While I'm shamelessly lifting a few elements from my WIP (what is it with me and bank tellers?), this fic is completely unrelated to that. And yeah, I swear I'll update that...

Disclaimers and all. While I would love to own Xigbar, he and the others are very much the property of Sat – er, Squeenix.

The two songs referenced in this fic are 'Paranoid' by Black Sabbath and 'Nobody's Fault But Mine' by Led Zeppelin. Aside from being cool songs, they're pretty relevant to Zexion's mindset in the fic. I recommend reading the lyrics, at least.

Summary: After being held hostage in a bank heist, Zexion lands a job as a secretary at the police station. Obviously, the two events are completely unrelated. AU, Zexion/Xigbar, Lexaeus/Zexion

Between Cops and Robbers

Zexion had worked at the Twilight Town branch of Ansem Bank for a good three years now. The pay was good, his coworkers were competent, and the customers were generally quiet and well-behaved – in short, he enjoyed his job. He was probably even next in line for a promotion, come the bi-annual assessment time. Yes, he was in a very nice position indeed, especially considering that he was a Nobody.

Of course, just when things are at their best is exactly when disaster is most likely to strike. In this case, disaster came with a stocking over his head and a loaded gun.

"Everyone put your hands up!" A raspy, gruff voice barked from underneath the stocking that masked his face. A large burlap sack was clutched in the leather-gloved hand that didn't hold the gun. "Put all of your valuables in here when I pass ya if you want to live! Cash, jewelry, credit cards, everything. And don't try anythin' funny!"

So this is what a holdup is like, Zexion mused. I wonder if I should be terrified yet?

There were only two clerks at the Twilight Town branch of Ansem Bank, and fate had it that Zexion was the criminal's choice of victim. "You!" the man growled, pointing his gun at Zexion. "Open the safe and dump all you can fit in this here bag."

Zexion, hands still raised, met the robber's nylon-veiled gaze with a bored glance. "I'll have to go to the back..."

The robber seemed to think for a moment before scooting around the counter, gun pointed at Zexion all the while. "This guy is my hostage, got it?" he yelled in no particular direction. "Pull any crazy shit and he dies." A terrified crowd stared back at him and the robber turned back to Zexion, prodding the young teller with the barrel of his gun. "Get goin'."

Zexion felt oddly detached from the whole affair. Logic and reason dictated that he should be terrified for his life (or at least for his job), but somehow he found himself calmly walking to the safe, opening it exactly as told and tossing wads of cash and bars of gold into the robber's sack like he was throwing candy into a trick-or-treater's bag.

Zexion's daze ended, however, when a tense look from his coworker let him know that the silent alarm had been pushed and the police were on their way. The sounds of approaching sirens made him jump in surprise, and Zexion could almost taste the robber break out in sweat.

"It wasn't me," Zexion said quickly, and perhaps wisely, for a moment later his coworker was shot dead, slumped over the counter.

"You see that, motherfuckers?!" the robber yelled. "That's what you get for tryin' to pull shit on me." The crowd cowered. Zexion's arms were getting tired from being in the air for so long.

At any rate, it seemed that the robber wasn't going to turn this into a siege – though he apparently wasn't going to just run for it, either. He yanked Zexion along with him, putting his hostage between him and the cops as he frog-marched out of the bank. The newly-arrived police officers had their guns out and ready, one or two yelling, "Freeze!" rather ineffectually, but none of them shot for fear of hitting the hostage.

A grungy old puke-green beater of a car screamed around the corner at just the right moment, less stopping and more slowing just enough for the robber to throw Zexion in the backseat and jump in as well, yanking the money sack towards him as the passenger door flapped open around the next corner. The robber craned over, just managing to pull the door shut without falling out of the vehicle as they careened around the corner in an almost cartoon-like fashion, one side of the car lifting ever so slightly off the ground. The cops fired at the tires, trying to pull one flat, but the result of spending more time in the doughnut shop instead of practicing at the shooting range was clear: not a single one of them hit.

The gravity of the situation that hadn't really it home for Zexion finally kicked in once they were weaving through moving cars at 80 kph. Zexion began to panic.

"What, exactly, is going on here?" he said in a very, very calm and even tone. His hands gripped the seats white-knuckle tight.

A voice with a light British accent answered from the front seat. "Well, we just robbed a bank, and you're the hostage. Right now you're in the getaway car."

Zexion could see the reflection of a corner of the man's forehead in the rear-view mirror. He gave said mirror his most scathing 'I know that, you imbecile' look. "How long do you plan on holding me hostage?"

The masked man cut in. "Don't worry yer pretty little head about it. As soon as we lose the cops we'll have you kicked out somewhere all safe and sound. Just sit tight fer a few moments."

Zexion relaxed a hair. It seemed he was not in mortal danger after all.

True to his word, the bank-robbing duo eventually stopped, checked behind them for stray cops and the masked robber opened a door, booting Zexion unceremoniously onto the pavement before speeding away.

Zexion had fully lost track of their direction and had no idea what neighbourhood he was in, only knowing that it wasn't a very nice one. The sidewalk was littered with old newspapers and unmentionable garbage, and half the stores on the street were boarded up and scrawled with vulgar graffiti – the other half were the sort of shops that had metal bars over the windows to prevent robbery. On this block alone Zexion identified three hobos, two junkies and one hooker. Zexion stuck out like a painfully middle-class sore thumb.

He glanced around self-consciously as he strolled to the end of the block, hoping to see the name of a street he recognized. No luck. He didn't have his wallet or any money on him, either.

Eyes darting up and down the street, Zexion pinned down a slightly-less-sketchy-looking individual to ask for directions.

"Excuse me," he said, holding out a hand to bring the passer-by to a stop. "Exactly where am I, and which way would I go to get to the main street?"

The man looked vaguely confused at the question. "What does it look like? You're in Hollow Bastion. Underdrome Avenue is that way." The man jabbed a thumb behind him.

Zexion nodded. "Thanks," he said, and began walking in the direction indicated. Sweet Jesus, he was in Hollow Bastion.

Hollow Bastion was the slummiest of the slums, the place you wouldn't want to be in the middle of the day, never mind at night. Law enforcement had half given up on the area, but worst of all it was all the way across town from the fairly upscale neighbourhood in which Zexion lived, and it would take hours and hours of walking to get back home on foot. Oh well. No choice but to start walking.

The directions he had been provided with proved to be accurate, as within half an hour Zexion found himself standing on the corner of Atlantica and Underdrome. He looked up at the number on the sign and groaned. The block number was in the five-digit range.

As dangerous and unpalatable as the idea was, Zexion decided that it was in his best interest to try hitchhiking. (Really, how dangerous could it be? He wasn't a girl, it wasn't like he was going to get raped or something – strike that, he thought, gulping, I'm not so naïve as to not know what some teenaged boys do around here, and I'm way too young-looking for my own good. But the alternatives weren't any less gut-wrenchingly anxiety-inducing, so hitchhiking it was.)

Zexion positioned himself on the left hand sidewalk and stuck out his thumb, praying for a ride that wasn't a drunkard, rapist, or a psycho killer (or at least if they were a drunkard they should be one that's not too drunk and capable of driving in a straight line. Zexion wasn't going to be picky).

Zexion was so caught up in his nervous and paranoid thoughts that he jumped when a car actually slowed down and pulled over to the side of the road, the passenger-side door opening to invite him. Zexion jumped again (quite irrationally) when he noticed the lights up top and the blue lines on the side of the white car. It was a cop.

"Get in," said the officer, a burly-looking, late twenty-something man with short-cropped brown hair and one arm slung over the steering wheel.

"I didn't do anything!" Zexion said without thinking, his hands shooting up into the air. Clearly his current environment was having an effect on him.

The cop gave a small smile. "I didn't say you did. You seem out of place here and look like you could use a hand. My shift is over, so if you're on you way downtown I can give you a lift."

Zexion breathed a large sigh of relief, letting his hands fall to his sides and climbing into the car, pulling the car door shut after him.

When the car didn't move, Zexion nervously looked askance at the cop, who seemed to be checking his mirrors. "Do your seatbelt," the cop instructed patiently.

"Ah, of course," Zexion flushed, trying not to feel like a complete dumbbell. "I'm near Twilight Town."

"I see." As soon as Zexion was buckled, the cop pressed the gas, rolling down the street at exactly the designated speed limit. "So what's a boy like you doing in this neighbourhood?" The cop asked. "Ah, forgive me for not introducing myself. You may call me Lexaeus – I'm still not used to being 'officer'."

If Zexion got in a huff every time someone underestimated his age, he would be irritated every day, so he let the 'boy' remark go. "I wasn't aware that Nobodies could become police officers," he said, surprised. "Ah, pardon me if I'm being rude, no offense meant. My name is Zexion."

"No offense taken," the officer replied easily. "I was fortunate to have friends in the right places, and still I'm usually relegated to patrolling the neighbourhoods that no one else wants to." He sighed. "And I tend to complain about it to the nearest available ear, for which I apologize again."

"No, I understand," Zexion said. "Being a Nobody cuts you off from a lot of opportunities..." he trailed off. Zexion remembered his application to university, rejected on the grounds of 'narrow academic and social scope', despite his stellar academic record, while classmates with lower grades and no 'social scope' to speak of were accepted easily.

Zexion read academic texts from the public library and borrowed old textbooks from friends that attended university, telling himself that he learned better on his own anyway, never mind that he was often unable to follow his friends' conversations because he was unable to attend real lectures.

Zexion snapped out of his reverie when Lexaeus began speaking again. "It shouldn't be this way," Lexaeus said. "But what can be done? Either you worm your way in as a second-class citizen or you end up like them." He jerked his head towards his window, and Zexion could see a group of dirty-jacket-clad men and women huddled around a burning trashcan.

"It's merely the result of their own anti-social tendencies," Zexion said, the words recited from a well-known piece of government propaganda. "This is the price of successful social reform."

"Yes, the program worked, didn't it?" No more war. Violent crimes drastically reduced. A government that truly cared for its people, with corruption at the high levels of government and business nearly eradicated. It was the utopia that humanity had been searching for, and all it cost was a few X's scrawled into the names of the unworthy.

"I never expected to hear a police officer speak so strongly in opposition to the government," Zexion commented.

Lexaeus smiled wryly. "It's inappropriate, I know. I should break the habit."

The police radio crackled to life and Lexaeus picked it up, discussing something that Zexion couldn't quite catch (Zexion never got how policemen understood those things. They sounded like nothing but static to him) and then hung up the radio on its hook again.

"What neighbourhood were you heading for again?" he asked Zexion. "I can only take you as far as Olympus Street; they need me at the station. Our last secretary ran out unexpectedly and I've been saddled with the work she left."

Ding ding ding. Zexion's ears perked up at the sound of opportunity. "You're in need of a secretary? Coincidentally, I'm in need of a job. I have some experience in secretarial work, so... would it be too much trouble to have your friends put in a good word for me at the station?"

Lexaeus thought for a moment before nodding. "I think I will do that."

"Thank you very much."

"No need. It's not a favour for you; it works out in my own benefit. I don't want to do a secretary's job for the next month until we manage to hire new help."

Zexion nodded back. "I understand completely." He glanced out the window and noticed that he was beginning to recognize the scenery. "You don't have to take me any further – it's an easy walk from here. I don't want to keep you."

Lexaeus slowed the car to a stop at the next opportunity, pulling over by the curb.

"Thank you for the ride," Zexion said as he got out of the car. "I don't know what I would have done without your help."

"You owe me nothing," Lexaeus replied. "It's only my responsibility." The man paused. "And I enjoyed chatting with you."

xxx

Exactly as he had predicted, Zexion found himself out of a job the following day. Three years of service really meant nothing when the branch you worked for had lost all its money, insurance or no insurance. Being a Nobody did not help matters – even the bank manager, who had treated Zexion with more courtesy than Zexion had previously come to expect as a Nobody, lost all goodwill in the face of adversity, curtly telling his former employee to get out, muttering about Nobodies and bad luck. Zexion was not bothered by it. He had had no sentimental attachment to his former job, and tried not to feel bitter about it. That sort of resentment served no purpose.

As promised, Lexaeus did get his friends to put in the good word at the police station, and Zexion found himself a job quickly and with more ease than he had ever experienced in his short twenty-four years of life. Despite the fact that Zexion was a fast and efficient worker and typed at 120 words per minute, his status as a Nobody typically hindered his employment and he was turned away twice as often as he was hired. Muttered comments were made, but all in all he figured he had gotten a pretty good deal this time around.

Precisely because things ere taking such an up-turn, it shouldn't have surprised Zexion when everything went to pot again, albeit through the most mundane and seemingly innocuous means.

Zexion ran into him at the grocery store, and wouldn't have even recognized him had not the other man had the unfortunate habit of talking to himself.

"I need eggs... hmm, yeah, I'll probably make an omelet tomorrow... I'll skip out on the yogurt, fuck that, they're out of strawberry anyway..."

Zexion did a double-take at the sound of that voice – it wasn't one he would be forgetting any time soon. Zexion usually remembered voices that ordered him to put his hands in the air, voices that belonged to certain gun-toting bank robbers. Though Zexion was under the impression that most con artists had the brains to skip town after a successful heist, this one was either brave, confident, or stupid enough to stick around. Go figure.

Zexion was standing behind a rack of pre-packaged kid lunches, peering around at the conman in the dairy section. The robber had a grocery cart full of enough food to feed one man for at least a month, most of it instant, snackable, or pre-packaged – the sort of thing that lazy bachelors lived on. The man himself looked just as shady as his profession – his face was a mess of scars, one of his eyes was out and his hair was half gray, even though Zexion wouldn't place him at much more than thirty.

Zexion was tactfully inching his way toward the checkout and away from his former kidnapper when a particularly clumsy and poorly-timed fellow shopper passed by and sideswiped the stack of pre-packaged kid lunches with her grocery basket, sending half of the precariously-stacked tower into a mini-landslide.

The conman, like any good paranoid criminal, jerked at the noise, his head whipping around just fast enough to see Zexion making a quick escape through the condiments aisle.

While a chase through the grocery store with loaded shopping carts would have been a potentially hilarious story to laugh about later on, Xigbar quickly decided that leaving his shopping cart where it was was likely the most prudent idea.

Zexion and his basket had almost reached the pickles when Zexion felt a firm and none-too-friendly hand clamp down on his shoulder and bring him to a halt.

"Do I know you?" the voice attached to the hand asked. Zexion was fairly sure that was a rhetorical question.

"Oh, you might know me, but I definitely don't know you." Zexion brushed the hand off his shoulder and made to continue on his way to the checkout.

Xigbar stopped him again, this time with hands on both shoulders. "Now, it seems like one of us isn't bein' quite honest here. You don't run away from people you've never met before."

"I'm not quite sure about that. You're a pretty terrifying man," Zexion said dryly, but he was resigned as he turned around. "You should have done it sans-stocking. I think you would have been more intimidating that way."

Xigbar smirked. "Anonymity is kinda important with that sorta thing – and by the way, I really can't let you go to the fuzz with this."

Zexion put down his shopping basket, shocked at his own lack of shock at the whole situation. He wondered briefly why he wasn't running away or calling for help, and found to his surprise that he just didn't care enough to bother. If the criminal were going to kill him he probably would have done so already – and hey, maybe Zexion could collect on a bribe for his silence.

"What are you planning to do?" Zexion asked.

"I was thinking I'd kidnap you again."

"Why not just bribe me? It's not like you don't have the funds."

Xigbar considered. "I only have enough cash for groceries on me right now. Can I kidnap you now and then bribe you once we get to my place?"

"Sounds good to me." Zexion waved back down the aisle behind Xigbar. "You might want to return to your cart before the staff start putting your groceries away."

Xigbar swore and grabbed Zexion's wrist, tugging him back up the aisle.

xxx

Zexion, like many single young men with too much time on his hands, watched a lot of movies. (No, not that kind of movie, but he did have a few of that sort, well-loved VHS tapes that he kept in the back of his video cabinet – never mind what was on his computer.) He would rent four or five movies on cheap night once a week and sit at home and watch them while he had dinner on the couch. While his tastes ran towards foreign and art films, he had a fairly well-rounded viewing palate that included a fair number of mob films, from Scarface to The Godfather to Layer Cake. If there was one thing that film had taught him, it was that payoffs and bribes tended to happen in abandoned warehouses or discreet offices, and the money would change hands in a non-discrepant black suitcase, all the non-consecutive bills neatly wadded and elasticked.

Xigbar's apartment wasn't an abandoned warehouse, though it was certainly dirty enough to be one. The first thing that Zexion noticed when he walked in was the pervading smell of tobacco smoke and the ashtray on the livingroom coffee table that apparently hadn't been big enough to handle all the butts ground into it – they overflowed into a nearby beer can that was full past the tab with old butts. Clothing was flung everywhere, piles of dirty dishes and snack wrappers were stacked on the coffee table in front of a TV that looked about thirty years old with a fine layer of dust on top of it and on the screen. The carpet looked like it hadn't been vacuumed in months. The peek Zexion took at the kitchen was even worse. The bedroom door was thankfully shut, as was the bathroom door through which Zexion could hear the shower running.

Xigbar kicked off his shoes upon entrance and gestured for Zexion to do the same. Zexion untied his shoes and placed them together neatly under the coat hook before padding into the livingroom.

"Lux!" Xigbar bellowed as soon as he had his jacket off (he threw it on the floor, of course). "Where did you put the money?"

The bathroom door opened and a blond man with a goatee stepped out, fresh from the shower and dripping on the carpet. Zexion didn't notice the goatee, however, as his senses were more occupied with the fact that the man had a towel in his hands and not around his waist. Xigbar was unfazed, but it took Zexion a moment to gather his wits, unblush, and politely look at the Led Zeppelin poster on the wall behind what looked like a cabinet full of CDs. It was that classic Stairway to Heaven one with the cloaked man and the lantern.

"I didn't do anything with the money, Xigbar," said the man as he toweled his hair off, and Zexion recognized him as the man with the British accent who had been driving the getaway car. "Why don't you clean up for once so you can actually find things when you're looking for them?"

"So says the freeloader," Xigbar started rummaging through the piles of clothing on the couch, lifting the cushions off after he had gone through all the clothing.

"I'll remind you that the only reason you can afford this place is because my family owns the apartment building. I think I can 'freeload' all I please." Luxord seemed to finally notice the stranger in the apartment. "Oh, for Christ's sake, Xigbar, I hope you haven't taken him hostage again."

"Naw," Xigbar finished with the couch, stuffing the cushions back in place before moving onto a beat-up old overstuffed armchair. "I'm just kidnapping him for an hour or two so I can bribe him to keep his mouth shut – and that's why I need the money."

"Well, good luck with that then." Luxord finished drying himself off and tossed the used towel back somewhere into the bathroom before opening the door to the bedroom and walking in. "I'm going to wear your clothes," he said from the bedroom, and Zexion could hear the sound of drawers opening and shutting.

"You hate my clothes," Xigbar yelled back as he pried open the doors to the CD cabinet and peered inside. "And they're all dirty anyway."

Zexion, feeling rather awkward, took a seat on the corner of the couch not occupied by piles of dirty clothes and found that the couch was quite squishy, as he sank in deep enough that he would have to wriggle to get out again.

"Ah-ha!" Xigbar seemed to find what he was looking for – he pulled a cigar box out from behind a stack of CDs and opened it, revealing stacks of twenty, fifty and hundred dollar bills squished haphazardly into the box, some of which drifted to the floor as soon as Xigbar opened the lid. "So, how does a grand sound?"

"A grand?" Zexion scoffed. "You stole millions! I think you're able to offer a little more than that."

"Two grand?"

"Well, if you want me to tell the police about your face, your name, where you live..."

Xigbar rolled his eyes. "Demanding little hostage, aren't you?" He swept some garbage off the coffee table and onto the floor, then placed the cigar box on the now-clear spot. "Well, you'll hafta wait for me to find some more cash. It might take a while." He wandered over toward the kitchen and opened the fridge. "You wanna beer?"

Zexion twisted around on the couch to look behind him into the kitchen. "Are you trying to get me drunk so that I'll take a smaller bribe?"

Luxord emerged from the bedroom wearing a rumpled pair of slacks and a button-down shirt in a horrifying shade of off-pink. "No, he's trying to get you drunk so he can have his way with you while you're asleep."

Zexion snorted and sunk back down into his seat again. "I'm not so easily incapacitated by alcohol. Yes, I'll have a beer."

"Xigbar, twenty-nine, Luxord, twenty!" Xigbar yelled from the kitchen.

"Your count is completely off," Luxord said as he snagged a red blazer from the coat hook and shrugged it on. "I've been ahead for the past two weeks."

"Poker games don't count." Xigbar returned to the livingroom with the beer – his hands were big enough that with a little finger-wrangling he managed to hold two cans in each hand. "Where are you goin'?" he asked Luxord, who was lacing up a pair of shiny black dress shoes. The shoes and blazer were painfully incongruous with the rest of his outfit.

"I'm going to see another man, Xig. You just aren't satisfying me anymore."

Xigbar put the beers down on the coffee table and rummaged around among the junk to find an unwrapped cigar, sticking it in his mouth. He pulled a lighter out of his back pocket and lit it, completely disregarding the fact that they were inside. Zexion wrinkled his nose. "Is my cock not big enough for you?" Xigbar asked.

Luxord groaned. "God, now you're making me want a fag." He ruffled through his blazer pockets.

"I thought that's what you were leaving to get," Xigbar said around his cigar.

"Shut up and smoke your cigar," Luxord said as he produced a pack of cigarettes and pulled out one with his lips. "Disgusting things."

Xigbar took a long drag and blew smoke in Luxord's direction. "Like I always say: if you're going to put a cock in your mouth, it might as well be a goddamned big one."

"Thanks for your insight, Sigmund." Luxord, cigarette lit and shoes on, opened the door. "See you later. Don't do anything inappropriate while I'm gone."

"Don't worry, I will," Xigbar said as Luxord walked out, the blond closing the door behind him.

Xigbar cracked open a beer and took a gulp, eyes roaming around the room from where he stood.

Zexion waved from the door back to Xigbar. "Are you two...?"

Xigbar snorted, beer emerging from his nose as he did so. "Don't let that fag fool you. He's totally straight."

"Thank you for your clear and logical answer."

"And why the sudden need to grill me on my sex life?"

"I like to maintain a healthy hostage-kidnapper relationship. Which brings me back to why I'm here... I would be much obliged if you would find that money for me. After you've finished your beer, of course."

Xigbar removed his cigar from his mouth and set down his beer can. "Yeah, yeah, there's no need to be so sarcastic. I'm thinking, here."

"You can't be telling me that you forgot where you put all that money."

Xigbar grinned sheepishly. "Well, that's exactly it, y'see. Me 'n' Lux were so pumped that we actually managed to pull the whole deal off that as soon as we were in the clear we got wasted out of our minds. I had a bad trip, got really paranoid and went around hidin' all the money in weird places."

Zexion couldn't believe he was hearing this. What kind of absolute moron was Xigbar, and how had he managed to rob a bank, despite such blatant evidence of permanent brain damage? "That's the most retarded story I have ever heard."

"S'true." Xigbar sucked on his cigar. "Now are you gonna drink that beer, or are you gonna sit on my couch and mock my intelligence?"

Zexion scowled and picked up the unopened can. "I never said the two were mutually exclusive." He opened his beer and sipped.

It took Xigbar another hour to dredge up another three grand, and in that hour Zexion had another four beers. Usually that would have just gotten him buzzed, but he had forgotten that he had eaten next to nothing that day (there had been nothing in the fridge, and though he had gone out shopping to fill it, his food run had been interrupted by a certain one-eyed bank robber. Not wanting his groceries to spoil, he had left his basket at the store and made a mental reminder to get food later). As such, the alcohol was going straight to his head, and going straight to his head in the way of 'hell, I'll have another beer or two, it really doesn't matter at this point anyway.'

Boredom and intoxication prompted Zexion to start leafing through Xigbar's CD collection. It was full of bands like Santana, Black Sabbath, and Savage Garden, with a smattering of hardcore punk (nothing past 1985, of course). He put on a Black Sabbath CD and set the play to random. "Why don't you have any Led Zeppelin?" Zexion raised his voice so that Xigbar, who was currently pulling things out from under the kitchen sink, could hear him.

"You like Led?" Xigbar asked.

"Not really. But you have the poster. Logic dictates that you should have the CDs."

"I lent them to a friend a while back," Xigbar replied, returning from the kitchen. He had taken off his shirt to rummage under the sink, and nameless gook was all over his arms and face. He pulled a wad of slightly damp bills from the inside of an old milk carton that looked like it had been in the garbage (or somewhere worse). "The stupid ass still hasn't returned them." He held out the wad of bills to Zexion.

The money felt almost as squishy as the couch had. Zexion rolled up the stack and shoved it in his pants pocket. "How much is it now?"

"Seven grand," Xigbar replied. "I think? Maybe? How much are you planning on milking me for, anyway?"

Zexion considered. Thinking was getting more and more troublesome with each passing drink. "I don't know. Ten grand sound acceptable?"

"Okay." Xigbar wiped his hands on his jeans with a limited amount of success. "Fuck, I'm dirty."

Zexion's eyes moved from Xigbar's filthy, frayed jeans, up his muscled chest and to the man's face. Xigbar was dirty, alright – also poor, a slob, scarred, stupid, crude, and a wanted criminal who had held Zexion for hostage less than a week prior.

"We should have sex," Zexion said.

Xigbar's eyes widened, but he quickly absorbed the surprise. "I still haven't found all yer money."

"Who cares?" Zexion began unbuttoning his shirt. "Let me put it this way: If you have sex with me, I'll forfeit the last three thousand."

Xigbar watched Zexion's hands intently as the younger man's alcohol-clumsy fingers fumbled with the buttons. "You're paying me three thousand dollars to have sex with you? Jesus, I'm good, but I'm not that good. ...Also, I'm not a prostitute," he added.

Zexion rolled his eyes and grabbed Xigbar by the belt loops at the front of the other man's jeans. "I'm not paying you anything. I'm saying that you don't have to pay me."

"It's the same thing."

"Do you want three grand or not?"

"Fine, whatever –" Xigbar was interrupted by Zexion's lips, drunken, mashing in a way that bordered on gross but didn't quite get there. What was gross was the taste of unnamed sink gook on Xigbar's lips. Zexion pulled his lips back in a grimace as he drew away from Xigbar. "That was disgusting."

Xigbar wiped his mouth with the back of his arm but only succeeded in making his face dirtier. "Yeah, you're a pretty shitty kisser."

Zexion scowled and unbuttoned Xigbar's jeans. "You couldn't possible have gotten it all over your cock as well."

"My, aren't we gettin' straight to the point." Xigbar was amused.

"I've been sitting around, letting you take your time for the past two hours. I really don't have any patience left." Before Xigbar could protest (not that he intended to), his pants were down around his ankles. Why am I not surprised that he doesn't wear underwear? Zexion thought as he settled on his knees.

Zexion was notably better at giving head than he was at kissing. If alcohol and lips on his cock hadn't at that moment been combining most awesomely to make Xigbar not particularly in the mood for thinking, he might have thought Zexion's skills perhaps the mark of someone who had never been in any sort of relationship or long-term sex arrangement, but had the habit of holding a fair number of one-night stands. If he had thought this, he definitely would have said it, if only to get under Zexion's skin. As it stood, nothing more coherent than a few throat-noises came out of Xigbar's mouth – that, and a curse or two when he came. Zexion swallowed, but Xigbar was too garbled to think up a witty remark about it.

Zexion wiped his mouth. "You have any lube?"

Xigbar gave Zexion a slightly incredulous smirk, one which might have seemed more condescending had not his pants been down around his ankles and his now-limp cock hanging free in front of Zexion's face. "Do I have beer in my fridge? Do I have cigars under my couch? Of course I've got some fucking lube, what kind of faggot do you think I am?"

"I asked for some lube, not a monologue."

Xigbar yanked Zexion up by the wrist and shoved him toward the bedroom. "You really get snarky when you're drunk, don't ya?"

"I'm not drunk," Zexion lied.

"Right."

At some point during their multi-round fucking session (which got better as Zexion sobered up, and Xigbar hadn't really drunk much to begin with) Zexion noticed that the Black Sabbath CD was still playing. It had probably looped at least twice without either of them noticing. He was taking a break and contemplating taking up taking up smoking just to have something to do after having sex. I mean, what else could you do after fucking besides smoke?

"This song's a classic," Xigbar said, and Zexion recognized the one that was playing. He could never catch the lyrics, but the parts he got he didn't like. The singer was pounding, relentless, singing in a level tone that got on Zexion's nerves, the verses composed of the same four notes hitting over and over again. Jesus, he hated that song.

Zexion rolled over onto Xigbar and straddled the man. "Once more."

"I'm tired."

"You don't have to do anything this time. I'll do everything."

"Fine, whatever. Just make it quick. I wanna sleep."

xxx

"What time is it?" Zexion was not a stranger to waking up in strange beds, but usually the ones he woke up in were a lot cleaner. This bed was covered in dirty clothing, bodily fluids, sink guck, and Xigbar, all of it combining to make one filthy pile of 'I need a shower' ick.

Xigbar stirred, opening his one bleary eye. "I dunno. Clock's somewhere."

Zexion had to go into the livingroom to look at the VCR clock to get the time. "Oh, for – " Zexion didn't swear, though at times like these he felt a vague desire to try it out. "I'm going to be late for work on the very first day."

"Better run then," Xigbar said from the bedroom.

Zexion was not going without a shower, not in this state. He jumped in and out, only staying under long enough to get himself not-sticky, not bothering to dry himself off, putting his clothing on over wet skin (in was a chore finding it all) and fumbling for his shoes.

Xigbar made lame remarks from the bedroom. "So that's all I'm worth now? One fuck and then goodbye?"

"Yes, that's it exactly." Zexion grabbed his jacket and slammed the door behind him.

By some miracle of bus schedules and running at top speed, Zexion managed to show up for his new job in the nick of time, disheveled and panting, yes, but at least he was punctual.

Lexaeus was waiting for him when Zexion arrived at the station. The cop had a cup of coffee in each hand, and Zexion took the proffered drink with a healthy dose of gratitude. Lexaeus also handed Zexion a clipboard with what looked like a set of instructions typed up as well as a few files and tables of information. "I'm supposed to be overseeing you for the first half of the day to make sure you don't make any large blunders, but it's really quite simple. You'll most likely learn everything you need to know within a couple of weeks." Lexaeus took a second glance at Zexion. "Are you alright? You look like you've had a night."

That was an understatement. Zexion, feeling more than a little cranky, held back a sarcastic retort with great effort. "Something came up. It's not a regular occurrence for me, don't worry."

"Hmm." Lexaeus withheld comment.

Around lunchtime Zexion began discovering money in his pockets. Wads of bills totaling up to what memory told him was seven grand was stuffed in his back pockets, front pockets, jacket pockets, inside jacket pockets, his front shirt pocket, and at the bottom of one shoe. He tried to look nonchalant about it. Nobody else knew that he had so much money on him. No problem, right? Just play it cool.

Unfortunately, sleep deprivation did not go well with playing it cool, and not only was Zexion paranoid and jumpy as hell, when Lexaeus said he was going on a lunch run and did Zexion want to get anything, Zexion handed Lexaeus a wad of bills without thinking.

"...I don't think I'm going to need sixty dollars for lunch." Lexaeus returned Zexion's money.

Zexion blinked. "Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I think I have a five in here somewhere."

Lexaeus looked down at the new bills Zexion had handed him. "Zexion, this is four hundred dollars." The man frowned as he rubbed the bills between his fingers and then lifted them to his nose, sniffing cautiously. "And the money smells like spoiled milk."

Zexion began to sweat and hoped that Lexaeus couldn't hear the sound of his heart pounding madly in his chest. "Uhmm, ah, yes, I spilled some milk on them. I put them in my pocket because I don't want the bills next to my bus card. I've soaked two of those in the rain already."

Zexion breathed a giant (and internal) sigh of relief when Lexaeus seemed to buy the story. Really, it wasn't all that strange for someone to be carrying four hundred dollars in their pocket. It really wasn't that much money. Lexaeus would probably forget all about it.

At any rate, Lexaeus proved to be right – the work was simple, if vaguely aggravating when sleep-deprived and hungover, but Zexion held himself together long enough to stumble onto the bus and jolt awake again soon enough for his stop. He near crawled up to his apartment, repeatedly jamming the 'six' button in the elevator as if it would make it move faster (or maybe just to keep himself awake). He only took off his shoes as soon as he entered his apartment and fell asleep in his clothing.

As often happened when Zexion went to sleep unusually early, he woke up in the middle of the night, around three AM. The only light in the room was the light on his computer that let him know it was in sleep mode. Knowing he wasn't going to get back to sleep any time soon, Zexion pulled out of bed and slid into his computer chair, hitting the space bar and bringing his computer to life.

Zexion's life tended to be very predictable. He usually had a decent job, something white-collar with okay pay. He watched a lot of movies – he didn't go to the theatre very often, he preferred to watch them at home by himself where he could pause it to go to the bathroom and not be distracted by women behind him sobbing during the sad bits, or laughing at the bits that weren't even supposed to be funny. He had the kind of friends that everybody had – the kind that you knew in highschool, or the kind from work, the kind that you might see every few weeks at some little group get together where everybody pretended they liked each other.

Zexion did a lot of reading, though less now than he had when he was younger. The drive to achieve complete knowledge of something through reading had faded with age, and now he read mostly as something to do. He was bored a lot. He often masturbated to pass the time – on his record slowest day he had masturbated six times. He took sex where he could get it – really, it was just like a slightly upgraded version of masturbation, a way to pass time.

He looked forward in time and didn't see himself anywhere but the same place, maybe a slight variation, a different colour of wallpaper or a new film to watch or a different way to beat off. His days were marked only by a measured decrease in his passion for living.

That was probably the way the government planned everything out, Zexion thought as he logged in. People like him weren't really necessary for a healthy and normal society, so it was better that they do something functional, hold a job and support the economy before they fade away in a cloud of apathy.

Zexion remembered the tests he had taken years ago, the tests that every child took to determine their emotional health and potential. They took the tests early enough that the kid wouldn't know how to fake it, wouldn't know how to say the right answers to please the examiners. A series of simulations, that's what it was – you wouldn't know when the test was coming or when it was happening – but suddenly you'd have examiners coming out after you witnessed some kid getting beaten up on the field or after taking another kid's toy and they'd hook you up to a strange device with lots of wires that they stuck against different places on your head and over your chest while they would ask you questions.

Why didn't you stop the bully, they would ask. Were you afraid of getting hurt?

No, Zexion had replied. I don't know the kid getting beaten up. It's not my business what happens to him.

And then that was it, they would look at each other and nod before sending a bunch of paper printouts and hand-written notes to the government, and then you'd get a letter in the mail to your parents, saying you had to rename your child. They cried. We're sorry, Zexion, they said. Things are going to be a bit different now, but we still love you, really.

My name is Ienzo, he had said.

You have to say Zexion, say Zexion for mommy.

Then you get put in a special class, a class where they take out academics to teach you about about how there's something wrong with you and the government will try to teach you to feel things properly but it won't take, it hardly ever does except in special cases. All you have to do is follow a set of instructions, memorize this, and you can stay out of the way of society as it moves along without you.

The computer screen reflected light on Zexion's face, making his skin glow sickly. Sometimes he wished that he could do something dramatic, something loud, something just to prove to himself that he could feel more than the pettiest of his shallow, daily emotions.

He remembered one boy who had tried that. Saix. Saix was angry – he had smashed his hand into a wall, once, twice, repeatedly until he was crying and bleeding, saying that everyone else was lying, he could feel like everyone else. They had taken Saix away, and when the boy returned he was quiet. They took out the bad feelings, Saix said. But I remember what they feel like. I can't forget them.

Zexion wanted to remember any feeling, even the worst one, just to prove to himself that he still could, that he wasn't an emotionally defective societal reject like the government said he was... but he couldn't. And so he did this instead, something to fill his time, something to breed a little hatred and negativity in the world. Someone, somewhere was getting angry in Zexion's place, feeling the emotion that Zexion couldn't.

Zexion finished compiling the virus and sent it through the channel he had prepared previously. A large business was about to have their financial records overwritten with logs from internet chat.

Can you help me occupy my brain?

xxx

Zexion didn't really know what to do with all the money he had made from Xigbar's bribe. If he deposited it all suddenly it would look suspicious (suspicious to whom Zexion wasn't sure, but he was sure it was suspicious to someone) and felt nervous having it lying all around his apartment. He ended up doing exactly what Xigbar had – hiding it around his apartment in weird places. When he thought about it, Zexion realized that he could stop working for a few months and just live off the bribe money – but what would he do with his time then?

When it came right down to it, Zexion didn't really need or want ten thousand dollars. He supposed he could buy himself a new computer, but even that seemed rather pointless.

Even though he didn't smoke, just for the hell of it Zexion bought some expensive imported cigars and lit them all with hundred dollar bills. It amused him for a few minutes, though he didn't smoke any of the cigars in earnest – he just ended up butting them out after one puff and then throwing them all in the trash. All it really did was make his apartment smell like Xigbar.

As if the cigars had been some sort of demon summoning ritual, Zexion had the poor luck to into Xigbar again at the grocery store. Well, that was his just desserts for going to the same grocery store again.

"Zex."

Zexion twitched at the casual shortening of his name. He turned around to see Xigbar behind him, a carrot in one hand and a potato in the other. "I haven't seen you in a while." Zexion dredged up his coldest and most distant tone.

"If 'a while' is a week. Look, I think it would be a good idea –"

"Xigbar, I think it would be best if you just –"

"– for us to have regular sex."

"– left me alone." Zexion blinked. "What?"

Xigbar waved the carrot. "You know, fuck buddies. You obviously need to get laid more often. I enjoy sex. It works out for the both of us."

Zexion took the high road and ignored the jab. He began to actually consider the idea. In truth, he really did need to get laid more often, and it wasn't as if he had anything better to do. And admit it or not, Xigbar had been good. "Okay."

Xigbar's leery grin of victory almost made Zexion want to take back his reply, but the promise of regular sex was really too good to pass up.

xxx

Life at the police station, for the most part, progressed smoothly and normally. Zexion was the kind of secretary that typed up reports without actually reading what he was writing. If there was any sort of high-profile, confidential information that he was handling, he never noticed. In his younger days he might have been interested, but these days he thought it rather mindless to care about something just because it was a secret.

Chat around the police station, however, he couldn't help but notice, and the current buzz was sensational enough to catch even Zexion's jaded ear.

Even though it was technically under the FBI's jurisdiction, somewhere along the line some information had been leaked to the police station regarding the assassinations of some high-profile government figures. Zexion hadn't seen anything about it in the newspaper or on TV, so he assumed the authorities were keeping it under wraps from the media.

It seemed that eleven officials attached to or affiliated with the Department of Evaluation had all been offed. No witnesses, no evidence that anyone could find yet, no nothing – just a pile of corpses and a lot of paranoia.

The moment Zexion heard 'Department of Evaluation and Social Management' his ears perked up. The Department of Evaluation and Social Management, or DESM, was the governmental office responsible for identification of Nobodies. It also controlled Nobody-related policy regarding decisions such as what sort of education a Nobody could have and what kind of jobs they could hold.

Zexion had no real love for the DESM, and couldn't help but feel a little smug at the thought of all those bureaucrats scurrying around like chickens with their heads cut off. But whatever – for cases like this, absolutely every available hand would be on the case and they would find the offender in a matter of weeks – probably some radical with a grudge. Whoever he was, Zexion rather felt like giving the man a pat on the back.

But working at the police station was more than just an opportunity to get his ear into some idle gossip. Lexaeus usually took a break from his patrols to come by the station around lunch. Zexion would give the cop ten dollars, Lexaeus would buy lunch for them both and they'd eat together. They mostly discussed fairly innocuous topics, tending to stay away from the elephant in the room that was their mutual identity as Nobodies. Zexion figured that Lexaeus preferred not to discuss his frank opinions about the matter at work.

Zexion had been working at the police station for a couple of months the first time Lexaeus asked him out for coffee on the day they both had off. Zexion thought nothing of it, and the afternoon passed much like an extended version of their lunches together at work. A couple of weeks later Lexaeus asked him out for coffee again, and soon it had become a regular event every weekend.

Sometimes after the two ran overtime on coffee, having lost track of the time, Lexaeus would ask Zexion if he wanted to continue their conversation at his place. Zexion always declined, dropping a vague comment about prior arrangements to excuse his leaving. Usually Lexaeus was pretty good about leaving undesirable topics to their privacy, but one evening he asked Zexion where he went every Saturday night. They were at their usual coffee shop, it was getting to be evening and most of the customers had filtered out. An employee was washing the tables around them conspicuously as if she wanted them to leave so she could wash their table as well.

Zexion wasn't sure how to reply in a way that wasn't either rude or an outright lie. He put his ample brains to work and decided he had no choice but to go for a half-truth. "I'm meeting a friend," he said. "I don't think I've mentioned him before."

Lexaeus was nothing if not quick on the uptake, but if he realized what Zexion was hedging around, his face gave no indication. "I'm surprised. I would have though that if you were good enough friends to meet once a week then you would have at least mentioned him in passing."

Zexion tried to imagine discussing Xigbar with Lexaeus and failed. He couldn't even picture the two of them in the same room together. "He's not particularly worth talking about," Zexion replied.

"So then why do you meet him so often and so regularly?" Lexaeus' cup was empty and his chin was now resting on his fist.

Damn Lexaeus and his perceptiveness. Why couldn't he be stupid like Xigbar? It was so much easier to get what he wanted out of Xigbar while simultaneously cutting past the things that he didn't want to talk about. "It's only that there's no purpose in discussing him with you. It would be tantamount to talking about my mother."

"I wouldn't mind discussing your mother. Furthermore, I don't think you're engaging in casual sex with your mother."

If Zexion's coffee hadn't been long gone he would have sprayed it in Lexaeus' face. So this is what it felt like to be Xigbar, always three steps behind your opponents' mental processes. "Excuse me?"

Lexaeus' face didn't so much as twitch. "Pardon me if my assumption is incorrect – but by your reaction I would hazard that it is not."

"I was merely shocked at the jab at my mother."

Lexaeus could tell that Zexion was grasping. "We both know that your mother isn't even relevant to this."

"Perhaps my personal life isn't relevant to you," Zexion said, allowing a hint of ice to creep into his voice.

Lexaeus, however, was not a man easily thrown off the trail. He had the patience and persistence of an ox, which was part of what made him such a good cop. "Maybe it is," was his brief reply.

Zexion considered himself a fairly intelligent man. In fact, he was quite positive that he was a good deal smarter than the majority of the population. He read people like books and he used their habits and desires to his advantage. With certain things, though, he had to admit that he was a tad short-sighted. This wasn't the first time that someone had professed affection for him, and he was just as baffled now as he had been then.

"So you want me to end my physical relationship with my acquaintance, then?"

Lexaeus frowned. "I said nothing of the sort. Your engagements are your affair. I simply want you to be aware of the possibility."

"Of?"

"Don't be coy."

Zexion stilled the fidgeting of his hands on the table. There was no need to let Lexaeus know how nervous he was. "You're saying you want a relationship with me."

"If you're interested."

"You know I can't be. Neither can you."

"Nonsense."

Zexion didn't reply, waiting for Lexaeus to elaborate.

"Why are you so quick to believe the government propaganda regarding Nobodies?" Lexaeus asked.

"Because it's backed up with empirical fact."

"Oh?"

Zexion shifted uncomfortably. "I've never felt strongly about anybody."

Lexaeus leaned forward. His focused attention was making Zexion uneasy. "Because you've never experienced something up until now, you believe it impossible?"

"I've never experienced it, and I've never witnessed another Nobody experiencing it."

Lexaeus folded his fingers together on the table. "How can you know? You're unable to bear witness to the most intimate thoughts of others."

"I'm not a fool."

"But you only see what you want to see."

Zexion found nothing to say to that.

Zexion remembered a Nobody that he had met in his senior year of highschool. Axel had attended one of those special reformatory schools for Nobodies – a problem case, they called him. Axel came up to Zexion's school every day (usually at lunch, but sometimes before or after or during classes) to visit a freshman named Roxas. Axel had made such a nuisance of himself that the teachers had banned him from the campus. Zexion had never found out what Roxas thought about Axel, but a number of times Roxas had visited Axel at the reformatory school (quite secretly, Zexion was sure, that sort of thing couldn't have been allowed). Around the time when Axel had been about to graduate someone – probably one of the delinquent kids – had set the reformatory school on fire. Zexion hadn't been there or anything, but he had heard all about it in great detail afterward. A bunch of kids, including Roxas, liked to hang out on the roof (where they certainly weren't allowed to be) instead of going to class. Axel had been meaning to meet some friends up there, but had been waylaid by a teacher when the fire started. Axel had gone outside with the others at the sound of the fire alarm, but when he realized that Roxas wasn't there he had punched out a teacher (the stories varied wildly on the exact level of injury he had inflicted on the teacher) and run back into the burning building.

Roxas and his friends had died in the fire, of course, and Axel had died before he even reached his friend, trapped on the stairs right below the door to the roof where he had suffocated and then burnt to a crisp. Everyone had whispered about the incident for months afterward. Zexion hadn't known Roxas or Axel beyond their names and faces, but their deaths weren't something that could be easily forgotten.

Zexion broke his silence, staring just to the left of Lexaeus' face. "There are exceptions in every minority group. Occasionally a Nobody will break the rule, but it's certainly not the norm." His fingers on the table twitched. "Even if you've convinced yourself you feel something, it's impossible for me to."

God damn Lexaeus was unreadable. "You enjoy talking to me and spending time with me."

Zexion scoffed. "And that's supposed to mean I'm in love with you?"

"You don't talk to anyone else."

Zexion most definitely did not like being prodded like this, not even by Lexaeus – especially by Lexaeus. "I spend more time fucking Xigbar than I do talking with you," he said, enjoying the twitch in the corner of Lexaeus' mouth at the sound of a the word 'fuck'.

Lexaeus' lips were set tight, something he did when he was in a bad mood. Zexion had pressed a button, all right. "What is feeling to you then, if not enjoying someone's company, wanting to be with them?"

Zexion looked away from Lexaeus, sliding his twitching hand off the table so he could tighten it away from Lexaeus' eyes. "Running into a burning building."

xxx

Despite Xigbar's claim that he had not, did not want to and never would fuck Luxord, the blond was a frequent visitor to Xigbar's apartment. Luxord tended to show up earlier in the day and would leave before or just as Zexion showed up. Not that Zexion cared if Xigbar was fucking Luxord as well – in fact he would be notably impressed with the man's stamina – but it seemed like every time Zexion showed up when Luxord was there, Luxord was in the shower.

On one particular evening – it was a statutory holiday and he had been at loose ends at his apartment, so he had nothing really better to do – Zexion showed up early and found Luxord in a rare state of not being naked and just out of the shower. Luxord's jacket was hung up in its usual spot and his shoes were by the door. The man himself was in the kitchen, up to his elbows in pink soap and water. The cloud of smoke above his head let Zexion know that he was smoking.

"It's rare to see you in clothes," Zexion said from the livingroom.

Luxord jumped as if surprised – odd in itself, Luxord was not a man easily ruffled – and spun around, his mouth open and cigarette-less. He cursed, turned back to the sink and pulled a soggy cigarette out of the bubbles, but that moment had been enough for Zexion to see that the front of his shirt was soaked with blood. The man himself didn't seem like he was in pain at all – leaving Zexion with only one conclusion: the blood had to belong to someone else.

Zexion, who had been leaning casually against the arm of the couch, stiffened and was on his feet like a shot. He stepped toward the kitchen and stood in the doorframe between the livingroom and the kitchen. From here he could see Xigbar leaning against the wall by the stove. "I'm not going to ask what's going on," Zexion said slowly. "I'd just like to know that, whatever you're doing, you're not going to get arrested while I'm present in the apartment."

Luxord looked relieved, and Xigbar smirked. "Selfish little dick, aren't you?"

Zexion folded his arms. "I'm not horribly keen on losing my job."

"Wonderful priorities you have there," Xigbar said, and within a few minutes Zexion promptly put the entire incident out of mind with a nice, long fuck.

xxx

Zexion's coffee dates with Lexaeus went on like their previous conversation had never happened. Lexaeus didn't bring up the issue of their relationship again, for which Zexion was grateful, but a couple of weeks later he did drop a very different sort of bomb on Zexion's head.

"I'm a member of an anti-government organization," Lexaeus said.

Zexion initially thought it was some sort of strange joke. "Oh really? I suppose I should let you know now that I'm a secret agent working for top levels of the government. I've been keeping my eye on you for the past few months and now I'm going to take you to some remote prison for political prisoners where you will never again see the light of day."

Lexaeus frowned. "Don't be cute. I'm quite serious."

Zexion was incredulous. "Alright, I'll humor you. What sort of organization?"

"An organization of Nobodies."

Suddenly it clicked, and Zexion realized that Lexaeus was fully sincere. "Does your little organization have anything to do with the recent assassinations?" He lowered his voice.

"Yes."

"I expect you're telling me this because you trust me, and want me to help you."

"Perceptive as ever." Lexaeus sipped his coffee.

"What, exactly, are you trying to do?" Zexion asked.

Lexaeus leaned forward and Zexion did the same, in a crowded cafe, no one else would be able to hear their conversation. "Nothing more complicated than terrorism. The higher-ups in the organization are short-sighted, but at least they're doing something. All they care about is disrupting the system as much as possible, letting people know we're here. We're planning a media leak regarding the assassinations, but after that –" Lexaeus shook his head. "– I don't know what will happen after that. All I can do is hope."

Zexion leaned back, heaving out a breath and trying to absorb everything that Lexaeus had just told him. This was very... sudden, and yet not altogether unexpected. Maybe it was something that Zexion had wanted to happen – a chance to piss on someone a little higher on the ladder, like a dog trying to lift its leg as high as possible to hit the uppermost point on the fire hydrant. Idealism? Social change? Zexion just wanted the government and anyone else who happened to be there to sit on his middle finger and spin.

"I think I can do something for you," Zexion said.

xxx

The morning after Zexion had given Lexaeus the disk, Lexaeus didn't show up for work. He wasn't answering his pager or his cell phone.

Zexion had given Lexaeus the disk the previous night, at Lexaeus' apartment. Zexion hadn't gone into the other man's apartment, despite Lexaeus' invitation. He had just stood at the door and handed Lexaeus the disk.

"Stay for a little while," Lexaeus had said. "A few minutes couldn't hurt. I have some nice tea. Rooibos."

"It's getting late. I'd rather go home," Zexion had replied.

Lexaeus had had an odd look on his face then – maybe he was particularly transparent that moment or maybe Zexion was finally learning how to read the other man – but he had seemed almost hurt. Zexion had avoided his eyes and shifted his feet, meaning to leave. Lexaeus had swallowed and Zexion had turned and left.

Zexion wasn't particularly perturbed at Lexaeus' absence – he assumed it had something to do with the disk.

At lunchtime Zexion realized he didn't know what to do when Lexaeus wasn't at the station. He wandered about, peering into offices. He wasn't very hungry and he hadn't thought to bring a lunch.

One officer, on his break, was wearing headphones and singing along – badly – as he ate his lunch, garbling the lyrics to the song between bites. "M-m-m-m-monkey on my back back back back –" munch munch – "gonna change my ways toniiiiiight –" chew chew – "Nobody's fault but mine!"

Zexion had a niggling sensation at the back of his mind. He tapped the officer on the shoulder. The man twitched and turned around, face bright red and looking quite flustered until he realized that it was just the secretary and nobody important. "Yes?"

"Is that your CD?" Zexion asked.

The officer fingered the headphones. "Well – no. I picked it up off Lexaeus' desk. He usually doesn't mind when I do that. ...Why do you ask? You like Led?"

Zexion's eyes shot toward the pile of CDs on the man's desk, all of them Led Zeppelin. There was an empty case on the desk as well – presumably its matching disk was in the officer's CD player. "Not really. Does Lexaeus like them?"

The man shrugged. "Probably. He borrowed these things months ago and still hasn't given them back. Listens to them all the time."

Zexion was out the door before the man finished his sentence.

xxx

The time that Zexion spent trying not to strangle the taxi driver for not driving fast enough was time enough to put the pieces together. Why Zexion, of all the people there, had been taken as hostage during the bank robbery. Why Lexaeus had just happened to be in the right neighbourhood and had offered to give Zexion a ride home. Why there had just happened to be a job opening at the police station. Why Zexion had had exactly the skills that the organization needed right when Lexaeus had invited him to join. What exactly Luxord had been doing once a week that caused him to need a shower, where the blood he had been washing off had come from.

When Zexion slammed open the door to Xigbar's apartment – yes, of course Xigbar didn't need to lock his doors, not when Luxord's family owned the entire building – Luxord's 'family' being the loosest definition of family, Zexion supposed, the sort of family that fed its members enough money to buy designer jackets and shoes – and it was like a scene from a movie. Lexaeus was there standing in the livingroom, Xigbar was there, notably cigar-less, sprawled across the couch, even fucking Luxord was there, sitting in the armchair with his legs crossed.

"Zexion, why are –"

"I didn't know you liked Led Zeppelin," Zexion said sharply. "And here I was thinking you two would have nothing in common."

Lexaeus wasn't the sort of man to say something to trite as 'I can explain'. "Zexion –"

"I don't need you to say anything. I think I've figured it quite well enough on my own, how you two set me up, played me like a game of cards –"

"I don't think that's quite the simile you're looking for," Luxord cut in.

"Shut the fuck up!" Zexion found himself breathing hard, the unfamiliar words feeling foreign and gluey in his throat. His audience was shocked into silence. "I don't care at all about – I don't give a shit about your little organization's plans! You –" he grasped for the word – "You motherfuckers can get your asses thrown in jail and executed for all I care! I can't believe I –" Lexaeus approached Zexion, but Zexion didn't want to look at the cop's face. "It was all just part of your little plan, wasn't it? Bide your time, see if I'm trustworthy, wait for your opportunity –"

"It's not –"

Zexion made a slashing motion with his hand, effectively cutting Lexaeus off. He restrained his tone, holding it to something slightly below conversational volume with incredible force of will. "– I could so easily leak you all right now, I hope you're aware. I have half the precincts' cell numbers in cell phone." He pulled his phone out of his coat pocket.

"You're not gonna do that, buddy." Across the room, Xigbar had gotten up from his seat and was pointing a gun straight at Zexion.

Zexion chuckled, the muscles from his shoulders to neck iron-tight as he did so. "Of course, that was your job – to get rid of me in case I figured out your little scheme and decided to betray you. There wouldn't be any other reason for the organization to recruit useless scum like you."

Xigbar's teeth clenched and he cocked back the hammer. "Watch it. I'm the one holdin' a gun, here."

Zexion smiled and flipped open his cell phone, starting to dial with one hand. "Go ahead, fire." He pushed Xigbar, enjoying watching the man sweat. He'd push the other man to the end.

Xigbar swallowed and fired, in that order. Zexion heard a desperate scuffle on the carpet but his eyes didn't move away from his cell phone, he couldn't look at anything but the numbers on the small screen. When Zexion found himself still standing, number still half-entered into his cell phone, he looked up, and then down. Lexaeus was on the floor in front of him, blood seeping from the hole in his forehead, killed instantly from a bullet in the skull at point-blank. Xigbar's eyes were wide and the man's gun hand was shaking. Luxord was backed into the wall, staring at the body.

Zexion dropped his cell phone.

"What is feeling to you then, if not enjoying someone's company, wanting to be with them?"