The music was soft, but it was hard to ignore. It seeped into the room and found its way into Axel's mind, lending an oddly poignant tone to a page full of comic book violence that should have been anything but poignant. Reminding himself that it was just Demyx and Demyx could do things like that because he was weird like that, he tried to continue reading as if he couldn't hear the music at all, to no avail. Whatever Demyx was playing, it caught his attention better than the overdone plot and flashy pictures he was looking at. It almost seemed to be speaking to him personally, consciously trying to tempt him away from the comic book and listen instead, and eventually he gave in, setting the comic aside and stepping to the open bathroom door. Through the opposite door, he could see that Demyx's room was lit only by candles, and he was sitting on his bed with an instrument in his lap and a cup of tea on the bedside table, all of which implied he'd forgotten the rest of the worlds were even there. On the plus side, if that was how he was going to be, he wouldn't mind if Axel just stood in the doorway and listened...

"Axel. Come on in. The acoustics are better from inside the room." ...Then again, maybe he wasn't quite that unaware. Cautiously, Axel stepped into the room, and Demyx stopped playing long enough to pat the bed next to him, indicating where he should sit down. "I was just having a conversation with the kantele."

"...Conversation?" Axel repeated, staring down at the plank-shaped instrument Demyx was holding and privately thinking Demyx was just a touch unhinged. "You can actually carry on a conversation with an instrument?"

"Yes," Demyx answered with an easy smile. "They all have different personalities, too. The sitar is my best friend, hands down - cradle to grave. I can tell her anything, and while she might not agree, she's always going to listen. The violin is more of a therapist - when I've had a bad day and the sitar isn't being understanding, he helps me work it out. The viola d'amore is a charmer, an elegant man of the world that women adore and men want to be like; the koto is a refined lady, shy and demure but a bit of a flirt nonetheless. And the kantele...she's a wise old woman. The kind that always seems to be talking nonsense at first blush, but when you listen to her, you find out she's got a lot to say that's worth hearing. She's seen everything, she knows everything, and she's worked out what everything means. Master storyteller, too. In fact, that's what we were just doing - she was telling me a story. And giving me some advice while she was at it."

Axel had to fight not to roll his eyes as Demyx took a sip of his tea without interrupting his music. "So, she was telling you a story, was she? What about?"

Demyx set the teacup back down very slowly and deliberately and plucked out a few more notes on the kantele, fairly blatantly stalling for time. "It was...about a boy. A boy who'd been sexually abused...ended up a prostitute on the street...a boy who'd never had a friend in his life."

Axel felt immediately sorry he'd asked. "So it's...about you, then," he said, wishing he could find the words to make this whole situation less awkward.

"Shh," Demyx said, still plucking out the notes as if his hands had a mind of their own. "He'd had so many people pretend to be friendly to him just to use or abuse him that he'd stopped trusting friendly gestures altogether. Everyone he met was cruel to him, was going to be cruel to him, or would be cruel to him if they had a chance. Which is why, the first time someone really did try to be friends with him, he wanted nothing to do with it; he did everything he could to freeze him out and push him away, because he was afraid of getting hurt again. Fortunately, the friendly person in question was a stubborn bastard if there ever was one, and just kept trying and trying until he finally broke the ice and made himself the boy's first real friend." He glanced over at Axel and smiled, but his full expression was hard to read in the candlelight. "Not only his first real friend, but the first man he was ever able to trust." Axel wanted to say something at that point, but Demyx would not be interrupted. "Time passed, and all was not happily ever after. When the boy was older, another boy came along, and his friend became so attached to the other boy that he forgot about him..."

"No!" Axel blurted out before he could help himself. "I mean...yeah, I got attached to Roxas, and I spent a lot of time with him from the start, were out with a busted shoulder; you couldn't do much anyway. And when you recovered, you started treating me like I wasn't even there...and I couldn't understand why..." He didn't even know why he was defending himself - from his point of view, he hadn't done anything worse than make a new friend at a point in time that was somewhat awkward for his old friend, and Demyx had turned his back on him for it. Well, given how Demyx's previous, utterly friendless life had been, he might easily have thought... "I never meant to abandon you, I swear..."

Demyx said nothing, just grabbed him into a tight hug. It was several moments before they let go of each other, long enough for Axel to feel a few tears dripping onto his shoulder. What had Demyx thought, way back then? Did it matter anymore? "It's cute how you always wear your heart on your sleeve, or something like that," Demyx murmured. "I haven't finished the story yet...but I think I'm just going to paraphrase the next bit. Despite some rough patches, his friend proved to be as caring and true as he could ever hope for when it mattered the most."

"I like that story," Axel chuckled, unable to stop himself from wiping a few lingering tears off Demyx's face. "Is there more to it?"

"Yeah." Demyx cleared his throat and straightened up, wiping at his eyes. "Um, I mentioned...the boy had been sexually abused, and had worked as a prostitute for a few years, all before he even hit puberty...needless to say, he grew up very confused about sex and sexuality. The way he'd experienced it, it had all been for the pleasure of one at the expense of the other. That was something he never wanted to repeat, or put anyone else through. As he got older, he started to hear things, and learn things - like that it could be a pleasure for both partners, and in fact, it was supposed to be. It gave him enough hope and encouragement to try it again for himself, learn from the Hell he'd been through and try to do it right - but only with women. All the pain and abuse he'd suffered had been at the hands of other men, after all. And he thought he had it all figured out. He knew he was attracted to women, he refused to let himself be attracted to men, so obviously, he decided he was straight.

"And then he realized you can't choose your sexual orientation. Whatever happens to you in your life, whatever you want or wish you could be - you're stuck with what you're born with. You can try to deny it all you want, you can tell yourself it's not so until you actually believe it, you can even take a vow of chastity so you don't have to act on it, you can't change it. And eventually he realized that - he was wrong. He wasn't straight after all."

Silence reigned, as Axel tried to process what he'd just heard and fit it into context and Demyx just watched him expectantly. Honestly, he'd been convinced that Demyx was arrow-straight, maybe even leaning towards asexual...and while he could see why Demyx might be more than a little repressed thanks to his past, the idea of being so repressed he'd even fooled himself about his own sexuality... "You're bi?"

"Yeah." Demyx picked up his teacup, looked into it without taking a drink, set it back down, and spent a moment staring at the kantele without playing it. "I think I realized it subconsciously a long time before I was willing to admit it to myself, but...I just couldn't keep lying to myself indefinitely. I am bisexual. I am attracted to both men and women." He sighed heavily, then looked over at Axel and smiled suddenly. "That's the first time I've said that out loud. It...feels good."

"You're out of the closet now. You're free," Axel declared, hugging Demyx tightly; Demyx only giggled and hugged him back. "So how do you feel now? More like the you you ought to be?"

"Yeah," Demyx said, but it was a little less than enthusiastic, or entirely sincere. Axel pulled away and looked at him, once more unable to read the expression on Demyx's face in the candlelight. He was still smiling, but his eyes weren't quite into it - they looked more anxious than anything. Anxious and...he didn't know what else to call it. Maybe...tender? "Anyway...the kantele sort of suggested I tell you that story. Mostly because it''s Valentine's Day."

"...Oh," was all Axel could think of to say, dreadfully inadequate though it was. Did he mean...was he seriously...well, that would explain...and on impulse, Axel took the kantele, set it aside, and pulled Demyx close. "Well, in that case, let me tell you a story," he said, trying to force his voice not to crack. "Once upon a time, there was a young man, who happened to be bisexual and never thought that much of it. He hadn't had the easiest life either - in fact, he'd lost everyone and everything he ever cared about, and suddenly found himself shoved in with a bunch of old men who all treated him as too young and too stupid to matter all that much. And then there came a little boy, who'd suffered and lost even more than he had, and he felt like he had to help this boy, make friends with him, even though the boy didn't want anything to do with it. And eventually he succeeded. Time passed, life had its ups and downs, and one day he turned around to see that the little boy had become a beautiful young man, with an even more beautiful spirit. And he didn't know what to do, because he knew they could never be more than friends...until now."

Demyx stared up at him as if he couldn't comprehend what Axel was saying. Then he sighed softly, and rested his head against Axel's chest with the most purely contented smile Axel had ever seen. Neither of them said anything; neither of them needed to.


*deep breath*

All right, this was for a contest, and a prompt challenge, for two different groups at deviantART. It's also a sweet bit of romance that's unlike the majority of yaoi PWPs on either site. I didn't even mean to publish it until I saw a comic wherein the artist - who was considering redoing an old comic about a lesbian teen's (chaste) first romance - was asked by a disappointed yuri fangirl to "make it so they have sex in every chapter!" And now, this stands as proof that all boy-on-boy romance doesn't have to involve them banging each other against every hard surface they can find either. :D