Dance While You Can
Chapter 17: Under the Weather
In which Lea and Riku strike a bargain.
Riku awoke to a knock at the door, and immediately wished he hadn't woken up. Ugh, he felt awful! His throat was sore, his head ached horribly, and it felt like he'd managed to stuff a bunch of cottonballs up his nose and into his brain. He sort of groaned, pressing his hand against his forehead.
Great, this was just what he needed.
There was another knock at the door.
"Riku, are you in there?" came Lea's voice from the other side, and Riku scrubbed at one eye socket with the heel of his hand.
"Yeah?" He tossed the blankets on the bed aside and swung his legs over the edge of the mattress. Why was it so cold in here? "What's up?"
"Are you okay?" Lea sounded worried, and Riku just made a bit of a face.
"I'm fine," he said, puzzled. "You can come in, it's not locked or anything."
The door creaked open and Lea poked his head in, frowning. He sort of squinted at Riku a moment, like he was looking for a spelling mistake, and then stepped into the room and closed the door behind him.
"What's the matter?" Riku asked, shaking his head. "You look like you didn't expect me to be here."
"It's after ten," Lea said; "I just expected you to be up and about like two hours ago."
"After ten?" Riku's voice became a croak and he coughed into one hand, then gave Lea a startled look. "Are you serious?"
Lea narrowed his eyes. "Yes, I'm serious," he said. "I didn't see you down in the hall or anything, so I figured I'd come make sure nothing had happened."
Riku shook his head. "No, nothing happened," he said, hunching his shoulders a bit, half in embarrassment and half because he was cold. "I guess I just lost track of time."
"You should try sleeping in more often," Lea chuckled, waving a hand dismissively. "You might find you like it."
"Where's Kairi?" Riku asked, changing the subject, and Lea shrugged one shoulder.
"The princess ran off with her earlier this morning," he said. "Something about a waterfall?"
"If she's with Merida I'm sure she's safe," Riku said, relaxing a little. Even if he felt utterly lousy, he could never quite turn off that danger sense. He worried about Kairi a lot, and not knowing where she was gave him anxiety like little else could. He glanced back up at Lea, tilting his head a little. "Something tells me there's more to this visit than just teasing me for oversleeping," he said, and Lea looked a little flustered.
"A-actually..." He pulled at the back of his neck and leaned against one of the posts of the bed. "I, ah... I wanted to say thanks," he said, "for what you and Kairi did. You know, last night." He met Riku's eye briefly, then glanced away. "It's been a long time since I felt like my absence wouldn't go unnoticed, you know? So... I really, ah... appreciate it." He rolled one shoulder back, fidgeting. "S-sorry I was so much trouble."
Riku smiled a little. Lea obviously didn't have much experience in saying please and thank you, and even less saying he was sorry, but he was trying, and that counted for so much.
"You don't have to apologize," he said, clearing his throat. "I'm just glad we found you in time."
"Well, I'm grateful, okay?" He almost sounded sullen, like saying thanks was a chore, and Riku chuckled.
"Friends do that sort of thing." He glanced at him, scooting back on the mattress and folding his legs up. "I know how much you want to save Roxas and Isa," he said. "You don't have to do it all by yourself, though; isn't it better to get help from your friends instead of a witch?"
Lea looked uncomfortable, then shrugged one shoulder.
"In theory," he said noncommittally, and Riku kind of laughed.
"I guess that's better than 'no'." He braced his hands on his knees. "It's fine, really," he said. "You said you'd bail me out if the Darkness got me, remember? It's only fair to return the favor."
Lea just pulled at the back of his neck some more. "I guess so," he muttered. "I just thought... if I could just change what had happened, maybe they'd be better off anyway, you know?"
"You can't change the past, Lea," Riku said, shaking his head. "I'm not even sure a witch can do that. You've seen what Xehanort's messing with time can do: it's destructive, dark magic, and even if it's for a good cause it's not something you want to—" He turned away and sneezed into the crook of his arm, shook his head and scrubbed at his face, then sneezed again. "Not something you want to mess with," he concluded in a scratchy voice. Ugh, that had hurt.
Lea's eyes were narrow again, and Riku fidgeted.
"What?" he asked. "S... someone's just got a lot to say about me today, right?" Wasn't that what Lea had said about sneezing?
Lea pushed away from the bed and closed the distance between them in two long strides.
"That's not gossip," he said, reaching out with one arm, and Riku quailed. What in the worlds was he doing? "It ain't allergies, either—you're sick." That was when Lea's palm met Riku's forehead, and the older man made a sibilant noise. "You were out in the rain last night chasing me down, and now you're sick."
"It's not a big deal," Riku insisted, swatting at Lea's hand and leaning away from him. Of course he hadn't been about to hit him; Lea wouldn't hit him, right? Why had he flinched? "I get sick real easily anyway."
"That doesn't make it okay," Lea said, shaking his head hopelessly and then he glanced down at Riku's clothes. "Did you seriously sleep in your rainsoaked clothes?" he asked then, and Riku glowered.
"I didn't have anything else!" he said sharply. "I can't just sleep in my underwear—I don't even do that at home!"
Lea palmed his face. "You have your own room, you lunkhead," he said. "It's not like anybody would have seen you. No wonder you got sick, sleeping in soaking wet clothes in this drafty old castle."
"Well excuse me, Dr. Lea," Riku said, folding his arms with a harrumph. "I didn't realize you were giving out free medical advice along with your Darkness rescues." He coughed roughly into his shoulder and shook his head. "It isn't a big deal, okay? I'm used to it."
"That still doesn't make it okay," Lea said, waving a hand. "You've got a fever."
"Look, just don't tell Kairi, okay?"
Lea stared at him, like maybe he had turned purple.
"I'm telling you you're running a fever, and your first instinct is 'don't tell my best friend'?" Lea threw both hands in the air. "I don't understand you at all sometimes."
"She'll just worry," Riku said, lacing and unlacing his fingers together. "I can't do anything about it anyway, right? It's just gotta run its course, so worrying Kairi about it won't help."
"Fine," Lea said, wagging a finger at him, "I won't tell her, on one condition."
Oh, Light, this was not going to be fun.
"What condition?" Riku asked, swatting at Lea's hand again.
"You take it easy." Lea folded his arms over his chest. "Kairi's out all day," he said, "so sleep or something."
"Sleep?" Riku shook his head. "You make it sound so easy."
"Fine, just rest, then," Lea said, shaking his head. "I'll come tell you when she and Merida get back—she won't know a thing, okay?"
"Why are you so hung up on this?" Riku asked, frowning. "I told you, it's no big deal. I get sick sometimes, so what?"
"So it's my fault," Lea said, glowering at him. "If I'd just had my head screwed on right, you and Kairi wouldn't have had'a go out in the rain after me in the first place. I was stupid, and now you're the one paying for it, and that ain't okay."
Riku was quiet for a moment, just looking kind of confused. How was this Lea's fault? Lea wasn't the reason he had a shoddy immune system. This had happened because he just got sick too easily; it was bound to happen sooner or later anyway, right? Why was Lea even trying to take responsibility for it?
He shook his head. "I don't get you," he said. "This isn't your fault at all, I was probably due for a cold anyway."
"Due?" Lea boggled at him. "Your health isn't the weather, Riku; nobody's ever due to get sick." He made a frustrated noise, then held up one hand, three fingers lifted. "Three days," he said, and Riku tilted his head.
"When we go back to the islands," he said, "you're gonna take three days off and just relax."
"Three days?" Riku looked appalled. He wasn't sure how he was going to relax for three hours, let alone three days! "Lea, I can't—"
"No missions, no training, just you taking it easy," he interrupted, and then stuck his hand out like he expected Riku to shake on it. "Three days, and I won't breathe a word to Kairi at all. That's my one condition."
Riku hunched his shoulders and have Lea a surly look. "Three days without training, she's gonna know something's wrong," he said, folding his arms with a huff. "I can't do it."
"Riku you can do anything, come on."
Riku gave a start at that. He'd said it like it was so simple, like it was just the facts, and Riku didn't think that at all. He couldn't do just anything, no way! He wasn't that talented.
"Tell her you're doing a special assignment and you have to take a few days," he said, and then held up one finger when Riku made to protest. "Aa—it's not a lie. It's a special assignment I'm giving you, and she doesn't have to know what it is."
Riku averted his eyes. How had he known that was what he was going to say? "Still feels like lying," he said stiffly.
"Well, it ain't lying," Lea said, shaking his head. "Trust me, I know about lying."
With a heavy sigh, Riku scrubbed at his face with one hand again. Part of him did kind of want to go back to sleep—he was cold and he was exhausted, but he was used to just working through that. Was it really okay to just take it easy? What about training? What about Xehanort? He bet Xehanort never took a day off. Looking back up at Lea, though, he knew this wasn't really up for debate. Lea obviously knew how to drive a hard bargain, and he was driving one now. If he didn't go along, then he would definitely tell Kairi about it, and he really didn't want to worry her. Kairi always worried when he was sick—she'd made him soup before, and he hated being such an inconvenience. This was the better option, wasn't it?
"Ugh, okay fine, but... make it two days," he said, frowning.
"Riku, do we have to Rock Paper Scissors again?" Lea's tone was far more serious than his suggestion warranted. "How long are you usually sick?"
"Like a little more than a week," Riku said, something wary in his posture, like the answer might condemn him or something.
"Just take a few days to sleep it off and you'll shave that many off the whole thing, I promise," Lea said, shaking a finger at him. "You might be surprised at how much sooner you get over a cold if you just accept that you're sick and should be off your feet."
"No, that's..." he said, shaking his head, fisting his hands in the sheets where he sat. "I don't... know how to just take it easy. Three whole days with no training and no missions, I'll go out of my mind!" He gave Lea a somewhat desperate look. "I'm being serious, okay? I'll... I'll try. I'll try and just take it easy, but three days is too much."
Lea stared him down for a good twelve seconds, then sighed and nodded, running a hand back through his hair in exasperation.
"All right, two days," he said, "but I'm not budging on that." He stuck his hand out again, and Riku stared at it a moment before he exhaled heavily and shook it.
"You can't tell my mom, either," he said, making a face. "She'll go all overboard and want to take me to a doctor or something."
Lea shook his head. "I won't have to tell your ma," he said, waving one hand. "Mothers know about these things instinctively."
Riku just groaned and buried his face in his hands. Why was Lea doing this? He was perfectly capable of continuing to work with a cold, it was no big deal, he did it all the time. It was just a cold. "You know this is completely unnecessary, right?" he asked, his voice muffled through his hands, and Lea just sort of laughed.
"Friends do this sort of thing, too," he said, reaching out and ruffling Riku's hair with one hand.
Riku waved him off grumpily, trying to muster a scowl, but he couldn't quite manage. This felt really different from the way his mother tended to fuss over him. Lea was worried, and he could see that, but he wasn't being overbearing. It was strange, and not what he was used to at all. He lifted his head when he heard Lea shift to head for the door.
He leapt to his feet to follow him, prepared to make him pinkie promise on this (because that was the highest grade of promise, wasn't it? Kairi seemed to think so), but instead he stumbled. His head was swimming, and he sort of gasped as his knees gave out from under him, sending him pitching toward the floor. Lea moved so fast he didn't even see him, he just felt a strong hand catch him by the upper arm and halt his descent.
"You're not doing a very good job of resting, sport," Lea said grimly, and Riku just flushed with embarrassment (or maybe fever, or maybe both) and jerked his arm free.
"It's a promise," he said quickly, his lips a thin line across his face. "You can't tell Kairi or my mom."
Lea just stood there and dragged his thumb in an X over the left side of his chest. "Cross my heart," he said, and that was good enough for Riku. He knew Lea had no intention of doing anything to jeopardize his heart again, not even something as simple as breaking a heart-crossed promise. More than that, he had a distinct feeling that Lea just didn't break promises. That was what he'd said to Kairi, right? That he didn't make promises he couldn't keep? Lea crossing his heart might have been even more binding than a pinkie promise.
"You gotta keep your end of the bargain, too," Lea reminded him, jerking his chin back toward the bed. "Go."
Riku all but sulked as he returned to the bed, sitting down with a pointed harrumph. Seemingly satisfied, Lea nodded and headed out into the hallway, closing the door behind him. Riku could hear him whistling as he headed down the hall, and he flopped backward onto the bed with a baleful noise, covering his face with the pillow.
His clothes were dry now, at least, and if he had no choice (he had the feeling Lea was going to camp the hallway to make sure he stayed in here), he figured he might as well get a little more sleep. He really was pretty tired. He sighed heavily, coughing into one arm, and then just dragged the covers up around his neck, nestling into the bed and closing his eyes. He was so going to get Lea for this later.
super thanks again to Numinous Scribe for an in-depth review! it totally makes my day to get comments like that, so thank you so much! you're welcome to leave unsigned comments on AO3 if you like, i can respond to you directly there, instead of in notes here, but whichever you prefer is fine with me, i'm just glad you're enjoying the story. i'd love to hear the trick that so greatly changed your life, so please don't hesitate to send me a PM!
thanks as well to everyone reading! eventually i'll get this monster caught up to what's on the other site, i promise.