"Nine, microscopic evaluation of your last several sputum samples have proven to be free of acid-fast bacilli. Culture results may take some weeks to become available, but in light of the improvement in your symptoms, particularly the cough, and the fact that previous cultures have proven to be sensitive to all four antibiotics...I believe you are ready for release."

Demyx could have jumped up and danced for joy, except there wasn't much room, and Vexen wouldn't have appreciated it. "Am I going back on duty?" he asked instead, trying to control his more impulsive reactions until he was actually free and clear.

"I would advise against it for at least two weeks, more likely three or more, until you have a chance to rebuild your strength and regain some weight..." Demyx glanced down at himself involuntarily, and winced at just how skinny he was now. It wasn't the skinniest he'd ever been, but he'd shed a lot of weight while he had no appetite at all. "At most, I would recommend light duty around the castle for the time being. Eight has been returned to full duty, so the need for additional manpower is not quite so urgent as it had been. You will be expected to report back here for your medication on a daily basis, though you will be reduced from four antibiotics to two." To emphasize the point, Vexen held up a cup containing only five pills, instead of the nine Demyx was used to. Apparently he no longer needed the multivitamin or the iron pill now either, though he was still getting the extra dose of Depakene and whatever that other pill was.

He had more important things to worry about. "So...that means I don't need these stupid masks anymore whenever I'm in the same room as anyone else?" he asked, ready to rip the surgical mask off as soon as Vexen gave the nod. "And...I can get out of here and sleep in my own bed and everything?"

"That is the entire point of being released from the hospital wing, Nine."

It was hard to tell whether Vexen just had a really deadpan delivery or if he had no idea anything even slightly funny was being said. But he had made an actual joke last week, or something like one, so Demyx was leaning a bit further towards "incredibly deadpan" than usual. "All right, then. I'll take those and get out of your hair for the rest of the day," he said, holding out his hand for the cup.

Vexen handed it over as if he was glad to be rid of it. "Very well; presumably you can find your own way out. Two is ready to be removed from the ventilator, and Kingdom Hearts alone knows..." He was still muttering to himself as he left the room, but Demyx barely cared what he was complaining about. That bit about the ventilator meant Xigbar was recovering to a meaningful degree; that was great in and of itself, and that information would keep Axel from worrying himself to death all the time. But more immediately important to Demyx was his freedom, starting the instant he got the mask off and took the pills - the freedom to leave this room for the first time in two months, the freedom to talk to people without both of them having to wear a mask, the freedom to cough or sneeze or yawn without having to worry about spreading disease, the freedom to go back to something like a normal life.

First order of business, once Benji and the kantele and everything else had been gathered up but even before returning to his room: food. Good, solid food, that would help add weight quickly without being too unhealthy. Nuts - nuts had a good mix of healthy fat and protein, as any informed vegetarian should know. And there were always walnuts in the kitchen. They went well in alfredo sauce, for one thing. Pasta was quick, pasta was easy, and he missed making his own meals. No one should be in the kitchen right now, so he headed out the door of the hospital wing and to the left, straight through the first intersection and right at the second, straight through the next three and right at the fourth...and as he reached the kitchen door, he stopped suddenly, struck by the strangest feeling of deja vu. He'd been this way before, starting from the other direction, or at least part of it...well, of course he had; there were only so many walking routes to or from the kitchen from anywhere, and only one from the kitchen to the hospital wing that he knew of...but he can't have been through there recently. He'd been in the hospital for two months...except he knew he'd been through there not two weeks ago. No; he'd just dreamed about it. Dreamed it into a span of time he didn't actually remember. Except, when he thought about the events that had led up to the accident he'd kept dreaming about...

There was no month-long blank spot. It was all there - the accident, the panic, the worlds-wandering...right on through to the last-second decision to live instead of die. It was all there. Not as a series of remembered dreams from the past two months - it was all there.

But...I just dreamed all of that. It wasn't like...any of it really happened. I mean, it...it's ridiculous...

"Nine, is there some reason you've decided to dedicate yourself to blocking the kitchen doorway?"

Demyx turned and stared at Saix as if he'd never seen him before, then all but jumped out of his way before Saix decided to remove him by force. It wasn't until a few seconds later that he realized - that entire time, Saix was the only one who'd seen him as a ghost. Never mind Axel's description of the car; he might have heard it before from someone else and forgotten it. Saix and Saix alone could tell him whether he'd been dreaming weird shit on weird pills or whether that whole impossible episode had somehow been real. But...well, Saix. How was he going to ask about it? He was going to sound so damn stupid... "Um...Saix," he began hesitantly, choosing his words with care. "I, um...I heard that you...you know things about...interpreting dreams." Really, he'd heard no such thing, but it was common knowledge that Saix wasn't called the Luna Diviner because it sounded cool. If he could read the future from the stars, why not interpret dreams too? "And, uh...when I was in the hospital wing...these past couple months...I had some...pretty weird dreams..."

Saix didn't even look up as he washed out the coffeepot. "Do tell," he grunted, as if he didn't honestly care what Demyx had to say.

Well, it was better than being told where to shove it, and probably the closest he'd get to encouragement. "Well, remember that car accident from way back?" Demyx said, trying not to trip over his own tongue. "I...I kept having dreams...about that. About the month I spent in a coma. Except...I wasn't really unconscious, I was...having a long out-of-body experience, or something. Wandering around as a ghost...I remember I thought I was dead. And I remember...you were the one who told me I wasn't. You were the only one who could see me at all."

While he was talking, Demyx had been addressing his shoes, the table, the refrigerator, the wall - pretty much anything besides Saix. Only when he was done talking did he actually look at Saix, watching his face carefully for some sort of reaction, some hint that he knew exactly what he was talking about, some hint that he had no idea what the hell Demyx was on...and got nothing. Saix's poker face could put Luxord's to shame. Demyx couldn't help but wonder just what was going on behind those yellow eyes...whether he thought Demyx was blowing smoke, whether he knew exactly what he was talking about, whether the fact that Demyx had had these dreams at all meant something horribly bad...and finally, finally, he was rewarded with the faintest of half-smiles. "Still waters run deep indeed," was all Saix said, and all Demyx needed to hear.

"Okay. Um. Thanks - thanks for...for hearing me out. That...that's all." Completely disregarding the entire reason he'd come to the kitchen at all, Demyx took off down the hallway, taking himself and everything he was carrying straight back to the hospital wing. It should have been the last place he wanted to go, when he'd just made his escape, but...he had to. He had to talk to Roxas.

Thankfully, Roxas's room wasn't difficult to find, mainly because Demyx knew his way around the hospital wing so well by now. He certainly wasn't going to wait for Vexen's approval or invitation; he just let himself in as soon as he knew he had the right room. Roxas turned his head in his direction when he opened the door, but his eyes were still bandaged, and he didn't seem able to talk. "Hey, Rox," Demyx said as he sat down in the chair next to his bed, mostly so Roxas would know who was in his room. "Long time no see."

Roxas turned his head in Demyx's direction, offering him a faint half-smile. When did Vexen let you out? he signed, somewhat shakily.

"No more than twenty minutes ago," Demyx answered, ruffling Roxas's hair gently. "I haven't even been back to my own room yet...the reason why is complicated, but I still have the kantele with me. I've gotten pretty good with it by now."

That's good, Roxas signed, his faint smile widening slightly. Am I going to get a concert?

"Not just a concert, a story," Demyx said, setting the whole pile of stuff down and tucking Benji in next to Roxas before picking up the kantele. "First of all...you remember that car accident?"

It's hard to forget.

"Do you remember...Axel wondering out loud, if maybe my soul had gone off on a worlds tour while I was in a coma?"

There was no response for a moment, then Roxas sat halfway up, propping himself up on his elbows, and stared at him with what would probably be utter disbelief if his entire face had been visible. How would you know what he said? You were...in a coma, obviously.

Even though Roxas couldn't see it, Demyx couldn't help but smile. "I was in the room with you, listening," he said, settling the kantele in his lap as he cast his mind back to all the worlds he'd visited, and all the wonders he'd seen. "Because I'd just come back from my worlds tour. If I recall correctly, the last thing Axel said before I woke up was 'when your soul gets back from its big tour of the worlds, we wanna hear all about it'...and, well, I think it's about time you heard it..."


AN: As promised, the epilogue. Roxas was talked about but never seen in the first part, so he had to show up here, just in time for the weirding out of his life. Sadly, Xigbar remains off-camera for now, but he will be back. Demyx was right - anything that doesn't kill the old bastard right off the bat has missed its chance.