Okay so the final chapter got delayed, much to my chagrin D: I suppose it's only been 5 days since chapter 5 was uploaded But oh well! It FEELS delayed!
I want to quickly thank everyone who read, reviewed and Beta'd the story so far. It's grown into what it is because of the wonderful input I received, so thank you to all of you! YOU GUYS ROCK!
On a side note, this story was very seriously going to be a "Oh look the Organisation Members can be friends and not need to have sex with everyone at the drop of a hat" story, but my two biggest feedbackers both blackmailed me because they wanted slash xD So be careful, slight hints at the end. You have been warned!
Chapter 6 – Choices
Demyx steadied himself with a hand on the rocky wall as he quickly caught his breath. He was close, he could feel it!
... Well, no, he couldn't feel it, but he could remember just how close to the centre he had fallen earlier. It couldn't be much further now. Just a little bit more and this crazy crack pot of a mission would finally be over. If Demyx managed to whack anyone else with his sitar on the way, well, even better.
His breathing was steadier now, but Demyx was quite enjoying the rest. One could never be too prepared when rabid organization members might be crying for your blood around the corner. He vaguely wondered just who else might be down here. Axel for a certainty. The firey redhead was proving tough competition. Larxene too. He had been so sure that she was down for the count the first time around, but she had managed to sneak up behind him while he was up on the cliff earlier. As for Marluxia ... well, he had seen Marluxia go down too, but if Larxene had managed to get back up again then for all intents and purposes Marluxia had probably done the same. He hadn't seen Roxas since the very beginning, but the kid could possibly still be around here somewhere. Those members, at least, were probably still here somewhere. It had seemed almost like a selection of the newer members when he had noticed the distinct lack of anyone cold and distant, but Demyx's theory had been dashed with the sudden appearance of Xigbar.
Xigbar's appearance was still a mystery to Demyx. He had just shown up, attacked randomly, and had disappeared just as suddenly. He definitely hadn't been in the same rush that Axel had been. But then, Xigbar never was. If he had been sent on this mission too then it was more than likely he had decided to get someone else to take over so he could have some fun instead. He did that quite often in fact, not that Demyx could judge.
Brushing himself off quickly, Demyx hefted up his sitar and resumed his casual jogging down the ravine. He was getting rather used to the brown hues and colours of the rocky walls all around him. It was actually quite pretty if you looked at it in the right way. Perhaps it was a sign that Demyx sorely needed a change of scenery.
The walls had long since widened out further than any of the corridors so far. It wasn't even subtle anymore, it was just Bam! - Wide hallway. You could easily drive a tank down one of these now, not that driving heavy machinery was really Demyx's thing. It had been relatively straight for a while now too. Demyx was pretty sure he had passed a rocky outcrop that had distinctly looked like the words "V was here", but he was half convinced that this was just even more evidence that he sorely needed out of this place. It was too quiet now. The only sounds he heard were his own steady breaths and the scuffs of his boots as he ran.
A sharp corner was coming up.
Demyx ran ahead and turned, confronting the new sight before him with a grin. The rocky hall was no more. The boundaries sharply widened out into the largest open area of the entire gorge, so wide and open that the sudden presence of so much sky was overwhelming. After being in a narrow confined space for so long Demyx welcomed the change gladly. The middle of the area before him was completely shrouded in the dome of mist he had spied earlier. It was huge, large enough to hide an entire castle inside he was sure, and so dense Demyx couldn't see anything in it at all save for the murky misty air.
There was something he could see however. Saïx. Right there, between Demyx and the dome of mist. His strands of deep blue hair hung down to either side of his face, emotionless eyes fixed on the redhead before him. Catching the sound of Demyx's boots, Axel turned quickly, seeing Demyx, though he said nothing, arms still out either side of him as if ready to summon his chakrams at any second.
Saix turned to face Demyx, no emotion showing on his face whatsoever. His arms hung effortlessly at his sides, and for all the world he seemed a very effective impersonation of a wall.
"Demyx", he toned levelly, "I hadn't expected you to make it this far."
"Okay, wait a sec." Demyx held up his fingers and ticked them off as he spoke, "So, we're in a tournament of some kind, we're trying to get some sorta prize, and we're meant to fight each other? Is that it?"
"Precisely why I wasn't expecting you to be so successful, number IX." Demyx flinched. Saix had the ability to show all the emotion of a brick. It was just plain unsettling, not to mention rude. Demyx knew he could get angry, he had seen it. He probably just spent far too much time with Xemnas. Demyx casually tried to peek beyond Saix, but the fog was still impenetrable. He concluded that it was the general direction he was supposed to go in. If anything, it was where Axel was heading, and that was bound to be good.
"Enough of this!" Axel spat, swinging an arm out further to either side, "Move Saïx. I won't ask again!"
Saïx, however, was looking over beyond them both. Before Demyx could turn to see what had caught his interest, Saïx threw a hand out and in a flash had summoned his heavily spiked claymore, the tiniest of tiny smiles on his face.
"As you wish."
It all happened at once. Saïx hefted his claymore up to swing, but was forced to jump backwards as Axel leaped forward, slashing his chakrams through the air where Saïx had been a second before. Even as his feet touched the ground he was leaping backwards, dodging the sudden peal of lightning that shattered the ground before him.
Demyx eeped loudly and ran to the side, away from the sudden combat, but watching it carefully. Someone could turn on him at any moment.
Axel was leaping backwards with each step, desperately avoiding Larxene's furious dance of attacks. Before she could land a blow on Axel she was thrown to the side, knocked away by Saïx's hideous weapon even as he was thrown backwards as well, two giant playing cards spinning after him through the air. A third card turned and Luxord appeared, quickly deflecting an attack from Larxene before both simultaneously leapt to the left, away from the sudden row of flaming pillars searing across the battle field.
It was utter madness. Nobodies flew into each other, bounced off each other and flew into others, lightning and fire exploding all around the chaotic battlefield. It had been mere seconds, and Demyx wanted no part of it.
Taking his chance while he still had it, Demyx threw his head down and ran as fast as his legs could take him straight into the mist – no one had the chance to stop him. He plunged through the thick fog, paying no attention to how damp he suddenly felt, though damp was a bit of an understatement. The air was so thick with water that it almost seemed to be slowing him down. His sitar disappeared in a flash of bubbles as Demyx clapped his hands together. There was no use fighting his way through if he could do it an easier way.
Just as Demyx heard footsteps thundering up behind him he threw his hands wide, not slowing his pace at all. The mist rippled and swirled, visibly spiralling together. It was slow at first, but within seconds the mist was spiralling in vast amounts, churning into water spouts reaching as tall as the mist would allow. Demyx ran past easily, yet as soon as he was clear they touched the chasm floor, launching themselves at whoever was following him. He did not look back, but he knew that it would at least slow whoever it was down.
His water tornados strangely hadn't dimmed the thickness of the fog at all, perhaps another hint to its magical nature, yet after a few more strides the mist was gone altogether. He spun and saw a thick wall of mist forming a sizeable dome around him. The air inside was clear, and light was coming from somewhere. It surely wasn't natural light; the misty white all around was too thick to let sight penetrate it even slightly. Demyx turned to face the centre of the clear dome, which, he assumed, was probably at the exact centre of the entire gorge itself. There in the very centre was a short pedestal carved out of white marble, looking entirely out place on the otherwise sandy ground. Atop the intricately carved stone was a single object, glinting in the unnatural light. Demyx took a few steps closer and saw that it was a perfect replica of the Organization symbol, somewhat like a golden cross with a fish tail. So, this was it huh? The prize of the entire mission? A shiny trinket?
"...How anticlimactic!" Demyx muttered to himself as he bent down to get a better look, all thoughts of rushing dispelled. Well, it was gold. Or at least gold plated. He licked his lips suddenly. Perhaps it was chocolate?
Demyx reached out a hand to check and yelped despite himself as a wall of flames erupted up in front of the pedestal. Demyx was forced to fall backwards to avoid getting burnt to a crisp right there and then. Before he could even so much as sit up there was a very sharp looking pointy thing being held an inch from his face. He blinked, trying not to go cross eyed, and looked beyond at the owner of the pointy thing. Axel grinned down at him, playful malice spread across his face like ... like some poetic analogy Demyx couldn't quite think up in this position.
Axel let out a short insincere laugh, the chakram not moving an inch.
"You surprised even me, Demyx. Who knew you'd get so close?" Demyx gulped. Twice today he had found himself in compromising positions with Axel present. He liked it so much less than watching mean people crumple to the ground, oh yes, it wasn't even close on the fun scale. Taking his gulp as a legible answer Axel continued.
"Give up Demyx," his voice sudden cold as ice, "Make it easier for yourself."
As he lay in the sandy dust, a chakram held at his face and a very angry Axel standing above him, Demyx considered his options. He could yield, thereby saving his face from the unavoidable Saïx like scars he was seconds away from earning, or ... or ...
Was there any other way out of this? The golden symbol was right there. He had been so close, yet now, even as it lay just a few feet away, it may as well have been on another planet. Even if he did manage to get Axel off him for even a second, there was little hope of him diving through the scorching hot wall of flames untouched before Axel burnt him to holy hell. Ah, the choices. How wonderful they were.
His mind made up, Demyx tsked, rolling his eyes at Axel.
"Fiiiiiine," trying his best to sound bored, "But you totally owe me ice cream, Axel." Axel smiled, the chakram point moving away from Demyx's face, much to Demyx's glee. "No, Make that two!"
Axel laughed. A pleasant, normal Axel laugh. Demyx almost sighed in relief. He wouldn't look like Saïx after all.
Demyx leaned comfortably back in the cushioned arm chair, one leg hanging over the arm rest. Now that the murderous day was over, Demyx was left to do what he did best; eat sugary things.
Axel had surprisingly come through with Demyx's ice cream deal, even bringing the second. Demyx had been half expecting him to forget about the ice cream altogether, yet Axel had been in an amazingly good mood since he had been hailed the champion of the day's tournament. It was only at the debrief meeting that Demyx had finally learnt why everyone had been so eager to win the competition. The prize, most graciously received by Axel, had in fact been a fortnight of exemption from missions. It was a pretty fair deal really. Fight in mortal combat with your colleges to see who would get the holiday. Demyx was honestly surprised they hadn't thought of this earlier.
Yet as it was, Demyx didn't think he had come off too bad from the entire ordeal. He had gotten ice cream out of it at the very least, and it was good ice cream. Besides, if he ever wanted a day off, well, that's what Roxas was for.
No, the day had ended quite nicely all up. Zexion had found him very swiftly; incredibly enthusiastic over how well Demyx had done in the mission. Demyx had almost thought he was being sarcastic at first, but Zexion was smiling too happily for Demyx not to believe him. He had smiled even wider when Demyx had offered him his second Axel-given-ice cream. It totally counted as his 'thank you gift for Zexion's note' too, which was even better.
So here they were now, in Zexion's own little private library, enjoying the wonderful dessert and each other's company. He had to admit, it was quite a nice little library. Apparently it had been modelled after their old one at that Bollow Hastion place, but with The Castle That Never Was' white techno theme for the decor. It was quite comfortable as far as these places went, and Demyx quite liked the view they had from their seats on the second floor, looking out over the balcony at the mass of shelves below them.
"-and then you whacked him with your sitar!"
Demyx suddenly zoned back into what Zexion had been saying. He hadn't been lost in thought, oh, no, not at all. Zexion was sitting on the arm rest of the second arm chair, smiling at him expectantly around his long tumble of hair. Demyx couldn't help but smile back.
"I'm glad you enjoyed it so much" Demyx chirped, trying not to sound overly happy but failing miserably. It was fair enough. He was good at recon, not deception. Demyx stretched his arms out to either side as a thought suddenly occurred to him. "Hey Zex, what was up with Xigbar?"
Zexion's legs dangled over the side of the chair as he swallowed his current mouthful of frosty goodness. "Xigbar? He was just sent in to slow you down. See," Zexion stabbed the air with his ice cream to emphasise his point, "Saïx was supposed to get ahead of you all, but you were too fast for him. Well, you and Axel." Zexion turned back to him smiling again. "You know, you really 'kicked ass' today Demyx."
It was all Demyx could do to not burst out in laughter. Zexion had said that so awkwardly that it was clear he had been practicing it beforehand. Demyx covered his mouth with a hand and tried to pass it off as a cough. It was far from convincing, even to Demyx. Zexion blushed slightly and turned back to his ice cream, yet his legs continued their happy swaying motions over the side of the chair. Thank goodness for that. Demyx would've kicked himself if he had offended Zexion trying so hard.
"Well in any case, you really did brilliantly. I've never seen you try so hard in battle," Zexion concluded.
"Oh! Yeah!" Demyx said, shoving his gloved hand into his coat pocket and pulling out the heavily crumpled black note he had found on his door this morning. He waved it at Zexion with a smile. "I meant to thank you for this thing. It was uh .." Just how did one say I fought that hard because I knew you believed in me without sounding like a complete idiot? "It was encouraging!" Yeah, that'd do.
Zexion simply smiled back. He was doing a lot of that today, Demyx noted. He wondered if Axel had drugged the ice cream. It would certainly explain why he had been so quick to hand it over. It was probably too late now anyway, Demyx thought as he took another bite. Besides, even if it was drugged, it was far too good to stop eating. It seemed a day in a desert would do that to you.
"So," Demyx said, pointing his ice cream at Zexion in a vague imitation of what he had done just before, "if Xigbar was just a distraction, why was he so happy after the debrief? I mean, he was happy, even for Xigbar."
Zexion took a moment to reply, nibbling on his ice cream in thought. "There was ... a bet, of sorts, on the outcome of the mission."
"Oh! So he bet on Axel winning?"
"... Not quite." Zexion moved on quickly. "I think Vexen bet on Larxene. He was looking pretty sour."
"Vexen always looks like that."
Zexion snorted into his ice cream. "I suppose you make a good point."
"Hm! Who'd you bet on Zex? Axel as well?"
Zexion blushed again and looked out over the balcony. Demyx decided to stop asking so many direct questions. He was enjoying these talks with Zexion far too much to scare him off like that. Not that Zexion was particularly shy at all; he just seemed to be blushing a lot tonight. Perhaps the ice cream really was drugged. Zexion spoke up, softly.
"I bet on you, Demyx."
Demyx grinned despite himself. The quickly frowned realising Zexion had lost.
"Oh! Zex, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to, I mean, I wouldn't have lost if -" If what? He was fireproof?
"It's okay, Demyx." Zexion interrupted, smiling back at him once more. "I got this time with you, didn't I? The loss was a fair exchange."
This time it was Demyx's turn to blush. He didn't look away from Zexion though, and Zexion didn't drop his gaze either, still smiling. He looked pretty good smiling. Demyx blushed even more at the thought. How had he not noticed just how purple Zexion's eyes were before?
Demyx cleared his throat, trying to hide his epic blush by speaking a little lower. "So, uh, Zexion. Do you... like Waffles?"
Zexion's smile never wavered as he swung down off the side of his chair and sat himself on Demyx's arm rest, right next to his leg.
"Why? You got any?"
Demyx put on his best sly look and grinned up at Zexion. "I might do?"
"I thought you ate them all this morning?"
"Oh, no fair!" Demyx laughed. In a move that was half playful instinct and half secretly wanting Zexion to get closer he tugged on the shorter man's sleeve rather forcefully. Zexion fell against Demyx sideways, his shoulder colliding with Demyx's chest and knocking the air out of him with a jolt.
"Oh, hello Demyx." Zexion said, his voice laced with amusement.
"H-hi," he managed to cough out, still trying to get his breath back. He had the distinct impression that Zexion may have been chuckling.
After Demyx had managed to catch up with his breath he realised Zexion hadn't moved away at all and was still lying right there against Demyx. Demyx was almost afraid to move, just in case he accidentally spurred Zexion into getting back up. His fears were dispelled when Zexion pulled his legs over the side of the chair, shifting into a somewhat more comfortable position.
"You make a good pillow, Dem." He noted, his voice still sparking with good humoured amusement.
"Well, so do you!" Zexion turned his face up to Demyx, still smiling. If Xemnas had walked in just at that moment, Demyx was more than certain he could disprove his theory that Nobodies couldn't feel anything. Perhaps losing the tournament had turned out even better than he had originally thought. If it would bring more moments like these, Demyx wouldn't mind losing every tournament from this moment onward. Like Zexion had said, it was a fair trade.