What in Kingdom Hearts's name is wrong with Demyx?

Demyx had been back on duty for just shy of one week, and in less than that time, at least as far as Axel could tell, his personality had done a complete 180. He had been one of the nicest, friendliest guys Axel had ever been privileged to know, but now...well, he still acted that way in public. Emphasis on acted; Axel wasn't sure how well Demyx was fooling the other members, but he could tell Demyx's "friendliness" of late, especially towards him, was as authentic as the cheerfulness of a prerecorded greeting. It was like he was just going through the motions, like a robot programmed for friendly social interaction. That would have opened up a world of unpleasant thoughts involving Vexen and cyborgs if it wasn't for his behavior in private, at least to Axel. But that, if anything, was even more worrying.

What did I do to make him hate me so much?

It would have been nice if Demyx was given to anger. If he'd been the sort to yell and scream and threaten people he hated, he might accidentally let out why, and what had happened so recently that Axel hadn't even noticed but Demyx was taking so badly. But no - as long as there was no one else around, Demyx acted like he wasn't even there. He looked straight through him when he caught an accidental sight of him, pretended not to hear anything he said, brushed him off at every opportunity, and had more than once simply walked out of the room while Axel was trying to talk to him. It didn't make sense. It wasn't right. It wasn't like the Demyx he knew at all. And it was driving Axel insane.

He'd tried to distract himself by spending most of his free time with Roxas - he couldn't get over how much he looked like Ricky. And Roxas was certainly willing to be friends. He was interested in video games, willing to let Axel drag him all over Twilight Town and enjoy it as much as he did, didn't try to push him away (though he did get a little short when Axel started to get too clingy), and if it wasn't Axel's imagination, he was already starting to look up to him. He couldn't help but compare him to how Demyx had been when he first arrived, and Demyx couldn't help but come out on the short end of that - he'd been cold, unfriendly, untrusting, and as far as he could tell at the time, straight-up scared of him. Demyx wasn't like that anymore, though...

Except, all of a sudden, he was.

Five years. Five years, he'd been Demyx's closest friend and confidant. He'd taken care of him when he was sick or injured, helped him out when Zexion insisted he needed tutoring, comforted him when he was scared or upset...he'd practically had to teach Demyx how to trust people and make friends. And...he thought he'd done so well, he thought Demyx had put the scared, scarred kid he'd been behind him, but all of a sudden...it was like Demyx had forgotten everything. It was like the last five years never happened. Thank God for Roxas; he seemed to be the only close friend Axel had left, and the way Demyx was treating him all of a sudden, he needed a close friend.

Forget this. I've gotta talk to him.

Well, dinner was in just a few minutes. Axel positioned himself right next to Demyx's door, so he'd be out of sight of the peephole and in position to catch him as soon as he emerged. Demyx came out a few moments later, caught sight of him, turned on his heel, and stalked away in the other direction, even though it was away from the kitchen. Axel was too fast for him, however, and grabbed him by the shoulder before he could get away. "Demyx, I need to talk to you now," he said in a tone that hopefully brooked no argument, forcing the other to turn around and face him. Demyx's face went as blank as a mannequin's, which lack of expression Axel had to assume was deliberate. But he had to try to get through to him somehow, even if he felt like he was talking to a statue. He just didn't know what to say. "You've been acting really weird for this past week," he started, sensing it was a rather lame opening even as he spoke. "I don't know why, but I have to assume there's something really, deeply bothering you. And for God's sake, I wish you'd tell me what." Demyx continued to stare at him with no expression whatsoever, just a certain buried coldness in his eyes. "Come on, Demyx. Normally if there was something bothering you, I'd be the first person you'd come to. Why not now? Are you mad at me for some reason? If so, why?" No response. "Please, Demyx. Just talk to me. What did I do? This isn't like you - there has to be something!" Still nothing. Axel was starting to get desperate. "Come on, Demyx! Please! What is going on? Don't you trust me anymore?"

"No." While Axel froze in place, trying to comprehend the reality of that word, Demyx wrenched his shoulder out of his grip and stalked off. Axel could no longer stop him.

He doesn't...trust me?

Axel felt like he'd been punched in the chest. In Kingdom Hearts's name, why? Or why not? What had he done that was so horrible as to make Demyx stop trusting him completely? And no more than a week ago? He couldn't think. The horror of this revelation was clouding his thoughts. What had happened a week ago? That was when Demyx finally got his arm out of the sling and went back on duty...and ever since that day, Demyx had...had hated him. Or at least that was what it felt like. But Axel could swear that the day before, he'd been fine. He'd visited him in his room a couple times that day, and Demyx had seemed as genuinely friendly as ever - granted, his visits had been kind of short, because he'd been stopping by in between doing stuff with Roxas, but that by itself wouldn't make Demyx turn on him like that...but between that day and the next, something had happened. The next time he'd seen Demyx was at breakfast the next morning...had it been something at breakfast? What? He hadn't even said that much to him, just asked him how his shoulder was...had Demyx been upset by his brevity? So upset that he'd stop trusting him altogether? Axel couldn't conceive of that...he'd done a hell of a lot worse to him over the years, he had to admit, and Demyx had always been able to forgive him...what could possibly be different now?

Roxas. That was the only thing he could think of. But that wouldn't have been Demyx's first time meeting him - Axel had introduced them while Demyx was still on the DL. But Axel couldn't think of anything else...all right, Roxas had been sitting in Demyx's old seat, but that was easily explained. Roxas had kind of gravitated to that seat to begin with, and since Demyx had been injured and not showing for meals, Axel hadn't seen fit to put up a fuss about it, and by the time Demyx came back, the seat just seemed like Roxas's. But was letting someone else sit in his seat such a horrible insult not even Demyx could forgive it? That was ridiculous...there had to be something more. Some reason Demyx wasn't willing to even explain to Axel, let alone give Axel a chance to explain himself.

It wasn't Roxas himself, was it? No, that was just as ridiculous. Demyx wasn't so selfish he couldn't forgive Axel making another close friend.

Wasn't he?

Axel shook his head, trying to deny the conclusion he'd just come up with. Demyx was not a selfish person, period. He could not be so selfish as to not let Axel have other close friends besides him. But...maybe the scars of his friendless, loveless past weren't that deeply buried after all. Maybe he was so insecure he couldn't stand for Axel to have another friend anywhere near so close. So insecure he thought making friends with anyone else was a direct attack on him. Maybe he thought Axel was betraying him in an unforgivable way by making friends with Roxas.

So why did Axel feel so betrayed?

You think you know a guy...after five years...

Finally, he recalled himself enough to actually go down to the kitchen. Roxas was already there, waiting for him, but Demyx was conspicuously absent. "Are you all right?" Roxas asked as he sat down, looking at him with concern, and Axel didn't know what to say.

"Yeah," was what finally came out. "Nothing for you to worry about." The words rang flat in his ears even as he said them, but he didn't know what else to say. He didn't know if Roxas was aware how close he and Demyx were - no, had once been - and now, it was probably just as well. He wouldn't have to feel so bad on Axel's behalf.

Fortunately, Roxas was still too shy to question him much. "If you insist," he said uncertainly, then blinked in surprise as Xigbar went around handing out envelopes again. "I thought we only got those at breakfast," he said as one landed by Axel's plate.

Axel growled under his breath as he regarded the envelope, and somewhat louder when he actually read it. "Dammit, Rox...sorry," he added as his mind caught up to his mouth. "I warned you sometimes we get sent out on pretty long missions...I'm gonna be out of here for four days. With Demyx, of all people." To New Orleans, of all places. How often had he and Demyx talked idly about going there together for Mardi Gras someday...well, now they were going there together, but not for Mardi Gras, and not even as friends. He felt like Xigbar was playing a brutally cruel joke on him.

"...Is that bad?" Thank God Roxas was still mostly ignorant of the Organization's relationship dynamics. "I know he just got his arm out of a sling..."

"Well, it's not like he's a real asshole like Marluxia...he's just not good for much," Axel said, trying to conceal his pain with bitter anger but unable to bring himself to be really cruel. Demyx was - had been - his closest friend, after all.

You think you know a guy.

AN:*puts a stopper in the damn thing* And the cycle is complete. Immediately after this comes "Katrina".

There, does that make Axel seem like less of an asshole?