Disclaimer: Belongs to Square-Enix, not me. Obviously, though, I made some of it up. That bit does belong to me.
A/N: Memefic written for Demeter1. Request was for an Aurikku, originally on Mt. Gagazet, but swapped to the snow-mo-machina when we remembered they were there.
hold my hand / while I'm sinking in the sand / you are my anchor
She has pulled her goggles down over her eyes, and Auron cannot decide whether it is mere practicality or whether she is crying. Even with his fingers pressed almost bruisingly into her hips (that, he assures himself, is a mere practicality; she drives like a drunken, blindfolded shoopuf, whether by nature or for fun) and pressed up against her back, it's difficult to tell with Rikku.
He suspects it is that she does not try to suppress her sorrows. There is not a hitch in her breathing, not a shudder to her shoulders that could not be attributed to the juddering of the snow-mo-machina that carries them. She cries and laughs as easily as she breathes. Almost, but not quite, he envies that in her.
Almost, but not quite.
"So!" She declares brightly. Her voice is ripped away by the wind as they plough onward through the ice. "Are you gonna give her away, or is that Wakka's job?"
"Are you angry with him?" He counters, and nearly swallows his tongue as she has the snow-mo-machina perform a jump that nearly lands them in a crevasse.
"Nope," she confides, though perhaps 'confide' is the wrong word - she has to shout to make herself heard above the combination roar of the wind and the motor. "I'm more mad at my stupid brother, threatening me with vydran like I'm some spoilt little kid..."
"Vydran?" He queries, regonising the word, but unsure of its meaning. Al Bhed has always sounded like gobbledegook to Auron, dead or alive, and regardless of any amount of time spent with Braska devoted to the subject.
"'Father'." Rikku supplies. "As in, the one who'd give me away. So is it gonna be you, or Wakka?" She pursues this avenue of conversation relentlessly. Auron tenses, bracing himself as she tacks the craft neatly through a narrow ice-hemmed passageway, and hunches down against her body. An odd trick of physics, that she keeps him anchored, though his dead weight is so much greater than hers.
He snorts as soon as he thinks it. He should mention it to her. She would love to hear his unwitting pun; he is sure she would laugh herself sick.
"Kimahri should," he suggests instead, and pauses to spit her hair out of his mouth. "He is more a father figure than either of us."
Rikku makes a sound like she can't make up her mind. "Mmmm. Kinda hard. I mean, he couldn't wear the robes and stuff. And Yunie couldn't wear the Ronso bits and pieces--" She breaks off in high pitched laughter, back and shoulders shaking into his ribcage. He raises an eyebrow.
"All they wear is a headdress and some jewellery and an, um, an eirongraagh, I think they call it. It's this skirt-y thing, goes just to the knee, you know? Anyway, they don't have shirts." She elbows him playfully. "For an old guy, you're pretty uncultured, Auron. I thought being dead would've, I don't know, imparted universal knowledge or something. You seem to know a lot about everything else."
He flinches. Her cheer fades.
"Oops. Sorry. Forgot."
"Try to remember."
Heartbeats pass, and she touches her gloved hand to the forearm wrapped around her waist.
"Y'know, my secret's out. Wakka's being a dork about it, but I'm pretty sure no one'd care about you."
Auron's bitter laugh is explosive, skeptical, and brief. "You think being walking dead might be better than being Al Bhed?" Rikku shrugs and pats his arm again.
"Well, I don't know. Yevonites have always seemed pretty silly to me, the way they pick on everyone. And anyway, you're pretty helpful, aren't you? It'd be like those really old sphere movies. You know. The friendly ghost."
Auron, who has seen his share of sphere movies during his time in Zanarkand, snorts. "Have you ever noticed that friendly ghosts tend not to come with bodies attached? You've never heard of The Friendly Zombie." He pauses, recalls what their conversation was meant to be about, and changes course abruptly. "Yuna will probably wear what will make Spira most satisfied."
"Guess you're right," Rikku mutters, and Auron notices when her hand leaves his that the speeder has slowed. "She oughta wear something from our side, you know? Something Al Bhed." It is because she is navigating carefully over ice as she speaks, he realises a moment later. He hopes she knows what she is doing. Men - fully grown Ronso, by Yevon!- have fallen through the ice of Macalania and never been seen again. Auron has no wish to become one of them. He already has plenty to deal with, without being trapped beneath a thousand feet of ice.
"She oughta wear something for everyone. She's like little bits of all over Spira stuck together and put into a Yuna-mould, you know? Maybe we should help her make a dress, or something."
Auron is skeptical, and examines first the practicalities. "Can you sew?" There is silence, and he can sense her pouting.
"Listen, Mister Death-King-Zombie, no one ever ruins your ideas!" She apparently finds their situation steady enough to risk jabbing him savagely in the ribs. Auron winces, curls forward around her ever so slightly in response. He opens his mouth to reprimand her, and gets another mouthful of hair.
The speeder slows, and stops.
Rikku prises his arms from around her so that she can twist to stare at him, swinging one leg up over the handlebars to sit sideways on the snow-mo-machina. Her goggles seem to hinder her staring, so she pulls them off and lets them hang around her neck.
"What did you say?" She asks, finally.
Auron stares into her lovely green eyes, captured momentarily by the spiral-pupilled emeralds, and cannot think. Her breath has frosted over her lips, and trims the hair that falls into her face. His own breath catches in his throat as her wide eyes crinkle in amusement.
"Auron..." she begins fondly. "You really need to shave more often. You've got a nice little ice moustache going, there." Without thinking - or perhaps encouraged by his dumb, spellbound silence - she reaches up at rubs furiously at his upper lip. "Breathing's a tough habit to break, huh?"
He recoils from her touch, and from her line of questioning.
"Why do you want to talk about this?"
Rikkus shrugs. "We-ell..." She fiddles absently with her goggles, going cross-eyed to examine their inner rims properly, and frowning. She pulls off a glove to chip at something inside with her nail. "You know the Al Bhed and taboo. We just love to break it."
Auron sighs frustratedly, and pinches his nose. He reasons that out here, there's no one but Rikku to see him do it, and they'll never believe her anyway.
"You know what we do with our dead?" She glances up at him with a wicked grin curving her lips, eyes shining at the bewildered look in his garnet eye.
"No." His answer is plain and unadorned, and he is frowning at her. He doesn't understand.
To the day he is inconveniently discorporated, Auron cannot honestly tell her whether he is darkly amused or comically horrified when she fishes around in a pouch at her hip and withdraws a grizzled knot of old bones and hair and - this, Auron decides later, is definitely horror - a small glass bubble filled with liquid and a human eyeball, remeniscent of certain keychains he has seen once or twice in Zanarkand.
She holds them up before her, eyes serious. "We preserve them. When someone dies, we all keep a bone or a piece of hair... something. As long as one little part of a person is kept away from Sendings, pyreflies, that sort of thing, there's no way for what's left of a person to turn into a fiend. We... we keep everyone safe, that way."
"I guess... I guess I really want to talk about this because... because I want to keep you safe too, you know? I want to keep a little bit of you with me so that I know for sure that you can't turn into a fiend."
He watches tears form, and freeze, along her eyelashes.
"That's why we have spiral eyes, you know. To see people. Spira. Spiral... the spiral of death. That's how I knew, at the beginning, that you were dead. That was why I didn't want to look at you, you know?" She laughs suddenly, rubbing her hands over her eyes. "I've been collecting dead things since I was a little girl, but you were the first one I'd seen walking around. I was scared to look at you. I thought you might've been a fiend just pretending, you know? We... we thought that about Tidus, too, when we found him."
"Tidus." Auron frowns. Rikku shakes her head.
"He's something different. I don't know. Anyway, the point isn't Tidus. The point is... the point is--" And she's crying again and smiling, and she hits him in the chest with the flat of her hand, grinning through her tears as they freeze along her chin. He suddenly realises what she had removed from the inside of her goggles.
"You've been Unsent a long time, I mean, so don't... stop before I cut off your toe and string it up or something, okay? I'm not gonna let you become a fiend. You don't deserve it."
And without warning, she ducks forward and hugs him tight around the neck and presses her soft, warm lips to Auron's rough, prickly cheek. It is over before he realises what is happening, and Rikku is rubbing at her eyes.
"We'd better get a move on, or Kimahri'll get there first," she says distractedly, swinging her leg back over the barrel and settling back against him, shivering slightly. "I'd hate to lose to a kitty-cat."
Auron reaches past her, guided by sudden impulse, and lays his hand atop hers, dwarfing it. "Wait." She cranes her neck to look at him, darkened goggles revealing nothing of her eyes. He knows they must be wide and newly startled. "Now."
"I'll give it to you now. You can attach it to your bone ball while I drive."
Rikku is bewildered. "But- But- what are you gonna cut off?"
Auron shakes his head at her and raises a hand to his head, feeling beneath the heavy collar for the tiny braid that he has kept diligently taut despite long years of separation from the priesthood. "This." He withdraws it completely, and with a small grunt, tears the whole thing from his head. Rikku emits a startled cry and stands up, grabbing his head and forcing it down so she can see the missing chunk of hair.
"Oui-- you idiot! It's bleeding!" She pushes his head back, wrenches her goggles aside to look him in the eye with shocked outrage, and is distracted by the end of the thin braid when he hands it to her. "It's got skin attached to it! That's disgusting!"
Auron gives her a very frank look.
"You have an eyeball in your pocket," he reminds her primly. "I think I'm winning."
She gives him the dirtiest look she can muster while grimacing at the bloodied roots attached to the braid. "Considering that this is going to be evidence of your lack of thinking skills, forever-- I don't think so, somehow."
Auron reaches past her to take hold of the handlebars, revs the motor - far too high-powered for the size of the craft, in his opinion - and starts them off at what he feels is an appropriate pace, for the terrain. Nestled comfortably against his chest, Rikku works diligently, wrapping and knotting the braid almost artistically around and through the bones of her aunts, her uncles, her grandparents, her cousins; the chain that will bind him to this world and to her, apparently forever.
He's not sure she needs the braid, but he doesn't say so.
She smiles to herself and pats his leg happily when she's done. He has the eerie feeling she knows she doesn't need the braid, either.
A/N: Let me know what you think.