This is Yuna/Rikku shoujo ai. If you are not fond of that, then please leave. You have been warned.

I do not own FFX or any of its characters.

This story is dedicated to my aibou. Happy extremely belated Easter, koishii! ^^''

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They were situated in a semi-circle, each of them facing the others. Tidus and Rikku lay sprawled against the wall, Kimahri stood rigidly in a corner, and Lulu, Auron, and Yuna sat properly in homey Al Bhed chairs. The seven had been discussing the pilgrimage until Rikku and Tidus had gotten into a short-lived argument with Auron. Now they brooded in silence; the thick tension in the air was almost painful. The silence was met with the impending darkness of the night-early tomorrow morning they would start climbing up Gagazet. It was the one obstacle left on their journey-the one thing standing between them and Yuna's unavoidable doom. The summoner stood and bowed slightly to the group.

"I…I'm going to bed now. Goodnight." She looked momentarily at Rikku, whom she was sharing a room with. The girl looked wide-awake; something that she was relieved by. The stinging feeling behind her eyes pretold that she was about to have a good cry, and she didn't especially want the girl to walk in on her. The others looked up, murmuring their farewells. Most were too caught up in their thoughts to notice the sadness reflected in the girl's stature, and the others ignored it as a plea for privacy.

Yuna hurried to her room, hands clenched.

"Don't cry…" She told herself, "Don't cry!" Summoners had no right to cry. They were sacrificial dolls, used to appease the evil for a time and bring peace and happiness to all. They needed to be happy; they would make everybody else so. They had no business being depressed. Yuna pulled off her shoes and flopped back onto one of the two large canopy styled beds. Her eyes were wide open-rebellious windows into her soul that stubbornly refused to bleed. She stared up at the tawny colored ceiling, attempting to force her mind into a blank state. 'Focus on the color…focus…don't think…don't…don't cry…' Despite her efforts, the scene blurred as tears obstructed her sight. Her heart started beating faster, and she knew that her attempt to hold back had failed.

Sitting up, two tears dripped onto her elegant kimono, though her sight remained scarred by the salty liquid. Closing her eyes, the torrents of water cascaded down her cheeks. She did not bother to wipe them away-they were too numerous. 'Yuna, stop this. Stop this now.' She scolded herself, but still the tears came. Finally deciding to think it through, she turned over onto her stomach and balanced her chin on her hands. Analyzing her thoughts almost always made her feel better.

'Okay, Yuna," She told herself as the tears gathered on her chin and dribbled down her arms, 'let's see why you're depressed. You're in the Calm Lands, almost on the last pilgrimage step. You're going to bring the next Calm. You're going to become the next High Summoner. Your friends and guardians might be sad for awhile, but they'll be alright.' The steady stream of tears slowed to a trickle as she thought and forced her mind into a solid state. 'You're going to die…die for…' A whine rose into her throat, bursting out in short, high-pitched sequences. "I'm going to die for peace…die for hap…die for happiness!" Sobs rose in her chest, and she held her breath and clenched her teeth against them-succeeding in only letting out a harsh sounding "ha" every so often. Standing up shakily, she dashed into the bathroom and closed the door, collapsing onto the floor as she did so. The word "die" reverberated in her thoughts with a mocking tone. 'Well,' her mind remarked sardonically as a grin spread across her tear-streaked face, 'guess you know what's wrong now.' Her breath became sporadic, mixing between gulps of air and quick hyperventilation. Thoughts that only plagued her during her darkest dreams rose up to greet her-thoughts that she'd always discarded as ridiculous and minuscule worries. Now, during her weakness, they haunted her, and for the first time, she was unable to vanquish them.

'You're a weak summoner! You'll never defeat Sin!'

'You? A summoner?! Ha! Just because you're Lord Braska's daughter doesn't mean that you've inherited his potential!'

'How do you think you'll defeat Sin if you can't even protect the ones you care most about? They've been in pain, haven't they? Maybe you should've taken the pilgrimage by yourself…oh, wait…you would have been to weak to do that, wouldn't you? You had to have so many guardians to take care of you along the way.'

'You'll die, you know. You're throwing away your life just to bring happiness to others! What about yourself? Sin will just come back. You don't have to throw your life away!'

'You'll die! You'll never see the ones you love again! Never!'

Yuna sat on her knees, holding her head between them. She felt dizzy and faint, and she realized that she hadn't been able to see properly for the last few minutes.

"Stop it…" her voice was barely a whisper, and the crude sound of it was foreign to her ears. "Stop…you're being selfish…stop it!" To her amazement, her crying stopped. She no longer cried, thought, or felt. She raised her head to look at the ceiling, and felt her tears run down into her ears. Reaching up, she pulled herself to her knees and looked into the bathroom's large mirror. What she say surprised her; she did not see the kind, pretty summoner that usually graced her reflection, but rather she stared into the lifeless, dark eyes of a depressed, grieving woman. Her flawless complexion was blotched in areas of white and red; her nose and mouth were a deep, cherry red, and the area around her eyes were purple and puffy in irritation. Her eyes held none of their usual twinkle; in fact, the bloodshot irises were emotionless and dull. Yuna trembled as her cold fingers gently slid across one pale, glistening cheek. Her entire face was wet, as if she had just been splashed with a large amount of water. Chuckling a bit and then coughing (she decided that both attempts sounded equally pathetic), she mused out loud.

"My…don't I look a wreck. I'd better clean myself up before Rikku…" the name died in her mouth as a picture of the spunky girl lit up in her mind, and she continued on with a tremor. "Before Rikku sees…before she…" Her lower lip trembled violently, and she could not stop it. "I…I'll never see them again!" A wail wrought its way up into the air, spidering its way through her. She flung herself onto the floor, arms wrapped around her midriff. Tears gathered into different areas of her face; some found their way into her mouth, poisoning her tongue with their salty, bitter taste. Yuna held her breath to hold back the sobs, her chest heaving in exhortation. Every time she gasped in a bit of air, she coughed it out with a violent choking sound.

'Don't give in…don't give in…make it stop…!' Her mind had no control over her body; all she could do was hold her breath and wait. Water pooled upon the bathroom's tile floor-opaque blood from an invisible wound.

~

Rikku sat up, glancing over at Tidus as she did so. Nobody had said a word since the summoner had left, and the impending silence had become too much for the Al Bhed girl to handle. She stood up, crossing her arms in her self-consciousness.

"Well…uh…I'm going to bed now…. I'll see you in the morning?" The last part of her sentence came out with an uncertain edge; she wasn't sure what reaction her departure would have. As she began to walk away from the group, a hand stopped her as it grasped her wrist. Wakka pulled her towards him, a serious expression on his face.

"Talk to Yuna, will ya? Something's telling me that her mental health's probably not bound to be in a very happy place right now." Rikku gulped; she had hoped that she'd only imagined seeing the tears in Yuna's eyes as she left, but it was now evident that Wakka had seem them as well. The redhead smiled at the girl and released her arm. "See you tomorrow, ya? Sweet dreams." Rikku grinned back at him.

"See ya, Wakka. Yeah, you too." She exited the room, hoping that whatever was bothering the summoner would be anything too horrendous. She wrung her hands together, biting her lip nervously. Unfortunately, whatever it was was bound to be something massive, since it took something huge to make Yuna cry.

'But whatever it is,' Rikku resolved, 'I'll do my best to help her.' She couldn't even imagine the pain that the summoner went through every day-and with a smile, no less. There was no way in Spira that the Al Bhed wouldn't help Yuna in her time of need. She reached the door.

"Oh…Shiva help me…" The girl copied one of Wakka's mutterings before gently pushing the door open. She stepped in, hesitantly listening for the other girl. Her voice timid, she spoke as she cautiously walked into the room. "Yunie…? Yuna?" Seeing nothing, she frowned and continued searching the room. Noticing that the bathroom door was closed, she walked over to it and knocked.

"Yuna? Are you there?" Receiving no reply, she pressed her ear against the door. Hearing only slight noises, she bit her lip and began turning the doorknob. "I'm coming in, Yuna. It's just me." The door slowly opened, and the girl's eyes widened at the sight. "Yunie!"

~

Yuna had been holding her breath for almost a minute, but the inward battle still raged. Her willpower was draining; her body simply wanted to submit to the throbbing pulse of the cry that was trapped in her throat. A short breath-a sob released with the intake of sweet, stifling air. Suddenly, her focus turned to the door. Speaking could vaguely be heard from the other side, and then a hesitant knocking.

'She's here! She'll see me like this!' She backed up, stumbling to her knees. Her eyes widened in panic as the door opened.

"It's just me. Oh, Yunie!" The Al Bhed's youthful face peered around the door at the summoner, serious in apprehension and worry. Yuna lurched forward, giving in at last; her crying climaxed as her breath was released in a series of sobs. All went black for a moment, her mind lost in sweet surrender. She gradually became aware of arms around her, gently caressing her back. Focusing on the touch, she leaned into it. Her breathing clamed, though it was still harsh sounding and occasionally sporadic. She became more and more aware of her surroundings with each passing second, even though her eyes were closed. Her body calmed, though a steady trickle of tears continued to trail down her cheeks.

The Al Bhed rocked the girl, mumbling soothing nothings to calm her. Aside from occasional hiccups, the summoner's fit seemed to have passed. Yuna sighed, pushing her face into the crook of Rikku's neck. The girl was warm, and the steady pulse she could feel against her own quick one was calming. The tears gradually stopped, and her breathing and heartbeat slowly returned to normal. Her face was flushed from her crying, but the color began to gently fade as the younger girl continued to soothe her.

"Shh…it's okay, Yunie, it's okay." Rikku felt tears prick at her own eyes, yet she refused to let the fall; she had to be strong for Yuna now. Yuna hiccuped in reply, keeping her forehead pressed against the other girl's shoulder. The hands moving across the summoner's back gradually stopped, and Rikku pulled back. She took Yuna's chin into her palm and lifted it, so that the girl was made to look at her.

"Yuna, I won't force you to tell me what's bothering you, but I would like it if you'd confide in me. Please, Yuna, I want to help you." Her eyes were calm, yet they begged for the girl's answer. Yuna tried to bow her head so that she wouldn't have to look at the girl, but Rikku wouldn't allow it. She sniffed, and a few tears gathered and stung her raw eyes. Her forehead throbbed from crying, and she lifted her hand to rub her temples.

"Okay." She rose to her feet, allowing the Al Bhed girl to keep her arm around her in support. Rikku's eyes held a question, so Yuna explained.

"I have a headache. I want to lay down." Her voice sounded plaintive and innocent, like a child's. They walked across the room and hopped onto one of the beds; Rikku leant against the pillows and gestured to Yuna to lay with her head upon her lap. Yuna did so, and Rikku brushed back the girls' bangs, idly playing with her hair. She waited patiently until the summoner was ready to talk, letting the silence continue comfortably. Yuna grabbed for one of Rikku's hands, and held it against her cheek.

"The pilgrimage is almost over." Rikku nodded in reply, acknowledging the statement but allowing the girl to continue. "I never had any regrets. I knew from the start that I would die, but…it always seemed so far away. I never really realized how much…" A tear leaked out of one of her eyes, and she shut them quickly and pressed her face against Rikku's stomach. She continued on, her voice slightly mumbled. "I never realized how much I want to live…how much I don't want to leave you." Rikku rubbed her thumb across Yuna's shoulder.

"You don't have to continue, Yunie. There will be other summoners." Yuna hiccuped.

"But I do have to…for so long I've known that this was my destiny. It's all I dream about. Without it, I'd be so lost." Her voice sounded hallow, as if she were reciting something. Rikku pulled the girl away from her stomach, and forced her to look into her eyes. The green swirls were stubborn, filled with affection and loyalty, and just a bit of sadness.

"Yuna, I want you to do whatever feels right to you. No one's forcing you to do anything. I'll follow and support you with anything you decide to do." The Al Bhed fidgeted nervously before continuing on. "Yuna, do you know why?"

Yuna looked up, confused.

"Because," Rkku felt her heart speed up, but she smiled hesitantly and ignored it. "Because I love you, Yunie." Yuna's eyes widened, but then softened. She wrapped her arms around Rikku's waist.

"Thank you, Rikku." She looked up and smiled tearfully. Rikku fingered Yuna's chin for a moment, hesitating, before leaning down to kiss the other girl. The kiss was soft, comforting, and hesitant. The Al Bhed pulled back, nervously studying the summoner's eyes for approval. Yuna lifted a hand and brushed it through the girl's hair, continuing to smile. She pulled the girl's head down, and shyly planted a kiss at the corner of her mouth.

"Yunie?" The Al Bhed's voice was nervous questioning. Yuna scooted off of Rikku's lap, and then pulled her down to lay beside her.

"Thanks, Rikku…" She wrapped an arm around the girl, snuggling into her warmth. She peered up into the Al Bhed's eyes, a tiny smile playing upon her mouth. "I love you too." The Al Bhed smirked, but then sobered.

"Don't worry, Yuna. I promise that I'll find a way to save you. I won't let you die." Yuna smiled wanly, and then yawned. She pressed against Rikku, cuddling with her. Rikku pulled the covers up around their shoulders, and watched as Yuna fell asleep. She affectionately kissed the girl's forehead, and then wrapped an arm protectively around the girl's shoulders.

'Don't worry, Yunie. I'll protect you. I won't let you die…not alone….' A few tears stung at her eyes, but she ignored them and clutched the girl closer. 'I'll never let you go.' She pressed her forehead against Yuna's, and descended into sleep.

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~Ai, Miniji~