I know, most of you are sitting there thinking, 'what the hell was she smoking when she wrote this?' To answer your question: DON'T DO DRUGS, I certainly don't. Ummm... Let's call this the ramblings of an insane mind and leave it at that. If you don't like it, don't read it. I like flames, they warm my toes in those harsh winter months.

Disclaimer: Dude, if I owned KH, I would sooo make Riku the main character.

If Auron were any other man, and if his situation wasn't half as serious, he might have found the silver haired teen stumbling after him wrapped in an overly large red coat cute. As it was though, Auron wasn't any other man, and his situation was serious; therefore, he did not find the shivering, soaked teen cute. If anything, the teen was a burden, slowing Auron down and keeping him from his goal.

Stomping over yet another tree root, Auron tried to figure out how something as simple as a hiking trip had gone so horribly wrong.

Ah, yes, Tidus. The son of his old, deceased friend Jecht, and a complete moron. Honestly, he should have expected the worst when Tidus loudly proclaimed:


And the next thing Auron knew, he was being sent half way across the country with six obnoxious teenagers.

The bus was large, yellow, and smelled like elephant feces. Auron sighed as a boy with spiky brown hair raced onto the bus ahead of him, quickly claiming the back seat. Next came a bouncy teenage girl dressed completely in yellow who managed to stomp on Auron's foot climbing up the bus stairs. Auron didn't even have a chance to stop her before Tidus bounded up the stairs, followed by his long time friend Wakka. Next was a girl dressed in designer clothes hauling three huge pink suitcases, smiling at Auron as she stumbled past. Auron sighed, rubbing his temples with a tired hand as one last teen past him.

"Here," and suddenly, slim hands pressed a small plastic bottle into Auron's hand. "You'll need it."

And then with a small smirk, the teen climbed up into the bus, shifting the bag on his shoulder.

Auron looked down at the bottle: It was aspirin. He snorted. He wasn't so old that he couldn't take care of a few teenagers.

There was a gasp as Riku tripped over a large root, falling on the dirty ground. His shivering increased substantially, and Auron stopped, gritting his teeth as the teen lay on the ground. Walking over to the teen, he reached over to grab him by the arm, but was stopped by a sharp glare.

"I'm fine," Riku told him, stubbornly getting to his feet, wrapping the red jacket around him and not noticing the wet orange leaf that clung to his soaked hair.

Auron frowned. "Pride won't help you out, it'll only get you killed."

Somewhere along the bumpy bus trip, Selphie (an annoying girl, Auron knew, and he regretted sitting next to her.) decided that they should sing campfire songs to pass time. So now, five loud, out of tune voices sang various childhood songs.

"The wheels on the bus go round and round!"

Auron frowned, staring down at the aspirin. Gripping the bottle in his hand, he tried to unscrew it, only for it to stick.

"Round and round!" Auron nearly winced as another sharp pang reverberated through his head. He fumbled with the bottle vainly, desperately seeking a solution to the pain.

Across from him, Riku leaned against the window, ear phones plugged in to an mp3 player, a small, peaceful smile on his face as he watched his friends. Turning, he met Auron's eyes. Reaching across the isle, he took the aspirin from Auron and opened it.

Selphie continued singing, ignoring the two other passengers.

Auron popped the pills, swallowing them dry and leaned back into his seat. Leaning back against the window, Riku stared out at the passing scenery.

Riku's eyes softened for an instant before he pulled away, standing on his own. Looking down at the freshly fallen leaves, he flipped his bangs over his face, successfully hiding his expression from Auron.

"I'm slowing you down." He stated. "You should just leave me here. It'll take you less time if you don't have to worry about me."

Auron growled, grabbing the boy by his arm and jerking him harshly until his gaze met surprised green eyes.

"I don't give a shit what you do on your own time, but you're not dying on mine."

No, he had been given a responsibility to take care of those stupid kids, and he wasn't backing out of it. He never backed out of a promise.

Riku shivered lightly in his grip, and Auron suddenly realized that the younger teen would probably bruise from that later.

He could feel a sharp, unwavering glare hitting his back before the soft sounds of Riku trudging through the forest started again.

It was the second day of their hike, and Auron was starting to get annoyed. Between Sora racing up the path and Selphie constantly tasting different (poisonous) berries, Auron was having a harder time than he expected and was sincerely thankful for his now only half full bottle of aspirin.

Still, the last thing he needed was for Riku to keep stopping, and just as he was turning around yet again to tell the teenager so, a familiar hand gripped his arm.

"Don't," and suddenly, Auron was looking into the oddly serious (because the boy was ALWAYS giddy) eyes of his charge, Tidus. "I know he's holding us up and all, but you have understand, Riku is…"

He paused, thoughtful eyes considering his friend, before he turned back to Auron. "He's not well. He's been through some serious shit."

Riku's footsteps were loud, his feet pounding into the ground with an uneven rhythm. Auron turned around, and before Riku could argue, hauled the boy over his shoulder. For the first time, he noticed how unnaturally pale the teenager was.

"Put me down," Riku commanded, hitting Auron on his thigh. Auron merely ignored him, stepping over another tree root and gripping Riku's thigh to keep the boy from sliding to the ground.

Riku smelled faintly of the forest, sunscreen, and his own, personal scent. Auron growled. He didn't know why he was noticing this in the first place.

A week into the trip, Auron was finally getting used to the hyper active teens. He could now always stop Selphie when she saw a new type of berry, and he had fashioned a leash for Sora, which he allowed Kairi to hold.

The roaring of a river had been continuously pounding into his head for some time now, and he wondered how exactly they were going to cross said river.

"Wow guys! Look at this!" Tidus (who was now in first place since Kairi walked slowly and Sora's leash wasn't too long) yelled, pointing at the pounding river. A long, thick tree had fallen across the river, the perfect bridge.

Quickly, Tidus climbed across the thick tree, his arms held out for balance, like an acrobat. Selphie followed, skipping across the rounded wood so quickly that Auron feared she would fall off the edge. Sora followed eagerly, leaning over the side to look at the water before Kairi gently tugged on his leash. She followed apprehensively, her brand new purple hiking boots gripping the wood and keeping her from falling over. Wakka, who was less coordinated than the others, crawled over, leaving Riku and Auron.

For a moment, Riku only stared into the water, and Auron could see a brief longing he wasn't sure he liked, before Sora shouted for him to hurry up already.

Standing on the tree, Riku quickly started across; however, he had barely made it a fourth of the way before a large crack nearly shattered Auron's eardrums.

Riku froze for a moment, and before Auron could tell him not to move, the teen took a step backwards, and the log collapsed.

After a while, Riku had ceased in his futile struggling, obviously realizing that Auron was bigger than him, stronger and more muscular than him, older than him, and a Hell of a lot more stubborn than him.

Auron, meanwhile, cursed himself as the teen's shivering increased, sending small tremors through his body. The hand that gripped Riku's thigh could feel the intense cold that seemed to have cemented itself through his body, as well as the increasingly violent tremors.

The sun had sunk below the horizon, and as Auron tripped over his third tree root, he realized there was no way he could risk traversing through the woods at night.

Stopping in one of the many small, grassy clearings, he gracelessly dumped Riku on the ground, ignoring the startled yelp and disgruntled glare he received from the boy, instead focusing on the pale blue shade of Riku's lips and the unnatural whiteness of his skin.

"Take off your clothes," he calmly commanded, ignoring Riku's wide eyed gasp, and deciding to blame the hot flush across his cheeks on the cold.

The world seemed to pause for a second, as Riku fell into the water, eyes wide, mouth half open. He landed with a loud splash, coming back up five feet downstream, the current pushing him helplessly away from his friends.

Auron barely had time to react as the teen grabbed onto a vine hanging into the river, pulling against the current, coughing on swallowed water.

Racing towards him, Auron quickly reached down and grabbed the kid's arm, hauling him up until Riku fond a secure foothold and clambered over the side, collapsing into Auron's arms in an exhausted heap.

And for a while, Auron just held the teen, wrapping his arms around him to try and still that shaking, and listening to a frantic heartbeat, reassured by the fact that it wasn't still.

Suprisingly docile, Riku shed the cloak Auron had given him, unzipping his soaked yellow overcoat with practiced fingers that almost made Auron gulp.

Next was the flimsy black shirt he wore underneath, which was laid beside his coat.

After this, Riku paused, and Auron couldn't help but notice how Riku's skin was pulled taught over well defined muscles, or how much more slim the boy was without his baggy clothing.

"Are you going to keep looking?" There was a hint of a smirk behind that comment, even as Riku shivered.

Obediently, Auron turned around, his ears making out the sound of Riku's jeans sliding against his wet skin as he pulled them off.

Turning around, he found Riku sitting atop his red coat, legs crossed protectively in front of him, arms wrapped tightly around his torso, rubbing his pale skin to try and keep in some heat.

Digging through one of the few bags they had managed to salvage, Auron Pulled out a large sleeping bag.

On the other side of the river, Tidus shouted over to them, asking if they were all right. After a few minutes of shouting back and forth, the two realized that Tidus and the others had most of the camping supplies, but very little food.

So it was decided that Auron and Riku would head back to civilization to get some help while the other teenagers waited.

Hopefully, with less people, they could make the hike back much more quickly, before the others ran out of food and clean water.

Pulling off his shirt, Auron nearly snorted at the way Riku's eyes widened, and the small squeak that managed to escape his mouth.

Unrolling the sleeping bag, he slipped in, beckoning the teen over to him.

"No way," Riku complained, pulling Auron's cloak up around him.

The older man fought the urge to roll his eyes.

"You can come over here, or you can freeze to death."

Riku seemed to take his time deciding, eyes darting from the warmth of the sleeping bag to his clothes, before he quickly abandoned the cloak and crawled into the sleeping bag, attempting to put as much space between himself and Auron as physically possible.

With a sigh, the older man gripped Riku around the waist, pulling him back against a warm chest.

He could hear Riku's heart beating frantically, desperately trying to send oxygen and warmth the his extremities, or at least, that was Auron's excuse.

Rubbing a hand over the teens arms and torso, he tried to ignore the sudden gasp it elicited, the indrawn stomach, or the way Riku shifted uncomfortably, rubbing his backside into a very sensitive part of Auron's anatomy.

"Keep still kid," his voice sounded gruff and irritated, and Riku immediately stilled, soon the sound of their breathing filling the forest.

The loud chirping of bugs and birds soon followed, and all of a sudden Riku let out a harsh laugh, shifting against Auron so that the back of his head fit underneath the taller man's chin.

"I just remembered the Fonz," Riku's laughter shook his body once again, the feeling oddly pleasant to Auron, who didn't respond.

"There's this episode where he goes out camping, and when he tries to fall asleep the bugs start chirping loudly, so he says 'hey' and snaps his fingers, and the forest is silent."

Auron had never watched Happy Day's as a child, always more focused on reading or studying martial arts, or trying to grow up.

Jecht had always told him to relax, that age would come soon enough to those who waited, so there was no use rushing into it.

Riku let out another shiver, even though, by now, he was almost completely dry.

"Do you think they'll be ok? I mean, Selphie's not the most careful person," Auron couldn't help but snort at that comment.

"What if they get eaten by a bear, or they run out of food, or something?"

Auron didn't answer. He didn't want to promise anything he couldn't make come true.

Auron woke at sunrise the next morning, quickly pulling on his clothes and shaking Riku. The teen woke surprisingly quickly, though as he dressed he had to sniffle several huge yawns.

Tossing the kid a pack of trail mix, the two took off, desperate to make it back to the small town bordering the forest by tomorrow, preferably today, if the trees were less dense, and they could walk through the night.

Warm, dry, and rested, Riku nearly kept pace with Auron, his shorter legs sometimes slowing him down. Besides that, Auron's urge to leave the kid had nearly dissipated.

It was only when he heard the first hacking cough that he began to worry.

Tree after tree, mile after mile, it all melted away into one huge forest, and Auron wondered how the teenagers had ever managed to find this menacing view beautiful. He snorted; it must have been the hormones.

Another harsh cough echoed through the air, and this time, Riku's footsteps stopped momentarily. Auron turned suddenly, fully prepared to once again toss the kid over his shoulder, but Riku smiled at him from beneath long silver bangs and waved him off.

"I'm fine, it's just a cold." And Auron knew he was lying, but he also knew that behind them were five scared teenagers, alone only with a day's worth of food and clean water, depending solely on them to make it back in time.

And time was quickly running short.

The next time Riku coughed, nearly an hour later, his feet twisted in the dry, gritty ground, and a thump informed Auron that he had fallen over.

Turning, the man found Riku curled up on his side, trying to cover his mouth as his body violently jerked to the rhythm of his coughing.

He muttered a curse and ran quickly to the teen's side, pushing aside sweaty bangs to rest his hand on a hot, burning forehead.

Scooping the kid up, he once again started walking, dropping one of their bags to reduce the weight.

"So-sorry," Riku whispered with cloudy, sickness muddled eyes, and Auron only grunted, not sure yet whether or not he blamed the teen.

The shivering started again, this time so violently that Riku's teeth chattered, disrupting the calm of the forest.

Distracted by the loud noise, Auron tripped over a large root sticking out of the ground, crashing down on the forest floor.

Though Riku's body broke the fall for him, his head hit the ground with a sickening Crack!

Those kids would make fun of me for that, he thought. An old, disoriented, disfigured man.

And then, despite his attempts to get up, his world went black.

The next time the world decided to come into focus for him, he was warm, too warm, almost as if he had a fever.

Thin arms gripped his thighs, and a rope bound his arms, leaving them hanging around a familiar neck. For an instant, silver hair clouded his vision.

"Almost there," the teen muttered, stumbling and nearly falling with Auron's weight added to his own.

His face was red, both from fever and overexertion, but a small smirk was spread across his face.

"Leave me here," Auron told him when he found his voice and was able to speak past the lump of nausea in his throat.

The smirk on his face widened as he responded, jokingly lowering his voice and adding gruffness to make it sound more like Auron's.

"I don't give a shit what you do on your own time, but you're not dying on mine."

Auron remaned silent for a time, fighting back the urge to vomit. Stupid, stubborn kids.

And soon, mesmorized by the pounding of Riku's footsteps and the same pounding in his head, Auron once again fell unconscious.

"Auron. Auron! Hey, AURON!"

Tidus, Auron realized belatedly, hesitant to open his eyes. He should have left the stupid kid in the forest. Wait, he had, hadn't he?

"What are you doing here?" His voice sounded oddly weak, and internally he cursed.

"Well," Tidus smirked mischievously, "apparently, after you lost consciousness, Riku hauled your sorry ass back to civilization."

Riku? He carried Auron, who might be twice his weight, back through the forest? The shock on his face must have shown, because once again, Tidus burst into happy language.

"Yeah, I know. I mean, we all knew he was strong, but who knew he could haul a tub of lard like you around?"

If Auron could've moved his arms of legs better, he would've given Tidus a reason to run back into that forest.

"The news people came, were calling him a hero. But, he was really sick, so they had to rush him by helicopter to a bigger hospital. They were just able to move the rest of us, so here we are."

Ignoring the pounding of his head, Auron sat up, staring around the room to see Selphie and Wakka staring back at him.

"Where is the kid?" Auron asked, fumbling through the pockets of his cloak for his aspirin. He swore he had become addicted to that crap.

"Oh, his foster parents came to take him home, along with Sora and Kairi. They said something about not paying for the hospital bill… So I kind of told them you would pay…"

Auron swore, Jecht's son or not, the kid was going to be cleaning his house with a toothbrush, after he covered the place in dirt and grime.

"Hey! What was I supposed to say? I'm only seventeen, ya know." Tidus waved his hands in front of his face, leaning back so far he fell out of his chair. Popping an aspirin into his mouth, Auron laid back, rolling his eyes.

Despite himself he was glad the punk and his friends were ok.

A week later Auron rang on the doorbell of the address Tidus had given him (with a raised eyebrow and smirk, jokingly reminding Auron that Riku's eighteenth birthday had been a month ago.)

A heavy set, dirty old man, dressed in a wife beater and stained blue boxers opened the door, snorting as he saw Auron.

"What'd ya want? Ain't you read the door. No sol-ic-it-ors."

Ignoring the man's disposition, and his breath, Auron decided to state his business.

"I'm here to see Riku."

The older man eyeballed him with beady black eyes, settling on the scar that rendered him blind in one eye.

"I don't want no funny business now. Lazy slob's in his room."

The man stepped away from the door, and Auron walked through, heading in the direction of the man's raised hand. The house was small, so it wasn't very hard.

Opening the door with a loud creak, he walked inside to find Riku pulling the earphones of his mp3 player out of his ears.

"Close the door behind you," Riku asked, setting his music player on the windowsill.

Auron did so, ignoring the ominous creak that sounded.

"I just wanted to thank you," the words were easier to get out, now that he had a week to practice.

A small smile spread across Riku's face as the boy got to his feet, walking over to Auron.

For some odd reason, Auron was remembered of the shivering boy on their night in the forested, legs foled in front of himself, long, soaked silver hair clinging to his body as he shivered.

Riku stood, dangerously close to him, head tilted back to he could look up into the other man's face.

"I couldn't have done it without you," he stated, taking another step closer, until they were touching, the top of Riku's head only coming up to Auron's jaw.

"For not leaving me to die out there," arms wrapped around his neck as Riku stood on his tiptoes, breath brushing Auron's face. Riku's thick eyelashes surrounded half lidded, aquamarine eyes as he gazed into Auron's imperfect face.

"Thank you," and suddenly lips met his in an inexperienced, chaste kiss, and despite everything, Auron didn't have the willpower to do anything besides wrap his arms around that slim waist and kiss back.