A/N: Been awhile, ne? Well, haven't quite given up on this just yet. I'm having more luck with my FF7 stuff, though. For anyone who's interested, I'm on AO3 under Expressive Dissonance/quietncryptic so you don't have to stare at this site's weird resolution formatting. (Dunno about you, but my comp is 1600x900 and it looks really choppy and odd when I try to read fanfics on this site now.)

Anyway, enjoy the update. And thank you to Tomoyo-chan284 for betaing for me!


Roxas smiled in relief as he surveyed the small cabin he'd left his brother behind in. Despite his little unexpected pit stop, he was pleased to see that they'd made good time getting the supply truck back to the village. "Well, his snowmobile is still here, so he should be here, too," he muttered and hopped down from the cab of his truck before pocketing the keys and slamming the door.

Behind him, there was the distinct slam of another door and he glanced back to see Axel carefully stretching his lithe form. Shaking himself out of it, Roxas made his way to the cabin door and began pounding on it. After a few seconds of no response he tried the door—and blinked in surprise as it easily swung open.

He scowled. Sora knew better than to leave his doors open like that. He could have gotten mugged or some wild bear could have wandered in or something! It drove him crazy sometimes how irresponsible his little brother could be, even though he was nearing thirty.

"Sora!" he called, carelessly stamping the snow from his boots. A quick glance around the living room showed hastily thrown clothing spread out over the couch and a few dishes scattered on the coffee table.

Roxas wrinkled his nose at the mess. "Slob," he groused, but left the offending kitchenware there as he continued to call his brother's name.

"Nice place," Axel's voice said from behind him, and Roxas didn't even need to look to know that he was snickering over the messy state and Roxas's own annoyance at it.

"Sorry," the blond apologized as he walked into his brother's temporary bedroom to inspect his stuff. "Sora is a bit absentminded."

"No problem, want some help looking for him?"

No answer.


Axel leaned his head around the door frame curiously. His blond friend was standing with pinched lips as he examined a battered old suitcase, his sapphire blue eyes bright with worry.

"Shit," the scientist suddenly exclaimed. "I told Sora not to, but does he listen? No. I bet he went into the damn woods anyway," Axel heard him hiss as he scrambled out of the bedroom and squeezed past Axel as if he wasn't even there.

"Hey, whoa! What's the hurry?"

"My idiot brother is wandering in the woods by himself," the blond snapped in explanation as he barreled through the back door of the cottage after scooping up his gearpack from where he'd dropped it, Axel right on his heels like an obedient puppy.

"I'm sure he's fine," the redhead told him flippantly. "Besides, isn't he a grown man?"

Roxas knew that he was right and sort of agreed with him, but there was a nagging feeling of urgency and unease pushing at the edges of his mind.

"Even so, I need to go," he said firmly, pushing past the redhead.

HIs hand was caught and he whipped his head around to glare at Axel, whose normally playful visage was creased in concern. In the short time he had known him, Roxas had never seen the man this serious.

"I'll help," the redhead said quietly, his green eyes bright with sincerity.

Aqua eyes lazily opened as Riku fought off the tempting lure of sleep.

The white wolf lay in the now dark interior of the cave, his body tightly pressed to that of his charge. Even in his sleep, he had felt the slight tremors racking the body of the human he had been trying to keep warm. Now though, the absence of an active fire had only intensified the severity of the unconscious man's shivering. An unpleasant sensation squeezed Riku's heart for a moment, and he leaned back a bit to peer into the human's face.

A pale face furrowed with discomfort was the first sign that something was wrong. The slight bluish tinge to the man's lips was worrying. There was no way that Riku could afford to wait any longer to get the brunette some help. Luckily, the man's fever had broken, so there was no danger in that particular venue; however, the danger of the man freezing to death while Riku went to retrieve Aerith was all too real.

Another shudder racked the brunette's body and instinctively, Riku found himself nearly draping his furry body over that of the other male's. His large body tucked itself around the somewhat skinny brunette's and his large muzzle was tucked into the crook of an icy cool neck. A small noise, not unlike that of a wounded animal escaped his charge's lips and the white wolf's ears folded back in alarm. For some unknown reason, he really wanted to help this stranger get well, but he seemed to be doing more harm than good right now. He really needed Aerith's help right about now, but could he really leave this man all alone in order to retrieve her and risk the chance of him dying?

What could he do?

Riku leaned his large head down beside the unconscious man's chest. Furry white ears flicked about as he listened to the soft, near stilted sounds of his charge's breathing. The stranger had already been in a bad way when Riku had first discovered him in the snow, but now it seemed far worse.

Riku's heart clenched and he gave a low, anxious whine. Even if he didn't know this person he didn't want them to die this way. Something about the stranger's gaze when they had locked eyes earlier had intrigued the cursed male and some long forgotten instinct had flared to life. It had taken all his willpower to run away in the face of those eyes, as if something in them had been calling to him as surely as his own pack member's voices.

The wind gave another howl from the mouth of the cave and aqua eyes flicked to the entrance to see that the brief lull in the storm would soon be over. If he didn't get help for the dying male soon, there'd be no hope left for him at all. Still...Riku's eyes latched onto the stranger's face and he resolved himself to do whatever it took to make sure this man lived. It wasn't fair that people who wandered into these woods would be punished for something they had no involvement in.

A low huff from Riku's nostrils stirred the cinnamon brown spikes of the unconscious man's hair. A faint shiver made Riku lean closer and shut his eyes as he tried his best to share a bit of warmth with the stranger before he left to find help.

After a minute or so, he rose from atop the other male and readjusted the now mostly dry clothing back over his sleeping denmate. His stance was more than a bit reluctant as he began to head towards the cave entrance. A final glance back revealed the rebundled form of the stranger, who slumbered on, not knowing that his fate was resting in the hands of a selfish man turned beast.

Please stay alive, he begged silently, his heart heavy with the knowledge that he might already be too late.

Unbeknownst to him, the dark charm settled around the stranger's neck began to glow, its tiny form resting lightly over his slowly beating heart.