"Hoo boy. That's gonna take a lot of stitches."

"Stuff it, Fori, before I set you on fire," Axel growled as Vexen forced him to lie down on his stomach on the table - the only way he could get at the huge gashes in his back and leg. For a moment, Roxas wondered why Vexen didn't just make Fori heal the gashes, then he realized how drained Fori looked - like he hadn't slept yet this week. Something must be keeping him completely wiped out somehow...

Demyx. It had to be Demyx. Axel had said he was still alive, but...what Malenisa had done to him...how could anyone have survived that for long...Roxas felt more than a little sick just thinking about it...was he even still alive, or had Axel just been guessing and hoping? More than a little afraid of what he might find, he started searching the hospital wing for any sign of Demyx, or what had happened to him.

There weren't a whole lot of rooms in the hospital wing, just because there weren't all that many of them, and only one of them seemed to be occupied. Roxas couldn't recognize the person inside under all the bandages, but he quietly opened the door and went in anyway, just in case. "Demyx...?" he said softly, almost afraid to make too much of an impact in the eerily still room. There was a faint groan from the bed, but no movement. Roxas tiptoed closer. "Demyx? Are you there? Can you hear me?"


Roxas left caution at the door and raced over to Demyx's bedside at the sound of that faint croak. "Demyx, thank Kingdom Hearts...I was sure you were dead..."

Demyx's face was almost unrecognizable under the bandages, and his eyes seemed to be swollen shut. He turned his head slightly to the side, but that was the only movement he made. "Rox...you're back..." He smiled faintly. "Hoped you'd come back..."

Roxas tried to swallow the lump in his throat. "Yes. We're all back. We're all safe - well, Axel is hurt, but he'll be all right. Malenisa is dead."

"Good..." Demyx took a few breaths before continuing. "Tell Ax I said...'thank you...my friend'...he'll understand...what I mean...and...if he wants...the rest...he can ask me...himself."

"...Um...why not just tell me the rest?"

Demyx grimaced. "Need...every reason...to live...I can get..." The last word came out an agonized hiss - he had to be in horrible pain.

Roxas felt shaken, and more than a little afraid all over again. "Demyx...? What are you talking about?"

A tear seeped out from between Demyx's swollen eyelids. "Vexen says...no real hope...just waiting...for the end..."

The vague fear Roxas had been feeling coalesced into definite terror. The story was over! The wicked witch was dead, her victims had been rescued - that should have been it! They should have been moving on to their happy ending! How could they have a happy ending if Demyx died? "Demyx...no...you can't die...Vexen must have made a mistake or something...you're gonna be okay..."

"Rox...everything hurts..." Demyx whispered. "Can't hardly move...everything's broken..."

"Demyx, you can't -!"

Demyx's voice was thick with unshed tears. "Rox...I might."

"No -" Roxas took his hand, but Demyx's face twisted with intense pain. "Oh - sorry - I'm sorry -"

"I don't want to..." Demyx sobbed, more tears seeping out of his eyes.

"Thirteen, what in Kingdom Hearts' name are you doing in here?" Before Roxas could stammer out some sort of explanation or protest, Vexen grabbed him by the arm and dragged him out. "Nine is not allowed any visitors - his condition is far too dangerous - even the slightest upset could be catastrophic -" Vexen glanced back as the door closed, with a regretful expression. "Though, to be honest, it would make little difference in the end."

Roxas squeezed his eyes shut, fighting back tears. Squirming out of Vexen's grip, he found his own way to the room where Axel would be staying for the next few days and just barged on in. Axel stared at him. "...Roxas? What's wrong?" Roxas couldn't answer; he just slumped into the single chair in the room, burying his head in his hands. "Roxas? Come on...oh, God, is it Demyx?" Roxas nodded wordlessly. "Oh, God...is he...?"

"No, but...it doesn't look good..." Roxas swallowed hard and scrubbed at his eyes with the back of his hand. "H-he wanted me to tell you...part of what he said was 'Thank you, my friend'. And - and Vexen said he wasn't allowed visitors. Too dangerous."

Axel nodded, squeezing his eyes shut. Little wisps of steam were hovering around his eyes - evaporating tears. "Well...if you ever manage to get back in his room, tell him that part of what I said was 'God be with you'. And if he wants to know the rest, he'll have to ask me himself."

"Eight, you do understand how to keep the feeding tube clean and unobstructed?"

Axel nodded lazily. It would be a long time before Demyx was capable of feeding himself, with both arms broken; having to be spoon-fed like a baby for two months was just too humiliating to contemplate, and the nasal feeding tube Vexen tried him on first always made him gag and throw up whatever went in that way. That was particularly nasty, since at least half of it always seemed to go straight back up the feeding tube. Eventually, they'd settled on the gastric tube as the easiest, surest, and least humiliating way of keeping him fed - though it was still difficult and humiliating. "I'd better know; you've only taught me how, what, six times?"

"And you remember and understand his medication schedule?"

Another thing Demyx would be completely helpless to deal with on his own - in fact, he'd be completely helpless in general for a very long time. He had almost two dozen broken bones, including almost every bone in his arms and legs - miraculously, his right ulna had somehow escaped Malenisa's hammer, but that didn't make all that much of a practical difference - and even if his bones had been intact, so much of his skin and muscles had been destroyed that moving at all, or even being touched, was next to agonizing. He'd be completely bedridden, or at least confined to a wheelchair, for months to come, and he'd need two people to get him out of bed and into the wheelchair or vice versa. He was looking straight at what promised to be the most miserable months of his existence, with or without a heart. "Yes," Axel was saying impatiently, apparently unaware of what was going on in Demyx's head. "I've got it memorized. I can handle it."

Demyx silently clenched his left hand, ignoring the shooting pain and counting his fingers over and over again - one, two, three; one, two, three. Fuck it all, he'd never be able to play guitar or violin again. Well, maybe, if he taught himself to play left-handed - a big advantage of being ambidextrous. He could probably hold a bow or a pick just fine with three fingers and two little stubs. Of course, this did kind of kill his hopes of ever learning to play piano. Or, well, anything that didn't have strings. Not to mention a lot of things that did.

"At least I could still play sitar just fine," he murmured softly.

He hadn't meant for anyone to hear, but Axel gently rested a hand on the top of his head - one of the few places on his body it didn't hurt like a royal bitch to be touched; thank the gods Malenisa hadn't scalped him too. Then he and Vexen carefully slung Demyx's arms around their shoulders, slid their free arms under his legs, and carefully lifted him off the bed and into the wheelchair. Demyx knew they were trying to cause him as little pain as possible, they really were, but the short process left him grey and shaking and feeling faint with pain. "I'm sorry," Axel murmured. "I wish I could make it hurt less." Vexen said nothing - he could make it hurt less, but Demyx wasn't willing to take the ultra-strong painkillers he had to offer. He hated the way they screwed with his head and made him almost incapable of thinking; besides, they always seemed to make him sick. Once he was settled in his wheelchair, Axel carefully draped a blanket over him, just to make it less obvious he wasn't wearing much of anything but a hospital gown and enough bandages to carpet the meeting room, and those weird braces Vexen put on his arms and legs in lieu of plaster casts because casts would have been too hard on his ruined skin.

Then - it was the moment of truth. Today marked Demyx's release from the hospital wing, after a month of pain and misery and doubt about whether he would even survive, let alone recover. Every day he'd had to force himself to wake up and keep breathing all day and not just allow himself to drift away from all pain forever...it all seemed to come down to this. And Demyx was starting to wonder if it was worth it. He was going to be nothing but a huge burden for so long, unable to even care for himself at all, and his quality of life had already gone so far to hell he didn't know if it was possible for it to get any worse. He'd just be a bundle of pain, doing nothing but taking up space, needing to be waited on hand and foot.

Was this worth it? Is it really good that I survived? Or would the rest of them all be better off if I'd just...faded...?

"Ready for your big entrance?" Axel murmured into his ear. Demyx just shook his head, feeling too low to talk. "Well...sorry about that, but everyone just can't wait to see you...it's been over a month, and Vexen barely ever let anyone visit, even the Superior..." He chuckled softly. "Someone even started a rumor that you'd died and the elder members were trying to cover it up by having Vexen not let anyone come visit and having Zexion make your Proof look artificially blue. I suspect either Luxord or Fori. Probably Fori; that's the kind of shit he'd get up to. No one really believed it anyway, but...just trust me, they'll all be glad to see you." Demyx just snorted weakly as Axel wheeled him towards the door out of the hospital wing; if anyone even saw them on the way back to his room, they might say "Hi", but no doubt that would be it.

"Hey! There's our conquering hero!"

Demyx's jaw dropped. The entire Organization was gathered outside the door to the hospital wing, apparently all waiting for him - just like Axel said. "...Guys?..."

"And girls!" Larxene added.

Demyx didn't even pay attention to her. "What are...you all...doing here?" he asked hesitantly, wondering if he was being set up for a huge joke or something.

"We're making sure you're still alive!" That had to be Luxord - no one else had an accent like that.

"It's been horrible -" Roxas suddenly came charging out of the crowd. He almost gave Demyx a hug, but seemed to realize at the last second how painful that would be. "Vexen hardly ever let anyone visit, and when he did he never let us stay for more than five minutes -"

"The reason was obvious," Vexen snapped, obviously nettled. "As precarious as his condition was, the slightest infection could have - no, would have been devastating! Even now, he will have to be closely monitored in case of -"

"Four, spare us, please." Demyx very nearly laughed - of all the people who might have told Vexen to put a lid on it, Zexion was about the last he'd have expected - but laughing would have been agonizing. "You explained all of this to us at the meeting yesterday."

Demyx's jaw dropped again. "There was a meeting? About...me?"

Axel nodded, grinning broadly. "Yeah. Vexen wanted to warn us that you were just about fit to move back into your own room and that we should treat you like glass for a while."

"B-b-but...why?" Demyx stammered. All this fuss? Just for him? He wasn't worth all that much even when he was fit and healthy...

"And why not, Nine?" Xemnas suddenly stepped out in front of Demyx's wheelchair, wearing what almost looked like a warm smile. "When the entire Organization's survival hinged on yours...you came through with a miracle." Demyx tried to stammer out some sort of protest, but Xemnas cut him off. "Fifteen has thoroughly analyzed the remains of the spell that had been on Thirteen...its completion hinged on the death of the person whose blood had been used in the casting. Once completed, the spell would have been permanent. If you had not still been alive at the time, Thirteen would never have broken the spell. Eight would have been killed, and Two enslaved. With almost the entire Organization still in Angrejar, there is no telling how far Malenisa would have cast her net, or how successful she would have been - but we know she had every intention of recapturing and killing Six, and we have no reason to believe she could not have succeeded. Even had she failed at that, and our losses ended there - we would have lost four members, including the Keyblade master, permanently. The only way to break the enslaving spell, once permanent, is to kill the caster - and killing the caster also kills the slave.

"Simply by living long enough for us to rescue Thirteen, you saved three lives and all our hopes. But in continuing to live - in surviving the unsurvivable and enduring the unendurable, when everyone was certain there was no hope left for you - you have shown greater courage and strength and gone further above and beyond the call of duty than any reasonable person could have dared ask. Such bravery demands no less than the greatest respect." Demyx tried to say something, anything, but he couldn't speak around the lump in his throat. He had to fight just to keep the incipient tears from rolling down his face. All the long misery behind him and facing him...the nightmares, the isolation, the feeling of utter helplessness, the incredible unrelenting pain...all the times when the pain seemed most unbearable, when he'd known that all he had to do was close his eyes and decide enough was enough, and he'd never have to suffer again...all the times he hadn't closed his eyes and decided enough was enough, and later wondered if it had been worth it...

It had been worth it. He wasn't a burden - he was a hero. At least, that's what the Superior had said. And Xigbar, right as he emerged from the hospital wing - he'd called him a conquering hero. "Our conquering hero", he'd said. And if those two thought he was a hero...well, how was anyone else going to disagree? And then there was the fact that everyone was there waiting to see him - everyone was happy to see him...everyone had been worried about him...everyone cared...

For possibly the first time since before being captured by Malenisa, Demyx couldn't feel any pain. "...Thank you," he said in a very small voice. "Thank you all."

"No, Demyx," Roxas said, putting a hand on Demyx's head. "Thank you." Then the greatest hero of the Organization was wheeled down the hall to his own room, at the head of a short procession - at least, until Axel had to open a portal to get him down the stairs, putting them way ahead of anyone else - grinning like an idiot the entire time. For the first time in ages, he was immensely proud of himself.

Despite Vexen's prediction, Axel managed to pick him up out of the wheelchair and set him down on his bed with hardly any trouble at all - it didn't even hurt too much, though that might have just been Demyx's mood acting as a painkiller. "I have to ask..." Axel said as he made sure Demyx was in place and comfortable as possible. "What exactly did you say that day?"

Demyx chuckled, slightly embarrassed. "It wasn't all that much. I was in too much pain to come up with anything epic. 'Thank you, my friend; goodbye, I'll see you soon, and say hi to Roxas for me'...if I'd been speaking English, you wouldn't have remembered I said anything." He sighed as Axel carefully folded his arms over his stomach - oddly enough, he was a little more comfortable that way. "So what did you say?"

Axel blushed a little himself. "I wasn't coming up with any immortal quotes myself - hell, I only know bits and pieces of Irish anyway. All I said was 'See you later, good luck, God be with you'. Not exactly memorable either."

Demyx pretended to scoff. "I survived a month of pure, unadulterated misery just to find out you said that? How trite do you get?"

Axel shook his head. "Was that all you had to live for? How about proving Vexen didn't know everything? Or making sure Malenisa didn't get even the posthumous satisfaction of killing you? Or making sure poor little Connie didn't end up horribly disappointed that you never came back? Why not any of those reasons?"

Demyx smiled and shook his head gingerly. "Well, those are all good reasons...but the real reason I survived is pretty simple. Every time the opportunity presented itself, I decided I just wasn't quite ready to die yet."

Axel smiled at that, though there were tears in his eyes. "Well, whatever the reason, I'm just glad you survived. Because no matter how banal it turned out to be, I dunno how I could have survived not knowing what the hell you said."

"...You know, as long as I'm not gonna have anything better to do for a good, long time, I should teach you Hindi."

Axel gave him a wry grin as Connie hopped up onto the bed and started nuzzling Demyx's hair. "I'm flattered. Been a long time since a hero offered to teach me anything."

AN: Hey, look! A happy ending? Remember this guy? He lives! No, he didn't get his fingers back, but he's a determined guy. He'll cope. And he will walk, dance, and play sitar again, which is infinitely better than Vexen ever hoped for. Demyx is, as he said, fuckin' indestructible. He's even gotten a massive boost to his miniscule self-esteem - I mean, if the Superior calls you a hero, are you gonna tell him he's wrong?