Riku and Tidus set off and make camp.
So they rode for the large of the day, stopping for lunch under a large willow, complaining about Ramen being all soup and noodles and their cheap packets of chips going stale. By the time it reached sundown, they were a good couple of hundred kilometres out, and they called it a day at the shores of a valm stream, throwing their bags and bike down and falling into the lush green grass that cropped up everywhere around the plains of Wutai .
"We didn't bring enough bug spray," Tidus whined, slapping at a stray mosquito.
"We didn't bring any bug spray," Riku corrected, trying not to scratch where he'd just been bitten.
Tidus sat up. "Maybe if we go for a swim we'll get rid of the bugs."
"No, that's a dumb idea, we didn't--"
And Tidus was already striding to where the water met the land, peering out at the water from a small ledge, contemplating.
"Looks deep enough to me." He said. As Riku stared, he dive bombed.
"Do you ever think?" Riku wondered, walking up to the ledge to observe. "I mean, I don't know about you but the stories I've heard about people who didn't check the depth of the water and broke their necks crashing into rocks just under the surface definitely haven't inspired me to copy them."
"You're such a killjoy," Tidus announced, and pulled him in by his arm.
Okay, so maybe he did need to lighten up a little, he realized as he surfaced, spluttering a little and giving a laughing Tidus dark looks. Unless he counted his own getting smashed fiasco, they really hadn't had much fun on this trip so far. And what would Sora do? If it'd been Riku who'd disappeared and he who'd gone after him, then Sora wouldn't be treating everything like the epitome of seriousness and absolutely sticking to every plan made like glue. He'd be making friends and having fun along the way, although like Riku, he'd never stray from his goal.
So Riku surprised Tidus by splashing back when they got into a water fight then laughing and helping him back up when he slipped on a rock and fell back into the sloped soil hill behind him, smiling. And Tidus seemed to revel in it-- at one point he took a sharp-edged shell from the river bed and brought it to Riku's hair. The older boy didn't even flinch as a large hunk was removed from it and brought to attention. All he said was "I think my hairdresser would be in tears right now." and took the shell to hack away half the hair on his head.
"My fringe is mis-matching," Tidus sulked, playing with the silver strands he'd collected from Riku. "The point wasn't to make the other person utterly unrecognisable, for your information."
"Really?" Riku teased. "I thought it would help our being on the run from evil mobsters."
Tidus slapped him, but it didn't hurt. "The point was, to make a friendship bracelet."
"Ahh, to fool our enemies into thinking we're demonstrative saps and not just normal loser ones."
Tidus gave Riku the look Riku usually gave him.
"Or not. The problem still remains we have two giant hunks of hair and no friendship bracelet. You want to fix that, buddy?"
For a split second Tidus looked as if he had a funny taste in his mouth, but then he nodded, and they hopped ashore and started working on designs. Tidus very quickly learnt that of all the faults in the world Riku had big hands, meaning he couldn't plat or tie small things for shit, so Tidus took the reins for the technical work and Riku got to watch greyey blue/white merging with yellowy straw blonde. Tidus tied one around Riku's wrist and one around his own and then they were done.
"Pretty," Riku noted, twirling his around.
"Very metallicy," Tidus adde
"Hey, Tidus, this doesn't mean we're like ultra best friends now does it, because I still quite like Sora, I mean it's nothing personal, but..."
"Some things can never be replaced." Tidus said quietly. "I know. Like, Auron was never really the same after my mum left us. He didn't even date. Just drew into himself so much... I'd come home sometimes and he'd still be sitting at the breakfast table all smelly and unshaven, nursing a cup of cold coffee in his hands and murmuring weird things that didn't make sense."
Tidus shuddered. "I would say something along the lines of, 'What was that dad?' or 'I can't hear you, speak up.' and he'd pause an then just keep on rambling. It didn't take me long to realise he was talking to her. But once I realised it I was kind of in a 'what am I mean to do now?' type mind frame, because the dead are dead. You can't exactly get out the old crowbar, open their coffin at tell them to kick some sense back into a guy. They're gone." Tidus swallowed. Riku just stared. "I considered professional help, getting him in to see a shrink. But then once they'd found out what a nutcase he is I probably wouldn't've been allowed to live with him, and I might've had to move or get foster parents, and then I would've had no one. I'm glad I made the decision I did, but it was so creepy living with him really, it was like, he'd become a completely different person. He didn't leave the house, so he lost his job. We had the compensation money to live off but I spent most nights eating at Wakka's after that because then he developed a drinking problem. Sometimes he hit me. He kind of melded me into the role of mum, making me do all these chores and calling me 'darling'... He tried to touch me once, but I let him have it." How could Tidus be so calm, Riku wondered. "I think this whole Balamb Gardens thing was really about her, since it was the school she went to before she married."
After that revelation both sat in silence for awhile, Riku wondering if he should express his apologies or Tidus was going to say more, worrying his bracelet and staring off into space, but then the younger boy stood.
"I think we've both well and dried off by now... Want to get our bags and find a spot now before the mozzies get any worse?"
"Sure." They set up in relative silence, over a small plain of grass.
Then they just lay there.
Riku cleared his throat. "Creek's awfully noisy," He small talked.
"Not as noisy as the crickets back home."
"Mmm." No mutual talking about everything that night, it seemed.
They lay there for awhile, Riku's insomnia staring back at him as he looked up into the stars. How late was it? Six? Nine? After a time he figured Tidus must be asleep so he started changing positions, but then he heard Tidus's voice again.
"Riku," Apparently he was awake? Mustn't have been as late as Riku thought.
"Yeah?" Instead of 'what'. Man, Riku was totally doing leaps and bounds with this niceness thing.
"Can I sleep with you?"
"What. The. Fuck." So much for that idea.
"I mean, can I sleep in your sleeping bag with you tonight, because I'm cold and keep getting bitten."
"Oh yeah, you can sleep with me. I don't care. It's only one night, right? And we're both guys so it doesn't matter at all, does it?"
Riku rolled over and hoped to maybe get some sleep after that, but then there was a rustle to his back as something else slipped into his sleeping bag. "Wow, you certainly are being nice tonight, Riku." He murmured.
"That was sarcasm you idiot! Who do you think you are, goldilocks? Let me make this very clear for you: you do not enter my sleeping bag under any circumstances. I bought two for a freaking reason, and it wasn't to take up backpack space. Even if you're dying, even if there's a hurricane, even if there's a snake in yours, you do not I repeat you--"
"Oh I think there's an awfully large snake in yours," Tidus catcalled.
Riku spluttered. "You did not just say that."
"Well I said something alright. Whoo!"
"Get out, Tidus. There really isn't enough room in here for two--" Why was he laughing? Really.
He wheezed: "That's what she said."
Riku crossed his arms. "You are so immature." Was he? After the speech he made earlier, Riku wasn't sure what to believe.
"Ahh, there's the normal Riku back again. Hey, how's it been man, haven't seen you for awhile."
"Screw you." Riku smiled.
"Maybe later." Oh fuck, not this again. "I am so on a roll."
"Shut up and find constellations with me."
"Aww, you had my hopes up for a minute, I thought you were going to say 'shut up and sleep with me'."
"Well that'd explain some things."
"Actually I was joking. Disappointed?"
"Very." They didn't identify a single star, but recycled more unlikely pick up lines than a stand up comedian at a sci-fi convention. Riku was happy.