Pairings/Warnings/Spoilers: Axel/Demyx, Gaston/Belle/Xaldin (Dilan), Luxord/Aerith AU, Mystery/Horror, Character Death. Some other pairings along the way. Het and Yaoi, Disturbing themes. Nautical Humour/Language.
Summary: When Demyx, a poor reporter and worse writer barely clinging to his job is forced to cover the story of the death of one of his only friends, he decides to start fresh in a new world. His new boss is practically a criminal, his new colleagues are strange and he's stuck covering the very thing he wanted to escape in the first place.
Authors’ Notes: If I owned Kingdom Hearts, I would be very wealthy. Instead, I get to be a research assistant, but certainly not one that works on the heart. Hope you enjoy reading and I love reviews and constructive critique as much as any author. Please leave some - it'd be highly appreciated!!
“Hey Roxas!” Axel called. No response issued from the upstairs bedroom door, and so Axel turned his attentions onto Demyx, already starting to sweat in anticipation of unwanted attention.
He could have hugged Sora for walking in shortly after. He was accompanied by another boy his age with tanned skin and hair that the sun was rapidly lightening from dark brown to a golden colour.
“Roxas!” Sora called out, apparently oblivious to Demyx’s presence. Almost immediately, the blonde boy emerged from his room, confirming Demyx’s suspicions that he had been ignoring Axel’s earlier summons. Sora immediately launched into an excited description of his afternoon. “Hi! You should have come! It was fun! We played Blitzball for awhile, but Selphie got hit on the head by Wakka and then we didn’t have four people to play anymore so Tidus and me found this cave.” He gestured wildly towards the other boy when he said it. “It was so cool. I’ll show you it tomorrow.”
“Hey Roxas.” Tidus said, his voice friendly. He turned to Demyx next. “Hi!”
“Oh yeah. This is Demyx from Dad’s work. Dad sometimes gets him to watch us…I mean, the house when he’s out.” Sora quickly covered his slip in front of his friend. “Hey, Dad…can we have pizza for dinner? Because Tidus is staying.”
“Cool.” Roxas said, but without the bright enthusiasm that the other two boys showed. Then Demyx, realizing with a start that he could tell that Roxas did like Tidus and would be more than willing to put up with his brother’s bubbly friends: New Guy Finally Gets It Thanks to Kids. Feel Good Story of the Year.
It was a step in the right direction.
“Hey, maybe Demyx wants to stay for pizza as well,” Axel said lightly. “He’s our friend, right Sora, and you invited Tidus in front of him. It’s polite.”
The temperature in the room promptly dropped several degrees. Demyx almost immediately backing away from the potential problem, muscles tensing unbidden to run. Tidus seemed mildly confused and distinctly uncomfortable as Roxas turned an angry glare on his father.
“Don’t do that to him Axel. I don’t want you ruining him like everything else you touch!”
“Do you want to stay for pizza with us?” Sora to the rescue again. Demyx should refuse. He could escape. Say he’s having dinner with Cloud, with Braig, that he felt sick. “Okay. That sounds nice.” He voice claimed mastery over his thoughts.
Axel grinned, Demyx looked over at Roxas, trying to tell him it was alright. This seemed to have worked, as the boy’s face relaxed somewhat. As dinner progressed, Demyx was sure he caught a gleam of something in Roxas’ eye, but it seemed to dissolve the next chance he had to look over. He spent an hour there and got a better dinner than the leftovers Cloud usually brought back from the Officers Club. He learned a lot about playing little league Blitzball, but nothing more definitive about Axel.
“Cloud, I’m back.”
Predictably, there was no reply. Two messages blinked on the answering machine and Demyx got a pencil and paper to copy them down for his brother. It came as a shock when they turned out to be for him instead.
“Hey mate, it’s Luxord. Your boat’s ready, so if you get this before 8:00 tonight, stop by and pick it up then. We’re planning go out to the pub with Dilan straight after. It’s custom to buy a round or two for someone when they get themselves their first boat. Braig’s on some date of course. You can get as tanked as you like: Dilan doesn’t drink so he’s going to drive us both home safe.”
To his greater surprise, the second message turned out to be from Dilan confirming the outing. His voice crackled over the speaker, brief and gruff: “Luxord and I are going to head out around 9:00 or so to the Palm Bar. It’s behind the row of buildings where the office is.”
Demyx felt a flutter in his stomach, powerful butterflies that always accompanied change or stress. But wasn’t this a good change? Luxord, Braig and Dilan seemed like friends maybe, people who would protect him against whatever Axel was up to. Maybe one day he could confide in them. Feeling powerful, he scribbled a quick note to his brother and taped it to the phone, then grabbed an umbrella from the closet for good measure. It was starting to rain.
“Alright Demyx. Listen up.” Aerith headed back into the kitchen from the workshop after giving them both their tea, not wishing to interfere with her husband’s lesson. Riku sat by, watching the proceedings with interest. “I figured since you’re new to this, you wouldn’t get yourself a motor on your own, so I picked one up. Take a good look here. It’s not expensive one but it’s well-made. There’s pricier stuff than this out there that’s terrible but they like to sell it to folks who don’t know any better. Anyway, you attach the swivel here, and lower this into the water when you want to use it. Lift it out when you don’t or the gas will leak.”
“Okay.” Demyx smiled, genuine. It was good to know that the whole world didn’t share a desire to swindle him out of everything he had. He focused, trying to make his expression match Riku’s. The younger boy with the silver hair looked terribly smart beyond his years.
“You doin’ okay mate?”
Demyx shrugged, a bit embarrassed. “’mfine. So, when I’m in the water and I want to use the boat, I lower this.” He demonstrated the way Luxord had.
“Yep. Now. This here’s the emergency kit…uh, blanket, storm light, rope, oars, bail, a flare…this cinder block’s gonna be your anchor.” He picked up a block fastened securely with a long length of rope, and hitched the other end to a sturdy o-ring bolted to the side of the craft. “You’ll want to replace the ropes regularly – all of them. The mooring and the one in the emergency kit as well.”
Riku suddenly snickered, breaking his picture of intelligence. His father gave him a stern look to Demyx’s ever increasing surprise, and the boy mastered himself.
“We’re going to take off and put the boat in the marina before heading to the bar.” Luxord informed Demyx. It was raining more heavily when they got outside, but Luxord was prepared for that too. He handed over a neatly folded tarp.
“Oh. Never mind Riku. I’m trying to teach him the family business, but he’s more interested in where he can go with a boat than the construction of the craft itself. If you want to know what the joke is, find a nautical dictionary sometime and look up the cuntline.”
“Kids think filthy words and stuff are hilarious.” Demyx pointed out, laughing a bit under his hand himself.
“I know. I just don’t want him growing up unable to respect a woman…or, I suppose the English language” He gave Demyx a look. “How come you’re not hitched yet mate? You seem to be pretty on with figuring out kids. Don’t you want any of your own?”
The familiar bile of panic rose unbidden in Demyx again. “Um…I…”
“Well, you don’t know anyone here yet. Ask Braig to introduce you to someone nice sometime. He knows most of the women here.”
Demyx chuckled faintly. He wasn’t sure he wanted to give an answer to Luxord’s question just yet, as he wasn’t sure what he really wanted. Most of the men he knew to date, save perhaps Lexaeus had completely intimidated him. On the other hand, he’d also never been attracted to any girl that he could remember. “Maybe.” He said simply, evasively. It seemed to work, Luxord changed the subject. Polls Show that a Whopping 50 are Undecided….
Dilan was waiting for them when they arrived at the bar. He was seated at the counter, reading a paperback novel with apparent disdain for its contents. The rain that was now sweeping the islands was accompanied by a heavy wind, yet none of this seemed to bother any of the patrons in the establishment.
Contrary to the bar where Demyx met Braig most mornings, this place was quieter and quite a bit cleaner.
“So!” Luxord sat down. “Demyx here just got his very first boat.”
Demyx nodded and accepted the pint of beer that the bartender slid across to him, stammering thanks when Dilan passed her the munny, a rather soppy, desperate expression on his face he’d never seen before on the man and hoped never to again. It was honestly rather more frightening than his usual scowls and leers.
“That’s Belle.” Luxord pointed out, giving Demyx a kick under the table. He immediately tried to make his expression one of polite curiousity as Dilan turned back to face them. “Her father, Maurice is an inventor. Brilliant, but he’s a little…older now, so Belle’s working here for awhile to help him out.”
“Nice to meet you.” Belle called over, once again confirming the Island folks apparent disregard for the privacy of others. “You must be Demyx Strife. Lieutenant Cloud’s brother from Twilight Town.”
Unable to say anything else to that, Demyx nodded. “That’s right.”
The evening passed peacefully enough, Demyx halfway through his beer and under the distinct impression that Dilan was looking to get him drunk enough to loosen his tongue.
He was only halfway through his first drink when an immense clap of thunder heralded the arrival of a sopping wet, unusually pathetic looking Axel. He found their table in a moment, green eyes unnaturally huge in his thin face.
“It’s Roxas! He’s…run away.”
Luxord was out of his seat in an instant, followed by Dilan.
Braig was waiting in Axel’s car, looking far more bleary-eyed than normal, but mercifully alert and much calmer than Axel. “Little shit took the boat.” He growled.
“He might not have right?” Axel said again. “I mean, you said he could have gotten scared by the storm and gone inland without tying it back up, right?!”
Demyx’s insides felt like ice. All he could see was Lexaeus, laying prostrate on that stretcher, water-bloated and unnatural blue. He couldn’t think of Roxas like that.
“…in your boat?”
“Demyx, are you in any condition to try and look for Roxas in your boat.” Luxord repeated, seriously. “Take a lifejacket if you think you can keep your head. We’ll do better if we’ve got two people on the water and Braig’s had way too much liquor already tonight to safely operate a vehicle.”
Demyx found himself nodding. He tried to remember what Luxord had told him. Undo the moor rope, put the motor in the water, then start the engine… That was right, wasn’t it?
“Send up a flare if you find him.” Braig called back to him as his already cold fingers fumbled with the tarp and the moor line on the boat.
He wondered morbidly if Roxas might have thought that dying would be worth it to escape Axel.
The water was rough going, but Luxord had been right about the engine. It kept him going reasonably straight, even though the waves threatened to knock him off course by stubbornly going the other way.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been out there. He gave a fleeting thought to the level of fuel in his engine, all the while calling Roxas’ name through the rain.
“Shit.” He had gotten close to the shore, and there were a few shapes barely discernible drifting in the water. With his heart in his throat, he made his way towards it. “Oh…shit, Roxas.”
The boy’s body floated there in the frigid water. He was wearing a life jacket and was face up, but his eyes were definitely closed. Demyx feared the worst when he jumped out of the boat and his legs hit the frigid water. He dragged the boy from the shallows with one hand and his new boat as much as he dared up the shore. They seemed to be in a small cove. Close to Roxas had been bobbing, there was a hard plastic suitcase that was unbelievably and unusually pink. Wondering if this might be Roxas’ ‘supplies’, he fished it out of the drink
“Blanket…c’mon.” he coached himself into retrieving the supplies Luxord had brought, stripping Roxas of his wet things and wrapping him in the blanket. Once that was accomplished he sent up the flare and felt on the cold neck for some sign of pulse.
“C’mon Roxas…” Demyx laid him back on the sand. He hadn’t needed to do anything remotely resembling CPR since taking swimming lessons when he was in his teens. “Don’t die. We were all really scared. Axel was really scared. I know Sora’s going to cry.”
He leaned down, blowing breath into Roxas’ lungs and holding his nose closed, hoping he was doing it right. He compressed the chest the best he remembered, then tried again. Five times, and finally, Roxas coughed up water. It was milky-coloured and disgusting and splattered all over Demyx’s already wet pants but he didn’t care.
“De…” was all that Roxas could make out, and Demyx pulled the blanket around him, holding him close.
“Is this your suitcase?” he asked him – anything, anything to keep talking. He vaguely remembered something like that, and he didn’t trust himself not to stop babbling either. “Of course it is. I’ll open it, and we’ll see if your clothes are dry.”
“N…not…” Roxas was still too cold to get words out properly. Demyx tried to pry open the two halves of suitcase, but they were locked tight. Demyx groped around Roxas’ discarded clothes and eventually deduced that the key must have fallen out. A small jagged rock lay close on the beach and he started endeavoring to hack apart the clamps. If it was that tightly closed, perhaps no water had gotten in after all.
“Damn!” and then there was a click. The suitcase sprang open and Demyx yelled, screamed and grabbed Roxas. Scrambling as far away from the pink monstrosity and its watery horrors as he could get.
“Demyx?” Roxas finally managed.
“There’s a HAND. A HAND. Roxas…what were you doing with a hand in that suitcase?”
The thing, slimy and gelatinous with water and sea plants slid with a squelch out of the luggage to lay on the beach, glistening in the moonlight just within the traumatized pair’s line of vision.
To Be Continued…
* A link to all previous chapters archived on ff.net. Since my journal is now 100% friends only, all previous chapters are now archived there.
** Crossposted to khyaoi