Mmhm, I finally got around to writing another XigDem~ Here's warning you people, though: this is genfic. Meaning, it focuses on interaction more than romance. It DOES have a continuation (a second chapter or another related fic; can't decide which yet, or both) that does turn it into a pairing.
Too much hassle, you say? Totally worth it, 'cos this goes out to my Xiggy~ Mollie aka IxigbarI: dear, you'll get more of these, I promise, I just wanted to have something finished before christmas. xD You know how slow I am.
IMPORTANT: In this AU, Xigbar does not exist. Braig is still there, so number II is Org XIII is just somebody else. Braig lives in Disney's Lilo & Stitch world, Hawaii. And what of Demyx? He's still IX, sent to kill Braig. Read on to see where that goes.
You'd Go To Heaven (or, I Can't Decide)
The first thing Demyx decided upon his arrival in the Hawiian paradise was that he liked the place, and that troubled him. Try as he may, he couldn't say those weren't just about the most gorgeous waves he'd seen in, well, a long time - curiously enough, he didn't remember seeing any, at least in this lifetime - and he most certainly couldn't say that the beach fell too far behind. In fact, if he hadn't been sweating so much inside his thick black coat, he might have stopped to appreciate it properly.
Then again, he was supposed to like the place better as a barren, heartless-filled hellhole. But honestly, he asked himself for the sixth time, who could?
Even a newbie like himself, in such a situation, had to acknowledge that Xemnas was a lunatic. The place was just awesome, and Demyx wished above all things that he could finish his mission soon, get rid of the sweat-soaked coat and swim in the crystalline water before the massacre got started. Or during it, even; he could handle that, he supposed.
The water mage nodded decisively, gaze still in the water. Just one quick mission. Just a tiny little…um…
'Assassination' was a word that never seemed easy to say, and he found that he wasn't too fond of thinking about it yet. In spite of that, he decided that his current objective was just a search mission and set out towards the town, mentally going through what his target should look like.
He paused as he exited the sandy area and stepped on concrete, looking left and right. There weren't too many people walking, barely even a handful, but it was then that he noticed he didn't have he slightest idea of who he was supposed to find. He guessed that one of his cue cards wouldn't make him look more off-place than the black coat already did, anyway, so he took his only one out of his pocket.
"Alright… 'beach bum'," he muttered to himself, raising an eyebrow at the first words of the target's description. That was… straight-forward. Just who had written these? "Beach bum, beach bum…" He repeated quietly, looking back at the beach; it was deserted, however, so he decided to move on to the next clue.
"Male, skinny… 'thinks he's the shit'?" Okay, then he knew who had written that. Maybe Axel liked doing everyone's chores as punishment? For Kingdom Hearts' sake, if Xemnas asked to see the cards, he'd be issuing VIII's third punishment that week.
Shrugging off the matter for the time being, he supposed he could try searching for someone who looked arrogant, or something. Finding it increasingly difficult as he walked along the near-empty streets, he continued reading. "Black hair, some early grays, probably no shoes, probably no shirt, huge scar on the left cheek… just one eye."
That, he supposed, had to narrow it down enough. He proceeded to read the last line Axel had written, which he would soon decide was the most puzzling one.
"'Will shoot your foot.' Um…"
"Only if yer like the last guy who came here wearin' that thing."
Demyx jumped at the sound of the voice, hands fumbling to grab for the cue card he almost dropped while his eyes darted around in search of whoever had been un-polite enough to talk to him like that when he was off-guard. Eventually he spotted the male leaning against an open doorway and, realizing that this shirtless, shoeless, black-haired man with an eyepatch had to be his target, he made a mental note to add 'rude' to the list later.
"You mean this?" He asked, pulling at his coat.
"Yeah. This is Hawaii, kiddo, you'll kill yourself if you strut around dressed like some gothic emo punk," the man said, standing straight and turning to head inside the house. "C'mon in, I'm feelin' heroic today."
The Nobody blinked, looking back and forth between the retreating figure and his own attire. He was kind of sweating a river and, most importantly, it'd be wise to keep close to the target so he could… do what he had to do. He'd come to terms with it soon enough.
"What're you waiting for, an invitation?" The one who had to be Braig called from inside.
Demyx just sighed, swallowing to ease the sudden dryness of his throat before he followed the targeted man. "I'm going, I'm going!"
He rushed into the one-story house, instantly noticing its peculiar furnishing, if he could call it that: there was barely any actual furniture, all equally old and beat-up, but the remaining space was easily filled by an impressive amount of guns of all sizes hung up in the walls and lying of the floor, along with pieces of said weapons, ammo and maintenance items. Doing his best not to shudder, and thankfully succeeding, he walked past the living room and into Braig's bedroom, where the lanky man seemed busy throwing several shirts out of his cluttered closet.
"Throw your coat anywhere, you won't be needin' that. Here, this should fit you," he said, pulling out a violet-and-black striped shirt and throwing it in Demyx's general direction. "You're not as tall as the last dude who came around. What age are you anyway?"
Demyx turned around and discarded his cloak as quickly as he could, wondering about the potential dangers of undressing in front of the enemy. He supposed it couldn't be that unorthodox, considering Braig himself wore nothing but a pair of beige shorts that barely clung to his narrow waist. When the striped shirt was flung at his head, however, he found himself wondering different, although not more complex things; was he talking about Axel? Did he go through the same thing? Why hadn't he, well, done what he had to do?
Pulling the shirt over his head and ignoring the fact that it fit perfectly despite their obvious age difference, he decided it would be polite to answer the man's questions. He did have to get some information, himself, and small talk couldn't be dangerous to his mission.
"I'm twenty-one, sir," he answered, instantly having to resist the urge to hit his forehead with his palm. Polite as it was, he really wasn't supposed to regard his target so respectfully. "I-I mean--"
"Braig," the other corrected, much to IX's relief. "Ax sure wasn't this formal. But what's your name?"
"Demyx," he answered mechanically, once again puzzled. He spoke way too familiarly of the red-haired Nobody, and Demyx had to wonder again; did Braig know that he'd come to… to dispose of him? "So, Axel was here… how long ago?"
"About 5 days, I'd say," Braig walked back into the loving room as he spoke, motioning for Demyx to follow. "Pretty fun guy, but he sure knows how to get on people's nerves. Say, is he still limping?"
The blond recalled both Axel's funny way to walk as of late and the last thing he wrote about Braig: 'will shoot you in the foot'. He winced, putting two and two together. "You shot him?"
Braig looked at him, one eyebrow rising above the other incredulously. "Well, he stabbed me, so we're even," he shrugged, sitting down on the couch's armrest. "Sit, there's still stuff I wanna ask you."
"Wait a sec…" Demyx stuttered, letting himself fall back on the - rather squishy - couch with a positively disturbed look in his face. "Axel stabbed you. And you're… okay."
"Yep, pretty much," the Hawaiian nodded. He stood up straight, pulling his shorts down slightly to show a recent-looking, apparently deep wound on his hip. "Aimed right for the groin, see? Good thing I saw it comin'." He barked an amused laugh, sitting back down.
At this, Demyx simply gave up. Stealth, he could deal with, but interrogation was too far from his forte and this guy was beginning to freak him out; the Nobody slouched over, letting his forehead his open palm while he pondered how to phrase what he wanted to say. "…O-Okay, Braig, look, I…"
"You're here to kill me too, right?"
Kill. The word was too intransigent, too decisive, too--
Demyx exhaled slowly, raising his head to meet Braig's neutral gaze. His one golden eye showed no fear; rather, it seemed to fall lazily upon him, and the blond had to scold himself for the uncomfortable feeling building up in his gut. The targeted man was, after all, the one who should be feeling dread.
"Well? Cat got your tongue, kid?"
With Braig's confident voice echoing in his ears - 'thinks he's the shit', he remembered from Axel's notes - he was sure he saw the hint of a smile lifting up the corners of the man's lips. He swallowed again, finding his throat dry and his voice absent.
Half-mindedly, he wondered what Axel had done. It was apparent that he'd had some sort of fight with the man, but it wasn't like the pyrotechnic to acknowledge defeat and return so soon, unless… no, no, Demyx just couldn't wrap his head around it, but he was certain it all had something to do with the way Braig spoke of him, almost like a friend.
The black-haired man had to die, nonetheless. On the other hand, Demyx did value having his feet intact, and the immense variety of guns in the room seemed to come to his mind too insistently.
Luck must've really been on his side that one time, Demyx figured, because the loud crash and multitude of running footsteps that could be heard was more than enough to distract both of them from the unfinished phrase.
Braig stood up, muttering a string of curses under his breath as he picked a large rifle hung up near the door. "Sorry to leave ya, but I'm a pretty busy guy, Demyx," he said. "Make sure ya don't fall behind and we might just settle this later."
"But what's…" IX started; by the time he pronounced the two words, Braig had already strapped the rifle to his back, grabbed a pair of automatic handguns and ran into the chaotic streets, now filled with the sounds of screaming people.
He rushed after the older man, dodging small groups of people that disappeared deeper into the back alley Braig's house was situated in. Elusive glimpses of Braig's long hair drifting behind him allowed him to know what turns to take, until a distinctive smell indicated that they were running towards the beach.
The multitude of people leaving their houses and escaping deeper into the small town became less thick, giving Demyx a chance to catch up to Braig, who had already stopped near the small stone wall that divided sand and concrete.
"Braig! What the hell is--"
Both males turned towards the owner of the voice: a young man, probably no older than Demyx himself, running in their direction. A shadow seemed to loom behind him, following him even into the sun-bathed beach. Demyx's eyes widened, realization dawning upon him as he observed the shadow dissolving and multiplying into small, pitch-black creatures with no clear features but bright yellow eyes and something like antennae protruding from their heads.
"Outta the way, Dem!"
No later than the words reached his ears, he was pushed back into the sand. Braig stepped where he'd been standing not two seconds ago and aimed the dual guns he'd brought along, unleashing an onslaught of bullets upon the approaching shadows. The projectiles tore at their seemingly gaseous bodies until they dissipated into thin air, laving a thick curtain of dark smoke over him.
The smoke soon began to clear, revealing the attacked youth's body lying on the ground, devoid of a single bullet wound. He was, however, absolutely motionless, his eyes open wide in a frozen expression of fear.
The last shot still echoing in the air, the deserted town became silent.
"…they took his heart," Demyx said quietly, immobile in the spot he'd fallen on. "Look."
Braig gazed upwards, towards a vaguely-visible, ethereal-looking red object drifting towards the sky. "Guess I got 'em too late, eh?"
He turned to Demyx with a grin that soon fell, as he found the Nobody's eyes unfocused and lifeless, set on the corpse that lay awkwardly sprawled near his feet.
He frowned, his finger instinctively firm against the trigger. "Kid? You okay there?"
"…sure am," the blond replied, not yet looking away from the dead body. "I just didn't expect to see heartless here. I mean, I thought I was supposed to lure them here, but that after… after I--"
"After killing me, I know. Tch," Braig stepped towards him with an oddly stern expression, motioning vaguely towards the other's chest. "I meant to ask about that."
Demyx gazed downward, visibly flinching at the sight he found: a small heartless clawed at his chest with its non-solid claws, which seemed to sink past the flesh and come back out constantly, yet pulling out no heart to feed on.
That doesn't mean anything, he thought, biting his lip. That just-- that thing just-- this is okay. It's not taking my heart. I'm still human. I'm still human…
In the timespan of a blink, the heartless was kicked off his chest and promptly shot, disappearing back into nothing with a fading wisp of smoke. And in once again the same timespan, Braig was towering above him, all traces of mockery or sarcasm lost as he pointed one of his handguns at the Nobody. "Get up."
Demyx blinked, faltering briefly as he followed the man's command. His eyes met Braig's glare, as though he wanted to say something, but words seemed to refuse to assemble into anything coherent.
"Why didn't it take your heart?"
Something about the question, unavoidable as it was, made him flinch and hesitate again. Both his lips and throat were awfully dry once more; he said nothing. Braig, however, didn't seem content with that reaction.
Demyx had to admit that he'd seen it coming, even though he made no move to stop it or dodge. He stood still as Braig raised his fist to punch him and fell back down with the blow, where he chose not to move again. As he could've expected, but didn't really bother to think about, the marksman was above him again, this time glaring down at him as he placed a bare foot atop the musician's chest, gun still aimed at him.
"Why didn't it?" He repeated, voice falling to a low hiss.
The blond fisted his hands in the sand, finally feeling his cheek become numb from the hit; his mind shaken out of its shock, he glared back. "I don't know! And it doesn't mean a thing!" His fingers dug deep into the sand, his voice rising and faltering every few syllables. "I-I'm still human!"
Seeming to pay no mind to his words, Braig kneeled and brought his free hand around the younger one's neck in one swift motion, raising his head off the ground, although not holding onto it tightly enough to impede his breathing. "Axel was right. You don't have pulse, Demyx," he declared evenly.
"So what…?" He muttered under his breath, gaze drifting off to an uncertain point to his side.
Once again without retorting in any way, Braig stood up and stepped away from the young man. His manners remained icy, demure, perhaps somewhat disappointed; Demyx found that identifying that sort of thing didn't come easily to him. Not anymore, not since times he couldn't even recall.
But that, he told himself, didn't mean that he couldn't feel the same things.
So he got on his feet and brushed the sand off his - no, Braig's - clothes, not quite discouraged yet; he had a mission to do and information to get, even if the latter was only for his own interest. He could do it. He would do it.
If no more surprises came up, that was. But what were the chances?
He looked at Braig, who faced the calm ocean with some sort of placid air about him. Deciding that so much water truly had to be enough to make anyone relax, he stood by the marksman's side and faced the same direction, focused only in the sound of the waves against the sand and considerations that really didn't manage to make him nervous. Braig was strong enough to crush him in direct combat, and Demyx was rather unsure of whether he had the element of surprise on his side anymore. The older man knew about the heartless already, and most likely a few things about Nobodies, too, if Axel had been as loud-mouthed as usual.
"Those things wash up on the beach every week…" Braig began, his voice shaking the water mage out of his trance. "If you're not callin' them, who is?"
"That's what I'd like to know, too."
Braig gave him a measuring glance. "…not a very organized group, are ya?" He sighed when Demyx didn't respond. "So, what are you gonna do?"
IX glanced back, his head tilted quizzically. "Come again?"
"You gonna kill me or what?"
His voice seemed to have stopped working, leaving room for the splish-splash of water and quiet murmurs of survivors in the alleys a good way behind him. He almost felt guilty about disturbing that sort of near-silence, but the entire affair had begun to get on his nerves. If it helped matters any, Braig would probably go to heaven when he died, for all the people he'd saved, but on the other hand…
"I dunno… well, I can't decide!" He exclaimed, motioning vaguely with his hands. "I-- I mean, we don't mind that you're killing heartless, it's just that you're, you know, saving people, and that kind of… gets in the way."
His voice died in his throat again. 'Gets in the way'? Was he serious? It was the truth, yes, but it wasn't like him to go along with the plans that involved sacrificing innocent people. He thought so, at least. Or decided it just now, at any rate.
At least Braig didn't seem to agree. He just laughed, this time with true mirth. "My bad, my bad. I don't give a damn about all these people, just so ya know. I'm protecting my own hide here."
…then again, considering Demyx was supposed to act in the interests of Organization XIII and Braig was being so agreeable, maybe he could work something out. Maybe he didn't have to kill the guy, after all.
"The heartless aren't ours, so killing them is okay," he explained. "Actually, it's good. It lets out the hearts they eat. But if you kill them before they feed, that's bad for us. So…" He paused to swallow, easing his dry throat slightly. "I can't decide if you should live or die, but… we could make a deal, sorta?"
"I'm listening, Dem," Braig grinned, looking mildly impressed. "Whaddya propose?"
"Maybe if you let them feed… or don't hunt them until they come for you," Am I really even saying this? "Then you'd be a great help, so I wouldn't have to… you know."
"Kill me. I know," he laughed. "It's not a hard word, kid. K-I-L-L. Kill. Ya got that?"
It occurred to Demyx, as he rolled his eyes and laughed with the older man, that Axel might've rubbed off on him a little. Just one more word and he had the redhead's catchphrase. In a way, he was also thankful that he didn't.
"Y'know what? I'll go along with that idea of yours. It's is a lot more diplomatic than being stabbed with a flying wheel of death, ain't it?" Braig said, earning a nervous grimace from Demyx as he extended his hand. "Handshake? We gotta seal it, y'know."
"Um, sure," Demyx blinked, barely realizing that he'd just been staring at the other's hand while he let his mind drift. Snapping out of it, he shook Braig's hand with uncontained enthusiasm. "It's a deal, then."
Inwardly, Demyx congratulated himself. Despite his mission objectives and the triumphant way in which Braig grinned now, he felt as though not killing the man was an accomplishment of some sort.
At least he wouldn't be a killer, not just yet, and that thought didn't fail to make him smile. Maybe that was the reason for the devious look in Braig's one good eye as well.
(But people would die anyway, a far-off voice in the back of his head suggested. Still, as long as he didn't have to see the blood on his hands, he could pretend that it wasn't his fault and trick himself into feeling no remorse. It really wouldn't be his problem.
And from that point on, it wasn't.)
Review please?~ I would really, really like that.
Footnote: This was inspired by Scissor Sister's song "I Can't Decide".