Authors's Notes: Okay, so I decided to post this. It's been sitting on my computer for a while and I had originally planned on postponing posting this until I finally finished Razorblade Shine, but I couldn't help but reconsider my decision. So here you go!

Summary: And, for the first time, Zexion was questioning what he had gotten himself into. Zemyx, rated M.

Disclaimer: I don't own. And now I shall go cry in the corner.

o.O.o

Instructions in Life
Chapter 1: Meeting
Completed on December 31, 2008

o.O.o

The recovery process after a break up is a long and painful process, particularly if you are the party who gets offended or betrayed, cheated on, lied to, and overall, ends up with the raw end of the deal.

Zexion Schemer knows this feeling better than anyone.

He remembers quite clearly the day he walked in on boyfriend Marluxia and his co-worker rutting in his favorite position on the laboratory tables. He remembers the way anger welled up inside of him, seizing his mind completely as he set fire to more than two years worth of carefully calculated and researched lab notes. He remembers storming out of Hollow Bastion Pharmaceutical with more than just a chip on his shoulder.

But that was ages (i.e. weeks) ago by now, and Zexion likes to think that he has since moved on.

He is glad that he had the fortitude in his younger days to pursue a dual major in college against his advisors wishes because he has since quit his job at Hollow Bastion Pharmaceutical and placed an ad online through a thoroughly reputable organization offering his services.

Right now, Zexion wishes he could smack you for immediately jumping to the conclusion that his services are something perverted and obscene. He recommends you pull your overly large head from the overly despicable gutter that you have shoved it in.

No, the services that Zexion advertised on the internet is for tutoring.

You see, along with a degree in research medicine, he acquired a degree in general education. Education was always his fall back, his second choice, but at this point in his life, teaching someone something seemed by far preferable than researching cures for a rare strand of the flu because it most certainly did not come along with rather painful and otherwise unnecessary memories.

Zexion is a rather practical young man, only twenty-five you see, and believes a fresh start to be exactly what he needs to move on with his life. Especially after discovering his five year relationship with Marluxia to be a total and utter sham because Marluxia had been with Vexen six years, thus making Zexion the other woman.

The very next day after posting his resumee on the tutoring site, Zexion opens his email to discover request upon request for an interview. He deletes some of the rather obvious nadas and responds to two rather promising ones.

A woman asks for an interview at her home as soon as possible, tomorrow if Zexion can manage it. Zexion agrees, jotting down her address and noting that it is on Destiny Islands. Destiny Islands, although not particularly close to his home town of Hollow Bastion, is not an inconcieveable drive, taking perhaps forty minutes one way. It is a much longer drive than Zexion wishes for it to be on the road each day, but he feels that he cannot complain if the job itself is worth it.

He arrives at the interview five minutes early, knocking discreetly on the door at one o'clock sharp. He can hear someone approach the door, footfall heavy, before it is pulled open, revealing a blond middle aged man with a cigarette in his mouth.

"You the tutor?" the man asks. His face appears very worn and drawn, with obvious sleepless bags under each eye.

"I am," Zexion replies, sticking his hand out. "Zexion Schemer."

"Cid Highwind," the man replied. "Well, come on in. I imagine Sherra will be around shortly."

As Zexion stepped into the house, he could hear a faint come on dear, so you can meet the tutor. A pretty woman and a small young blond girl stepped into the living room where he had just taken a seat at Cid's encouraging.

"Hi," Sherra said, walking up to Zexion and shaking his hand quickly. "This is my daughter Namine. Say hi, Nami."

Zexion observed the girl for a moment, noting in his professional opinion that she was utterly adorable and would probably grow up to be something of a heartbreaker. She appeared very quiet, if just a touch timid and meek. Timid and meek Zexion could handle, but what he couldn't handle was—

"Larxene!" Cid screamed, his cigarette in severe danger of falling from his mouth, as a small whirlwind burst through the living room.

The new addition stopped right in front of Zexion, who had precisely half a second to observe that she was somewhat older than Namine before the newcomer pulled her foot back and kicked him as hard as she could right in the shin.

Zexion let out a surprised yelp, jumping and bending to clutch his now throbbing leg.

"Oh my Gosh, I'm so sorry!" Sherra said quickly as Cid scooped Larxene up, trying to restrain the flailing girl.

After being bruised by a girl no older than seven, Zexion figured that the interview couldn't get much worse. But, as it is in all stories, he was so very, very wrong.

From there, he slipped on a water puddle in the middle of the kitchen as Sherra gave him a tour of the house, had a meatball flung at his forehead during the lunch the Highwinds invited him to eat, and had somehow proceeded to make Namine cry.

The first two he understood completely as to why they'd happened; he wasn't meant to work with for the Highwinds, but for the life of him, Zexion could not figure out how he had made the little girl cry.

She had been sitting across from him during lunch and, when he had caught the girl staring at him, he offered a rather uncharacteristic smile. And that's when the flood began.

Perhaps that was the problem, Zexion smiling. See, few people had ever seen it happen so it was a rare and notable event. Namine, being only that of five years old, did not know of the huge bequest that had been bestowed upon her.

Later on that night, after musing everything over, Zexion wondered if the reason he rarely smiled was because it made little girls cry. He stood in front of the mirror and tried to think of something, anything really, that was funny so he could see for himself what he looked like when he smiled. But all he managed was a rather constipated grimace that brought tears even to his own eyes.

As he had turned to leave the Highwind's home that day, Sherra stood by the door, staring at him, her eyes pleading, and proceeded to tell him that she would pay double what anyone else asked for if he agreed to take the job.

Zexion, very noncommitedly, told her that he would have to get back with her.

o.O.o

Over the next few days, Zexion interviewed with a few more families, all of which with there was something just a little bit strange, a little bit off. The Cunninghams were, in truth, okay people, but there son stared at Zexion's highly polished shoes far too much for his liking. Strike one. The Fairs, too, weren't bad if for the fact that the Mr. seemed like ingested far too much sugar. Strike two. Mrs. Leonhart was a very nice lady in Zexion's opinion, but the husband seemed just a tad too…something for Zexion's liking and tended to only reply in one-syllabic answers that Zexion found completely frustrating. Strike three.

Zexion decided that he would allow one more strike of the utter weirdness before he would give up. The interview with the Valentines was completely uncomfortable from the beginning. Zexion found the husband entirely creepy with his long black hair and weird sense of fashion, and he was beginning to think that the wife didn't exist at all until she made an appearance a good forty minutes into the interview, her face pale and tired looking and her long red hair wild and unkempt, making her look like some kind of zombie. The husband had informed Zexion that his wife was a writer. And Zexion understood immediately; this was not the job for him.

He had nearly given up the hope of ever finding work when he hit the play button of his answering machine shortly after returning home from the interview with the Valentines.

After listening to drunken message from his college-aged younger brother Hayner, Zexion heard the message that would surely change his life.

"Hi," a slightly nervous voice said. "Um, my name is Demyx Nocturne and I was wondering if we could set up an interview. I saw your ad online and was, um, wowed by your credentials. You've probably already been hired by someone else by now, but I thought I'd give it a shot. If you could, call me back at …"

And Zexion sighed in relief, for some reason having a very good feeling (finally!) about this one.

o.O.o

They had set the interview up for two pm the next day.

Demyx Nocturne lived only one town over, in Twilight Town, a mere fifteen minute drive from Zexion's apartment. After pulling into the driveway of the address Demyx had given him over the phone the day before, Zexion walked up to the front door, his hands in his pockets.

As he made his way up the front steps, he noticed a small blond boy sitting on a porch swing, a book in his lap and sea salt ice cream in his hand. It was a warm day, and Zexion saw the boy scowl as some ice cream dripped upon a page.

"What are you reading?" Zexion asked the boy who hand only just noticed Zexion's presence.

The young boy looked up at Zexion, his eyes appraising. Zexion must have passed some kind of inspection because the boy nodded to himself almost imperceptibly before replying, "Peter Pan."

"That's a good one," Zexion replied. "I remember reading it when I was young."

"You're still young," the boy replied. "Although you do have old people hair."

"Roxas!" a voice from the door hissed. "Don't say meanie things like that to people! You know Daddy doesn't like it when you say meanie things to people!"

Another young boy came stomping out the screen door, flinging himself in the chair next to his brother and stealing a lick from the ice cream before the one named Roxas shoved the rest of it in his mouth.

Staring at the two boys, Zexion saw them to nearly identical except that the newcomer had hair that more chocolately than wheat, and was more tanned.

"Sora, I wasn't done combing your hair!" another voice said from the doorway, in the exact spot Sora had occupied only a moment prior. "Oh! You're here!"

Opening the front door, Zexion noted that the man was also blond, his hair cut in such a fashion Zexion had never before seen, eyes cerulean and deepset. His shoulders were also wide, waist narrow and he was several inches taller than Zexion.

But he was young, very young, several years younger looking than even Zexion.

"Well, come in, come in!" the man said, holding the door out for Zexion to catch. Once Zexion was inside, the man poked his head back out the door and said to the boys, "You guys stay right here, you hear me? Do not leave this porch, not even if Axel or Riku come over and beg you go. Got it?"

Zexion heard both boys murmur their respective yeses, and the man turned back around, allowing the screen door to shut softly behind him.

They stood staring at each other uncomfortably, Zexion wondering where the boys' father was because surely this had to be their older brother; he was just so young.

"Well, I'm Demyx," the man said after a moment, sticking his hand out for Zexion to shake. "You already met Roxas and Sora, I see. I'm not sure how these things normally work, but why don't we go sit in the living room, okay?"

So, indeed, this was the boys' father.

After taking a seat on the couch, Demyx asked, "Is there anything I can get you? I just made up a pitcher of lemonade. It would probably be wise to get some before the boys discover I made it and drink it all."

"Well, okay then," Zexion said, finding himself smiling at the man for some unfathomable reason. Demyx returned his smile briefly before turning around and heading, presumably, into the kitchen.

Zexion took the time to look around the living room. It was very neatly furnished, everything in shades of blue, and very obviously decorated by a man. There were photographs of the twins and Demyx sitting atop the mantle, the boys in various ages. Two more recent portraits hung above the fire place where paintings of landscapes and people's dogs usually resided.

On a small end table in the far corner of the room, Zexion saw another photograph, different from the rest. In it, Demyx sat staring up at the photographer, his arm wrapped around a very pretty girl with long red hair and a kind smile. She was gazing at up at Demyx and Zexion knew the look she had in her eye as it was one he had seen on his own face in photographs when looking at a special someone: adoration, complete and total love and affection.

"That's Ariel," Demyx said, re-entering the living room with two large glasses of lemonade in hand, handing one to Zexion before taking a seat. "She was the boys' mother."

Zexion took note of the was in Demyx's statement and discreetly chose not to comment. It wasn't his place.

"Well," Zexion said after a moment, Demyx's eyes tearing away from the photograph with a small, slightly guilty smile. "We should probably begin the interview."

"You're right," Demyx replied softly, setting his glass atop a coaster on the coffee table. "Heh, like I said before, I'm not exactly sure how these things work, so…?"

"Alright," Zexion replied, slightly taken aback. All the other interviews he'd had, the parents (with the possible exception of the Highwinds) were all very organized, very thorough in interviewing him. Zexion wasn't necessarily upset by this change in pace, just a little thrown by it. "You saw my resumee online, I presume."

"Oh yes, I did!" Demyx squeaked, his apparent nervousness still not having worn off. "Your resumee looked very good. I saw that you had done student teaching before deciding to work in research."

Zexion nodded, slightly more at ease now that Demyx was picking up some of the slack.

"If I may ask, why exactly did you decide to switch careers?"

And again, the blood pumping through Zexion's veins began to boil. But it wasn't towards Demyx, not by a long shot. Zexion found it hard to be angry at people whom were simply curious. Nope, all the blame lay on Marluxia and that snake Vexen.

Demyx saw the flicker of agitation in Zexion, saw the subtle paling of his cheeks. "I'm sorry," he replied quickly. "Sometimes I don't exactly think before I say things. If it doesn't directly pertain to the boys, or affect then in any way, then I am probably out of bounds."

"No," Zexion said, gritting his teeth slightly, but not, perhaps, as much as he would have a month ago, or even one week ago. "No, you have every right to be curious. If I may someday be tutoring your children, then you should have a thorough background of me.

"I will not lie to you either. I was in a long relationship that ended suddenly. I found it difficult to work there any longer and decided a change in career might actually do me some good. And if tutoring doesn't work out, my old boss told me that I could always have my job back."

"Oh, well okay. Sometimes my imagination gets the better of me. I was imagining, well, you really don't want to know what I was imagining." Demyx smiled cheekily at him for a moment before taking another swig of his lemonade.

A little while later, after they had been discussing Zexion's resumee in further detail, Zexion inquired, "May I ask why you decided to hire a tutor for Sora and Roxas?"

"Well, both of the boys have problems in school and I didn't feel that they were getting as much out of their educations as they could. They're both very intelligent, but they just…well, Sora has ADHD and has a lot of trouble sitting still for more than a minute, especially in a classroom full of students where the sole focus isn't on him. And Roxas, he has a bit of an…attitude towards some people, particularly ones that he does not like. Especially because he feels that it is his job to look after Sora, who gets himself into a lot of trouble somehow or another.

"Their teacher suggested that hiring an after-school tutor would most definitely help improve their school work and behavior."

Three boys came running into the house then, Sora and two others Zexion didn't recognize. "Daddy, Daddy!" Sora said jumping up and down while standing before his father. "Riku and Axel came over to play, and we were on the porch like you said for us to, but then we got hungry! And Roxas wouldn't share his ice cream, so I tried eating some anyway and it fell on the ground! Can you make us some fooooooood!"

And somehow, the boy managed to say it in all one breath.

"Of course," Demyx said, smiling down at his young son fondly. His eyes snapped up. "Axel, how many times do I have to tell you not to steal your brother's matches and bring them to our home. I can assure you that Roxas isn't impressed with your obsession."

"But Demyx!" the taller of the two boys said, his hair fire engine red and eyes a flashing emerald. "Roxas just likes to pretend that fire isn't cool!"

"Demyx, Sora's tummy is growling," the other new boy said. He had longish silver hair, bangs falling into turquoise eyes.

"I know, I know," Demyx said, beginning to stand up.

A shriek was then heard from outside. And in stomped Roxas. "Dad!" he said, waving Peter Pan around before him. "Look what Axel did to my book! He dropped it in the ice cream that fell and didn't even pick it up! Now it's ruined and I was just getting to the part about the pirates!"

"Roxas, it'll be okay, we can get you a new one then next time we go to the store."

"Dad, I'm hungry!"

His face helpless, Demyx turned to Zexion. "I'm sorry about all of this. Can you start Monday?"

o.O.o

Zexion heard the phone ringing as he unlocked his front door. Moving a bit more quickly, he had the door open and had the phone answered in under twelve seconds.

"Hello?" he said into the receiver. He hadn't the time to even bother to look at the caller id to see who it was.

"Zexion?" a snifflely voice said into the phone. "Zexion, are you there?"

"Yes, Hayner, it's me. Who else would it be? And why didn't you just call me on my cell phone?"

"Well, I didn't know if Marluxia could be-"

"I have told you countless times, Hayner, that Marluxia and I broke up quite a while ago by now."

"I know, I know, but I know you, and thought that maybe you would forgive him by now and get back together. Scratch that, if he wronged you, you'd never forgive him, would you?"

Zexion sighed, used to the prattle of his younger brother. "So why is it that you called?" he asked. "I thought you had a big exam to study for."

"Well, I do, but I'm taking a little break. And Olette broke up with me again. She told me that-"

But at that point, Zexion tuned it all out. He could hardly keep track of the rollercoaster of a relationship Hayner had with his on-again, off-again girlfriend Olette. She was pretty brunette the same age as Hayner, with bright green eyes and an easy smile. Zexion liked her well enough, and was hoping that she would give his brother some sense of stability, but he feared it was only getting worse.

He knew that Olette loved his brother, that was the reason they were always getting back together, but she had as hard a time as any of dealing with Hayner, who was intelligent, but often didn't take the time to think. He was pure emotion ninety-nine percent of the time and was quick to grow jealous, and more than a little possessive and controlling.

Zexion just wished he could have a dollar for every time he heard the words Olette broke up with me…

He would be a very rich man indeed.

Zexion, of course, murmured the appropriate responses, them having been engraved into his brain from excessive usage. Oh, I'm sorry Hayner, I'm sure things will work out. Oh, don't worry, Hayner, Olette will come to her senses. No, Hayner, she will never like Seifer the way she loves you, so don't worry about it, she knows he's scum.

After sobbing into Zexion's ear for a good half hour, all of which Zexion used to prepare himself a sandwich, eat it, check his email, sweep the kitchen floor, and get the mail from the box, Hayner finally let out a shaky breath and asked, "So what's been going on with you lately? Are you sure that Marluxia hasn't gotten a hold of you?"

Zexion's eyes narrowed. "What do you mean gotten a hold of me? Why, has he been bothering you again? Program his number into your cell phone like I told you to and just hit ignore every time he calls."

"I did, Zexion, but then he leaves these messages in my voice mail about how sorry he is and how much he misses you. You know I can't deal with stuff like that. So after he left about ten of those sad little messages, I kind of, sort of calledhimbackandsaidI'dgetyoutocallhim!"

"You. What?" Zexion asked, a twitch beginning to form in his left eye.

Hayner let out a shaky laugh. "I called him back and said that I'd get you to call him."

"Yeah, I got that. The question is why?! Why would you do that when he was an ass hole to me. You're my brother, god damn it, you're supposed to be on my side."

"Zexion, I am on your side, but he's one persuasive ass hole and you know how I cave."

Zexion talked to his younger brother another ten minutes, all the while trying not to get angry at him. After readily assuring Hayner that, no he wasn't angry with him, he hung up and flung the phone viciously across the room. It was lucky that he had never been all that great at throwing things, and the phone landed on the couch with a whush!

He walked into the kitchen and poured himself a small glass of rum, grimacing as it went down. He thought back on his conversation with his brother and his mind wandered back to the sly smile Demyx had given him earlier when he was imagining exactly why Zexion had left his job at Hollow Bastion Pharmaceutical to become a tutor. He mused that Demyx probably wasn't all that much older that his brother, and it made him a little sad, especially when he thought of the way Demyx had been staring at the photograph of Sora and Roxas' mother.

Feeling a bit more liberated after a few more glasses of rum, Zexion pulled his cell phone from his pocket and quickly dialed Marluxia's number. Zexion couldn't decide if whether or not he was angry when the voice mail picked up.

Feeling his nerve rise, Zexion said, "You really need to stop calling my brother. He's got enough going on now as it is and doesn't need you to continue bothering him. If you wanted to talk to me so badly, then you should have called, okay? Stop harassing my family and stop harassing me."

And he hung up.

Zexion didn't usually promote sloth and laziness, but he cut himself a little slack that night, completely upset now by Marluxia, who was still harassing his brother and wouldn't, apparently, leave Zexion alone. Some time later, he checked his cell phone and saw that he had one new voice mail.

"Would you have really answered the phone if I had called, Zexion? I don't think so. I just wanted to hear your voice again, that's all. I'll stop calling your brother if you start picking up when I call you, alright? I'll talk to you later. Good-bye Zexion."

He decided to hit the bottle a little harder.

At midnight, Zexion heard someone knocking at his door. And he was beyond pissed. His head was still spinning from all the rum he had consumed and he just wanted desparately to sleep. Huffily, he swung his legs over the side of the bed and bent to pick up his discarded shirt and jeans, pulling them on rather difficultly as he made his way to the door.

He didn't even bother looking through the peep hole, already figuring it to be Hayner looking for a place to sleep away from Olette for the night. But if he had looked, he never would have opened the door.

When he did, he saw Marluxia standing there, his long hair pulled back in a ponytail, jeans hugging his hips and a black blazer covering his upper body.

"Well don't you smell like a liquor store, Zexion," he commented, his mouth curling up into an amused smile. His arms were crossed and his blue eyes were filled with something that resembled an obvious joy at the current situation.

"And don't you look like Satan incarnate," Zexion muttered.

Marluxia chuckled. "You know, you could very well be right, Zexion. You never really know."

Zexion chose to ignore this comment. "What are you doing here?" Zexion asked, sighing and wanting nothing more than to go back to sleep.

"You know why I'm here, Zexion," he murmured, his voice going husky. "I miss you."

"Well I miss you just about as much as I miss walking in on you and Vexen fucking on my research table."

"Touché," Marluxia said, smiling at him. "But you know that was a mistake. You know that I love you most."

"See, that's where the problem lies, Marluxia," Zexion replied, having to take a special effort not to slur his words into a cluster fuck of a mess. "You should have loved only me, but you didn't."

Marluxia remained silent then, staring at the shorter man for a moment before stepping forward and lightly touching the side of Zexion's face. "I know," he said finally, his eyes piercing into Zexion's. "Believe me, I know it now."

And Zexion wasn't sure how their clothes had come off and they wound up in his bed. He wasn't sure how Marluxia had convinced him into sleeping with him before he drifted back off into an actual deep, deep sleep.

The next time Zexion woke up (it really was Hayner at the door looking for a place to sleep), he wasn't sure if Marluxia being there had been real or simply a dream.

o.O.o

In the end, it was Demyx he decided to take the job for.

The choice was obvious, really. Demyx was the only one who seemed any semblance of normal, and Zexion sympathized with him for raising two young boys on his own. Not to mention Demyx, from what he had seen the other night, was absolutely gorgeous and would probably prove to be a mighty fine distraction in forgetting about Marluxia.

After getting off the phone with Demyx the next morning in which he confirmed that he would, indeed, take the tutoring job, he walked out into his living room and saw his brother still sleeping on his couch, mouth flung wide open and arms wrapped almost possessively around one of the many couch pillows that typically adorned Zexion's couch.

Pulling his cell phone from his pocket, Zexion snapped a picture before quickly putting his cell back away, grinning slightly to himself as he walked into the kitchen to get himself another cup of coffee. His head was pounding slightly around his temples, a headache, but not enough to have him moaning and groaning in his bed at the pain of it.

He began making a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, setting plates out on his tiny kitchen table before walking back into the living room, yanking the comforter from off his younger brother's body.

"Breakfast time," he said as Hayner shot up, shock on his face.

"What the hell, Zexion!" he said, giving his brother a dirty look.

"I went to the trouble of making breakfast for you and all you can do is yell at me," Zexion said, unable to keep the amusement from his voice that he was usually so good at hiding. It really wasn't his fault if Hayner brought out the playful side in him.

"Breakfast?" Hayner asked, an easy grin falling on his face as, right on cue, his stomach let out a thunderous growl.

"Yep, that's what I said. Now get into the kitchen before it all gets cold." Hayner jumped up from him makeshift bed and began sprinting to the kitchen. "And put some clothes on first. I really do not need to see you running my apartment in only your underwear."

His brother threw him a rather shit-eating grin before picking up his jeans and shirt from where they lay on the floor, quickly putting them on and heading back to the kitchen. He still beat Zexion there, already sitting down and scooping generous helpings of everything before digging in.

o.O.o

Zexion showed up at the Nocturne household at precisely 3:30 on Monday afternoon. He had somehow managed to convince his brother that he needed to go back to school and study for his exam some more before contacting Olette. He received a call the next day from his brother informing him that the two were indeed back together and going strong.

Since then, Zexion had been on his own. He was happy that Marluxia hadn't tried contacting him again, which gave him a very clear and level head when he showed up at Demyx's house that Monday.

He had arrived even before Demyx was home from picking his sons up from school, waiting patiently on the front porch with his messenger bag at his feet. He was dressed smartly in a slightly loose fitting black button down shirt and fitted dark blue jeans that clung to his hips. Zexion still felt as if he was too dressed up for his job, tutoring two six year olds, but couldn't bring himself to wear anything more casual; he was too used to wearing slacks and button downs under his pristine white lab coat at Hollow Bastion Pharmaceutical to be breaking his habit of dressing up so quickly.

He had even shined his shoes before leaving the house.

Demyx pulled into the driveway less than fifteen minutes later, his blue car pulling in next to Zexion's black one. "Hey," he said merrily as he stepped from his car, shutting the door behind him and moving to walk around the car to help his sons out. Zexion murmured a greeting in response, grinning to himself oh so slightly as the back of Demyx's shirt rose up ever so slightly as he walked.

"I can get my own seat belt, Dad," Roxas said, glaring up at his dad in a way that informed Zexion that Roxas did not enjoy being treated like a child.

Sora was a different story.

"You can help me, Daddy!" he said. Zexion even saw the boy put his seatbelt back on so Demyx could help him out of the vehicle.

Slamming his door shut from where he had been sitting in the passenger seat, Roxas slung his book bag over his back and marched up the stairs and onto the porch, taking the seat next to Zexion on the porch swing.

"How are you today, Roxas?" Zexion asked.

"Fine," Roxas said, crossing his skinny arms over his chest with a sigh. After remembering that he was supposed to act grown up, he turned to Zexion and asked, "And how are you, Mr. Schemer?"

Zexion cracked a smile. "I'm also fine. And you can call me Zexion if you wish to since you aren't in school."

Roxas smiled a little, obviously pleased that he was on a first name basis with an adult.

Sora came running up the stairs then, not stopping until he stood right in front of Zexion. "Can I call you Zexion, too?" he asked with a large grin.

"Sora, don't be rude," Roxas said quickly.

"No harm done," Zexion replied. "And yes, you can call me Zexion if you would like to."

"Yay!" Sora said, jumping in the air with one fist pumping. He hugged his brother quickly before darting back around their father.

"You didn't have to get here so early, Zexion," Demyx said with a grin as Sora began clinging to one of his legs.

Standing up, Zexion replied, "Truthfully, I didn't know how the traffic would be this time a day so I left early, but there was almost no one on the roads between here and Hollow Bastion."

Unlocking the front door, Demyx said, "Well, I'm just going to feed the boys a snack before you guys get started. Do you mind if I watch this first session? So I know what's going on?"

"No, that would be perfectly alright," Zexion replied, slinging his bag across his shoulder. He didn't have children, but he could understand Demyx's concerns about someone he barely knew spending alone time with his sons, and he didn't blame the blond in the least.

o.O.o

"Well, what do you think?" Zexion asked Demyx as he gathered up his papers from the dining room table. He had gone about the standard procedure when becoming a tutor and had even contacted Sora and Roxas' school requesting copies of the student's books and worksheets and other things. Of course, Demyx and the school's principal had to sign a written consent, but things were going quite smoothly now. He had even contacted their first grade teacher, who filled him in on some of the things to watch out for concerning the Nocturne twins.

He found that he thoroughly enjoyed teaching them too, not having any of the problems the teacher had described to him. Sora was calm and attentive and Roxas hadn't shown even a whisper of an attitude all afternoon. What he probably liked best though, was the fact that the twins were incredibly smart and seemed to absorb his every word and retain everything he said.

Demyx's presence during the session hadn't seemed to affect the learning process as Zexion feared that it might. But he mused later on that Demyx's presence in the room had probably helped in keeping the boys calm.

Demyx offered Zexion a quick smile before he said, "I think things went extremely well. The boys seem to like you a lot, which I'm glad for. Roxas rarely warms up to people that quickly and Sora seems to adore you already." He was silent for a moment, his face thoughtful, before he added, "I think this is really going to work, Zexion, I really do."

"Well, I'm glad about that! I'd hate to have to start looking for a new job already," Zexion replied, placing all of his materials in his bag before closing it and slinging it over his shoulder. "Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow."

"Wait!" Demyx said when Zexion was about halfway to the front door. Demyx looked slightly nervous for a moment before he added, "How would you like to stay for dinner? I mean, it will take a little while to prepare and it won't be much, but I think it will be a good idea for us to get to know each other better. You know, because you'll be spending so much time here and all. With my sons, teaching my sons."

Zexion thought about it a moment, choosing not to comment on Demyx's ramblings, and decided that staying with a real family eating real food far beat having to cook a meal for just himself. "Alright, that sounds good. Very good, actually."

Demyx's face broke out into a smile of relief. "Well, I'm not sure what you can do until dinner is ready, but the computer is over there…"

"Actually, if it's okay, could I help prepare dinner. My younger brother says that I'm a wonder with a knife, but then again, that boy would starve if I didn't feed him whenever he showed up on my doorstep."

Demyx laughed, leading the way to the kitchen. "How old is your brother?" he asked conversationally, grabbing a pair of scissors from a drawer to cut open the package of chicken breasts that had been thawing on the counter.

"He's twenty-one," Zexion replied as he watched Demyx moved practicedly around the kitchen. "A senior in college, though he spends more time in my apartment than his dorm a lot of the time. Probably because he knows I'll take pity on him."

Demyx laughed. "I can't imagine my brother ever just showing up here and demanding me to feed him. But then again, he had that completely psychotic boyfriend of his to take care of him."

In truth, Demyx was testing Zexion's reaction, trying to gauge it to see if he was at all disgusted or disturbed that Demyx's brother was gay. Zexion's face remained the same impassive it had been all afternoon, with not even a flicker of emotion to give him away.

Ever since they had met only a few days ago, Zexion had been on Demyx's mind constantly and he was having the toughest of times trying to figure out if the man was gay or not. Or, even, if he could be turned gay or bi or whatever.

Last week he had said he'd left his last job because of a long relationship ending, but he hadn't said that, say, he broke up with his longtime girlfriend or anything.

It was frustrating Demyx so much because he just didn't know.

"What makes you say your brother's boyfriend is psychotic?" Zexion asked after a moment, hoping that he wasn't overstepping any bounds.

Demyx seemed to take it in stride, however, and he was relieved.

"Well, it's just that he's so damned possessive, practically choking him off from anything and everyone else. He rarely ever lets him even come over here to visit his own brother and nephews. Sephiroth just a…well, kind of an asshole."

Zexion proceeded to choke on his own saliva then. "Sephiroth you say," he said after he had calmed down a bit. "That would make Cloud your brother then."

"Yeah," Demyx said, frowning slightly. "Why, do you know them?"

"Yes, I went to college with both of them. Sephiroth was actually the one that set me up with Marluxia to begin with."

Zexion had dated a man, making him at least a little bit gay, giving Demyx at least a smidgen of hope.

And just like that, Demyx's day was made. That is, until a thought dawned on him. According to Sephiroth, one of Marluxia's best friends, Marluxia had just gotten out of a long relationship of several years. Zexion had just said he'd gotten out of a long relationship and had admitted to having dated Marluxia.

It was just too much of coincidence, Zexion had to be the ex that Sephiroth had been talking about.

And if it was a long relationship Zexion had just gotten out of like he claimed, then it would take a long time for him to heal as he knew he and Marluxia couldn't have broken up all that long ago.

Demyx was just glad that the school year had just begun, giving him ample time to try and win the older man over.

"You dated Marluxia?" Demyx asked, hoping not to push Zexion too much, but too damned curious to resist.

Zexion sighed, his eyes shifting away. "Yeah," he admitted, "he was actually the reason I quit my last job. Mar had cheated on me with one of my co-workers and I didn't feel like seeing him all the time."

Well Sephiroth had left that little tidbit out, Demyx thought with a wince, wondering why on earth someone would cheat on the man before him who seemed nothing short of perfect, so composed and mature and fucking easy on the eyes. But then again, Demyx, being that he was already quite taken with the man, was probably a little biased.

"I'm so sorry," Demyx murmured. He had finally gotten the chicken from the packaging, placing them on a plate.

"Don't worry about," Zexion said, his eyes shifting back up to Demyx. "It was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me, now that I think about. It got me away from someone who was completely unstable and gave me an opportunity to start over in life. I wasn't very happy before."

Opening the fridge up, Demyx withdrew a bottle of bar-b-q sauce. "Well, I'm glad for that otherwise I would still be looking for a tutor for my boys. A bit selfish, I know, but nonetheless true. Well, since it's nice out, I think we'll be grilling these. Do you like bar-b-q?"

Zexion nodded, following Demyx out the back door and onto the patio where the grill was located. He stood by, watching as Demyx made preparations on the grill for the meat.

A flicker of worry filled him then. "It doesn't bother you, does it?" he asked. "That I'm gay?"

Demyx turned to him suddenly, so suddenly that he nearly dropped the bottle of bar-b-q sauce that he was currently slathering on pieces of chicken before setting on the rack of the grill. "Why should it?" Demyx asked, trying to keep his voice calm. "I already told you that my brother is gay, and it doesn't bother me at all." But he left unsaid: not to mention the fact that I'm gay, have known you only a few days but still want most desperately in your pants.

Zexion let out a visible sigh of relief. "I'm glad. I had been worrying about whether or not it would be an issue, wondering if I should just come out and say it or not. In the end, I had decided against it, but I see now that it wasn't a problem."

"Nope, no problem," Demyx said, grinning to himself as he turned so his back faced Zexion once again.

A few minutes later the two of them were in the kitchen chopping vegetables for dinner. Zexion was given the task of cutting potatoes into cubes to fry up and Demyx was chopping vegetables for the salad that they would also be having with dinner.

Sora and Roxas wandered in at some point, Sora bouncing up and down wondering when the food would be done. Soon, Demyx had told him with a patient smile.

Roxas, however, had just taken a seat at the breakfast bar in the kitchen and stared at the two adults with something that resembled a dawning comprehension. Zexion raised an eyebrow, wondering what the boy was thinking about, but decided to shrug it off.

They ate a short while later, Sora chatting amiably about everything he had done that day, starting with the moment he woke up in the morning. Demyx had calmly chided him, but it seemed to have no effect whatsoever on Sora's chattiness. Zexion didn't mind it in the least, however, finding it rather interesting to listen to a six year old's take on things. He hadn't been around children very much lately, so it was something of a treat to be able to listen to one, although, now that he had this joy, he would find himself around children more and more often.

The two boys from the other day, Axel and Riku, showed up at the front door just as they were finishing dinner. Demyx had let the two boys go with a smile.

"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow, Zexion," Demyx said, gathering up the plates.

"Would you like me to stay and help clean up?" he asked, a small frown on his face.

"No, I wouldn't put you through that. Believe me, now with the neighbor boys here, the boys will begin to get a bit more rowdy. But it's nothing I can't handle."

"Well, okay," Zexion said, again grabbing his bag from where he had left it earlier. "See you tomorrow. Good-bye."

"Bye," Demyx said, sending him one last look before taking the plates out into the kitchen.

Zexion was nearly to his car when he heard a noise behind him. Thinking it to be only one of the four boys that now occupied the Nocturne residence, he turned in time to see a flash of black before he was staring up at the sky from his back.

A sharp pain ran through is elbow from where it hit the pavement. He tried shaking it off so he could stand, but a weight on his chest prevented this. Swinging his eyes, he saw that what was on him was…a girl.

She was probably in her early twenties, with fairly short dark hair and large brown eyes. She glared down at him and stated vehemently, "I am the Great Ninja Yuffie! I am this neighborhood's eyes, ears, and iron fist! I know everything that goes on here, so just who the fuck are you?"

Glaring right back at the girl, Zexion hissed, "I'd be all too happy to tell you who I am, if you'd just get off of me."

"Oh, right," the girl, Yuffie, replied, clambering off his chest and sticking her arm out to help him up. She didn't think that he was much of a threat, especially because he wasn't all that tall and was just scrawny skin and bones.

Zexion took her hand and was hauled to his feet with much more force than he would have guessed her to possess. Rubbing at his elbow, which he discovered was bleeding, seeping from a hole that now occupied the sleeve of his shirt, he stated, "My name is Zexion Schemer and Mr. Nocturne hired me as a tutor for his sons."

"A likely story!" Yuffie said even though she believed the man. He was so small and pale that he could be nothing but a teacher, or perhaps a scientist.

"It's true," Zexion insisted. "You can march right on inside and confirm it if you wish."

"Nah," she said with a shrug, "I believe you."

"Then why did you-" he began before getting cut off.

"I was testing you! Your pathetically weak," she informed him. "But anyway, you should be happy to know that you passed my test!"

"Thrilled to hear it," Zexion muttered sarcastically.

Yuffie chose to ignore this. "There's something you should know since you'll be spending quite a bit of time in this neighborhood. We're protective over what's ours, and Demyx and the twins are something that's ours. We usually don't like outsiders. And you being an outsider, should really heed my warning when I say don't fuck with us."

Before Zexion could say that he didn't really want to fuck with anyone, Yuffie continued on, "And especially don't fuck with Demyx. I've known him all my life and know that he's had it rough, always has. That ass hole dad of his walked out on him when he and his brother Cloud were little. Their mom died when Demyx was fourteen. Luckily, Cloud was eighteen and able to take custody of him so they wouldn't be separated. And then Demyx knocked up Ariel when he was only sixteen and she died right after that!

"But Demyx is one of us, so he is tough! He's raised those boys all by himself and even fought Ariel's dad when he tried to take custody of the boys. Don't let his calm demeanor and cheery smile deceive you! If you mess with him, Demyx will rip you a new one! He'll go Incredible Hulk on you, I swear it!"

With that, Yuffie turned to leave. And Zexion could only stand there with his jaw dropped. He wasn't really sure what he was more startled to hear, the fact that Yuffie was somehow insisting Demyx to be the Hulk in terms of losing his temper and, well, you know, or the fact that Demyx was so young when he became a father. Only sixteen years old.

But Zexion thought Demyx to be doing quite well for himself for having been a teen parent who lost his girlfriend, parents, but won his children.

As he walked the rest of the way to his car, he saw Yuffie across the street, hiding in some poor person's bushes. She made the universal I'm watching you sign before ducking completely into the bush.

And for the first time, Zexion questioned what he had gotten himself into.

o.O.o

A/N: Be kind and leave a review, will ya?

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