Saïx was institutionalized – finally – at the age of eighteen. He had been diagnosed with clinical lycanthropy at age twelve. The symptoms were obvious – development of a canine-like appearance, and temporary insanity during the full moon, during which the patient believes that they have lupine form. The only reason it had taken so long was because his family had been unusually neglectful, and rarely noticed these bouts of lunacy.
This isn't to say that he wasn't well-fed or cared for – but he was quite free to sharpen his nails if he so chose, or to play with dogs almost to the exclusion of people. They hardly noticed his growing fangs, or the claws that began to appear simply because his nails were too hard to cut. And he was perfectly alright with that situation.
The family relinquished control at eighteen, when, during one of his monthly wildnesses, he attacked and almost killed his older brother. That looked worse on the family record than did a son in the insane asylum, and so they dropped him off unceremoniously at the falsely cheery Hollow Bastion Correctional Facility.
The place was nice enough, he admitted to himself when feeling generous, but the company of only loons and shrinks grew quite old after a while. With some work on his part, however, and a few carefully cultivated friendships, he began to have a veritable library snuck in, which made his stay infinitely more bearable. It was easier to forget the incoherent cries from the room next door when reading about philosophy and the string theory.
But none of that excused the fact that it was a cage, and the world was so much darker through prison bars.
Xemnas might have smiled when he saw the file in front of him had he been a normal person. Finally, the worthless morons who called themselves his lab assistants had done something worthwhile. In front of him sat the medical records for possibly the only institutionalized case of clinical lycanthropy in the modern world.
Those records were, of course, strictly confidential to the patient and his doctor, but there were few legal matters that a bit of creative bribery or threat dispensation couldn't cure.
He put the papers down on his immaculate walnut desk, expression solid and unchanging, and quietly resolved to make himself a place in this asylum, to study this lunatic, and perhaps learn what it was that gave him his rage – because, being incapable of any kind of passion, emotion in all its many forms was fascinating to him. And so, he would watch the human race pitilessly, removed from it, and yet, not so very unlike it at all.
Saïx contemplated dispassionately on waking that his only reason to get up today was to stave off real insanity, the kind that had you blabbering on like a baby about everything or nothing at all. He wouldn't leave his room today, so the only kind of stimulation he would get would be from the limited television channels available on his thirty-year-old television set. He didn't usually go anywhere, in fact, because the only other place he was allowed to visit was the Common, and he had no desire whatsoever to associate with people who couldn't even tell a smile from sarcasm, much less hold intelligent conversation with him. Probably the most interesting thing that would happen today would be that Naminé girl bringing him some unidentifiable kind of mash. It was only barely tolerable, and only that because he needed sustenance for survival.
He sat up slowly and yawned, greeted by white on all sides. That suited him fine. He wasn't much of a colors person anyway. Upon looking around, he noticed that his dishes from last night's drippy cafeteria fare lay haphazardly by his door. That was strange; she should have been by to pick them up by now. Must be running late. But he didn't mind; Saïx liked it when it was Naminé's shift to take care of him. He scared her. It was fascinating to him, to watch her tremble and smile both at once. He almost admired her for that.
His thoughts were interrupted by a sharp rap on the door. His ears twitched in response – dammit, why wouldn't they stop doing that – and he was soon greeted by the sight of Zexion, looking washed-out as usual in his white lab coat.
"It's Tuesday," Saïx said without any other explanation. Zexion never came on Tuesdays, and something must be off for him to break the schedule.
"Shut up and don't complain," Zexion responded coolly, setting down the pile of thick tomes in his arms with a thud onto the cheap wood bedside table. "If you're good, I'll give you a treat," he said with a smirk. There was a kind of understanding between them that allowed him to say things like that.
"Fuck you," Saïx responded from the bed with only a small scowl.
"That's no way to talk to me, Saïx. I brought you something." And with that, he pulled out a warm plastic container and tossed it to the inmate.
"It's steak, grade-A, and yes it's cooked, before you ask. I have no desire to be charged with manslaughter after you die from undercooked meat."
He gave Zexion a halfhearted glare before delicately tearing a bite out of the meat, savoring it slowly. The doctor cleared his throat carefully, then continued.
"Your books. Philosophy today, and one astrophysics. You liked it last time, right?"
Saïx could tell that Zexion was making an extra effort to be friendly today. Pathetic, that. This was all he could come up with.
"So what's the news?" the inmate asked tonelessly, not looking up from his meat. It was obvious that something strange was happening, what with Naminé not coming to visit and Zexion coming on a Tuesday, bearing gifts to presumably butter him up.
"I'm… being transferred. Or more accurately, someone else is taking on your case. Xemnas is his name, as he told me when I asked. No last name. He's… well, you'll have to meet him."
"Transferred," he responded emotionlessly. He paused for a moment. "So the bastard wants me as a test subject." Nobody suddenly took on the case of a random lunatic without having some kind of ulterior motive. He didn't need to say another word to make it clear that he saw this as a challenge. And Saïx had never been one to back down from a challenge, no matter who it killed.
"Look, don't get too out-of-control. Visitation rights are based on good behavior, and I'm sure that nobody else in this place is going to give you steak and Voltaire."
Their curious friendship was based on something of a mutual understanding – to Zexion, Saïx was a welcome relief from the crazies he had to deal with for the rest of the day, someone with whom he could spend a companionable silence and still be doing his job. To Saïx, Zexion was a source of sanity – for at least these moments, Zexion reminded him that there was more to life than just this, and that now matter how he was treated by the other scientists, just because he went crazy on the full moon did not mean that he was mentally deficient. And for those things, however small, he was eternally grateful.
"Visitation rights? Screw that. Sneak in. Sneak Demyx in." Demyx was a fellow inmate, one of the few Saïx could tolerate, even if he didn't necessarily like the boy. Demyx was a manic-depressive suicide risk whose medicine left him a little far on the "manic" side of that spectrum. His medicine was administered every six hours precisely, with hell resulting if it wasn't. The boy had taken a liking to Saïx, and at least that made his days less intolerably boring.
"Do I know Demyx?"
"New acquisition, third floor ward, I think. He's a suicide risk, wouldn't be your case." Demyx had also proven himself to be especially adept at getting wherever he wanted, whenever he wanted, regardless of petty rules – Saïx suspected that half the staff, male or female, was at least mildly infatuated with him already, plus some of the more lucid inmates.
Zexion frowned, arms crossed customarily, and stared down Saïx from behind the curtain of his bangs.
"Does this mean you're planning on causing trouble?" he asked, not quite accusingly but with just enough of an edge to his voice for Saïx to notice.
"I will be… noncompliant," he replied with a smirk, baring his fangs slightly in the process.
Zexion sighed, shaking his head.
"Alright, then. But this guy is higher up than me. Way higher up. Nobody quite knows where he came from except Vexen, and he refers to Xemnas as 'the Superior.' So keep in mind that I won't be able to bail you."
Saïx didn't respond. He didn't need any kind of saving, and planned to make that quite clear.
Realizing that this conversation was over, Zexion relaxed slightly, then gave a parting nod and turned, out the white door into the white hall, and all either of them could see anywhere was white.
Xemnas might have almost said that he was… looking forward to the meeting, as much as he ever looked forward to anything. More apt, perhaps, would be to say that he was interested. Avidly interested.
He did not knock as he entered Room Thirty-Six, where his case lived. But instead of the stoic man with blue-silver hair he had been led to expect, he was greeted by a faceful of bubbly blonde.
"Hi! You must be Xemnas. Dr. Xemnas, I guess? Anyway, I'm Demyx. Nice to meet you, and welcome to Castle Oblivion."
"…Castle Oblivion," Xemnas responded with a condescending, barely-visible sort of half-amusement.
"Yeah. Once you walk in, it's like you never existed on the Outside. So, Castle Oblivion," the blonde responded with a grin that managed to not quite be bitter.
Xemnas didn't respond, though he raised an eyebrow by way of expressing his opinion. The nickname was… unrefined, at best, but curiously apt. Castle Oblivion.
"So anyway, you're here to meet Saïx, right? Don't mind me, I'm just visiting. He's watching television right now, just through that door."
Xemnas nodded his head in acknowledgement, brow furrowing in frustration. He was beginning to tire of the boy's… friendliness.
"Leave us," he said without any attempt at subtlety.
Demyx's hurt was instantaneous and clearly visible, though he played it up a bit for dramatic effect.
"Well fine then, be that way. But that stick in your ass has probably been there so long it's starting to grow roots. Don't blame me for trying to be friendly." And with one final look towards his new Superior, waiting for the reaction that never came, he stalked out the door petulantly.
Some part of Xemnas told him that maybe those weren't the best choice of words, but that part was quickly silenced due to inattention. After all, one didn't get diagnosed with sociopathy, even of the mild variety, for having any particular empathy for the thoughts of others.
He entered the small living room unhesitantly, looking quickly to see what his patient was watching – political coverage, a strange choice for a lunatic – then looked towards his patient. Number 36 had striking silver-gray hair, almost blue under the flickering halogen light, and his fangs were barely visible under his lip as he snarled at something or other that the commentator was saying. Xemnas clinically summed up his impression, making a mental note; the patient seemed strangely normal despite his appearance and apparent lunacy.
"Did you want something?" the patient asked, voice rumbling quietly. His eyes never left the television set.
"Yes, I am Xemnas. I will be working with you from now on. Please give me the details of your case, 36."
Xemnas saw the patient twitch minutely, generally a sign of displeasure, but could not ascertain the cause. He had learned over the years that using "please" made people more compliant. He did not understand why it wasn't working in this case. When the inmate did not respond, he cleared his throat and repeated the question. After a second silence, it was quite clear that his patient was not going to reply.
"Are you attempting to be difficult or do your mental deficiencies render you incapable of understanding speech? Interesting. I shall have to note that. Your previous caretaker indicated that you were mostly functional."
Number 36 looked up to meet Xemnas's eyes for the first time, and Xemnas noted that the patient's lip had curled upward, giving him a much better view of those interesting teeth.
"I am no more mentally deficient than you are yourself, you bastard, and maybe even less so than you," he responded with a snarl. Interesting.
"Ah. So you are capable of understanding human communication. As you have proven yourself able to do so, I must now assume that you are being difficult."
"I'm not going to be your toy." He noted that the patient's eyes were narrowed and his brow furrowed, and he searched his mind to recall what precisely that meant.
Xemnas frowned at the inmate's words, crossing his arms. That was an untrue statement, and he felt the need to correct his misconceptions.
"You will not be my toy, you will be my experiment," he stated firmly.
"Fuck you." It struck him suddenly – the patient appeared to be getting angry, a fact which startled Xemnas a little, and also began to make him frustrated.
"No need to be indignant. I have chosen you to be my project; you should be honored."
The inmate muttered something quietly, not meeting Xemnas's eyes, and his lips drew back into a grin that seemed curiously devoid of happiness. The doctor barely managed to hear the words "dare," and "life," and only because his hearing was rather extraordinary.
"Did you say something?" Xemnas asked, somehow suspicious that he was being mocked.
"Nothing at all. But 'I foresee obscurely that you are to become the most wretched of human beings.'" The same grin. It was mildly annoying.
"I would prefer being a wretched human being to being a pitiful, mangy dog."
The inmate growled quietly, and Xemnas almost smiled. It was curious to see just how closely the similarities ran between the patient and a mongrel.
"And I would prefer the company of beasts to the company of monsters."
Xemnas blinked, mildly confused.
"You do not suffer your own company?"
The patient snorted incredulously.
"No, I don't suffer your kind. 'I shall quit forever the neighborhood of man, or become the scourge of your fellow-creatures, and the author of your own speedy ruin.'"
Xemnas blinked, stared, and then smiled slowly.
"Frankenstein. I see. I underestimated you. I shall then have to make a real effort. Until you comply, I will be withholding your sustenance. I will give Naminé instructions that all sustenance is to be confiscated."
The patient – Saïx – gave a barking laugh.
"You can't do that, you asshole."
"I think you'll find that I can."
"That's breaking any number of laws and charters."
"And who will find out about this infraction? How?"
The patient was silent, and made it obvious that he wasn't going to respond by his furious glare. Xemnas noted with interest that the patient's pupils shrank so much when he was angry that they almost appeared nonexistent.
"Until tomorrow, then."
And with those words, Xemnas turned and walked out, thinking with relish on tomorrow's meeting. This man, this dog – he may yet prove to be a worthy opponent.
"You did what?" Zexion couldn't keep the startled look off his face.
"I restricted his food supply until such time as he decides to comply," Xemnas responded tonelessly, uninterested in his subordinate's indignation.
"You can't do that!"
"I can. It is vitally important that this patient comply with my requests. Visitation rights are also waived until further notice, doctor." He gave Zexion a look that said that he knew exactly what had been doing on against regulations.
Zexion gave Xemnas a blank look, carefully constructed to hide the frustration, then turned on his heel. He decided almost instantly that it was about time to make friends with this "Demyx." No matter their infraction, no patient in his ward was going to starve while he still had his job.
It wasn't far to the elevator, then only minutes up to the third floor infirmary where Saïx had said that Demyx lived. A quick question to the nurse – Kairi was her name – and he had the boy's room number.
Moments later found him standing awkwardly in front of Number 92, hand raised hesitantly but not quite willing to knock. He had never been particularly good with people, even though he liked their company – and somehow, the thought of going in and meeting this person was giving him pause.
He was saved from making that decision when the door flew open and a sandy blonde boy collided with the other man, sending them both flying to the floor with a dull thud.
"Oh, I'm so sorry! I didn't see you there. Are you alright?" he asked while clumsily attempting to untangle himself from the older man while Zexion sat there, staring dumbly. Eventually he realized that he was being asked a question, and gave a mute nod in response as he was helped up by a concerned Demyx.
"I'm so sorry, again. Yeah, I'm kind of clumsy like that. I hope you'll forgive me?" he asked worriedly. Zexion couldn't help but give a small smile at Demyx's concern.
"It's fine," he said, gesturing to Demyx that he should re-enter the room first. The blonde did so, looking distinctly relieved that his clumsiness hadn't earned him a lifelong enemy.
"So did you need something, doctor…?" He drifted off, and it was only then that Zexion realized that they hadn't been introduced.
"Zexion," he said with as much of a smile as he could comfortably manage – he didn't want to come off as unfriendly, he was just… naturally taciturn.
"Dr. Zexion, then."
"No, just Zexion. And you're Demyx?"
The boy smiled broadly, evidently pleased that he had been asked to call his doctor by his first name. It occurred to Zexion in passing that he was probably on first-name terms with almost everyone in the ward by now.
"Yeah. Like I said, did you need something?"
"Well, I wanted to get acquainted… Saïx spoke of you," he said, not wanting to broach the subject yet. He liked the boy, and really did want to get to know him, so it wasn't quite an untruth.
Demyx's eyes widened a bit in surprise at his words.
"Did he? Really? I though he didn't like me very much," he said with a carefully controlled excitement.
"Trust me, the fact that he lets you stay means he likes you," Zexion responded dryly.
"Hm. Saïx is a very reserved person, isn't he? It's kind of a shame that he's stuck in this place with nobody."
"Yes, it is," Zexion responded, looking away awkwardly. He wanted to ask why Demyx was in this place – he seemed normal enough – but knew that that would be somewhat rude.
"You want to know why I'm in here, don't you?" Demyx asked with a smile, reading his thoughts. "It's okay, I don't mind."
He sat down on one of his small cushioned chairs, almost gray from constant use, and indicated that Zexion should do the same.
"I tried to kill myself, several times actually. Now you might think that I don't act much like a suicide risk, and you'd be right. I don't act like one, and I don't want to. When my medicine's in effect, I like who I am. But the other problem is that I need to take my medicine every four hours. So my family dropped me here 'cause they didn't want to deal with me."
He shrugged and gave a small smile.
"That all cool with you?" he asked Zexion, who watched the other quietly.
"Quite." He gave Demyx another smile, and realized that he had given Demyx more smiles in the past ten minutes than he had given anyone in weeks.
"That's good, then." They both sensed oncoming awkwardness, but Demyx avoided it with expert dexterity.
"So have you met the new Superior?" he asked quickly, to stave off the silence.
"What did you think of him? I thought he has a stick in his ass so big it's probably serving as his spine."
Zexion smirked at the comment – Demyx seemed to have something of a knack for irreverent commentary.
"I thought the same thing," he responded, amused.
"Yeah, he seems like the king of assholes. Do you want to know what I found out today though? Xigbar told me that he's been diagnosed with a mild version of sociopathic disorder. So he's crazy too, only evidently he can fake his way through life, unlike us.
Zexion gave a small noise of recognition, contemplating a moment before responding.
"Yes, I could believe that. But also, part of the reason I came today," he made it a point to say "part" because he was genuinely enjoying Demyx's company regardless of his original intentions, "Xemnas has decided to deny food to Saïx until he complies. And I know you haven't been here very long, but I'm sure that you've figured out that Saïx isn't a particularly compliant person. Especially not to someone who doesn't treat him like a human being."
"So you want me to sneak food in to him?"
"Actually…" he paused momentarily. "Saïx has something of a preference for steak. Undercooked steak. Which is obviously difficult to come by in the cafeteria. And those books you see him reading? He's not technically allowed to have them."
Demyx smiled slowly, thinking about it, and eventually couldn't contain his grin.
"So you sneak in Descartes and raw steak. You're an interesting guy."
He looked away, trying and failing to stop himself from smiling in return.
"Not that interesting. And not raw, I don't want him to die from salmonella or anything else. No matter what he thinks on the full moon, he still doesn't have a wolf's body."
"Of course you're interesting. In fact, I like you. Do you think that you could come and hang out here more often?"
There was a slight pause.
"…I'd like that."
Little did Zexion know that this moment was to be the start of the most enduring bit of human contact he had ever known.