Hey, y'all. Occasional oneshot coming to you from a PI break. Don't worry, chapter 5 is well under-way.

Inspired by the user Darren White (on fanfiction).

Enjoy! -mumbleeventhoughI'mnotproudofthisonemumble-


Auron had many expressions.

That was the first thing that Rikku noticed about him. His facial movements were small, almost invisible unless she paid attention, but they spread his emotions out for her like a children's book. And she always paid attention. Rikku believed that it was important to study the people that she would be stealing from.

His curiosity only showed in his eyes, which were usually darkened with his own thoughts and thus lit up like firecrackers when feelings bothered to show there. Her favorite display of lights quickly became frustration and annoyance, which she proceeded to ignite by constantly asking him obscure questions that he wasn't at all prepared for. She also bothered him by swiping things that he needed, such as his sunglasses. He was most entertaining when he was angry; his lips pressed together just so, and his eyes lit up with flames. Best of all, his bulky size made it impossible for him to chase after her when she fled with her prize.

And though Auron was a depressing person, Rikku hated to see him sad. It ate at her inside that she had no idea how to cheer him up when he was sad. Once or twice she thought about his dry sense of humor, and how a joke or two about politics or the ignorance of the world might force him to laugh. And then she remembered that she didn't know any dry-humored jokes, and that she would probably fail at delivering them if she did.

So she continued to poke and tease him, and kept her distance when she knew that he wanted to be alone. More and more, though, she found it harder and harder to stay away from him at those times. Sometimes she watched him sit, just to see if he would do anything. He never did. But she could see gears roaring in his head, and wondered what he thought so hard about in his time by himself.

In Bikanel, when the party was together again without Yuna, there was a moment while they were heading in the direction of Home (Rikku thought). Auron's eyes shone with curiosity, and he strayed from the group, squatted at the base a dune nearby, and appeared to pull something small up from the sand. Rikku had no idea why Auron would be interested in some random shiny object floating in the sea of fine dirt, but her questions easily slipped her mind when Home rose from the sand over the rim of another dune. Explosions, fiends, gunfire—she forgot everything else.

Further traumatized by Home's demolition, she barely noticed as she shuffled by him in one of the airship's halls that Auron was holding the same flat object that he had picked up in the desert, and was polishing it off with the fabric of his coat. It was something colorful now that the dust and dirt was being wiped from it. But, again, she ignored it and walked a little further, out of Auron's sight, and sat down on the stairs at the rear of the ship. She cried there for quite some time. Cried for the events that had destroyed her only home, for Yuna's troubles and worries. She shed many tears for the Al Bhed that might have been left behind in the explosion. She cried in desperation.

The pace of things soon picked up again, and Rikku discovered that crashing a wedding was not as fun as she had imagined it to be. Neither was breaking out of prison, and neither was giving Seymour another good beating.

They ran. They ran all the way to Macalania forest, a place where they would be well hidden and where Yuna could finally have some peace. Auron went off alone again—probably to think—and when he returned, he asked where she was. Rikku told him that she had gone off by herself, too. Tidus went after her not much later. This left the other five of them alone, silent, and Auron didn't enjoy being silent with other people. He got up and began to leave.

However, this time Rikku followed him. She made no attempt to conceal herself, so when he didn't turn around to ward her off but instead glanced at her over his shoulder, she suddenly came to the realization that he had expected her to tag along and didn't mind it much at all. Her face flushed for no reason.

They arrived at a small clearing in the crystalline trees. The silence was thicker here, and Rikku had the urge to reach out and touch it to see if it was as tangible as it felt. She wasn't uncomfortable. No, not at all; actually, in the cold of the forest she could almost feel Auron's furnace-like body heat from feet away. It was then that she realized how small she was compared to him, and how intimidating he was. He always seemed so much less daunting when he was annoyed.

It was awkward. She had to annoy him somehow to even things out between them. She found herself reaching for his sunglasses. Just as her fingers brushed the rim near his ear, she felt him seize her wrist with his now-free hand. She winced, and he turned to her. His other hand fished around in the pouch on his belt.

He produced what seemed to be a small hairpin and held it out to her. She blinked in confusion and examined it; it had a beautifully crafted badge of a phoenix-like bird in flight attached to the clip, which sparkled in the forest's natural light. This must have been what he'd found in the desert.

"Do you like this?" he asked. In his eyes was an expression that Rikku had never seen before. A calm, gentle gaze, directed only toward her. She nodded.

Her wrist was released, and Auron bent slightly to get a better working view as he set about slipping the clip into her loose bangs. His fingers rested lightly on her forehead and above her ear as he pulled her hair back. Rikku's heart flipped about her chest more than once at the tentativeness of his touch; he had calloused fingers and rough palms, but the way he handled her was in a very delicate way.

He stepped back. Not wanting him to see her blush, she quickly turned and sauntered over to a crystal, using it as a mirror to inspect herself. The pin looked fantastic and elegant, contrasting and completing every aspect of her face. Her eyes shone with approval.

She glanced over her shoulder with the mirror to see Auron watching her with a completely new expression, one that was a higher reading level than a children's book. Her heart tossed again; she turned back to him with a wide grin and thanked him. Suddenly, the corners of his lips lifted in a genuine smile. Rikku was stunned for several seconds. "Why did you save this for me?"

He stayed quiet. She became angry at the fact that he was ignoring the question until he looked away from her and quietly mumbled something that she might not have been supposed to hear:

"Looks good with your eyes…"

So much for a cool face, Rikku thought. Then she noticed that Auron looked a little flustered, and her smile grew wider. Crossing the clearing in a few steps, she put her hands on his shoulders to support her as she went up on her toes. Quickly, before he could react, she planted a kiss on his stubbly cheek, then turned and fled through the clearing's exit.

She had never seen a smile like that on Auron's face. It was real, totally real, not a sarcastic grin at someone's stupidity. She wanted to see more of that smile. She wanted to see that smile again.

However, during most of her following attempts to draw it out, she was horribly unsuccessful. She went back to teasing him, even occasionally adding in a kiss on the cheek. And that only made things worse for her, since seeing him annoyed just wasn't fun anymore.

Rikku made one final attempt. She stole his sunglasses a last time while he was sleeping. He woke and caught her in the act, and she pouted an apology and slipped them back onto his face in defeat. She leaned in to kiss his cheek, but at the very last moment she saw the same smile that he'd had in Macalania spread across his face. He turned and caught her lips with his, and repaid his kissing debt in full.