When Demyx slept, he never experienced such a thing as a dreamless sleep. He always dreamed.

He dreamed of fists, and boots, and bludgeons, and his own precious sitar being used to break his bones until the instrument itself shattered. He dreamed of being chained in dark and silence like a dangerous animal, away from sunlight and moonlight and even firelight, battered and abused and starved, despised even by his fellow prisoners. He dreamed of feeling the noose tighten around his neck, watching the crowd gathered around the gallows in Port Royal screaming soundlessly for his blood, not caring what crimes he may or may not have committed, only caring that he lived without a heart, and so must die.

He dreamed of hatred.

He dreamed of the trapdoor opening, and falling - and the rope broke, and he landed on the bed he'd slept in for most of his childhood, a dozen years younger than he ought to be. His throat hurt, as if from the rope - but the rope was gone...no, it was more like he'd been screaming. The lights came on, and suddenly his grandmother was sitting next to him, hugging him and talking to him and driving away whatever nightmare had caused him to wake up screaming. The memories of the terror he'd faced in Port Royal faded; all that mattered was that he was home with his grandmother, and all was therefore well.

He dreamed of love.

He dreamed of being alone in one corner of the playground, hiding his ugly face and hoping no one saw him there. He dreamed of knowing that if any of the other children saw him there, the best that could happen was that they would stick their noses in the air and conscientiously ignore him - if they didn't choose to ignore him, they'd gather around and tease him mercilessly, laughing at each and every one of his tears, and if they neither ignored nor teased, that would mean the abuse had turned physical, and they'd turned on him with punches and shoves. He dreamed of dreading every school day, for reasons he couldn't explain to his grandmother; after all, education was supposed to be a privilege, not a living hell.

He dreamed of loneliness.

He covered his eyes with his hands for a moment, and uncovered them to find himself in a hospital bed, running his hands over his shaven scalp. The aches throughout his body didn't compare to the ache where his heart should be - it was just hair, it was just a damn hairstyle, its loss should not bother him so much. But when the door started to open, he immediately hid under the covers so whoever it was wouldn't see his bald head. The covers were peeled back, and he found himself looking up at Axel and Roxas, both smiling awkwardly, their freshly shaven heads just as bald as his own now...and the ache where his heart should be mysteriously disappeared.

He dreamed of friendship.

He dreamed of the face of his best friend, horribly contorted with alcohol-fueled rage. He dreamed of safe havens becoming danger zones, comfort turning to terror, hands that used to reassure clenched into murderous fists. He dreamed of fire, and pain, and a savage beating he couldn't defend himself against - drunk or not, Axel was his best friend; he couldn't bring himself to so much as raise a hand in his own defense. He dreamed of lying helpless on the floor, battered and broken inside and out, while Axel towered over him, swaying slightly - "What a pieshe'a shit you are," he heard. "Ya' fuckin' worthlesh, got it merem- memro- memors- y'fuckin geddit?!"

He dreamed of fear.

He forced himself to sit upright, and found himself standing at the door of Axel's room, sick with the fresh memory of a voice not his own and thoughts from another mind forcing their way into his head and trying to take him over. He couldn't even blame the voice for the way he'd lashed out - that was his own fault, the fault of his own fear and confusion. When Axel opened the door, his face marred by a massive black eye, Demyx fully expected to get the door slammed in his face. Instead, he was invited in, and offered blankets, and a shot of something strong, and a listening ear, and a shoulder to cry on.

He dreamed of reassurance.

He dreamed of returning to the little apartment after another hellish day at school, wishing only for a comforting face and a long sitar lesson, only to find his grandmother asleep in her favorite chair - but she was never asleep when he got home; she made sure of that. He dreamed of shaking her, and shaking her, and begging her to wake up, and continuing to shake and plead even after he realized she was no longer breathing and her body had already gone cold. He dreamed of sobbing until he became sick to his stomach, and collapsing on the bathroom floor, feeling too utterly helpless and lost and alone to even lift a finger. He dreamed of finally crawling out of the bathroom, still too sick with despair to stand up, and realizing two days had gone by, and collapsing all over again.

He dreamed of grief.

He opened his eyes, and found himself lying on the floor of a bare little room, waiting as his strength started to flood back - he'd been on the brink of death, he knew it, and only brought back by a miracle. As he was still trying to adjust to the idea that he was going to live, he was hit with the crushing realization that someone he'd relied on for years had not. As the joy and relief vanished, and his head bowed with grief, his eyes suddenly met a pair of bright blue eyes, and read the same grief in them as in his own. He and Roxas suddenly fell on each other, crying on each other's shoulders, discovering together that grief shared is somehow diminished.

He dreamed of comfort.

He dreamed of looking into the mirror, and being confronted with a face that he knew was his own, and yet was not his own. He dreamed of running a hand over his own face and watching the man in the mirror do the same, of reaching out to touch the mirror and meeting the other man's fingers at the glass. He dreamed of wondering whether this - sudden inability to recognize his own face - meant that he'd been profoundly changed, marred for life, a wrecked, demented shadow of his former self. He dreamed of wondering whether he was now damned to the worst Hell possible, even beyond mere deafness - that of being able to hear music after a fashion, but remaining unmoved and untouched by it; emotionless, hopeless, soulless.

He dreamed of despair.

He sank back, and found himself in the little side room he'd been brought to when he'd first arrived, wondering what had just happened and what was going to happen now and how he could still be alive without a heart. More importantly, he wondered where his sitar had gone and whether he'd ever find it again - the thought of it being gone forever made his stomach twist horribly. He shook his head desperately, wishing it was right there in his hands...and something he couldn't explain happened, and he was holding a sitar. It wasn't the one he'd had his whole life - far from it - but it seemed so very much his, and felt absolutely right in his hands in a way he could never hope to define. He dug the mezrabs he always carried out of his pocket, put them on, plucked a string, and smiled.

He dreamed of hope.

He dreamed of the cold, descending curse, the eternal silence that had blighted his life and blotted out the one thing he truly needed to survive. He dreamed of reading through stacks of compositions he'd barely been able to hear while writing them and would never hear now. He dreamed of tying a loop in a short length of cord, and standing on a stepstool to tie it to his hanger rod, and carefully tightening the noose around his own neck, in an eerie echo of Port Royal. He dreamed of kicking the stepstool away, and the drop afterwards, and wanting nothing more than the sudden stop at the end, and the blessed oblivion it would bring - except to hear again, one last note, one last song.

He dreamed of death.

Again the rope broke; again he landed on a bed - a hospital bed. Axel was offering him an arm, trying to help him sit up, stand up, walk a few steps. Something was wrong with his legs; they felt strange - numb and tingly - and they weren't obeying him properly. A sharp pain in his lower back reminded him of the arrow that had lodged itself there, and the horrible half-life he'd narrowly escaped. He remembered the terrible battle that had led up to this, and shuddered in grief and horror, but when Axel smiled at him, he could only smile back. Zexion would come back. So would the demons. He hadn't failed - he'd done more than anyone should have been able to. Maybe his legs would never work properly again, but he could still walk. Maybe his ears would never work properly again either, but he could still hear. And - he had to admit as he looked out the window at the bright blue sky - it did feel good to be alive.

He dreamed of life.

He awoke, and all the dreams and memories remained, circling his head dizzily, until eventually they all burrowed into his chest where his heart should be and bubbled back up as music. There it remained, flowing like a spring, demanding to be played or at least written down. If he'd awakened too late to do either before breakfast, his friends would notice how nervous and distracted he was and would remain until the music had a chance to get out of his system. If he'd been able to explain it to anyone, his track record would be more understandable, but he'd yet to work up the nerve to confess that he'd screwed up a mission because he had a song stuck in his chest.

Letting the music out became all that mattered. As he played - as he finally found release, and the spring flowed free - he hated. He loved. He was alone. He had friends. He was afraid. He was reassured. He grieved. He found comfort. He despaired. He hoped. He died. He lived.

Many of them wondered how Demyx could play without a heart. He wondered if they ever dreamed.

AN: I came up with this in Applebee's last night, over a plate of dynamite shrimp. I don't know if this means I should eat Applebee's dynamite shrimp more often, or less. Well, I like it, even if it makes me write weird crap.

Disclaimer: I don't own Kingdom Hearts, but the contents of Demyx's dreams, I do own.