Disclaimer: I don't own or claim any rights to Kingdom Hearts. This work is purely fandom for entertainment purposes. The title is taken from a quote by Thoreau.
The title quote comes from a thesaurus listed under synonyms for not conforming or leaving the beaten path. I liked the musical aspect and I thought it fit Demyx's personality quite well. Plus "off the beaten path" is probably what I'm going to end up doing with the Kindgom Hearts II storyline.
Of all the stories I'm working on right now this was both the easiest to write but the one where I have the least clue exactly where it's going. It's also the one I had the most fun with- I had way too much fun writing this. I started this story prior to playing 358/2 days, so the Organization's characterizations (especially Demyx's) are based on the few scenes they had in Kingdom Hearts II.
I would like to thank my boyfriend for help proofreading this.
It wasn't until after the portal had deposited a bleeding half-dead Demyx away from the center of raging battle of Hollow Bastion, that the full impact of what he'd done occurred to the Nobody. He'd run away again and this time he'd had specific orders not to. Silently cursing his survival instinct, he climbed slowly to his feet. He knew what he should do: go back and finish things. The very idea made him sick. Right now he stood absolutely no chance. He doubted he'd stand much of one recovered but it'd be better than nothing. An explosion from the battle sounded through the air and made him jump. Realizing he hadn't exactly picked the best place to retreat he managed to summon another dark portal.
There was something comforting about the warm beach at Atlantica. It was actually the first place he expected them to look for him, but since no one except the Melodious Nocturne could stand a world known for its singing fish people, hopefully it would be awhile before they bothered to come and deal with him. After all Demyx doubted he was high on the Organization's priority list. Lacking the energy to do much else he collapsed on the beach. He'd give it a day. One night to recover then he'd search out Roxas' other and finish what he'd started.
Sora's head was full of thoughts. Had the man in black really been Riku? Or was it Organization XIII? He tried not to worry about it. First they had to warn Shang and stop the dragon, then he could figure out if Riku was really there.
"Hey wait up!"
Sora turned around to see a disappearing portal of darkness and an Organization member limping after him. With his hood down, Sora was able to easily recognize the mullet headed Nobody he'd last seen fleeing after losing their battle in Hollow Bastion. "It's the kook." The brunette remarked.
"Now that's just plain rude," the kook protested. For a being without emotions, he looked pretty insulted. "I have a name you know." He crossed his arms and of all things a pout appeared on his face. Suddenly his body jerked in an exaggerated movement as something occurred to him, "Oh! Wait! I never told you my name, it's Demyx. "
At least he didn't insult Sora's intelligence by spelling it. (Sora was perfectly capable of spelling a word like Axel without help.) Still, Sora found himself wondering why the enemy was bothering to introduce himself and more importantly what he wanted.
"What do you want?" Donald beat him to the punch. At least this is what Sora assumed he said. The duck could be rather hard to understand when worked up.
Sora's already wide eyes got even bigger. Now that Demyx had gotten closer to them Sora could see the Nobody was nowhere near recovered from their last fight. In addition to the noticeable limp he held himself funny as though his body was still sore or in pain. He had proven to be a better attacker in their second fight, but Sora knew Demyx was no match him even at full health. It wasn't that Sora objected to fighting the Nobodies when they attacked him. They were after all beings without hearts that didn't truly exist and were causing a lot of damage to the worlds. But beating up one who was already badly injured to start with seemed unnecessarily cruel. "You want to fight now?" he asked, "You sure you don't want to wait until you're feeling better? I don't mind," he finished confident he'd be able to take the water wielding Nobody even when his foe was at his best.
Demyx gave an exaggerated shrug. "Can't be helped. I didn't mean to run away before I just kinda panicked. I can't go back till I win. I had orders to defeat you or die trying. If I disobey I'm in big trouble." He admitted.
Sora opened his mouth to protest that there was no way the dirty-blond Nobody had a chance of winning when, with a sinking feeling in his stomach, it hit him: no matter how weird Demyx was he wasn't foolish enough to believe he could win like this. Rather the Nobody was challenging him now to accomplish the latter part of the mission. Demyx fully expected to die. The idea that someone would come to him looking for death made Sora feel sick. Sure he'd fought a lot of enemies, but he didn't think of himself as a killer.
"Gwarsh, can't you just hide somewhere and recover then come back and fight us?" asked Goofy. It seemed the Sora wasn't the only one who didn't feel right fighting a badly injured Nobody.
Demyx almost looked sad as he shook his head. "No good, long as my proof is blue they'll know I still exist and come after me. I'd rather die at your hands then theirs, I may not be the most useful member but at least I'm loyal. I'm not a traitor." Sora had a feeling the last statement was directed at him, but he didn't take offense to it. Seeing as how he was never a member of the Organization he didn't know how the term could apply to him.
Mulan cleared her throat. "I hate interrupt, but we really need to go warn Shang quickly."
"Come on," Demyx urged, "this will be quick."
Sora found himself reluctantly agreeing to a rematch. Figuring it would be an easy battle he decided to fight the Nobody one on one without Donald or Goofy's help. Demyx was right, the battle was quick, even with Sora generously allowing him time to fire off some easily dodged water attacks (the Nobody was moving much slower than usual). Demyx took exactly one hit from the keyblade and fell over. He didn't get up. He made a pitiful sight: bleeding the black blood of Nobodies both from his stomach where Sora had landed the hit and elsewhere where the fall reopened previous wounds. Hands clutched around his new wound he watched Sora helplessly.
Sora raised his blade to end things once and for all and hesitated. He stared at the sea-green eyes of his opponent. Could he really strike the guy down in cold blood? Before Sora could make up his mind Demyx called out in a small voice, "Wait! I don't want to die."
Donald snorted, "That's not what you said before."
"I know. I know what I said and I meant it but right now all I can think is: I don't want to die, I don't want to die." Oddly enough while Demyx's voice normally seemed to convey emotion he wasn't supposed to be able to feel, now when any normal person's voice would be cracking with emotion, Demyx sounded hollow, empty, and emotionless. Sora found himself unable to finish Demyx off. With a quick glance to a scowling Donald, nodding Goofy and confused Mulan the keybearer lowered his weapon. He slowly backed away from the Nobody whose life he'd just spared.
"Well, now what?" Donald's exasperation was evident in his tone. Sora shrugged truly at a loss. He looked back over his shoulder to where Demyx sat unmoving. The Nobody's face lacked any emotion.
"I...I have some bandages in my pack," Mulan spoke up tentatively. Clearly she was confused about whether she should help the guy or not. Sora gave a slight nod and she moved to help the fallen man.
The trio moved close together. "Now what?' Donald repeated. "We can't just let him go. What if he causes more trouble?" he pointed out.
"What do you suggest, we take him with us?" Goofy asked.
"Of course not!" Donald quickly shot back.
"Well, if we can't let him get away or take him with us what do we do with him?" Sora cut in. There was a long pause as all pondered the answer.
At last it was Goofy who spoke up with, "Why can't we take him with us?"
"What?" Sora and Donald cried out together.
"Well, if we can't leave him here, we should take him with us. We know Sora can beat him easily if he tries anything."
Goofy's logic made some sense but, "Then what, what do we do with him?" Sora asked.
"Gwarsh I don't know. Maybe the King will."
They probably would have debated the subject much longer had Sora not noticed Mulan had finished bandaging the Nobody and was looking impatiently down the mountain. Sora gave a quiet sigh, "we don't have time for this now. Let's just take him with us. We can figure out what to do with him once we've dealt with the dragon." Donald scowled but gave a slight nod.
They walked back toward the other two. Mulan paced next to the Nobody who was still sitting on the ground. "Demyx," Sora called quietly. The Nobody turned his head to look at the keyblade wielder. Sora was struck by how empty Demyx looked. "We don't trust you, so you're coming with us." He tried to sound firm leaving no room for argument even though he knew if Demyx wanted to, even injured as he was, he could easily portal away. Demyx nodded. He climbed slowly to his feet with Mulan's help.
Sora had worried that the injured Nobody would slow them down. But as it turned out their situation reminded him of the old story of the tortoise and hare. While Sora, Donald, Goofy and Mulan could travel much quicker like the hare, they also found themselves having to stop and fight heartless. Demyx moved at a much slower pace, but the Nobody and heartless ignored each other allowing ample time for Demyx to catch up and even temporarily pass the others. Slow and steady might not win this race but it did allow Demyx to keep up quite nicely.
They had gone a while without any heartless ambushes and subsequently Demyx had fallen quite a distance behind, when Mulan approached Sora and said quietly, "I know you want to keep any eye on him, but I don't want him entering the palace, especially if you don't trust him. I won't put the Emperor in danger."
"Okay," Sora quickly agreed. "It's not like we can actually stop him from leaving if he wants to. I don't even know why he's going along with this." he admitted to the female soldier. He shot a glance over his shoulder to the figure limping down the path. Demyx had not said a word since begging Sora not to kill him. Ever since then he'd been acting as completely devoid of emotion as one would expect of a Nobody. Sora couldn't figure out what he was thinking and had no idea if the guy had some plan up his sleeve.
"Maybe he thinks he owes you for sparing his life."
"Maybe." Sora was doubtful.
Mulan opened her mouth to say more but at that moment an assault rider heartless spawned directly in front of them and all conversation was forgotten in favor of dodging his large spear.
By the time they reached the palace Demyx was looking no different (other than slightly worse for wear from his trek down the mountain). Sora was beginning to wonder if the Nobody was in shock from almost dying. He was also beginning to doubt that bringing to the guy with them was a good idea. "Um, we have to go see the Emperor. Stay here and don't cause any trouble." He instructed. He had no clue if Demyx would follow his instructions and stick around but he supposed in the end it didn't really matter.