A dark portal suddenly opened.

Now, in the Castle that Never Was, that was hardly an uncommon occurrence. That was how all the members of the Organization got from place to place, if their destination was further than they wanted to walk. However, this particular portal opened out into a very private space indeed - Demyx's enclosed garden, small but hard-won and deeply prized. And through the portal, amazingly enough, came the man himself - in a motorized wheelchair, looking like death hadn't finished warming over, wearing more medical pressure garments and heavy-duty leg braces than anything else, but somehow smiling anyway. His broken arms had set and healed properly, his flayed skin was now more-or-less back together, and he was finally, finally free to move around the castle, albeit still in a wheelchair until his legs healed. This was his first time seeing anything outside his own room or the hospital wing after three months of hospital stays and complete bed rest - he'd come here immediately after receiving the okay from Vexen.

Once the portal closed behind him, he just sat there and stared out at the garden for several long moments, drinking in the sight. Just being able to see something other than the same four walls and ceiling day in and day out was like hearing music for the first time after going deaf and receiving his first pair of hearing aids. The rippling pond and waterfall, the beautiful blue irises, the dwarf willow dipping its branches into the water, the water lily starting to show its first buds...

...Come to think of it, the place shouldn't have been this gorgeous, seeing as he hadn't touched it in over three months. It should have looked seedy and overgrown at best and an absolute wreck at worst. Obviously someone had been tending it, but who? Axel and Roxas would certainly have been willing, just to make him feel better, but they knew as much about gardening between them as Demyx knew about manufacturing furniture; any garden under their care would probably just die that much faster. Marluxia had the know-how, definitely, but he wouldn't go out of his way to take care of Demyx's garden out of the goodness of what was left of his heart; he'd have to be ordered to do so, and the welfare of this little garden wasn't really important enough for anyone to order it taken care of. Well, maybe someone had - considering the grandiose if uncharacteristically brief speech Xemnas had given on his release from the hospital wing, he was at least temporarily being held in much higher esteem than he was used to - but if that boost was still holding, it probably didn't extend to gardening services. But the garden couldn't have tended itself...

A few moments later, the puzzle resolved itself with another dark portal. "Lexaeus?" Demyx said, one question answered and a few more opened up. "What are you doing here?" he couldn't help but ask, even though he could see the giant was carrying a watering can, hand rake, and other gardening tools.

Lexaeus raised an eyebrow, but that was his only outward sign of surprise at seeing Demyx out of his room and something like mobile. "Your garden needed tending," was all the explanation he offered.

Demyx blushed a little, embarrassed for not thinking of that earlier - maybe Marluxia, the obvious gardener, was too self-serving and uncaring to take care of Demyx's garden just to be nice, but Lexaeus also kept a garden of his own, and he wasn't. "Well...thanks," he murmured, looking down at his hands. His stomach twisted painfully as he saw yet again that the left hand had only three fingers. Malenisa had done a thousand more painful things to him than merely cutting his fingers off, but somehow, those two little stubs hurt worse than anything he'd ever experienced, barring, perhaps, going deaf. Actually, it was worse. He could hear pretty well with hearing aids, but there were no such things as finger prosthetics good enough to help a musician. He could hear, but there was so much he'd never play again...

Lexaeus, seeming to pick up on his sudden distress, went over and sat down on the bench next to where the wheelchair was parked. He must have guessed what Demyx was thinking about, seen the way his gaze dropped to his maimed hand, but thank all the Gods who had a hand in it, he did not offer to continue to help indefinitely, since he wouldn't be capable of doing everything for himself now. Demyx was bound and determined that once his legs were healed and functioning right, he'd go back to doing everything for himself that he'd been used to doing, which meant everything, including his own gardening, whether he had ten fingers or eight...and if Lexaeus wasn't going to make an unwanted and unappreciated offer to help, what was he going to say? Just because they called him "the Silent Hero" didn't mean he was a total mute, he just didn't waste words, and he had to have something to say in this circumstance... "Good to see you out and about," was what he finally said.

Well...it might have sounded awfully trite, but Demyx could tell that Lexaeus sincerely meant it - that it was good for him to be out and about and the Silent Hero, at least, had missed him. With knowledge like that, he couldn't help but at least smile a little bit. "Good to be out," he answered very honestly. "For a while there, I thought I'd never see the outside world again." He sighed, reaching out to touch a nodding iris, gazing at its blue-and-white petals as if they held the key to inner peace. "It's just so...boring...just lying there, in pain, unable to move, lying in the same position and staring at the same white ceiling all the time...not even allowed to eat solid food; all Vexen let me have by mouth were ice chips, and I swear I lost thirty pounds trying to live off the crap from the feeding tube...I mean, at least I could have music to listen to as long as there was someone mobile around to work the CD player, but still...after a while, I...I wasn't even happy with that anymore. It was like...recorded music couldn't move me anymore, for a while. Only some kind of live music could do it, and I couldn't summon my sitar for Roxas to play because that hurt so damn much...so it was basically limited to Axel playing guitar, and since he was back on active duty before I even got moved back into my room, he wasn't exactly available to take requests 24-7..." He sighed heavily, still staring down at the iris, wondering why he was pouring out so much of his innermost thoughts to Lexaeus when he wouldn't even tell these kinds of things to Axel and Roxas. He felt like they had to think he was eternally optimistic and as happy as could be expected, no matter how miserable he really was; he didn't like lying to his best friends like that, but he didn't want them to worry more than they already did...maybe it was just easier to tell such things to someone who was familiar and sympathetic but not so close. "...I'm going to give my guitar to Axel," he finished softly. "He can play it; I can't anymore. I just have to make it official."

That hurt only a little less than losing his fingers. His instruments, every one of them, were like dear friends to him, and giving one away tore at the place where his heart used to be, even if it was no use to him anymore and was going into capable hands. Of course, Lexaeus was going to tell him that was a wise decision, though he was probably smart enough not to tell him to not let it bother him...he didn't care if it was a wise decision; honestly, it was the only decision he could have made that wasn't stupidly selfish or horribly callous, but still...literally giving a friend away...

"That was a brave decision."

...Okay, teach him to try to anticipate what Lexaeus was going to say ahead of time. He hadn't said it was a wise decision; Demyx had already figured out on his own that it was the only reasonable choice. He'd said it was a brave decision. Demyx didn't exactly know what he meant by that, but...somehow, it made him feel much better about himself than hearing it was a wise decision would have. "Thank you," he murmured, followed inexplicably by "I swear you're a mind-reader."

Lexaeus chuckled and patted his shoulder with remarkable gentleness, considering the size of him. "Not minds so much as people," he said with a smile. "I know how you feel about your instruments."

Demyx blushed a bit at that - were his feelings really that transparent? - and chuckled a little himself. "Well...I'll never play guitar, violin, or viola right-handed again, but koto is still on, and sitar is definitely still on...and considering all the back pay I must have earned, I should be able to find myself a left-handed guitar and start relearning that. Now that it doesn't kill me to move anymore." He sighed, squinting up at the rows of bright lamps that allowed plants to grow in this sunless world. "...It's so good to be free," he murmured, even though he knew he'd said something along those lines earlier. "I can move. I can breathe. I can...hell, I can live."

"Can you eat?"

Demyx was so surprised by that question that it took him a few moments to realize what Lexaeus might be talking about, even though it should have been obvious. "Um...well...Vexen removed the feeding tube this morning," he explained, not sure if that was what Lexaeus wanted to know or not. "He doesn't want me back eating solid foods yet, because he's not sure how well I'll be able to handle them after three months of liquids only, but I'm apparently clear to actually drink stuff...you know, by mouth...I haven't tried anything yet, but I'm allowed..."

Lexaeus nodded at his explanation, then stood up and left through a portal without a word. It might have seemed a cold departure, but Demyx thought he knew the giant well enough to not mistake economy of speech for rudeness, and to guess that he'd be back soon enough. Instead of wasting time feeling insulted or affronted, he continued to admire the irises for a few moments, then turned his attention to the pond. It was still quite clean and pure, even though he hadn't had a chance to do his "special" filtering in months. In addition to everything else, Lexaeus must have been keeping the more conventional filter almost spotlessly clean. He was just drawing a thin stream of it up into his hand, enjoying the feel of water on his fingers, when the Silent Hero returned, carrying a thermos with a straw in it. "I thought you might like this," he offered by way of explanation, as he handed it over to Demyx with a slight smile.

Demyx cracked the lid open slightly. The thick green stuff inside might have looked unappetizing as baby food to most, but he could tell at a sniff that this was nothing but good, hot vegetable soup, pureed to fit through a straw. Hastily, he replaced the lid and actually took a drink - it would have been good under normal circumstances, but being the first food he'd tasted in three months, it was heavenly. "Lexaeus," he declared with a full measure of seriousness and not caring how ironic or silly this pronouncement was, "you are hereby my hero." Lexaeus, true to form, said nothing; all he needed to do was smile.

AN: For the first time ever...something that was published on deviantART long before it arrived at . Set after "Blood Ties" and before "Holding the Bag". This is the very day Demyx is finally allowed out of bed after what Malenisa did to him, and his first sight of the outside world or taste of actual food in three months. Also, a birthday present for 2Foxxy4U, but her birthday was weeks ago now...