hours at a time."
Demyx yawned. "Cause and effect, Rox."
Roxas shook his head again. "How'd you even do that? And why?"
Demyx sighed and closed his eyes again. "I dunno. I don't remember all that much. I must have been high as a kite half the time."
Roxas almost dropped the sitar. "...What?!"
"Not on drugs!" Demyx held up a hand defensively. "Before you get any wrong ideas! I was not in there keeping myself hopped up on amphetamines or anything!"
"Then what the fuck are you talking about?"
Demyx chuckled slightly. "You're swearing at me. Axel must be rubbing off on you." Roxas continued to glare at him. "...I...I dunno how to explain it. Sometimes, when I'm playing or composing, I just get into one of these moods..." He shrugged helplessly. "It's like I'm not the one playing the music anymore. It's like the music is playing me. And it's not always especially gentle. Heh - you can tell; I got treated like one of Pete Townshend's guitars. Smashed on the floor at the end of the show." Roxas stared at him uncomprehendingly, and he shook his head. "Never mind. It's just...it's an incredible sensation. It'd take me years to try to describe it fully, and even then I'm not sure you'd really understand. But it's amazing." His eyes were shining faintly. "I wish I could explain how amazing."
"Well, you described it as being a high, or at least I think you did..."
Demyx nodded faintly. "I guess that's what it is. It's like I'm not in control of myself anymore, and I don't care, because the music is all that matters to me. Don't need food, don't need sleep - as long as I keep playing or composing, I can keep going forever. But once I stop...bam. I'm out for the count. As demonstrated. I've never kept going that long before, though, or crashed out that badly."
Roxas snorted. "You came that close to killing yourself. Bet you wish you hadn't done that."
Demyx smiled and closed his eyes. "I'm not in a hurry to do it again...but I wouldn't give it up for worlds."
"...You are nuts."
"I guess so." Demyx was quiet for several minutes, and Roxas thought he'd gone back to sleep, until he opened his eyes again. "I wish I could show everyone what it was like. That'd convince them all we really can feel."
Roxas thought for a moment. "You know...after we found you in the Hall, while you were still delirious, you kept talking about getting your heart back for a few minutes and then losing it again. Axel thought you were crazy, I just thought it was the fever, but..." He shrugged.
Demyx rolled over and stared at the ceiling, with an expression that was impossible to interpret. "...What happened to the music I was working on?" he said finally.
"...It's in a drawer in your desk. Why do you ask?"
"Good...I was kind of afraid Axel had burned it or something. Just to protect me from myself."
"Well...I did ask him to, for just that reason," Roxas confessed. "He refused on the grounds that that was the one thing you wouldn't forgive him for as long as he lived."
Demyx glared at him. "There are a few other things, but that's definitely on the list."
"...Did I just win myself a few extra scales?"
"Yes, Roxas, you did. Less talk, more practice."
Roxas sighed and went back to practicing scales. When he noticed Demyx had gone back to sleep, he was tempted to put the sitar down and sneak out, but instead he reached over and shook his shoulder. "Beep. Beep. Time to wake up."
Demyx blinked. "Oh. Sorry."
"Was wearing yourself out like that really worth it?"
Demyx nodded. "Absolutely. This, right now, isn't much fun, but the sensation at the top - it's unreal. It's fantastic. If I had to choose how to die, that's how I'd like to go - so wrapped up in the music it's like I'm in heaven already."
Roxas stared at him for a few moments. "Okay...that's a somewhat disturbing thought."
"I have no intention of playing or composing myself to death any time soon. That make you feel better?"
Roxas rubbed his forehead, careful not to poke himself in the eyes with the steel picks on his fingers. "A little, maybe. When are the rest of us going to hear that incredible composition you almost killed yourself over? Fair warning, it had better be the best thing you ever wrote, or I'm going to be sorely disappointed."
Demyx chuckled and shrugged. "You won't be the only one - if it's not at least one of the best things I ever wrote, I'm gonna be disgusted with myself. As for when everyone else will get to hear it - I dunno. When I feel up to it, I guess. Which may be a while."
"Did your Other ever do this to himself?"
Demyx shook his head regretfully. "Never had the chance. By the time I was skilled enough to consider composing, I couldn't afford to." He sighed. "My grandmother died real suddenly when I was eleven - came home from school one day and couldn't wake her up from a nap. She had almost no money saved up, and definitely no life insurance. I started pawning all her old jewelry, clothes, even the furniture and appliances, just to keep myself fed and pay the rent, and when I was down to basically my own clothes and the sitar, I ran away so the landlord wouldn't figure out something was up and report me to Child Protection Services. Looking back on it, that was probably the exact wrong thing to do." He bit his lip. "From then on, my daily routine was wake up, buy something to eat if I had the money to, or make breakfast if I had a place to stay and was able to buy groceries, or go without if I didn't have any food or money, then go out and try to earn some money. At the end of the day, if I had enough money to do so, I'd get something to eat, unless I didn't have anywhere to stay and was close to being able to make a down payment somewhere. Wherever it was, it was bound to be a shithole, because that's all I could hope to afford, but even a shithole is better than a cardboard box or a doorway." The corner of his mouth quirked a little. "Anyway, I didn't have a whole lot of free time left to compose."
Roxas shook his head, amazed at the idea of someone that young, alone in the world and having to look after himself because no one else would. "And...you managed to keep yourself fed, clothed, and sometimes sheltered just by playing sitar for money?"
Demyx seemed to sink a little deeper into the mattress, closing his eyes as if to ward off an unpleasant memory. "No. That wasn't the only thing I did," he whispered. He didn't say anything like "But I don't want to talk about the rest" or "The rest of it doesn't matter" (which, coming from him, meant the same thing), but Roxas decided on his own it was probably best if he didn't ask. Instead, he went back to practicing scales in what would have otherwise been an uncomfortable silence, until he realized Demyx had fallen asleep yet again.
"Are you sure you're up for this?" he asked after rousing the Nocturne a third time.
"Up for making you play while I listen? Why wouldn't I be? This is about the only thing I am up for."
"Well, you keep falling asleep..."
"That's because I'm tired and not feeling well. Talking keeps me awake, but it keeps you from playing."
Roxas rolled his eyes. "Which do you need more? Rest or company?"
Demyx sighed. "I need rest," he murmured. "I guess you can go."
"All right." Roxas nodded, but instead of setting the sitar down and leaving, he sat back down and went back to practicing scales until he was sure Demyx was sleeping again. By the time he left, Demyx was smiling in his sleep.
AN: There, EG of the COCA, that make you happy?
If you haven't read "String Theory" and "Strange Mad Ecstasy", you should. The story might make more sense. The events of "Strange Mad Ecstasy" are the reason Demyx is in the condition he's in.
Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, got it memorized?