"Demyx...you know, you seem awfully thin..."
How, exactly, Roxas could tell was a bit of a mystery at that moment, since Demyx was enwrapped in a voluminous bathrobe that concealed everything but his head, hands, and feet, and he was wearing socks. But maybe that was it - the bathrobe was too voluminous, and enveloped him too completely. Maybe his hands were just too bony, and his face too thin. In fact, on closer examination, they definitely were. Had he lost that much weight while in the hospital wing? Or had he lost it over the course of his entire recovery, and he just hadn't noticed until now? If so, he wondered how; Demyx looked almost as thin as Axel now, and not nearly as healthy. Demyx didn't seem particularly disturbed by Roxas's statement, however; he just gave a weak chuckle and continued to dangle that little paper wad on a string down over the side of the bed for Connie to play with. "I'd be rather surprised if I didn't," he said. "Remember that time when I got so sick I had to be moved out of the castle for a month? I hadn't eaten for two weeks before that, and didn't eat a hell of a lot for that month, just because I was so sick...I lost maybe forty pounds from that, and I hadn't gained more than twenty, maybe twenty-five back before...before that whole thing with Axel trying to give up drinking," he explained hesitantly, biting his lip as he came to some painful memories. "That wasn't exactly conducive to gaining any weight, so I was still fifteen or twenty pounds down prior to...all this. And since then, I lost twenty, thirty more pounds on the feeding tube. And while I know I've gained at least fifteen back since Vexen let me eat solid food again, I'm still pretty underweight, I imagine."
Roxas tried to do the math on that, and decided that Demyx could be anywhere from twenty to thirty-five pounds underweight - though the higher number would have had him at fifty pounds underweight at some point, while he was still under medical supervision, and if he'd been that thin, Vexen would no doubt have taken action. But still. Demyx hadn't been all that big to begin with - why hadn't he noticed how thin Demyx was before? Probably only because it had gotten lost with how bad he'd looked overall... Not knowing what else to say on the subject, he dropped it and watched Connie play with her paper wad on a string. That was entertaining to a point, but only to a point. Soon enough, Roxas started looking for an excuse to break the silence; when Connie pounced hard enough on the paper wad to yank the string out of Demyx's hand, he looked meaningfully at the clock and said "It's just about lunchtime; feel up to shifting into your chair and going down to the kitchen or should I bring you something?"
Demyx gave him a curious look as Connie carried her paper wad triumphantly across the floor. "What about you? I thought you were sick."
Roxas had to think for a moment about what he might be talking about, then flushed - that was something other than his proudest moment. "Um...I'm not actually sick, per se, I was just sick to my stomach this morning, and...Axel made a bigger deal out of it than it actually was, I guess."
Now Demyx was eyeing him with concern and suspicion. "Well, if you were sick to your stomach, he couldn't have blown it far out of proportion without dragging you to the hospital wing. So tell me, what did he blow out of proportion and how serious was it really?"
Roxas frowned, unwilling to tell the whole truth but not having any way around it short of leaving the room. He couldn't selectively edit his way around the truth with Demyx much more easily than he could with Axel. If anything, Demyx was harder to selectively edit around, because when he figured out you were doing it, he wasn't so blunt about it you could act offended and pretend you had an excuse to shut up completely. "I had a nightmare, all right?" he said shortly. "That's all. I tried to tell Axel, but he wouldn't listen."
That answer clearly wasn't enough to satisfy. "A nightmare - about what?" Demyx asked seriously. "It must have been a hell of a nightmare to make you hurl."
Roxas shook his head, gritting his teeth involuntarily - he'd managed not to tell Axel about it, and he wanted to tell Demyx even less. "I'll tell you once I get back with some lunch," he said, standing up to go. He had no real intention of doing so - he meant to come back with lunch and start off on an entirely different topic of conversation, and hope Demyx either forgot about his nightmare or couldn't bring himself to interrupt the new topic, or found it too interesting to abandon. Sitar lessons would probably work. He could come back with food and start talking about sitar lessons, and Demyx would forget they'd been talking about anything else.
Alas, it was not to be. "Lunch can wait a few minutes," Demyx said, trying to sit up and cringing in pain - some days he could move more easily than others, and this was not one of those days. Physical therapy or no physical therapy, long disuse hadn't done his muscles or joints any more favors than his original injuries had. "And whatever new topic of conversation you try to bring up when you get back, I'd keep coming back to this one anyway, at least until I get some answers. Don't look at me like that. You've used that tactic once too often."
Roxas scowled down at his feet, but it was hard to refuse Demyx when he was in pain. As close as they'd come to losing him, it was sometimes tempting to just start catering to his every whim to make up for it. He didn't want to say a word anyway, but it came out without his consent - "Malenisa."
Demyx seemed to turn a shade paler at the sound of that name, but to his credit, maintained his composure. "What about Malenisa?" he asked in a mild tone that nonetheless brooked no refusal.
There were many excuses Roxas could give to get out of having to tell Demyx the specifics, none of which seemed adequate. He didn't think Demyx should hear it. It really wasn't that big a deal. Demyx really didn't need any more stress or worries in his life. He didn't want to give Demyx nightmares. He just plain didn't want to tell anyone. "Do you...still have nightmares about her?" he asked, if only to postpone the inevitable.
"Yes," Demyx said without a moment of hesitation, though his face did become a little paler. "All the time. In fact, while I was in the hospital wing the first time, I never actually slept - I wasn't allowed to. I woke up sick with horror so often Vexen was afraid I'd hurt myself in my sleep. Instead, he just gave me knockout drugs whenever I needed rest." He looked calm as he said it, but the calm seemed somewhat forced. "So...trust me, you don't have to worry about my feelings too much."
Roxas sighed and swallowed hard before continuing with his explanation, trying to work out how to phrase this without being too blunt or going into details he'd rather just forget ever happened. "Well...we were...back in the torture chamber." Demyx paled even further, but didn't flinch; he didn't lack for courage. "And...it was at the point where - where the spell had really taken hold, I - I guess, and...so...I was...well, you know..." Roxas's reluctance to just come out and say certain things was hampering his ability to explain, but just thinking about the dream made him feel sick again, let alone thinking about the reality. "And...when she should have stopped, in reality...when she just...gave up and cut and run..." And stabbed Demyx in the chest in an attempt to finish him off quickly, not realizing he had no heart, but Roxas did not want to think about that. His dream, if anything, was worse. "Instead...she...she untied me and...gave me her knife. And said I could...do anything I wanted to you. As long as I didn't kill you too quickly..." Roxas broke off, feeling like he was going to be sick again. Just having to watch what Malenisa had done to Demyx all over again was bad enough, but...what he'd done on top of it, once he had the knife in his hands...he had to forcefully remind himself it was just a dream in order to look Demyx in the face. Even then, he couldn't hold his gaze for long.
Demyx said nothing, just held out his arms to Roxas. Roxas all but collapsed onto him, suddenly unable to fight back tears as Demyx just hugged him tightly and let him cry on his shoulder. "It's all right," Demyx whispered, when Roxas started to run out of tears. "Don't be afraid. She can't hurt me anymore, and she can't do anything to you."
"But - you almost died," Roxas choked, scrubbing at his eyes. "Twice."
"A lot more often than that." Roxas blinked and drew back slightly in surprise, not sure what Demyx was talking about. "But it doesn't matter anymore. I'm still alive. She'll never hurt anyone again. It's okay. It's going to be all right." Demyx gave him another hug before letting go. "All right...still have any sort of appetite? If not, you can just sit down until you feel better..."
"No, but you need food," Roxas said stubbornly, ignoring how Demyx scooted over to make a space for him on the bed. "You're the one who's seriously underweight. It would be a crime to let you go hungry just because I have no appetite." Not waiting for Demyx to say anything, he portaled down to the kitchen. Lunch was a disorganized affair today, as it usually was when Xaldin was gone, but there was a pot of noodle soup on the stove, apparently waiting for anyone who wanted some to dish themselves up a bowl. He dished up a generous bowl for Demyx, and added a buttered roll on the side, just because Demyx needed to gain some more weight. "I hope you're hungry," he said rather dryly as he opened a portal back to Demyx's room. "Even if you're not, you better eat it all."
Demyx gave him a look when he saw how full the bowl was, that only deepened when he saw the roll. "Roxas...how many of me were you hoping to feed with this?" he asked wryly as he took the bowl and started eating. "There's only one of me up here...actually, there's only about 115 pounds of me still up here. That's less of me than there should be, as we established earlier in the conversation."
"I'm trying to get you to gain weight," Roxas said very honestly. "Because, quite honestly, you're a stick and you need it."
Demyx gave him another look, but kept eating. "Do you ever do this to Axel?"
"Axel is apparently meant to be a stick. He can't gain weight."
Demyx chuckled briefly at that, then patted the free space he'd made earlier on the bed. "Go ahead, sit down. I don't bite - Gods know you gave me enough to eat that I don't have to turn to cannibalism."
Roxas couldn't help but laugh at that. "You're priceless, you know that?" he said as he sat down.
Demyx grinned at him and ruffled his hair gently. "Thanks; I feel extra-loved now." He went back to eating as Roxas made himself more comfortable. "You're a good kid, you know that?"
"You know, I seem to be the only person you ever refer to as 'a good kid'," Roxas said, finally voicing his private thoughts on the subject. "And...I'm aware that to you it's no doubt a compliment, but...it kind of seems like being damned with faint praise, if you catch my meaning."
Demyx blinked at him in surprise and frowned, as if that conclusion had honestly never occurred to him before. "Well...sorry about that, but that was never my intention," he said, looking a little shamefaced. "I...I guess, what I mean by 'good' is...fundamentally good. Someone who can be relied on to do the right thing in any circumstance, no matter how difficult, dangerous, or unpopular it is..." He paused, and gave Roxas a knowing smile. "Even if they do require a little prompting every now and again."
"Oh, come on..." Roxas gave Demyx a light punch in the shoulder, flinching a bit at how quickly he met bone. "So...I guess coming from you, it's not exactly faint praise, is it."
"Hardly." Demyx reached behind Roxas to set the remains of his lunch on the bedside table - but there was still some broth and noodles in the bowl, and the roll had gone untouched. "Sorry. I'm just not hungry anymore." Roxas picked up the roll, looking at it thoughtfully, and then glanced over at Demyx. "Go ahead, if you've managed to find your appetite. I'm not likely t- mmmph!" As Demyx glared at him and tried to get his mouthful down to something he could chew and swallow, Roxas tried not to laugh too loud - all right, maybe shoving the roll into Demyx's open mouth while he was in the middle of a sentence wasn't the nicest thing he could have done, but he had to admit it was funny. Besides, Demyx did need to gain weight.
AN: Fortunately for Roxas, good kids are allowed to be harmless pranksters.
I never intended for this to exist - Chapter 6 was supposed to be the end of it - but I couldn't help but continue it. By popular request.