Standard Disclaimer: Kingdom Hearts and its characters are the exclusive property of Disney Square-Enix. This work of fiction is created for entertainment purposes only and will in no way earn a profit for its creator or any other

Notes: I don't really know what to say about this story… It's interesting. Guess that should be enough.

Warnings: Sick people…

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By Proxy

There they were again, Sora climbing out of his mother's car a little shakily as his mom got out to give him a loving hug and tender kiss to the cheek. She looked at him, checked his forehead for fever and seemed to be asking him if he was feeling ok. Sora of course smiled and nodded as he stepped away.

He was looking paler than usual.

It had been a few weeks since the funeral of Sora's father, and both he and Aerith seemed to be doing well enough, but Riku couldn't help but notice that his best friend just hadn't seemed well since. Aerith was ever the supportive mother, and everyone admired her strength in the face of losing her husband and being left to raise her son on her own, but Sora seemed to have been broken by the loss. His smiles were as bright as he could make them, and the same love and life shone in his eyes that always had, but he had become physically ill after his father's death as if his body was expressing the suffering he felt inside. It was painful to watch for everyone who knew the Gainsboroughs. They were such a loving family. No one deserved that kind of suffering, let alone such gentle people.

Sora made his way slowly over to where Riku and Kairi were waiting for him, smiling at them despite how tired and weak he looked.

"How are you feeling today, Sora?" Kairi asked, walking over and dropping a kiss on his cheek as she hugged him in greeting.

"Crappy as usual," he said with a wan smile. "I was up half the night puking again. I can't figure out why my stomach just can't seem to handle anything solid anymore. This is getting really old really fast."

"Maybe it's some kind of food allergy?" Riku suggested lamely as they headed into the school. "Have you started eating anything that you haven't normally eaten in the past few weeks?"

"No," Sora said scratching his head. "Unless mom's started changing her recipes on me, and I think she'd tell me if she had."

"How has Aerith been holding up?" Kairi asked at the mention of Sora's mother.

"Oh, mom's doing great," Sora smiled. "I'm so proud of her. She's got a lot of friends looking out for her. Cloud and Uncle Leon have been over for the past few nights to check in on her, and Rinoa and Lulu are planning a ladies day this weekend so I'll probably be at your place tomorrow night Riku." Riku smirked at his friend.

"Meaning that I get to slaughter you at Tekken again."

"Or try, you mean," Sora shot back at him.

"More like I'll be there to wipe the floor with both of you," Kairi piped in and they all burst into laughter. Kairi's button mashing skills were legendary as she somehow always managed to do more damage to herself than her enemy.

They walked into their homeroom and greeted the rest of their friends before class got underway. Tidus dashed in, late as usual about five seconds before the bell rang and collapsed in relief when their Math teacher, Mr. Luxord, congratulated him on not receiving detention for the first time that week. The class laughed as he thanked their teacher profusely and then class began. Homework was checked, more assignments were given…it was a normal day at Hollow Bastion High.

The bell for lunch rang at exactly twelve o'clock sharp, and students made their way out of class, some carrying lunch bags, others heading to food lines to buy something to eat. Sora, Riku and Kairi ate under a large beech tree a small distance away from the school's cafeteria along with several of their other friends. It was a routine that the group had settled into since almost the first day of school.

Axel and Demyx were always the first at the tree. As seniors, they could get to the front of the lines most easily, and they always made sure to use this ability at any given chance. Next usually came either the juniors, Riku and Wakka, who had AP English together during fourth period, or sophomores Roxas, Pence and Naminé who often escaped from their art class early. Sora, Tidus and Hayner would always come later since their science class was on the opposite side of campus and Selphie, Kairi and Olette would always come last since they had to shower after their P.E. class.

The space around the tree was usually busy as the large group broke into smaller groups, the more energetic of them bouncing from cluster to cluster as everyone laughed and talked together. Riku always claimed the side of the tree facing away from the school, saving space for Sora and Kairi while he joked with Wakka and listened to the ever-present bickering of Axel and Roxas, the easy laughter from Demyx. It was a normal routine, and Riku was relieved to find that at least lunchtime was still business as usual as everyone showed up in the order that they always did.

"So what've you got to put all of our lunches to shame today, Sora?" Tidus asked, craning his neck to see into Sora's lunch bag as he plopped on the grass next to Wakka. Aerith took good care of her son and made sure to send him to school with delicious and balanced lunches. Tidus often made a point of checking out the "competition" so to speak, enviously wishing someone at his house could cook so well.

Sora settled in his space beside Riku with uncommon care and smiled a little sheepishly. "My mom just gave me soup today since my stomach's been all weird lately," he said with a small shrug. "Works for me. Kinda kills your appetite when whatever you eat comes back up for a repeat performance."

Those who heard the comment chuckled lightly for him, but they all could feel the tension in the air afterwards. The group of friends didn't talk about it much but everyone was worried about Sora's health. It was so strange to not see him bouncing all over the place. Everything about him seemed to be changing, like the life and energy were being steadily drained out of him.

They continued chatting about their plans for the weekend and what projects they had and other innocuous topics, Sora sipping his soup while the others munched on sandwiches or fries or other things bought from the school. The bell rang and they all stood, Riku moving to Sora's side as they had History together next period.

"Anyone who wants to meet up to head to my place later, meet here after school, ok?" Kairi called to the group at large. This was another part of their routine. One person would invite people over after school and whoever was available would go and they would spend hours goofing off and doing homework together. There was a chorus of grunts of agreements and okays as they broke up and headed to their separate classes. Most of them did notice, however, that Sora was not one of those intending to go which was becoming more and more common.

Riku watched Sora carefully as they made their way through the post-lunch crowd; watched as the color again faded from his sun-kissed skin. All through morning classes he seemed fine, a hint of his usual warm glow returning to his cheeks. Now his skin seemed pasty and gray even in the afternoon light, and Riku noticed a slight tremor in his hands as they held his books.

"You doing ok," he asked in concern, and Sora looked up at him with confused, slightly glassy eyes.

"I don't know," he whispered stumbling towards their classroom door. "I felt fine before lunch. I don't know why I can't eat anything." His legs seemed to give out as he put a hand out to open the door, and Riku was at his side immediately.

"Somebody get the nurse!" he called out urgently as he cradled a trembling Sora in his arms.

"Riku," he croaked out weakly, "I'm gonna be sick."

Riku snapped for someone to bring him a trashcan. A small waste basket was hastily shove into his out stretched hands and he managed to get Sora situated into a position that allowed Riku to support him while his head hung over the can. Sora just lay there trembling for a moment before his entire body seemed to clench. There was only liquid in his stomach from the soup, and what little there was splashed messily into the waste bin.

Sora clutched at Riku's arm as he heaved over and over again, stomach contracting painfully though there was nothing in him to expel. Tears were streaming from his face as he heaved again, thick, pale-green bile coating his tongue as he gagged and tried to spit the vile substance out of his mouth.

He was trembling all over, too weak to do anything other than lay there in Riku's arms as silent tears of pain and frustration slid down his face, mixing with the saliva and other fluids that it felt like he was covered in by now. He could feel his heart racing madly in his chest, the world coming in and out of focus as he tried to fight back the panic that was threatening to make him lose all control.

Somewhere in there, the school nurse had arrived. All spectators had been shooed off into their classes and only Riku remained, still holding Sora as the nurse tried to talk to him. Nothing got through. The only sound Sora was aware of for a long time was a dull ringing in his ears. He was aware of someone using something cold and wet to clean his face, and then being carefully lifted by strong arms. He came to his senses long enough to realize they were heading to the nurses office, and when he was lain onto the bed, he just curled up on his side willing the pain in his abdomen to go away.

"Sora, honey," The nurse said putting a hand to his clammy forehead. "We went ahead and called your mom. She'll be here to take you home in a little bit. Alright?" Sora nodded, that alone taking more energy than he felt he had. The nurse left him to go over to her desk, and Riku pulled up a chair next to him while they waited for Aerith together. They sat in silence for a long time, a lone tear escaping Sora's eye as another wave of discomfort passed through him.

"What's wrong with me, Riku?" he asked at length, voice weak and shaking. He didn't want to look so pathetic in front of his friend, but he needed to talk to someone about this. It had been weighing on him for the past few weeks, ever since his father passed.

"I hate feeling this way. It's like my own body has turned against me. What if there's really something wrong? What if it's bad? What if I'm—"

"Don't," Riku said halting the last sentence. "Don't even think it Sora. You're going to be fine. You're mother is a nurse for Christ's sake. She would know if there was something seriously wrong with you." He said this fiercely, making sure that Sora knew how serious he was. "Don't you dare think that way again."

"I know Riku," he said swallowing thickly, "I just wish I understood what's going on. I'm so tired of feeling so weak. It hurts to do everything now. Just getting up in the morning takes so much effort, and every time I think I'm finally starting to get better, it happens again!" Riku was struggling to figure out how to reply when Aerith rushed into the room and hurried quickly to Sora's side.

"Oh, honey, I came as fast as I could," she said leaning over him, running her fingers through his bangs lightly as she kissed his forehead. "Come on, let mama take you back to the hospital. Obviously they're just not looking hard enough if they haven't figured out what's wrong yet."

"But mom," Sora protested as she helped him to a sitting position with a little assistance from Riku. "We've already been there three times and they always tell us the same thing." He inwardly cringed at the idea of more tests and samples being taken from him. Sora was really beginning to hate the hospital.

"Well then I want a second opinion, and third and fourth if that's what it takes. Anything is worth it for my Pooh bear."

"Mooooom," Sora whined and Riku chuckled. Sora never liked it when his mom called him that in public but the fact that he had the strength to complain hopefully meant that he was feeling a little better. Riku walked with them out to the car helping to support Sora in case he needed it as Aerith thanked the school nurse and even swung by the main office to let them know she was taking Sora home. The two friends shared an amused look and Riku waved them off as their car drove away.

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Sora wasn't in class the next day, a point of great concern for his friends. Word of what had happened was all over the school, and lunch was a somewhat grim affair for the group as they sat around in the conspicuous absence of one of their family.

"This sucks," Roxas grumbled from his place on the ground between Axel and Demyx. "Has anyone talked to him since yesterday?"

"I called his house last night," Kairi said, "Aerith told me that he was resting and that it would be best that we not visit until the weekend at least."

"I called, too," Selphie offered. "Got the same response."

"So what, we just wait?" Hayner asked frustration clear in his voice, "Don't we get to find out what the doctors said?"

"Sora will probably tell us when he comes back to school," Olette offered, "and we can visit him when his mom says it's ok, but otherwise, there really isn't much else we can do."

The group sat in uncomfortable silence for a while until Demxy broke the tension with some inane comment about something or other, and they all fell into conversations that had nothing to do with their ailing friend. Still, the cloud of gloom never quite lifted from over their heads.