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Dance, Everyone, Dance!

Chapter Text

“Day fifty-seven,” Roxas announced, crawling out of the black sleeping bag he’d bought exactly fifty-six days ago in Twilight Town’s marketplace.  He rubbed stretched and rubbed his eyes, staring out over the clocktower’s ledge.  The sunset, or sunrise as it seemed in the morning, looked as bright and red as ever.

Xion sat up in her purple sleeping bag and stretched too, letting out a giant yawn.  “Every day’s a number to you, Roxas.”

He shrugged.  “Habits die hard.  And there’s not a whole lot else to tell how much time’s past since we got back.”

“It’s nice, though,” Xion climbed onto the ledge, “not doing missions every day.”

“Or getting lied to.  Or having to kill each other,” Roxas added, and they laughed.  Since Sora had accidentally set them free while releasing Ventus, the past seemed so far away.  It still hurt sometimes if he remembered too much, but that was obvious.  They’d been through some rough stuff back in the Organization.

“Hey.  Morning, Axel.”  Roxas kicked the side of his bright-red sleeping bag, but Axel just pulled it farther over his head.  Kicking or dumping water on his head were usually the only two ways to get him up, and the first didn’t seem to be working today.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t any water on hand.

“Come on, sleepyhead,” Xion said, trying to yank his pillow out of the cocoon.

Axel poked his head out.  “Sheesh, I come back and find you two living it up after I spent a year finding my heart in the Realm of Darkness, and you two still have to wake me up early?  You’re almost as bad as Saïx.”

“Do you really want to waste your whole day sleeping?”  Xion asked, ignoring the insult.  Axel was always grumpy in the morning.

Axel just yawned and stared at her in response.

“I think that’s a yes,” Roxas said.  He joined Xion on the ledge.  “Hey, we could always just push him off.  That would wake him up.”

Sighing, Axel flopped out of his sleeping bag.  “Just because the laws of gravity mysteriously disappear whenever we jump or fall doesn’t mean you have to have so much fun with it.”  He sat on the ledge too, ruffling his hair.  “So, if I’m not allowed to sleep, I’m sure you two have something better to do planned.”

Roxas and Xion glanced at each other.  They’d hoped Axel would come up something to do, as usual.  In the fifty-six days since they’d returned to Twilight Town, they’d already used most of their ideas:  climbing trees in the woods outside the mansion, ice cream eating contests (Xion won, to Axel and Roxas’s surprise), pranking the Dusks that liked to hang out around town (they’d had a lot of fun with that since the Nobodies had the annoying habit of pranking them when they were in the Organization), and some other stuff.

“We could… uh…”  Roxas tried to think of something.  When you spent most of your life doing nothing but following orders, it was kinda hard to think of stuff to do just for fun.  He didn’t even have any memories of Ven’s or Sora’s to fall back on.  Maybe it was better that way – he wasn’t them.  He just wanted to live his own life, now that he had the chance.  He just wished he knew exactly how to do that.

“Maybe… no.”  Xion shook her head.

“Guess there’s nothing to do without fighting for our lives on a daily basis.”  Roxas grinned.

“Are you saying you miss the Organization?”  Axel asked.

“No way,” Roxas said quickly.  “It’s just…  Xion and I’ve never had normal lives before.  All we know is fighting.”

Axel nodded, lying down on the ledge with his hand behind his head.  “Well, the universe never stays peaceful for too long.  And with everything attracted to your keyblades, I’m sure you’ll be the first to know when something happens.”

Swish

Xion’s head whipped around, but there was nothing behind them that she could see except the clocktower wall.  “What was that?”

Roxas summoned his keyblades.  “If I had to guess, something happening.”

A wet something tickled them from behind, and the tune to Simple and Clean began to play.  Without any idea how or why they were doing it, the trio began to sing along.

“We are very bored,” they sang together, hopping up onto the ledge and linking arms.

“We have some cardboard,” Roxas sang alone.

“Yay!”  The other two chimed in.

“Let’s burn it!”  I dare you to guess who sang that.

“Wait no—”  Xion unlinked her arm from Roxas’s.  “We could use it to build an epic fort, tonight

Roxas shrugged.  “There’s nothing else to do.”

They began the first verse together.

“We’ve already, climbed all the trees, out there-”

Axel had to insert a pyromaniac moment.  “And burned a building (fire!), right to the ground, and said-”

“We didn’t mean to do that,” they sang together, “we were just trying to toast, some s’mores-“

“But Axel got carried away, ‘cause he’s a bit of a pyro.” Roxas and Xion pointed to their friend before they all grinned and sang together again.

“And now we have to run from the cops!”

The chorus began again.

We will need duct tape, and just to be safe—”

Wait!”  Xion finally realized something.  “Why are we singing?”

“And what is up with the random background music, playing?”  Roxas asked.

Axel frowned thoughtfully.  “I really don’t know…” 

 “It’s Simple and Clean?”  They sang in a whisper.

“The daily things-”

Like ice cream on the clocktower,” Roxas sang in the background before they all joined in together again.

“Aren’t keeping us busy.”

“This song confuses me…”  Roxas wanted it to end, but there didn’t seem to be any sign of that happening soon.

“What is making us sing?”  Xion asked.

“Who cares?”  Axel shrugged.  “At least we’re doing something, other than wandering around, and ranting…  Why do I figure that Demyx has something to do with all this?”

The three of them posed dramatically due to some force outside of their control.  “Maybe we’ll have an adventure!”

“What about the fort?”  Roxas asked to begin the third chorus.

Let’s save the cardboard, for something else,”  Xion suggested.   “Right now, we need to figure out why we are randomly singing.”

Axel interrupted randomly, “Hey, I found duct tape!”

“Duct tape!”  They began the high-pitched part loudly, “Let’s use it on whoever did this, and tape them to a tree.”

“My voice really hurts now,” Axel sang scratchily, “It’s hard to sing really high pitched, like this!  How long is this song?”

“When we find that guy,” Roxas and Axel sang, “We will make him cry, “Please! Have mercy!” No way!  Making us sing a song that was sung by a girl, is not fair to us guys.”

Xion took the next high part to tease them.  “Oh, please, you guys are just over-reacting, to a few little high notes.”

“Regardless of singing, we still feel kinda bored right about now, let’s go get ice cream!”

To Axel’s annoyance, the high-pitched part repeated AGAIN.  “Hang on!  I thought that would be the ending, of this random song.”

They sang the last lines of the song together. 

“This has been going on, for exactly four minutes six seconds, right now!  Is it over yet?”

They had to wait for the instrumental ending to finish before they could move out of the dramatic poses they had struck earlier, at which point they quickly turned around to see a watery human-shaped image disappear.

“Finally!”  Axel shouted hoarsely, rubbing his throat.

“What was that?”  Xion asked.

“Didn’t you listen to me sing?  I think it has something to do with Demyx.  I mean, a watery-looking thing and music appearing at the same time?  Who else could it be?”

Roxas was already rolling up his sleeping bag and sending it into the realm of hammerspace through a dark corridor.  “Let’s go find out!”

Chapter Text

“Ow!”  Riku yelled, clutching his head.  A coconut thumped into the sand next to him.  “What was that for, Sora?”

Sora was whistling and trying to look innocent, but failing epically.  “It wasn’t me!  It was… uh… uh…  an evil monster!  Heartless!”  He summoned his keyblade and swung it haphazardly at the air, killing a few unlucky ferns.

“Whatever.”  Riku was used to it by now.  Eventually he figured his head would become hard enough for him to be pelted by melon-sized hail and not feel anything.   Since about a week after they’d gotten home, Sora had started acting a little weird.  Well, more than a little.  It seemed like he either had brain damage to the point of seeing things, he was going insane from all the crazy things they’d seen in the past, or he was bored out of his mind.  Probably all of the above.  The emotional damage from fighting monsters that came out the most disturbed person’s worst nightmares was too much for most young teenagers to handle.  It was a miracle he himself wasn’t having issues after being possessed by darkness for so long.  The only way he had handled it had been to explain everything to himself while looking in a mirror to get a hold of himself, then take everything he could learn from the psychotic adventure out of it, and shove everything else to the back of his mind.

Sora was different, though.  He was great at putting on a happy face, but since there wasn’t anything to keep fighting against or anyone to save, no fighting to let out the fear, the memories were getting to him.  Riku couldn’t hear the whimpers he let out during the nightmares he had each night from his own home with his parents.  He was just glad to see his mom and dad after two years and even more glad that they believed all the crazy things that had happened.  That might have had something to do with the fact that they’d been stuck in a remote part of Traverse Town during the first Kingdom Hearts – er, their first adventure.

But it was all over now.  Everything was fine, or at least that was what Riku told himself.  Except for Sora’s sudden change in personality, that was.  Why couldn’t they all just go back to normal?  He knew the idea was stupid.  How could you be normal after everything they’d gone through?

Riku sighed and took his eyes off of his friend, who was trying to reach some coconuts that would probably soon be launched at his head.  He walked away to go sit on the paopu tree next to Kairi.

“What are you thinking about?”  He asked, burying his own thoughts.

She continued to stare out at the sunrise.  “What would our adventure have been like if we had sailed out on the raft?”

Riku glanced at the unfinished remains of what had been their, well, mostly his, work.  “We’d probably be somewhere in the middle of the ocean and starved to death by now.”  He laughed even though it wasn’t funny.  Food didn’t magically appear out of nowhere, and after being on his own adventure during most of Kingdom Hearts II *drills tiny hole in Fourth Wall* he realized they’d greatly underestimated how much food the three of them could eat.

“He guys!”  Sora hopped onto the tree, shoving himself between Kairi and Riku.  “Are you ready to go on an adventure yet?”

Riku facepalmed.  “Sora --“

“Well, I guess it is a little boring around here,” Kairi said, never one to disagree with Sora.

“Aren’t you tired of getting kidnapped?”  Riku asked.

“Yeah, that part stunk,” Kairi said.  “But without Ansem, Maleficent, or Organization XIII, we can finally go on a normal adventure!  I could even use my new keyblade.”  She summoned Destiny’s Embrace and waved it around triumphantly.  She was still disappointed the boys had gotten to take care of all the important fights.  She was a keyblade wielder, too!  In fact, she was the only one who’d had a keyblade passed down from a true keyblade master!

“We don’t know for sure that they’re completely gone.  When Aqua came, she said Axel had helped her escape the Realm of Darkness.  The rest could be out there, too,” Riku reasoned.

“So we’ll fight them again!”  Kairi yelled, holding her keyblade over her head.

“That’s the spirit!”  Sora said.

Riku sighed.  Kairi had been through a lot just like him and Sora, but she’d never been fighting for her life at the front of the action.  How could she know the terror or battle, trying to get up enough energy to drink a potion when you’re surrounded by Heartless on every side, just barely clinging to consciousness?  And how could Sora want to go through that again?

Sora rambled on about courage and friendship and the strength of the heart, blah, blah, blah, blah, while Kairi cheered enthusiastically.

Swish

Riku’s head perked up, trying to locate the sound over Sora’s monologue.

Gurgle, gurgle?

Gurgle!

Swish, swish-swish

“Quiet!”  Riku yelled, trying to focus.

The melody of Sanctuary began to play, and the three teenagers felt wet hands poke their backs.  Another musical number was about to grace this fanfiction with its insanity. 

“What is with this background music?”  Riku asked, singing to the backwards part of the song.

Sora jumped off of the tree and held a fist up in the air.  “Let’s say goodbye, to this island again, yeah-ah-ah!”

“I’m ready to fight!”  Kairi jumped next to him and waved her keyblade.

Still, neither of them listened to Riku.  “What is with this background music?”

“Come o-on Riku, come o-on Kairi, don’t you-ou-ou want to finally go together?”

“There’s no threat this time,” Riku pointed out.  “What is with this background music?”

“Exactly, what could go wrong?”  Sora grinned, ever the naïve one.

Riku sang the first verse alone.  “Why can’t we stay and re-elax, like nothing ev—er happened?”

“It’s not that simple, being normal’s hard now, it is.”  Well, Sora was right about that.

“How will we leave?”  Kairi asked.

“What is with this background music?”

Again, Riku was ignored as Sora sang to Kairi.  “Ventus told me, about keyblade gliders, we’ll fly off into the sunset heroically!”

“You’re full of yourself!  What is with this background music?”

Sora put his hands on his hips in a taunting pose.  “Well I did save, the universe.”

“Stop and listen!”  Riku yelled, fed up with Sora’s bragging.

“Why are we si-i-inging?”  Sora and Kairi finally asked.  “We’ll have to go figure out!”

“What is with this background music?”  They wondered together.

Riku sighed.  “We’ll have to go figure out…”

The next verse started up, and Riku growled in annoyance.  “What gives?  Authoress!  I just want-ed to-o-o take a break for on-once!”

“Well that wouldn’t make, a good fanfic would i-i-it?”  Taliax sang happily through a hole in the fourth wall.

“Stop breaking me!”  The wall replied, somehow singing as well.  Even though it had no mouth.

“What is with this background music?”  Riku asked to the one person who might be able to answer.

“That’s confidential, figure it out yourself,” Taliax replied unhelpfully.

Sora and Kairi hopped up and down in excitement.  “Yay let’s go right now!  Wait we’re still si-i-i-inging!”

Taliax laughed.  “It will wear off soon.”

“What is with this background music?”  Riku muttered on cue.

“So long for now!”  Taliax sang with a salute before the Fourth Wall shoved her back into her own universe.

“Go on, now, get out!”

Sora and Kairi were now holding hands and spinning in circles, so Riku was left to finish up the song.

“My ears, they bleed…  We really can’t sing…”

He sighed.  “When will we stop singing this song?”

 Right then, it seemed.  “I know we’ve been through a lot of weird stuff, but that was the weirdest.”  Riku jumped off the tree trunk, listening to the giggles of Dancer Nobodies and the gurgling of water in the distance.

“Let’s go on an adventure to figure out where those things came from!”  Sora said.

“We should check the island first.  There could be more still here,” Riku said.

“Oh.  Yeah, I guess so.”  He hunched over in disappointment, then perked up again.  “But we’ll go on an adventure after that, right?”

“Sure.”  Riku sighed, walking inland.

“Well whatever those things are, I want to be the first to fight them!”  Kairi said, following.

Riku turned to glance at her in surprise.  Violence wasn’t normally Kairi’s thing.  She had always been the one to break up Riku and Sora’s childish fights in the past.

Something was definitely wrong with Riku’s friends.  How long would it be before he started going insane?

Chapter Text

“Pokémon!  Gotta catch ‘em all!”  An old man belted from his apartment’s balcony.

“This is Halloween, this is Halloween, pumpkins scream in the dead of night!”  A young girl chanted at the top of her lungs.

“But there’s no sense crying over every mistake, you just keep on trying ‘til you run out of cake!”  Olette yelled, dancing in the street.

Everywhere Roxas, Axel, and Xion went, the town was filled with people singing the most random songs imaginable.

“Has everyone gone madder than when Zexion drank Vexen’s experimental Fish-Flavored Energy-Boosting Soda?” Axel wondered aloud.

“DO YOU LIKE WAFFLES?” A kid yelled from the top of a building, holding his arms out like he was about to fly.

“YEAH WE LIKE WAFFLES!”  A ton of citizens, crowded together in the town square, screamed.  Roxas clutched his ears and the three ran past into a slightly quieter alley.

“We haven’t seen Demyx anywhere,” Xion said.

“But his water clones are all over the place,” Roxas pointed out.  They were playing their water-instruments (how does that even work?  Don’t ask) to the tune of what each person was singing, which turned the normally quiet town with peaceful background music into a roaring, chaotic turmoil of noises.

“Something’s definitely not right.”  Xion frowned.

“Well, there’s no way we can do anything with all the noise and insane people around here,” Roxas said, pointing to a group of kids who were doing the Caramelldansen with a water clone and two Dancers.

“I don’t think Demyx is here,” Axel said.

“Why not?”  Roxas asked.

“If he was trying to prank us, and trust me, he probably was, he would’ve been too scared to stick around.”

“Well that does sound like Demyx,” Xion said.  “And not to be rude, but isn’t he usually too lazy to bother anyone?”

Axel shrugged.  “That’s not being rude, that’s being honest.  I didn’t even know he got out of the Realm of Darkness.  Last I saw he was chasing Chester-“

“Chester?”  Roxas interrupted.

“His ‘pet’ Heartless.  We were all more than a little crazy back there…  Anyway, he wandered off somewhere and I couldn’t find him.  I’ve got no idea how he escaped, but who else could’ve done this?”  He gestured to all the craziness that surrounded them.  “Even if he’s gone now, we gotta go find him.  He made us sing a girl’s song!”

Xion rolled her eyes and tried to hide her laughter.  Now that Axel had his heart back, he tended to get worked up over stupid things.  On second thought, he’d always been a little like that.

“We don’t have anything better to do,” she said.

“But where do we look now?”  Roxas asked.  Four old ladies, arms linked together, suddenly skipped around the corner of a building singing ‘Super-cali-fragilistic-expialidocious’ with the most cheesy grins Roxas had ever seen plastered on their faces.

“Can things get any weirder?”  Xion wondered aloud.

“Never ask that.  You’ll tempt the authoress,” Axel said as a group of tough-looking teenage boys, including Seifer, moonwalked past while singing the Barbie Girl song.  “See what I mean?”

Roxas and Xion just stared, wondering what the world had come to.  They had to find Demyx, quickly.

“Let’s get out of here,” Roxas said.

“I knew Demyx when I was a kid.  Not that well, but I know he lived in Radiant Garden, same as me.  If he’s returned he might be there.”

Somewhere, glass shattered from an earsplittingly high-pitched note, and the three friends cringed.

“Let’s just go!”  Xion said as Axel opened a dark corridor.  They all ran through, glad of the peaceful quiet on the other side.

XXX

Xion sighed happily.  The background music here was full of energy and seemed almost majestic.  Not as peaceful as Twilight Town’s soothing theme, but anything was a welcome change from the mass chaos they’d come out of.

“How are we going to find Demyx here?”  Roxas asked, looking at the size of the city.  A castle towered in the distance, reminding him of the clocktower, and several streets led off of the circle they were now standing in to all different places in the city.

Axel ruffled his hair.  “Walk around and hope we hear more terrible singing?”

Nobody else had a better plan, so they picked a random street and followed it to a square lined with houses, a solitary Moogle shop off to the side.

“So… This really used to be your home?”  Xion asked as they walked.

“Yeah.”  Axel still didn’t feel like talking about his past.  For all the talking he did, he didn’t say a lot about himself.

“Hey, what’s that?”  Roxas asked.  They’d reached a flight of stairs that led down to the fountains, where three water clones were being fought by…

“Lexaeus?  Zexion?”  Axel called, breaking their concentration long enough for one of the clones to touch them.

Forget what they’d said in Twilight Town.  Lexaeus and Zexion singing and dancing to the tune of I’ll Make a Man Out of You was the most hilarious and awkward thing they had ever seen.

 “Let’s get down to business,” Lexaeus sang, which sounded something like a roar.

“To defeat water clones!”  Zexion picked up.  Roxas, Axel, and Xion were glad he could actually sing, especially after the Twilight Town chaos.  “I hate that we start singing, when they go and poke us!”

Lexaeus took the next two lines.  “They’re the saddest foes we’ve ever met, they’d die in a hit or two.”

They both pause in confusion and point at each other.

“Mister I’ll make a man out of you!”

“Annoying as a Demyx, yet not as noisy,”  Zexion sang, casting Thundara on a water clone.

“It would be nice to summon weapons,” they commented, “How come we can’t right now?”

Lexaeus punched one in the face, not needing a weapon to be lethal.  “They’re a slippery, wet, and lazy lot, who would rather dance than fight, but they won’t come out of this still alive!”

Zexion dodged out of the way as a water clone tried to whack him with its water-sitar.  “I’d rather be reading right now.”

“I wish that I could just stop dancing!”  Lexaeus did a little Irish jig while the water clones (and Roxas, Axel, and Xion) laughed hysterically.  They stopped when the Silent Hero kicked the clones while dancing and destroyed them all.

“Boy was I a fool in school for cutting gym…”  Zexion grumbled.

“You’re not even fighting for real!”  Lexaeus couldn’t help pointing out. 

Zexion cast a few more rounds of Thundara, but the water clones kept coming.  “So what if this is an illusion?  Why should I be here if I can fight from bed?”  It was his most useful, recently-perfected skill, though it still took as much focus as fighting in person.

More water clones show up on the stairs and push Axel, Roxas, and Xion into the water below, where they land with a splash.

“Be a man!”  Axel sang, glad he could use a deeper voice than when he sang to the tune of “Simple and Clean.”

Lexaeus barely spared him a glance.  “Nice of you to drop by.”

“Be a man!”  Axel repeated.

Xion glared at him, hands on her hips.  “Hey, I’m a girl, that’s not very fair.”

“Whatever!”  He had to sing a girl’s song, so he saw no reason for Xion to complain about things not being fair.  “I wish that I could catch these things on fire!”

The entire group sang together, “This is a very weird afternoon!”

“Time is racing towards us,” Zexion sang, “’Til these clones will die!

“If we could stop this dancing, we’d easily survive!”  Lexaeus rumbled.  The others weren’t having so much trouble, but the poor man had two left feet and all the grace of a large rock.

“So Demyx has been to this world too, have you seen him anywhere?”  Axel asked, ineffectively shooting firaga at a water clone that seemed to laugh at him. “That thing shot some water at my hair!”

“Be a man!”  Xion (ironically) sang.  “Stop worrying about your hairstyle!”

“Demyx is, still nowhere at all to be found,” Zexion told them.

“That’s too bad.”  Roxas sighed when his Blizzard spell failed to hit the water clone he was aiming for.  “We’ll just have to keep on searching.”

Xion cast a Thundara on a clone while cartwheeling.  “Fighting and dancing is kind of fun!”

“That Demyx!”  They all sang, gathering in a circle and all facing outwards.

“Why is he causing so much chaos?”  Roxas, Axel, and Xion asked.

“That Demyx!”  They repeated in unison.  The clones were closing in all around them; they shot off whatever spells they still had left in their panel arrangements.

“I actually think I might know,” Zexion sang.

“That Demyx!  Where could he be hiding?  Somewhere on the dark side of the moon!”

 “Now it’s on!”  Axel yelled, summoning his chakrams now that the song was over.  A water clone shot a stream at his face, and he growled.  Roxas summoned Oathkeeper and Oblivion, putting on his best ‘thou shalt perish/Imma keel you nowz’ expression.

“Wait, what’s that?”  Xion said as soon as she summoned her Kingdom Key, her eyes unfocused.  “A… timer?”  Out of the corner of her eye she could see numbers counting down from ten.

Axel paused as he was about to lunge, letting his vision defocus, and Roxas did, too.

“Seven… six…” He muttered.

“Quickly, you have to defeat them before-”  Zexion, or rather the illusion of him, started to say.

Three… two… one…

Roxas, Axel, and Xion blacked out.

Chapter Text

The World That Never Was.  Riku really didn’t want to be here.  Awful, awful memories that he didn’t want to remember played in his head:  mostly when he had to turn into Ansem to defeat Roxas.  One of the most painful experiences of his life, but it was over.  Sora had saved Roxas and Xion, the people he’d had to hurt, and he was rid of Ansem.  He didn’t have to think about it.

“Whatever it is has to be here!”  Sora said confidently.

“Sora, we don’t even know if this is connected to the Organization yet,” Riku said, staring up at the huge skyscraper, which brought back more memories of his fight with Roxas.  On a difficulty scale of one to ten, that battle was ranked eleven.  Where was that anti-Nobody or whatever he was now, anyway?   Hopefully back with his friends somewhere better than here.

“But you saw a Dancer Nobody, right?”  Sora asked.

“I think so, but I’m not positive.” 

Everything except Memory’s Skyscraper was in ruins.  The other buildings had been cut in half or were in the process of crumbling, and the streets had giant cracks running through them.

All kinds of Nobodies were also running through the streets in a state of utter panic.  At a table that sat outside the shattered window of what used to be a restaurant, a cloaked man sat sipping a cup of tea.

“Looking for something?”  Sora, Kairi, and Riku turned at the British-sounding voice.  Of course, none of them had ever heard of Britain or ever been to Earth at all, but they could recognize the accent.

“Hey!”  Kairi shouted angrily.  “I know you!  You fought Sora and wouldn’t let the rest of us help!”

The man chuckles and threw back his hood.  “So I did.  I suppose by now formalities are in order.  My name is Luxord.”

Riku thought he was rather gentlemanly for a villain, especially when he held out a black-gloved hand for him to shake.  He awkwardly accepted the gesture.

“I’m Riku, and that’s Sora and Kairi.”  He pointed to the other two, who were staring at him.

“Riku, he’s in Organization XIII!”  Sora said.  “You don’t just shake hands with bad guys!”

“Organization XIII?  No, that is no more.”  Luxord waved a hand at all the ruined buildings.  “What was once our realm is now a dilapidated ruin.  What I once thought was a noble order searching for our lost purpose was only a petty scheme for power.  The lesser Nobodies see this and have gone mad without their masters.  Only Axel’s Assassins and my Gamblers have remained calm, as well as Demyx’s Dancers, for some reason.”

“Dancers?  I think that was the kind of Nobody I saw on the island,” Riku said.  “Who is Demyx?”

“Sora should know, he was the one to take his piece.”  Luxord sipped from his black teacup, ignoring a Berserker that chopped down a light post, nearly crushing him but landing just barely behind his chair.

“Take his piece?”  Kairi asked.  “Oh.  You mean kill him.”  Way to be blunt about it, Riku thought. 

“Sora did do a lot of that.”  Riku turned to his friend who still looked angry about talking to Luxord.  “What Organization member would control Dancers?”

“I killed an annoying one once,” Sora huffed, arms folded.  “The wimp kept shouting ‘dance water dance!’” He said this in a mocking tone, “and summoning some stupid water clones.”

“Like those?”  Luxord pointed to a group of them as they started to rock out on their water instruments.

“Let me at ‘em!”  Kairi yelled, jumping forward and summoning her keyblade, but Riku held her back with one arm.

“Wait, let’s see what we’re up against first.  It doesn’t look like they’ve noticed us yet.”

Eight Dancers gathered around the water clones in a circle and began to, well, dance.  The other Nobodies stopped running all over the place and smashing stuff, pouring in from all over the city to investigate the music.  Soon the space in front of Memory’s Skyscraper was filled with dancing Nobodies.  It was quite an interesting sight to see.

“It seems Demyx’s pawns have started something,” Luxord said, not very surprised.

“Well we’re gonna finish whatever it is!”  Sora yelled.  “Right, Kairi?  Kairi?”

“YAAAHHHH!”  She had already broken away from Riku and charged at the Nobodies.

When did she become the impulsive one?   Riku wondered, rushing to get her back.  There were way too many Nobodies for anyone to take on alone, except maybe in the way Axel had before he had died.  The way that had caused him to die, more importantly.

“You can’t run into a battle like that,” he said.  “You’d be killed in seconds.”  Kairi just pouted, crossing her arms and muttering about how she never got to do anything fun.

More water clones appeared, melting into the crowd as the clones playing the music increased the volume, blasting the melody of “This is Halloween”.  The Dancers began to make some weird noise that sounded like hissing and screeching.

“What’s going on now?”  Riku asked.

“They are singing in the language of the lesser Nobodies,” Luxord explained.  “I shall translate for you.”

“Dusks and Dragoons, all Nobodies, hear our song, we’ll ever say ‘please!’  Join with us we’ll have some fun, spreading music to everyone,” the Dancers sang in one loud chorus while they danced around in front of the skyscraper.

“We are Nobodies!”  They chanted, and the other Nobodies echoed.

“We’ll be unstoppable together!”  The Dancers cheered.

“We are Nobodies!  We are Nobodies!”

The Creepers chimed in, “We’ll be strong, like we were not so long ago.”  Their form of dancing looked rather like spastic flailing and stomping around, which was probably all they could manage with their awkward limbs.  Though, there were a few Creepers that seemed to be breakdancing remarkably well.

The Dusks flew into the air and sang,  “It’s our world, all Nobodies sing!”

“This our song of Nobodies!”

The dancers took lead of the song again, leaping on top of the sturdy Berserker Nobodies.  “We are the ones who will build Kingdom Hearts!”

 “Wait how will music help our ultimate goal?”  The other Nobodies asked in reply as the Berserkers shook the Dancers off.  A few were unfortunate enough to be bashed into extra-nonexistence.  The other Dancers regrouped and danced in front of the crowd again.

We can make a keybearer do our bidding, killing Heartless and being forced to sing!”

“We are Nobodies!   We are Nobodies!”

“Nobodies, Nobodies, Nobodies, Nobodies!”

“In this world, we call home!”  The Dusks sang in what sounded like a falsetto to Luxord.

“We’ll band together and sing our song!”  All the Nobodies cheered together, apparently excited at the idea.

The Sorcerers floated above the others.  “In this world, no more chaos now.”

Creepers jumped about and accidently smacked the Gamblers with their feet-hands.  “All Nobodies wait for our new leader!”

“Coming quickly the new and better lord, he won’t go and sacrifice you for nothing!”  The Dancers boomed over the noise of the other Nobodies.

“We are Nobodies!”

Dragoons took to the air and amused the others with their acrobatics.  “Fly around,”

“Shoot at things!”  The Snipers stole the spotlight by shooting out what windows remained in the nearby skyscrapers.

“We’re all unique, and that’s just fine!”  The Dancers chanted, “Sing it once, sing it twice,”

“Take a chance and roll the dice!”  The Gamblers chimed in, tossing their dice into the air.

“We’ll raise our moon back into the night!”

All Nobodies dance, all Nobodies sing!”  Louder and louder the song grew, with the Dancers singing loudest of all.

“We are all Nobodies!”

“We are superior to the Heartless!”  The Dusks tried to look important.

“We survived the blackest darkness!”  The Creepers just tried to not look like the lowest of underlings.

Together they cheered, none of the classes of Nobodies mocking the others.

We are united with one purpose!”

But Axel’s our master, he’s been good to us,” the Assassins sang, unsure where their loyalties should lie.  Axel himself had changed loyalties so many times that they couldn’t keep up.

“He doesn’t need your help, don’t put up a fuss!”

“We are Nobodies!  We are Nobodies!”

“Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!”

The chant was overpowering; the Dancers backed the Assassins up against Memory’s Skyscraper.

“Skeptic traitors everywhere, you get to choose but we dare, you to come make history, with your fellow Nobodies!”

The Assassins backed down.  “Fine we’ll come, we want our hearts too.”

“All Nobodies cheer, let us dance and sing!  Lord Demyx will lead us through all the worlds, and dance through the night, make us whole and great again!”

We are Nobodies!”

“All Nobodies sing!”  The Dusks again tried to take the spotlight by flying around, but the Dancers were gesturing to the front doors of the skyscraper.

“Won’t you please make way for your awesome overlord?”

Demyx appeared out of a dark corridor, wearing an Organization coat modified to have a black cape attached to it.  That wasn’t the oddest thing, though – he was standing on a platform held up by four Dancers.

“Lord Demyx is King of Water Clones, everyone hail, he’ll be our king now, too!”

Demyx high-fived and waved at the Nobodies that were now swarming him and chanting even louder.

“We are Nobodies!  We are Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!  Nobodies!”

 “In this world, we call home, everyone hail to our Lord Demyx,” the Creepers sang quietly in the moment before all the Nobodies together burst out in a booming chorus. 

“Dance!  Dance!  Dance, water dance!  Dance!  Dance!  Dance, water dance!  Dance!  Dance, water dance, water dance, whee!”

Demyx fist-pumped the air and did a weird version of the full-length Caramelldansen, after which the Nobodies cheered.

 “So my Gamblers have become turncoats as well.”  Luxord sighed.  “Pitiful.”

“Well, uh, now we know what’s going on,” Riku said, still watching Demyx and the other Nobodies dance.   “Kind of, anyway.” 

“Whatever!  I’m gonna kill that guy!”  Sora yelled, cutting through Dusks and Creepers before Riku could stop him.  Demyx stopped dancing in shock while the Dancers carrying the platform relaxed a little, not having to try as hard to support him.

“That’s the keybearer who killed me!  Get him, minions!”  He said in what was probably supposed to be an evil voice.  Not seeming offended by the phrasing, Dancers and every other kind of Nobody swarmed Sora and drowned him in a writhing blob of non-existent arms, legs, and tentacles.  Mary Nobodies were lost in the skirmish, but when the mass cleared Sora was bound with a tendril, squirming on the ground.

“SORA!”  Kairi screamed, struggling against Riku’s firm grip, but he held on.  It was a miracle he’d held on to one of his friends and that Demyx hadn’t heard her outburst.  He was too busy gloating over an easy victory.

“There’s nothing we can do!  If he’d just think for once before charging into things…”  He trailed off, thinking furiously if there was any way to stage a rescue, but he couldn’t come up with a solution.

“We have to do something!”  Kairi pleaded.

“I know!  But I’m not going to get us kidnapped, too!”  Riku yelled.

“It seems we have a dilemma,” Luxord said, sounding amused as the Dancers threw Sora into a dark corridor, heedless of Kairi’s cries.

“We?  You’re going to help us?”  Riku asked.

“Have I not already helped you?”

“Come on, they’re leaving!”  Demyx and all the Nobodies disappeared without a trace, Kairi breaking loose and running into the middle of the street a moment too late.  “He’s gone…”  She muttered.  Before, it had always been the other way around.  It hurt so much to know how Sora must’ve felt.

“He’s only doing what any Nobody would do, with a bit of Demyx flair,”  Luxord said, taking a sip of tea.

“Our best friend just got kidnapped, and you’re going to justify him?”  Riku asked with less pain in his voice than he felt.  Sora could take care of himself, he told himself.  He’d bragged about saving the universe so many times Riku thought he’d punch his friend in the face if he boasted one more time, but every time there’d been someone there to help him.  “You’re a Nobody too, aren’t you?  Why are you even talking to us?”

“I am no longer a Nobody, but I understand how they ‘feel.’  And why not speak with you?  Do you not want my help in finding your friend?”   If Luxord had a heart, then why didn’t Demyx?  He assumed all the other previously-dead Nobodies did now.  At least, he knew Luxord did, and Aqua had said that Axel had one, too.

“YES!”  Kairi nearly tackled him, clutching at the end of his coat.  Luxord just stared at her in confusion.  “We want your help!  Please!

“Err… yes, I shall help you.  Somewhat,” Luxord said.  “Because I have control over time, I have knowledge that would otherwise be difficult to obtain.  But also because of this, I had to sign a contract with Tetsuya Nomura and the authoress of this fanfiction- I apologize for the injury, That One Guy.” 

Is this guy crazy?  Riku wondered, looking around for ‘That One Guy.’  To his surprise someone randomly appeared, hit Luxord with a brick that bounced off of his head harmlessly, and disappeared again.

Riku decided to ignore it.  “Contract?”  He asked.

Luxord nodded.  “So I won’t give too much useful information.  That would ruin the entire plot.”

“Well that’s just great,” Riku muttered.

“I may still tell you what you seek, in the form of a riddle.”

Riku sighed. Couldn’t anything be easy?

“Tell us!”  Kairi begged.

“Begging isn’t very lady-like, you know,”  Luxord said, and Kairi huffed.  “Here is the riddle:  Covered by the substance Demyx enjoys, the birthplace of fangirls and fanboys, disbelieving in magic for wanting fact, anything special is what this world lacks.”

Kairi sniffed, wiping away a tear.  “I thought adventures were about beating stuff up, not about solving riddles and getting your friends kidnapped.”

“What do you think happened on our last adventures?”  Riku asked.

“Can’t you make it any easier?”  Kairi complained, ignoring Riku.

“It pains me enough to make it this simple, but I thought I should give you something close to your skill level.”

“Thank you, Luxord,” Riku said, tapping the piece of silver armor on his shoulder, a gift from Aqua.  Kairi followed by hitting her pink armor piece, and they both threw their keyblades into the air.  They leapt onto the gliders that flew back and were off to find their next world.

I think we’re going to need some help with this, Riku thought.  I think I understand the riddle, but where is the origin of fangirls?

Chapter Text

“Ow!”  Axel yelled, rolling off of the stiff cot and hitting his head on the floor.  Something hard and cold whacked him again.  “Ow!”

He opened his eyes to see Vexen and Zexion beating him with their weapons.  If he was any more conscious he would have caught them on fire, but since he’d just woken up from losing a fight (did that thing with the water clones even count as a fight?  He’d just fainted for no reason.  Maybe he was catching whatever Roxas and Xion used to have) it was a miracle that he could groan in pain.

Zexion panted, dropping his lexicon on the ground with a thud and smoothing his lab coat.  “Okay.  I’m calm now.”

“I’m not!”  Vexen said, bruising Axel’s ribs with his shield.

“Get off!”  He kicked the old scientist, who tripped over the end of his white lab coat and fell.  “What was that for?”

“You did kill us, you know,” Zexion said matter-of-factly, pulling Vexen to his feet.

“It wasn’t personal.”  Axel had to stand up on his own.  “It came down to my head or yours, and I chose to keep mine.  Besides, you had more time to look for your hearts.  You should be thanking me.”  He smirked.

“Hmph.  You still have no respect for your elders.”  Vexen turned to the cot where Xion was stirring.

“Huh?  Wha’ happened?”  She asked, then squealed when she opened her eyes and saw Vexen examining her.  “You!”  She hissed.  She’d gained a lot of memories back after she’d merged with Sora, and she could remember every test he performed on her as clear as day.  All those needles… she shuddered at the thought.

Vexen leered at her.  “You were my creation of science, and you owe me your existence.  You dare to disrespect me still?”

Axel shoved him away from her, his hands burning with fiery sparks.  “Don’t talk to her like that!  She’s her own person; she’s earned that right as much as any of us, way more than you!  Got it MEMORIZED?”  He snarled, making Xion recoil at his sudden fury.

Vexen stepped back, fear he wasn’t accustomed to feeling flashing across his face.  Axel had killed him once when it hadn’t been personal, and he had no doubt the redhead would do it again if it became so.  “Touchy,” he muttered, but didn’t defend himself further.  He’d become a little wiser than that.

Xion still cowered at the head of the bed with her arms wrapped around her knees.  Axel was terrifying when he was angry, and she didn’t know how to feel about him standing up for her like that.  She wished she’d woken up to the normal, laid-back Axel.

Seeing her wide eyes, Axel let the embers surrounding his hands flicker and disappear.  He wasn’t a heartless assassin anymore, and he didn’t want anyone thinking he was.  He’d have to learn to control his temper, something that was a lot harder as a somebody.

“We’re going to have to work together,” Zexion said, stepping between Vexen and Axel.

“Says the guy who was beating me with a book,” Axel muttered, still shooting death glares at Vexen.

“You got the Riku Replica to kill me!”  He yelled, and Xion’s head shot up, startled.  Axel had killed him?  Why would Axel kill anyone?  Zexion had always been polite to her, compared to the other members.  She couldn’t think of a reason Axel would kill him; surely there was a mistake?  But Zexion’s words had been crystal clear.

“Sorry.  Calm,” he took a deep breath, rubbing his temples.  “As I was saying, we have to help each other.  You are looking for Demyx as well, correct?”

Axel and Xion, who tried to get the thought that one of her best friends was a murderer out of her head, nodded as Roxas let out a loud snore, still unconscious.

“We don’t know where he is, but we do know how to fight his water clones.  Someone has to go out and find him, and obviously Vexen and I are not the best candidates for the job.  Lexaeus also cannot go; he works hard just to keep our town safe.”

Axel folded his arms thoughtfully.  “So you’re asking for my help, even though I killed you?”

“Trust me, if we had any other option we would take it,” Vexen said.  “You do owe us, though.”

Rolling his eyes, Axel sighed.  “You could’ve just said ‘please.’ We don’t have anything better to do.”

Once Roxas awoke, Vexen left to go do some field research and Zexion led them to the castle’s laboratory.

“So… you really killed them?”  Xion whispered to Axel, not knowing a better way to word her question.  Roxas kept glancing back at them curiously from where he walked next to Zexion.  It had been difficult to get out of his earshot and she knew they couldn’t talk long.

Axel grimaced.  “I didn’t want to, I promise.  I had to kill Vexen to gain Marluxia’s trust so he wouldn’t target me, and I had to kill Zexion to keep the entire C.O. incident quiet.  It wasn’t the best thing I could’ve done, I know, and I’m not proud of it.  At first I thought it didn’t matter because we were all Nobodies, that I was just giving them a different form of nonexistence, even a better one.  But I’m not the same as I was then.”  His eyes were hard, trying to block out those memories.

“I understand,” Xion said, surprised at how much she honestly did understand.  In a way, she had been forced to fight Roxas because of Xemnas.  Nothing in the Organization had been simple.

Axel smiled.  “Thanks.  Let’s keep this quiet from Roxas, okay?  I don’t know if he would be quite as accepting.”  Xion nodded, and they walking into the lab.

Diagrams of water clones and Dancers covered most of the wall space, and complex maps of the universe covered the rest.  A table with a large microscope sat in the back corner pushed up next to a cabinet full of books with titles like ‘The Origin of Nobodies’ and ‘Darkness and its Effects on the Heart.’  On the right wall was a computer screen as tall as Axel that currently displayed a My Little Pony screensaver that Zexion tried hard to distract them from, but they couldn’t resist laughing at the sheer amount of rainbows and unicorns that could exist in the same area without exploding into sugary happiness.

After they got over the initial awe of the lab, Roxas and Xion had questions about every scientific object that they could get their eyes on, including a vial of fizzy purple liquid that was not grape soda (much to their disappointment), and Zexion was patient with them for a while.  After so many questions about whether things were magical or edible, he had to get on with the real reason they’d come.

“Through sensors we sent out though dark corridors, we tracked the magic levels of many worlds.”  He moved the computer mouse to dismiss the prancing Pegasus and unicorns and pulled up a map of a section of worlds that appeared familiar, which were represented by blue flashing dots with their names written out beside them.  “The flashing means that there has been a spike in water magic in that world from Demyx’s water clones.”

“Why is that one flashing faster?”  Roxas pointed to a world he didn’t remember labeled Atlantica.

“That world has always had a large quantity of water magic, considering it is underwater,” Zexion explained.  “Lexaeus investigated it, but there was no sign of Demyx.  We haven’t found another world that has enough magic to be Demyx’s stronghold.  You will have to search manually.”

“Manually?”  Xion asked.

“Look for clues.  See if Demyx shows up on any new worlds.  Ask the lesser Nobodies, if they’ll still talk to you.  Etcetera.”

“Sounds like a hassle,”  Axel said.

“It sounds like a big recon mission,” Roxas complained.  “I stink at recon.”

“I do remember Vexen complaining for hours about your lack of skill,” Zexion said thoughtfully, making Roxas pout.  It wasn’t his fault he’d been a zombie that day.  “But it can’t be helped.  It’s time for Lexaeus to teach you how to fight the water clones most effectively.”  He opened a dark corridor, and Roxas, Axel, and Xion walked through.

“Time for some practical application,” Lexaeus said, causing Axel, Roxas, and Xion to flinch.

Guess he never did change his methods for teaching limit breaks, Axel thought, feeling the phantom pain of a punch to the face.

Lexaeus just laughed, a noise they’d never heard before that sounded like boulders grinding against each other, and he pointed to some water clones that had appeared by the fountains.  “Defeat those without singing.”

“Right.”  Roxas summoned his keyblades, glad he wasn’t going to be knocked unconscious again that day.  Well, not yet.  Not at all if he could help it.

He ran into the water, drawing the clones’ attention.  I’ll need speed for this, not strength.  Surprise would’ve helped, but I’ve blown that already.  Axel and Xion behind him, he dodged from side to side to confuse the enemies.  Zexion had told him that if a water clone touched them they would start singing, so it would be best to keep out of reach.  Sora hadn’t had to deal with that when he fought Demyx, no, he always got things easy.  Demyx just had to go and learn some new tricks when Roxas was the one trying to save everyone from a terrible singing insanity.

I wish I didn’t stink at magic so much, Roxas thought, barely dodge-rolling past a water clone’s arm and slicing through it.  There’s that timer again!  And that stupid health bar is still in the way!  It blocked his vision out of the corner of his eye, giving him an extra blind spot.  Of course, he’d always had to deal with that when he fought, but he hadn’t been doing that much fighting lately.

Xion launched volley after volley of thunder magic.  “This is too easy!”

“Speak for yourself!”  Roxas yelled, spinning in a circle to take out four clones that had him surrounded.

Axel’s chakrams boomeranged through several enemies and flew back into his hands.  “C’mon, Roxas!  The clock’s ticking!  Where are you ninja skills you so kindly used to beat me up back in DiZ’s prison?”

Roxas ignored the reference to their last fight.  “I’m trying too hard to dodge!  Keyblades don’t have much range, and you can’t throw them as easily as chakrams.”  He jumped away from a water clone as the timer reached fifteen seconds.  There were still a good fifty water clones left.  “We’re not going to beat them all in time!”  He didn’t feel like passing out from shame like last time.

“Hmph,” Lexaeus grunted, chopping through enemies until he reached Roxas.

“What are you do-“ Lexaeus punched him in the face.  “Ow!”  He didn’t have time to complain, the water clones kept coming.  Focusing, light surrounded him and energy flowed through his veins despite the pain as he floated into the air.

“Go, Roxas!  I choose you!”  Axel called.  Roxas yelled something unintelligible and suddenly giant lasers rained down from the sky, lacing through water clones until they were all wiped from existence.

“Hey!  Watch it with those things!”  Axel yelled, a beam striking right between him and Xion, who hopped backwards.

All the enemies and the timer were gone, but Roxas’s light was still spilling over.

“Cut it out, Roxas!”  Xion called.  He was starting to scare her; the entire place was filled with the blinding light, and she heard a girl scream.  What was happening?

The scream was followed by the sound of metal scraping against pavement and an ominous crunching noise.  Roxas finally expended all his energy, falling into the shallow water with a weak splash.

“Glad that worked, but limit breaks hurt!”  Roxas moaned.

“Yeah, and not just for you.  You nearly hit me and Xion,” Axel said, vanishing his chakrams.

“Sorry.”  Roxas hung his head.  “The light was so strong I couldn’t control it.  I could’ve hurt you guys.”

“Don’t feel bad!”  Xion said, grabbing one of his arms.  “You were awesome out there.  Those water clones didn’t stand a chance.”

Roxas looked up, flashing a grin.  “Really?”

“’Course you were!  Just gotta work on your aim.  Got it memorized?”  Roxas nodded.  “Good, ‘cause we don’t have time for worrying about that now.  Look.”  He pointed to a heap of grey and pink metal that Lexaeus was already investigating.

“You just had to come visit your homeworld…”  Riku muttered, untangling himself from the wrecked remains of his glider and removing his helmet.  “How are we going to get out of here now?”

Kairi took off her helmet and saw that her glider was in slightly better shape, if missing one wing instead of two could be counted as better shape.  “I just wanted to fly over and see it since we were right here.  It’s not like I knew we were going to get blasted out of the sky.”

“Well what do we have here?”  Axel asked, walking up to them with Roxas and Xion.

“Axel!”  Kairi summoned Destiny’s Embrace and ran at him, but he kept her back with a thin wall of fire that quickly vanished.

“Sheesh, did nobody get it memorized that I’m a good guy now?  I saved your boyfriend’s life!”

Kairi blushed, lowering her weapon.  “What?”

“Yeah, that was how I died, playing the hero.  Apparently Sora didn’t appreciate it enough to spread the word.”  Axel frowned.

Axel and Kairi weren’t the only old enemies.  Lexaeus glared at Riku, arms folded.

“Lexaeus,”  Riku said, taking a step back.  “Didn’t I kill… you’re all back, aren’t you?”

“Seems like we’re all having some fun reunions today, aren’t we?”  Axel smirked.

“Riku?  You killed him?”  Xion asked, and Riku nodded coldly.  “Did all my friends kill people?”

“I never killed anyone!”  Roxas yelled.  “Axel?...”

“It’s kind of a long story…”  Axel glared at Xion, who blushed and stared at the water around her boots.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Right, I’m supposed to just walk up and say, ‘Oh, by the way, I’ve killed people.  Just thought you should know.’ Because that isn’t awkward at all.”  Axel rolled his eyes.

“Well, not exactly like that, but yeah!  Friends don’t keep secrets!  You never did get that memorized, did you?”  Roxas countered.  “And you told Xion!”

“No, that was Zexion’s fault, but that’s not the point!”

“Then what is?”

Soon chaos had broken out.  Axel and Roxas were in a word war about friendship and trust, and Riku and Lexaeus had their weapons out like they were ready to have a second fight to the death.  Kairi and Xion somehow ended up next to each other watching their friends in horror.

“I thought this wasn’t going to happen anymore…”  Xion said softly.

Kairi sniffed.  “Me too.  I thought this adventure was going to be better, and then Sora got kidnapped, and now we’re stuck here with broken gliders and Riku’s probably going to get himself killed.”  Metal clashed together while Roxas yelled at an increasingly loud volume and Axel tried to restrain himself from strangling him.

“STOP!”  Xion screamed suddenly, all heads turning towards her as a water clone poked her back and ‘Want You Gone’ began to play.

“Well here we are again,”  Xion sang, “Don’t you guys learn anything?”

“Boys can be such idiots sometimes,”  Kairi added.

Xion snorted, letting her eyes scan over Axel, Roxas, Riku, and Lexaeus, all of whom were staring at her blankly   “If you could see yourselves , I think you die of laughter.  Maybe I need to knock some sense right into your heads.”

She did so, literally smacking Roxas upside the head.  “You’re worse than rabid fangirls, fighting over Axel.  So let’s put the past behind us, I think it’s time we moved on.”

Axel looked extremely embarrassed, more because of the fact that Xion had to reference his fangirls when Roxas and Riku’s were just as rabid than because of his behavior.  “Okay, I guess you’re right.”

“Just stop with all the secrets,”  Roxas muttered under his breath.

Axel bristled with annoyance.  “I said sorry give it a rest, will you?”

“I guess there’s no reason I have to fight Lexaeus,”  Riku sang.

Kairi punched a fist in the air in much the same as Sora normally would.  “Fighting takes too much time we have to save Sora!”

Xion began the chorus again, “We’ve still got our whole journey left, don’t know where Demyx is.  If we don’t want to keep singing, we’ve got to go move on.”

Since much of their conflict had been solved, the song began to degenerate into more than the normal level of insanity.

“Rainbow Heartless with mops,” Axel sang with a grin.  “Oh, that was really random.  This singing makes me want to burn something.”

“Well, that sounds kind of fun.  Cheese-filled exploding cupcakes~”  Riku giggled, which was weirder than when  they’d heard Lexaeus laugh.  “Haha now that I’m singing I don’t want to kill quite so bad.”

Everyone else burst into laughter at what Riku had sung, which made his eyes widen in something close to panic. 

“Oh no it’s started happening, I’m going insane too.”

“I think we’re all insane here,” Axel sang.

Xion shrugged.  “Well we’re inside a fanfic.”

“We’re inside a fanfic,” all the characters sang together.

Roxas pointed straight at the fanfiction readers.  “Watch out for the Forth Wall!”

That One Guy made a momentary cameo to throw golf balls at the characters, who happily threw them back.

 “So now do you see how stupid you’re being?”  Xion asked as soon as they finished pelting That One Guys with golf balls and killed the water clones.  Lexaeus, Riku, and Axel shrugged, embarrassed at having been compared to fangirls.

“But-”  Roxas started.

Xion swelled to twice her size.  “ROXAS BE QUIET BEFORE I GLOMP YOU TO DEATH!”

Axel snickered.  “Bet you’d enjoy that.”  Xion couldn’t tell if he was talking to her or Roxas.

“YOU TOO AXEL!”

“You’d enjoy that even more!”  He couldn’t resist teasing.

Xion glomped him hard enough to put an obsessive, rabid, fanfiction-writing, fanart-drawing, delusional fangirl to shame.

Axel kept his witty remarks to himself for at least an hour afterward, a new personal record.

Chapter Text

Sora’s vision swam as he drifted in and out of consciousness.  Thick grey lines kept appearing and disappearing in front of his eyes until he awoke completely.  They weren’t just lines, they were… metal bars?  Where was he?

Of course, Demyx had kidnapped him back in The World That Never Was.  He didn’t remember fainting, but he didn’t remember anything after being thrown into the dark corridor, either.

So he’d been tossed in a cage.  That was rather undignified for someone who had saved the universe not once, but twice!  He wanted to summon his keyblade to cut his way out of the metal-and-plastic crate-slash-really-large-animal-carrier-thing, but he was still too weak to stand.

He settled for peering through the bars for now, seeing that the room he was in was very small.  Dark, too, with only a tiny window letting in the gleam of the near-full moon that seemed closer, as if he was up somewhere high.  Fish tanks took up most of the wall space that he could see from his vantage point except for the plain white door.  He couldn’t make out much of what was on either side of his cage; he would have to press himself up against the slits in the plastic walls to see anything.

“But where in the worlds am I?”  Sora said to himself.

He was startled by the sudden noise of another voice.  “Oh, has the little baby woken up from his nap?”  Larxene said in a sickly-sweet tone, yawning from the cage to his right.  Sora managed to sit up and glance through the slits at her, and she made a disgusted face at him.

“Hey, I’m not a-“ 

“Leave him alone, Larxene,” Marluxia said from the carrier on Larxene’s right.  “Frankly, nobody wants to listen to you speak right now.  And the keybearer might be able to get us out of this place.”

“Who are you people?”  Sora asked.  His memory had been wiped after the Castle Oblivion incident, so of course he wouldn’t remember the Nobodies he had killed there.

Marluxia decided to use this fact to his advantage.  “Just some poor souls who happened to be on Demyx’s bad side,” he answered cryptically.

Sora looked closer at Larxene, since he couldn’t see Marluxia at all.  “You’re wearing Organization XIII coats!”

Saïx’s voice came from the carrier on Sora’s left.  “I do recall your friend Riku wearing a similar coat, and I can assure you he was never a Nobody,” he said, playing along.  It wouldn’t do any good to start a fight, though he knew Sora would definitely turn on him.

“You!”  Sora yelled at him, and he rolled his eyes.  Didn’t the boy realize they had more problems to deal with than past quarrels?  Apparently not, because he summoned his keyblade and bashed it against the wall of the carrier, which shined with a strange energy whenever it was hit.  “I can cut through skyscrapers, but I can’t get out of a pet crate?  Come on!

“Save your energy.  Demyx got the Sorcerers to make it unbreakable,” Marluxia said, tapping on his own wall.  “It also prevents all magic except for the small amount required to summon weapons.”

“At least we don’t have to sing constantly like before,” Saïx said.

“I think my ears are still bleeding,” Larxene commented, and Marluxia rolled his eyes.

“Like you can talk.  You nearly shattered the windows.”

Sora kept banging on the walls, with his fists now.  Because if a magical weapon that’s supposed to open anything won’t work, a fifteen-year-old’s arm strength will.  Right.

“You really are a moron, aren’t you?”  Larxene said.  “IT’S NOT GONNA WORK, KID.”

“She has a point,” Saïx added when Sora ignored her completely.

“Shut up!  I hate you!”  Sora said, tears welling in the corners of his eyes. The Organization kept showing up every time something bad happened, and he wanted to take his anger out on one of them.  I have to get back to Kairi and Riku!  Who knows where they are now…  He probably should’ve been worrying about where he was, but that’s just not how Sora’s brain worked.

“The feeling is mutual,” Saïx assured him, not bothering to point out that the teenage serial killer had murdered all of them.  “But if even the keyblade cannot free us…”

“We’re screwed.  Thanks, Captain Obvious.”  Larxene scraped a microscopic speck of dirt out from under her fingernail.

“No!  There’s gotta be a way out, there’s always a way out…”  Sora had his Kingdom Key out again, hitting the wall with weaker and weaker strikes until he collapsed against the wall, the keyblade clattering to the plastic floor and vanishing.

“Listen up you pathetic brat, crying isn’t going to get us out of here.  Start using your head before I send a knife through it.”  Sora didn’t remember that he had killed her, but she did.  She wasn’t going to suck up to the sniveling kid.  He was too dumb to be of any help.  Sora didn’t know what her problem was, but he could figure that Organization member or not, Larxene was not a good person.

“The barrier prevents that, Larxene,” Saïx said calmly, then sighed.  Despite wanting to save as much time as possible by not arguing, he couldn’t help the aggravation he felt towards her.  “I would be over there ripping out your internal organs if it didn’t.  Hearts are troublesome things in that you have to repress those kinds of feelings.”

“Wait, you have a heart too?”  Sora asked, wiping his eyes and picking himself off the ground.  How had someone as evil as Saïx gotten his heart back?

Saïx’s pointed ears perked up and his head whipped towards the door.  “Yes, now be silent!  Someone is coming.”

“Oh, this should be fun,” Larxene said sarcastically.

“I don’t hear any-“ Sora began, but was interrupted by the squeaking of hinges.

Demyx strolled into the room, flanked by two Dancers.

“Here comes another monologue,” Larxene muttered, flicking a stand of hair out of her face.

“Nice to see you all getting along so well,” Demyx read off of a cue card, grinning as his cape swept out behind him, being held up by another Dancer.  Larxene mimed strangling someone, which he chose to ignore.  “You know, I really surprised myself.  I captured all of you in less than a week, thanks to the omnip- uh, om-ni-po…”  He glared at the cue card, coughing to hide his mispronunciation of ‘omnipotent.’  He had to get the Dusks who wrote his lines to stop using words he couldn’t say correctly.  “Er, awesome power of song!”

“Yeah, yeah, you say something like that at least five times a day.  Get on with it!”  Larxene said, and Marluxia yawned, lying down on of his carrier’s floor and closing his eyes.  She’d been a decent ally in C.O. when she had no part in enemy communications, but now that he had to listen to her talk twenty-four seven he thought he would give anything, even his marvelous pink hair, to have a rock as a next-crate neighbor.

Demyx frowned, glaring at Larxene, and continued reading his cue card anyway.  Nobody had disrespected Xemnas like that when he gave his moon-sermons, and those took forever.  “While you sing, you can’t fight with weapons or open portals, just dance.  Depending on the dance my water clones make you do, I can have you do anything I want!”  He thought about the overflowing pile of dishes that needed washing.  The Dragoons weren’t as efficient with chores as the other Nobodies were, but all of the other types had other jobs to attend to.  Demyx shook his head; he kept getting distracted.  “Since we now have our keybearer with us, how about a demonstration?”

Saïx got ready to plug his ears; he’d already had to endure Larxene and Marluxia’s ‘demonstrations,’ which were more cruel and unusual punishment than he’d ever dished out in the Organization.  His acute hearing had only made the pain worse.

“I don’t want to sing or dance for you!  I hate dancing!  I hate you!”  Sora screamed, stomping his foot like a five-year-old.

“You sure carry a lot of hate for a hero,” Demyx said, tossing the cue card on the ground.  “The only things I really hate are vegetables and work.”  He cleared his throat, aware of how non-villainous that sounded.  “But that’s not important!”

He summoned five water clones that slipped through the bars of Sora’s “cage” and poked him before he could summon his keyblade.  The clones began to rock out to One Week as Demyx unlocked the cage.

 “It’s been too long since I last killed you,”  Sora sang, dancing out of the cage.  “Cut through your water clones ‘cause I’m that cool.”

Demyx scoffed, which looked highly amusing.  Too bad Sora was too busy dancing like a rabid chicken to laugh at him.  “Oh please, you were running around saying, “Stop and stay still, come on, stop killing me”.”

“Yeah right, that sounds more like you.  You realized you couldn’t win, just stall some.”  Sora whacked a water clone in the face, which he claimed was to try and kill it but was actually because he couldn’t control his flailing limbs.

Demyx frowned poutily.  “I did win, you resurrected.  And for cheating I expect you to say you’re sorry.”

“Hold it, you want an apology?  Oh let me think, NO!  And your costume’s dumber than Aquaman!”

“Hey well that’s really mean, he looks cool in orange and green,”  Demyx defended, singing so fast Sora could barely make out his words.  How dare Sora insult his favorite superhero?  Who else would fight crime underwater?  “And this cape was imported from Japan!”

“Don’t care about where it came from.  It’s on you so it looks dumb.  I want to stop singing right now.”  His tongue was getting all tangled from singing so fast.  He really wanted to stop dancing, too; it was a good thing he had pretty much infinite stamina.

“Too bad you’re my prisoner.  I’ll keep you here for until my landlord has a cow.”

“Gonna make a break, jump in a lake, I’d rather be baked in a cake, anything at all to get to Riku and Kairi!”

“Go ahead and try, you’ll start to cry, if you do you’re gonna die.  My lair’s so dangerous we don’t even need security!”  That was a lie, but Demyx was trying to be a villain.  It was his job to try and crush all of Sora’s hopes and dreams.  Come to think of it, maybe he should up the security… Nah, the lesser Nobodies had enough work taking care of all the other chores around here.

“I must admit I really think you’re funny when you’re mad,”  Demyx sang to the bit between the verse and the chorus.  “Your hopeless face makes me feel good being bad.”

“Someday I’ll go and laugh at your funeral.”

“Not if I laugh at yours , which I soon will.”

“You have a tendency to blurt your plans out to me.”  Sora couldn’t understand how he’d been kidnapped by such an incompetent villain.

Demyx grinned.  “That’s ‘cause I’m sure that they’re all gonna work.”

Marluxia and Saïx were actually watching the scene in vague interest while Larxene kept her palms clasped firmly over her ears. Saïx was thankful that at least Sora had a less obnoxious voice than her as the brunette started the chorus again.

“I’ve been thinking you’re a lame villain.  What kind of bad guy goes and gets people to dance?”  Dancing was actually kind of torturous after being forced to do it nonstop, but he wouldn’t let Demyx know that.   “I mean, Ansem was pretty scary.  I still get nightmares from the fight that he gave me.”

Demyx pouted at the fact that he was apparently failing to be scary, but Sora kept singing.

“And Xemnas led an Organization-”

“You know that it’s disbanded now,” Demyx interrupted, annoyed at being compared to his old boss in such a way.

“Only ‘cause I took you all down.  Can’t you see?  I saved all the worlds. So let me go now or else you’ll be sorry.”

Demyx began to dance himself with the start of the next verse, just because he felt like it.  Larxene banged her head against the crate wall to try and distract herself from the scene. 

“Won’t give up that fast, I’m not quite that chicken.  I’ll have you fight clones while the timer’s tickin’.

“Play my sitar, get the show on, rock out ‘til the night’s gone, there’ll be way more songs than this one!

“Unlike Xemnas I have loyal minions, we like to have fun, together we can all stop you!”

Sora rolled his eyes.  “I beat a thousand Heartless in one fight, I’ll beat you just fine, I’ve got all the skills of a samurai!”

“I’m still not cut out for combat,” Demyx admitted, “But I won’t break a sweat, there’s no need to fight when you can sing.

“Gonna get in tune so pretty soon, right around noon I’ll make you dance through the worlds to collect hearts for my underlings!”

“How can I help it if I think your plan is crazy mad?  Gonna stop you easy ‘cause it’s so bad.”

“Don’t ya know that it won’t be quite that simple?  I’ll get Roxas and Xion to catch hearts too.  And when you’re all captured and out of my way, I’ll flood the worlds with a torrent of song!”

Demyx would’ve inserted a maniacal laugh there, but there wasn’t enough time.  “In just one week I’ll be overlord!”

“Not if I take your throat and strangle it,” Sora sang, not able to come up with a more creative threat in the small about of syllables the song allowed.

“I’d say that that’s pretty harsh, I just want to help everyone have a little fun.  Maybe be powerful for once, strong enough to prove I’m better  than Xemnas or you.”

“Today I got caught off guard, but when I get out you’ll really be sorry!”  Sora vowed.

Demyx grinned.  “Somehow I doubt I’m gonna be sorry.”

“That was a test run you’re gonna be sorry!”

Demyx turned and flashed his grin at a Dancer.  “Castle Nemo, new home of Nobodies!”

The water clones pushed a still-flailing Sora back into the pet crate and locked it.

 “Perfect!  That was awesome, you got all that, right?”  Demyx said to the Dancer he’d grinned at, who pressed a button on a video camera and nodded.

“Keep it down up there!”  A scratchy old man-voice yelled from somewhere below.

“Got all what?  What did you do?”  Sora said, angry and confused.

“I recorded us singing so I can put it on YouTube, where I share all my awesome music!  Cool, right?”  Demyx grinned.

Sora wondered what in the worlds a ‘YouTube’ was, but he was more concerned with the ‘sharing’ part.  “So… you mean… a bunch of people just heard us sing?”

“Well, not yet.  I have to upload it first, and then only the people who find it on the internet will hear it.  But that’s a lot of people!  My other music videos already have over three thousand hits!”  Demyx said brightly, high-fiving his Dancers as they walked out the door.  “Don’t get embarrassed, I’m sure everyone will love your high-pitched voice.  Justin Bieber has nearly as many fangirls as us in this world, after all.”

“My voice is not high-pitched!... That much.”  Of course, it wasn’t as masculine as Riku’s, but his friend’s biceps were like mountains.  Surely he wasn’t a normal teenage boy.  “You’re the one to talk; your voice is pretty high too!”

Demyx’s face twisted into an angry scowl, his eyes flashing yellow.  “Does this sound high-pitched to you?”  He asked in such a deep, dark voice that even Saïx stepped away from the front of his cage.  He quickly returned to normal, his usual playful grin plastered on his face.  “I didn’t think so.”

Sora sat, dumbfounded, as the black-caped Nobody skipped out of the room, shutting the door behind him.  “I am so confused.”

Larxene hid her amazement well.  “So he hit puberty for a few seconds.  Big deal.”

Marluxia snored softly, having slept through the entire song and following conversation, but he was woken by Saïx’s commanding voice.

“With the new information he has so eagerly passed out to us, I have formed a plan. If you can all manage to follow orders without complaining, we might make it out without a fight.”

Sora cracked his knuckles, trying to look intimidating but failing miserably.  “And if not, I’ll enjoy beating the grin off of his face.”

Chapter Text

Everyone managed to avoid another fight, repair the gliders, and get caught up on each other’s’ adventures by sunset, when they exchanged what they knew about Demyx’s plan.  The most useful piece of information was Luxord’s riddle, which Lexaeus solved in less than twenty seconds:  Earth.  Fangirls and fanboys live there, over half of the world is covered in water, anyone who believes in magic is considered insane, and until Demyx’s arrival, nothing much of interest had happened there.  Except for that one fangirl attack, but that was a story for another time.

Because it was so late, Zexion let the guests stay in the spare bedroom and wait until morning to figure out exactly how to get to Earth.  But of course, the most important question wasn’t the one everyone was the most worried about.

Despite everything Xion had tried to do to stop Roxas’s emo-ing about always being left out of the loop, he was still avoiding her and Axel.  He rolled out his sleeping bag on the other side of the room, next to Kairi.

“You’d think there would be more than one guest room in a castle this big,” Axel complained, tossing his red sleeping bag down next to the single bed.  “And a small guest room at that.”

“You could’ve taken the bed if you wanted it,” Xion said, swinging her legs off the edge of it.  It was almost uncomfortably soft since she was used to sleeping on the stone clocktower ledge, and she kept fidgeting to avoid sinking into the mattress.  Kairi had refused to let Riku be chivalrous and let her sleep on it, and there wasn’t room for all five of them on the floor, so he and Axel had offered it to her.  She had rolled her eyes but taken the bed anyway.

“Nah, I haven’t slept in a bed in so long I might wake up in the middle of the night and think the ground’s trying to eat me.”  He grinned, but it didn’t reach his eyes.  Xion forced a laugh; she knew it made him feel better when she and Roxas laughed at his comments.  It didn’t seem to be cheering him up this time, though.  “It’s just…”  He glanced at Roxas, who was having an animated conversation with Kairi.

Xion nodded.  “He’s still upset; you know how he can be.” 

“Even threatening to glomp him didn’t work?”  Axel asked, and Xion shook her head.  “I’m surprised; that actually hurt.  I’m sure you enjoyed it, though.”  He teased, and she rolled her eyes.

“Glomping you was kind of like glomping a tree.  You really need to eat more so you’re not so… stick-y.”

Axel huffed.  “I eat just fine, thank you.”

“That’s coming from the guy who let us get away with eating ice cream every night for dinner for the first year of our lives.”

“Fair point…”

“Anyway, back to Roxas,” Xion dropped her voice again, though her friend was in such animated conversation with Kairi that he probably couldn’t hear her anyway.  “I don’t think he’s just ignoring us because he’s upset.”

Axel lifted an eyebrow.  “Hm?”

“I think he’s happy to see Naminé again.”  Xion trailed her hand on the silk silver sheet that shined in the moonlight.  Even though it had only one spare bedroom, the castle was lavishly decorated.

“Naminé?  What happened to her?”  Axel had mostly forgotten about the girl he had let escape from Castle Oblivion.  He tried to forget about everything that happened in Castle Oblivion, actually.

“That’s right; you weren’t, well, alive when it happened.  She joined with Kairi when Roxas joined with Sora.  Before we were freed from his heart, Roxas talked to Naminé all the time.”  Xion had felt a little lonely, but she’d had Ventus to talk to at least.  It had been a little odd talking to someone who looked just like one of her best friends but wasn’t.

“How’d they manage that?”  Axel asked, leaning back on his pillow.

“Some sort of telepathy, because of Sora and Kairi’s connection.  He was pretty quiet the first few days we went back to Twilight Town; he’d actually been a little reluctant to come with me.  He almost talked me into waiting to see if we could get her out of Kairi to come with us, but Aqua told us you were out of the Realm of Darkness and we agreed that we needed to find you.”

Axel smiled.  “I’m so flattered.”

Xion smiled back, though it was a little sadder.  “It’s not right for the three of us not to be together.”

 “I wonder if Roxas thinks the same.”  Axel’s gaze kept ping-ponging between his two best friends.

“Naminé’s very important to him.  For all he said about secrets, I think he missed her more than he said.”

Axel barely hid a mischievous grin, looking again at Roxas and Kairi.  It may have been a trick of the moonlight, but her hair seemed to shine light blonde.

XXX

Naminé smiled, listening to Roxas tell the story of how he had pranked Axel after the pyro had melted his ice cream.  “You two are such good friends,” she said wistfully, speaking through Kairi.  It had been a long time since she’d done that, but Kairi didn’t seem to mind swapping places.  She couldn’t talk to Riku anyway since he was sound asleep with his face in his pillow.  Or at least, he was pretending to be asleep.

Roxas’s gaze shifted over to Axel, who was whispering with Xion.  What secrets were they exchanging now? 

“I dunno, sometimes I’m not so sure.”  His eyes locked back on Kairi’s, but he saw Naminé as he always did, her blonde hair turned platinum in the moonlight.

She put her hand on his.  “Back at Castle Oblivion, he let me escape.”

What?  His mind whirled, partially from the gentle contact, partially from the news that she had known Axel at C.O.  He’d known they’d both been there, but his mind hadn’t put two and two together, and he hadn’t gotten around to asking many questions about what had happened there. 

“Really?” 

Naminé nodded.  “He was the only one who was nice to me.”

“Huh.”  A grin pulled at the corners of his mouth.  So not everything he did at C.O. was so bad… but he still could’ve told me.  His smile faded.

Naminé noticed and smiled brighter to compensate.  “Everyone has things they think are better left unsaid.  Don’t take it personally.”

He hadn’t appreciated it then, but Naminé had tried to tell him the truth about his existence, even if it wouldn’t have made anything better.  She hadn’t kept secrets from him.  The thought cheered him up a little.

“Did I ever tell you about the time I fell off the clocktower?”

XXX

Long after everyone else had finally fallen asleep, Kairi was still trying to get comfortable.  There wasn’t a lot of room sandwiched between Roxas and Riku, and even when she’d been kidnapped, she’d always had space to spread out.

And she’d been thinking of Sora.  Worrying.  He was in the same boat she’d been in before, kidnapped somewhere on Earth.  She wondered if he’d felt as hopeless to save her as she felt to save him now.  Probably not.  He was always so brave and optimistic, so sure about everything.  She had faith he would be okay, especially since she’d given him her lucky charm again, but that didn’t stop the worry.

‘He’ll be fine,’ Naminé assured her from inside her mind.

Kairi sighed quietly.  ‘You’re probably right, but I wish I could do something.  I feel so useless!’

‘I know how that feels.  You’ve got to focus on what you can do, even if it’s not much.  Action is the best cure for worry.  At least, that’s what Roxas said Axel told him.’

‘But what can I do?’  Kairi wondered, thinking back on Naminé’s words, or thoughts rather.  ‘Roxas… you missed him, didn’t you?’

‘You know that.’  Kairi always knew what Naminé felt, but she liked to be polite about it sometimes. ‘It’s wonderful to see him again.  But after this adventure, he’ll probably go and leave again…’

Kairi stood up, stepping lightly over Riku and almost tripping over Axel’s long legs on her way to the door.  She’d been too afraid to try this before, when Sora had told her what might happen, but she wasn’t now.  Naminé’s joy at meeting with Roxas again had been in her, and if Naminé didn’t have the words for that joy, Kairi did.  She didn’t want Naminé’s feelings to be restricted because of her.

‘Don’t worry, Naminé.  You’ll never have to miss him again.’

XXX

Axel rolled onto his back just in time for something to plummet onto his stomach.

“Ow!”  He cringed.  Why did he always have to be woken up by pain?

“Eek!”  Xion squealed at the same time.

Axel grinned as Xion tried to get her bearings, still sprawled out on his lap.  “If you wanted to sleep on the floor so badly I would’ve tried to make room.  Unless you just really felt like sleeping on top of me,” he teased.

Xion stumbled off of him and back onto the tall bed, barely able to see, and accidentally stepped on Axel’s leg in the process.  The moon gave off enough light for her to see her surroundings, but unfortunately not enough for him to see her rolling her eyes.  She should have known better than to glomp him to make him shut up; he may have delayed his teasing, but that didn’t mean he’d decided to drop the subject. 

“I’m just glad the clocktower has a ledge,” she muttered, and Axel laughed, sitting up.

“Hey, where’s Kairi?”  He asked, glancing around the bedroom.  Roxas and Riku were still asleep; Roxas with his mouth leaking drool and Riku with his arm taking up half of Kairi’s space, had she been there.

“I don’t know, but where could she be?”  Xion asked.

“Maybe just the bathroom, but you never know.  You up for a quick adventure?”

XXX

‘Kairi…  Thank you.  But you don’t have to do this,’ Naminé said.

‘I know.  I want to do it.  Sora shouldn’t be the only one who gets to save people!’  Kairi summoned her keyblade, more confident in her half-asleep state than she would’ve been otherwise.

“Over here!”  Xion whispered, pointing to the bathroom door where she’d just seen a flash of light.

“Unless Vexen installed magical toilets, and I wouldn’t put it past him, something weird’s going on in there,” Axel said once he rushed over.

“Like what?”  Xion asked, trying the doorknob.

“How should I know?”

“You know lots of stuff.”  Xion summoned her keyblade.  “It’s just natural to ask.”

On the other side of the door, Kairi was startled by the shine of Xion’s keyblade appearing.  “What was that?”  She asked instinctively.

‘I don’t know, but don’t hurt yourself doing this,’ Naminé said, even though she knew Kairi could be as stubborn as Sora when it came to helping others.  ‘Sora needs you.’

‘And Roxas needs you!  Don’t worry, Sora’s done this twice.  I’ll be fine!’

The point of Destiny’s Embrace touched Kairi’s chest just as Xion flung the door open.

“What in the name of crackfiction?”  Xion yelled.  Axel caught Kairi right before she hit her head on the toilet.

“So she decided to pull a Sora.”  Axel laid her down on the rug in front of the shower.  A fog was materializing out of her, gradually gaining a shape that solidified to become Naminé.  She was still wearing her white dress, which nobody was surprised by except for the authoress, who has no idea how people manage to keep their clothes after getting stuck in someone else’s heart. 

Naminé placed her thin fingers over her heart, looking startled.  “It worked…”

“I’m not sure I’d say that.”  Axel and Xion leaned over Kairi, who was thankfully breathing, though Naminé hadn’t realized it yet.

“Oh no…”  Naminé barely breathed, close to tears.   I told her she didn’t have to!  How could she want to hurt herself like this, for me?

Kairi clutched her head, making Naminé gasp.  “I’m fine, I told you I’d be fine!”  She tried to sit up but didn’t get very far.  “Just a little dizzy.  I’ll get over it.”

Axel lifted her back into his arms, just in case she decided to do anything else stupid.

“That’s what you get for playing the hero.  You got lucky this time; usually that kind of thing gets you killed.  We know that firsthand, right Xion?”  Axel’s green eyes met hers.

“Right.  You should only do something like that if it’s absolutely necessary,” Xion said seriously.

“Yeah, but I’m still alive!  I’m fine!”  She assured them.  Why were they so worried about her?

“Just don’t go doing it again.  What would Sora say if I let his girlfriend get herself killed?”

“He’s not-”  The objection caught in her mouth, so she settled for grunting.  Sora wasn’t technically her boyfriend.  Technically.  Hopefully she’d be able to fix that soon, once she helped rescue him.  

“Not your boyfriend?  Right, and the sky is yellow.”  Axel laughed.

Xion helped steady Naminé, who was having a little trouble using her legs after not having any for so long.

“And I’m sure Roxas would want his girlfriend to have the best treatment, so both of you are sleeping on the bed.”

Naminé blushed, glancing at Xion, who rolled her eyes at Axel as if to say, ‘Sorry my friend’s such a stupid dork.’

Kairi tried to protest, but Axel interrupted her.  “Besides, there isn’t room for six people on the floor, and Xion was dying to be next to me.”

She narrowed her eyes.  If he thought she was just going to stand there and keep taking his teasing without retaliating, he was going to be disappointed. 

He was busy mentally congratulating himself on his weaving his witty remark into the conversation, so he never saw Xion’s punch coming.  It hit him in the solar plexus with a lot more force than he thought could be contained in a teenage girl’s arm muscles.

It was Axel’s turn to be teased when Naminé and Kairi fussed over him on the way back to the spare bedroom.

XXX

“I’ve found it!  I’ve found out how to get to Earth!”  Vexen exclaimed, bursting into the bedroom.

“Not just you, we.  I more than you, actually,” Zexion corrected.  “Wait, who’s this?”  There were clearly more people than there had been the previous night.

 “Huh?”  Roxas groaned, sitting up.  Riku was next to him instead of Na- Kairi, where had she gone?

Riku shook himself awake, yawning and looking around for Kairi as well.

Kairi sat up and stretched, careful to avoid falling off of the bed.  “Hey, I think there’s someone who would like to see you,” she said, tapping Naminé’s shoulder, and the blonde girl slowly pushed off the thin silver covers.

“Naminé!”  Roxas called through an ear-to-ear smile, tripping over Riku and falling on Axel with an “Oof.”

“Sheesh, does everyone have to fall on me?”  Axel complained.  “You’re heavier than she is, too.”  He said under his breath.

“Huh?”  Roxas asked, standing back up.

Is that the only word the kid can say these days?  “Nothing.” 

Roxas ignored him, still heading for Naminé, who shared his large grin.

“Surprise,” she said as Roxas hugged her, then backed away awkwardly once he realized everyone was watching, though he was still smiling like a dork.

“Should we leave you alone, or do you intend on finding Demyx sometime today?”  Zexion asked, not really caring how Naminé showed up as long as they cut the fluff.

“You heard him!  Save the sap for the road, Roxas.”  Axel flicked his friend’s head.  Not that he wasn’t happy for him, but they really did need to get going.

“Hey!”  Roxas pushed his hand away, but he couldn’t think of a much better comeback considering he still had the stupid grin plastered on his face.

“I think I missed something,” Riku said, rubbing his eyes.

“I’d love to analyze the science behind this development, but you need to go!”  Vexen said quickly.  “The water clones are appearing with increasing frequency.  I’ve-“

“You mean we, Vexen.”  Zexion couldn’t just let him have one small victory to himself?  After all, he’d designed the technology behind the world-locator.

“Fine, we pinpointed the universal coordinates of Earth.”  He opened a dark corridor.  “Once you’re there you should be able to find the largest concentration of water clones to find Demyx.  But go get some new clothes first, you’re far too conspicuous.”

Axel rolled his eyes.  “We did recon in giant black coats for years.”

“There are fangirls there.  You’ll be glomped to death if you run into any.  And as much as I’d like to see that…”

Axel glanced at Xion, who couldn’t keep a half-sheepish, half-smug grin off of her face.  “Good point.”

“Let’s go save Sora!”  Kairi yelled, hopping off of the bed and charging through the portal.

“It’s always about Sora isn’t it?”  Riku muttered, disappearing next.

“Get a move on, lovebirds.”  Axel pushed a pink-faced Naminé and Roxas through.

Xion thanked Zexion and Vexen for their hospitality before following them.

XXX

“Are you sure it’s not a castle?”  Roxas asked, staring at the giant building in front of them. 

“It’s a Wal-Mart, Roxas,” Axel said, exasperated.  “I know you were never good at recon, but can’t you read signs?”  They had come out at the edge of a parking lot, luckily avoiding being hit by a brown minivan whose driver was texting.

“How do you know it’s not Castle Wal-Mart?”  It was big.  Weren’t all big buildings castles?  Unless they had a clock on them, that made it a clocktower.  Or if it was taller than it was wide, then it was a skyscraper.  Come to think of it, Roxas had only seen Beast’s Castle, Castle Oblivion, and The Castle That Never Was, so he could be completely wrong.  But it still felt like a castle.  Somehow.

“One, there’s no way anyone would give a castle that stupid of a name.  Two, there are signs telling people that they sell stuff.  Three, shoppers keep going in and out.”

“Ohh,” Roxas said like it hadn’t been obvious.

“Come on, let’s go shopping!”  Kairi exclaimed, dragging Riku behind her.

“Somebody kill me,” Riku mouthed, and Axel gave him a thumbs-up.

“Let’s make this quick,” Axel said to Roxas, Xion, and Naminé, walking through the automatic doors and wondering vaguely if they were magic or science.  “We’ve got more important things to take care of.”

XXX

“I’ve never been shopping before,” Naminé confessed after she and Xion spent fifteen minutes trying to find the clothing section. 

“Me neither,” Xion said.  She kept shrinking away from the odd stares of other shoppers.  Organization coats really were strange for this background-musicless world, apparently.  So much about the place was weird.  “Do you have any memories from when you were inside Kairi?”

Naminé concentrated, conjuring up her Somebody’s memories.  “I think you pick out something that looks like it fits, then go to a dressing room to try it on.”

Xion nodded, turning to the racks of shorts.  It was too bad it wasn’t colder, then she might be able to get away with wearing her black pants.  Every other girl she had seen so far had been wearing ridiculously short shorts, though.  They looked rather uncomfortable.

She walked down the aisle, trying to find longer but still inconspicuous legwear, until she reached some capris.

“Do these look okay?”  She asked Naminé, holding the blue denim capris up to her waist.  They reached down to just below her knees.

“They’re perfect,” Naminé assured her, though Xion suspected she was just being nice.  “I’m going to go look at shirts,” she said, grabbing a pair of tiny white shorts without asking Xion’s opinion and walking around the corner.

“Right.” Xion weaved around racks of clothes, picking a route that avoided as many people as possible while trailing Naminé, who didn’t seem to care who saw her.  She wasn’t used to secret recon missions like Xion.  Maybe that would be a good thing, since it made her blend in better.  Regular people didn’t try to hide behind clothes racks for no apparent reason.

Well, making conversation would make them seem more normal.  Besides, Xion hadn’t really talked to Naminé very much without Roxas around.

 “Are you used to having a body again yet?”  Xion asked, flipping through girly t-shirts that made her want to retch.

Naminé glanced up, pulling a light blue t-shirt with a yellow bird on it from the circular rack.  “I guess so.  I do feel… older, I guess.”  Her body had aged at the same rate as Kairi’s, so she appeared sixteen, just like the rest of the teenagers except Riku, who was seventeen.

“I felt like that too.” Xion ducked behind the clothing rack for a split second as an employee walked by, then remembered she wasn’t supposed to do that anymore.

Naminé looked at her strangely.  “Is there danger here?”

“No,” Xion replied quickly.  “Sorry, just saw someone… old habits die hard.”  She laughed a little, and Naminé smiled.

“I understand.  Riku was always like that, too.”

“Has he been doing okay adjusting back to the Islands?”  Xion asked.  Even though she had left with Roxas to find Axel, Riku had still been one of her friends.  She should talk to him more now that they were all on an adventure together and not fighting.

“Oh, Riku’s been doing fine.  If anyone’s having trouble, it was Sora,” Naminé said.

“Sora?”  Xion raised her eyebrows, finally settling on a loose black t-shirt with a swirling sliver pattern.  “What happened?”

Naminé explained as they headed for the dressing rooms.

XXX

“Sheesh, Roxas, it’s not rocket science.  Just hurry up and pick something!”  Axel was getting impatient.  He’d picked out a pair of khaki shorts with plenty of pockets and a red shirt with the words “You can’t spell AWESOME without ME” printed on it.

“Okay, okay!”  He said, grabbing the first shirt he saw (a white one with Pac Man and some ghosts on it) to go with his black shorts.  “I just wish we could wear our normal clothes.”

“Here, these are normal.  We don’t want to attract any fangirls.”

“They can’t be too bad,” Roxas said, and Axel laughed.

“I forgot, you weren’t in the Organization back when the invasion happened.  You’ll just have to trust me that they’re bad news.”

“You’re not always easy to trust,” Roxas muttered, following Axel to the dressing rooms.

Axel spun to face him suddenly.  “Are you going to hold that against me forever?”  Roxas refused to meet his eyes.  Everything I did was to protect him and Xion, and he won’t forgive me for it?  He hadn’t even done that much that actually affected Roxas, except maybe hide Xion’s secret, and who his Somebody was.  Nothing that he absolutely needed to know.  “Nothing I told you would have mattered.”

Roxas continued staring a hole in his boots.  “Naminé always told me the truth, even when it didn’t matter.”

Axel shook his head, trying to change the subject.  “You’ve gotten so caught up with Naminé in less than one day.”  His standard smirk returned.  “You have a crush on her.”

Roxas’s head shot up, and he tried to hide the astonishment on his face too late.  “I just missed talking to her, that’s all.”

“Uh-huh.  That’s one of the worst lies I’ve heard in forever, Mr. Always-Tell-the-Truth.”

Roxas’s face contorted through several expressions, his blue eyes confused, before settling on resignation.  “Yeah, I guess so.”  He half-smiled.  “No point hiding it, huh?”

“Rox, sorry to break it to you, but you didn’t have a chance of hiding it in the first place.”  Axel leaned against a tall clothing rack, blocking himself from the line of sight of a teenage girl.  You never knew who was a fan and who wasn’t until it was too late, so it was always best to play it safe.

Roxas pouted.  “It’s that obvious?”

Axel grinned and clapped a hand on his younger friend’s shoulder.  “Only about as obvious as the fact that we can’t sing soprano.”

“…I don’t know what that means,” Roxas pouted more.  Axel had to bite his tongue to keep himself from laughing.

“Never mind.  The good thing is, it’s pretty obvious she likes you back.”

“Really?!”  His face lit up like a forty-watt bulb.  Seriously, literally lit up.

“Stop doing that, someone’s going to see you!”  Axel hissed, shoving his t-shirt at his friend’s glowing face and glancing around frantically.  The only people around were a mother and her two children crying that she wouldn’t buy them a new My Little Pony toy.  “And yes, really.  Now come on, let’s get out of here before you blow our cover.”

XXX

“I’m sorry, you can’t pay with this, ma’am,” the cashier told Kairi when she gave him a handful of munny.

“But it’s munny!  Don’t all worlds take munny?”  She asked Riku, who shrugged.  The cashier looked at her like she was speaking a foreign language.

“This is really important,” Naminé said.  “Please, just take the munny.”

“Look, young lady, that’s not U.S. currency.  I can’t accept it.  I’ll have to ask you to leave.”

Axel threaded himself to the front of the group.  “Let me handle this,” he told Kairi and Naminé.  “We’re taking these clothes, whether we pay for them or not.  It’s our munny or nothing.”  Not the best way to handle a situation such as this, but Kairi had already given them away if their clothes hadn’t.  It would’ve been smarter to try and bribe another shopper into buying the clothes for them, but Kairi didn’t know any better.

The cashier picked up an intercom radio.  “Security to checkout five!”

“Nothing it is,”  Axel smirked, opening a dark corridor, scaring the family in line behind them as well as the cashier as everyone followed through (after black coats were unzipped so the three with them could share with the three who were unprotected).

“I quit.”  The cashier walked away from the register, leaving the other people in line gaping in confusion.

XXX

“Where are we now?”  Xion asked, stepping out into a mud puddle with the bundle of clothes and a pair of shoes tucked under her arms, then let Riku out from under the shelter of her coat as Roxas and Axel did the same with Naminé and Kairi.  A dumpster full of smelly garbage stood to her left against a wall, and far to the right past a half-dead field cars drove past on a highway.  Not that she knew what cars were; to her they were just an alien form of animal. 

“Behind a restaurant I saw before we went in.  Let’s go inside; we’ll change in the bathrooms.”   Axel led the way around the building, which Roxas announced after reading the tall sign (for once) was called McDonalds, and held the door open for everyone to go in.  “And remember we can’t buy any food here, so don’t ask.”

They followed orders quickly, avoiding eye contact with the employees and customers as they headed straight for the bathrooms.  Kairi changed into a pink, heart-covered t-shirt and brown shorts, she and Naminé talking about how odd it was to wear shorts instead of skirts or dresses while Xion rolled her eyes at them.  Riku wore jeans, not caring if they were a little warm, and a plain navy-blue shirt.  Everyone threw their old clothes and shoes into dark corridors to someplace where they could find them later.

Xion felt vulnerable without the protective covering of her pants and cloak, like a sheep that had been sheared for the first time.

“It’s freezing.”  Xion shivered, rubbing her bare hands on her crossed arms as she pushed open the bathroom door with her foot.  Even with the warmth of the restaurant’s fryers and sweaty customers, it felt as if she was dunked in cold water.

Roxas pushed open the men’s room door.  “You okay, Xion?”

“Yeah, I’ll get used to it.”  Though hopefully they’d be able to finish the mission and get out of this world before she had time to.

Axel was last out of the bathroom.  “Man, feels kind of weird to be back in regular clothes again.”

“You really, really need to eat more,” Xion told him, surveying his bony arms and elbows that looked like they could stab someone almost as easily as his chakrams.

“I’m fine,” he protested, making Roxas laugh.  Axel glared at him.  “Hey, you’re not the most muscular specimen, either.”

“Hey!”  Roxas yelped in indignation.  Next to them, Riku couldn’t help smirking in his ridiculously buff glory.

“Come on, we need to go,” he said, not wasting time to brag about being the buffest in the room.

 “Yeah!  We’ve gotta save Sora!”  Kairi said.  “Not that we actually know how…”

“We’ll do some recon,” Axel suggested.

“Joy.” Roxas sighed.

“We should split up to cover more ground.”

“Hey, we should do girls versus guys!”  Xion suggested.  One more way to get back at Axel for teasing her.

“But…”  Roxas sighed with a glance at Naminé that reminded Xion of a kicked puppy.

“Um, that’s fine,” Naminé said shyly.

“Yeah.  I guess,” Roxas agreed.

Riku sighed in annoyance.  Getting stuck with Roxas and Axel wasn’t his idea of a fun day either, but he would probably keep them in line better than Naminé and Xion would.  “Guys versus girls it is.”

Axel’s eyes narrowed.  “Who died and made you leader?”  He’d gotten used to being ‘in charge’ when it was just him, Roxas, and Xion since he had the most life experience, and they rarely disagreed.

“It makes sense.  We’re better off only checking places outside and trying to avoid people since our hair still stands out.  The girls can ask around to see it the locals know anything,” Riku said.

“I guess that’s not a horrible idea,” Axel grudgingly admitted.  He’d rather not swap out a member of his trio for Riku, but Xion was tough.  Naminé and Kairi would need her, and besides, she could probably use some girl bonding time.

“Don’t forget to watch out for fangirls or fanboys,” Riku added before they split up.

Finally, they were going to do something useful.

Chapter Text

 “Are you sure this will work?”  Sora asked for the hundredth time.

Marluxia sighed.  “We already told you, we don’t have many other options.”

“Just asking.”  Bored again already, he flung himself at the cage door, making it rock slightly, but then crashed back to the ground as Larxene laughed.  “Ow…”

“Stop that useless display of your incompetence.  The lunar energy is at its prime now.”  Saïx closed his eyes and breathed in deeply, relaxing his shoulders, and drew the moon’s light towards him.  A trail of pale yellow threaded through the bars of the cage and circled around him, alighting in his palms and flowing up his arms before finally being absorbed in.  Saïx’s eyes flashed open, glowing brightly.  This strange moon’s power is strong.  He wasn’t expecting the magic to flow so easily, especially considering the limits on it that this world seemed to have, and it exploded out of him with a roar, blowing off the roof of the pet carrier.  The Sorcerers’ must not have expected them to target the ceiling; even with the enchantment it had been blown to crumbly bits that rained down on Saïx’s head.

“Hey!  What’s goin’ on down there, ya rowdy hooligans?  Go to bed!”  A different old man from the one before yelled from the room above.

“Saïx’s gone wolfy again; does he need a chew toy?”  Larxene mocked.

“Oh, be quiet.  I don’t see you getting us out of here,” Marluxia replied boredly.

Sora closed his gaping mouth.  “But did that wake up Demyx?”

“He can sleep through almost anything,” Saïx assured him.  Axel drawing on his face, whacking him with my clipboard, ranting in his ear… Most things that tended to happen in the Organization.  “But the lesser Nobodies will be coming.”  He climbed up the bars with skill and dropped over the other side, landing gracefully on all fours.  The moonlight poured into him more from there, giving his the strength to shatter the plastic of Sora, Larxene, and Marluxia’s cage roofs.

Sora held his arms above his head to protect himself from the rubble, but a larger piece managed to bruise his hand anyway.  “You’re helping me too, even though I killed you?”  Sora could usually tell the difference between ally and enemy with ease.  If they look scary and/or wear all black, they’re bad news.  Anyone else was a potential friend.  But Saïx’s act confused him; he could escape on his own, after all.

Saïx rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t tell the real reason he was releasing them.  He hated to do it, but he’d play the reformed villain angle.  He guessed he was technically a semi-reformed villain despite his hatred for the kid who killed him, but it wasn’t a fact he wanted to flaunt all over the place.  “I’m not Heartless anymore, and there’s no harm in having strength in numbers.  Hold on to something.”

Sora, Larxene, and Marluxia braced themselves against the walls as Saïx flipped the cages, making the metal bars the floor and the uncovered top an exit.

“Uh… Thanks,” Sora said, rubbing the spot on his head where another large chunk of plastic had hit.

“Dark corridors are still blocked,” Marluxia informed them.  “We’ll have to find our way out on foot.”

Larxene snorted her annoyance as Saïx’s ears perked up, making him seem even more wolf-like.

“Nobodies approaching,” he snarled, ripping the door off its hinges and charging straight into a flood of Assassins and Snipers.

“Wait!  What about us?”  Sora called as Saïx disappeared in the mob.  The blue-haired man didn’t look back.  Like he was actually going to save the idiot who had managed to defeat him.

“I thought a hero” –Larxene spat the word- “Could handle a few pesky Nobodies on his own.”

“A few?  Only Axel’s fought this many and he died doing it!”  Sora was finally starting to use his head to tell when a fight was hopeless.  He wondered for a moment if Kairi had felt so helpless when she was kidnapped.  Did she ever try to escape?

Larxene threw a hand of knives, which he barely ducked under.  “Don’t you dare mention that traitor to me!”

Marluxia was swinging his scythe through Nobody after Nobody in frustration.  It created a wide circle free of enemies with its long range, but more were still pouring through the doorway to fill the gaps.  “We don’t have time for this!  Help me fight!”  He hated Axel too, but they had bigger problems to deal with.  Saïx had the right idea in running straight through, but that doesn’t seem to be an option now.

“So you were with Organization XIII!”  Sora sliced his keyblade through an Assassin that had popped out of the floor in front of him.  It had seemed like there was a room below them, so how did that work?  Did someone underneath them see a bunch of the Assassins’ lower halves?

“Oh look, the kid can see the blatantly obvious!  I’d also like to thank you for killing me last time, by the way, that was the highlight of my life!”  Larxene angrily tried to call down thunder magic, but only got a weak fizzle.  “Why won’t my magic work?”

“How should I know?”  Marluxia asked, annoyed, as he dodged a Sniper and accidentally shattered a fish tank with his scythe.  Guppies and water spilled out all over the floor.  Sora didn’t notice it much, still reeling from the fact that he’d killed people that he didn’t even remember, and the other part of his focus on Heartless-slicing.  She probably deserved it.

Larxene hissed, leaping away from the liquid.  She drank water and took showers like anyone else, and she’d be the first to cut your throat if you suggested otherwise, but her electrical battle aura could cause a nasty shock if she touched it while fighting.  She didn’t know if it was still in effect with the lower magical quantities of Earth, but it was best not to find out.

“When will they stop?”  Sora yelled, swinging his key with less vigor.  Under normal circumstances he would stay optimistic for his friends, but he was only surrounded by enemies.  The long time spent sitting while Saïx had waited for the moon to reach optimal position had eroded his resolve.  He’d felt firsthand how demoralizing and utterly boring being kidnapped was.  How had Kairi survived it?

  1.   Adventure.  EVER.

XXX

“Demyx!  Lord Demyx!”  A Dancer by the name of Jeffery shook his master, who was asleep and drooling on the couch, his arm hanging over its edge.

“It’s no use!”  A different Dancer named Jessica said, exasperated.  “I don’t think he’d wake up if Xemnas himself came and threw a skyscraper at the place!”

“We can’t let the keybearer escape,” a Gambler named Edgar said firmly, tossing his dice in the air and catching them in his empty sleeve.  “There is approximately a five-point-five-seven percent chance the prisoners will defeat enough of the Snipers and Assassins to come for Lord Demyx.”

“That’s a pretty low chance,” Jeffery said optimistically, still shaking Demyx. 

“That’s not factoring in the ten-times luck multiplier for having the hero on their side, or the three-times luck multiplier because the authoress is taking pity on them for now, and she wants something interesting to happen.”

“Oh.”  Jeffery sighed.  He wasn’t very good at math, but he was pretty sure that multiplying things made them bigger.

Jessica jumped up excitedly.  “That makes this an emergency, right?  That means we can use the Kerfuffalator!”

Jeffery and Edgar gasped.  “But it’s not finished yet!”  The Gambler said.

“Demyx would be so sad if it were to break!”  Jeffery exclaimed. 

“And the chance of stability is only twenty-seven-point-four percent,” Edgar added.

“At least he won’t kill us like Xemnas or Saïx would.  And what else do you think would wake him up?”

“Without severely injuring him, the only idea I’ve got other than that is to steal his sitar.”  Jeffery said, thinking.  “Even if we knew how, that would get us in trouble for sure.”

“So it’s settled!”  Jessica ran/danced off to the closet as Demyx let out an extra-loud snore.

“You didn’t listen to my opinion,” Edgar pouted, chucking his dice at Demyx’s face.

“Hey!  Respect our Overlord!”  Jeffery smacked Edgar with his hat-ribbon.

Edgar yelped.  “You were shaking him earlier!”

A boom shook the floor as a certain blue-haired were-Saïx flew out of the hall, trailed by several Snipers whose bullets had no effect on him.  He streaked past Edgar and Jeffery in a blur and was out the front door into the apartment building’s hall before they could react.

The two Nobodies stopped fighting and stared at each other.

“Should we pursue him?”  Edgar asked. 

And get ourselves killed?  He wasn’t that important to Lord Demyx’s plan, anyway.  “Uh… Let’s just pretend that didn’t happen.”

Jessica returned pushing the Kerfuffalator, a giant fish tank on wheels filled with Kingdom Hearts shirts, Demyx plushies, and half-melted sea-salt ice cream bars (still in their wrappers, of course).  A metal chute stuck out of its front, which had been crudely attached with duct tape.  An air compressor on top of the tank pressurized the contents to send them flying out through the chute, causing a surprising amount of pain to any target.  At least, that was the theory.  It hadn’t been tested as the Gamblers had yet to add the finishing touches, namely any way to aim or control the speed at which things were shot.

Edgar had come up with the design long ago but had never had the chance to present it to Xemnas, so he had decided to use it as a gift for their new Overlord.  Demyx thought it was an awesome idea, and the Gamblers surprised the other Nobodies with their engineering skills.  They didn’t spend all their time playing poker and monopoly, after all.

The Kerfuffalator’s original purpose was to distract and possibly injure fangirls, making it quite useful on Earth, but the Dusks had come up with other uses.  One of these was to transform it into a giant water gun.  Jeffery took out all of the ammunition as Jessica and Edgar filled pitchers in the kitchen.

“Where are the water clones when you need them?”  Jessica complained.

“Demyx will make as many as we need when we wake him up,” Jeffery said, stopping to somehow eat one of the ice cream bars with his unopening mouth.  It just disappeared into his face.  “That’ll stop the prisoners in their tracks.”

“’Kay, let’s fire this baby up!”  Jessica called over the rising roar of fighting Nobodies.

Edgar turned a dial on the back of the air-compressing unit and hoped for the best.

XXX

“Get your slimy tentacles off of me!”  Larxene flung her knives at an attacking Assassin.

Snipers rained down bullets, which cracked the remaining fish tanks.  Sora dodge-rolled out of the way but crashed into a wall, leaving him open to the next volley.  He felt dizzy and tired, but he couldn’t understand why.  He’d saved the worlds twice!  He’d fought a thousand Heartless!  But, now that he thought about it, Ven had been inside him the first time, and Roxas and Xion were there as well when he fought Xemnas.  Maybe… maybe they were the reason he’d been strong. 

Sora shook the pessimistic thought away.  He could do this!  He had to get back to Riku and Kairi!

Keyblade flashing, Sora kept on the offense, plunging down the hall through the Nobodies, leaving Larxene and Marluxia behind.  At first the wave repulsed him.  It felt like he was tangled in a mass of vines, but he kept going, his shoes digging into the carpet and his key paving the way forward.

“No fair!  Prisoners aren’t supposed to escape, especially not while I’m sleeping!”  A dripping-wet Demyx whined.  “Do you have any idea how tiring it is being an evil overlord?”

“I don’t have time to listen to you monologue!”  Sora made a dash for the door, but Demyx strummed his sitar and summoned ten water clones to mob him.  He could have easily taken them out if he wasn’t so tired, but they surrounded him too quickly.  Sora was forced to dance back to his cage while singing to the tune of Magic Dance.

“This reminds me of the time,” Demyx sang.

“What time?”  Sora asked.

“The time I caught Saïx.”

“How’s that?”

“My clones overpowered him-”

“No way!”

“Yes way!  He’s tough, but I’ve gotten tough too~”

Demyx belted out the first verse with no regard for Sora rolling his eyes.  “I saw that X-Face, when I was in Radiant Garden.  What did I do?  That guy had been so mean, he always gave me work to do.  And so I knew-”

One of his water clones played an out-of-tempo guitar riff, and Demyx had to glare at it for a moment before its shoulders slumped and it sheepishly set its water-sitar down.

“What kind of magic spell to use-” Demyx continued singing.

“Blizzard, magnet?  Thundaga, mega flare?”  Sora suggested.  “Zero graviga?”

“All those are wrong~”

Demyx danced circles around Sora.    “Dance water dance,”

“Dance water dance,” his Nobodies echoed, though Sora couldn’t actually understand their hissing language.

“Dance water dance,”

“Dance water dance~”

“Get that stupid spell off me!”  Sora unhappily sang.

“Sing water sing,” Demyx chanted.

“Sing water sing,”

“Sing water sing,”

“Sing water sing-”

Sora interrupted, “Your annoying song makes me, want to kill you, naturally.”

Demyx pouted, “Oh you’re no fun, get into the music and I might give you, a cookie.”

”All my friends are gone.  I’m tired and I’ve been trapped, in a pet carrier!”  Sora yell-sang.  “What am I gonna do to you?  Maybe a hundred years, I’ll force you to hear rap!”

Demyx gasped, “That’s not even singing!  But you still can’t~”

Demyx and his Nobodies launched into another round of “Dance water dance” that Sora was getting really tired of hearing.

“You sang that already,” Sora interrupted.

After another round of “Sing water sing,” Demyx tossed in, “I won’t stop singing, it’s too fun.  Way more than heart collection.”

After a couple more rounds of “Dance water dance” and “Sing water sing,” Sora felt about like Roxas did when he demolished the computer room in the Old Mansion.

“You’ve reminded me why,” Sora sang to the same tune that played at the beginning.

“Why what?” Demyx asked.

“Why I first killed you.”

“Oh that.”

“You wouldn’t stop the music-”

“‘Course not.”

“Why not?”

“It helps me when I’m going to fight.”

To prove his point, Demyx summoned more water clones as he sang,  “Dance water dance, ooh ooh ooh, dance water dance, ooh ooh ooh, dance water~

.

“Maybe I’ll give you a quicker death,” Sora mused.  “A keyblade to the face, or send you to space.”

“I’m gonna win this time!”

“You’re out of your mind!”

Demyx broke back into his extremely repetitive chorus, “Dance water dance!”

“Dance water dance!” His Nobodies echoed, sounding tired by now.

“You can’t fight well when you’re dancing.”  Demyx smirked.  “Sing water sing!”

“Sing water sing,”

Sora kept trying to summon his keyblade, but it was useless.  “I can’t even hear myself think.”

 “Like you think when you’re not singing,”  Demyx retorted.

“Dance stop this dance, stop this dance,”  Sora sang in desperation.

“Dance stop this dance, stop this dance,” the Nobodies echoed exhaustedly.

“Dance stop this dance, stop this dance!”

“Dance stop this dance, stop this dance!”

“Song stop this song, stop this song!”

“Song stop this song-“  The Nobodies tried to echo, but Sora cut them off.

“This is gonna stick in my head, it’s annoying.”

“Dance water dance…”

There were too many repetitions of the chorus for Sora to count before he was locked back in his cage, alone, since Larxene and Marluxia had escaped in the commotion of the song.

“Some help they turned out to be.  They just used me as a distraction,” Sora muttered, sulking.  He was completely alone again.  After freaking out about the loss of his guppies, Demyx had rushed off somewhere, leaving Sora in the dark, literally and figuratively.

Sora hated the dark.

Chapter Text

“We’re all idiots,” Naminé commented, staring at the door into what looked like a fangirl paradise.  She couldn’t see much through the dark-tinted glass, but she was pretty sure there was a life-size statue of some green-clad hero she didn’t recognize.  Must be from some other fandom.

“Probably, but I’m not losing a bet with Axel and Roxas,” Xion defended firmly.  She’d been the one to suggest trying the nearby Game Point for information on Demyx.

“And I’m not losing to Riku!”  Kairi said, stomping a foot.  “Even if he only made the bet to make us get our job done faster.”

“What happens if you lose?”  Naminé had been too busy talking with Roxas to pay attention to their quarrelling.

“I have to buy Axel and Roxas’s ice cream for a week when we get back.  They each eat like four a day!”  Xion said.  “But if I win, they have to do the same.”

“You three and your ice cream,” Naminé said, giggling.

“It’s the best!  You’ll have to try it after this mess is over.”  Xion gestured to everywhere to indicate ‘this mess.’

“Well if I lose, I have to tell Sora I love him,” Kairi said.

Naminé frowned in confusion.  “How is that bad?”

Kairi shrugged, kicking at the sidewalk.  “I hoped he’d tell me first.”

“He obviously loves you.  Trust me, I spent a year in his heart.  I can’t even tell you how weird that is.”  Xion shuddered.  Sora was fine and all, but no girl wants to know every feeling a guy has at any given moment.  Luckily she slept or talked to Ven and Roxas most of the time to keep herself sane.

“I’ll take your word for it,” the redhead replied.  As much as she liked Sora, the idea of being inside his head offended her sense of personal space.

Before they could get sidetracked with another conversation, Xion opened the door, setting off an alerting chime.  Naminé and Kairi followed her into the video game store.

XXX

Game Point was indeed a fangirl paradise.  Pokémon, Final Fantasy, Zelda, Mario, Kirby, random games the author doesn’t feel inclined to list, and of course Kingdom Hearts plushies lined the shelves above racks of video games for almost every system that ever existed.  Naminé, Xion, and Kairi were slightly disappointed that they could not find plushies of themselves.  There were, however, plenty of Roxas, Axel, and Sora plushies. 

“Go figure,” Xion muttered, noting the empty space that said Demyx plushies were out of stock and heading over to a glass cabinet full of DS games.  Maybe I could grab a copy of 358/2 Days…  She winced.  Nah, don’t feel like killing myself.  It’s not like they’d take munny, anyway.  Better focus on the mission.

The store wasn’t too crowded, just two cashiers, a boy around the age of seven with his mom, three tall brunette guys looking at Xbox games, and four girls about her age, one of which was wearing a Kingdom Hearts II t-shirt.  Xion caught Axel’s, and Roxas’s, and her own names and something about sea-salt ice cream from the conversation.

  1.   Xion walked over to Naminé and Kairi, who were looking at keyblade necklaces, and tapped on their shoulders.

“What?”  Kairi complained, not taking notice.  “They don’t have my keyblade?”

“At least you have a keyblade,” Naminé said.  “I still don’t know what I’ll do if we have to fight.”

“I hope we’ll get to fight something soon; it’s two days into our adventure and I haven’t used a my keyblade except as glider!”

Xion shushed them and jerked her head to point at the fangirls.  “Maybe they’ll know something about Demyx.  You’ll get to fight soon enough.”  Though it will be best to talk with Demyx if we can.  He’s not the type to pull a Xemnas.  Despite what Riku and Kairi had said, she couldn’t help but believe he was just trying to have some fun.  And singing wasn’t terrible, really.  Sure, Twilight Town had gone a little crazy, but they’d been able to go on a fun adventure because of it, which was better than sitting around being bored.

She led Naminé and Kairi over to the fangirls.  The short one in the Kingdom Hearts shirt caught Xion’s eye and beamed.  “Hey, you look just like-“

“Xion, I know.  I get that a lot,” Xion said, trying hide her surprise at how easily her disguise was seen through.  Hair dye would’ve been useful.  Fangirls are way too perceptive…

“You sound like her, too!”  A fangirl with a Heartless symbol necklace said.  “And you two look like Kairi and Naminé.  Are you cosplaying today?”

“We got some people with Organization coats to meet us at Disney World later, it’s going to be awesome!”  The first fangirl said.  The taller fangirl with curly brown hair in a poofy ponytail who was wearing a large brown jacket (even though it was around ninety degrees outside) laughed.

“Sound like fun and all, but we’ve got to find-” Kairi began, but Xion elbowed her in the ribs.  “Ow!”

“Don’t give us away!”  Xion hissed.  She hadn’t meant to hurt Kairi, but she was used to Roxas and Axel’s pain-resistance.  The three were always punching, thumping, and elbowing each other for fun.  Not too hard, of course.  But then again they got attacked by Heartless almost every day in the Organization, and nothing else hurt much anymore.

“But Sora always-”

“What about that homicidal jerk of a keyblade wielder?”  A fangirl as short as the first but with waist-length blonde hair growled.

“He’s not a jerk, he’s my boyfriend!  At least, I think he wants to be.”  Kairi frowned.  She was attracting some strange looks from the other people in the store.  Xion and Naminé facepalmed.

“Oh great, she’s one of those insane fangirls who wants to date the characters,” fangirl number one said.

“And you’re not an insane fangirl?”  Xion asked, and the fangirl shrugged.

Kairi clenched her fists angrily at the fangirl’s insult.  “I am not an insane fangirl, I-”

“Calm down, Kairi!”  Xion yelled, then caught herself.  Holy flying ice cream, did I just say that out loud?  “I mean, uh…”

Everyone stared at her.  Sensing a disturbance in the force, the other customers paid for their games and miscellaneous geeky items and left.

The first fangirl cocked her head sideways slightly, as if Xion had sprouted two extra heads.  “You’re not actually fangirls, are you?”

“If Demyx is here, I don’t see I reason why they couldn’t be,” the long-haired fangirl said.

They know about Demyx!  Well, that made for one good thing that could come out of this.  They might have some valuable information.  They’ve guessed who we are, anyway.  Might as well gain their trust for sure.

Xion sighed and shook her head, holding out her hand.  In a flash of light, her keyblade appeared.

Naminé and Kairi gasped, wondering what had gotten into the one out of them who valued secrecy most.  Everyone else’s, including the cashiers’, jaws dropped.  Not wanting to be left out, Kairi summoned her keyblade, too.

“So you’re the real deal,” Fangirl number one said almost worshippingly.

The fangirls’ eyes met, having a silent conversation.  They suddenly squealed at the top of their lungs, making Kairi, Naminé, and Xion clamp their hands over their ears.  The cashiers dived to the ground behind the counter like the place was about to be bombed.

A second later, the fangirls went through a confusing sequence of actions.  Their expressions turned to that of sheer terror; they ran out of the store; they came back to glomp Kairi, Naminé, and Xion to the ground (knocking over a few Cloud plushies from the shelf beside them); they ran out again; they ran back in; they finally stopped running and stood there, awkwardly staring at the characters sprawled out on the floor.

“Umm… Sorry ‘bout that,” fangirl number one extended a hand to pull Xion up, and the fangirl with the fluffy hair followed suit with Naminé.  The other two just glared at Kairi, who huffed and stood on her own.

“No.  Freaking.  Way.”  One of the cashiers, a guy around twenty with sandy blonde hair, a long neck, and a nametag that read ‘Matthew,’ peered over the counter as he recovered from his shock.

“Can I have an autograph?”  The other cashier, who was a short Asian guy with glasses, asked.  The nametag pinned to his Portal 2 shirt read ‘Andrew.’  Matthew decided that under the strange circumstances, he should flip the open sign to ‘closed.’  Just in case the fangirls went ballistic again.  You could never tell.

Kairi agreed quickly, Naminé clasped her hands in front of her shyly, but Xion snatched the pen and blank receipt paper first, wanting to get the distractions over with.

“At this rate the boys are going to win the bet,” Xion mumbled, writing her name simply and legibly, the way she did on her mission reports back in the Organization.

She handed the pen to Naminé, who doodled Roxas’s Oathkeeper by her swirling cursive signature.

Must be an artist thing, Xion thought.  She couldn’t draw much more than a stick figure, maybe holding an ice cream bar if she tried really hard.  Kairi signed her name with a heart encircling it and gave the paper and pen back to Andrew.

“Can we ask you a few questions?”  Xion asked now that she had everyone’s full attention.

“You can.  She can’t.”  The long-haired fangirl glared at Kairi.

“Sorry, she really doesn’t like you.”  The fangirl in the KH shirt said, sounding mostly indifferent.

“I don’t like you either,” The fluffy-haired fangirl said cheerfully.

Xion ignored this while Kairi pouted, since they really needed to get down to business.  “First of all, what are your names?”

The author greatly appreciates her for asking this, as she is getting tired of describing people every time they speak.

“I’m Latia, probably the most obsessed fangirl out of all of us, at your service.”  The fangirl in the KH shirt bowed like Xion was a princess.

Well, I don’t get that a lot.  Xion found it somewhat nice, but mostly weird.

The fangirl with the Heartless necklace seemed offended by that.  “Oh fine, be all high-and-mighty about it, why don’t you?  Just because you have the fancy t-shirt and more games than the rest of us doesn’t mean you can go around acting all special.”  She rolled her eyes.  “Anyway, I’m Nicole, but since she’s also Nicole I go by Neko.  Got it memorized?”  She pointed to the fluffy-haired fangirl as she said this.

“I’m Cael,” the long-haired fangirl said simply.

“With your powers combined, I am CAPTAIN PLANET!”  Nicole yelled.  “But not really.  You can call me Rubicon if you get confused by us two Nicoles.  Can I smell your hair?”  She asked Naminé.

“Um, no.”

“Aww,” Rubicon pouted.

“Next question,” Cael said, trying to keep them on track.

“You know that Demyx is in this world, right?”  Xion asked.  The fangirls nodded.

“Yeah, we’ve seen his water clones and Nobodies around a lot lately,” Latia said, frowning.  “Only us fangirls, and some fanboys I guess, pay attention to them, though.  Everyone else just avoids them and acts like they’re normal as long as they don’t hurt anyone.”

So some things don’t change between worlds, Xion thought.  Even ones that supposedly hate magic.

“We’re trying to figure out where they’re coming from,” Cael picked up where Latia had left off.  “We’ve found a few clues, but we’re still not sure.”

“When I came in for work a few days ago, all the Demyx plushies had been stolen,” Matthew said.  “Things really are getting weird.”

“Well, if anyone would stockpile plushies of themselves, it would probably be Demyx,” Xion said.  “What other clues have you found?”

Neko spoke up, eager to contribute something.  “We found his YouTube channel.  He calls his ‘secret lair’ Castle Nemo.”

“Unless he was a really good cosplayer, but it didn’t seem like it.  Oh, and the Castle’s actually an apartment building,” Cael added.

“Or a condo,” Rubicon suggested.  “There are a lot of those down by beach.  Random fact of the now:  ‘Nemo’ means ‘nobody’ in Latin.”

“I doubt Demyx knows that.  He probably just liked the Disney Movie,” Xion said, not knowing what a YouTube was, but figuring it wasn’t too important.  At least they knew, in a roundabout way, where Demyx was.  “Is that all you know?”

“Yep,” Latia said, twirling her finger in her hair.  “We’ll tell you if we find out anything else.  If we see you again, anyway.”

“Thank you,” Naminé said quietly.

“Any time.  Watch out for water clones and all that.”

“We will.”  Xion paused, remembering something.  “One last thing.  Could you do me a favor?”

“Sure,” Latia replied.

“Could you track down Riku, Axel, and Roxas and keep them busy?  I’m trying to win a bet that Kairi, and Naminé, and I can find Demyx before them.”

“That sounds like a fun mission!”  Latia turned to her friends with a giant grin plastered on her face.  “What do you say?”

Rubicon crossed her arms.  “I like the other guys better.”

“Oh come on, Rubicon, what do you have against Xion?”  Neko asked.

“She’s a Mary Sue.  Kairi’s even more of a Mary Sue.  Naminé’s awesome, but I don’t really care about helping the other two,” Rubicon said, ignoring the fact that they were standing a foot away.

Xion had no idea what a ‘Mary Sue’ was, but she figured it was an insult.  It can’t be any worse than ‘puppet’ or ‘defective.’  She brushed it off easily.

“No she’s not!  Well, Kairi might be a little, but be nice!”  Latia looked like she was about to punch her for insulting her favorite character, but thought better of it.

Rubicon laughed.  “I actually don’t mind Xion much.  I just said that to mess with you.”  Latia facepalmed.  Xion got the feeling that this happened a lot.

“Much as I don’t like Kairi, I’m good with anything as long as we don’t get killed,” Cael said like they were discussing the weather.

Fangirls are a very strange breed, Naminé thought.

“So will you do it?”  Kairi pleaded while fuming on the inside at the insults.  She really wanted to beat Riku, too.

“It would be nice to see you beg first.”  Rubicon grinned evilly.

Xion and Naminé rolled their eyes, but Kairi looked ready to drop to her knees.

“Don’t listen to her; we’ll help,” Latia said, glaring at Rubicon, who was unfazed.

“It wouldn’t have hurt to let her beg,” Cael said, disappointed.

Latia picked out an Axel plushie and started to walk towards the counter.  “I’m going to go buy this.  Don’t hurt each other.”

“Too bad we can’t come help you,” Andrew said to Latia.  “Sometimes having a job stinks.”

“You know you love this job,” Latia said, laughing.  “You get discounts, you get to meet other fans, and you get paid.  I’m still stuck working babysitting jobs.”

“Yeah, not to mention we got to meet some actual freaking video game characters,” Matthew added.

“True,” Andrew said happily.

“So why did you guys come here?”  Cael asked Xion, Naminé, and Kairi while she waited on Latia.

“To find you, actually,” Xion replied.  “We figured if anyone would know about Demyx, it would be fangirls.”

“You got that right,” Neko said.  “So, are you actually going to buy anything?”

Xion frowned.  “They don’t take munny on this world.”

“Dude, you can take anything you want,” Andrew called over while scanning the price tag.  “This is the coolest day of my life!”

“Luckies,” Latia muttered, handing over several dollar bills in exchange for the Axel plushie.  “Before we go, can we get some pictures with you?”

“We’ve already wasted a lot of time, but I guess we can since you’re helping us,” Xion said, grabbing an Axel plushie and a Roxas plushie.  They’ll be amused, at least.  I’ll find a necklace or something for myself later.

Neko grinned, pulling a phone from her pocket.  “Group photo!”

Xion set her things down just in time for the fangirls to crowd around her, Naminé, and Kairi.  Neko and Latia stood on both sides of Xion, Neko on the right where she could reach out her arm to get the whole picture.  Rubicon and Cael took Naminé’s right and left, leaving Kairi in the middle between Latia and Rubicon, the latter glaring at her.  Even the cashiers jumped into the shot behind them.

“Everyone say ‘got it memorized!’” Neko yelled.

“Got it memorized!”  Everyone echoed.  Matthew held up a peace sign and Xion automatically did Axel’s ‘got it memorized’ temple-tap hand motion as Neko pressed a button.

“Thanks!”  Latia said, picking up her Axel plushie again.  “We’ll be off on our mission now.  Maybe we’ll see each other again sometime!”

All the fangirls gave a quick salute and left the building.

“Of all the fangirls we could run into, we had to meet the ones who hate me.”  Kairi frowned, folding her arms.

“They didn’t all hate you.  And they probably aren’t the only fangirls searching for Demyx,” Naminé said, examining the necklaces again.  “We’re just lucky we didn’t meet yaoi- or yuri-obsessed ones.  Can I have that one?”  She pointed through the glass at the boxed set of keyblade necklaces.

“Of course.”  Matthew opened the back of the cabinet and took out the box, handing it to her. 

“Thank you.”  Naminé borrowed a chain from one of Kairi’s necklaces and threaded the Oathkeeper charm onto it, clasping it around her neck.  She hadn’t seen most of the other keyblades that were in the box before, and some were quite pretty, but she still found Oathkeeper the prettiest.  It just seemed to fit her, she thought.

“You can have one too, if you want,” Naminé said to Xion.  It wasn’t like she could wear them all at once, and she didn’t want to take too much stuff from the game store.

“Thanks,” Xion picked out Oblivion, even though Kingdom Key was also there.  Oblivion just looked more interesting.  Too bad there aren’t any of the keyblades I can form with gears.  Leviathan was one of her favorites aesthetically.

“Anything for you, Kairi?”  Andrew adjusted his glasses, grinning.  “Man, it feels awesome just saying that!”

Kairi smiled sweetly.  At least someone liked her here.  “What’s that?”  She asked about a box of CDs with Sora, Donald, Goofy, and King Mickey on it.

“Kingdom Hearts OST Complete.”  He elaborated, seeing that Kairi didn’t understand his acronym.  “Original Soundtrack.  Over two hundred tracks of awesome background music.  I’ve been saving up to buy it myself, actually, even though technically it’s not complete anymore since there’s the Birth by Sleep and 358/2 Days soundtrack.  Anyway, you should get it if you’ve got a CD player back on Destiny Islands.  Your theme song’s even on it.”

Kairi beamed and Andrew laughed, giving her the box.

“The boss is gonna kill us,” Matthew said, not sounding too worried.

“So?  We just became a part of geek history!”  The cashiers high-fived.

“We don’t want to cause you any trouble,” Xion said reluctantly.

“Don’t worry about it!  We’ll cover the difference,” Andrew grinned.

“Dude, you’re almost broke,” Matthew reminded him.

“By ‘we’ I mean ‘you,’” Andrew grinned.

“It’s nice of you to offer, but really, we don’t want to cause any problems,” Xion said, and Naminé nodded in agreement.

Andrew waved his hands wildly, shaking her head.  “Don’t sweat it!”

Xion dug around in her pocket, coming up with a few sparkling pieces of munny that she set on the counter.  “Please, take this munny anyway.  It might not be worth anything here, but it’ll be some proof.”

Andrew laughed, assuring her that anything shiny is worth something on this world.  Matthew thanked her politely as the three girls took their new necklaces, plushies, and music and almost left the building.  Almost.

As fate would have it, five water clones burst through the door at that moment, barreling into Xion, Kairi, and Naminé before they could react.  Once the clones recovered, the melody of Just Around the Riverbend began to play.

XXX

“What I hate most about singing is we have to dance along as well,”  Kairi sang.  Behind the counter Andrew swooned.

“It’s not so bad it’s nice just having feet,” Naminé continued.

Xion gracefully twirled around the store.  “Well I’m sure tired of complaining,  I’ve gotten used to this—

So let’s not worry for now we’ll be okay.”

Kairi belted out the intro to the chorus.  “I want to save Sora right now!  I want to use my new keyblade!”

By the time Kairi broke into the actual chorus, Matthew was trying to find something to wipe up the drool that Andrew’s mouth was leaking onto the counter.  (“Dude, play it cool!”)

“I want to fight!”

Xion replied,  “It’s not as great as it may seem, it’s just to live, to see one more day-”

“I’m still unarmed,” Naminé pointed out, not wanting to be left out of the song.

“We’ll figure out something soon, for now let’s calm down a bit, and sing.”  Xion’s voice quieted at the end.

“This song is pretty.”

As Xion was beginning the next verse, Matthew finally decided to use Andrew’s own shirt to clean the counter.  The fanboy was too entranced to notice.

“I miss the music of my home, Lazy Afternoons is so peaceful.”

“The silence here can be quite disconcerting,” Naminé sang, dancing up onto the platform with the statue of the green-clad hero.

Xion twirled with her arms stretched out wide, like she was frolicking in a field of flowers.  “And so I must thank Demyx for bringing song to this world, that otherwise would sound so very boring.”

(“Dude.  Seriously, the drool is so not cool… Andrew?”  Matthew shook his friend’s shoulder, but he seemed to be unconscious.)

“But I still want to go fight him!”  Kairi sang.  “He took Sora away from me!”

Before beginning the chorus, Xion stepped onto the platform with Naminé.  It was nice feeling tall for a change.  “Kairi calm down!  I know you want him back again, I understand, but your rant’s annoying me.”

“And me as well,” Naminé added quietly.

“And I have heard a lot of rants, my friends all do this a lot, at least when we get stuck singing.”

(Matthew was now checking Andrew’s pulse, which thankfully still existed.  “Wake up, you’re missing it!”)

Kairi finally joined them on top of the platform, and in the shadow of Link’s statue they sang together.

“I guess we just can’t help it much, it’s been a long and weird day, we didn’t even eat breakfast-”

“I know let’s all go get ice cream!”  Xion suggested.

Naminé smiled.  “I hope it’s as delicious as you say.”

Together they finished,  “Looks like this song is at its end.”

XXX

The cashiers whooped and whistled for an encore – well, Matthew did, Andrew was still regaining consciousness and wiping drool off his face – as Kairi singlehandedly took out all of the clones, a twisted grin appearing on her face as she slashed through them.

“I feel better now,” she said once they were gone.

“I sure hope the security cameras got all that,” Andrew said.

Xion frowned.  “Cameras?  We’re supposed to be secret.”

“I think we blew that a while ago,” Kairi commented, and Xion sighed.

“You’re right about that.  Just don’t go showing any fangirls the footage, okay?  We don’t want any more coming after us, even if the ones we met were nice.”

“Sure, whatever,” Matthew said, and they both waved as the girls finally left.

“Put it on YouTube anyway?”  Andrew asked.

Matthew nodded, smiling evilly.  “Yep.”

Chapter Text

 “So, uh, where are we going again?”  Roxas asked, hurrying to catch up and dodging a pile of smelly garbage.  Why did people on Earth tend to leave trash all over the place?  The alley behind McDonald’s was the worst, with all the overflowing dumpsters and hungry rats that glared at him from the gutters, but soon they were out of the nasty place and into the bright sunlight.  They were now surrounded by people going every direction, rows of shops on both sides.  Luckily, it didn’t appear to be a road with those hideous monsters known as ‘cars’ on it.

“The beach,” Riku replied, nodding his head towards a long, crowded street.  “I can smell saltwater in that direction.”

“Just like the vacation day we always wanted,” Axel said.  “But with more singing.  And we have Riku instead of Xion.  And we actually have a mission.  So not much like that at all.”  He’d taken Roxas and Xion to the beach before, soon after the three of them were reunited, but they could use another beach day.

“It doesn’t look like a beach.”  Roxas frowned.  It looked like a difficult place to stay inconspicuous in; way too many people.

“The beach should be down at the far end of the street.”  Riku didn’t like the idea of fighting through the mass of shoppers and tourists and possible fangirls – their hair would stick out like three sore thumbs even in the crowd– but that was the fastest way to the beach without donning their coats again to use corridors, and that would attract more attention than a neon sign saying “Hey, fangirls! We’re right here!”

All three still had their ‘do-not-make-contact-with-people-of-other-worlds’ instincts screaming at them.

“Smell any better routes with that super-sniffer of yours?”  Axel asked.

Riku frowned.  “The whole coast for as far as I can smell is covered in streets like this.”

Axel shrugged.  “Worth a shot.”  He led the way this time, trying to look as casual as possible while carefully avoiding bumping into any tourists.  Roxas followed in his footsteps, and Riku didn’t see any point in taking a more difficult path.

Axel suddenly hissed in pain and doubled over, tangling his hands in his hair as he clutched his head.  Riku and Roxas dragged him next to the lee of a lamp post on the side of the street.

“I sense that my catchphrase has been mercilessly abused,” the redhead moaned, standing as Roxas stared at him, worried.  “I’ll be fine.  Y’know, this feels really ironic.  You’re usually the one getting headaches and passing out.” 

“Fangirls might be near,” Riku said.  Who else would spam Axel’s catchphrase into the ground?  “Let’s get moving again.”  Axel seemed okay now, so they trekked on.

Roxas was distracted by a shop with souvenir seashells in the window and nearly got smacked in the face by a passing lady’s hot pink purse.  He ducked just in time for it to hit Riku, who didn’t flinch but stared at the lady with such an icy glare that even Vexen might’ve been frozen.  She gasped and rushed away, not bothering to apologize.

 “We’re trying to avoid being noticed, not scare anyone to death.  Got it memorized?”  Axel called over his shoulder.

Roxas tapped him on the arm, pointing to their right.  “It might be too late for that.”

“OMC IT’S AXEL!”  A girl on the other side of the street wearing a black Kingdom Hearts II shirt fangirl squealed.  Everyone who has read the previous chapter knows that her name is Latia, so the authoress feels no need to keep repeating this.

“Why do you have to be so tall?”  Riku complained as they tried to run, getting in the way of tourists’ cameras and regular shoppers.  “She can still see you!”

“There’s only one right now; we might survive if we can get out of this crowd fast,” Axel said.  They were so close to where the pavement trailed off into sand, but Axel’s bright-red spikes sticking out over most of the crowd’s heads made them an easy target in the meantime.

“Why can’t we open a dark corridor?”  Roxas asked.

“A civilian might fall in.  Besides, we don’t have our coats right now.”  Axel side-stepped a mother and her crying child, still running.

“If we still had our normal clothes we could pass as cosplayers,” Riku mused.

Axel mentally facepalmed.  Why didn’t I think of that?  But it would be strange cosplaying outside a convention; the fangirls might not believe it anyway.  “Too late for that.  Faster!”

It was less a problem of speed than dodging ability.  Which they had plenty of, but their side of the street was more crowded than the fangirl’s, and her determination was bringing her closer to being right across from them.  The crowd was thinning out though; maybe they’d make it…

“There’s another one!  Do they appear like Heartless?”  Roxas saw a fangirl with a Heartless symbol necklace (Nicole/Neko) along with the first charging after them, but still on the opposite side of the road.

“We’re doomed.”  With that pessimistic statement, Riku bolted into one of the shops.

“Fine, sacrifice your party members, I see how it is.”  Axel glanced behind him to the right, where there were now five additional fangirls.  “On second thought, let’s split.”  He took off for a different store.

“Axel!”  Roxas panicked.  The fangirl mob was crossing the street.  Shoppers parted like the red sea, probably not wanting to be trampled and/or catch some disease.  “Flexible thinking now?”  He wasn’t so good at that, but he managed to dive into a restaurant.

The fangirls (there were around twenty that followed him now, with more teleporting in every minute), had obviously seen him.  They were squealing about Roxas’s adorable hair and various pairings as they flooded into the restaurant.  A few stayed outside, searching for Axel and Riku.

Roxas nimbly skipped around waiters, customers, and tables, fleeing for his life and sanity.  He was proud that he’d only knocked over one plate of food, some sort of fish in cream sauce.  The lady who it had spilled on hadn’t been too pleased, but she’d get over it.  He hoped.  He already had enough people chasing him down.  The fangirls were now rabidly chanting his name in between squeals. 

He crawled under a table, leapt over a couple’s linked hands, dodged between two waiters carrying platters.  He had no clue where to go, his casual clothes stuck out like an Organization coat in Agrabah around all the fancy diners, and he and the fangirls were causing mass destruction.  Mostly the fangirls.  Anyway, he was bound to be hurled out of there soon.

A door!  He had no clue where it led (having not stopped long enough to read the sign), but he shoved it open.  Forward was the only option.

His tennis shoes clomped against the tile floor, and he caught a glimpse of his reflection as he threw himself into a stall, cowering on top of a toilet.

Even fangirls wouldn’t try to come into a guys’ bathroom, would they?  He paled, realizing something.  Wait, is this even…

Giggling girls, right outside his stall.

I am so dead.

XXX

Axel never thought he’d hate being tall.  Then again, he’d never thought about lots of things that had happened today. 

Like hiding in a souvenir t-shirt rack.  He ducked down as low as possible, fabric brushing against him on every side, and wished he had a hood to hide his overly-conspicuous hair.  Ninety-degree weather or not, I should’ve bought a jacket.  Of course, the tattoos on his face were also dead giveaways to his identity.  He just hoped the shirts with pictures of sunny beaches on them would hide him from view until the fangirls passed.

Twelve of them came running and squealing around a shelf of snow globes, led by Latia and Cael, who both seemed to be laughing more than fangirling.  Cael held up a hand for them to stop and they obeyed her without question as Latia sniffed around.

Don’t tell me she has a Zexion nose too!  Axel didn’t move an inch, didn’t even breathe, praying and promising anything, even that he’d dye his hair purple, if only the fangirls would leave.  He recalled the horrors of the last fangirl attack and had no intention of living through them again if he could help it.

But unfortunately, he couldn’t help it.  The fangirls’ tracking instincts were strong, causing Latia’s head to whip towards the clothing rack. 

Some noise between a squeal and a scream burst out of the other fangirls’ mouths, and they launched themselves at the clothing rack, knocking it on its side with a loud clang and clatters as shirts and hangers flew everywhere.

Then the fangirls mobbed Axel in a deadly dogpile.

“Can’t- breathe!”  Axel choked, buried in the force of ten simultaneous glomps.  His face was pressed against the gritty tile floor.  Painful, but much better than being in a position where he was vulnerable to being kissed.  Gross.

Other than that his lungs were being crushed, the only thought he registered was that he hoped Roxas wasn’t sharing a similar fate.  He didn’t have time to worry about his friend, though, he was too busy focusing on shielding his face with his arms as he was brutally flipped over.  Out of the corner of his eye he saw Latia and Cael actually looking at him with expressions of- was that shame?  Confusing, but not causing him any more pain.  At least they’re not yaoi fangirls like last time- his brain shut down at the horrific memory.

The shop wasn’t very large, and the employees had taken notice of the situation almost immediately.  The problem was, dealing with rabid fangirls on rampage wasn’t in their job descriptions, and it had taken them a while to figure out what to do.  Or at least decide to do something.  A lady in a Hawaiian print shirt was punching 911 into a phone while two buff guys tried to pry the fangirls off of Axel.  Even Latia and Cael were now trying to break up the writhing pile, but they seemed to have lost their magical mind-link control powers. 

Axel took a risk and spiked his body temperature, hoping it wouldn’t catch his clothes on fire.  He’d rather impale himself with his own chakrams than have that happen while covered in fangirls.  At least the heat came to him slowly, probably because of the low magic levels on this world.

They squealed louder, but didn’t get off of him.  Shoppers left the building in a mass exodus, keeping a wide berth around the overturned clothing rack.

This would be so much easier if I could just kill them!  He wouldn’t dare, though; legends told of the terrors that could then be unleashed.  He lashed out with his legs, sending two fangirls crashing into a shelf of seashells.  They were drawn back to him like a magnet immediately.

“Gerroff me!”  Axel growled, now heating up involuntarily.

“Eek!”  A fangirl whose face had been pressed against his arm shrieked, jerking up and whacking another fangirl on the nose.  But then she resumed her earlier position as if it had only startled her, not caused real pain.

Do they have any self-preservation instincts at all?  Or do they know more about their own abilities than we’ve suspected?  Axel kept thrashing, body temperature rising steadily, and accidentally punched the ankle of one of the men trying to remove the fangirls.  He didn’t bother to apologize even when the man toppled over.

“Do something!  They’re driving away the tourists!”  A crabby woman snapped, her hands on her hips.  The men didn’t listen to her, backing away from the pile of living madness.

Then Axel’s shirtsleeves caught fire.

“Oh Kingdom Hearts!”  Axel tried to focus enough to cool down, the lack of latent magic not helping much, to his annoyance, but now the fangirls were squealing louder.  What I wouldn’t give for my fire-resistant Organization coat right now…  I hope those psychos are in pain, at least.

For a moment the fangirls’ grip loosened, and Axel leapt up, flames still flickering at the edges of his sleeves.  Employees were gasping in horror, police sirens blaring in response to the earlier phone call.  Latia and Cael facepalmed and fled the building, deciding things had gotten a bit too dangerous for their liking.

“Well that ruins Plan A.”  Before the fangirls could stand up Axel opened a corridor, and his coat fell out of it.  He threw it on without bothering to zip it up and opened a corridor, running through.  Even if the fangirls followed him, the darkness would cause them enough pain to knock them out when they arrived on the other side.

XXX

Roxas’s wits weren’t as quick as Axel’s.  He remembered he couldn’t go through a corridor without his coat, but in his panic he’d forgotten where he left it.

I could really use some armor like Riku right now!

The fangirls began to crawl under the stall.  Thinking they were like Heartless, Roxas summoned his keyblades and slammed the butt of Oathkeeper into one of their stomachs.  She fell on her face but failed to disappear.

“What, you want to throw down?”  The girl, who happened to be Neko, yelled, standing back up and attempting to rip Oblivion out of his hand.  She managed to yank the keychain and make Roxas accidentally swing at another fangirl.

“Leave me alone!”  Roxas yelled, whipping Oathkeeper in a circle than scraped the stall walls and ended by connecting with Neko’s ribcage.  “Disappear!”

“Only if you want to die a horrible death, got it memorized?  I’ve got a mission, and I intend to accomplish it!”  She lunged at him, but Roxas couldn’t tell if it was an attempt at a glomp or a strangle.

Right!  Axel said we can’t kill them.  But did he mean can’t or shouldn’t? And what does she mean by ‘mission?’   No time to think about that now.  Roxas vanished his keyblades and vaulted off of the toilet seat, leaping over the stall door and summersaulting mid-air before he hit the ground running.

“Nice moves!  But you can’t get away that easily!”

Back through the restaurant, out the door, fangirls still on his tail, Neko shouting threats at his heels.  Roxas wasn’t used to being chased; normally he would kill anything before it had the chance.  And he still didn’t know what would happen if they caught up.  That was probably the scariest thing, that and the fact that even Axel was terrified of them.

The pyro would probably kill him for using magic in public later, but Roxas was desperate.  He jumped over a teenager carting a surfboard and glided the rest of the way to the beach.

XXX

“Do you think they’re okay?”  Naminé asked, trailing her finger anxiously through the sand, waves lapping at her heeled sandals.  She knew Xion wanted to win her bet, but maybe she should’ve told her not to send fangirls after the boys.

Xion took a bite of her orange ice cream bar.  Riku had somehow managed to buy them all ice cream, and she’d chosen the one that most resembled sea-salt in shape.  The flavor was fruity, though, with a vanilla center.  It was good, but she still preferred her usual flavor.

“They’ll be fine,” Xion said, examining a chipped sea-shell.  “They’ve both been through worse.”  Of course, like Roxas, she hadn’t been in the Organization during the fangirl attack, so she didn’t know of their dangerous powers.  She’d been surprised when Riku told her that there were more than four fangirls chasing after them, but she still figured they could handle the situation.

Riku snorted, pacing.  “You didn’t see those fangirls.”  He was more annoyed that the mission was being held up than he was about Axel and Roxas’s safety.  But when it came to fangirls… he shuddered.  Nobody wanted to see a fellow character go through that.   He tried to put uncomfortable thoughts out of his head and comfort himself with the fact that Kairi, Xion, and Naminé had already searched the area and found a condominium overflowing with lesser Nobodies.  As soon as they met up with Axel and Roxas, they could hunt down Demyx and rescue Sora.  Then Riku could go home and maybe fit in a nice long nap before some other disaster occurred.

“They’re just girls, right?”  Kairi said, wading up to her knees in the foamy saltwater.  “Weird girls, but they still can’t be that bad.”

“You would think that,” Riku replied cryptically, sniffing the air.  The scent reminded him of home, except for the terrible cigarette smell that irritated his nose and throat.  Under the other smells was something that smelled fluffy and pink and vicious, like killer cotton candy.  Fangirls.

Xion tilted her head to focus on a high-pitched squeal that was steadily growing louder.  “Is that noise...?”

“Get down!”  Riku ran straight into the ocean, diving under once he was up to his waist.  The others didn’t react in time and were nearly barreled over by a flying Roxas, who spun around in midair.

“Run!  They’re after me!  Fangirls!”  His eyes were wide with fear as the screeching increased in pitch.  Xion would’ve found the fact that he was afraid of teenage girls hilarious, except for that the whole situation was her fault.  I didn’t know they could mob like that!  They didn’t’ seem nearly that scary around us! 

A dark corridor opened, dumping a disheveled Axel onto the ground. 

He spat out sand as he stood, rubbing his head.  “They’re still coming, aren’t they?”  He glanced behind them at the incoming hoard.  “Do they have tracking devices on us or something?”

“They’re a very interesting breed,” Naminé commented with surprising calm.

“And they’re heading right for us,” Riku stuck his head out of the water long enough to deadpan.

Xion took Axel’s hand and jumped, and they both levitated next to Roxas.

“Thank goodness we all magically got Glide panels after flying in Neverland, huh?”  Axel said.

Nobody had time to reply – the fangirl mob was almost to them.  Kairi and Riku slapped their ever-present armor pieces and threw their keyblades, jumping on when their gliders came back around.

But that still left Naminé on the ground, and by this time the fangirls were in such a frenzy they would glomp any character, male or female, to death on sight.  They rallied around Neko, who was now holding a cosplay Kingdom Key that appeared to be made out of cardboard.  The expression on her face told the characters she still meant serious business.

“Get ready to throw down!”  She called, holding out the key to direct the fangirl army to charge.

“Roxas!”  Naminé called, mentally cursing her uselessness.  She’d finally gotten resurrected only to be a liability.

“Naminé!”  Roxas yelled back, swooping down to stand in front of her like a shield.

Axel facepalmed as a wave of fangirls hit the two grounded ex-Nobodies.  This is why chivalry is dead:  it kills people.  But he couldn’t just let one of his best friends get mauled by fangirls.

He let go of Xion’s hand and dived into the living wave, grabbing a fangirl and dropping her into the ocean.  Not anywhere too far off to where she couldn’t swim back, but far enough for it to take a while, unless she couldn’t swim at all.  He became a flying whirlwind, repeating the process with several more fangirls, but more had joined the hoard.

“Water clone alert!”  Xion called from above as the fangirl Axel was carrying licked his arm.  He dropped her instantly, recoiling. 

“Now that is plain disgusting.”  Axel would’ve thrown up if there was anything in his stomach, but he hadn’t eaten anything today.  I don’t get paid enough for these kinds of jobs.  He wiped saliva on his pants, vowing revenge on every fangirl he could get his hands on.    Torture isn’t the same as killing, right?

Kairi and Riku charged and shot down the water clones with lasers attached to their gliders, their armor protecting them.  Xion summoned her keyblade and tried to shoot Thundaga at the ones who weren’t too close the fangirls.  She barely got a spark.

“This must look like a movie scene to the locals.  Or apocalypse,” Axel muttered, flying beside Xion and throwing his deadly-accurate chakrams.

“This is making me miss the Heartless,” Xion said.  “At least you can kill them.”  She scrunched her eyes closed and directed the spark at a water clone, making it disappear.  But that still left over a hundred to go.

Roxas had his keyblades out, making an X to block the flood of fangirls.  It strangely resembled a sign to ward off demons, but a clearly ineffective one.  The fangirls were throwing themselves at him and Naminé from all sides, and it was all he could do to bat them away before they were glomped.

“Do you have a plan?”  Naminé asked.

“Uh, this is my plan,” Roxas replied, stumbling over a fangirl’s foot.  His defenses broken, the fangirls charged as one, killing his brain cells by shouting an onslaught of yaoi pairings.  Roxas and Naminé disappeared under the wave.

“Axel, over there!”  Xion called, pointing to the chaotic mass.

Axel caught his chakrams as they flew back to him.  He nearly smacked himself for his stupidity but figured it wouldn’t feel nice to have a giant chakram spike impaled through his skull.  “Freeze them!  Then I’ll fly them away.”

“Problem:  Magic’s not working so well here.”  Xion tried another Thundaga to demonstrate.

Axel muttered something violent to himself.  This is by far the stupidest world in the universe.  What world doesn’t even have enough magic for a single Thundaga, but still lets me catch on fire?  Granted, I was pretty furious…   “Then we’ll have to keep improvising.”

“We’ve been improvising!”  Xion exclaimed, dropping to the ground long enough to slash through a few water clones, panicking at the reappearance of the timer.  “Time’s running out!  We’ll black out soon!”

Even worse, the water clones seemed to have no effect on the fangirls.  They were now so mixed together that Kairi and Riku couldn’t charge them without risking killing a fangirl and raining down inescapable doom upon them.  They still shot at them with laser bullets, though taking much more time and care to aim.

“I’ve got it!”  Axel yelled, hovering next to Xion.  “We’ll have to let ourselves get touched by the water clones.  That’s the only way we can stop the timer.”

“But what happens if the fangirls attack us while we’re dancing?”  Xion asked.

“It’s that or let them attack us while we’re unconscious.  Which sounds worse?”  Axel glided to the ground, holding chakrams out to protect from fangirls.  This better work…

Xion sighed, but she knew that was their best bet.  Calling out the plan to their friends, she landed next to Axel.

Water clones surrounded them, poking them with their slimy arms, then backed away.  The same thing happened for Roxas, and Naminé, giving them room to sing and dance.  Only Riku and Kairi kept their distance, staying high above in their gliders and shooting down clones as fast as they could as Still Alive started up.

“This was a failure,” all the characters sang together, though they hadn’t yet started dancing.

Axel was oddly calm as he sang, “I’d just like to tell you:  We’re all doomed.”

“I’m sorry that they followed me to here,” Roxas apologized.

“Psychotic fangirls,” Xion began, but Axel took over.

“We’ll do what we must if we can.  For the good of all of us, we can’t go and kill them dead.”

The other characters joined in with unexpected optimism, probably some side effect of singing.  “But there’s no sense crying over every mistake, when all this is over we’ll go and get some cake!”

“If we survive that is,” Naminé sang.

“We’ve been through worse than this, and we’ll come out again still alive.”

The fangirls parted to allow Roxas and Axel to reach each other and duet.  “I’m still really angry, I’d rather be somewhere else right now.  They glomped me so hard I thought that they would kill me.”

Xion took Roxas’s place guarding Naminé, in case the fangirls stopped staring in awe and decided to attack again.  “But you’re still in one piece-”

“Because I escaped by using fire.  As I burned I hope it hurt those violent fangirls.”

Said fangirls joined in the song, even though as far as the characters knew, the water clones hadn’t forced them.  “We don’t want to hurt you so don’t be so mean, we’ll just fangirl for you while we wait for KH3!”

 “Well I’m glad I got burned, look at the pretty scar I earned,” sang one fangirl wearing a ‘AXEL <3 ROXAS 4EVAR’ shirt.  Axel shuddered and stepped back behind Xion and Naminé.

“Just be thankful that you’re still alive.”

The fangirls reorganized themselves into a square formation and began to do the Caramelldansen to the music, which looked rather awkward but was good news for the Kingdom Hearts characters. “Go ahead and leave us. We’ll all go back to our homes and cry.”

“No, don’t give up we need to take them alive,” Neko commanded her troops in song, Caramelldansen-ing at the front of the ranks.

“We’ll keep on singing,” Roxas and Axel sang more loudly as they were forced to do some sort of Irish folk dance.  Not that either of them really knew what Irish was.

“You two usually whine when this happens,” Xion pointed out as she cartwheeled past them.

“Anyway this time it’s great, the fangirls are dancing too.”

The characters joined in together, “Look at us still singing when there’s Demyx to find,”

“But it’s kind of fun, so I don’t really mind.” Xion and Naminé twirled with each other.

“We’ve got to do recon, there’s a battle to be won,” Riku sang.

“So we can go home and be still alive.”

The characters lined up in front of the fangirl army, like they were about to have an epic face-off.  “And believe us we’ll be still alive.”

Roxas, Naminé, and Xion sang in turn,

“I hate recon but I am still alive.”

“I’m resurrected and I’m still alive.”

“I won’t die again I’ll stay still alive.”

Axel pointed at the fangirls, glaring darkly.  “And when you’re dead I will be still alive.”

Everyone, fangirls included, finished off the song: 

“Still alive,

Still alive.”

The music ended, but the fangirls were still dancing.  The water clones then started up a new tune that only seemed to affect them, leading them entranced away from the characters.  Only Neko remained, rubbing her head, the cardboard keyblade slung limply over her shoulder.  One fangirl on her own didn’t seem so scary.

Roxas blinked in surprise.  “That was… I don’t know what that was.”

“I think we owe Demyx a favor,” Axel said incredulously.  “I’m surprised he’s still stuck to the Anti-Fangirl Alliance Pact.”

“I’m surprised the shippings the fangirls yelled at me didn’t kill me instantly.”  Roxas winced, trying to think happy thoughts.  Thoughts of Naminé chased away the disturbing shippings remarkably well, and he relaxed.

“I feel your pain,” Axel said, paling as well.  Unfortunately, being the oldest of the group, there were no girls for him to use as anti-yaoi shields.  Unless he wanted to make Kairi or Xion really uncomfortable, but he’d already teased Xion enough today, and he still wasn’t on the best of terms with Kairi.

Riku and Kairi landed their gliders and let their armor disappear.  The locals were staring at them from everywhere.

“That’s a wrap!”  Latia called, pressing a button on her video camera and walking towards them from the ice cream shop, followed by Cael and Rubicon.  “Perfect, we’ll have some excellent footage for the movie.  Go home and get some rest, we wouldn’t want to tire out our actors, right?”

The girls exchanged a knowing glance, and the characters took the hint.

“Right,” Axel said, covering Roxas and Xion’s mouths to keep them from blowing their new cover.  “The new holo technology sure looks realistic, doesn’t it?”  He added loudly.  Does this world even have holo technology?

“Directors are getting younger.  And shorter,” an old man commented somewhere down the beach.  “And all this blasted ‘technology’ needs to get out of our peaceful beaches!”

“Yep,” Neko said in response to Axel’s statement, completely ignoring the old man and walking over like she hadn’t just been acting psycho moments before.

Latia glared at her, ripping the keyblade out of her hands.  “You get none of my next batch of sea-salt ice cream,” she hissed just loud enough for her to hear.  “And if you ever steal my cosplay again, I will hunt you down with my other two keyblades and we will throw down!

“That’s my catchphrase!”  Neko complained.

“So I’m not the only one who’s been stolen from today,” Axel mused.

“We’d better get going,” Cael said, dragging Latia, who was still glaring daggers at Neko, by the arm away from the site of the battle.

“Can I smell your hair now?”  Nicole asked hopefully.

“No.”  Naminé didn’t hesitate.  Roxas stared at both of them awkwardly.  “Don’t ask,” she said to him.

“We’re leaving,” Cael called over her shoulder, and Neko pulled Rubicon away.  “Good luck and all that.”

“Sorry for probably scarring you for life.”  Neko waved cheerfully.

“So how do you know them?”  Axel asked, taking his hand away from Roxas and Xion’s mouths.

“Er, it’s a long story…”  Xion mumbled.  Axel gestured for her to go on.  “I asked them to slow you down so I wouldn’t lose our bet.  I promise I didn’t know they would summon more.”

Axel facepalmed and muttered some unpleasant things to himself.

“Next chance we get to sit down, I’ll have to tell you and Roxas about the last fangirl attack.  Gotta educate you so this doesn’t happen again.”  He ruffled her hair with a laugh.  “Let’s stay far, far away from them from now on.  Deal?”

“Deal.”  Xion nodded, glad Axel wasn’t too mad at her.  She grinned.  “But we found out where Demyx’s hideout is.  You and Roxas owe me ice cream.”

Chapter Text

Demyx was seriously beginning to regret becoming an Evil Overlord.

His secret lair was wrecked, his fish tanks were destroyed with all his defenseless fish still in them, three prisoners had escaped, and tons of his minions (including poor Norbert, Herald, and Sheila, three of his favorite Dancers) had been mercilessly killed.  The only consolation was that Sora had been detained, and the guard Berserkers said he seemed to be too depressed to do much more than ram the inside of the cage every once in a while.

Ugh, maybe pulling a Xemnas wasn’t so smart.  I mean, he DID end up dead.  But he’d promised the lesser Nobodies and Chester that he’d help them get Kingdom Hearts, and making Sora collect hearts for them sounded like less work than searching the Realm of Darkness like the other Organization members had. 

“Lord Demyx,” Quynn, a Gambler, saluted Demyx, who yawned and blinked sleepily as he woke from his half-conscious state.  If I could just fall all the way asleep it would take them a lot longer to wake me up.  “Permission to give status report?”

“Sure, whatever.  What is it now?”  Every time he tried to sleep he’d be woken within ten minutes to give out more orders.  Almost makes me feel bad for Saïx.  But not really. Nobody asked him to shove missions down our throats.

“The Berserkers broke the dishwasher again, Hugo accidentally bleached your cape while trying to get out the ketchup stain, and the Kerfuffalator is malfunctioning again,” she said.

“Urk, can’t you get someone else to…”  His eyes widened, and he jumped off of the couch.  “Wait, did you say Hugo messed up my cape?”

“Yes, the Creepers aren’t particularly used to washing clothes.  That used to be the Dusks’ job.”  Lord Demyx is nice, but he doesn’t particularly know how to run a castle.

Quynn had never seen Demyx move so fast.

XXX

“My poor cape…”  Demyx whimpered, cradling the discolored piece of fabric as he sat on top of the washing machine in the laundry closet.  “How am I supposed to be an Evil Overlord without my cape?”

“I’m sorry, Lord.”  Hugo tried to pat his boss’ shoulder comfortingly, but he couldn’t balance on one arm/foot thing and ended up toppling off of the washing machine.  After Demyx pulled him back up, he settled for nuzzling him with his head.

“It’s okay, Hugo.  You didn’t mean to.  Tell the other Creepers to swap for sentry duty with the Dusks.  Oh, and tell the Gamblers to fix the dishwasher before they work on the Kerfuffalator.”  Demyx didn’t look at his minion, still staring at his cape. 

“Will do, Lord.”  The Creeper quickly left the laundry closet.

Despite not having a heart, Demyx found the loss of his cape oddly depressing.  I imported it all the way from Japan, for Kingdom Hearts’ sakes!  At least I still have my Organization coats, but they don’t stand out.  Everyone has those these days.  How will I be an epic boss now?  He suddenly winced in pain as a dark force hit him like a ton of bricks.

You could actually ACT like an Evil Overlord for once, Chester’s voice growled inside Demyx’s head.

Aww, but that’s too much work!  Demyx complained.  Chester didn’t give him orders very often, but when he did they were never very fun.  Why did I become friends with you, anyway?  He was starting to regret it more and more lately.

If it wasn’t for me, you’d still be wasting your time rotting in the Realm of Darkness, Chester hissed.  You do want your heart back, don’t you?

Of course I do!  Demyx crossed his arms.  Luckily none of his minions were in the laundry closet to see the argument inside his head.  We all do.

Good, Chester purred.  Then you won’t mind the reminder.  You have the keybearer.  Use him.

Now?  The sun’s not even up!  It’s, like, four in the morning, and I haven’t gotten any sleep all night!  Can’t it wait until noon like we planned?

Chester sighed.  He could only push Demyx so hard or risk rendering him useless.  Not a prime choice for a host, but there weren’t many options in the Realm of Darkness, and there was too much danger in trying to breach the Realm of Light alone with that violent key-swinging brat running around.  At least that wouldn’t be the case for much longer.  Chester had no intention of letting the brat live after Kingdom Hearts was complete. 

Rest now, and prepare the keybearer. Strike fear into his heart… if that is within your capabilities.  Fear brings respect, and respect brings obedience.  Usually, anyway.

Chester’s presence dissipated from Demyx’s mind, leaving him drained of energy.  As always, though, he would do whatever the Heartless ordered.  He didn’t want to figure out what would happen if he refused.

XXX

After (finally) getting a decent nap while hiding under a pile of old cloaks, Demyx left the laundry closet to begin his preparations.  One of the Assassins sewed him a new cape (how in the worlds he did it Demyx had no clue) that was arguably even more epic and billowy than his old one.  Motivated by this success, he tried to do other Evil Overlord-like things, such as laughing maniacally.  All of the Nobodies in
Castle Nemo covered their non-existent ears at the horrible screeching noise that sounded even worse than Vexen’s evil scientist cackle.  Demyx took this as a sign that he was doing a better job at being scary.  The rest of the morning he spent preparing a song that he thought would surely terrify Sora into becoming his heart-collecting slave.  Even if I’m not cut out for this stuff, I’m sure getting a lot better at it.

At twelve o’clock, Sora was startled by Demyx suddenly sweeping into the room, followed by a few Dancers.

“Today’s the day!”  Demyx said cheerfully.  “Time for you to bash some Heartless for us!”

Sora put on the most stubborn glare he could muster, crossing his arms.  “And why should I do that?”

“I thought you enjoyed killing things,” Demyx said, frowning.  “That’s what it looked like when we fought.  And think of all the poor Dancers and other Nobodies you killed!”

“It’s not like they were actually alive,” Sora reasoned, forgetting that he had a Nobody himself who would take a large offense to that statement.  “I won’t fight for you, no matter what you say!  Let me out of this cage so I can wipe that look off your face!”   It felt good to have somebody to fling his anger at.  Insulting the walls had gotten awfully boring.

“You know, I can’t see how that could make me want to let you go.”

Sora growled, failing to come up with a witty retort.

“Fine, be that way.”  Demyx summoned his sitar.  “Dance, water, dance!”

Five water clones appeared, playing their water-instruments along with Demyx’s real one to the tune of Be Prepared.

“I know you can be as determined, as Saïx was to boss me around.  But think about this: you’ve been trapped now!  Your keyblade can’t help you this time.”  He danced around Sora, who yawned, unimpressed.  Demyx frowned.  “It’s clear from your stubborn expression, you don’t give up too easily.  But I’m the boss so pay attention!  Even you can’t hope to stop us now!

“So prepare for a new kind of mission!  Be prepared, to be used for my plans!  All of us Nobodies, will become somebodies-”

“What would be my purpose?”  Sora asked.

“Just listen to Demyx.”  He grinned.  “I know that you’ll work hard, once we’ve broken your heart, and showed you that there is no escape.  Kingdom Hearts will finally be ours - Be prepared!

One of his Dancers, Carlos, interrupted the song.  “Yeah, be prepared!  We’ll be prepared!  For what?”

“I just told you!”  Demyx shouted, annoyed at having his groove thrown off.

“Uh, we were spacing out…”  Another Dancer, Lloyd, admitted.

Demyx sighed and explained again,  “We’ll use him to build Kingdom Hearts.”

“Great idea!  He’ll do the work for us!”  A third Dancer, Mona, cheered.

“No work, no work, la la la la la la!”  The Dancers sang.

Demyx’s eyes flashed red, and his voice lowered about three octaves when he growled, “Idiots!  You’ll have to do work!”

Lloyd’s hat-ribbon curled unhappily.  “Hey, but you said…”

“You’ll have to fix the Kerfuffalator, but stick with me, and I promise you’ll get your hearts back!”

“Yaaay!”  The Dancers cheered.

“Long live our lord!” Mona started up a chant.

“Long live our lord!”

“It’s great that we are all connected, to a lord who’ll bring back what we’ve lost,” all the Dancers chanted.

“But of course, you should know, you’re expected, to behave like good minions should be,” Demyx warned, his voice still a little deep.  “The future is full of sweet music, to be played by my clones and me.  But that doesn’t mean your job is over - you must keep an eye on that key!”

Demyx pointed to Sora without realizing that the keybearer was nodding off.  “So prepare for the plot of this fanfic; be prepared for it to favor me! With some help I’m planning-”

“(We’ll have hearts!)”  The Dancers chanted in the background.

“To get to the ending-”

“(Feelings too!)”

“Without complication-”

“(We won’t be)”

“Unlike the Organization-”

“(Faceless mooks!)”

“I’ll come out alive, with minions at my side.  We’ll be whole as our song fills the air - Yes, music-haters better beware:

“Be prepared!”

Demyx and the Dancers sang in tandem, “We will get our hearts back, this we swear:  Be prepared!”

 “Yeah!  Awesome show, guys!”  Demyx high-fived his Dancers as they left to go help fix the Kerfuffalator.  “You must be really scared of my evil plan now, right, Sora?”

The only sound that came out of the pet carrier-cage was steady snoring.  Demyx stared in disbelief at the sleeping Sora, who had sprawled out on the floor of the crate with his hands clasped behind his head and drool streaming down the side of his face.

“You- you fell ASLEEP?”  Demyx raged, stomping his foot.  Of course, Sora didn’t respond.  “That’s it!  Being an Evil Overlord stinks!  I just worked my butt off preparing that song, well, I guess I did improvise a little, but he just falls asleep!  I probably would’ve been better off wandering around the Realm of Darkness, at least you don’t get hungry, and it takes a while to get tired, and there aren’t lesser Nobodies begging to be ordered around every five seconds!  And people DON’T FALL ASLEEP DURING MY SONGS!”  He yelled, pressing his face against the bars of the cage door.

Sora continued to snore.

“I am done with this!”  Demyx kicked the cage, yelping in pain as he stubbed his toe, and turned to go find the Sorcerers.  I’ll just return this cage and throw Sora out on the street somewhere.   If he can fall asleep through my amazing performance, he’s gotta be even more of a slacker than me.

He was stopped short by a sudden pain that made him feel as if his skull had split open.

Quitting so soon?  But we’ve only just begun!

Demyx screamed and blacked out.

XXX

“Lord?  Are you alright?”

Demyx woke to the sound of the Gambler’s voice and the drenching blast of water.  Guess they got the Kerfuffalator working…

“Lord?”  The Gambler persisted.  Edgar again?  Ugh, I’m trying to sleep!

Demyx mumbled something incoherent to try to appease him, but then his minion switched to interrogation mode.

“What happened?  Why are you laying on the floor?  Why did you scream?  What happened?”

“I don’ feel so good…”  Demyx was touched by Edgar’s concern, but he really wanted to be left alone.  I could sleep for like, a kajillion years right now.  He didn’t particularly care that he was laying face-first on the floor without any memory of how or why.

“Lord Demyx!”  This time it was a sentry Creeper by the name of Carl that spoke, appearing in the room.   “Fangirls!  There’s a fight going on only a few blocks down!”

Demyx was on his feet in a second.  Fangirls were serious business.  “With who?”

“Numbers VIII, XIII, and XIV, along with three others I couldn’t identify.”

“Huh, wasn’t I going use Roxas and Xion in my evil plot?… Oh well, I don’t really care right now, and they were pretty nice to me.  Tell everyone to stay away from the battle.  I’ll send in water clones to take the fangirls away.  Dance, water, dance!  Dance, water, dance!”  He summoned his sitar and repeated the command several times until the room overflowed with clones.  A few of them almost knocked over the Kerfuffalator, which was still half-full of water.  “Carl, take them where they need to go, but don’t stick around.”

“Yes, Lord.”  Carl and the water clones disappeared, and Demyx slumped back against Sora’s cage, closing his eyes.

“Man, summoning that many clones takes way too much effort.  Hey Edgar, can you get me something to eat?  I’m starving.”

Edgar sighed, annoyed that his questions had been ignored, but nodded anyway.  It wasn’t his place to know all of his Overlord’s business.

“Thanks,” Demyx said.  Thanks.  That was what set him apart from Xemnas:  he cared enough to show appreciation for his minions. 

Of course, Edgar was used to politeness from Luxord.  “It is my pleasure,” he replied, disappearing for the kitchen.

Demyx frowned slightly, wondering what he’d been doing before Edgar had woken him, but then he shrugged.  He’d try to remember later.  If some of his old coworkers were here, who know what strange things he’d have to take care of next?

Chapter Text

“So you are behind this mess.” 

Riku, Kairi, Naminé, Roxas, Xion, and Axel all turned to see one person they had definitely not expected to meet.  The color suddenly drained from Axel’s face, making his teardrop-markings stand out more than ever.  Xion squeaked in fear and surprise.  Roxas put on his angry face, and Riku glared as wellNaminé stood firm and looked him square in the eyes.  However, Kairi was the first to speak.

You!  You’re the guy who kidnapped me!  From my kidnapper!” 

Saïx didn’t react other than to pry a lingering fangirl who hadn’t been in the original mob off of his arm and attempt to push her away.  Kairi’s outburst was completely understandable, as most people don’t take kindly to being kidnapped, after all.

“Can I have your autograph?  Please?  With a heart and moon-shaped sprinkles on top?”  The fangirl begged, refusing to be detached until Saïx sighed, took a pen from his pocket, and signed his name across her forehead as casually as if he was approving mission reports.

“Leave before I send my claymore through your skull.”  And empty threat, of course.  He knew the universal laws of fangirl revenge.  I should obtain some less noticeable attire… but it doesn’t seem as if that has helped any of them avoid fangirls.

The fangirl squeed, ignoring the fact that she’d been threatened, and ran off to Kingdom Hearts knows where.

Everyone else continued to stare at the blue-haired Nobody, who glared back at them as if to say ‘What are you looking at?’  He’d only been following protocol by investigating the scene of the fangirl attack, and even if he hadn’t arrived in time to be useful, he had at least followed the Anti-Fangirl Alliance Pact. 

But apparently nobody cared.  Kairi was quickly turning a deeper shade of red than Axel’s hair, and they could practically see the steam coming out of her ears.

“I mean, at least Axel was polite-“  said ex-Nobody smirked a bit, “-you just shoved me in a dark jail cell and left me to rot there and only fed me Xigbar’s overcooked leftover burritos!  I don’t even think they were edible!”  Kairi ranted, stopping only long enough to take another giant breath.

“Really, Saïx?  That’s low, even for you.”  Axel shook his head in disappointment while glaring at his old friend.  “Everyone knows Xigbar’s burritos can be lethal to anyone but him.”

“And it was cold, and I really needed a longer dress, and-“

*Ten minutes later*

“-and Luxord was always pestering me to play poker with him and Xigbar, and I hate you!”  Kairi finished, much to everyone’s relief.  Axel yawned, shaking himself awake again.  Saïx, who was only watching the rant in bored disinterest, rolled his eyes.  Roxas and Naminé’s gazes hadn’t wavered throughout the entire spiel.

“I’ll just skip the rant and agree with her,” Riku said, jerking a thumb in Kairi’s direction.  Xion poked her head out form where she had been hiding behind him and Axel and Roxas, then took a deep breath and stepped between them, completing the line of angry and confused characters.

“You and Xemnas reprogrammed me,” she said flatly, keeping the tears in her eyes from affecting her voice as best as she could.  “You made me almost kill Roxas.”

So she’s Number XIV?  The replica?  Saïx wondered.  I’ve never seen its face before, but Axel did refer to her as female…

“Which made me have to kill her,” Roxas growled, almost summoning his keyblade, but Axel stepped forward and reached back to clap a hand on his and Xion’s shoulders.

“I know we’d all love to have a Boss Battle right now, but let’s take it over there.”  He nodded in the direction of a nearby alley branching off of one of the crowded streets.  They were attracting way too much attention, especially after the incident in chapter ten. 

They formed a circle around Saïx without thinking too much about it.  Either he didn’t mind the situation or he was more concerned with the no-interference rule (which had clearly already been broken), but for whichever reason he allowed himself to be led through the mob of tourists into the dark side street.

Axel cleared his throat.  “Okay, before we all start trying to beat Saïx up, I think we should let him explain what’s going on here.”  His eyes locked on to those of his old friend.  “And it better be a freaking good explanation.”

The circle continued to stare at Saïx, Riku rather boredly (sure, he hated the guy, but after everything that had already happened he would much rather get on with the mission than worry about it), Kairi and Roxas still furiously, and Naminé and Xion like they were trying to bore a hole in him.  Axel tried to keep his face free of judgment despite wanting to rip Saïx’s throat out for everything he’d done to his friends.  Their old friendship had been long-since forgotten – not because he wanted to forget, but because it hurt way too much to think about.  But if Saïx had found his heart… well, maybe he deserved a second chance.

But if Saïx did anything, or even thought about doing anything to his friends, all bets were off.

“Go on.  Now’s not the time to get stage fright,” Axel pressed, getting pretty annoyed at Saïx’s uninterested expression.

“I was preforming recon in the area,” he lied, not about to admit that Demyx’s water clones had ambushed him while he was trying to locate his old home in Radiant Garden.  Just when he could finally try to reclaim his old life, or what was left of it…  He sighed.  He couldn’t escape everything he’d done that easily.  His heart had come at a great price.  Saïx was not accustomed to guilt, but seeing most of the people he’d hurt in the same day… that was painful.  Even if he still refused to admit responsibility for some of it.

“Oi, are you flashbacking or something?”  Axel snapped his fingers, and Saïx straightened up suddenly.  Man, he’s acting weird.  Looks like he’s trying to act like a Nobody, but he can’t quite pull it off.  He knew the feeling…

Saïx ignored his question, going for the best subject-change he could think of.  “I found Demyx’s… lair,” he said, for lack of a better word.  “I suppose you are searching for it?”

Axel looked skeptical.  “Yeah, we are, but if you already found it, why aren’t you over there kicking Demyx’s butt?”

Saïx mentally cursed himself, racking his brain for an excuse.

“He was kidnapped,” Naminé blurted, and everyone turned towards her.  She even looked startled herself, covering her mouth in confusion.

“How do you know that?”  Saïx’s eyes narrowed, and he cursed himself again.  I just confirmed her suspicions!  I must be losing every skill I ever learned as a Nobody…  Axel would never let him live it down.  The redhead was already sniggering, and the replica and Roxas joined in like it was contagious.

“I don’t know… the memory just came to me.” Naminé’s hands shook, and her face paled whiter than it already was.

Roxas took one of her hands in his, his shyness overpowered by concern for her.  “Are you okay?”  Her skin felt like ice…

“I- I think so.  I didn’t think I could still see memories.  There were- cages, I think, and Sora was there too…”  She trailed off, clutching her head, and stumbled into Roxas.  He caught her with open arms.

“Be careful,” he said softly.  “It doesn’t sound easy to look at people’s memories.”

 “Sora?  You saw Sora?”  Kairi asked pleadingly to both Saïx and Naminé.

“Don’t bother her,” Roxas ordered, propping Naminé against the exterior brick wall of one of the buildings lining the alley.

“I’m fine,” Naminé tried to protest, but her voice was faint.  Here I am, being useless again.  She felt bad for Roxas, having to take care of her so much.

“No you’re not.”  Roxas equipped a potion panel and used it, handing her the drink that appeared.  She sipped it gratefully.  “It’s been a long day already, considering you just got your body back.  I didn’t get all  my energy back until about a week, and you just did some sort of magic you didn’t even know you knew how to.  Take it easy.”

Naminé smiled, and Roxas grinned shyly back.  Axel flashed him a thumbs up, making him turn red and self-conscious again.

“Well, since Roxas has her taken care of, let’s get back to business,” Riku said, trying to restore order before Kairi started to shoot out a kajillion questions about Sora.

Axel went back to snickering, now shaking his head in disbelief.  “You got kidnapped by Demyx?

Saïx took a deep breath, suppressing a sigh.  “I saw you fighting the fangirls and water clones.  You saw how many he can summon.  I was ambushed.”

“Uh-huh.”  Axel smirked, and Saïx rolled his eyes.  “We’ve been just fine, and we’ve been ambushed plenty of times.”

“There are six of you.  I’ve been on my own.”

“It’s called having friends.  You should try it sometime.”

Saïx gazed over Roxas as he whispered with Naminé by the wall, Kairi with her arms crossed angrily as Riku lounged against a dumpster and assured her they’d find Sora soon, Xion as she stood awkwardly next to Axel like she didn’t particularly enjoy eavesdropping but didn’t have a better place to stand. 

“You have an odd taste in friends,” Saïx said disdainfully.  “How can you be friends with the keybearers we worked against for so long; the friends of Sora, the traitorous witch, and a puppet?” 

Xion cringed, and Axel’s temperature spiked despite the magical limits of Earth. 

Axel grabbed a fistful of Saïx’s coat and shoved him against the brick wall opposite Roxas and Naminé.  Everyone else glanced up from their discussions in surprise.

“You.  Will.  Never.  Insult. My.  Friends.  Again.”  Each word was punctuated with a blast of heat exploding from the hand Axel had grabbed Saïx with, making his whole body pulse with fiery pain.  “And if you do, I will rip out your voicebox and feed it to you.

Saïx’s eyes were wide with true fear.  He’d accidentally found and pressed Axel’s berserk button.

“Axel?”  Roxas asked, eyes wide.

 “Y-you’re being scary…”  Xion whispered, her voice shaking even though she was trying to keep it steady. 

Like they’d flipped a switch, the malice dissolved from Axel’s eyes.  Saïx collapsed limply to the ground, clutching his chest in agony, trying to keep his vision from swimming. 

Axel dismissed the flames that had already begun to flicker in his palms, staring at them like they were bloodstained.  Which in a way is true...  “I…” he didn’t even know what to say.  He hated scaring his friends, and the looks on both of their faces reminded him of the times his fiery wrath had been directed towards them…

Xion tried to relax, but she still hung back closer to Roxas and Naminé.  “Don’t worry about me.  I’m tougher than I used to be.”

Axel laughed shakily.  “I’m not sure you’re the one I should worry about…”  He looked at his own hands again before looking towards Saïx, who was staring at them from where he was crumpled on the pavement.

“He deserved it,” Roxas grumbled, glaring for all it was worth.

“Yes, but…”  Xion’s expression softened.  She had never seen Saïx so vulnerable…  “He’s trying to help.  And we only found the building containing Demyx’s lair, not the actual apartment.  If he could take us to him…”  Xion wasn’t too enthusiastic about the idea, since she knew Axel would be at Saïx’s throat again if he said anything bad about her or Roxas, and she still hated Saïx herself.  It’s hard to let go of a grudge against someone who make you feel more worthless than shooting Firaga in Atlantica, tried to make you kill your best friends, and basically sabotaged everything you loved in life.  But still, she didn’t know what Demyx was planning, and even if she couldn’t imagine him truly being evil, Riku had made him sound pretty bad.  The quicker they could find him and get to the bottom of the whole mess, the better.

“And you still want me to buy you ice cream?”  Axel asked teasingly.

“I found more information than you did, so I won the bet,” Xion said.  “Of course I want my ice cream.”

“It’s not like I don’t buy you and Roxas ice cream every once in a while anyway.”  He shrugged, smirking.

“It’s the bragging rights that count.  Free ice cream is just the icing on the cake.”

Saïx stirred, gasping when the burning pain flared up again, lacing through his lungs.  “You don’t even care that you could have killed me, do you.”

Axel was startled by his friend’s voice, full of sadness.  He hadn’t heard that much emotion from him since they were Isa and Lea.  “Hey… I don’t want to hurt you.  But I don’t want you to hurt my friends, either.  Physically or emotionally.  They’ve been through enough.”

And do you even know what I’ve been through?  Saïx thought bitterly.  But after all this time, Axel’s bond with Roxas and Xion would definitely be stronger than his bond with Saïx, even if technically Axel and Saïx had known each other longer.  Saïx regretted that deeply.

“…I’m sorry.”  Saïx winced at his own words, ones he hadn’t uttered since before he became a Nobody.

Axel recoiled in surprise but composed himself quickly.  “For-“

“Everything,” Saïx interrupted.  The more he thought about it, the more he truly was.  Everything he’d worked for in the Organization was gone now, but Axel still had the friends he’d made.  Maybe if Saïx had tried a little harder to keep his own friendship instead of letting things fall apart so easily, he wouldn’t have been left with nothing.

Despite the roar of crowds passing by on the connected street, the alley felt silent as any of the empty rooms in Castle Oblivion.  Roxas, Naminé, Riku, and Kairi had been listening in on the rather interesting conversation, whether they wanted to or not, and waited for Axel’s response.

The redhead bent down, took Saïx’s hand, and pulled his ex-best friend to his feet.

“If you think you can spit out a few words and smooth everything over, you’re just as much of a moron as you always were.  But for what it’s worth… I think I might be able to find it in my heart to forgive you.  If you can show me that Isa’s still in there.”

Saïx didn’t entirely appreciate the way Axel spoke to him, but considering he barely had the strength to stand… He dropped what was left of his pride.

“…Thank you…  Lea.”

Riku cleared his throat loudly, summoning Way to the Dawn.  “Hey, I hate to break up this touching and extremely long moment, but we’ve got company.”

The sounds and light of more weapons being summoned filled the alley just as water clones did.  Saïx tried to summon his claymore, but even that took too much energy, and he had to lean against the wall again.

“Better sit this one out, Saï.  I pretty much nuked your insides.  Guess I’m a little sorry ‘bout that.”  Axel grinned sheepishly as Saïx’s brow furrowed.  “See how we take care of these punks!”

Chakrams and keyblades flashing, Axel, Xion, Riku, and Kairi leapt into action, slicing down water clones left and right without letting the timer drop very far.  Roxas fought from where he was guarding an apologetic-looking Naminé.

Kairi made a show of swinging her keyblade as extravagantly as she could until she dropped it and nearly touched a water clone while picking it up.  Laughing self-consciously in an attempt to cover her slip, she began to fight more simply.

Ironically enough, it was Axel who first got touched, as he had thrown his chakrams and had nothing to block with.

“Axel!”  Roxas and Xion called at the same time.

 “Come on, it snuck up behind my HP bar!”  Axel yelled as the tune to “I’ve Got a Dream” began to play.

But he had been stopping the clones from reaching Saïx, who was touched as well once Axel was forced to dance.

 “I was doing good by far, until my HP bar, got in the way and threw off my ninja skills,” Axel sang, happy that it was at a much deeper pitch than most of the songs he’d been forced to sing.

“Is it so hard to admit that you’re not the best there is?”  Saïx sang back oddly well, and then they sang together,

“Well yes our pride gets in the way sometimes.”

Saïx sang alone, “It’s rather demeaning to have to sing this song.”

“I’ve gotten used to singing actually.”  Axel sliced through a few water clones while tap-dancing to the tune.

“Do you have any dignity?”

“You got captured by Demyx, really!”

Saïx grumbled as he sang, but he still sounded better than Axel did when he tried his best.  “I’m human so you know, I have some flaws.”

Xion and Roxas stared at him in shock, and he glared back.

“There, I said it, now it’s your turn.”

“Fine, I’m not as perfect as I seem,” Axel sang in reply, earning eyerolls from all the other characters.  “I regret what happened at C.O., ask Naminé if you don’t know, like all non-Gary Stus  I’ve got some flaws.”

Roxas was nearly touched by a water clone when he was distracted by Saïx’s oddly beautiful voice.  “I gave the orders for those murders, don’t leave that on Axel’s head, but I do recall him stealing from our Moogle.”

“That was really important,” Axel retorted,  “I’d come home from a mission, and I was bleeding all over the couches.  Besides, you used to be an expert prankster.”

“Only because you forced me to be-”

“Maybe so, but you enjoyed it, like when we flooded the school’s toilets-”

Saïx tried not to smile.  I suppose if that was fun, then we were flawed.”

“He’s got some flaws!~”

“He has some flaws-”

“He used to be afraid of Santa Claus!”

“SHUT UP,”  Saïx growled, then cleared his throat and continued, “He thought that crows were evil-”

Axel sang back, That hasn’t changed still, they poop on people’s heads ‘cause they’ve got flaws!”

Kairi and Xion were finally overwhelmed by the water clones, and they happily contributed to the list of their friends’ flaws.

“Roxas can’t go a day without his ice cream,” Xion grinned.

“Heh, you couldn’t live without it too,” Axel sang back.

“Axel’s been known to make a mess,” Saïx volunteered.

“Naminé needed a longer dress,” Kairi added.

Roxas and soon Naminé were finally mobbed, too.

Roxas shout-sang,  Axel snores!”

“So do you!”

“Kairi smacks when she chews,” Naminé sang quietly.

“Hey!”

Xion sang loudly enough to be heard over all of them,  And sometimes Axel has dreams involving unicorns!”  She paled suddenly.  “Wait, I really didn’t mean to say that, I promise-”

“This never happened,” Axel deadpanned.  “NEVER.”

When Riku was touched, everyone went silent.

“I think it’s your turn, Riku,”  Kairi said when the water clones seemed to stare at him.

“Go figure, I have to be the one to get the solo…”  he muttered, but since he couldn’t move anything other than his mouth until he sang, he cleared his throat.  “I have flaws like everyone else, I just keep them to myself, so that I don’t annoy you with self-pity.  But I guess sometimes, I’m jealous of you guys, and how you always seem to be so happy.”

Naminé and Kairi clapped for him, and the others joined in.  Axel even whistled.

“I have some flaws,” Riku continued,

“He’s got some flaws,” the other characters echoed,

“I have some flaws,”

“He’s got some flaws.”

Axel smirked.  “I have to say I guessed it all along.”

Riku sighed.

“Well, I feel a little better,” Axel continued, and Xion picked up, “We can all be flawed together.”

Saïx quietly sang, “I’m sorry I hurt you, you’re human too.”

Axel grinned and clapped his friend on the back.  “You have a heart!”

“I have a heart,” Saïx sang to himself.

“We’ve all got hearts!”  Xion cheered.

“We’ve all got hearts!  So our diff’rences  don’t set us far apart!  It’s a fresh staaaart!~”

Kair sang, “Call us sappy-“

“Dumb-“ Riku continued,

“Confusing-“ Roxas added,

“But I might just try forgiving,” Axel finished, and then all the characters sang together,

“‘Cause even with our flaws, we all have hearts!”

“I have a heart!”  Naminé sang since she hadn’t had much lyric time.

“I have a heart,” Roxas sang proudly.

“We’ve all got hearts!  We’ve all got hearts!  We’ve all got hearts!”

“Never lost my heart!”  Riku broke the combo, but they all sang together at the end,

“Yes though we have our flaws, we’ve all got hearts!”

As soon as the song was over, a water clone sprayed Saïx in the face before they all disappeared.

“That irritating, slacking-“  Saïx began, trying to fix his hair, but Axel cut him off.

“Now, now, remember what we just sang about?  Demyx’s got his flaws too, however much we all want to beat some sense into him.”  Axel smiled.  “That song wasn’t too bad.  You know what?  I’ll forgive you, Saïx.  We’ve both done stuff we’d rather forget, but maybe we can put the past behind us.  That is, as long as you promise to never, ever bother my friends again.”  He put Roxas in a loose headlock and ruffled Xion’s hair affectionately.

A hint of a smile worked its way onto Saïx’s face.  “I have no reason to interfere.  I believe I can keep that promise.”

Axel released Roxas and took his hand off of Xion’s head, clapping Saïx on the shoulder.

“It’s good to have you back, Isa.”

 

 

Chapter Text

After some discussion about what everyone wanted to do now that they had yet another person in their travelling party of Kingdom Hearts characters, they decided they were all hungry. It would be a good idea to fill their stomachs after so much fangirl-fighting and singing, but there was one other thing that needed to be fixed first.

Axel stole Saïx a new set of clothes: khaki shorts, sandals, a black shirt with three howling wolves on it, and a fishing hat. Saïx grumbled about it, but he gave in to wearing everything but the hat because "If you don't need to hide that spiky mass on your head, my hair is perfectly fine." Axel was too busy laughing at him in the wolf shirt and making werewolf jokes to care.

While they were busy, Riku managed to convince the manager of a nearby buffet restaurant to take munny instead of US dollars. 'Convince' in this instance may have involved threatening, but no one knew for sure. Riku was firmly against giving away his secrets.

Roxas, Xion, Naminé, and Kairi stood outside the restaurant, talking about random things while they waited for their friends/reformed enemies to return.

"This is kind of weird," Roxas remarked. "I'm not used to being the only guy in a group."

Xion shrugged. "I've always been the only girl with you and Axel, but I never minded. There weren't any other girls in the Organization after Larxene was killed, anyway, and I didn't like her to begin with."

"Some people thought it was a little weird to have boys for my best friends," Kairi said, "but they were more fun to play with than most of the girls. I can't think of anyone else who would've wanted to build a raft and go on an adventure on it."

Naminé shuffled her feet, remaining silent. She didn't have any friends for so long that she didn't have anything to say. Roxas saw her awkwardness and smiled shyly at her.

"Well, I'm okay with having more girls as friends."

Naminé smiled back. "I'm just glad that I have friends now."

"Aww!" Kairi grinned, hugging her Nobody. Naminé just stood there with her arms sticking out at her sides, not used to the normal gestures of friendship among girls.

Kairi pulled a confused Xion in as well, and the three girls shared an awkward (and slightly painful) group hug. Roxas stood by, ruffling his hair and wondering if he was expected to join in as well, but he figured Kairi would grab him if that was the case. He averted his eyes towards the inside of the restaurant to avoid embarrassment, so he failed to see Xion's "save me please can't breathe" expression.

Luckily, Axel and Saïx corridored back from their short shopping/stealing spree at that moment.

"Okay, it's nice to see you're all friends, but you're suffocating Xion and Naminé."

Kairi rolled her eyes, letting go of the other girls. "We were showing Naminé that we care about her."

"We were?" Xion asked.

"Yes, we were." Kairi gave her a look like she couldn't believe the other girl would ask such an obvious question. "It's not like I was trying to strangle them or anything."

"Maybe you weren't trying…" Naminé replied, sharing a grin with Xion.

"Thanks, Axel, you saved us from a slow and painful death," Xion said.

"Hey!" Kairi put her hands on her hips, but she was ignored.

"No problem." Axel cuffed Roxas over the head.

"Ow! What was that for?"

"You shouldn't let people suffocate your friends, even if it looks like they're hugging."

"How was I supposed to know that? I didn't watch because I guessed it was just some girl ritual."

"It is. A dangerous one."

Xion rolled her eyes. "You talk like we're a different species."

"Well, Axel did say girls with hearts are a double dose of complicated, and guys with hearts are just single dose."

Axel elbowed him in the ribs. "That conversation was for guy’s ears only."

Roxas rubbed his injured side. "Could you stop abusing me? We have a lot of pain resistance, but your elbows are really pointy."

Xion had to laugh at that.

Saïx coughed softly, reminding them of his presence. Kairi "hmph"-ed pointedly at him and turned away to strike up a conversation with Naminé.

"Ignore her," Axel said. "She's not going to go easy on you for kidnapping her and trying to kill Sora."

Saïx nodded. "I know. I don't expect her to." He was secretly thankful that Axel had gotten Xion and Roxas to forgive him without much difficulty, though none of them knew exactly how they were supposed to communicate with each other.

"I got us in," Riku announced, pushing the restaurant door open and saving them from an awkward silence.

Various reactions from "Thank you" to "Sweet, I'm starving!" to "Find a seat closest to the food, got it memorized?" to "Don't get us kicked out of here" to "Do they have ice cream?" ensued as the characters eagerly filed inside.

XXX

The initial food raid picked most of the buffet bars clean, much to the dismay of the other diners. Axel alone could take on about four plates despite how skinny he was. Roxas and Riku were still growing teenage boys who needed to eat a lot to keep up their energy. Saïx piled up a few plates of chicken, beef, pork, and other meat products, as he had been deprived of protein and only fed snack foods as Demyx's prisoner.

Kairi didn't typically eat that much (compared to the others, anyway), but she was still nervous for Sora and wanted to have plenty of energy to rescue him, both of which caused her to eat more. Xion was used to man-sized portions from her Organization days, and Naminé was eager to make the most of her first real meal since regaining her body.

The seven of them devoured the food off of the plates that took up all of the space on the table. They soon went back for seconds, and none of the employees made a move to stop them from taking as much as they wanted.

Three courses later, they settled contently back into the overcrowded booth with their respective dessert choices.

"So… uh…" Xion glanced at Saïx, who was on the other side of Axel, as she prodded a bowl of green Jell-O with a spoon and attempted to start a conversation. "Your singing voice is pretty." If he was going to join them on their mission, she might as well try to be nice to him. Nobody else but Axel was making an effort.

Saïx's face turned red, and Axel nearly choked on his red velvet cake from laughter.

"Heh, he's tried to keep that from getting out for years," Axel said, grinning and elbowing Saïx's arm. "Remember when your mom stuck you in Choir and all the girls couldn't stop fangirling over you?"

"All too well," Saïx replied, looking away to hide his embarrassment.

"Were they like the ones that we fought?" Xion asked.

Axel shook his head. "Nah, the ones you so kindly brought upon us-"

"It was an accident; I said I'm sorry!"

He ruffled her hair, grinning. "I know. I'm just giving you a hard time; you didn't know how dangerous they are. Anyway, the ones we met were some of the craziest. Saï didn't have those kind chasing after him, but there was this one girl-"

"Shut up," Saïx muttered with a glare.

Axel took a bite of his cake to hide a grin. "Hm? Did you say something?"

"I know plenty of your embarrassing moments as well. Think twice before you give away mine."

"Oh, so you'd like to tell her yourself? Go right ahead." Smirking, Axel leaned back so Saïx and Xion could see each other more easily.

"What was so embarrassing about it?" Xion asked with an innocent tilt of her head. She thought fangirls were more frightening than embarrassing.

Saïx bit back an aggravated growl, but his glare still made her shrink away.

"Yeah, Saï, go on. Unless you'd like to trust my memory of it…"

Saïx sighed, knowing he was beat. Even though he and Axel had equal amounts of blackmail on each other (even if most of the blackmail Axel had on Saïx had indirectly been caused by him in the first place), Axel clearly didn't have enough of a reputation to be affected as easily. Xion accidentally giving away that tidbit about his unicorn-dreams had shot that down.

"I was in third grade. This girl in my choir class had a crush on me because she liked my voice. She tried to kiss me. I escaped. There. Storytime's over."

Axel chuckled. "You ran away screaming, climbed up the slide, and threw up over the edge."

Xion giggled, and soon the entire table (minus Saïx) was laughing.

"He never had to worry about her again, at least."

Saïx sighed again. "Must you reveal all the details of my childhood?"

"I don't have to, but it's fun." Axel shrugged. "At least we had more decent memories of then than when we were in the Organization."

"I am glad to be out of there," Saïx said softly, but still loud enough for the others to hear.

"I'll second that," Axel chimed in.

"Thirded," Xion said, raising her strawberry ice cream cone in agreement.

"Fourthed," Roxas said as he swallowed a mouthful of his own ice cream cone, which was chocolate.

Naminé giggled. "I don't think that's a word, but I'm glad to be out of Castle Oblivion and away from Marluxia, Larxene, and-" She closed her mouth, eyes darting to Axel before she took a swift bite of her cookie.

He laughed. "And me, right? I'd be surprised if you weren't. I might not've been as bad as those other two, but I was still a jerk. Thanks for not holding it against me."

"You're a completely different person now," Naminé said. "I wasn't even thinking of you the way you are now when I almost said that."

Xion patted his arm sympathetically. "Yeah. That doesn't matter anymore. You're just as nice as the rest of us are, usually." She grinned teasingly.

"Are you saying I'm only usually nice, or the rest of you are only usually nice? I think it's the second one."

Xion shrugged, then turned to Saïx again. "What did you mean when you said you know some of Axel's embarrassing moments?"

"Xion!" Axel balked at her. "Don't ask him that!"

"What? You actually have embarrassing moments? Well, other than being mobbed by fangirls and dreaming about being eaten by unicorns?"

Axel facepalmed. "I thought we weren't going to speak of that ever again."

Xion winced. "Whoops. Sorry. Uh, forget I said anything." Of course, everyone was laughing anyway.

Saïx gave a satisfied smile. "She may not want to cause you more embarrassment, but I have no qualms about doing exactly as you did."

"But-" Axel facepalmed again with an exaggerated sigh. "Fine. Whatever. I don't care. You are all terrible people."

"I told you to think twice before digging up old memories," Saïx said.

Axel groaned and pushed his plate out of the way to lay his forehead on the table.

"Your childhood couldn't have been that embarrassing," Xion said.

"Oh, believe me, there were times…" Axel muttered.

“Hey, I bet you had a better childhood than us,” Roxas pointed out.  “You wouldn’t have been dumb enough to not know that treasure chests have stuff in them.”

Axel chuckled at the memory.  “Heh, guess you’re right about that.”

Saïx began as soon as there was a gap in the conversation.  “When we were nine or so, he had the brilliant idea to try to make the castle guards play Frisbee with us – "

"This story?" Axel interrupted in horror and disbelief. Out of everything he could've picked… He'd actually managed to forget about the incident.

"Yes, this story," Saïx said calmly.  "Of course, they were on duty and wouldn't have us pestering them no matter how much Axel begged and threatened and tried to bribe them with ice cream."

"You didn't use nearly that much detail when you were telling your own story," Axel complained. "I should tell mine myself."

"No," Saïx replied bluntly. "The guards sent out a small child by the name of Ienzo, now known as Zexion. He was ordered to have fun with us, but he didn't seem to know what 'fun' was."

Xion, Roxas, and Naminé could relate to that, though they wondered why Zexion's Somebody was ignorant of such a basic human activity.

"Axel thought it would be a good idea to take him to get ice cream and then sit at the top of the Fountains-"

"Look, it wasn't my fault! Roxas was a zombie the first time I took him to the Clocktower, and he was still less of an idiot than Ienzo was!"

"Hey!" Roxas objected, flicking a piece of his uneaten Jell-O (he and Xion got it more to poke than to eat) at Axel's arm, but he missed and hit Xion instead.

"Roxas!" She wiped it off of her shoulder, glad that the red substance didn't leave a stain on her black shirt. "What was that for?"

Roxas shrugged. "I was aiming for Axel."

"Oh, because that makes it better." Axel scooped out a spoonful of Xion's Jell-O and catapulted it into Roxas's hair. Roxas retaliated by doing the same, and the red Jell-O blended into Axel's mane of spikes.

"Okay, now it's on."

Axel and Roxas engaged in an epic Jell-O War that Xion soon joined, but Saïx ignored it in favor of finishing his story, which Riku, Naminé, and even Kairi were eager to hear.

"Ienzo mumbled something about testing the laws of gravity and pushed Axel over the edge. He broke his arm, and Ienzo ran off. The guards were quite unhappy about how long it took us to find him. They contacted Axel's parents about how irresponsible he was and demanded that he be banned from the castle grounds."

"They didn't talk to your parents too?" Riku questioned, eating a forkful of chocolate pie.

"I was far more apologetic than Axel, and I didn't have a broken arm, which apparently made me more responsible. Also, Axel gave Ienzo a black eye with his uninjured arm. That definitely did not help the situation."

Riku chuckled, Naminé laughed, and even Kairi couldn't hold in a giggle.

"The scolding Axel's mom gave him went down in our childhood history as the worst by far."

Axel sighed, shooting a clump of Jell-O at Roxas through his straw. "You could've stopped talking once everyone else stopped listening."

"We were listening," Riku replied, smirking.

"And me and Naminé were too," Kairi added.

"You three don't count," Axel said, trying to defend himself.

Riku rolled his eyes. "Isn't having a food fight in the middle of a restaurant more embarrassing, anyway?"

"Probably," Axel replied, dumping his cake crumbs on Xion.

"But it's fun!" Roxas said as he tossed the remaining Jell-O onto Axel's lap.

"Maturity was never his strong point," Saïx commented, earning him a glob of mashed potatoes to the ear.

He glared at a grinning Axel. "Do you honestly think that was wise?"

"What're you going to do about it, Saï?"

Saïx took a deep breath and wiped out his ear with a napkin. Roxas and Xion exchanged a glance, fearful that Berserker Fury might be unleashed. Kairi and Naminé though they could almost see the tension in the air. Even Riku scooted back a little in his seat.

Saïx smiled, grabbed Axel's hair, and slammed his friend's face into a half-full bowl of soup.

With that, all chaos broke loose.

Naminé flung pasta at Axel. Xion launched cantaloupe at Riku. Kairi squeezed ketchup at Naminé, who retaliated with spaghetti sauce. Roxas joined Xion in tormenting Riku by dumping the saltshaker's contents on him. Saïx and Axel were locked in a war of Shrimp Throwing and Barbeque Squirting.

Only Riku did not fight back even after being attacked. He only sighed.

"You've all lost your minds," he said, shaking his head in disappointment as salt rained down into his hair like dandruff.

"Lighten up, Riku!" Kairi hit him with a blast of ketchup, leaning around Naminé and Roxas to aim.

"We're drawing attention." He wiped ketchup off of his shirt, frowning at the red splotch left behind.

He was right. The heads of other diners had long since turned to watch the chaos, and the employees were now rushing to the characters' table. All of them but Axel and Saïx froze.

"Axel…" Xion tugged on his sleeve. "We need to go."

He stopped squirting barbeque sauce in Saïx's hair, and his eyes widened.

"Good plan."

Scrambling over each other to get out of the booth, all seven of them made a mad dash for the exit.

XXX

After many unspeakable events that would take three chapters to cover (including fleeing angry restaurant owners, being called hobos, more of Axel and Saïx's childhood memories/trauma, scent-tracking, and bathroom breaks) Axel, Roxas, Xion, Naminé, Kairi, Riku, and Saïx arrived at the door to Demyx's apartment.

"I can't believe that guy." Axel chuckled, looking at the piece of computer paper on the door that read "Castle Nemo – Evil Overlord Demyx's Evil Lair" in sloppy handwriting.

Roxas squinted at it. "It says 'evil' twice."

"Yay, you can read signs now. Amazing," Axel congratulated sarcastically. "I'm just surprised Demyx can spell."

"Are you going in or not?" Saïx asked.

"We are!" Kairi yelled. "We can finally save Sora!"

"Which we could've done sooner if everyone wasn't so easily side-tracked," Riku muttered.

Kairi summoned her keyblade, ready to bust down the door, but Naminé stopped her.

"It might be a good idea to knock first."

Xion nodded. "We don't know exactly what 'evil' Demyx is trying to accomplish. We don't want to cause a misunderstanding."

"Speaking of which…" Axel turned to Saïx. "What is he trying to accomplish?"

"He wants to return hearts to the lesser Nobodies and himself, then take over the universe with music."

"We did hear the Nobodies sing something like that before Sora was kidnapped, but really, music?" Kairi asked, dispelling her keyblade. Saïx nodded.

"O-kay…" Xion trailed off. "Well, we still shouldn't just barge in there. I can understand him wanting his heart back; he's just going about it the wrong way."

Saïx snorted. "He was likely too lazy to find his heart in the Realm of Darkness."

"True," Axel agreed, "but we still need a plan."

"More information would help," Naminé said. "I can try viewing Sora's memories, so we can see what's going on in there right now."

Roxas placed his arm around her. "Be careful, alright? It might take a while to get used to using your memory powers again."

Naminé nodded. "I'll stop if his memories start to flood mine. That's what happened last time."

"Is there any way I can help?" Roxas asked.

"Well, um, maybe…" She held out her hand, and he took it with a smile, a light red creeping into both of their cheeks.

Riku coughed loudly at the same time Saïx rolled his eyes and muttered something along the lines of, "Why must the authoress make us endure this fluff?"

Of course, Roxas and Naminé didn't notice. Focusing on her connection to Sora, she gripped Roxas's hand more tightly as the memories filled her. He shared the burden, catching glimpses of things Sora had seen as Naminé searched for the most recent ones.

"Hold on-" Naminé said, she and Roxas flinching simultaneously. "-Almost done…"

Axel and Xion both figured Roxas and Naminé would be fine, but it was still worrying to watch them grimace and groan.

Finally, Naminé found the memories she was looking for, and she and Roxas relaxed (though they still held hands).

"He appears to be sleeping now," Naminé said. "Before that, Demyx was singing and monologing at the same time. He wants Sora to collect hearts for him to build a new Kingdom Hearts."

"Just like Xemnas did," Roxas said. He frowned momentarily, then smiled at Naminé. "Your power's really useful. I don't know how you can control it, but you did a great job."

"Well, you did help me."

"You were the one who did everything; I just stood here."

Axel rolled his eyes. "Sheesh, your modesty's killing me. You both helped. There. We need to decide how we're getting in."

"We could knock," Xion suggested. "Like Naminé said."

"What's the fun in that?"

"I still want to break down the door," Kairi interrupted.

Saïx glanced between everyone's faces. He had no intention of entering Demyx's lair and meeting old enemies again. He escaped, and he helped them find the 'castle', but he wasn't about to get kidnapped a second time. The only reason he came this far was because Axel wanted him to, and as much as he didn't show it, it was nice to exchange memories and talk like they used to.

I've done my part for now. They can do this on their own, and I'll come back after all this is over.

Saïx attempted to sneak off as they argued, but Axel stopped him.

"Oi, where do you think you're going?"

"I am not about to sing any more, and I do not intend to meet Sora, Larxene, or Marluxia again," Saïx stated firmly.

"Larxene and Marluxia are gone, from what I saw," Naminé said.

"And you can't just leave now!" Axel objected. "We're friends again, right?"

Saïx looked away. "Of course we are. But you do not need me for this."

"Has it occurred to you that I might want you to stay? It's not about you being useful. Friends are supposed to be there for each other." Axel walked over to stand in front of Saïx. "Get it memorized."

Before Saïx could reply or run away, Riku knocked on Demyx's door.

Chapter Text

 “Hi guys!  What took you so long?”  Demyx beamed at the characters standing frozen outside his doorway.  “No need to be shy.  Come in!”

They still stared at him (and at the various lesser Nobodies doing chores in the background).  Demyx scratched his head in confusion, and then his gaze found Saïx. 

“Oh, you’re back, too!  Did you decide to apologize?  It took forever for the Sorcerers to fix those dog crates, y’know.”

Saïx coughed to hide his shock.  “Ah… yes.”  He might as well not cause a fight if Demyx wanted to be friendly.  For now.  There would definitely be some revenge in the future.

“Aww, that’s nice of you!  Man, I haven’t seen the rest of you in forever!  Come in, I’ve gotta show you my super-awesome super-secret lair!”

Tentatively, the large group of characters stepped into the apartment, where Dusks were roaming about carrying Demyx’s coats and underwear, Gamblers were tossing around wrenches and hammers and other construction equipment, Snipers were firing at targets with different pictures of Heartless on them, and other Nobodies were going about less obvious tasks.  It all seemed rather chaotic, but not like an ambush.

“Trap?”  Riku whispered.  The fact that it didn’t seem like an obvious trap only made him more suspicious.

“Don’t think Demyx could come up with one,” Axel replied with a shrug.

“He seems alright,” Xion said quietly.  “Maybe there’s been a misunderstanding?”

Riku snorted, and Saïx stared at her like she was a gullible idiot. 

“There’s not much to misunderstand.”

Demyx looked over his shoulder when he noticed that nobody was following.  “Guys?  Don’t you want to see the rest of my castle?”

“Sure, Demyx,” Axel said nonchalantly.

“It’s Lord Demyx.”  The “evil overlord” (emphasis on the air quotes) grinned proudly.  He wasn’t too concerned with the “evil” part, but being called Lord was pretty cool.  Maybe it would make people respect him.

Axel rolled his eyes.  “Whatever.”

Demyx frowned.  That didn’t sound too respectful.

“Where’s Sora?”  Kairi demanded, losing her patience.

“Oh, hi Kairi!”  Demyx was so excited he forgot to take offense at her tone.  “This is awesome!  It’s, like, a big reunion!  And you’re not stuck in the dungeon this time!”

“But Sora’s stuck in a dungeon!”

“Oh yeah, your boyfriend – he’s not in a dungeon, he’s in a dog crate.  A big one,” Demyx said like that made it okay.  “He’s going to collect hearts for me, but you can see him in a little while.”

“I wanna see him now!”  Kairi stomped her foot and summoned her keyblade.

Demyx grinned brightly.  “Sweet!  You can help me collect hearts too!  It’ll be a giant heart-collecting party!”

Kairi was about to rage something, but Axel clamped a hand over her mouth.

“Why don’t you just take us to Sora?”  He asked, doubting Demyx’s abilities to make anyone collect anything.

“Sure!  At the end of the tour.”

“Tour?”  Everyone asked at once.

“Yep!”  Demyx summoned his sitar.  “And not just any tour – a musical tour!”

This news was met with groaning, annoyed sighs, and facepalms.  Demyx ignored them all and began to play the tune of Skullcrusher Mountain.

 “Welcome to my secret lair called Castle Nemo,” Demyx sang, and the other characters were thankful that he had a decent singing voice.  “I hope that you’ve enjoyed your stay so far, unlike my old prisoner, X-Face!”

He gestured to Saïx, who rolled his eyes.  “This was the worst part,” he deadpanned.   Demyx just couldn’t stop singing, could he?

Demyx didn’t pay him any attention as he went back to singing.  “But you’re back now, it’s amazing, and I assure you we’ll have lots of fun!  Come with me now, see my castle, and you’ll meet all my minions that adore serving me!”

He swished his cape dramatically, leading the characters farther into his lair as he belted out the chorus.  “Oh, and here’s my living room, where I go to take a snooze,” –he pointed to a worn-out couch that looked like it had popcorn kernels shoved in the cracks between the cushions- “Except the Gamblers drive me crazy, wanting commands when I’m asleep!”

“Was he this insane when we were in the Organization?”  Roxas whispered to Xion.

“I don’t think so.  He was pretty nice before.”

“Nice but lazy,” Axel added with a shrug.  “Not that that’s changed.”

Demyx led them through a glob of Dancers, who kept trying to glomp them, and into a different room.

“Now we’re in the dining hall-”

“We’re just within the kitchen walls,” Riku sang, since Demyx tuned out everyone who’d spoken normally.  He was right – it was just a normal kitchen, and a small one at that, though it might’ve just seemed smaller because of all the Dragoons taking up most of the room.

“No this is definitely for dining, on my minions’ meals,” Demyx sang, then paused to grab a slice of pizza that had just come out of the oven.  “Dragoons are really good cooks!”

Demyx kept jamming away on his sitar as he led the characters back out of the kitchen and into the back hallway, where there was a closet that a Gambler opened.  Another Gambler wheeled out an odd contraption that all the readers know is a Kerfuffalator.

“I’ve got this half-cannon, half-water gun-thing because,” Demyx began the next verse, gesturing to it proudly, “my Gamblers made it to shoot some fangirls.  It’s a Kerfuffalator!”

“…You’re kidding, right?”  Axel deadpanned.

“It shoots water, it shoots plushies, it’s even been used to wake me up.”  Demyx frowned a little at that, but it was gone quickly.  “It’s proof that my minions really love me!  Isn’t it amazing that I’ve got such talented Nobodies?”

Saïx shook his head.  “The Nobodies only side with whoever promises them the most benefits, or the master that shares their attribute.”  He glanced at the Berserkers lining the hallway, who seemed like they were staring back at him in surprise despite not having eyes.  “Clearly these are all traitors.  What could they expect to gain from Demyx?”

“Beats me.  Free candy?”  Axel suggested.

They kept following Demyx for the simple reason that they had no other plan.

“Now this is the hallway,” he explained, singing to the chorus’s tune again.  “It got messed up in an escape.  It looks pretty ugly right now, with those charred spots on the walls!”

“I wonder how that happened, considering magic doesn’t work well here,” Xion mused.

“But if you’ll walk this way you’ll be, in the place Kairi wanted to see!  Behind that door you’ll find Sora, in a large dog crate, waiting for my plan to launch!”

Kairi shoved Demyx out of the way and flung the door open, startling Sora from his game of rock-paper-scissors.  With himself.  Being bored out of your mind will do that to you.  (For anyone who’s curious, his right hand was winning.)

“Sora!”  She yelled, running to clutch the bars on the front of his cage.

“Kairi!”  His whole face lit up.  “You came to rescue me!  I knew you would!”

“Don’t mind me, even though I was the only one who kept us on track long enough to get here…”  Riku muttered.

Their reunion was interrupted by Demyx singing even more loudly than before.

“Picture the nine of us singing about my evil glory!”  He stood tall and tried to look dignified, but since he was Demyx, it failed miserably.  “While all the worlds sing along with me, as I, steal their hearts!  And all the fools who hate singing and dance may find it quite annoying –”

“O-kay…”  Naminé said, confused.  “I’m still not getting darkness-vibes from him.”

“You can sense darkness?”  Roxas asked.

“Sometimes I can feel it in people’s memories.  Demyx is connected to Sora enough, so I can get glimpses of his memories like I did with Saïx, and there’s a perfectly normal balance of darkness and light.”

“…You know what?  I’m not going to ask how you seem to be turning into a little mind-reader,” Axel said. If she could read Demyx’s mind she must be able to read his own, too.  That was creepier to him than Demyx’s song, but at least it wasn’t as weird as Riku smelling his thoughts and emotions.

Naminé blushed.  “It’s not mind-reading.  I see memories and discern if they’re light or dark.  I’m just looking at the memories being created right now.”

Axel shrugged.  “Close enough.”

They were all startled by water clones squeezing them together with Demyx, Kairi, Riku, and even Sora, who had been released from his cage for the group hug.

Demyx grinned at them.  “Well it won’t mean half as much to me if you’re not on my side.”

Saïx had to work very hard to suppress the growl from rising in his throat.

“Hey, we’d kinda like to be able to breathe, y’know,” Axel said in annoyance.

“Yeah, this hurts.”  Roxas frowned.

“Hmph.  Party-poopers,” Demyx said, letting them go, and then began to sing again.  “You know it isn’t easy being Lord at my Castle Nemo.  Maybe you could stop looking at me like that – Do you think I’m going crazy!?”

Axel saw the pout growing on Demyx’s face and sang the next few lines.  “You’re not evil, you’re just Demyx, and this “castle” is an apartment!  Hear yourself talk, snap out of it.”

Xion patted Demyx’s shoulder sympathetically and sang too.  “I think you should stop and have some chocolate milk, and go back to being nice.”

Demyx pushed her away, and Axel and Roxas kept her from falling.  “But I tried so hard to be, the best villain that I could be!”  He sang angrily.  “I followed all Chester’s instructions!  Am I just not scary?  If you could find some way to be, a little bit more afraid of me, you’d see the Heartless that controls me, from inside my head says I should just kill you all!

Xion made an attempt to talk to him again, but he turned away and sang the last line over again.

“I should just kill you all!  I should just kill you alllll!”

Axel whistled.  “He’s lost it alright.”

“Have not!”  Demyx protested, sitting on the floor while his water clones patted his back and rubbed his shoulders soothingly.  They left him like that while Kairi glomped Sora, who Demyx hadn’t thought to lock up after the group hug.

Sora grinned happily, hugging her back.  “I’m so glad to see you!  Being kidnapped was awful!  How did you stand it?”

“I spent every minute the Organization wasn’t bothering me plotting my escape,” Kairi replied.

“I never realized how strong you had to be – I mean, I was only stuck here for two days and I was starting to lose it.”

Kairi snuck a glance at Demyx, who was whining to his water clones and the Dancers that had just shown up.  “That seems to be going around.”

“And Kairi…”  He looked at the ground, blushing.  “I’m sorry for letting the whole “I’m-the-hero-of-the-universe” thing go to my head.  I was kind of a jerk to you and Riku.”

“Sheesh, I would’ve given you to Demyx if I knew you’d grow some humility.”  Riku smirked, shoving his friend’s shoulder lightly.  Well, lightly for him, but still painful for Sora.  They both found it ironic that Riku used to be the one always bragging about being stronger than his friend and now he was the one talking about humility.

“Oh, uh, hi Riku.”  Sora laughed awkwardly, trying to separate himself from Kairi.

“No, don’t worry about your other best friend, the one who tried to stop you from getting kidnapped in the first place.”  Riku rolled his eyes.  “You two get caught up so you don’t get distracted at a critical plot point or something.  Stupid sub-plots...”  He walked back to the others to strike up a Singles Awareness conversation with Saïx.

“So, uh…”  Sora ruffled his hair.  “What happened to you and Riku?  And what’s Saïx doing here?”

Kairi explained everything as well as she could.  “Oh, and Roxas and Naminé are a couple now,” she tacked on.

“Uh, okay.”  Sora blinked over at the other group.  How could so much happen in a little over a day?  “You didn’t… you know, when you and Riku were by yourselves, without me…  Um, you two didn’t… like how you said Roxas and Naminé are together now…  You and Riku aren’t like that, right?”  Sora asked awkwardly.

“Of course not!”  Kairi gasped.  Sora sighed in relief.

“Good, because –” He swallowed the rest of his sentence, blushing.

Sighing, Riku paused in his conversation with Saïx to yell at Sora.  “Get on with it!  Before Demyx decides to stop sulking!”

The “evil overlord” was currently eating some green Jell-O a Dragoon brought for him, but he still looked rather pouty.

Sora made some sort of nervous squeak.  “Kairi, I should tell you…”

“Yeah?”  She stood a little closer, making his cheeks heat up even more.

“I’m really bad at this…”  He moaned, feeling like butterflies were trying to burst out of his stomach.  Normally he never got tongue-tied, but around Kairi now…

Taking his hand, she whispered, “At saying how you feel?”

“Um, I guess right now I am, I mean, this doesn’t usually happen.  Sorry if I sound dumb or anything…”

“Sora.”  She squeezed his hand.  “Talking’s not the only way to say something, you know.”

Riku hummed a few bars of a certain Little Mermaid song while shooting Sora a knowing look.  Sora tugged at his collar for a moment, wondering if Kairi was really implying what Riku implied she was implying.  Well, all the implications were way too confusing, but it was like he had much dignity to lose if he messed up horribly.  After all, they’d found him kidnapped and locked in a dog crate.

So before he overthought what he was he was about to do, he kissed her.  And she kissed them back.  And neither of them stopped.

“At least they finally got it over with,” Riku said, turning away. “But they could save it for when they’re not in public…”

Saïx made a comment about migrating to a shippingless fanfic, which Riku seconded.  Axel and Xion distracted Roxas with a conversation about what Heartless types were the ugliest to keep him from noticing the scene, but Naminé wasn’t so lucky.

“I really wish I couldn’t see their thoughts right now,” she said, feeling nauseous.

Trying to get them back on track, Riku pointed to Demyx.  “What should we do about this guy?”

“Give him some schizo meds?”  Axel shrugged.  “You’re the only one here who’s been possessed by a Heartless, besides him.”

“I’m not possessed!”  Demyx yelled, tears coming to his eyes.  The Dancers backed away from him, and the water clones disappeared. “Chester just shows up in my head, and… and he tells me stuff, and if I don’t do it…”

“What happens?”  Xion asked.

“He… he…”  Demyx shuddered, setting his bowl of Jell-O aside.  “It hurts.  And if I try anything he really doesn’t like, something worse happens, but I can’t – I can’t remember what I tried to do or what happened, just that it was bad.  Really, really bad.”  Then he burst into all-out tears.

“Spare us the display,” Saïx scoffed, thinking that Demyx was just being over-dramatic like he did to try to get out of work back in the Organization.

“Don’t laugh,” Riku said seriously.  “This might be a minor case, but I know what it’s like to share headspace with a Heartless.”

“Can we kill it?  The Heartless?”  Roxas asked.  “Like, without hurting Demyx?”  The Nocturne had been one of the Organization’s nicer, although lazier, members, and Roxas saw no reason to hurt him if he didn’t have to.

“He’s not here now.”  Demyx sniffled.  “He’s only in my head sometimes, when he wants to give me orders or see what’s going on, but he’ll come back.  You guys’ll help me, right?  I never really wanted to be evil – I mean, the cape was cool, and so was having all the Nobodies do my chores, but it’s so much work, and I don’t need a Kingdom Hearts anyway, since I already have a heart, except Chester says I don’t – ”

“Demyx, you’re rambling,” Axel interrupted.

“Don’t worry, we’ll help you,” Xion assured him.  “Riku, got any ideas?”

“Unless you happen to have a Kingdom Hearts Encoder sitting around and ready to explode, we’ll have to think a little harder.”

Naminé cleared her throat quietly.  “I might have an idea.”

“Yay!”  Demyx perked up instantly, and now that he stopped rambling and crying, he realized what Sora and Kairi were doing.  “Ewww!  You guys are getting cooties all over my lair!”

They weren’t exactly paying attention to anything going on around them, so Demyx was left with the task of making them stop to save his lair from “cooties.”

Blushing deeply, they separated while Demyx rambled on and on about the symptoms of cooties and how contagious they were.  Axel couldn’t suppress a snicker in the background, but when Roxas asked why he was laughing, he, Xion, and Naminé struck up another pointless argument, this time about which brand of brain bleach was most effective.

“Demyx, don’t we have a bigger problem than cooties right now?”  Riku asked, even though he was thankful that he hadn’t had to pull Kairi and Sora apart himself.

“Oh yeah!  Naminé, you had an idea?”

Sora and Kairi smiled sheepishly at each other, following Demyx back to the rest of the group.

“I could try to look in your memories.  I’m not sure if it’ll help, but I might be able to find where this, uh, Chester lives in your head.”

“I thought you said you couldn’t read minds,” Axel accused.

“I’m not reading his mind, I’m just…”  Naminé frowned.  “I’m not even entirely sure what I’m doing.  It might not even be possible to root out Chester this way.”

“You say that like you don’t think you can do it.”  Roxas smiled at her.  “You’re stronger than you think.”

“Well… Thank you, Roxas.”  She smiled back.  “But I’ll need a hand.”

He gladly gave it.

“This again?” Saïx rolled his eyes.

“Be glad you weren’t there for chapter seven,” Axel said.

Naminé tried to poke her way into Demyx’s memories the way she had Sora’s earlier in the day, but her eyes widened in shock as she, Demyx, and Roxas all cried out in pain.

“It’s – the Heartless is…”  Naminé moaned, collapsing on the ground with Roxas.  Neither of them moved.

Demyx, however, chuckled darkly and opened blood-red eyes.

“Is anyone else picking up extra evil-vibes now?”  Riku asked dryly, smelling darkness wafting off of Demyx, while Axel and Xion rushed to help Roxas and Naminé.

“It’s just you,” Saïx replied in monotone despite feeling rather disturbed himself.

“Roxas!  C’mon, man, get up!”  Axel yelled, shaking his unconscious friend.  “We didn’t come all the way here for you to get yourself knocked out!”

Xion fought back panic.  “I – I think they’re still breathing…”

Sora and Kairi summoned their keyblades and put on identical expressions of determination, and Riku joined them with Way to the Dawn held in his trademark battle pose.  Even Saïx summoned his claymore.

“It’s a pleasure to finally meet you all in the flesh,” Demyx purred in his unnerving deep voice.

“So you’re Chester!”  Sora yelled.

“Your name sounds really dumb, you know,” Kairi commented, earning an eye roll from Riku.

Demyx – Chester – growled.  “Insolent brat!”

“Do all Heartless like using that insult?”  Riku wondered aloud.

While they exchanged useless, distracting banter, Axel and Xion forced hi-potions down Roxas and Naminé’s throats, making them cough as they regained consciousness.

“Bitter.”  Naminé winced.  “Chester noticed that I was intruding in Demyx’s mind, so he went into complete possession mode.”

“Only so many people can fit in one head,” Axel muttered.

“Ugh…”  Roxas rubbed his head.  “I think this headache’s gonna last all day.”

Axel snorted.  “You have my sympathies and all that, but we’ve got bigger problems.”  He jerked his head at the furious Heartless-possessed Demyx, who was in an argument about whether or not Chester was a stupid name.

Xion helped Naminé stand and Axel dragged Roxas to his feet as they joined the other characters.

“This is ridiculous,” Saïx muttered.

“You’re telling me,” Axel grumbled.  “Yo, Demyx!  Chester!  Whatever your name is!”

“What are you doing?”  Xion’s eyes widened.

“Flexible thinking,” he whispered.

Saïx and Roxas both groaned.

Chester’s head whipped towards Axel.  “Who are you to address the Lord of Nobodies with such disrespect?”  To prove his point, he called a hoard of lesser Nobodies into the room.

“The name’s Axel, got it memorized?”  He smirked, noticing the Assassins mixed in with the other Nobodies.  Time to put their loyalty to the test.  “And I don’t think you’re the lord of all Nobodies.”

In their own language, Axel shouted a command to the Assassins.  They seemed torn for a moment, unsure about turning on their new master, but their former loyalty still bound them to follow Axel’s order to attack Chester.

“What?  What are you doing?  I thought you liked me!”  Demyx’s eyes flashed aqua before turning bright red again.  “Attack him!  Attack them all!”

The lesser Nobodies flung themselves at Axel and the others, but the Assassins stopped attacking Chester to form a protective ring around their master and his friends, running around and lashing out at the other classes of Nobodies.  Saïx commanded his Berserkers to do the same, and Axel prodded Roxas to take control of his Samurai.  Soon the whole room was overflowing with brawling Nobodies.

Demyx struggled to take control of his body from Chester again.  “Guys!  You’re hurting my minions!”

“If you didn’t notice, Chester was about to use them to kill us,” Saïx said, claymoring a Sorcerer that came too close to him.  “And he’s still attempting to make them kill us.”

Demyx looked around.  Sora, Kairi and Riku took out Nobodies left and right.  Axel and Xion helped Roxas protect Naminé, who was surrounded by a guard of Samurai and looking depressed that she was once again being useless.

As much as it hurt to betray his minions, Demyx felt Chester wrestling for control again and was forced to make a decision.

“Nobodies!”  He yelled.  “I lied about giving you Kingdom Hearts!  Your hearts are in the Realm of Darkness.  I’m not your master anymore!  Now go away!”

The Nobodies were stunned, even the Samurai, Assassins, and Berserkers, who turned to their masters.  Axel, Roxas, and Saïx gave the command for them to go with the others.

In less time than it took to say “We’re gonna have heaaaaaarts!”  the lesser Nobodies had cleared out.

Now Chester was trying even harder to break through, giving Demyx a headache worse than the time he ate three gallons of ice cream in under ten minutes.  “Help me help me help me get him out of my head!”

Everyone turned to Naminé.  Roxas stood in front of her.

“No!  You don’t know how much it hurt last time!”

Naminé pushed past him.  “Roxas, I have to do this.  Everyone’s counting on me.”  She couldn’t turn down the only way she could possibly help.

“But Naminé…”

She hugged him quickly.  “You don’t have to help me.  I don’t want you to get hurt, either.”

“Hurry!”  Demyx winced, his face contorting painfully.

“We’ll all help.”  Xion took Naminé’s right hand while Roxas held her left.  Axel joined Xion, glaring at Saïx until he ended the chain on that side.  Kairi, Sora, and Riku linked themselves together with Roxas’s side. 

“Okay great come on!”  Demyx yelled painfully.

Naminé reached out with her mind, and it felt like someone turned off the gravity in the second before everything seemed to disappear.

Chapter Text

Well, this was different:  shiny rainbow chains crisscrossing psychedelically pulsing walls that had more holes than Swiss cheese (or the plot of a popular series of vampire novels).  A loud electronic beat made the whole room seem to vibrate.

Naminé, Roxas, Xion, Axel, Saïx, Sora, Riku, and Kairi appeared on a small space of the spongy floor that wasn’t covered in holes.

“Where the insert-a-Disney-censored-word are we?”  Axel asked, dropping Xion and Saïx’s hands and glancing at the eye-bleeding colors, which he quickly had to shield his eyes from.

“Huh, looks kinda like Monstro,” Sora said.  “But with more chains.  And I don’t remember Monstro’s background music being this loud.”

“We’re in Demyx’s mind.”  Naminé shuffled her feet, making water ooze out of the ground.  “I’ve only done this once, when I had to rewrite Roxas’s memories quickly.”  She glanced apologetically at him.

“You already said sorry,” Roxas said.  “Go on.”

She cleared her throat.  “Right.  I didn’t mean to take you guys in with me, but I might need your help.  First of all, don’t touch anything.”

Sora quickly dropped his hand from the sparkly chain he was about to poke.

“We don’t want to tamper with Demyx’s memories.  We’re just here to get Chester out and do as little damage as possible.  These portals-” she pointed to a hole, “-will take us to other places in his mind.  We need to split up, find Chester, and –” She suddenly realized she had no idea what to do then.

“Kill him, right?”  Roxas tried to summon his keyblade.

  1.   Nothing happened.

“Well, that’s not going to work,” Riku deadpanned.  “Any other ideas, Naminé?”

All eyes were on her.  It was an odd change; going form the most useless party member to the only one who knew what was going on.  Or at least knew some of what was going on. 

“I don’t know,” Naminé replied honestly.  “But we can’t stay in here too long.  I’m not sure how long I can keep all of us here.”

“Well, that’s great,” Axel muttered.

“We’ll figure something out,” Xion said.

“Maybe we could kill Chester with magic?”  Kairi asked, but that quickly proved useless as well.

“So, no weapons and no magic, huh?”  Axel ruffled his hair.  “What do we have?  Other than my dashing good looks, of course.”  He grinned.  Xion and Saïx rolled their eyes.

“We have your narcissism, which we could use to annoy Chester into submission,” Saïx suggested smugly.

“Or you could bore him to death with one of your sermons from our Organization days,” Axel teased back.  “’Pitiful Heartless, mindlessly collecting hearts.  The rage of the keyblade’ blah blah blah…”  He made mock-talking gestures with his hands while he quoted.

“So you didn’t sleep through them.”  Saïx smirked.  He knew Axel’s memory was good, but he was surprised that it was that good.

“It put me to sleep.  That part was all I heard.”

“Not that your banter isn’t amusing and all…”  Xion began, stifling a laugh.

Riku finished for her.  “But we need to get down to business.”

“To defeat the Huns!”  Sora added with a hysterical cackle.  “Sorry, couldn’t help it.  Riku hates it when I do that.”

“Yes, I do.”  His friend sighed.  “Let’s focus here.”

“I think we should just find Chester,” Roxas said.  The rainbowness and pulsing were starting to creep him out, and the background music was making his headache even worse.

Axel nodded.  “Yeah, I’m all for making this-”

He was interrupted by a high-pitched scream, followed by Demyx plummeting out of a portal in the roof.  Saïx reached out and caught him by his hood.

“Ow.”  Demyx pouted, then squealed when Saïx threw him face-first onto the floor.  “Hey!”

“How did you get here?”  Naminé asked.  She wasn’t aware someone could journey inside his own mind.

Demyx stood up and brushed himself off, wiping slime off his elbow.  “Well, I was looking for the hot tub that I found last time I was here, but I took the wrong hole and-”

“Yeah, we get it,” Axel interrupted, not really caring. Riku was right to try and get down to business; they didn’t know how much time they had. “We’re going to find Chester and kick him out of here.  Got any ideas on how to do that?”

Demyx thought for a moment, then smiled brightly and pulled a tutorial box out of a portal.  “This might help!”

Riku took the tutorial out of his hands without questioning where it came from.  However, he didquestion it once he read it.  “…Making Extra-Tasty Guacamole?”

Sniggers and giggles filled the room while Demyx scrambled to exchange it for the right tutorial box.

“This one!”  He passed it off to Riku.

“Fighting with song,” he read aloud.  “In Demyx’s mind, your voice is your most powerful weapon.  Sing well to inflict damage on your opponents, but beware!  If you are off-key or miss lines of lyrics, you will take damage.”  He let the others see the picture of Demyx singing and cringing in pain.

“Wait, opponents?”  Kairi asked.  “Aren’t we only fighting Chester?”

Demyx laughed awkwardly.  “Erm… He invited some friends.”

Roxas sighed.  “Great.  More Heartless, and no keyblades.  This’ll be even worse than using The Stick.”

Everyone else stared at him in confusion while Xion laughed.

“You did okay with that stick, though,” she said to cheer him up.

“Now that we have a plan,” Riku said, “We need to split into teams.  Each team needs at least one good singer.”

“How many teams should we have?”  Naminé asked.

“Three groups of three,” Axel answered before Riku could.  “We also want Demyx and Naminé on separate teams, since they might know where they’re going in this messed-up place.”

Between Riku, Axel, and a few suggestions from Saïx, the three teams were determined.  Sora, Kairi, and Riku, because they weren’t about to get split up again, Sora had a pretty good voice, and Riku could probably keep the other two focused.  Demyx, Roxas, and Xion, which Axel wasn’t too happy with, because even though it was Demyx’s mind, he didn’t completely trust the Nocturne to take care of his friends.  That left Saïx, Axel, and Naminé, which was a bit overpowered because both Saïx and was an amazing singer, Naminé was good as well, and Axel was decent when he didn’t have to sing at too high of an octave.  All three groups should be able to hold their own, though.

“We’re off to find the Heartless, the meanie-face Heartless Chester!”  Demyx sang to the tune of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

“Yeah… Sure,” Roxas said, uncomfortable with being on the same team as him.

“See ya on the other side,” Axel said with a salute, and the three teams went their separate ways.

Chapter Text

“And to think just yesterday everything was perfectly normal…”  Axel shook his head, and Saïx snorted.

“I’m still debating whether or not this is preferable to an oversized dog crate.”

Axel grinned.  “You’re never gonna live that down.”

“I’m fully aware of that.”  Saïx pinched the bridge of his nose, trying to suppress a growing headache.  The blasting background music, on top of Axel’s teasing, was definitely not helping his pain and annoyance levels.

Axel, Saïx, and Naminé continued to follow the twisting passages of Demyx’s mind.  So far they’d seen dancing sitars, nyan cats, and floating candy aimlessly strewn about the twisting paths, but no Heartless so far.  Naminé said that was because they weren’t close enough to the center of Demyx’s mind yet.

The background music pulsed louder and louder as they walked, Naminé leading the way.

“Man, I’ll have mush instead of eardrums by the time we’re out of here!”  Axel yelled over the electronic noise.

A portal in the spongy wall spat out a pair of earmuffs that hit him in the head.

“Well that’s convenient,” he muttered, putting them on and sighing in relief.

“I would appreciate a pair of those.”  Saïx caught the pair that the wall spat at him.

“Me too,” Naminé said, fixing the pair she received over her ears.

“How’d that work?”  Axel yelled his question so she could hear, but she only shrugged in response.  Her best guess was that Demyx’s mind recognized them as friends and wanted to help them, like how Demyx had pulled out the tutorial.

Naminé ducked under some memory-chains hanging out of the dark sky, which Saïx and Axel had to practically crawl under, and they arrived in a large dome with bright spotlights on the ceiling.  They automatically knew something was up by the abrupt change in background music (it was more energetic but quieter, so they removed their earmuffs for now) and the tutorial falling out of a portal.

“Be on guard,” Saïx said, cautiously walking up to read the tutorial.  Axel wasn’t sure how to be on guard without any weapons, but he and Naminé followed Saïx while standing almost back-to-back.

“Heh, bet you never thought we’d end up in a mess like this, did you?”  Axel asked.

“No, I can’t say I did.”  She’d never expected a lot of things, honestly…

“This is ridiculous,” Saïx scoffed after reading the tutorial, which caused Axel and Naminé to hurry up.

“More ridiculous than singing things to death?”

“If possible.”

Axel pushed past his friend to get a better view.  “Solo Acts,” he read the title.  “Deal more damage by singing alone to the tune of your theme music.  Special bonuses may be unlocked – Oh, come on!”  He kicked the tutorial.  “I don’t even have a theme song!  That’s so lame!”

“Indeed.  I may be able to use “Sacred Moon”, though since Xigbar now has his own theme music, I would appreciate the same.”  Saïx wondered what the “special bonuses” could be, anyway.

Axel crossed his arms in annoyance.  “It’s not our fault Shimomura still hasn’t composed anything for us.  We’re main characters, too!  We’re the only ones here without one – well, and Demyx, but he can get away with making one up.”  He snorted, shaking his head.  “I wonder how the others are doing, anyway…”  By others he meant Roxas and Xion; he honestly didn’t care what the other trio was up to.  Riku was probably doing enough worrying for Kairi and Sora anyway.

Naminé walked towards the dome’s other exit while Axel and Saïx were distracted.  She knew there wasn’t much time, and if any Heartless were to jump out, at least she knew the tune of her theme song.

It turned out she was right to take the lead, as that was exactly what happened.  A horde of Shadows and Neoshadows materialized from the floor while the background music changed to her theme.

“Naminé!”  Axel called.  “Man, Roxas’s gonna kill me if she hurts herself…”

She faced the creatures of darkness, flinching only a little even though they were really scary up close, and sang.

“I’m standing here,” she began, and the Heartless froze.  She smiled a little, glad that the tutorial hadn’t lied.  “And I’ll sing, because that’s how to win.”

The Heartless writhed in pain, HP bars depleting.

“W00t, go Naminé!”  Axel cheered.

“Don’t distract her,” Saïx said.

Too late – the next line of music played when Naminé turned to look at Axel, and a Shadow lunged at her.  Axel winced.

“I’ll be quiet…”

Naminé picked up her place surprisingly well, backing away from the Heartless as she sang whatever came into her head.  “Ow that really hurt, but I won’t give up.  My friends need me.”

A few of the weaker Heartless vanished in black smoke.  Naminé smiled proudly, but she didn’t let her victory distract her for too long.  The background music was still playing, repeating the previous melody.

“I’m finally, doing things, that are useful for once.”  She swayed in time with her song.  “I wish Roxas could see me right now.”  Her voice jumped to a higher pitch.  “He won’t have to do all the fighting now.  We’ll work together.”

At the end of that repetition, only a few Neoshadows were left, and they were looking more tormented than the Organization was when Vexen was on cooking duty.

“It is so strange, I’m enjoying this, quite a lot actually.”

Saïx and Axel were too.  Axel couldn’t stop laughing at how a weaponless little girl could make so many Heartless spontaneously explode, and Saïx appreciated listening to a voice that didn’t feel like sand was being ground into his ears.

“If this was a ma-a-gic type, in the outside world, I’d sing all the time.”

One Neoshadow was left, hanging on by a few green pixels.  She was running out of random stuff to sing, so she came up with something simple.

“My name is Naminé.”

  1.   Gone.

“Pwned!”  Axel yelled, running up to high-five Naminé, who blushed modestly.  Even Saïx politely clapped a few times before interrupting their celebration.

“We still have far to go.”

Axel sighed.  “Way to rain on our parade, Saï.”

“Let’s just finish our business. There will be time for parades later.”  Saïx walked to the far end of the dome, Axel and Naminé following.

“Wait!”  The girl suddenly stopped.  “What about the special bonus?”

Saïx shrugged.  “It only said special bonuses may be unlocked.  It’s possible you have to sing perfectly to receive them.”

“Demyx’s water clones would’ve been useful for that,” Axel said while they walked into a dimly-glowing tunnel.  “They make you sing it right.  Sure was a killer on my voicebox with some of those high-pitched songs, though…”

Saïx side-stepped a giant chocolate bar that stuck out of the squishy ground in the middle of the tunnel.  “Believe me, I know.”

The tunnel narrowed, spongy walls closing in on both sides, so they had to walk in single file.  Where the ceiling was previously, rainbows streaked back and forth, and chibi Demyxes rode around on them while doing the Caramelldansen.

“…Number IX’s mind appears to be more psychotic than I’d imagined,” Saïx said.

“It’s say it’s more freakishly crazy than psychotic.”  The ground was turning into giant, solid bubbles as the path widened again.  At least they felt solid under Axel’s feet, and he hoped they would stay that way.  He couldn’t see anything but darkness though the bubbles.

“That description works as well,” Saïx agreed.

“It’s kind of pretty, in a weird sort of way,” Naminé said softly, wishing she had a sketchbook to capture her surroundings.

“Pretty?”  Axel snorted.  “It’s creeping me out.”  He couldn’t shake the feeling that the chibis were watching him.

“I’ve never seen so many colors in one place, though,” Naminé continued.  She was used to bleak white walls and the boring loneliness of Kairi’s heart after Roxas left.  Sure, there’d been colors after Kairi had freed her from her heart, but this was like… like rainbow pixies had danced all over the place and left shiny rainbow-dust everywhere.  Which wasn’t too unlikely, now that she thought about it.

The background music was getting louder, and though Naminé and Saïx put their earmuffs on again, Axel wanted to keep his ears open.  Saïx would’ve done the same, but he trusted Axel’s sensitive hearing to warn them.

The first sign of trouble was the Demyx-chibis giggling.  Axel tapped Saïx and Naminé’s shoulder and pointed up.

“Perhaps if we don’t make sudden movements-” Saïx whispered, but was cut off by the chibis launching water balloons like cannonballs.  Each cannonball popped several of the bubbles and left gaping holes in the floor behind them.

“Forget that, run!”  Axel yelled, not that he had to tell the other two twice.  They bolted as fast as they could, but the bubble-floor was slippery, and they kept falling and having to pick each other up so many times that Saïx quickly decided to sling Naminé over his shoulder. 

“C’mon, I don’t wanna find out what’s down there the hard way!”  Axel grabbed Saïx’s free arm, and they used each other for balance.

“They’re gaining,” Saïx said without glancing over his shoulder.  His earmuffs had fallen off when he tripped earlier, so he could hear the chibis’ giggles growing closer.

Axel snapped out a word that he regretted saying (especially around Naminé), slipping for a moment before Saïx steadied him.  “We’ve gotta get rid of those freaks, we can’t outrun them!”

The chibis’ innocent faces looked much more menacing with red eyes and sharp teeth, Saïx noticed when he did look back for a moment.  He shuddered.  The increasingly frantic background music gave him an idea.

“Axel, sing.”

“What?  Why me?”  He asked, panicked.

“I’m holding Naminé; just do it,” Saïx growled quickly.  It was all he could do to keep his hold on the girl, steady Axel, and run at the same time.

“I’ll sing,” Naminé volunteered, annoyed with herself at being the weak link again, but when she opened her mouth again a tutorial box flew out of nowhere and hit her on the head.  Axel managed to snatch it up as they ran.

“TAKE TURNS SINGING.  Man, I hate this!”  Axel complained, throwing the tutorial behind him and managing to knock out one of the Demyx-chibis.  Why did Demyx’s mind have to make everything complicated?

The chibis’ balloons blew up the bubbles right behind them, causing them to stumble forward from the blast.

“SING!”  Saïx snarled.

“Fine, I’m singing!”  Axel snapped back, then sang tunelessly, “I hate this place, stop trying to kill us already or I’ll-”

Nobody had a chance to find out what he would’ve threatened, because his song had been too late.  The chibis bombed the bubbles right beneath their feet.

They barely had a chance to shout as they plummeted downward, hysterical giggles echoing above them.

XXX

Axel moaned groggily, rolling off of Saïx and Naminé, who were also just regaining consciousness.

“Ow…”  Naminé rubbed her rib cage, which felt bruised from where Axel had landed on her.

Saïx shook his head and drank a potion from his pocket.  Axel followed suit, handing one to Naminé as well.

“Thank you,” she mumbled.  It healed her Heartless wounds from earlier along with her fall-related injuries.

“No problem,” Axel replied, chugging his down.  Saïx glared at him.

“This wouldn’t be an issue if you had listened to me.”

“Rub it in, why don’t you?”  Axel muttered, annoyed that his friend was right.  “I feel bad enough as it is.”

Saïx was still aggravated, but he dropped it.  They had more important things to deal with than who deserved blame.

He took stock of the situation:  the bubbles had closed up above them and were too high to reach anyway.  Corridors didn’t appear to function here, another disadvantage.  Something seemed to be raining from above… no, not raining, snowing.

That was when Saïx noticed the background music, which this time had words accompanying it.  His eyes widened.

“You better watch out, you better not cry…”

“Hey Saï, you think we should-” Axel cursed mentally when he saw his friend’s expression of frozen horror.

“What’s wrong?”  Naminé asked, fearful of anything that could scare the stoic bluenette.

Saïx shook his head violently as if he could physically make the painful memories fly out of his head.  “It’s ridiculous.  I have no need to fear a disturbingly obese red-suited omniscient stalker…”  He shuddered involuntarily.  “We have to find Chester.  Which direction should we take, Naminé?”

She concentrated, balling her fists and closing her eyes.  “That way.”

She pointed to the direction from which the music coming from.  Saïx took a deep breath and stood up on the snowy ground.

“Hey…”  Axel stood and placed a hand on his shoulder, not needing any more words.  Saïx nodded in response, and they followed after Naminé.

“You better not pout, I’m tellin’ you why…”  The song looped endlessly as the trio wandered down the snowy trail.  Magic or no magic, Saïx felt like he could fly into a berserk rage at any moment.

“Noooo one fights like Gaston, douses lights like Gaston, in a wrestling match nobody bites like Gaston!”  Axel sang loudly in a desperate attempt to distract his friend.

“That is obnoxious,” Saïx stated, crossing his arms in an attempt to warm himself.  While their stolen clothes were suitable for the beaches of Florida, they didn’t offer nearly enough protection from the cold.

“Good, that means it’s working,” Axel replied with a grin.

“It’s working on me too…” Naminé muttered from up ahead, wrapping her arms around herself.

“Oi, less backtalk and more getting us out of here, missy,” Axel said, though his tone clearly showed that he was only teasing.  Naminé laughed slightly, a welcome sound in the middle of the eerily cheerful background music.

“Why don’t you just give him your earmuffs?”  She suggested, since Saïx had lost his and hers were too small.  Axel mentally facepalmed.

“Right, I was just about to do that.”

Saïx was grateful for the relief from both the music and having his ears frozen.  However, they eventually came so close to the source of the music (and the cold, too – Naminé pressed close to Axel for warmth, and Saïx reluctantly joined the huddle) that it seemed to be screaming at them.

“SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN!”

Saïx hated how he whimpered pitifully and had to press the earmuffs closer to his head, but thankfully over the years Axel had learned better than to tease, make fun of, or otherwise harass his best friend about his odd phobia.  Naminé was genuinely afraid of this “Santa Claws” as well, as she had never looked for information on him in Kairi’s memories and only knew that he was apparently creepy enough to disturb Saïx.  That was good enough for her.  She huddled even closer to Axel, who was getting pretty annoyed at dealing with two Claustrophobics.

“Almost there,” Saïx muttered.  “This trail must end somewhere…”

And it did.  Right in front of a large log cabin with a sign that read “SANTA’S WORKSHOP”.

Saïx choked.

“I still know we need to go this way,” Naminé said nervously.  “Maybe we can sneak around it?”

“C’mon Saï, you can do this.  Don’t make me confiscate your man card for aborting a mission because you’re afraid of a fat guy.”  Axel half-dragged him towards the building until he started walking on his own.

“You will never tell anyone about this,” Saïx growled even as his eyes darted around to make sure they weren’t being followed or snuck up on.

“I dunno, I’m sure Roxas and Xion would get a kick out of it,” Axel teased to lighten the mood.

They had almost made it around the building.  Almost.  But, as Luxord would say, Lady Luck wasn’t on their side today.

Two small creatures and one average-sized creature came barreling out of the log cabin.  Saïx was terrified that the small ones might be elves, but what about the average-sized one…?

“Run!”  Naminé squealed, almost tripping in the snow.

“Wait a minute…”  Axel grabbed her shoulder, squinting at the approaching figures.

The average-sized one faceplanted in the snow.  The other two didn’t slow down, clumsily but quickly making their way towards Axel, Saïx, and Naminé and yelling something that got lost in the noise of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town”.

Axel grinned widely, his body heat melting a path through the snow as he ran to meet them.

“Axel!”  Saïx called, honestly scared for his friend’s life enough to tackle him into the snow to prevent him from chasing down the possibly-hostile creatures.

Axel spat out snow (now water) and shoved Saïx off of him.  “What are you doing?  That’s Roxas and Xion, man!”

Just as he said that, his two friends glomped him in a group hug, accidentally trapping Saïx in their embrace too since he was so close to Axel.

“Axel, we found you!”  Xion squeezed his arm tightly.

“Demyx is an awful party member,” Roxas said.  “We went in circles for hours!”

“Can’t… breathe…”  Saïx struggled to say.  Axel laughed and helped the three others up.

“I’m just glad to see you two back in one piece,” he said, grinning from ear to ear.  “Well, two pieces since there are two of you, but whatever.”

Naminé came over to hug Roxas, and Demyx eventually peeled himself out of the snow and joined the group.

“You guys gotta come inside and meet Santa!”  He said excitedly.  “He’s awesome!”

“Never.”  Saïx turned his back and crossed his arms.

 “We’ve gotta get moving, guys,” Axel said to take the attention away from Saïx.  “We’ve barely seen any Heartless yet.”

“We sang at lots of them,” Roxas said, “but then Demyx made us run away.”

“What?”  Axel stared.

“They weren’t normal Heartless, they were super-scary!”  Demyx defended.  “So I said we should come find you guys and the others first, but then we met Santa and ate cookies.”

“I wonder where Sora, Kairi, and Riku are…”  Naminé said to herself.

“We’ll find them,” Roxas replied.  “They can’t be in too much trouble.”

“Don’t jinx them.”  Xion laughed.

“Okay, so we’ll go look for them and beat up all the meanie Heartless, but first you guys need to meet Santa!”  Demyx said happily.

“I’d rather die,” Saïx deadpanned.

Demyx pouted, but they couldn’t afford a pit stop if they wanted to free his mind from Chester, so the plot went on.

 

Chapter Text

“Hey, did anyone notice that the background music stopped a while ago?”  Roxas asked.

This was unusual for many reasons.  One, Demyx’s mind always had some sort of background music.  Two, the music had been so loud it was odd that nobody else had notice yet.  Three, Roxas had made the observation.

The characters barely breathed as eerie silence pressed in on every side.  Xion was the first to see something pop out of the snow.

“Ack!”  She jumped back, reflexively trying and failing to summon her keyblade.   The whatever-it-was disappeared back into the snow before anyone could get a decent look at it.

“That was… what was that?”  Naminé’s eyes widened.  The whole group subconsciously stood in a circle facing outwards, tense and braced for attack.

Not that it did them any good when the unidentified creature and several more like it sprang out from inside their circle and dragged them under the snow.

XXX

“Elves.  Demon elves.  For once I wish I were incorrect…”  Saïx muttered under his breath.  Despite his comment, he did feel some satisfaction that his fears weren’t completely unreasonable.

“This is all in Demyx’s head, remember?”  Axel said.  “They’re not really evil.  These guys aren’t even real at all.

“These ribbons are real enough,” Roxas commented, struggling to get out of them.  Unfortunately, he, Saïx, Axel, Demyx, and Naminé, and Xion were all tied up together like one giant Christmas present.  There was even a bow stuck to each of their heads.

Demyx tried to squeeze his way to the middle of the squished group.  “I don’t like this.  Santa’s nice.  I got free cookies here earlier.”

“Yeah, and the elves weren’t scary before,” Roxas added, looking at their guards, the only other things in the empty storage room they were trapped in.

Naminé and Xion didn’t say anything, since they were in the very middle and squished so badly they could barely breathe.  Saïx continued to mutter to himself, and Axel tried to make him stop with a loud rendition of “A Whole New World.”  Tried.

Though it didn’t make Saïx feel any better, it did accomplish one thing – the demon-elf guards’ HP bars drained until they disappeared in puffs of black smoke, like regular Heartless.

“Huh, whaddaya know…” Axel muttered.

“Axel, look what you did!”  Demyx said in horror, like this was a bad turn of events.  “You’ll get us on the naughty list for sure!”

“Shut up, Demyx,” Axel snapped.  “We’ve got worse problems then coal in your stocking right now.”

“Sneaks into houses… Always watching…” Saïx shuddered.

“Look, I know you’ve got issues, but we need to get ourselves untied before-”

“HO HO MWAHAHAHA!”  A booming voice cut him off as Santa entered the room with a vanguard of demon-elves.  Saïx’s eyes widened more than anyone thought possible.  “WHO DARED TO STEAL MY COOKIES?”

Everyone who could craned their necks to look at Demyx.

“But he gave them to me!”  He protested.

Santa didn’t look like the Santa Demyx, Roxas, and Xion had met earlier.  His beard was now more twisted and grey instead of white, his fingers were long and sharp, and his red coat had a Heartless symbol stamped on the front.  None of this was helping Saïx’s phobia.

 “I should not be scared, I have fought worse than this…”

In this case Axel could actually understand him being afraid.  “Man, Santa’s creepy.”

“Yeah,” Roxas agreed.  Xion and Naminé couldn’t see him, but they were imagining the worst.

“YOU!”  Santa pointed a claw at Demyx, who squeaked.  “YOU SHALL PAY!”

“This is weird, even for us,” Axel commented.

“Hey, you’re in my head!”  Demyx yelled.  “You have to listen to me!”

“I AM NOW UNDER RULE OF LORD CHESTER,” Santa boomed, making Demyx flinch.

“We should get out of here,” Roxas suggested, pulling against the ribbon.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious.”  Axel wished he could use fire.  “Now, if you could figure out how to do that…”

Xion and Naminé struggled, but that only made things more difficult for their friends, so they were stuck with being useless in the escape plan.  Demyx didn’t know it, but he was being useful by distracting Santa from Axel and Roxas’s plotting.

“We could use your help, man,” Axel whispered to Saïx.  “You got any ideas?”

Saïx struggled to breathe evenly, trying to pretend he was a Nobody again.  I have no heart.  I fear nothing…  This helped him long enough to think straight and come up with some sort of idea.

“…We need to fall over.”

“What?”  Axel gaped.

“Fall over.  Then we should be capable of sliding out of these ribbons.”

“They’ll catch us first,” Roxas pointed out.

“Not if we sing at them,” Saïx countered.  It wasn’t the most brilliant plan, but it seemed practical enough.  The demon-elves had the Heartless emblem emblazoned on their chests, so they should be susceptible to song as well.  “Just be sure to actually have words and a turn in mind beforehand, Axel.”

“Hey, why’s it gotta be me?”  Axel whined.

“Because I said so.  Now fall over!”

“Wait I didn’t get to think—”

“Eeeeeek!”  Demyx squealed as Saïx and Roxas threw themselves to the side, yanking the other characters with them and interrupting the Nocturne’s argument with Santa Claws about whether or not he could be on his own Naughty List.

“What’s going on?”  Xion asked, not having heard the plan.

“Just move!”  Roxas yelled, trying to wriggle out of the suffocating ribbons while fending off a demon-elf that attempted to bite his hand.

“THEY SHALL NOT PASS!”  Santa Claws boomed, making Saïx flinch.  Axel decided now would be a good time to sing.

“I used to wonder what friendship could be,” he began off-key, but considering he was being crushed by Demyx at the moment and didn’t have time to think, it was the best he could do.

“Of all the songs you could pick-”  Saïx said, unfortunately recognizing the tune that now blared as the background music.

“Shut up,” Axel snapped, missing the next line of the My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic theme song.  Santa used the opportunity to hoist him by the collar of his shirt.  “Hey!”

“Go, go!”  Roxas yelled, herding Naminé, Xion, and Demyx out of the room and keeping the demon-elves at bay by using the ribbon as a whip.  He wasn’t particularly skilled with a whip, but it was more effective when paired with the rest of the My Little Pony theme lyrics that Axel had stopped singing.  “A beautiful heart, faithful and strong-”

“Sharing kindness,” Naminé added, seeing the words in his memories.

“It’s an easy feat,” Xion continued,

“And magic makes it all complete!”  Axel yell-sang in Santa’s face, and the song-power fueled his fire magic long enough for him to burn Santa’s beard.

“NOOOOOO!”  Santa Claws scratch at his flaming beard in vain.  “MY GLORIOUS BEARD!”

“Take that, ya overweight stalker.”  Axel grinned proudly.

Saïx, after escaping from the ribbons, had been busy fighting off demon-elves in hand-to-hand combat, but now that Roxas had tied them up with said ribbons, he turned his attention to Axel and Santa Claws.  Santa looked even more enraged now that his beard was a smoking stump at the bottom of his pointy chin.

“YOU!  YOU SHALL PAY!”

Axel backed up, out of fire, song lyrics, and ideas, at least for the moment.  And a moment might be all he had – Santa’s claws were reaching for his throat—

“I doubt it,” Saïx growled, tearing the bow from his hair and unraveling it into one long ribbon, which he deftly tied into a lasso and cast around Santa Claws’s bulging middle.  Saïx then yanked the ribbon, jerking Santa to the ground.

“Whoa.”  Axel stared.  “How did you do that?”

“He is a Heartless.”  Saïx gestured to the emblem that was visible on the front of Santa’s red coat.  “I can fight Heartless.”

Proving his point, he pulled the ribbon tighter than it should be able to squeeze, compressing Santa Claws’s belly until he poofed into a cloud of dark smoke and floated upwards into nothingness.

“So a mythical fat guy is scarier to you than very real monsters of darkness.”  Axel shook his head.  “Saï, I will never understand you.”

“Uh, guys?”  Xion poked her head in the door.  “We need to go.  Like now.”

Saïx nodded, and he and Axel followed the rest of the characters out of the workshop.  They were nearly attacked by more elves, but they kept running and Axel sang “Heat Miser” whenever they got too close, effectively burning the ears of any demon-elves who heard it.  Even when the characters escaped the workshop, they didn’t stop running or look back until the snow-covered ground melted into a flowery field.

Demyx was gasping for breath by the time they stopped.  “That was… so… not fun.”  He collapsed in the flowers.

“Chester is corrupting your mind,” Naminé explained, sitting down beside him.  “We don’t have much time.”

Demyx frowned, shaking his head.  “It’s my mind.  I should just be able to kick him out.”

“It’s not that simple,” Saïx said, more softly than the others expected.  “Come on.  We need to keep moving.”

“I can’t.”  Demyx pouted.

“I know you’re tired, but we have to go,” Xion insisted.

“No, I can’t, really!  Look!”  Demyx tried to tug his arm free, but it was ensnared by flowers, which sounded eerily like they were hissing.

Naminé jumped up, eyes wide, but the hissing flowers were everywhere.

“Run!”  Roxas yelled.

“What about Demyx?”  Xion kicked at the pansies that were trying to gnaw on her bare toes.

“Don’t leave me!”  He squealed. 

The field was moving, roots and stems gathering around the group of characters, wrapping around their ankles.

“Sing?”  Roxas asked frantically.

“Flower gleam and glow,” Demyx sang as quickly as he could, “Let your power shine, make the clock reverse, bring back what once was – eep!”

A flower bit his ear, and the dirt crumbled out from under them.

Chapter Text

“Sora, don’t eat that!”  Riku stopped his friend before he could lick the cake batter off of his finger.  Sora grinned sheepishly and wiped his hands on his pants.

Riku had already led his two best friends through an outer-space-like realm where they had sung at Heartless while hopscotching on constellations, only to go through a door that dropped them in a spoon-boat in a sea of cake batter.  The sky was vast and blue, illuminated by a sun that Riku was fairly certain was actually a golden Oreo.

“Looks like we ended up on a raft after all.”  Kairi smiled, looking up at the Fruit Roll-Up sail attached to a pretzel stick mast growing out of the giant wooden spoon.

Sora laughed.  “Did you think we were going to have this much adventure when we started building that old raft, Riku?”

“I can’t say I did.”  Riku sighed.

“Are you having fun?”  Sora asked, looking at his friend’s downcast expression.

“No.”

“Why not?”

“We’re stuck in a possessed lunatic’s head,” Riku said.  “Why, do you think this is fun?”

Sora shrugged.  “I’m on an adventure with my two best friends.  What could be more fun than that?”

Riku stared at his smiling friend, and he couldn’t help chuckling.  “This is why you’re the hero, Sora.”

“Well, this time we’ll all be the heroes.”  Sora grinned at Riku and Kairi.

“Not until we defeat Chester,” Riku reminded him.  “Which we can’t do until we find him, so help me adjust the sail.”

Together they held the sail at an angle where it would catch the most wind, propelling them towards an island in the distance.  Riku had no idea how they moved so quickly when they were sailing through thick cake batter, but at least they reached land with no problems.  There was, however, a channel running through the island (which appeared to be composed of Pop-Tarts), so they kept their little spoon-raft sailing.

“Do you think it’s weird that we haven’t seen any Heartless in a while?”  Kairi asked, trailing a finger through the cake batter as they sailed.

“Don’t jinx us,” Riku warned.

Sora shrugged.  “Maybe they’re all busy?”

“That could actually be a possibility…” Riku didn’t expect to care as much as he did about how the others were doing.  Naminé, of course, he’d spent about a year with as they restored Sora’s memories, and Xion… well, he’d always regretted what happened to her, ever since he remembered.  Roxas’s scenario was almost as bad, even though Riku didn’t know him as well.  For some reason, though, Riku even felt some sense of protectiveness towards Axel and Saïx that took him completely by surprise.  I guess we’re a team now, for better or for worse.

The channel grew narrower until it became a river winding through Pop-Tart plains, though it was still plenty wide enough to sail through.

“Does anyone know where we’re going?”  Kairi asked.

“Not a clue.”  Sora grinned.  Riku expected him to make some sort of “but at least we’re together!” comment, and he was probably about to, but Riku noticed a growing rumbling noise.

“Do you hear that?” He asked.

Kairi paled, staring behind him.  “Do you mean the sound of thousands of tons of cake batter pouring over the edge of a cliff?”

Riku sighed and looked behind him.  “Why did I ask?”

“What would you call that?”  Sora asked, looking towards their impending doom.  “A cakefall?  Batterfall?”

“I’d call it time to get out of here.”  Riku tried to reposition the sail to carry them to shore, but the current was too strong.  “How does a waterfall sneak up on us, anyway…?”

“Cakefall,” Sora corrected.

“Is this normal for you guys?”  Kairi asked, trying not to hyperventilate.  “I mean, Heartless are one thing, but I don’t want to drown in cake!”

“Then help us out,” Riku said, tearing down the sail.  There wasn’t anything close enough to snag it on, but maybe if they were lucky… “Grab a corner, both of you.”

“Huh?”  Sora asked.

“Come on!”  He was almost drowned out by the roar of the waterfall – cakefall – whatever.  Sora and Kairi did as they were told.  “Now when we get to the edge, jump as far away from the cakefall as possible.  Got it?”

“…Is this supposed to be like a parachute?”  Kairi asked dubiously.

“Do you have any better ideas?”

She didn’t have time to reply – the raft tipped over the edge, and Sora and Riku jumped.

“Kairi!”  Sora yelled.  She hadn’t jumped; they were too close to the falls, and the batter-spray clung to them and their Fruit Roll-Up parachute, adding gravity in dragging them down.

Down to where, Riku couldn’t tell.  All he saw below was cake batter draining into a bottomless abyss.

XXX

“Sora?”

“Yeah, Kairi?”

“How long have we been falling?”

“I dunno.”  Even if he had a watch, which he didn’t, it was too dark to see anything, and the wind kept whipping his hair into his eyes.  He was glad he hadn’t let go of the huge Fruit Roll-Up.  “An hour?”

“Ten minutes,” Riku suggested.

“Maybe we’re stuck,” Kairi worried.  “Could that happen?  Could we fall forever?”

Riku shrugged, not that his friends could see.  “Maybe.”

“I don’t want to fall forever.”

“Me either,” Sora agreed.

“I want to go home.”

“You’re not the only one,” Riku said.

They were silent for a while, holding their corners of the sail-slash-parachute-slash-snack food.

“Ninety-nine gallons of milk on the wall, ninety nine gallons of miiiilk~” Sora sing-songed to pass the time.

“Please, no more singing…”  Riku practically begged, but Kairi had already joined in, so there was no stopping them now.

“Take one down, pass it around, ninety-eight gallons of milk on the wall~!”

“I’d almost rather be in Axel and Saïx’s group…”  He wasn’t desperate enough to wish himself into Demyx’s group, but he might be soon.

“Come on, Riku, sing with us!”  Sora invited.

Ninety-eight gallons of milk on the wall, ninety eight gallons of miiiilk~”  Kairi kept singing.

“No,” Riku answered bluntly.

“Singing’s supposed to help us, right?  Maybe something good will happen.”

“Take one down, pass it around~”

“That’s only when we’re fighting Heartless,” Riku argued.

“How do you know?”  Sora asked.

Riku was thinking of a reply when he caught sight of a glowing rectangle tumbling out of the sky.  It must’ve been falling at least twice as quickly as the characters were, because it caught up to them and bounced in the middle of their Fruit Roll-Up parachute, causing them to fall faster.

Kairi finally stopped singing.  “What’s that?”

“A tutorial,” Riku answered, “like the one Demyx pulled out earlier.”

“Oh.”  Kairi read the tutorial box, since it was facing her.  Probably because she was singing the most.  In the glow of the tutorial Riku could see her eyebrows wrinkle in confusion.  “It says we have to sing lower-pitched to fall faster, and we have to sing higher-pitched to fall slower.”

“We want to fall faster, right?”  Sora said.  “Or else we might never reach the bottom.”

Sora and Kairi both looked to Riku.

“I know what you’re thinking, and I don’t like it.”

“Oh, come on, Riku!  If I had a deep manly voice like yours, I’d sing all the time!”

“Your voice is fine, Sora,” Kairi assured him, “but Riku, we really do need you to sing.  Otherwise we may never get out of here.”

Spending eternity in Demyx’s mind didn’t fit into Riku’s life plan.  “Fine.  But you two better be ready to slow us down when we get close to the bottom.”  Assuming there was a bottom; the tutorial box hadn’t promised that.

“Of course!”  Sora promised.  Riku sighed and began singing the lowest-pitched song he could think of at the time.

“No one fights like Gaston, knocks out lights like Gaston.  In a wrestling match nobody bites like Gaston…”

Sora and Kairi started giggling, but had to stop when they realized it was slowing their descent.  They could tell now since torches studded the crystal-walled hole they were falling down.  Oddly enough, this was the most normal thing they’d seen all day.

Now that Riku was singing Gaston’s theme, it barely took any time for the bottom of the hole – what appeared to be a giant pile of paper – to come into view.

“Sing!”  Riku yelled.

“Sing what?!”  Kairi’s mind blanked.

Anything!”

“I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts,” Sora burst out in a falsetto much more lovely than any coconuts he could’ve had.  “There they are standing in a roooowww~!”

His soprano singing slowed their fall enough to land them almost-harmlessly in the pile of wadded up paper.

“Ow,” he said while holding his finger, “I got a paper cut.”

“I think I’m okay,” Kairi said, combing shredded paper bits out of her hair.  “Where’s Riku?”

“Over here,” he said from outside of the pile, where a tunnel branched off into a larger chamber.  “You guys need to see this.”

“What is it – Ohhh,” Sora said when he caught up to Riku.

“What?”  Kairi was still kicking paper wads, which looked like blank forms of some sort, out of her way.  When she caught up, she gasped at the sight in front of her.

“Yeah,” Sora said, trying and failing to summon his keyblade out of reflex.  “I think Chester grew up.”

Chapter Text

“How convenient,” drawled a deep voice that echoed in the background-music-less chamber.  “All nine of you in one place.  Much more satisfying than having Sandy Claws take care of you.”

Demyx pushed himself up from the spongey ground where he, along with Roxas, Xion, Axel, Saïx, and Naminé, had landed.

“Woah, Chester!  Have you been working out?”

In the middle of the chamber stood Chester, no longer the tiny Shadow Demyx remembered – now he was a full-fledged Darkside, or something even worse.  Darksides didn’t usually have wings made of white-notes-on-black sheet music, did they?  And he was pretty sure they didn’t have sitar-string-tendrils flowing from their arms and legs, either.

“No- yes-” the Darkside stammered (though he had no mouth to stammer with), confused by Demyx’s question.  “It is irrelevant.  You are about to be eliminated.”

“Are you sure?”  Demyx asked.  “’Cause there are, like, six of us – nine!  Hi Sora, hi Riku, hi Kairi!”  He waved to the characters on the other side of the round chamber.  Sora waved back enthusiastically.  “Anyway, there’s nine of us, and only one of you.  And we’re really awesome.  So I think you should get out of my head.”

Saïx, who was brushing himself off from the fall, rolled his eyes.  “If it were that simple, it wouldn’t have taken us eighteen chapters to reach this point.”

“It’s been eighteen chapters already?!”  Axel stared at him.

“More or less.  Though the authoress really could have left out five or six without disappointing anyone.”

“Like all the chapters I wasn’t in.”  Demyx grinned.

“You mean the ones I wasn’t in,” Axel corrected.  Chester rolled his glowing yellow eyes.

“I believe this chapter is the one everyone was looking forward to,” Chester said in an attempt to shut them up.  “The chapter where I defeat you in an epic boss battle.”

“You sound like Ansem.  Xehanort’s Heartless Ansem I mean,” Sora clarified.  “Are all Heartless really loud and hammy?”

“Yes,” Chester replied simply.  “What satisfaction is there in being a final boss if you do not display your awesomeness?”

“Exactly!”  Demyx exclaimed.  “Not that I was a final boss, but – wait, I’m not supposed to be agreeing with you.  Bad Chester.”  He crossed his arms.

“Um,” Naminé cleared her throat before any more useless banter could ensue, “I can only keep us in Demyx’s mind for about… fifteen minutes?  Maybe?”  She was already shivering, feeling the effects of keeping their consciousness solid in Demyx’s mindscape, but she tried not to show it.

“She has a point,” Roxas said.  “Do we get to fight now?”

“Nope!”  Demyx said cheerfully, “but we do get to sing.  Hit it!”

He pointed a finger in the air, and proving that he still had slight control over his mind, the Sitar Song began blasting from the porous walls, and his own sitar quickly joined the music.

“Wait, how did he do that?”  Roxas asked.  “I thought we couldn’t summon our weapons!”  Sure enough, he keyblade wouldn’t appear in his grasp, no matter how hard he tried.

“Don’t ask me, it’s not my brain.”  Axel shrugged.

“Then is there anything we can do?”  Xion asked while Demyx belted out non-word lyrics.  Chester’s health bar appeared in the top left of their vision, but even Demyx’s on-key lyrics could barely make a dent in it – and a horde of Chester’s Shadow minions were crawling out to make a dent in him.

“Get ready to sing, I guess,” Axel answered, running towards the approaching Shadows.  After exchanging an anxious glance, Roxas and Xion chased after him.

“Wait!”  Naminé called, then winced and clutched her head.  “Roxas… there’s not enough time…”  But he was already too far away to hear.

“What will happen if time runs out?”  Saïx, who had hung back, asked her.

“I’m not sure,” she admitted.  “Either we’ll appear back in the real world, or…”

“We could be trapped here indefinitely,” Saïx guessed.

“I’m afraid so.”

Saïx looked up at Chester’s health bar.  The seven other characters’ singing had chopped off about half of his health bar… well, his first heath bar, anyway.  There were still eight more to go.  On the other hand, the Heartless were kicking the characters’ butts.  It was a rather unfair handicap that the Heartless could attack without singing.

“Hetala hetala hetala—ACK!  GET IT OFF!”  Demyx screamed when a Shadow attached itself to his face.

“We need a better plan,” Saïx said.  Naminé nodded in agreement.

“DIE-” smack “-MEANIE-” smack “-HEARTLESS!”  Demyx smacked himself in the face with his sitar until the Shadow poofed into black smoke.

“How does that imbecile have a weapon?”

“Um… because it’s also an instrument?”  Naminé guessed.

“Then if we all had instruments for weapons…”  Saïx began to formulate a plan.  It wasn’t foolproof, but it might be crazy enough to work.

“But we don’t.”  Naminé frowned.  “Keyblades can transform into many things, but I’ve never seen one function as an instrument…”

Saïx pulled a pen and his clipboard out of a dark corridor and moved a blank sheet of paper to the front.  “I trust you can resolve that issue.”

“What-?”

Saïx left Naminé, heading towards the Heartless horde and swapping his panel arrangement at the same time. He’d never thought that the extra joke gear Gloomex had “generously” synthesized for him as a prank would actually be useful, but he was grateful now.  He equipped it in place of his usual Zero Gear and tried to summon his weapon again.

He’d never felt so relieved to feel the weight of a giant, disproportioned banjo in his hand.

“Ohhh, you know my hips don’t lie, and I’m starting to feel it’s- Saïx?!”  Axel called from across the domed room, where a ring of Neoshadows kept lunging at him in succession.  He dodge rolled toward his friend.

“That song?  Honestly?”  Saïx had time between bashing Heartless to roll his eyes.

“Hey, I’m kinda under pressure here, give me a break.”  Axel leapt back from another Neoshadow, which Saïx took out in two hits from his banjo.  “Do did you do that?!”

“Remember the panel Gloomex gave you April Fool’s?”

Axel’s eyes lit up.  “Ohhh!”

A short panel swap later, Axel had two large tambourines ready to beat up some Heartless.  He smacked them together and grinned.

“Alright!”

“That’s not fair,” Chester’s voice echoed deeply, yet it still came off as a whine.  “You were supposed to be defenseless!”

“Tale as old as time, song as- wait what?”  Sora stopped singing.

“Someone got a weapon.” Riku, being taller than Sora, could see a little farther over the Heartless horde.  “I think it’s Saïx.”

“How’d he do that?!”  Sora tried to summon his keyblade again, but it was useless.

“Why don’t we go ask?”  Kairi suggested.  It was easier to dodge their way through the Heartless while they were distracted by Chester’s monologue.

“No matter.  Your songs will soon be powerless.”  If Chester had a mouth he would’ve been smirking.

“You- what?”  Roxas didn’t get it.  “But that’s our only way to attack!”

The giant Heartless chuckled.  “I could explain, but why don’t I just show you?”

“That doesn’t sound good.”  Xion gulped.

“Ugh, he’s gonna pull a One-Winged Angel, isn’t he?”  Axel sighed in annoyance.

“This is a Kingdom Hearts fanfic.  Did you expect any less?”  Saïx asked, baring his banjo.

“I hoped this was already his final form…”

Roxas wasn’t sure what a One-Winged Angel was, but he didn’t have to wait long for Chester to show them.   His black-and-white sheet music wings expanded, spanning the diameter of the chamber.  The sitar strings hanging from his arms and legs stretched tight, anchoring him to the walls, ceiling, and floor, like he was the center of a giant spider web.

“Is that it?”  Axel taunted in spite of Saïx’s efforts to shush him.

“Hardly.”

Chester’s paper wings pulsed like the surface of a pond someone had thrown a rock into.  The notes inscribed on it flashed a bright spectrum of colors.

“What’s he trying to do, give us seizures?”  Riku muttered, feeling slightly dizzy.

“Wow, I didn’t know you could be that pretty, Chester!”  Demyx exclaimed.

“Thank you, but now is not the time for compliments.”

Standing waves rippled down Chester’s giant sitar strings, and a frenzied melody – if you could call the chaotic song that – boomed inside the chamber with enough force to knock the characters off their feet.  Naminé’s clipboard bounced across the spongey floor, out of her reach.

“Come back…!”

The sound blast pushed Roxas towards the clipboard, which held a half-finished picture of him holding an odd-looking instrument.

“How can you draw at a time like this?!”  He fought against the sound to crawl towards her.

“You want to fight, don’t you?”  Naminé clutched her pencil tightly and went back to work as soon as Roxas delivered the clipboard.

“How will that-?”

As soon as Naminé drew the last line, a black-and-white keytar – an odd mix of a guitar and a keyboard – appeared in Roxas’s hands.

“Don’t ask, just go get Chester!”

“But-”

“I’ll be fine!  Go!”  Truthfully, she wasn’t sure she would be okay.  Manifesting that keytar had drained even more of her energy, but she knew she had to stay strong.  She’d wanted to be useful all along, and she couldn’t waste this chance.

The blasting, bone-shaking music had the positive side effect of destroying the smaller Heartless, but Roxas wasn’t sure that made up for his impaired sense of balance – it was almost as bad as being flip-footed.  Plus, the cacophony was even slowly draining his health, and he had a pounding headache.  Hopefully between himself, Axel, and Saïx, Chester would go down quickly.

It didn’t look that way right now.  Axel and Saïx kept trying to get close with their tambourines and banjo, but the song was like a force field, pushing them back when they got too close.

“Hey, how did they get weapons?”  Kairi asked Xion when she, Sora, and Riku finally made it to her.

“Axel and Saïx had panels, and Roxas talked to Naminé!”  Xion yelled over the music.

“We don’t use panels!”  Sora yelled back.

“What should we do?”  Kairi asked.

Xion had been wondering that herself.  “I don’t know!”

The music was so loud and disorienting, it was hard to think about anything, much less how to defeat a giant Heartless.  Maybe it would be better if it wasn’t so chaotic, like a hundred songs mashed together…

“Wait…” Xion focused on the song.  “is that part of ‘Sanctuary’?”

Riku listened too, and a different riff played.  “I just heard ‘I’ll Make a Man Out of You.’”

“Ooh, I got ‘One Week’!”

“And I can hear ‘Still Alive’!”  Kairi noticed.  The different songs were switching around and mixing together, but they were all songs they’d heard before.

“Hey… aren’t these all songs we sang when we were touched by Demyx’s water clones?”  Xion asked.

“Did he absorb it or something?  Like, out of Demyx’s head?”  Sora pointed to the sitar strings plugged into the walls.

“It could be something like that,” Riku said, thinking as hard as he could through the noise, which was beginning to slowly inflict actual damage.  “What if we sing something else?”

“What?  Are you crazy?”  Xion asked.  “What if Chester just absorbs that too?!”

“I’m just throwing out ideas here!”  Riku yelled to be heard.  “He said we’ll be powerless, but if we can compete with his music he stole from us, we might be able to make him powerless!”

“Yeah, we’re stronger than he thinks!”  Kairi added.

Xion still wasn’t convinced.  “Well… we don’t have any other ideas, I guess.  But what are we going to sing?”

“Something everyone knows.”

They didn’t have much time to decide.  Demyx, Roxas, Axel, and Saïx were running out of potions, and they hadn’t made much progress on Chester’s HP bar.  Thanks to a few hits to his less-protected wings, he now only had seven and a half bars left, but they still had a long way to go.  And there might not be enough time for that.

“New plan?”  Axel asked, gasping for breath as Chester laughed at them.

“Don’t die?”  Demyx asked.

“You won’t die, gullible minion,” Chester told him.  “I require your body for my vessel.  Your consciousness, however, is no longer necessary.”

Chester’s giant, dark hand picked Demyx up by his cape and threw him across the chamber.

“EEEeeeeek!  Demyx squealed as he flew threw through the air, until he hit the wall and went silent.

Roxas gulped.  “Is he going to be okay…?”

“Yeah,” Axel replied tonelessly.  “He’s tough.  He’ll be fine.”  Saïx snorted, but Axel elbowed him in the ribs.

“Nnghh… you meanie…”  Demyx moaned from where he lay crumpled on the ground.

“I grow weary of you.”  Chester summoned a small orb of darkness in his palms.  It pulsed and grew as the music montage sped up.  “Sing your last song!”

A new melody quietly began under Chester’s cacophony – quiet, but somehow piercing.  His orb of darkness sputtered out.

“What…?”

Roxas was the first to find the source of the new music – Riku on a grand piano, which he could only guess was conjured by Naminé’s artistic magic.

“Wow, Riku’s pretty good,” Axel said, impressed.  He strained to identify the tune through the other noise.  “And he knows how to play ‘Let It Go’?  How did Roxas and Sora both get girls when he didn’t?”

“Hey!”  Roxas smacked him with his keytar.

“Cut it out, we’ve got more important things to hit.”  Axel spun his tambourines and ran towards Chester, whose sound-shield was weakened by the competing song.

“The sound rings loud in our ears tonight,” Xion sang to Riku’s accompaniment.

“Not a moment for a rest,” Kairi continued and was followed by Sora, who despite not being a girl, didn’t sound terrible.

“We’ve tried all our ideas; we’ll put this last one to the test.”

With a deep growl Chester intensified his cacophony as his seventh health bar slowly emptied.  Demyx (still against the far wall) recognized the garbled melody of ‘Skullcrusher Mountain’ even as it assaulted his ears, but Xion and Kairi sang to fight back.

“Your song is teeming with the songs we sang before – can we take them back, or will we lose more?”

“Lose!”  Chester roared, raising his monstrous hands.  Xion, Kairi, Sora, and Riku felt a tugging in their throats, almost as if-

“He’s taking the song from us?!”  Kairi managed to get out in awkward sing-song.

It’s okay.  This has to work, Riku thought, though his hands were now playing the piano of their own accord.  “Don’t let him win, we have to sing – Be the heroes we’ve always had to be!”

“Sing loud, be proud,” Xion continued, “they have to know…”

Together their voices rose above the cacophony – “Chester will go!”

“No!”  Chester’s voice boomed; his sitar strings reverberated; Roxas, Saïx, and Axel were blasted back towards Demyx.

“Hey guys,” Demyx laughed giddily, swaying and using his sitar as a crutch as he stood.  “Are we winning?”

“What do you think?”  Axel asked, pointing up at Chester, who only seemed to be growing stronger.

“I won’t go, I won’t go!”   The Heartless sang about ten octaves lower than the original pitch.  It shook the characters’ bones.

“Wow, Chester’s got a great bass voice!  Way to go!”

“Demyx, whose side are you even on?!”

“…The losing side?”

Meanwhile, Riku, Sora, and the girls were trying to keep up the background music even as Chester’s voice drained their health.

“I’ll be here forevermore!  I won’t go, I won’t go!  This world is my open door!”

Cringing, Riku sang back, “I- don’t- care, you’re not going- to- stay!”

“My song will play on—!”  Chester’s sitar strings copied the characters’ melody, echoing back and forth in the domed room.

“The cold never bothered me anyway!”  Demyx belted, loud enough to make even Chester flinch.

Axel stared.  “You do know this isn’t karaoke night, right? This Heartless is still possessing you!”

Demyx was too busy twirling with one of his water clones to notice.

“Perhaps the blast did more damage to him than we realized,” Saïx mused.  “Or he is simply as empty-headed as I always suspected…”

“Do we care?”  Roxas asked, losing his patience.  “The others are in trouble!”

Naminé was trying to sing, but Chester’s booming bass voice drowned out her weak soprano.

“It’s funny how you thought that, you’d triumph after all – and now that I’ve grown stronger, you know you are too small!”

Riku could feel his energy draining, the same was the Heartless’ heath drained with the characters sang.  He gulped a potion himself and then gave one to Naminé, who looked even worse off.  Maybe he shouldn’t have had her create his piano, but they needed a loud enough instrument to compete with Chester.  “It’s no use!  He’s already taken our song, and it’s not hurting him anymore!”

“It was your plan!”  Xion yelled back.  “We don’t have anything else!”

“We have to do something!”  Roxas told Axel and Saïx on the other side of the room.

“His voice prevents us from getting close enough to physically attack him,” Saïx analyzed the situation.

“So what, attack him from far away?”  Axel asked.

“Don’t you have some sort of flexible thinking for this?”

“This is a little outside my flex range, Saï!”

“Wheeeeee!”  Demyx spun a water clone he’d summoned, but his grip slipped and it accidentally flung into Roxas.

“Hey—it’s time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through!”

The other characters – even Chester – momentarily froze as Roxas’s perfectly on-key voice cut through the cacophonic medley.  Axel glanced up at Chester’s HP, which was now at five and three-fourths bars.  “How…?”

“The water clone,” Saïx realized, but didn’t waste any more time explaining.  He ran over to Demyx’s water clone and practically hugged it.  Then, he joined Roxas in song.

“A change of plan, come follow me – we’re freee!”

Axel laughed loudly.  “That’s what I’m talking about, Saï!”  His friend rolled his eyes, but there was a hint of a smile there, probably from relief that Chester was finally on the defensive.

“Dance, water, dance!”  Demyx shouted, strumming up enough water clones for each of the characters.

“Never thought I’d say it, but I’m gonna enjoy this.”  Axel grinned and clapped one of the water clones on its back.  Roxas, Sora, and the girls were embracing theirs in similar ways, some more enthusiastically than others – Sora high-fived his while Riku barely poked his, like it would give him a disease.  Kairi and Xion were twirling with theirs, while Naminé shyly shook hands with the remaining one.  Even though they were no longer playing any instruments, the music blasted louder through the walls of Demyx’s mind-room, overpowering Chester’s cacophony just as Sora’s low-health siren began blaring.  He drank a potion to recover.

“You can’t do that!”  Chester protested in his awkward deep whine.  “You’re ruining my glorious song!”

“Someone’s been inside Demyx’s head too long.”  Axel twirled a finger around his ear until Demyx dragged him, Saïx, and Roxas together with the other group.

“I finally have my own band!”  He fist-pumped.  “And we’re not even in Mom’s basement, so ha!”

“Uh… let’s just finish this already,” Roxas suggested, and with several frantic nods and a count-off from Demyx, they broke into the chorus together.

“Make him go, make him go!

We are one against this Darkside!

He’ll say no, he’ll say no—”

Demyx sang alone, “But he’ll never make me cry!”

“It’s- our- turn,” Xion stepped forwards,

“You’re gonna crash and burn,” Axel twirled his tambourines.

Sora, feeling like he hadn’t had enough solo lines, took the last one – “Watch us bring it onnnn—”

That was all he could get out before the musical interlude stepped in, which also gave Chester a brief respite from the lyrical barrage.  He didn’t waste the window – even though he only had about a quarter of his original HP left, he still found enough power to begin summoning an orb of darkness.  It seemed to have its own gravity field, pulling the characters towards Chester.

“Naminé!”  Roxas called and gripped her hand when she began slipping away.  The others followed their lead, gripping hands and wrists until they formed one long chain, Naminé at one end and Demyx at the other – well, if you didn’t count the long chain of water clones hanging off of him.

“I have drained all of your songs in the past!”  Chester boomed.  “This should be no different!”

“But it is!”  Sora yelled back, though much less deeply.  “Because – our voices carry from our hearts into the sky—”

Kairi sang next, “We’ve found our harmony and it’s much stronger with all nine!”

Riku squeezed Kairi’s hand as let Roxas’s go – their chain was breaking, but this time not from Chester’s dark Gravity.  “Your pow’r is strong but we know why it will not last—”

After a definitive note, Naminé belted out louder than she ever had before:  “You just took what is ours, and we can bring it baaaack!”

During the song, Roxas, Axel, Saïx, and Demyx – the characters with instrument – had based themselves where Chester’s giant sitar strings were anchored to the ground.

“What-?!”  The Darkside barely had time to guess what they were doing before a keytar, tambourines, a banjo, and a sitar each severed a giant metal string.

“NO!”

The cacophony began again, apparently leaking somehow from the strings, but the characters’ singing overpowered it.

“He will go-o, he will go!

And we’ll rise when the fight is done!”

Chester tried to shoot his dark orb, but it fizzled uselessly when Roxas, Axel, Saïx, and Demyx jumped up and sliced through the second set of sitar strings, the ones anchored to the walls.

“No!  I worked too hard for this—!”  Chester’s size began to diminish with his second power source broken, but the characters didn’t stop singing yet.

“He will go, he will go-o!”

“His perfect plan is gone!”  Xion and Kairi sang together.

“Here we stand, at this fanfic’s last page!”

Riku played his piano at the end, more because it was fun than to hurt Chester, though it did take an extra inch off of the Heartless’ last health bar.  It was also a nice distraction from his melodramatic “Noooo!”s when the other characters took out his last set of sitar stings.

“We’re finally dooooonnnnnne—!”  With the water clone magic all of the characters, even the deeper-voiced ones, managed to hit the high note.  Axel made a mental note to complain about his broken voice later.  Right now he was busy watching Chester shrink, and shrink, and shrink, until finally he was a small Shadow standing in the middle of the giant room with nine annoyed characters looming over him.

“You were never really nice anyway,” Demyx sang the last line sadly.

Chester tried to protest before a large blue sitar finally ended his existence.

And then everything went black.

Chapter Text

“Is she going to be okay?!”

“I told you, Rox, I’m trying everything I can!”  Axel snapped at his friend, finally losing his patience after the umpteenth question.

“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Xion tried to console him.

“I can hardly believe she lasted as long as she did,” Riku said quietly, almost to himself.  “Long enough to beat Chester and get us all out safely… you owe her your life, Demyx.”

The Nocturne was standing quietly a little ways back, next to the extra large pet crate he had once imprisoned Sora in.  “Yeah… does that mean I owe her a magic-spell-breaking kiss or something?  ‘Cause Roxas would be better for that than me.”

“Why in Kingdom Hearts would it mean that?!”  Roxas asked.

“I dunno, what else do you do for a girl who almost died?”

Axel shrugged.  “From a Disney perspective, he’s got a point…”

Roxas stared.  “About what?  Should I kiss her?”

“I can’t see how that would be of more use than our Curagas and Elixirs…”  Saïx said, eyeing the variety of empty item bottles.

“Can I help at all?”  Kairi asked.  “I’m her other half.”

“Aside from returning her to your heart, I don’t believe so,” Saïx replied.

“No!”  Roxas gently took Naminé’s hand.  “How can you even say that?  We never would’ve made it without her, and now that she’s done her job you just want to throw her back?!”

“Sounds like someone else I know…”  Riku muttered under his breath, thinking of DiZ.

“Not at all.  I simply thought it may be the only option.”

Sora put a hand on his other’s shoulder.  “I’m sure there’s another way, Roxas!  Naminé’s tough!”

“And there’s still always the kiss idea,” Demyx chimed in again, making Roxas blush.

“At least she’s still breathing,” Riku added.  She could have died from all of that magical exertion, but she hadn’t.  If worst came to worst, she could be in an indefinite coma, but he didn’t see how that could have happened, unless her heart was trapped inside of Demyx… he really hoped they didn’t have to go back and find out.  Well, either way, they couldn’t go back, not without Naminé, so that pretty much defeated the purpose.

“Axel, do you have any more flexible thinking?”  Xion asked.  He threw his hands in the air.

“Agh, why do you guys expect me to know everything?!”

“But you do know everything, right?”

“Agh…!”

“Forget this,” Roxas finally decided, steeling his nerves, and knelt down to kiss Naminé.

Wait, did he even know how to kiss?

His friends stared as he sort of awkwardly touched lips with Naminé.  He guessed he must’ve done it okay, because her eyes immediately flashed open.  Roxas jumped back like he’d been punched.

“Oh, good.  You’re okay.”  His grin looked something like he was choking.

“Yeah, I just needed to sleep it off… you, um, woke me up…”

“Sorry!”  He apologized too quickly.  Axel smacked him on the back of the head.

“Sheesh, can you two just kiss for real so we can go home?”

“No thanks that’s okay…!”  Roxas quickly protested, flushed bright red, but Naminé briefly kissed him on the cheek and smiled.  “…That’s okay too.”  He smiled dumbly back.

“This seems to be my cue to say farewell,” Saïx said, not fond of public displays of affection.

“Hey, you’re coming back with us, right?”  Axel clapped a hand on his best friend’s shoulder.  “We’ve got a pretty nice setup in Twilight Town.”

Saïx gave him his best “Oh, really?” look.   “And does that ‘setup’ happen to be at the top of a dangerously high landmark with a lack of protective railing?”

“…Maybe.”

Saïx rolled his eyes.  “I suppose you could use a lesson in purchasing real estate…”

“Alright!”  Axel cheered.  Roxas and Xion, though not so enthusiastic, at least tried to be happy for Axel’s sake.

“Does that mean we’re getting an actual house?”  Xion asked.

“Unless we can convert Saï to the wonders of sleeping bags, probably,” Axel replied.

“Wait, you mean it’s okay to live in a house?”  Roxas asked.  “It wasn’t just part of DiZ’s computer world?”

Saïx had to physically force himself not to smack Axel over the head.  “Yes, it is perfectly fine to live in a house.  It’s quite normal, in fact.”

“Oh.”

“I know I’m ready to go home,” Riku said, sharing a smile with Sora and Kairi.  “You guys had enough adventure yet?”

“For now,” Sora replied mischievously.

“I think I’ve had enough adventure forever,” Kairi admitted.  “It was fun, but Chester…”  She shuddered.

“Not all sunshine and rainbows, huh?”  Riku smirked.

“Well, there was actually a lot of rainbow,” she replied.

“Heh, I’ll give Demyx’s mind that.”

Demyx, who hadn’t said much so far, spoke up.  “I think my mind was pretty awesome.  Too bad there were so many Heartless.  Can I go back there now that they’re all gone?”

“NO!”  Was the resounding reply.

“Aww… well, then we should at least go to Disney World, before all you guys go home.  It’s the most magical place on Earth!”

“Disney… World?”  Roxas asked.  “You mean Disney Town?”

“No, Disney World.”

“Disney Castle?”  Sora asked, not sure either.

“No!  Disney World!  Don’t tell me you’ve never heard of it!”

He was met with eight blank stares.  He sighed heavily and opened a dark corridor.

“I’ll just have to show you.”

“Um, can I sleep first?”  Naminé asked quietly.

“Aww, fine,” Demyx sulked.  “But first thing tomorrow!  Disney!  It’ll be awesome!”

“If you say so,” Axel said uncertainly, sharing a glance with Saïx.

“I do say so!  In fact, I’ll even sing so!”  Demyx cleared his throat.  “Ahem- When you wish upon a staaaarrrr, doesn’t matter who you aaaaarrrrre-!”

“NO!  NO MORE SINGING!”

“…Party poopers.”