By the time Demyx found himself moving into the apartment, Zexion had already been through twelve other roommates of all sizes and descriptions, from the diminutive Roxas to the towering Xaldin. Demyx hadn’t known about that when he’d signed the lease, though; he’d seen a “roommate wanted” sign and jumped for it, not bothering to wonder why a large, affordable flat in a nice area would be open.
Zexion opened the door before Demyx, weighed down by his luggage, was able to knock. “Do you like plants?” the shorter man asked.
“U—uh… Y-yes?” Demyx managed to get his foot in the door before it slammed shut in his face. “I-I mean! I don’t have any plants, they just seem like a good idea. You know. Environmentally?”
There was a pause, and then the door slowly edged open. “Oh,” said Zexion. “I suppose you can come in, then.”
Demyx, though he rarely found himself in possession of the common sense to keep his mouth shut, managed to keep himself from asking certain questions, such as, “What just happened?” and “If you have a problem with plants, shouldn’t you have mentioned that when I first e-mailed you, not when I’m here to move in?” and “Is there a reason you aren’t wearing pants?” Instead, he followed Zexion silently, nodding his head as Zexion gave him a tour and an overview of house rules.
“You will refrain from smoking in the apartment. You will not leave your belongings in the shared living spaces unless they are sanctioned items, such as a toothbrush left in the appropriate sanitary dish in the bathroom. You will not consume potato chips in the apartment between the minutes of 4:47 p.m. and 5:03 p.m. You will participate in daily and weekly cleaning routines according to the schedule listed on the refrigerator. From 1 a.m. until 7 a.m. there will be no loud noises in the vicinity of the apartment, including but not limited to loud phone conversations, firearm practice, and television.”
Okay… that made sense. Most of it, at least. Not asking questions, not asking questions, not…
“Uh… How do you feel about music? I mean, during the day.” Demyx held his luggage closer to himself, protectively. With the exception of the large backpack he was wearing, his luggage did not, in fact, contain any clothing or toiletries. Instead, it consisted of his sitar, a keyboard, and a suitcase full of sheet music and extra strings. He didn’t need potato chips, night-time fun, or even pants.
He needed music.
“That depends on the quality of the music,” came the reply.
Demyx let out the breath he was holding. That was promising. He could play anything, after all. “What sort do you like?” he asked.
Zexion shot him an irritated glance which suggested that he’d already answered this question. “Good music.”
“Oh… Well, if I play something you don’t like, just tell me, and I’ll switch songs or genres, okay?” Demyx smiled brightly, trying to win the shorter man over.
Zexion squinted at him thoughtfully, and then shrugged and headed towards one of the bedrooms, where he shut himself in, leaving Demyx staring at the closed door.
Zexion knocked on his bedroom door an hour later. The bedroom contained a fully-made bed, a desk complete with a lamp and chair, curtains, and a small bookshelf, all presumably courtesy of one of Zexion’s previous roommates. It was nice to have this stuff already here—especially since none of the personal belongings he’d mailed over had arrived yet—but, Demyx felt, the floral curtains and matching bedspread definitely had to go.
He turned toward the door and said, “Come on in!”
Zexion entered and made sure the door was fully shut before speaking. “I’ve done some minor research on your past musical performances, both school-sponsored and extra-curricular, and I’ve decided that your abilities and taste are quite adequate. You may play music in here, as long as the maximum volume does not exceed the noise guidelines listed in the pamphlet I’ve left on your desk, and as long as the music is not played between the hours of 1 a.m. and 7 a.m.”
Demyx beamed and was out of the floral bed in an instant, hugging the shorter boy and gushing gratefully, “Thank you soooooooooo much! I know we’ll be great friends! Should I make dinner tonight? I can make dinner tonight. What would you like? And would you like to borrow some pants?”
Zexion only blinked at Demyx. “I’ve already made dinner arrangements,” he said. “And I’m fine, thank you.”
Demyx knew—he knew--that this was the start of a beautiful friendship. Because in the end, music was all he needed.
Indeed, Demyx was comfortably settled in with Zexion well before he learned what a horrible roommate Zexion was—from multiple third parties.
“And he does a full-apartment inspection every week to make sure you’re living up to his sanitary expectations!” ranted Roxas, the latest to join in the Zexion-bashing conversation.
“Well,” said Demyx defensively, “he lets us check his room, too… He just wants to make sure we’re not encouraging bugs to take up residence, or devaluing the apartment, or anything.” He hadn’t meant to get on this topic. He’d just mentioned to an employee at the student bookstore that he was looking for an interesting book to give to his roommate, and somehow it had all exploded, with more and more people popping up with input. How many roommates had Zexion even had?
Axel quickly took up his friend’s fight. “No flames! None at all! As in, not even candles!”
“Well, they are a fire hazard…”
“He said I was using up too much electricity and limited me to the usage of two outlets total--no power bar allowed. Two outlets!” snarled Larxene, her whole form quivering in fury.
“Well, if the electricity bill was getting too high, I guess…”
“And I only short circuited the apartment three times!” she went on righteously.
Marluxia was crying when he told his story. “He stole all of my beautiful flowers—even the poor seeds!—and tossed them into a compost heap on the other side of town!”
“So you’re where the plant rule came from! Why didn’t he like your plants?” Demyx forgot to defend his roommate in the face of discovering this much-sought-after fact.
“He was allergic or something. And he thought there were too many. As if you can have too many plants.”
“How many were there?”
“Oh, I don’t know. It was hard to count, since they took up pretty much every available surface.”
“…Huh. Anyway, you guys, Zexion’s my friend, and I’m tired of hearing you complain about him. If you hate him so much, just stop thinking about him.”
“Hate?” The whole group of people stared at him blankly. “What? We don’t hate him.”
“He’s our friend, too, Demyx,” said Roxas, rolling his eyes. “He just sucks to live with. Trust me, once you’ve reached your last straw, you’ll be joining us.”
“…I don’t actually have any complaints.”
Roxas looked up at him pityingly. “Sure, Demyx,” he said gently. “Just remember—we’re here for you if you need someone to talk to. Here’s the number to our support hotline. Don’t suffer in silence.”
“Let’s go shopping,” said Zexion.
Neither of the two roommates had a car, so when they needed more than an emergency run to a nearby convenience store, they walked to the bus stop three blocks away and rode to the nearest train station. From here, they had access to anywhere in the city, but they tended to use the supermarket adjacent to the station for most of their shopping. Today, however, Demyx was reminded of a particular chore he hadn’t yet seen to.
“Hey, Zexion? Would you mind looking at some curtains and bedding with me? I’ve been itching to get rid of that floral stuff. Is it left over from Marluxia?”
“No, I chose that out,” Zexion replied, but despite the implied slight to Zexion’s taste, he seemed rather cheered by the sentiment. Without a word, he led Demyx onto a train and toward a home-department store, where the two spent hours going over different patterns and fabrics, eventually deciding on an oceanic theme, and picking up a matching rug and rubbish bin in the process.
“I like blue,” said Demyx, grinning at Zexion as they lifted their burdens onto the luggage rack on their train home. “It’s my favourite colour.”
Demyx saw Zexion’s blush and the self-conscious way the shorter man fingered his hair, but couldn’t think of what could have caused it.
It was a few hours later that Zexion appeared in the threshold to Demyx’s room, hands clasped nervously together.
“Demyx,” said Zexion, “I hope you’ll forgive my intrusion, but you left the door open…”
Demyx paused in his strumming to look up, smiling. “Hey, it’s no problem! So… what’s up?” He couldn’t help but notice that Zexion was not wearing pants. He never seemed to be wearing pants while in the apartment.
“There’s a spider under the lampshade in the living room, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to capture it without harming it. Would you mind helping me? I’d be willing to take over your meal-preparation tasks tonight in exchange.”
“Sounds like fun! But I’d still like to take my cooking turn, thanks.” Demyx had never had a problem with making food, but he’d never loved it, either—until he’d moved in with Zexion and witnessed the other man’s first pleased expression as he tasted Demyx’s cooking. Suddenly, it was one of his favourite activities.
Zexion rewarded Demyx with a small smile and directed him to the lamp in question. The bug-removal process was simple and efficient, and the small spider was soon stored in a cloth-covered jar, awaiting its upcoming return to the wild. Demyx wasn’t sure why Zexion had needed his help, as he hadn’t really done a lot, but he didn’t think much on it; he was always looking for excuses to bond with Zexion, anyway.
“Since you helped me out,” Zexion said shyly, “perhaps I could aid you in the preparation of tonight’s dinner?”
Demyx beamed. “Sure!”
Zexion was by no means a bad cook, but he had a habit of combining strange ingredients in the efforts of creating a more interesting meal. Demyx was positive that Zexion’s cooking was a major reason behind Luxord’s decision to leave the apartment.
His loss, really. Demyx had actually grown quite fond of Zexion’s carrot-stuffed-with-potato-and-onion.
As they sat down to dinner together, Demyx considered that Zexion may in fact be his ideal roommate. Demyx liked the no candle rule, he got along fine without plants, and he thought the sanitary inspections were fun. He still wasn’t sure about the potato chips, but not eating them during those fifteen minutes of the day was no real hardship. Everything was going well, and Demyx continued to think that right up until Zexion tilted his head just so, allowing his obscuring bangs to slide away and revealing a smiling blue twin to match the eye Demyx was normally greeted by every day.
And that was when Demyx met his first straw.
Washing dishes together was normally fun. Zexion didn’t complain when Demyx teasingly splashed him with soapy water, and it gave Demyx more time to talk, something which he always enjoyed. This time, however, he was extremely aware of how close Zexion was standing to him, and how Zexion’s arm would frequently brush Demyx’s when he reached out to take the next dish to dry.
Demyx didn’t realize he was being uncharacteristically quiet until Zexion asked softly, “Did you not like the apple anchovies?” He looked very sad, and Demyx nearly fell over himself to assure Zexion that he’d loved them, and began reminiscing about an elementary school trip to an apple orchard, hoping to fill up the silence.
Once the after-dinner chores were completed, Zexion disappeared into his room, and Demyx decided to take a walk. He gathered up his keys, knocked on Zexion’s door to let him know where he was going, and left. He waited until he was a block away from the apartment before he pulled out his cell phone and dialled the number Roxas had given him.
“Heeeeeeeeello, you’ve reached the ‘Zexion is a shitty roommate’ hotline, Xigbar speaking. What horrific abuses have you been forced to suffer?”
“I—um—It’s nothing bad or anything, I mean…”
“You sound like you’re still in denial. You must be the new one. Demyx?”
“Um… yes. How—”
“We who have suffered living in close quarters with Zexion keep in touch. So tell me… What made you call?”
“Well, uh… It’s just… Um… You know how he doesn’t wear any pants?”
Larxene’s piercing laughter came through the phone’s speaker. “I did notice, though that was never an issue for me. It may even be why I stayed as long as I did.”
Demyx was just able to pick out a muffled, “You idiot, you were supposed to stay quiet!”
“Wasn’t I talking to—”
“So you have an issue with nudity?” asked Roxas.
“…Um… No? Anyway, he’s still wearing underwear, he’s not completely—”
“Hey, kid, we’ve gotta let you go, now.” Xigbar again. “Good luck, and stay strong!”
Demyx sighed, putting the phone away and stuffing his hands into his pockets. He really didn’t have a problem with nudity, but…
But it was only that evening that he’d noticed that Zexion was sort of… attractive. Sort of really attractive. Sort of really gorgeous.
Demyx didn’t tend to look at people too carefully or too critically. His eyes would take in their features, but he’d barely remember enough for facial recognition. When pressed to give details of a person’s appearance, he tended to say things like “Oh, Axel? He likes to wear eyeliner, and he has this really awesome band shirt that’s completely covered in a picture from a live performance on it, I mean even the sleeves—What? Hair colour? Uh…” Nevermind that Axel was probably the most easily-described person of his acquaintance—of anyone’s acquaintance.
So the realization that Zexion was rather pretty was a sudden one for Demyx, and it was taking some effort to come to terms with it, especially since his mental image of Zexion included absolutely no pants whatsoever.
Except, when he wandered back to the apartment, ready to watch the evening news with his roommate, pants were exactly what he saw.
Pants. On Zexion.
He’d only seen Zexion wearing pants when Zexion was directly leaving or entering the apartment, and so his natural question was, “Oh, are you going out?”
Zexion glanced at him mildly and said, “No.”
Demyx was used to one-word answers by now, especially from questions which would generally prompt some sort of explanation, so he just shrugged and dropped his jacket off in his room.
From then on, Zexion was always wearing pants. Demyx could not ascertain why the change had taken place, but he was able to take note of the fact that pants did not, in fact, decrease Zexion’s attractiveness. At all.
Demyx was lying on his stomach in the living room, reading his music-theory homework with the fascination that no other subject could hope to inspire in him, when Zexion walked backwards through the door, carrying a basket of freshly-laundered clothing that was heaped over his head.
Demyx rushed to Zexion’s aid, balancing the basket and stuttering on and on about how he shouldn’t have carried such a heavy load up the stairs by himself when Demyx was right here, waiting to be put to work.
Demyx helped Zexion carry the basket into his room, where the two upended it on the bed and began the long process of folding and hanging. Done alone, it was tedious and boring, but Demyx was able to entertain the two of them with stories about his childhood laundry mishaps, and—embarrassing though they were—it was gratifying to see the way they made Zexion smile.
It wasn’t until the next day that Demyx realized he had left his textbook in the living room—a taboo that Zexion had informed him of shortly after his first entrance into the apartment. Demyx made a special dinner and after they’d eaten, he pulled Zexion aside to apologize; he tried to communicate his sincerity by making his eyes as wide as possible. He wasn’t sure where Personal Items Left in Shared Living Spaces fell in the line of Things Likely to Get You Booted out of Zexion’s Apartment, but he suspected it was at least better than short circuiting the entire apartment, or stuffing it full of various forms of plant life. He thought it might even be safer than eating potato chips at 4:49 p.m., but he wasn’t certain.
“It’s fine,” said Zexion, smiling. “I’d just rather you didn’t make it into a habit.”
“Oh,” replied Demyx, slightly put out. He’d been expecting at least a sharp warning. “Would you still like to try the awesome desert I made as an apology?”
Zexion’s smile grew wider. “Of course,” he said, and Demyx beamed in response.
“Your hair,” said Demyx, with the air of someone discovering a hitherto-unknown landmass brimming with valuable resources. “Your hair is blue.”
Zexion stared at him blankly.
“Well, blue-ish. Slate blue. It’s a sort of—”
Demyx blinked as Zexion stood and walked to his bedroom, shutting the door stiffly.
“Is that a sensitive topic?” he wondered to the empty room.
Zexion came out to prepare dinner at his usual time, and Demyx nearly melted with relief. He’d mentally gone over every possible reason he could think of that could have caused Zexion’s earlier anger, and now he was brimming with nerves, certain that every reason he’d been able to come up with was correct, and that Zexion was furious and would never, ever forgive him.
Demyx landed on the floor at Zexion’s feet and, not to waste this opportunity, grabbed Zexion’s pant-clad ankles and held on as though for dear life, blabbering nonsensical apologies.
“—And I’m sorry that I brought up blue when you obviously don’t like it, and I hope you’ll be able to forgive me, and—wait. My curtains, and my bedding—that’s all blue. Aaaaaah, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry! I nagged you into agreeing with me on the choice, and now—”
“Demyx,” said Zexion, and Demyx immediately stopped talking. “I do like your room’s theme, and I do like blue. And I’m not quite sure what you meant by childhood barber trauma, but no, I’m fairly certain that I did not suffer from any of that. What’s wrong?”
“Y-you’re angry with me,” said Demyx, and attempted to look as cute and cuddly and un-hate-worthy as possible.
Zexion took one look at his expression and burst out laughing. Demyx stared, rather in awe. Zexion rarely even chuckled or sniggered; Demyx had never seen him actually laugh before, and now Zexion was clutching his stomach, tottering from the strength of his mirth. He eventually collapsed onto Demyx, who was still on the floor, and just lay there for moment, with his forehead pressed against Demyx’s collarbone, still shaking with chuckles.
“Is everything okay?” Demyx asked softly, unsure as to whether or not hugging Zexion would be an appropriate response. He mentally thanked whichever deity was responsible for Zexion’s new dressing habits; if Zexion had been lying pantless on top of him, Demyx was pretty sure he would have already fainted.
“Yes,” said Zexion. “Everything’s fine.”
That night, Demyx got a call from the hotline.
…A call from the hotline.
“How did you not notice that Zexion’s hair is blue?!” came Roxas’ voice. The boy was seething.
“How did you know about—”
“Don’t you care about Zexion at all?! I thought you were supposed to be ‘friends.’” Demyx didn’t know that voice, but the man owning it sounded even angrier than Roxas.
“Now, now, Vexen. I’m sure Demyx has a perfectly reasonable explanation, don’t you, Demyx.” Even Axel sounded pissed off. Axel.
The line was, for once, completely silent, as the entire group of hotline members waited to hear Demyx’s ‘perfectly reasonable explanation.’
“I… I just… Don’t normally notice the way people look.”
There was a muffled whispered argument, and then the line went dead.
Demyx stared at his phone for a long time, trying to figure out what had just happened.
Demyx tried it in front of a mirror, first.
“Hey, Zexion,” he said. “I was just wondering if you’ve been telling your former roommates—who may or may not all be crazy, by the way; I think someone should check into that—about things that’ve happened between us. I mean, it’s not a problem if you have been, it’s just that I got this really creepy phone call from them, and I’m really hoping you told them about me not noticing your hair colour, because I’m sort of scared that they might have planted sound-recording devices in the apartment…”
…Maybe it would sound better as a letter.
He was still writing it, trying to make his handwriting do that cool loopy thing that Zexion managed to effortlessly pull off, when Zexion arrived home, book bag in one hand, grocery bag in the other.
“What are you working on, Demyx?” asked Zexion calmly as he began to put away the groceries.
Demyx got up to help, paper in hand. “A letter,” he said as he put the milk in the fridge.
Zexion blinked in surprise. Demyx wasn’t really much of a letter-writing person. “Oh? To whom?”
“You,” said Demyx, trying to find room for the eggs. He moved the milk to the door and stacked the butter on top of a tupperware container, and was finally able to shove the eggs in next to them. He nodded in pride and shut the door.
Zexion was frozen, one hand still reaching inside the grocery bag.
“Zexion,” Demyx asked, concerned, “are you alright?”
Zexion shook himself out of his stupor, but his previous mild mood seemed to have left him. His hands were shaking as he pulled out a can of broth and moved to put it in the pantry. “Yes,” he said. “I’m fine. Why the letter? Why not just tell me? After all, we share the same apartment…” Zexion bit his lip as he trailed off, and clasped his hands together on the counter, as though to hold them steady.
“Yeah, but it’s a sort of tough subject to bring up…”
Zexion let out a short breath and nodded. “I see.”
Demyx was silent for a moment, but when it became apparent that Zexion was waiting for him to explain the contents of the letter, he cleared his throat nervously.
“So…” he said.
“So,” said Zexion.
“So I think your ex-roomies might all be clinically insane.” Zexion’s head shot up in surprise at that, and Demyx hastily continued, “I mean, not in a bad way, just… Um… Did you tell them about how I sort of… er… only just noticed your hair colour?”
Zexion nodded uncertainly, frowning slightly.
“Oh good,” said Demyx, and Zexion raised an eyebrow slightly. “I was worried that they might have bugged the apartment or something, because I got this freaky call from them, and—” Demyx finally noticed that Zexion was staring at him, slack jawed. “Eh, is something wrong?”
“Just… Is that all?”
“Is that all you wanted to say in your letter? You’re not… moving out, are you?”
“Huh? Nononononononononono! I—No! I just—You don’t want me to leave, do you? I promise I won’t leave anything in the common areas anymore, and I won’t make any more appearance-related comments, and I know I was eating those chips at 4:45 yesterday and that’s cutting it kind of close, but I won’t do it again! Pleeeeeease don’t make me leave, I—”
“Demyx!” laughed Zexion. “Didn’t you hear me? Why would I be worried about you moving out if I wanted you to leave? I… really enjoy having you as my roommate, Demyx.”
Demyx collapsed, sliding down the refrigerator and onto the floor. “Phew,” he said.
“And about your other concerns… As a matter of fact, I check for electronic bugs on a regular basis. I know my friends quite well, you see.” Zexion paused, carefully considering his next words. “They told me that you don’t normally notice a person’s physical appearance.”
“They also mentioned that the only complaint you had with living with me was my state of dress while indoors.”
So that’s why… Those little buggers, giving the number for ‘support.’ “Uh… sort of…”
“You have more?”
“Oh, no! Just… that wasn’t really the complaint, they just hung up the phone before I could finish speaking.”
Demyx cleared his throat uncomfortably. “It wasn’t really even a complaint, I just wanted some advice and thought the… er… ‘hotline’ might be able to help.”
“Surely telling me would be the most beneficial of all.”
Zexion sighed. “Nevermind.” He filled the kettle, evidently intent on preparing some tea.
Demyx waited for the tap to be turned off before he said, “It’s just…” Zexion paused in his motions, listening closely. “It’s just… You’re sort of really hot, and I sort of just really realized that around the time I called the hotline—because I don’t really notice the way people look, right?—and the no-pants thing was sort of distracting, and I was wondering if there were a reason for it, or if it were seasonal, or…”
Zexion was smiling as he switched on the stove. “I’m just the sort of person who spends all day lounging with a book or my computer, and pants can be uncomfortable.”
Zexion laughed softly, and Demyx glowed--he’d made Zexion laugh twice now.
“Would you like to go out for dinner tonight?” asked Zexion.
“Uh, sure! Where to?”
“I’ve heard that there’s a nice restaurant a few stops down the eastern line. Perfect first-date locale, I was told, though I’m not sure how much I trust the people who gave the suggestion…”
Zexion’s smile dimmed. “Or we could go as friends. That’s fine, too.”
“No, date is great! I mean… uh… nice? Wonderful? Something that doesn’t rhyme?” Demyx scratched his jaw nervously, blushing.
“Great,” repeated Zexion, his smile small but brilliant.
And following their night out, the pants-wearing Zexion was never seen in the apartment again.