This story is 82 pages long. 48 of those 82 pages are this chapter…it's a long one. I hope you enjoy the last chapter of The Laws of Motion!

Things I own: A picture of my house covered in toilet paper, Rocky Horror on DVD, a flannel marching band blanket.

Things I don't own: Any of the Kingdom Hearts characters. Unfortunately.

Closer: Competition Season

Demyx had never in a million years imagined that he would be one of those band kids, and yet here he was, school-bought lunch on a flattened music stand, backpack dumped unceremoniously onto a chair in the flute section, settled on the piano bench in the middle of his lunch period. He could hear Axel in one of the practice rooms down the hall. Demyx wasn't entirely sure if the redhead was actually this dedicated to his craft, or just avoiding Roxas, who had taken over the back corner of the percussion section with Pence and his girlfriend, a clarinet player named Olette. The two hadn't spoken since they left band camp three weeks ago; Roxas had barely spoken to any of them, really, not even his brother. Axel had assured him that Roxas was just being prickly, that it wasn't the first time he'd abruptly stopped speaking to all of them, and he'd get over it eventually.

"You play piano too? Is there anything you don't play?"

Demyx jumped slightly, startled from his brooding by the quiet approach of the boy now fidgeting to the side of the piano, peering at him from under a curtain of mercury hair. Demyx shifted over on the bench slightly, lifting one hand from the ivory keys to pat the space next to him. Zexion drifted over and sat on his right, careful to keep to his side of the bench.

"I don't know how to play the drums." Demyx laughed, fingers returning to the casual, lilting melody he'd been playing. "And I've never, ever had a remote interest in playing the glockenspiel. Except that maybe it might be cool to be able to say that I could play the glockenspiel…"

"They're both overrated." Zexion smirked. "But really. Trumpet, guitar, piano. What else?" Demyx could feel the deep blue gaze on his face but he kept his eyes carefully on the instrument in front of him. They'd talked at least a little bit every day for the last month, but this was the closest they'd ever been to each other. Demyx was pretty sure he was blushing.

"Sitar," he said slowly, ticking them off on his fingers, "bass, ukulele, fiddle, keytar, harp, and the ocarina because I'm a geek." He chanced a sideways glance in Zexion's directions. The drummer stared at him with a suitably impressed expression on his pale face.


"I don't want to talk about it," Demyx shuddered. "You have no idea how heavy that thing is. And I had the scariest teacher in the entire world. My poor fingers will never recover."

Zexion chuckled, glancing down at the appendages in question as they danced lazily over the piano keys, idly pressing down here and there.

"Teach me something." He challenged, nodding at the instrument in front of them. Demyx raised an eyebrow, finally turning to glance at the boy sitting barely inches away. Zexion met his gaze unflinchingly, and from this angle, sitting this close, Demyx could see both of the peacock blue eyes blinking back at him. He shrugged, corner of his mouth lifting in a small smile as he nodded.

"Okay," he agreed, turning back to face the piano. "Start with one finger here, and two fingers here…"

Demyx woke up the morning of his first competition to the sound of his mother shrieking something about vandals and hooligans, shouting for his father to get up and look at the front lawn. He hauled himself out of bed and trudged over to the window, blinking repeatedly when he finally took in the sight that greeted him.

For a second the thought it had snowed, early September weather be damned. Their entire front lawn was white, white coating the grass, wrapped around the front porch, hanging from the trees, blowing in the wind…oh.

"Naminé!" He called, hustling down the stairs towards his mother's still ranting voice, "Nam, check the lawn, I think someone left you a present! It's okay, Mom, it's a band thing. Don't worry. We'll clean it up after the competition, promise. It's tradition, Axel told me about it and I totally forgot to tell you."

Naminé came stumbling down the stairs with her hair in curlers, rubbing sleep out of her eyes as she glanced at her still frowning mother, her smirking brother. He dragged her out the front door despite her grumbled protests, dropping her hand only when both her feet were firmly on the porch, blue eyes wide as she took in the mountains of toilet paper in front of her.

"Here." Demyx handed her the note that had been taped to the front door, bending down to pick up the bag of candy sitting under the doorbell. Naminé raised one eyebrow as she skimmed the note, clearing her throat before reading it aloud to her brother.

"IT'S A SHOW DAY," she read, smiling despite herself, "Get pumped for your first competition Naminé, can't wait to see you spinning your flag on the field today. EYES WITH PRIDE! Love, the Seniors. PS. We didn't want you to feel left out, Demyx, so we hit your house twice as hard. Hope you don't mind! Kisses, Riku and Axel."

Demyx laughed, digging through the candy bag as they headed back inside. Their mother seemed slightly placated by the note, even more so when Demyx ceremoniously offered her a piece of her all time favorite chocolate, and by the time she shooed them up the stairs with her spatula she was happily munching on chocolate, already over the entire event.

Demyx eyed his uniform with some trepidation, raising one eyebrow at the shiny black Drillmasters, the tall plume adorning the shako. Axel had warned him that the staff was hardcore about their uniforms, and that he damn well better show up exactly as they wanted him to, black socks, black shoes, black pants, and black band shirt underneath, jacket, hat, and gauntlets in his garment bag. His hair, he'd also been told, better not be showing from under his hat. They didn't care how he managed to do it, but one way or another that hair better be hidden.

Naminé laughed at him when he appeared in her doorway, pouting in half-uniform, twisting the longer strands of his hair around one finger. She gestured him forward with the wave of a hairbrush, deftly pulling as much of his hair as she could together in a low knot at the base of his neck, tying it off effortlessly with a rubber band from around her wrist. Her own hair, which was normally as pin straight as Demyx' was, cascaded across her shoulders in a wild array of bouncing blond curls, the likes of which he'd never seen on his sister before. She slapped his hand away when he reached out to touch one, fending him off with a bottle of hairspray and a comb.

"Axel's going to be here any second," he reminded her, pointing at the clock. She threw the hairspray into an already bulging bag, ignoring Demyx' raised eyebrow as she slung the whole thing over her t-shirt clad shoulder. The colorguard uniforms hadn't come in yet, leaving the girls to perform their show in band tshirts and black spandex pants. Demyx made no effort to hide his jealousy; it was barely 9:00am and it was already too hot for wool pants.

Axel looked like he hadn't slept at all, blinking blearily at them from the driver's seat as Demyx and Naminé climbed into the car. An empty can of Cure engery drink already sat crumpled in the cup holder, a second can clutched between Axel's long fingers.

"My Mom says she can't wait to see you and Riku after the show," Demyx teased, flicking one finger at the drink in Axel's hand. "She has a garbage bag for each of you."

"You loved it," Axel grumbled, smirking at the sight of the toilet paper covered lawn still visible in his rearview mirror. "Now shut up, I don't think I have enough energy to drive and talk at the same time."

They arrived at the school in silence, Axel significantly more alert after he crushed the second can, Naminé's face painted with more make-up than Demyx had ever seen on her. They joined the caravan of people loading onto the buses, Naminé waving as she ran off to join the rest of the guard on the last bus. Their bus wasn't even half as full as the other two, but few people other than the colorguard looked like they even considered getting on that bus.

"The guard bus is notorious for being the loudest, most obnoxious bus of the three," Axel explained, noting Demyx' raised eyebrow. "They always have music blasting, and they're all running around in half uniform dancing and taking pictures like they've never done this before, and there's almost always at least one screaming fight."

"I double dog dare you, Demyx. Come on, do it." Riku laughed from behind them, nodding towards the guard bus. Demyx shook his head fervently, which just made Riku laugh harder. "Sora's in charge of the first bus, so the whole line's on there."

Axel nodded and picked up his trumpet case from where he'd dropped it at his feet, following Riku over to the first of the three yellow school buses parked outside the band room. Roxas stood at the back of the second bus, theoretically overseeing the baritones as they loaded their cases through the emergency exit door at the back of the bus, but Demyx could see the cold blue stare pinned on Axel's shoulders, watching the redhead climb the bus that Roxas wasn't on. He pretended not to notice.

The blond threw his stuff into the seat behind the one Axel took, hooking the hanger of his garment bag over the edge of the open window like everyone else had done. Someone behind him cleared his throat just loud enough for Demyx to hear it, starting slightly as he turned to face the person in the seat opposite him.

It took a solid several seconds of staring for him to figure it out. Two sapphire blue eyes smirked at him, unimpeded by the usual curtain of bangs. Demyx could see a thin black piece of elastic, a headband, holding most Zexion's gray hair out of his eyes.

"Holy shit," he gasped, finally recognizing the drummer, "I didn't even…whoa."

"Why does everyone keep doing that?" Zexion grumbled, shooting a cross look in Lexaeus' general direction. The quad player shrugged, though it was obvious from the smirk on his face that he knew exactly why Zexion had been getting startled double-takes all morning.

"Maybe," Riku drawled, dropping into the seat in front of Zexion, leaning across the back to ruffle the smaller boy's pinned back hair, "because people are shocked to discover that you do, in fact, have two eyes."

Demyx was still gaping at him, teal eyes flitting over the exposed features like he'd never truly seen another person's face before. Zexion had always been cute, high cheekbones, delicate chin, straight nose, but to see the whole picture, to see the color rising on both of those razor-sharp cheekbones, both eyes blinking uncomfortably under Demyx' intense scrutiny; it was a whole new feeling, something warm pooling in the pit of Demyx' stomach.

"I think you're drooling, Dem," Axel teased, flicking Demyx on the side of the head. Demyx flinched away from the redhead's hand, ripping his eyes off Zexion's face as their friends laughed at him. Zexion looked about as uncomfortable as Demyx suddenly felt, biting his lip as he glanced at the blushing blond sitting across from him.

"I told you, Zex. I bet you half the band would drop dead of shock if you came in one day with all your hair chopped off." Lexeaus snorted.

"Don't you dare." Demyx caught himself a split second before he moved to slap his hand over his own mouth, choosing instead to close his eyes and pretend that Zexion wasn't staring at him like he'd just sprouted wings. "I like your hair," he added lamely, internally wincing.

"Aw, Demyx, you're cute when you're nervous," Axel cooed, pinching Demyx' red cheeks between two fingers. Demyx batted his hands away, scowling.

Today's competition was only one district over from theirs, the bus ride relatively short in comparison to how long some of the other ones were going to be. Still, they were on the bus for an hour after they left HBH, most of which Demyx spent trying to will the blush he could still feel heating up his face. Zexion, bless him, had apparently decided to pretend their initial conversation had never happened, choosing instead to fill Demyx in one what to expect once they reached Traverse Town.

With five minutes left in the ride Sora called down the aisle for everyone to suit up, warning them that they better be in full uniform, instruments ready to go, the minute the bus pulled into the school.

"Remember," he called to them, "you're in uniform, literally walking around with Hollow Bastion's name on your sleeve. You are performing from the very second you step off this bus until the last minute before you get back on." Sora's face was set, determined, uncharacteristically serious as he addressed them with unflinching confidence. For the first time since he met the brunet, Demyx understood why Sora had been chosen as Roxas' co-drum major.

Axel helped him pull the shako over his hair, yanking it straight so the brim hit level just above his eyebrows, chin strap tucked up into the extra space at the top of the helmet. Only the drumline wore their hats with their straps down, black electrical tape to match their sticks wrapped around the clear plastic. Demyx made a valiant effort not to watch Zexion flicking the strip of plastic with his tongue, adjusting it as much as possible before finally biting down on it. Riku smirked knowingly at him, ruffling the plume arching over the top of Demyx' shako, making his whole head shake.

"Good luck," Zexion said around the chin strap, sharp eyes glinting at him from under the rim of his shako, "don't forget to keep your chin up." He disappeared backwards down the aisle with the rest of the drumline, Hayner kicking the emergency door open and hopping out, accepting the harness and smaller cases being passed down to him.

"Come on Demyx," Axel clapped him on the shoulder, adopting a singsong voice "it's a show day!"

The afternoon of the Hollow Bastion Home Show, fifteen minutes before the other bands were due to arrive, the colorguard refused to come out of the bathroom.

"Girls come on," Sora called, pounding on the locked door, "We're supposed to be in the parking lot rehearsing already!"

He'd been standing outside the girls' bathroom for ten minutes now, alternating between pleading and threatening, begging them to come outside. Demyx was keeping watch for any sign of Cid or Roxas, both of whom would have broke down the door without a second thought. The blond could see people moving at the other end of the hall, feathered plumes bobbing as they moved towards the senior parking lot, ready for a few quick run throughs before they were due out on the competition field. It was their home turf, sure, but they didn't like wasting the opportunity to measure themselves up against the other bands.

"Dem come on, I told you guys I wanted you outside ten minutes ago," Axel scolded, section leader self peaking through the way it only ever did on show days. "What's the deal?"

Demyx jerked a thumb over his shoulder, where Sora had resumed his pounding, this time threatening to climb in through the window if they didn't come out soon. Axel raised an eyebrow at the unusually frazzled drum major, the sash on his uniform slipping down his arm as he banged a fist against the door.

"The guard got their uniforms today," the blond explained, rolling his eyes slightly. "Now they're refusing to come out of the bathroom. They can't be that bad."

"Where's Larxene? They usually listen to her, poor, brainwashed little girls."

Demyx snorted. "Who do you think locked the door? Sora's gonna lose it if they don't do something soon."

Almost as soon as he said it the door inched open, barely wide enough for a single bare arm to reach out, grab Sora by the collar, and drag him forcibly into the bathroom. The heavy wooden door immediately slammed shut behind him, the lock clicking audibly back into place.

"Well then." Demyx sighed. "No point in keeping watch now." He turned on his heel and followed his section leader back down the hallway and out of the school, no sign or sound of Sora behind them. Axel squared his shoulders as they approached the podium, section leader mask firmly in place as they drew level with Roxas' feet.

"Sora's being held hostage in the colorguard's bathroom," the redhead told the black shoes, pointedly not looking Roxas in the face. "He may or may not be back in time for the show." Roxas stared at them, mouth hanging slightly open, but Axel turned briskly and walked away without another word, dragging Demyx along behind him.

"Is that the first time you've talked to him?" Demyx hissed, straightening his jacket on his shoulders once he'd reclaimed his arm from the angrily stalking redhead.

"Don't be ridiculous," Axel smirked, "I asked him to pass the salt when we all went to the diner after the Neverland show last weekend."

Demyx response was cut off by the sudden sight of Sora bursting out the back doors, hustling towards the podium with the reddest face Demyx had ever seen on the brunet. He climbed up next to his twin, ignoring the incredulous look on Roxas' face, and turned to address the band, expression serious despite the hardcore blush on his face.

"The colorguard," he announced, "has agreed to come out of the bathroom on one condition."

"Drama queens," the flutist next to Demyx, a notorious gossip queen, whispered to her neighbor. Demyx glared at her.

"If I hear a single person laugh," Sora warned them, pointing menacingly at the drumline, "if I hear a single comment about their uniforms, I will personally put the damn thing on you and make you run laps at the pep rally next week, in front of the entire school, wearing it. Do I make myself clear?"

There was a general murmur of consent, which was normally enough to placate the laid back drum major, but today he just frowned at them, blue eyes narrow.

"I said, do I make myself clear?" Only after the resounding 'yes' finished echoing, louder even than if he had called them to attention, did Sora climb back down off the podium, jogging back towards the school, where the colorguard waited huddled in the doorway.

"Seriously, how bad can it be?" Selphie giggled again, ignoring the look Demyx was still giving her. "Can't be any worse than those yellow things they wore the year before we join– oh my god."

On his right Axel clapped a hand over his mouth, the second following almost simultaneously, as though one wasn't enough to contain the laughter threatening to bubble out. Demyx just gaped, slightly horrified, at the sight of the miserable-looking group of girls trudging dejectedly towards them.

The uniform was a two-tone, one-piece jumpsuit, loose fitting pants and a high collared tank top, color split directly down the center, one leg, hip, and shoulder neon green, the other electric blue. Thick purple headbands held their hair, all of it as wildly curly as Naminé's had been the morning of their first show, topping off the clownish appearance. Larxene lead the girls with her chin held high, green eyes just daring anyone to comment. Demyx had to give her credit for that; the girl was a bitch, no doubt about that, but it took a lot of guts to walk with her head held high like that, especially in front of the band, who already teased the colorguard mercilessly as it was. The girls took their places on the field in silence, the quietest anyone had ever heard them, Larxene nodding once to Roxas when they were set. He began the run through without a word.

"They're awful," Naminé moaned, pouting forlornly at her brother as he held three of her flags. She bent down to pick up the fourth one at her feet, scowling at the neon green fabric swishing around her ankle. "We look like Martians."

"I was thinking more like clowns," Demyx teased, flicking one of her bouncing gold curls. Naminé groaned. "Come on, Nam, they're not that bad."

"You want to wear it, then?" She snapped. He shook his head vigorously, shako shaking. The freshman girl sighed. "Clowns, huh? Clowns from space, maybe. That has a nice ring to it."

"You still look beautiful," Demyx promised, passing over the flags she was finally ready to accept. "And I'll beat the shit out of anyone who says otherwise."

She smiled gratefully, but didn't say another word, jogging off to join the rest of the guard, standing out like sore thumbs from the massive sea of royal blue and black that were the band uniforms. Demyx followed slowly behind her, catching up just in time to hear Roxas call them to attention, back to back with his brother at the center of the crowded circle. The band snapped to attention with a single echoed syllable, instantly silent and still as they waited for their drum majors to talk.

"This is your field." Roxas announced. He spoke conversationally, not bothering to raise his voice. He didn't need to, the band hung on his every word. "This is your field, you own it. You have sweat on it, bled on it, beaten the same path over and over and over again, carving this field into your own. Show the judges that you own it. Show the other bands, show Twilight Prep, that this is your field, this is our field, and no one will ever outdo us on it." He nodded to Sora over his shoulder, and everyone knew the call and response that was to come next. The band moved as one, dropping their gazes to the floor, feet spread shoulder width apart, arms crossed over their torsos, ready to snap back to attention the second Sora called it. Sora cleared his throat.





















Sora smirked at them with smug satisfaction on his face, lapis lazuli eyes glittering as he gazed around at his band. The silence hanging around them was electric, intensified, like the very world around them was holding its breath, waiting for the band to move and break the spell. It was Demyx' absolute favorite part of every show.

They filed into two lines wordlessly, falling into place as though they'd practiced it hundreds of times (they had). Demyx stood with his arms stiff at his sides, trumpet held firm in his grip. The guard flanked the band in two lines on either side, painted lips thin with determination, chins held high. Somewhere behind them, Riku started them off, cracking a single stick against the edge of his snare to keep the pace as the band moved forward as one.

They came to a stop only when they reached the field, gathering along the back fence, backs to the band currently in the last movement of their show. Sora and Roxas moved up and down the rows adjusting plumes and fixing gauntlets, hissing the occasional word or two to fidgeting band members.

"You look different today," Sora whispered to Demyx, tipping his shako down to adjust for Demyx' perpetual habit of wearing it too high up on his forehead. "It's in your eyes. You look…proud to be here. Good luck."

These words in mind, the echo of the call and response still reverberating around his head, Demyx closed his eyes, exhaled slowly, and took the field.

Only because they frequented Organization so often did the waitresses forgive them for unceremoniously shoving nearly every free table together down the center of the room, wedging chairs together to create a table big enough for all 30 of them to fit. Everyone Demyx knew, Axel, Riku, Sora, Roxas, Hayner, Pence, Olette, Kairi, Naminé, Zexion, Lexaeus, and a dozen or so others crammed their way around the makeshift table top, elbows banging together as they jostled the menus. The colorguard girls were still wearing their crazy show make up, and most of the hornline and drumline were still in their black tshirts and marching shoes, fresh off the field from their Home Show retreat.

By some sweet accident, or most likely heavy manipulation by some combination of Axel, Riku, and Lexaeus, Demyx had wound up next to Zexion, close enough at the tight table that their arms brushed together every time one of them tried to move. Even the normally reserved drummer was caught up in the buzzing glow of their first first place of the season, small smile seemingly permanent on his thin lips as he struggled to pull his usual headband, and apparently a dozen of those little black pins Naminé had recently started leaving all over the bathroom counter. Demyx took pity on him after five minutes of watching the other boy struggle out of the corner of his eye, reaching over and deftly removing the last three pins that had been stuck in Zexion's hair.

"Thanks." Cobalt eyes didn't quite look at him as Zexion finally pulled out the headband and shook out his mercury colored hair, choppy chunks settling back into place around his face. Demyx shrugged.

"I meant what I said about your hair," he said quietly. Without being consciously aware of doing so the blond moved his still raised hand to the single spike of hair that hadn't fallen in the right place, flicking it over to the right side of Zexion's part. "I like being able to see your face, but if you ever show up at school one day with all your hair chopped off I will kill you."

Zexion blushed so red it looked hot to the touch, shaking his head in an effort to make the aforementioned hair obscure as much of his burning face as possible. Demyx bit back on the urge to brush it back out of the way, limiting himself to chuckling at the look on the smaller boy's face.

"I'll…uh…I'll keep that in mind." He stuttered, gaze firmly on somewhere over Demyx' left shoulder. The blond smirked just slightly, fidgeting with the menu he didn't really need. Zexion hadn't opened his either, though he was currently staring holes through it in an effort to avoid Demyx' gaze. The blond's smirk widened infinitesimally.

"Not getting anything?" Zexion shrugged, drumming his fingers against the torn plastic cover of his menu.

"I probably will. I just don't really need to look at the menu."

Demyx raised an eyebrow at him. He, Axel, Riku, Sora, and Roxas came here at least twice a week over the summer, and they'd never once seen Zexion. How was he such a regular that he didn't need to check the menu to see what he wanted?

"I come here a lot at night," Zexion admitted, seeing the curious look on the blond's face. "I live right around the corner, and I don't usually sleep very much, so I'll come here around 2:00, 3:00 AM, change of scenery, cup of coffee, bowl of soup, you know."

"Doesn't it get lonely?" Demyx frowned. It was one thing to be here in this big old diner surrounded by 30 other people, but he couldn't imagine the place had very many customers after midnight. Zexion shrugged again, and Demyx could feel the movement in his own arm.

"Sometimes. It's alright though, sometimes it's exactly what I need."

"Well. You should call me next time." Zexion's eyebrows shot up into his hairline as he turned to look at the blond, clear blue eyes widening at the sincerity apparent on Demyx' face. "I'm serious. Call me next time, and I'll come keep you company."

Zexion opened his mouth to respond, maybe an affirmative, maybe to call him crazy, but was interrupted by the sound of tinkling glass, the clearing of a throat. Riku held his glass out to the table, gesturing to the handful of seniors sitting among them.

"To our last home show ever," he called down the table, "and to a repeat performance at the Coliseum." There was a chorus of cheers as glasses around the group rose to meet Riku's, almost, but not quite, drowning out the comment Roxas muttered under his breath.

"Yes, lets," he drawled, "a toast to the fact that they're finally fucking leaving."

Demyx wasn't sure if the blond was being sarcastic or not, but from the way Axel's eyes narrowed he could tell that it didn't really matter. Axel, too, cleared his throat, shaking his head at the warning look Riku shot him.

"No, no, I disagree. A toast to the underclassmen, especially to the juniors. Such big shoes to fill, kiddos, whatever will you do without us?" He sneered the last bit in Roxas' direction, poison green eyes leveled unflinchingly at the blond leaning back with his arms over his chest, a lone eyebrow raised as he pointedly stared at his unmoving glass. Zexion glanced sideways at Demyx, who shrugged, equally as puzzled. Roxas and Axel hadn't spoken since band camp, but they hadn't gone out of their way to antagonize each other either, choosing instead to act as though the other simply didn't exist. Sora caught Demyx' eye from halfway down the table and frowned. Nobody else seemed to notice that anything was wrong.

It took two waitresses to take their orders, and four to bring their food out forty five minutes later, but they barely noticed the time pass before the food was placed before them, each and every one digging in the second their dish hit the table. Their section filled with the best kind of silence, the gloriously content sound of everyone too busy chewing to talk to each other.

"You have to try this." Axel was bent halfway over the table, shoving his burger in Demyx' face. "Seriously, it's fucking heaven. Burger, cheese, bacon, and a fried egg. Eat it, and tell me I'm not crazy."

Demyx leaned forward and chomped a bite right out of the center, eyes fluttering closed at the explosion of deliciousness in his mouth. Axel was right, it was fucking heaven.

"That is actually the best burger I've ever tasted." Axel whooped triumphantly, turning to the side to offer a bite to Riku. Several seats to their left Roxas rolled his eyes, miming a gagging motion behind Pence's shoulder.

"Seriously, get a fucking room already." He hissed, glaring at Demyx when the blond had the audacity to glance in Roxas' direction. Axel twitched slightly, jaw set as the grin on his face suddenly looked very forced.

"Hey, Rox, maybe if you got laid you wouldn't be such a fucking douchebag all the time. Can't imagine where we're going to find someone willing to sleep with you though."

"Eat a dick, you fucking beanpole. Or maybe not, you look like you've been putting on a few pounds lately." Roxas snarled, baring his teeth at the smirking redhead.

Envy green eyes had sharpened to narrow slits; Demyx wasn't sure, but it seemed like Roxas had struck a nerve.

"Should we do something?" Zexion leaned into Demyx' shoulder, close enough that his breath tickled the blond's ear when he spoke.

Demyx opened his mouth, not really sure what he was going to suggest but hoping something would come to him fast, before Axel pushed out the words he could see forming, the no-holds barred biting retort to cover –

"Oh go slit your wrists again you emo little bitch. Remember, down the street this time, not across."

Silence. Pin dropping, heart ending silence, even the people at the ends of the table staring with their mouths hanging open. The sound of Roxas' chair hitting the floor reverberated through the diner, the blond jumping to his feet as though he'd just been bitten. He paused only long enough to throw a wad of cash down on the table before storming out of diner, giving Axel's chair as wide a berth as possible on his way out.

"You shouldn't have said that."

Sora was glaring at Axel with the most murderous look any of them had ever seen on the brunet's face, normally friendly eyes nearly as cold as his brother's as he stared down the redhead.

"He shouldn't have either."

Sora pushed his seat back without another word, grabbing his sweatshirt off the back of his chair before hurrying off after his brother. As far as Demyx knew Sora and Roxas hadn't been talking much, so he could only imagine how bad Axel's comment had been if it made Sora go after Roxas like that. Riku kept glancing back and forth between Axel and the door, clearly torn between whose side he was on.

"Go." Axel shrugged, gesturing Riku towards the door. "Go, it's fine."

Demyx felt a nudge against his leg under the table, the back of Zexion's hand pressed against his knee. The drummer's fingers were curled around his cell phone, the screen tilted in Demyx' direction.

freshmen year there were a LOT of rumors about axel being anorexic. he used to be about half the size he is now.

Well. Shit. Good one, Roxas. Demyx eyes flickered up towards the redhead, who was staring at the plate in front of him with his lips curled in a disgusted sneer. A second nudge dragged the sea-foam eyes back down under the table again, a new message on the screen.

roxas also only wore long sleeves that year, including in the summer.

Even better.

"Hey." He kicked Axel under the table, jerking the redhead out of his newfound stupor. "I think Nam's sleeping at Kairi's tonight," a quick glance down the table; Naminé hadn't been planning on sleeping at Kairi's, but she certainly was now, "and my parents are at some wedding. Can you give me a ride home?"

Zexion gave him a sympathetic smile, one which Demyx accepted gratefully as he climbed to his feet, dropping a few bills onto the table in front of him. Axel stood without a word, frowning at Demyx when the blond pulled his car keys from his hand.

"I'm driving," Demyx hissed, leaving Axel little room to argue, "and you're spending the night. And if you so much as think about the word 'fat' I will force feed you an entire chocolate cake."

And Axel, in spite of the way his eyes were still narrowed, his face still flushed, let a tiny grin stretch across his lips.

The cold silence between Axel and Roxas had been uncomfortable, but Demyx found himself longing for it as the week progressed. The pair of them had exchanged silence for scathing arguments hiss at each other, each knowing precisely which wounds to pick to have the other incapacitated in under three minutes. Most of the band had taken to avoiding them as much as possible, few people daring to speak to either of the two recently volatile boys.

It had been building for a week, weeks and weeks, really, but the explosion of sound still sent people running, turning on their heels from where they'd been about to leave the hallway, jumping over half-rolled flags and instrument cases dropped by those closer to the commotion as they ran towards the drum closet. Demyx and Riku elbowed their way towards the quivering mass of red spikes peaking out over the crowd, wincing at the second crash. They made it to the front of the group just in time to see Axel gingerly lifting himself from the wreckage of an out-of-use cymbal stand, the cymbal itself still vibrating against the floor. Roxas stood above him with his chest heaving, blue eyes wild as he stared down at the redhead he'd apparently shoved into the offending instrument.

"Guys, please," Sora pleaded, half-heartedly raising both hands from his spot in the doorway of the drum closet, several paces behind them. Both Axel and Roxas pointedly ignored him, nobody else daring to move enough to even glance at the uncharacteristically serious brunet slumping his shoulders in defeat.

"I'm so over this shit," Roxas snarled, ice blue stare reserved exclusively for Axel. Demyx wouldn't have been surprised if both boys were completely oblivious to the fact that they'd garnered the attention of nearly half the band. Axel's face was pale, the purple marks on his cheeks standing out even bolder than usual as he met his best friend's unblinking gaze.

"What is it now, Roxas? Is it because I have more than one friend? Because I dared to talk to someone that wasn't you? God forbid the worlds don't revolve around you, sunshine."

"I don't give a flying fuck how many friends you have, I'm just so sick of the way you throw the ones you have away like old toys the second a new one comes around." Roxas' voice was cold and clear, but quiet; he hadn't raised it again since the first shout that had attracted everyone's attention.

"What the fuck are you talking about? You're the one who stopped talking to all of your friends. You're the one who walks around like you own the fucking place, like you're too good for any of us, because if you're too good for everyone then you don't have to worry about being hurt by anyone. When did I ever throw you away?"


"What was I supposed to do, spend the entire year alone hiding in the corner of the band room waiting for you to graduate middle school?"

"Sora." Roxas jabbed an angry finger in the general direction of his brother, who looked blatantly shocked at having been included on this list. Axel's expression mirrored the brunet's.

"Since when were Sora and I ever better friends than you and me? Now you're just making shit up."

"Demyx. You can't even deny this one, Axel, you've been blowing me off for Demyx since the first day you met him." The glare Roxas threw his way was simultaneously hot enough to melt steel and cold enough to freeze it back in place; Demyx couldn't imagine how Axel had been on the receiving end of that for so long already without flinching.

"You were the one that insisted that I teach him how to play. Fine, yeah, maybe I have been spending more time with him than you, but maybe that's because you've become such an insufferable little bitch that nobody wants to be around you anymore. Nobody."

Roxas opened his mouth to no doubt hurl something biting and painful back at the redhead, but Axel cut him off with a fresh wave of anger, his voice rising to something several notches lower than a yell.

"You'll never get it, will you? You'll never realize that no matter how many times you test us, no matter how many times you push us away, just to see whether or not we'll deem you worth the effort of fighting back, every time you build a wall and demand to see how high we'll jump to get over it, we were always willing to try. I was always willing to try. You'll never understand that we love you, that I love you, that I'm in love with you, always have been, always will be. I'm sorry that you don't understand that, and I'm sorry that that's not enough for you, and if you really want me to stop trying, Roxas, then fuck you. You win. I'm done."

The anger drained from Axel as quickly as it had appeared, and in the space it left behind the rest of the world seemed to come crashing back to him. He stared at the silent, gaping band surrounding him, gasping for breath as he scanned the room of stunned faces, the dumbstruck look on the face of the blond standing barely arm's length away. Axel blinked once, poison green eyes burning down into the stricken face staring up at him, before turning swiftly on his heel, bolting from the room like the hounds of hell were chasing him.

Roxas didn't move.

It started as a low buzz, a soft hiss as people began whispering between each other, growing louder and louder as the surrounding bystanders began rehashing the very scene they'd just witnessed, recounting it to latecomers, eagerly hypothesizing over what, exactly, Axel had meant, and what this meant for their drum major and his best friend. Roxas stood in the center of the circle of gossipers, eyes still on the spot where Axel had been standing moments before, looking very much as though the world as he knew it just exploded rather spectacularly in his face, leaving the debris and ruins to settle at his feet.

It wasn't until Demyx touched the other blond that he realized he had been moving, his feet drawing him forward to approach the now-shaking drum major, who did nothing to acknowledge the weight of Demyx' arm over his shoulder. Sora reached them barely a second later, two hands reaching up to wrap around his brother's arm as they both dragged Roxas forward. Riku darted in front of them, clearing a path through the still murmuring crowd as Demyx and Sora maneuvered the blond down the hallway and out into the senior parking lot, Riku scrambling to unlock his car and direct them inside.

They guided Roxas into the back seat with gentle tugs on his arm, and though the blond moved with the slow, deliberate motion of a figure underwater, he allowed himself to be led without resistance. Sora slid across the back seat and dragged his twin in after him, but when Demyx turned for the front seat a set of fingers manacled themselves to his wrist, halting him in his steps. Roxas didn't look at him, but he didn't release his grip on Demyx' wrist either, leaving the taller boy no choice but to slide into the back seat next to him. Riku frowned at them from the front, sea-green eyes bright in the rearview mirror.

A text from Naminé said she and Kairi had collected all the stuff they'd left unceremoniously in the middle of the hallway and stored it in the instrument closet in the back of the band room for safe keeping. Demyx slid his phone back into his pocket before Roxas could see the screen, turning to meet Sora's eyes over the back of the seat instead. He'd never seen that expression on Sora's face before, tight and serious, rigid with worry and a grim sort of understanding.

Roxas didn't say a word for the entire car ride, didn't say a word, for that matter, until well after Riku'd parked outside his house and Sora and Demyx led the drum major inside, gesturing him towards the nearest couch rather than all the way up to Roxas' room. He waited until after Riku had slipped into the kitchen, presumably to call Axel, and Sora had bolted up the stairs for as many blankets, pillows, and pajama pants as he could carry. Demyx sat on the large ottoman across from the massive arm chair Roxas had sank into, knees curled protectively into his chest.

"I'm sorry."

Demyx pulled his gaze from the fleur-de-lis pattern on the ottoman to stare at the blond half-buried in the cushions of the arm chair. Roxas' voice was soft, hoarse, and he wasn't looking at Demyx, but there was no doubt in his mind that Roxas had just spoken.

"I've been a real asshole," he continued quietly. "Especially to you." Blue eyes flicked just for a second to meet the aquamarine ones staring uncomprehendingly at him, but it was long enough for Demyx to see the sincerity in the smaller blond's gaze. He opened his mouth, though he had no idea what he was going to say, but Roxas beat him to it.

"I have no right to ask you this," he acknowledged softly, "but…stay? Please? For the night? I know we're not friends, but you…an-and him…"

And Demyx understood. What Roxas really, truly wanted right now was Axel, but Axel wasn't an option right now, so the next best things were the people Axel spent the most time with. Sora lived here, and Riku had already announced that he was spending the night, but lately Demyx spent more time with the redhead than Sora and Riku combined. Roxas needed the real thing, but the best he could do was settle for a proxy. Demyx could be that proxy.


Axel didn't show up at school on Wednesday, or on Thursday, or to practice Thursday night. Demyx wasn't particularly surprised by this, but he was surprised by Roxas' behavior. Roxas barely said a word to anyone during either school day, though he did continue to hover close to Demyx during the spare few times they saw each other during the day. Demyx didn't mind, he was okay with the truce he and the other blond have come to. Roxas was a jerk, Roxas was unnecessarily overprotective and stuck up, but Demyx also understood why.

It was obvious, from the way Roxas' very heart seemed to have been sucked from him, from the way what remained of him walked around with hollow eyes and sallow skin, that the blond was just as in love with Axel as Axel was with him. The argument they'd had outside the drum closet seemed, in retrospect, fairly tame compared to some of the more scathing comments Demyx had seen them throw at each other, but Axel had upended Roxas' entire world with his parting rant, and that much was obvious to anyone who saw him.

Maybe it was coincidence, or maybe even the staff had heard the words Axel had flung at their drum major after Tuesday's practice, but Thursday night was all about the third movement, the movement Sora directed. Roxas spent his evening hovering on the 35 yard line, mimicking Sora's conducting but otherwise offering nothing remotely productive to the rehearsal. His eyes continuously flicked over the field as though he thought it was possible that he missed the spiky head of hair that stood at least half a foot taller than most of the band.

"He's not here." The next three sets took the trumpet section across the front of the field in a small arch, Demyx' current dot placing him less than a yard away from Roxas' probing stare. The smaller blond let out a quiet breath of air as the rest of the trumpet section leaned closer, all the while pretending to be fascinated by the Astroturf. Demyx ignored them.

"I know." Roxas finally leveled his gaze across the field, watching the colorguard instructor snapping moodily at his guard. "Have you…has he talked to you…"

"Not really." Once Sora had returned from his quest for sleeping supplies and was busy fussing over Roxas Riku had dragged Demyx aside, relaying the conversation he'd had with Axel. The redhead was home, was fine, just fine, and would call them if he needed them. In the mean time, he wanted to be left the hell alone. They'd debated whether or not Axel had been genuine in that request, but both of their texts had gone unanswered, and his mom had told them he wouldn't come to the phone when they called his house. None of them had heard from him since.

Roxas bit his lip but didn't say anything else; they both knew well enough that now was neither the time nor the place to have this conversation, especially not with the way the flutes were eyeing Roxas speculatively, two of them blocking their mouths with their hands as they leaned in towards each other.

"The most popular rumor," Zexion told Demyx as they walked off the field at the end of practice, the drummer holding the blond's trumpet as Demyx rummaged through his bag for his cell phone, "is that Axel is in love with Roxas and Roxas is in love with you and you are in love with Axel and it's destroying all of your friendships, especially theirs." The iron-colored curtain of hair swung across his face as he laughed at the horrified expression on Demyx' face.

"I don't…I…what? I mean seriously, what?" Demyx gaped at the still-laughing drummer, head reeling as he tried to possibly puzzle together how they figured that one out.

"I think the guard's behind it," Zexion said conspiratorially. "The idea of three of the hottest boys in the band in some sordid love triangle…" He trailed off somewhat abruptly, and even though the parking lot was dark, Demyx could see the blush staining Zexion's visible cheek. The blue eyed boy may have opened up significantly since July, here he was gossiping with Demyx like a freshman girl, but he still blushed like that self-same little girl every time he said something remotely flirtatious to Demyx. The blond found it hopelessly endearing.

"I can't imagine why anyone thinks I like Axel." Demyx grumbled, choosing to ignore Zexion's comment for the sake of the blush still staining his cheeks. "It's not like I'm shamelessly all over him or something."

"There's a lot of speculation over who you like."

For the second time in as many minutes Demyx gaped incredulously at the shorter boy, aquamarine eyes wide as he stared at his friend. Zexion kept his gaze firmly forward, apparently determined not to meet the blond's eyes as he elaborated in a rush, words tumbling over each other like he couldn't wait to just spit them out and be done with them, but couldn't hold them in anymore.

"I mean, randomly at the end of your sophomore year you are suddenly determined to learn how to play a new instrument and join the band you've shown no interest in before. Something, or someone, inspired you, only who've never shown more than a passing interest in anyone, so no one can figure out who."

"I…I don't even know how to respond to that." Demyx admitted. Spending too much time with this marching band was clearly going to have a negative impact on his heart rate, not to mention his mental health. Zexion glanced sideways at him, and for a second there he almost looked…disappointed.

"Luckily," he said slowly, voice unusually dry, "Riku over there looks like he's about to forcibly drag you to his car if you don't pick up the pace. Saved by the horn. See you tomorrow?"

Demyx nodded, waving over his shoulder as he veered off towards Riku and his impatient scowl, but they both knew the blond's thoughts were miles away from them now. The whole band knew he'd joined to pursue someone? And they thought it was Axel? Had nobody, not even Zexion, picked up on the fact that the one person in the band Demyx actively sought out had been the gray haired drummer? Well. That wouldn't do at all.

Rumor was that Axel had, in fact, shown up at school Friday morning, but Demyx had yet to see him. Riku confirmed with a raised eyebrow and a slow nod when Demyx shot him a questioning glance between third and fourth period, leading Demyx to spend most of fourth steeling himself for the moment Axel and Roxas were together in the band room for lunch.

He shouldn't have wasted his time. Neither showed up, Axel probably for the sake of avoiding everyone he knew would be there, Roxas because he'd undoubtedly heard that Axel might be there. Demyx dropped into the seat next to Zexion with a frustrated sigh, rolling his eyes and nodding in response to Zexion quietly asking if he was okay.

"he looks awful" Sora texted him in the middle of sixth, the Anthropology class they shared together, "hasn't said a word all of class." Nor did he seem to plan on speaking anytime soon, brushing past their usual after school meeting place without a word to Sora or Demyx, both of whom stood biting their lips as they waited for Roxas and Riku. Demyx watched the redhead go with a frown. He had no idea how to approach the other boy, or whether or not Axel even wanted him to. They silently agreed not to mention it to Riku or Roxas.

Saturday morning Demyx stood on the sideline with his arms folded over his sweatshirt, the early morning October chill creeping under the cotton and making the hairs on his arms stand on end. Practice started in three minutes, people were already making their way out onto the field, casually drifting into a stretching circle, but there was no sign of Axel until 8:59, the redhead bursting through the stadium gates just in time to drop his bag and his trumpet on the sideline and hustle out on the field, effectively avoiding any attempts at conversation.

"Well," Riku sighed, rolling his eyes at Demyx as Axel wedged himself between two stoic tuba players, clear on the opposite side of the circle from where Riku and Demyx were watching him, "this oughta be interesting."

Roxas, for his part, did his level best to avoid so much as having Axel in his peripheral line of sight. He kept his back firmly to the redhead's side of the circle, leaving that half to Sora as they silently led the band through a quick stretch. The band was eerily quiet and efficient; apparently nobody was quite sure what to expect from their volatile drum major, and no one wanted to suffer his wrath today. Roxas didn't seem much interested in anything though, deferring to Sora for only the second time all season.

The staff had been lenient with him on Thursday, but it was clear they expected Roxas to suck it up and act like the drum major they needed him to be as Cid forced him up on the podium, barking for the band to set up page nine of the opener. The blond tried, everyone could tell he did, but his eyes kept flickering in the direction of the miserable-looking redhead staring pointedly at the ground, and the eighth time he screwed up was apparently one time too many for Cid, who looked ready to blow as he leaned out of the press box.


Demyx winced, and he wasn't the only one. The entire band stood in shocked silence as they stared at their director, head and torso hanging out of the booth as he glared down at his cringing drum major. Nobody could remember Cid ever yelling at Roxas before, not as a drummer or as the drum major. The blond stared helplessly at the field in front of him, eyes flickering between his friends, entire body sagging when his cloudy blue gaze fell on Axel again.

"Fine." It was barely loud enough to be heard, but the suddenness with which the blond squared his shoulders, followed almost immediately by him scrambling down from the podium, jumping the last few steps of the ladder and hustling around the pit caught the attention of everyone in the band, staff included. Roxas stormed across the field with more purpose than anyone had seen in him in days, stopping only when he was barely an arm's length away from the stunned-looking redhead.

"You're a fucking idiot," he snapped at Axel, grabbing the sides of the taller boy's hood and hauling him down to Roxas' eye level, "and if you meant what you said then you better fucking kiss me right now, cause you're a goddamn fool if –"

There were two seconds of stunned silence as Axel leaned forward the last few inches, hands reaching out to wrap around Roxas' waist while the blond tightened his hold, crushing himself against Axel's chest as the redhead sealed their lips together. Two seconds of stunned, shocked silence before the entire band started screaming. Cheers and gasps and explosions of applause that neither boy paid the slightest bit of attention to, Roxas' arms sliding up to wrap around the taller boy's neck as he lifted himself up on his toes. Cid cleared his throat over the loudspeaker several times before everyone finally settled down, eyes still flickering between their director and the pair still standing on the 40 yard line.

"Five minutes." He tried to sound gruff, but even Demyx could see the way Cid was staring down at them with an oddly fond expression on his rough face. "Water. All of you. Go!"

Not daring to argue, knowing better than to disobey, most of the band cleared off the field the second they placed their instruments down on the turf, bouncing towards their friends as they stole glances over their shoulders at the scene they were forced to leave behind. Demyx joined Sora on the side of the pit, the brunet's eyes shining as he stared at his brother. Axel and Roxas stood with their arms wrapped around each other, forehead's pressed together as they whispered quietly.

"Interesting enough for you?" Demyx teased, raising an eyebrow at Riku as he made his way towards them. The silver haired drummer grinned and shook his head, ruffling his boyfriend's hair as the brunet beamed up at him from his seat on his mini-podium.

"Sucks for you, though," Riku teased, smirking at Demyx. "Apparently your love triangle isn't much of a triangle. You must be heartbroken."

Demyx scanned the sideline for a familiar shock of charcoal hair, eyes falling on the boy standing a few yards on the opposite side of the fifty. Lexaeus was talking to him, but Zexion didn't much look like he was listening. He stared at Axel and Roxas with a peculiar expression on his face, something that, under different circumstances, Demyx might have called relief. A single cobalt blue eye flickered from the couple slowly breaking apart on the field towards the blond on the sideline, widening slightly when he saw Demyx already looking at him. For once, Demyx didn't look away when he was caught, leveling his gaze and watching the familiar blush spread over the drummer's pale cheeks.

"Somehow, I think I'll recover."

Parades, Demyx decided, were the worst part of marching band. Sure, they weren't much different than what they did at practice most nights, marching around in a block playing show much, but it was so boring. They kept having to stop for randomly unexplained reasons, and they played the same music over and over and over, and Demyx was pretty sure he saw some guys silly string Kairi, which made him decidedly less than pleased, despite the fact that the redhead took it in stride. Overall the Hollow Bastion High Homecoming Parade wasn't the worst experience Demyx had had in the band so far, but it was certainly his least favorite.

"Parades suck." Axel grumbled, pulling his shako off the moment they were given the all clear. "But they mean free food." He tucked the pass they'd just been given, an all-access pass to the PTA barbeque down behind the bleachers, into the pocket inside his pants. "Rox and I are gonna go wander around, check out the class floats, grab some food. Wanna come?"

Demyx shook his head. Axel and Roxas had been incredibly good about keeping their fledging relationship separate from their group's friendship, but the blond knew they needed time to figure out what they were doing, and he didn't mind giving them the space for it. Besides, Demyx had definitely just seen Lexaeus and Leon walk off towards the food tent, presumably leaving Zexion alone.

"Nah, it's cool. I think I'm gonna go find Zex, see what he's up to."

Axel smirked knowingly but didn't say another word, shooing Demyx off with a flick of his wrist. The blond stored his trumpet back into its case, dropping his shako and gauntlets down on top of it, before heading over towards the drum closet. Zexion sat against the wall with his snare between his knees, his hair covering even more of his face than usual as he bent over the rim.

"What's up?"

Zexion didn't even look up, his fingers a blur of motion moving over the polished silver rim of the drum. Demyx could see a small circle of screws on the floor next to the drummer's knee, a seventh one added to the circle as Zexion finally freed it from the rim.

"Cracked the head," he said glumly, "I hate parades." Now that the mercury hair wasn't blocking his sight anymore Demyx could see the gaping hole ripped down the center of the drum, the tight skin torn clean through. Zexion frowned at the remaining screws, flipping the small screw driver in his hand like it was just another one of his drumsticks.

"Can I help?" Zexion finally glanced up in time to see Demyx settling himself down cross-legged on the floor next to the drummer, careful not to displace the loose screws. Dark blue eyes blinked owlishly at him for a second, apparently surprised at the offer.

"I…yeah, thanks. Here." He fumbled across the floor for a few seconds before producing a second screwdriver. Demyx accepted it wordlessly as he inched slightly closer to the drum, one knee resting on Zexion's outstretched calf. They both pretended not to notice.

"Does this happen a lot?" Demyx kept his voice low, with the way their heads were bent together like that, each of them working on screws on opposite sides of the snare, he was practically whispering in the other boy's ear. Zexion shrugged, and the blond could feel the swish of the other boy's bangs brush against the side of his face.

"Usually at least once a season, it's just a pain in the ass when it does." Demyx had to reach over him to add his screw to the pile, and it was purely coincidence that Zexion happened to glance up at that second, right as Demyx was barely inches away, and they both froze, neither one of them so much as breathing.

"Here, Zex, I got you that new…oh. Oops." Demyx straightened up with a quick jerk, cringing inwardly as he turned to look at Riku, standing over them with a strongly apologetic look on his face. "I…yeah, here. Sorry."

He thrust the new drum head into Zexion's outstretched hand without another word, hurrying away with his cheeks burning. Demyx clapped one hand to his forehead and shook his head, unable to do anything but sit there and laugh.

"Isn't he supposed to be known for his smooth talking skills? Riku's got this reputation as a total badass."

Zexion snorted with laughter, clearly amenable with Demyx' plan of just pretending that didn't happen, despite the fact that his cheeks were still pink.

"Riku? A sweet-talking badass? I don't know where that reputation came from, but it definitely wasn't from anyone who saw Riku fumble his way into a relationship with Sora." Zexion was still chuckling as he bent back over his drum, screwdriver attacking one of the remaining three screws.

"I think I would have paid to see that," Demyx sighed wistfully, carefully keeping himself as far away from Zexion as possible while still reaching his screw. "How bad was it?"

"Bad," Zexion snorted. "Riku spent most of the summer trying to pretend he didn't want to jump Sora's bones, completely in denial about the way Sora was practically throwing himself at him. He finally just up and planted one on Riku one day out of nowhere, bless him. Must run in the family."

Demyx laughed. It was way too easy to picture the scene in his head, proof positive that whoever started that rumor about Riku was an idiot. Zexion finally pulled the last screw out of place and lifted the rim off the drum, pulling the broken head off the snare and sliding the new one into place. He wouldn't let Demyx help reassemble the drum, something about having to tighten the screws just right or the sound would be off, but was happy to let Demyx sit and keep him company anyway. The blond regaled him with stories of other rumors he'd heard about the band before he joined it, all of which seemed to amuse Zexion endlessly.

"So basically, the entire school thinks we're sex-crazed, music-obsessed lunatics?" He laughed, tapping one stick lightly against the tight head of the snare, adjusting one screw slightly before testing it again.

"More or less. Although, when you put it that way I can't imagine why more people don't want to join." Demyx agreed, grinning.

"Done," Zexion announced, rattling off a few quick sixteenth notes before climbing to his feet, pushing his drum carefully back against the wall. "Think there's any food left?"

"I don't know, wanna go find out?"

They lucked out, snagging one of the last few hamburgers off the grill. They ate them on the go, wandering around with their tinfoil wrapped food, making fun of the truly, truly awful Homecoming floats made by each of the different classes. Somewhere in the back of his mind Demyx acknowledge that this was roughly the same thing that Axel and his boyfriend were doing. In fact, speak of the devil…

"Zex, come check out this tree over here and tell me it doesn't look exactly like Demyx." Axel draped one arm over Zexion's shoulders and all but dragged the diminutive drummer clear across to the other side of the float, leaving a bemused Demyx alone with Roxas. Roxas' grin was slightly feral.

"So I'm starting to think," he said conversationally, lapis lazuli stare fixed on Axel and Zexion, "that I was soundly off base for thinking Axel was the reason you joined band."

"You think?" Demyx snorted. The smaller blond smirked.

"Listen, Zexion's a really sweet guy, and it's about time someone gives him some well deserved attention." Demyx nodded, waiting for the 'but.' "But I hope you're ready to commit to this, because you're going to have to."

"What?" Roxas shrugged.

"You're going to have to prove to him beyond a shadow of a reasonable doubt that you like him before you should expect him to make any kind of move on you."

"You want me to throw myself all over him?" Demyx protested, frowning at the blond drummer at his side. "I don't even know if he likes me."

Roxas blinked at him like he was a lunatic, expression clearly stating that he thought Demyx was the dimmest of the dimwitted right now.

"He talks to you." He said bluntly. "That in and of itself is no small feat." It was ha

rd to deny the truth in that. Zexion barely talked to anyone unless spoken to first, and even then it was usually just a few short sentences to be polite. As far as Demyx could tell he certainly was the anomaly, not the standard, when it came to the gray haired boy.

"Thanks," he conceded, "I'll keep that in mind." Roxas' gave him another small smile, but this one was much more genuine than the first.

"I really am sorry," he said quietly, finally turning away from the pair across the float. "Really, I was a huge ass. Even if there was something going on between you and Axel it would have been my fault for not doing anything sooner, so I shouldn't have been taking it out on you."

"It's okay." Demyx was an easy-going guy; two obviously sincere apologies were more than enough to placate him. Besides, the change in Roxas since last Saturday's rehearsal had been remarkable. "I understand, really, I do. Just don't do it again, Axel gets really whiny when you're being a bitch."

Roxas laughed, and the sound of it attracted the attention of two cat-like eyes from the other side of the sophomore class's contribution to the parade. Demyx watched the way the corner of Axel's lips curled into just the barest hint of a smile, soft and genuine as he caught sight of the two blonds talking. He looked hesitant to interrupt, but Demyx gestured him over with a small jerk of his head, dropping his gaze to the boy at Axel's side instead. Zexion watched the exchange with his brow slightly furrowed, thin lips pressed in a carefully neutral line.

"Demyx says you whine like a girl." Roxas informed the redhead as he drew closer to them, blue eyes glinting with internal laughter at the snarly look on the taller boy's face.

"I do not." Axel whined, frowning as he realized that he'd rather just proved the case in point. Roxas' contained laughter bubbled over as he leaned up on his toes, reaching up to muss the already wild red spikes. Axel retaliated with a poke to the ribs that made the blond drum major squirm, still laughing, the pair getting tangled up in the nauseatingly sweet kind of flirting reserved for a fresh new couple. Demyx forced himself to refrain from making gagging motions.

"You look like you're going to puke." Apparently he hadn't done a very good job. Zexion stood at his elbow with that carefully neutral expression still on his face, voice unusually dry. Demyx pulled his eyes away from the other couple just barely after seeing Roxas take off, waving something or another of Axel's triumphantly overhead as the redhead sprinted after him.

"I have a low tolerance for sickeningly adorable couples," Demyx snorted, "and I never in a million years imagined Roxas to be the giggly flirty type. Ugh."

"People still think you're jealous of Roxas, and that this whole you and him suddenly being friends thing is just a ruse for you to steal Axel back from him."

Demyx bit his lip to keep from openly laughing in the gray-haired boy's face, dragging his teeth across his bottom lip. Zexion was now frowning, arms crossed over his chest.

"Some people," Demyx teased, "should stop listening to what people think, especially when they know better." He reached a hand out and ghosted three fingers over the drummer's tense cheek, brushing his thumb over the furrowed lines marring Zexion's forehead. "Stop worrying so much."

Zexion stared at him, unblinking, lips slightly parted in surprise, and it would be so easy to slide his hand down that delicate jaw and close the distance between them. There was a difference, though, between being obvious and being an ass. Besides, Zexion needed to be the one to make that move. The drummer may have opened up to him, but he was normally quiet, reserved, and Demyx didn't put it past him to allow Demyx to kiss him not because he wanted the blond to, but because he wasn't assertive enough to stop it. Irrational, maybe, but still a fear that moved Demyx to drop his hand back to his side, barely trailing over the soft flesh of Zexion's cheek on its descent.

"Come on," he said instead, smiling brightly at the slightly shell-shocked junior, "kickoff's in twenty minutes, isn't it? We're supposed to be ready to go in five."

They weren't allowed to sit together during the game, Roxas and Sora directing all of them into some makeshift block by section, plopping Demyx unceremoniously no where near Zexion. He pouted a good deal about this, enough that Axel teased him until well after the game, which no one paid an ounce of attention to, had ended in an embarrassingly typical defeat for the HBH football team.

"What's wrong, Dem, are you feeling a little separation anxiety?" Axel laughed, batting his eyes coquettishly at the frowning blond. "Don't worry, I'm sure you'll be reunited soon, we're free to go in like three minutes."

"As if you should talk," Demyx snorted. "This is the longest I've seen you go without being within arm's length of Roxas in a week. Are you sure you're holding up okay?"

"It's been a rough night." Axel agreed forlornly, expression completely serious despite the smirk in his green eyes. "Thankfully, we have the after party to look forward to, at which point I will do my level best to lure Roxas away from the party and start some particularly juicy rumors for the band to prey upon all of next week. It's Hell Week, they're gonna need something to keep them happy."

"Hell week?" Demyx frowned. That sounded...less then promising. Axel smirked at him from his seat on the bench below the blond, shrugging one shoulder under his uniform jacket.

"The week before Championships. It's Hell Week because marching band literally consumes your life for the week; most sections have sectionals on Monday, including us so don't forget that, practice on Tuesday and Thursday runs longer than usual, we leave Friday for Athens, and Wednesday we have that exhibition show in the city."

"So you're telling me I have to see your freaky face every single day this week? That's it. I quit." Demyx laughed at the mock horrified look on Axel's face, shoving the redhead's shoulder with his knee. Hell Week…well, it's not like he did much of anything else with his life. Besides, he was running out of time with Zexion here. Other than lunch they never really saw each other in school, and he wasn't sure he wanted to wait all the way until spring rehearsals started to keep pursuing the drummer.

Cid held them there until the football team, oozing douchbaggery despite their obvious and painful inadequacies currently being flashed across the scoreboard, vacated the stadium, finally giving the drum majors the all clear to lead the band back up to the school. Nobody was expected to bring anything home with them, since they were apparently going to be spending most of their free time at the school rehearsing for the next week, and so Demyx was more than happy to follow Axel to his car with nothing but his street clothes and a backpack slung over his shoulder.

"Hey," the voice calling after him wasn't particularly loud, but Demyx was so hyperaware of Zexion that he had no trouble hearing the gray haired boy over the racket in the hallway. "Are you going to the party?"

"Yeah, Axel's driving. I think we're going straight there, actually." Zexion fidgeted with the few stray pieces of hair that had escaped his headband, clearly and, kind of adorably, nervous.

"Do you think he'd mind giving me a ride? Lex has to stop off his friend's house first, and I don't particularly like Xemnas."

Demyx chanced a glance over his shoulder at Axel, just a courtesy, really, but the redhead was already glaring at him with a look that very clearly said 'you actually have to ask?' The blond turned back to the smaller boy still fidgeting in the doorway, fixing him with the most calming smile he could manage.

"Absolutely, come on. But if you want shotgun you're going to have to fight me for it." The tension in Zexion's shoulders relaxed just enough for Demyx to know the nervousness, and god it was cute that Zexion was nervous about asking Axel for a ride, as if the redhead would ever say no, had dissipated. Zexion returned Demyx' smile gratefully as he closed the distance between himself and Axel's car, sliding unresistingly into the back seat.

The drive to the Strife's house was only awkward in the sense that Axel tried too hard. He kept a steady stream of commentary going, barely pausing for breath let alone for Demyx' and Zexion's occasional attempts at interjecting, and seemed to miss out entirely on the smirks passed between Zexion and Demyx, amused and embarrassed respectively. Demyx rolled his eyes at the redhead when he finally broke away from them in an effort to go find Riku, only slightly placated by the snort of laughter from Zexion.

"I'm pretty sure Axel is actually allergic to silence." The blond grumbled, wincing apologetically at Zexion. "I think he's also somehow convinced himself that you two must become friends."

"It's entertaining." Zexion brushed it off with a shrug, glancing around the foyer Axel had left them in. There was a veritable mountain of coats piled unceremoniously on the bottom half of the staircase, but no indication of where their owners might have gone. "Where is everyone?"

The answer, it seemed, was a little bit of everywhere. The party served as a double celebration, once in honor of Homecoming, once for Halloween, which they were missing next weekend in lieu of Championships, and it seemed the random activities springing up in various rooms were reflective of the dual nature of the party. An ironic game of spin-the-bottle had formed next to the make-shift dance floor, but in the next room over Riku sat with a flashlight illuminating his face, regaling the freshman with some highly embellished story about why the school's mascot was really a Heartless. It was weird and eclectic, kind of just like the actual band itself, but Demyx actually kind of liked it.

They only made it halfway down the basement steps before Demyx stopped short, hands fumbling along the railing in the near-black darkness. Twenty or so kids sat grouped around the large flat screen hung on one wall of the finished basement, shouting obscenities at the couple on screen.

"What the fu –"

"Then say it, asshole."

Demyx gaped at Zexion, gray hair shining blue in the flood of light from the TV, smirking as he watched the movie on the screen. He hadn't been the only one to say it; half the room had shouted it out, giggles erupting from the few not participating.

"Look at her tits, get inspired." The blond's eyebrows shot up into his hair line. He was fairly certain he had never heard Zexion so much as mumble an obscenity under his breath; tits just sounded so…vulgar coming from the blue eyed boy.

"WITH WHIPS AND CHAINS!" The group on the floor was cackling by now, even Zexion was snickering, grinning in the glow of a churchyard scene. Demyx just kept gaping, staring between Zexion and the crazies on the floor below them.

"What was that?" he finally managed to force out of his mouth. Zexion glanced down at him from the step above the blond, grin widening even further at the look on Demyx' face.

"You've never seen Rocky Horror?" Demyx shook his head and Zexion laughed lightly, reaching one hand down to wrap around Demyx' wrist. "It's a life experience everyone must have, but I think tonight is neither the time nor the place for your indoctrination into the cult. Promise me you'll watch it with me one day though."

He didn't leave Demyx room to argue, tugging him back up the dark stairwell despite Demyx' several attempts to crane his head back down towards the TV screen. Sora stood at the top of the stairs watching them with a small smile on his face, blue eyes very obviously studying the way Zexion's fingers were still wrapped around the narrow part of Demyx' wrist.

"There's some horrific cult ritual occurring in your basement." Demyx informed him casually. "Something involving whips and chains and bad acting. Why are you carrying a water gun?"

"There's a light," Sora informed him seriously, wrenching his eyes away from their hands to meet Demyx' gaze levelly. "Over at the Frankenstein Place. Don't wanna miss my cue!"

"You're all bat shit insane." Demyx quipped, watching Sora bound down the stairs with his supersoaker firmly in hand. Shrieks of laughter echoed up into the hallway a minute later, but neither Sora nor his gun re-emerged.

"One day, Demyx, you will know and embrace the beauty that is Rocky Horror." Zexion promised. He slowly dropped his hand, leaving the skin on the trumpeter's arm tingling where he had grabbed it. "So, since the basement is out, we have spin the bottle, dance party, Riku's scary ass story time, or emo kids in the corner."

"Riku." Demyx said quickly. Spin the bottle was the worst form of torture anyone had ever inflicted upon Demyx before in his life, and there was no way he was joining the dance party. The flicker of emotions passing over Zexion's face moved too quickly for the blond to identify any but the last, the passive agreement that settled over Zexion's semi-exposed features.

They had intended to creep into the corner of Riku's audience, slide down against the wall and blend in with the furniture, but Riku was between stories when they arrived, gesturing them into the suddenly vacant spots next to him. This, it turned out, proved to be the worst decision of the night. Riku was apparently really, really good at telling scary stories, and being right next to him meant that every time he needed a throat to pretend to cut, a neck to breath down the back of, a person to sneak up on, he used Demyx as his assistant. The blond tried valiantly to pretend he wasn't two screams away from peeing-his-pants-terrified.

On the bright side, Demyx' choice had been unintentionally the perfect cheesy move to get an arm around Zexion. The gray haired boy had inched progressively closer and closer as his face grew paler and paler, practically in Demyx' lap by the time Riku reached the climax of his most recent story. Both his arms were threaded loosely through Demyx' arm, palm resting soothingly on the Zexion's knee, face poised to be buried in Demyx' shoulder every time Riku made them jump. Demyx allowed his thumb to draw small circles into the side of Zexion's jeans, hiding his small smile behind his free hand. Sure, maybe he was scared out of his mind right now, but when Zexion hugged Demyx' captured arm tight to his chest and pressed his face to the space between Demyx' arm and shoulder blade, the fear was completely and utterly worth it.

The impromptu story session ended as quickly as it had began, Riku abruptly climbing to his feet at the end of his fourth story, taking a mocking bow for his clapping friends before taking off in the direction of the basement stairs. Zexion unwound himself from Demyx and pulled back only far enough to release the blond's arm, legs still pressed together from hip to knee.

"You should've told me you didn't like scary stories," Demyx admonished him teasingly, leaning back on his hands. "We could've found something else to do."

"Like what, spin the bottle?" Zexion said sarcastically. "No thanks, I can't even tell you the overwhelming number of people in this band I would not like to kiss." Demyx chuckled lightly, cocking his head to the side as he studied the way the charcoal bangs slid over the bridge of Zexion's nose.

"Larxene." He suggested. Zexion twitched slightly, a small shudder running over his shoulders. Demyx laughed.

"She's too scary to even consider kissing. You'd probably suffer from electric shock. What about Selphie? Think you could even get her to stop talking long enough to kiss her?"

"Do you think I'd ever want to try? No way. Olette. She's cute, but even if I'm pretty sure that even if it was a perfectly legit game of spin the bottle, Pence and Hayner would kick my ass from here to next Tuesday."

"Pence wouldn't kick your ass even if he could." Zexion promised. "Hayner, on the other hand…" He laughed at the look on Demyx' face. "Fuu, same reason. Seifer and Rai? Forget it."

"Vexen. I'm sorry, there's something mad creepy about him."

The briefest flicker of surprise passed over Zexion's face, something Demyx certainly didn't miss. He couldn't imagine that the surprise was over his choice, no one in their right mind could want to kiss Vexen, but had no idea what else it would be.


"You're out of your mind. Leon's totally hot." Demyx argued. Sure, he was pretty sure he'd never heard the brunet speak, and he walked around with a semi-permanent scowl on his face most of the time, but he was still hot.

"Not worth it. Ugh, the love like, quadrangle he's been in for the last year…you don't know the seniors that graduated last year, so you wouldn't know about it. But trust me, the drama? Not worth it."

"Come on, Zex," Demyx laughed, bumping the other boy's knee with his own. "There has to be at least one person in this band worthy of your approval."

He had expected the blue eyed boy to blush, but the look Zexion leveled him with was unlike any Demyx had seen before on those sharp features. Sapphire eyes were distinctly calculating, blatantly sizing him up, carefully contemplative, though what it was Zexion was considering was lost on the blond. The smallest hint of a smile spread from the corner of the drummer's lips, slate hair shifting as he cocked his head to the side.

"Yeah. There might be one."

Axel had been twelve hundred percent correct about calling this week Hell Week. Demyx thought marching band had taken over his soul over the summer, but so far this week was nothing, nothing in comparison. Monday's sectional had been four hours long, second only to the length of Tuesday's rehearsal, which began half an hour after school ended and ran until 9:30 that night.

The very worst part of it, in Demyx opinion, was that despite the overwhelming amount of time he'd spent with the band so far this week, he'd barely had time to say hello to Zexion. The drumline was doing their own thing, just like every other section, on Monday, and Tuesday night the worked the ballad, during which the drumline was as far away from the brass section as possible while still being on the field. Riku held his line hostage during most breaks, breaking them down to perfection while the rest of the band watched sympathetically from the sidelines.

He just wanted ten minutes alone with Zexion, ten minutes to figure out what, exactly, the drummer had meant on Saturday night. With the kind of timing worthy of a cheesy teeny bopper chick flick Lexaeus had shown up mere seconds after Zexion had admitted their might be somebody in band he had his eye on, all but dragging his friend away from Demyx. They'd reappeared barely fifteen minutes later, but by then Demyx had already been joined by Axel and a few others, leaving Demyx no opportunity to continue their conversation. He just wanted to know if Zexion meant it.

"You," Axel declared, slinging an arm around Demyx' shoulders and jerking him out of his stupor, "are not supposed to look this emo. Ever. You're happy little Demyx."

"I was just thinking." Demyx protested, laughing despite himself.

"That explains it. It looked like you were in pain." The redhead teased, dodging out of the way before Demyx elbow met his ribs. They both laughed, rounding the doorway out of the band hallway and towards the row of buses.

"Which one's your boyfriend assigned to?" Demyx asked, nodding between the first two buses. Axel pointed to the bus in the front, where Demyx could vaguely see Roxas stalking down the aisle towards where Hayner was struggling to push a quad through the emergency exit door.

"Speaking of, you don't feel…like…abandoned, or something, do you?"

Demyx froze, blinking up at the redhead now one pace ahead of him. Axel turned around with an uncharacteristically serious look on his tattooed face, malachite eyes leveled evenly on the shorter blond.

"Am I a girl?" Demyx laughed, raising an eyebrow at Axel. "You just started dating the one guy you never thought you'd get, I'll give you a few weeks to get used to that before I start demanding joint custody."

"I just," Axel shifted his weight from his left foot to his right, one hand coming up to rub the back of his neck. "I don't know, Rox says I'm doing that thing again where I fixate on one person and ignore every one else. But I didn't mean to. Besides, you've been spending so much time with Zexion lately, and I didn't want to get in the way of that, and it's not like I've been straight up ignoring you and –"

"Ax, shut up. We're not all babies like your precious boy toy is." Demyx teased, closing the gap between them and nudging the redhead back into motion, steering them towards the bus.

"I should kill you on principle for that one, but I'll let it slide since you're being so nice." Axel sniffed, climbing the first step up onto the bus.

"How gracious of you," Demyx muttered, ducking in time to avoid the swing of Axel's trumpet case towards his ribs. "What are you doing here?" He directed this new question at Riku, sulking sullenly in the seat across from Axel's. The silver haired drummer actually pouted at him, glaring at Roxas' stuff in the front seat.

"Terra wants us all on the same bus, and the guys outvoted me in favor of Roxas' bus. Stupid bitches." He turned his glare on Axel, frowning at the redhead. "Do something obnoxious the whole time, just to piss them all off."

"Fine, but you have to defend me when Rox threatens to throw me off the bus while it's still moving." Axel agreed, closing his window as much as possible with his garment bag hanging from it. "It's freezing on this fucking bus, by the way."

"Who's Terra?" Demyx asked, backtracking slightly as he threw his stuff into the seat across from Axel. The silver haired drummer raised an eyebrow at him, shaking his head slightly.

"The drumline instructor? How do you spend this much time with drummers and not know that?"

"Because you're the only one obsessed with Terra, Ri." Roxas teased, emerging from the aisle behind Riku, jumping over Axel's extended legs before dropping down into his seat. "Don't look at me like that, you're totally obsessed with him. Sora should be jealous."

Riku opened his mouth to argue, shaking his head emphathetically, but was cut off by Roxas calling attendance before he could say anything to the smirking blond. Demyx listened to the list of names with only half his interest, though the distinct lack of response when Zexion's name was called had him frowning. He thought the whole line was supposed to be on this bus?

"He's got some kind of appointment or something," Riku said dismissively, catching Roxas' eye before the blond could keep going. "He's getting dropped off at the show, but he'll be here for the ride home."

Roxas checked it off with a nod, and Demyx zoned out the entire rest of the roll call. Roxas was saying something about the exhibition show, something about it being painfully long and frigidly cold, but necessary. It was at the university they stayed at for band camp, an exhibition show put on by the school every year for all the bands in the nearby area, pep and competitive to come and perform at. Demyx tried not to think about the long, long list of things he'd rather be doing with his Wednesday afternoon.

"Mind if I sit here for a second?"

Demyx glanced up just in time to see Lexaeus swing himself down into Demyx' seat, clearly not waiting for an answer. The blond raised an ebrow at the bigger boy. Lexaeus was Zexion's best friend, so they'd had the occasional interaction, said hi when they saw each other in the hallways and such, but the quad player had never actively sought Demyx out before, especially not without Zexion being around.

"I wanted to talk to you about Zexion."

Oh. Demyx flashed briefly back to the list of people in the band he and Zexion didn't want to kiss. All those girls with scary best guy friends? They paled in comparison to the way Lexaeus could probably beat him up with one hand and three missing fingers.

"I'm sure you've noticed, but Zex isn't really used to anyone paying attention to him. He's always been pretty content with that, but you make me just a little nervous." Lexaeus' voice was polite, conversational, softer than you'd expect from a boy of that size. It was no less terrifying for Demyx.


"I'm worried that he'll get used to it and you'll get bored, and you'll disappear and he'll hide his nose even deeper down in those books of his than he usually does. I mean, you haven't know him as long as I have, so I know you don't understand really understand the significance, but Saturday was the first time ever that he spent the entire party being social. That's because of you, man, and it's really awesome of you that you have that effect on him, but if you fuck it up I will not hesitate to kill you."

A small voice in the back of Demyx' mind pointed out, rather unnecessarily, that the dead calm in the redhead's blue eyes underlined the truth in his statement. He wasn't exaggerating.

"I really like Zexion." He admitted quietly, careful to keep his aquamarine eyes on the drummers. "I…I joined the band just to get to know him."

Lexaeus had the grace to keep the surprise on his face to a minimum, a small smile quirking his features as he studied the blond whose seat he had invaded. Demyx held his gaze despite his deep desire to hide, knowing how important it was for him to pass the best friend test. The redhead nodded once, smile growing infinitesimally wider.

"Good. In that case, do us all a favor and go for it already." One large hand hooked on the back of the seat in front of them and pulled, the drummer hauling himself to his feet with that small smile still on his face. He nodded once more at Demyx before turning on his heel, climbing carefully over the jumble of limbs hanging out of seats into the aisle.

"What was that?" Axel hissed, staring after the retreating drummer. Even Roxas was looking at Demyx with a raised eyebrow, apparently attempting, but failing, to keep the smirk off his face at the sight of Demyx' pallor.

"I think I just got the hurt-my-best-friend-and-I-kill-you speech." Demyx mumbled, blinking slightly. Riku grinned despite his previously mopey attitude, leaning forward to ruffle what he could of the blond's pulled back hair.

"Dude, that totally means you're in." He laughed, royally screwing up Demyx' ponytail. "No point in giving the best friend speech unless the guy actually likes you, right?"

"Well, that explains why I haven't gotten one yet." Axel sighed, pouting forlornly at the blond in front of him. "Roxas just doesn't like me enough for his friends to care."

"I actually told them," Roxas said teasingly, flicking one finger at his boyfriend's temple. "That I would prefer if they encouraged you to break up with me, maybe even paid you off. Which probably explains why I got three best friend speeches."

"No," Axel argued, batting Roxas' hand away, "it's just that they like me better."

Riku caught Demyx' gaze and rolled his eyes good naturedly, earning a smirk and a chuckle from the blond trumpeter. They watched Axel and Roxas banter back and forth, apparently oblivious to the presence of their audience, for a solid five minutes before Riku gave up, rolling his eyes again with a huff as he climbed to his feet, stalking towards the back of the bus where a few of the other drummers sat. Demxy pulled his backpack out from beneath his feet and pulled out his AP Language homework, frowning at the front cover of his book. It wasn't like he had anything better to do, and he was at least a week behind on reading.

They hit significantly less traffic this time around, most of the afternoon rush hour traffic was heading out of the city, not into it, and the bus was pulling back into the familiar school with plenty of time for the band to warm up before they opened the show. Axel assured Demyx that going on first was the best part of the whole night; once they packed all their equipment back up they were free to spend the rest of the performance lounging on the bleachers, nothing to do or to worry about. He was right too, after the abridged version of their show and a quick pep talk from Cid the band was being ushered into their section of the bleachers, blankets, gloves, and sweatshirts being gratefully tugged down as the fall sun set behind them.

If anyone had warned them of the weather Demyx had not been paying attention, a flaw which he was sorely regretting now, sitting in nothing more than his uniform pants and jacket. Naminé had come up briefly, offering him her colorguard jacket, but his sister looked so cold in those thin, sleeveless uniforms that he just couldn't do that to her. Axel, who was apparently a human furnace, did nothing but laugh at the way Demyx' lips were turning blue, his warm hands wrapped around Roxas'. The drum major, required to stay in uniform, looked equally as miserable as Demyx felt, huddled as close to Axel as his pride would let him. Demyx tried not to hate them.

"That's it, I can't stand watching you shake anymore. Come on." Gloved hands were wrapping around his fists and pulling him to his feet, surprisingly easily considering the size of their owner. Zexion stood frowning at the taller blond, looking snug as a bug in gloves and a knit hat, tell-tale signs of both UnderArmour and a sweatshirt peaking out from the collar of his jacket.

"W-we're n-not allowed b-back on the b-b-bus," Demyx stuttered, following the slate haired boy as he weaved his way through the stadium. Zexion didn't release his hold on Demyx' icy wrist until they were standing in a long line at a concession stand.

"True. Which is why we are instead going to force as much hot chocolate and cup of soup down your throat as possible." Zexion agreed, gesturing to the menu sign behind them. "And then we're going to go find my mom and see if she has any extra blankets in the car. In the mean time, jacket off."

"What?" Demyx gaped at him, frowning as he hugged his suddenly free arms to his chest. Taking his jacket off seemed…rather counterintuitive at this point. But Zexion was pulling his own off too, holding it between his knees just in case Cid walked by and flipped an epic shit on him for putting his uniform on the ground, and then pulling his sweatshirt over his head, leaving him in just black Under Armour and a drumline shirt.

"Here. I'm serious, watching you shiver like that is actually going to kill me." Demyx thought about arguing for exactly two seconds before he caved, pulling his own jacket off, reaching over for the warm, warm, deliciously warm sweatshirt. It was his drumline sweatshirt, Zexion's name embroidered in silver on the left side of his chest, and Demyx tried to ignore the way his heart was hammering in his chest. Usually the only time anyone wore a band sweatshirt that didn't have their name on it, was because they were wearing a boyfriend's or girlfriend's sweatshirt instead.

Zexion kept his stern gaze on Demyx until the sweatshirt was firmly over the blond's head and his uniform jacket was back on, hood hanging out over the collar.


Zexion was cut off mid-word as Demyx threw his arms around the smaller boy's shoulders, pulling him into a tight, enthusiastic hug. The blond missed the smile Zexion was unable to keep off his face, blue eyes wide at the force with which Demyx hugged him to his chest.

"You're actually the best person I know." He whispered in the drummer's ear. Zexion's cheeks had already been pink from the wind, but now they were positively glowing. He stepped back only when Demyx let go, teal eyes bright as the grinned at the blush under the gray hair. The hat flattened Zexion's bangs, forcing them slightly to side and exposing more of his face than usual.

"If that's what I get for a sweatshirt," Zexion mused, smiling despite the color still flooding his cheeks, "what am I going to get for buying you hot food?"

"Anything you want," Demyx sighed, already envisioning the warm trail of hot broth burning its way down his throat, warming the pit of his stomach. Zexion laughed and ordered them both hot chocolate and a cup of instant soup, waving away the blond's protest as he paid for all of it.

"Do you even have money on you?" He challenged, smirking at the way Demyx' face suddenly flushed. The blond shook his head slowly, groaning at the way Zexion laughed at him.

"Okay fine, but at Championships all your food is on me." He insisted. The hot chocolate was so hot it burned his hands, but in the very best way possible, and he burned his tongue trying to drink it all in one long gulp. Zexion was smiling at him in the most self-satisfied way Demyx had ever seen on the other boy, and he had to admit it was a whole new level of adorable. Zexion, quiet, stoic little Zexion, was apparently secretly a mother hen, clucking over Demyx until his lips were back to a normal color, his hands had stopped shaking so much.

He got it, apparently, from his own mother, who fussed so much over Demyx that she nearly drove to the nearest store to buy him a whole winter wardrobe. Zexion managed to talk her out of it after seeing the look on Demyx' face, though the blond had a feeling the drummer secretly thought it was a good idea, and managed to talk her down to simply checking their car for an extra blanket. She produced a small flannel throw she'd won at a competition earlier that season and Demyx nearly kissed her with gratitude, falling all over himself to thank her before he and Zexion retreated back to the rest of the band.

"Keep the sweatshirt." Zexion ordered, batting Demyx' hands away from his jacket's buttons. He silenced the blond's protest with a single stare, sitting down pointedly on the bleachers in front of Axel and Roxas, both of whom were doubled over in laughter at the cowed expression on Demyx' face. The blond shot them murderous looks as he settled down in front of Axel, throwing the small blanket over both his and Zexion's shoulders despite the smaller boy's protests.

"Go ahead and laugh," Demyx scoffed, glaring at Axel. "I'm not speaking to either one of you anyway."

"Aw, Dem, don't be mad," Axel whined, pouting at the blond leaning back against his knees. "Roxas is a terrible sharer; I couldn't very well cuddle with both of you, now could I? Besides, Zexion would have been terribly jealous."

"Terribly." Zexion agreed dryly. Demyx laughed, and he felt, just as well as he could hear, the way Zexion laughed too. They stayed huddled together under their shared blanket for the rest of the evening, joined occasionally by randomly wandering people, content and warm in their little cocoon of shared body heat, neither will to move until Roxas and Sora called them down into a line, leading the band on the long trek back to the buses.

Lexaeus had saved Zexion a seat in the back of the bus, and Demyx was sorry to see him go. Riku had begged his way onto Sora's bus, no longer technically required to sit with the rest of the line, and Axel and Roxas had somehow wound up together in Roxas' seat. Demyx sincerely hoped that the tangle of legs he could see were just a sign of them falling asleep together again, not of another notorious bus make out session. Apparently, and this was a fun fact Demyx didn't learn until he nearly tripped over Pence and Olette one night on the way back from a competition in Halloweentown, band kids were infamous for bus ride make outs. Dear god, he hoped Axel and Roxas were keeping it PG.

Demyx sat alone with his head against the window, eyes on the blurred lights of the city disappearing behind them, contemplating the way Zexion's sweatshirt smelled like him. It smelled suspiciously like Fierce, the cologne Naminé and Kairi were always trying to get him to wear, but the idea of Zexion owning anything from Abercrombie & Fitch…

"Mind if I sit down?"

For a split second Demyx thought it was Lexaeus again, coming back to maybe kill him this time, but the body settling itself in the empty space next to the blond was much, much too small to be the hulking quad player. Zexion had taken his hat off and his slightly ruffled hair glowed silver in the moonlight, once again obscuring a solid half of his face in the darkness.

"What's up?" Demyx didn't mind the interruption from, well, nothing, not at all, but Zexion had spent the whole night with him, and he was surprised that the drummer had left his other friends to come back up here.

"I…the season's almost over. Championships this weekend, and then we don't have anything until spring rehearsals start again in March." Zexion's voice sounded…odd. Strained. Like he was fighting against some unknown force to get the words out. Demyx frowned slightly, silently trying to puzzle out what was wrong with the other boy.

"Yeah," he agreed. "It's gonna be really weird. The season went by so fast."

"It was the best one." Zexion said quietly. Demyx opened his mouth to respond, not really sure what to say other than to agree, but Zexion cut him off with a small glance in his direction. Up until now the gray haired boy hadn't been looking at him, ocean eyes focused on one of the holes ripped into the back of the seat in front of them. "It was the best season so far, because of you."

Any words Demyx would have been attempting to come up with fell short at that admission. It wasn't a surprise, per say, but the fact that Zexion had up and said it, that Zexion had been the one to cross that line before Demyx had even started to consider just blatantly saying something, was.

"It was the first time I actually talked to anyone who wasn't on the drumline." Zexion breathed a slightly self-deprecating laugh, one that Demyx didn't like even a little bit, but the drummer continued before the blond could protest. "I had fun this year. Not just playing, playing's always fun, but actually…had fun being a part of the band. And that's on you. So thank you."

Demyx nodded. He knew he needed to say something, knew that the longer he sat here in silence, staring at the boy who wouldn't look him in the eye, the less likely it would be that Zexion would want to listen to whatever it was that he actually had to say. The problem was figuring out what to say, figuring out how to put into words that the entire point in him joining the band had been to get to know Zexion, that Zexion's confession had just made every single sunburn, sore limb, and cracked lip worth it. He was running out of time, what he could see of Zexion's pale face was falling into a slightly resigned expression, his gray-blue-silver-moonlight hair shimmying back and forth as he slowly moved, climbing to his feet.

Demyx lunged forward, grabbing Zexion's hand and pulling the drummer to a stop. Sapphire eyes flashed down at the fingers slowly tangling with his own, head cocked slightly to the side as he studied the way Demyx' still-cold fingers were slowly tugging him back down into the seat.

"Wait." He begged, sea-foam eyes imploring as Zexion carefully sank back down onto the rubbery green seat. Demyx didn't let go of his hand, waiting until the drummer's attention was on him again before speaking.

"I'm really bad at this part." He whispered. He was vaguely aware of the way his thumb had begun slowly sliding over Zexion's knuckles, much more aware of the slightly sharp intake of breath when Zexion realized it too. "I never know what to say, how to say it. But the general gist of it is that I'm pretty sure I've been halfway in love with you from the first time I saw you, and that getting to know you has made every awful practice worth it, and that I really, really would like to kiss you right now, so if you have any opposition to doing so now would be the time to say it."

He waited long enough to be certain that Zexion wasn't going to protest, long enough to acknowledge that the gleam in Zexion's eye and the slight upturn of the corner of his mouth was definitely, definitely permission to proceed, and then just long enough to reach his unoccupied fingers up to the other boy's face, brushing the mercury colored bangs back out of his eyes, palm cupping the delicate jaw. Neither one of them breathed, neither one of them blinked, and Demyx leaned forward slowly and pressed his lips to Zexion's.

Retreat: Senior Speeches

Demyx curled the fingers of his free hand around the hem of the blanket, tightening his grip on the heavy wool as he pulled it around his shoulders. Zexion, pressed into his left side, huddled closer, snuggling into the warmth cocooned between Demyx' bent legs and the blanket draped around his shoulders and knees. The hand that wasn't gripping the blanket was laced lightly with the drummer's fingers, Demyx' thumb casually drawing soft circles into the other boy's skin.

On his right Axel sat with his shoulder pressed against his friend's, leaning his weight back on the stone wall behind them. Roxas sat huddled in the v between Axel's outstretched legs, trying his very best to look nonchalant as he lounged back against Axel's chest, failing miserably as his boyfriend wrapped a second blanket around the pair of them, rubbing Roxas' frozen cheeks with gloved hands.

Riku stood at the front of the conglomerate gathering of people, aquamarine eyes bright in the dark night air as he addressed his band for the final time, his breath visible as he breathed his final words of wisdom onto his friends and peers, the last address of the seniors before their championship performance.

"Here's what I've learned," he told them, pacing casually back and forth in front of the group. "That marching band changes you irrevocably, whether you intended it to or not. It can take a punk and a skater, a closet musician and a band geek, best friends and strangers, and give them something to unite them, something that they will always hold on to as a great equalizer. It taught me that sometimes, your best friend can be your worst enemy, and your worst enemy can be the love of your life. It taught me that going after something you want, whether it's mastering that new cadence, winning someone's heart, or gaining that last tenth of a point you need to beat that other band, is worth fighting tooth and nail over. Most importantly, though, it taught me that going out on a limb, sucking up your pride and trying that new thing that you never thought you could do, never knew you wanted to do, is always worth it. Who knows, you might get lucky and find yourself surrounded by the best friends you've ever met, doing something you love with your whole heart."

Zexion nudged his shoulder in Demyx' collarbone, dragging the blond's attention away from the silver-haired drummer and towards the patiently waiting, ocean blue eyes.

"You never told me the real reason you joined the band," he murmured. Demyx raised an eyebrow, unable to fend off the perfectly cheesy smile threatening to spread across his frozen features. He released his hold on the blanket edge and curled his now free hand around Zexion's jaw, brushing two fingers through the charcoal gray fringe and tucking it back behind the other boy's ear.

"I was picking Naminé up from her first rehearsal in the spring," he whispered quietly, palm sliding down to cup Zexion's face. "And I saw this guy. He had the most stunning blue eyes I'd ever seen, and these awesome choppy bangs covering his face, making him look all mysterious and intriguing, and he was just the hottest guy I'd ever seen at HBH, and I knew I had to figure out some way to meet him. So I asked Axel to teach me how to play trumpet and I joined the band."

Zexion gaped at him, cheeks pink from more than just the cold air as he stared incredulously at the blond now stroking his thumb across one blushing cheek, smiling at him like he was the only thing in the world. The blue eyed drummer finally leaned in close enough to reach the blond's ear, voice ghosting over the frozen skin in barely a whisper.

"I saw you." He whispered. "I saw you, waiting for your sister, and after that I looked for you around school every single day until the end of the year." And before either of them had enough time to let it set in, before Demyx had his turn to give Zexion his own incredulous stare, Zexion tilted his lips back down towards Demyx' face and kissed him.

PS. A lot of the shit that goes down in this chapter (...story...) is really, really cliche cheesy shit. I apologize for that. Much of this story was inspired by things that actually happened to me and/or my friends while I was in marching yes, it's absurd and insane and ridiculously cliche and weird...but so was my marching band experience. Except Roxas' confession. I dated the drum major, but he definitely never did anything quite like that.

until next time, love you x3