The Not Quite Quick Enough and the Dead

A silly FFX fanfic by Princess Artemis

© Copyright S.D. Green, 2004, all but for what I am borrowing from Square, which is © copyright Square.

---

"Well, before we all go make the trip to Home, I think we should stop and take a rest at the oasis!" Rikku exclaimed, bouncing slightly. "We can cool off there and wash some of the sand off our clothes."

"Won't our clothes get sandy again on the trip to Home?" Lulu asked, a hand to her forehead.

Rikku dug a toe into the sand. "Well, yeah, but aren't we all grimy anyway? It's been a while since we got to wash up."

"That's true, ya? I don't wanna wait til we get to Rikku's Home, either. Probably have all sorts of forbidden machina instead of regular bath tubs," Wakka added as he discretely tucked his hands under his arms, as if he knew he probably was a bit ripe.

Rikku glared at Wakka but let the comment slide since it meant he agreed with her on a nice refreshing dip in the oasis.

"Besides," Tidus added, "I know we need to find Yuna and all, but we should be on our guard and all healed up before we do...there are some nasty fiends out there." He was remembering in particular the Zu that tried to eat him before Auron and Lulu came to his aid.

"That's right!" Rikku said happily, throwing her fist in the air. "And if anyone at Home found her, she's perfectly safe!" The young Al Bhed ignored the dirty look Wakka shot her.

"Fine, we rest," Auron said in his usual flat tone. He moved forward and sat down near the water.

"So how will we arrange this? The water is quite clear," Lulu asked, pointing one finely manicured purple nail at the crystal clear water of the oasis.

Rikku scratched her chin in thought. "Well, there's a little isolated area over there," she said, gesturing toward a nearby cove in the oasis. "All the girls can go there, and all the guys can go that way!" She again pointed toward another slightly sheltered area in the oasis.

So the men and the women separated, heading for the respective shelters provided by the rocks near the oasis. As they were walking, Rikku peeked back and noticed that Auron hadn't budged from his seat in front of the oasis. She called back, "Aren't you hot? All that black and that coat have got to be too warm for a desert."

Auron glanced her way and intoned, "I'm fine."

"You like being grimy and smelly?"

Rikku winced when Auron dipped his head so he could give her a full view of what she had come to call the Auron Special Patented One-Eyed Glare of Doom' over his sunglasses. "All right, all right, stay there and be icky and overheated. I'm not waking you up if you pass out from heatstroke."

Instead of answering, Auron returned to looking out at the water.

"What a meanie," she grumbled as she walked toward the little sheltered cove. When she caught up to Lulu, she suddenly wondered how the tall woman would wash her dress. It looked like it was dry-clean only.

Lulu set her Moogle doll down on a rock, pulled the decorative pins out of her hair and removed her jewelry, setting them in the Moogle's lap, then snapped her fingers with a little flicker of magic. Her dress dropped like a rock, and she stepped out of it and set it on the rock next to her Moogle.

"I always did wonder how you kept that on," Rikku grinned.

Lulu glanced at Rikku, giving her a mildly heated Lulu Super Deluxe One-Eyed Glare of Death', which differed from the Auron Special Patented One-Eyed Glare of Doom' mainly in that Lulu could move her black bangs and make it a Two-Eyed Glare of Death, although no matter how hard she tried, and Rikku had indeed see her trying, she couldn't get her Glare of Death to have quite as much impact as Auron's Glare of Doom.

But then Lulu's red eye softened and she smiled ever so slightly and said, "Well, the corset helps, but it's easier to untie all the laces with magic." Then she finished disrobing and climbed into the oasis, letting the water wash off the sand at least.

While Rikku was busy taking her clothes off, Lulu asked, "You have any soap?"

"Oh, yeah, of course!" She fished in her pockets until she found a bottle of soap. She handed it to Lulu, saying, "This is Al Bhed Cibanlmayh. It's a special soap we made; it's really good and keeps our skin moist. We live in sand and swim in the ocean a lot, you know. You can use it to wash your hair and your clothes, too."

Lulu gratefully accepted the Al Bhed soap and proceeded to wash her hair. Rikku finally managed to get in the water and she took some of the soap. While she was happily splashing around, cleaning herself, she suddenly realized the men probably didn't have any soap. "Uh oh! I better go give the guys a bottle of soap, too. They're all getting a bit yucky."

A strange glint came into Lulu's red eyes and she said, "I'll come with you. You did bring towels, right?"

"Oh, of course! I'm ready for anything!" Rikku exclaimed, then hopped out of the water and fished some towels out of her green shorts pocket. "I've got an Inventory, you know. I can store anything in there. Well, technically only ninety-nine of each item...Inventory's weird like that." She pulled out two large towels and handed one to Lulu, who accepted it. She also retrieved an extra bottle of Al Bhed Cibanlmayh and three more towels.

Then the two towel clad women sneaked away from the shore of the oasis and with all stealth made their way towards the sheltered area where the men were bathing. They passed behind Auron, who took a moment to glance at them as they went.

Rikku whispered to Lulu as they passed, "Isn't that weird? Does he like being yucky? Doesn't he get too hot in all that?"

Lulu whispered back, "I hadn't thought about it. He doesn't look overly warm."

While they sneaked, Rikku spared a glance back at Auron. It was true; he was sweating a tiny bit, but he wasn't flushed from the heat, not the way she would expect someone to be who insisted on wearing leather armor and a heavy coat in the middle of a blazing hot desert.

"I still think it's weird."

"Shh!" Lulu held a finger up to her now unpainted lips. "We're here."

"Oh, OK," Rikku said quietly. The two swiftly hid behind some of the rocks. Then both peered out at the bathing men. Well, all two of them, technically. Kimahri was sitting on a small outcrop of rock, dripping wet, next to the armor, Ronso decorative items, and feathers he usually wore. Much to the surprise of the two women, he stood, then proceeded to shake himself, starting at his head and moving to his tail, spraying water in all directions and making his short blue and gray fur stand on end. Then, in a particularly feline manner, he began preening, smoothing down his fur and cleaning it at the same time with his tongue. When he finished with one arm, he used his claws to comb out his unbraided gray sidelocks, then he began licking the back of his hand and using it to wash his head hair.

"Uh...uhhuhm...I guess he doesn't need soap," Rikku choked out, eyes wide.

"I suppose not," Lulu answered quietly.

Then the two women turned their gaze toward the water. Tidus and Wakka were there, doing their best to get clean without the aid of soap.

Rikku giggled quietly; the efforts of the two unclad men below were a sight to behold. Tidus' hair was standing up in every direction imaginable, while Wakka's normal tall forelock was now falling in his face.

She glanced at Lulu, surprised to see her crimson eyes glinting with similar mirth. Rikku would never have expected something like it out of the woman who was normally cooler than Shiva, but it seemed she was not beyond a little girlish delight at acting like a naughty child.

Lulu grabbed the bottle of Al Bhed soap from Rikku's hand and tossed it over the rocks, where it landed with a soft plop in the water.

Tidus and Wakka both yelped in surprise, looking towards the concealing rocks.

"It's soap!" Lulu called out, without revealing herself.

"Waaaaa!" Tidus cried out, casting about anxiously for a place to hide from the unseen eyes of Lulu. Unfortunately, he didn't find one. He did manage to get his hair to stand up even higher, though.

"Lu! That's not nice, ya? What would you think if we came and spied on you, eh?" Wakka spluttered, also attempting some modesty, which was, unfortunately, impossible.

Rikku tossed out three towels. "Figured you guys might need to be dry!"

"Gah! Not Rikku, too!" Tidus lamented, searching the rocks to see if he could find the hidden girls there.

"Why you—!" Wakka shouted.

Kimahri turned his leonine head towards the rocks and sniffed. He also pricked his ears, and heard the retreating sound of bare feet in the sand and muffled giggles from Rikku. He turned back to the embarrassed men in the water and said, "Kimahri thinks they are gone." Then he went back to preening.

"Damn," Wakka grumbled. "At least now we have soap...."

---

Rikku and Lulu beat a hasty retreat, making their way towards their own cove. Rikku was snickering along the way. "Did you see the looks on their faces?" she giggled quietly.

"Quite shocked," Lulu replied, in a cool tone, but Rikku could still hear a faint hint of wicked delight in her voice.

The two had nearly made it to their cove when Auron asked, "Enjoy yourselves?"

Rikku skidded to a halt and nearly dropped her towel. Lulu's stop was executed with a good deal more grace. Auron had a way of commanding attention when he spoke. They both turned to look at the seated man, who was actually smirking ever so slightly, but neither woman could see it behind his collar and glasses.

"We...erm...well, uh, um...," Rikku stammered, trying to regain her composure. It was one thing to be silly and innocently (or perhaps not so innocently) spy on companions of the opposite sex; it was another entirely to be caught out for it by a stern and very imposing man.

"They needed soap and towels," Lulu proclaimed, standing at her full height with as much dignity and intimidation as she could muster, what with her only wearing a towel and all.

It needn't be said that her display hadn't impressed or intimidated Auron one bit. "Of course," he replied. "I assume it was just an oversight that you didn't give them soap and towels before you decided everyone needed a bath?"

"Well, yeah, sure it was," Rikku answered. "We weren't planning on watching them take a bath."

Auron shifted slightly then returned his gaze to the water. "You protest too much."

"Oh yeah, naked Ronsos are really high on my list of things to see before I die," Rikku snorted, getting annoyed. Fortunately, neither of them were looking at Lulu, or they might have noticed her faint blush, which had nothing to do with Kimahri and everything to do with Wakka.

Glancing back at Rikku for a moment, Auron asked with all innocence, "Do I get soap and a towel?"

Rikku stomped her foot. "You said you wanted to sit here and roast and get even grimier than you already were, and then you gave me that look of death, so nooooo, I'm not sharing."

"I didn't ask for your towel," Auron replied with his usual calm inflection, twisting the knife just a bit.

"Arrrrgh! You are sooo mean!" Rikku shouted, then turned and stomped back to the little cove.

Lulu just shrugged helplessly. "Do you want me to get you some soap and a towel, Sir Auron?"

"No, I'm fine. Someone needs to stand guard."

"Of course." So Lulu turned and followed Rikku back to the water, where the two finished their baths and washed their clothes with the Al Bhed soap. Lulu even washed her dolls. The various Moogles, Cait Siths, Moombas, and Cactaurs almost seemed happy for the treatment.

---

Later that night, everyone but Auron had set their clothes on rocks and tree branches in order to let them dry. The desert was warm, but Lulu started a fire anyway to keep fiends at bay while the group camped for the night. They set the watch, with Kimahri, Lulu, then Auron taking shifts in that order, and the night passed completely without incident, except for some minor grumbling and muttering from Wakka and Tidus regarding the indiscretion of certain guardians in respect to the privacy of baths.

---

The next morning, everyone but Auron took their thoroughly dry clothes and proceeded to their respective coves to dress. Wakka quietly requested that Auron stop Rikku and Lulu if they happened to get any more ideas about spying in their heads, and Auron assented. Fortunately, neither of the women chose to repeat their previous performance. The last step before the camp was broken was for Wakka to make sure his hair stood up just right with some waterproof gel Blitzball players often used to keep their hair in place while they played. Rikku found it horribly amusing to watch Wakka put so much effort into looking like a red-headed quail. Lulu had already applied her heavy make-up at the shore.

As the six broke camp, Rikku blinked and noticed that Auron's clothes and hair were spotlessly clean and dry. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously, wondering how in the world, if he had sneaked off on his watch to wash his clothes, he had managed to dry them so fast. Or why he would be so secretive about it as to wait until the wee hours of the morning to do it...and thus was hatched a plan to get to the bottom of that minor mystery.

---

After rescuing Yuna and escaping from Bevelle, the summoner and her guardians traveled to the Calm Lands.

Rikku knew there would be a Travel Agency and that the group would have to stop there for the night. As they walked, she made her way to Tidus' side. Glancing around, she gently pulled him to the side, just far enough away so that she could have a quiet conversation with him in relative privacy.

"Hey, Tidus," she whispered, "you've known Auron for a while, right?"

"Uh, yeah. Most my life, actually. Why?" he replied, in the same hushed tone Rikku had used.

Rikku glanced around again, then said, "Have you ever seen him without his coat?"

Tidus looked at the young Al Bhed with a curious expression. "What? Why?"

"C'mon, just answer me!" she hissed.

He shrugged and thought about it for a bit, then said, "Come to think of it, no, I haven't. But what does that have to do with anything?"

"I thought it was really strange on Bikanel that he preferred to fry instead of taking off his coat and cleaning up like everyone else. Then I noticed he had washed his clothes while we were all asleep."

Tidus shook his head. "You've got weird hobbies, Rikku. Maybe he didn't feel like running the risk of you and Lulu spying on him."

"That wasn't on purpose!" Rikku shouted. Everyone glanced at her as they walked down the road to the Calm Lands proper. "Uh, sorry! Don't mind me!" she called out, eliciting several quizzical looks from her fellow guardians. But they were, by now, used to Rikku's outbursts, and paid it little heed.

After everyone finished looking at her and returned their attention to the road, Rikku whispered, "It wasn't, you know. But now I'm really curious."

Tidus narrowed his eyes. "Curious about what?"

"About how he got his clothes clean and dry so fast in the middle of the night, of course!" Rikku replied quietly.

"Give it a rest, Rikku. He probably just felt like having some privacy."

Again, Rikku glanced around with her odd Al Bhed eyes. "I have a plan, but I need some help."

Tidus suddenly became wary. "What are you planning on doing?"

Her voice lowered to the quietest whisper she could manage. "Finding out how Auron washes his clothes."

Tidus couldn't help gaping silently at Rikku's outlandish suggestion. "That's your plan?"

"I want to find out if Auron washes his clothes like normal people or if he found some super-secret and locked off piece of the Sphere Grid with a spell that does it for him," Rikku explained.

"Ohhh, now that would be convenient! That soap you gave us was really good, but a magic clothes-cleaning spell would be great!" Tidus' voice rose to more audible levels as he said this, causing the group to pause and look at him.

Yuna asked, "What are you two discussing?"

Both Tidus and Rikku looked a little embarrassed, but Tidus dodged with, "Sphere Grid. We were discussing where we should go on it next."

"And this requires secrecy?" Auron asked quietly.

"Oh, well, no, not really, but we didn't want to bother anyone else about it," Tidus answered, scratching his hair. "We were mostly talking about where the best place would be to put our Luck Spheres."

Auron just hmph'ed, a sound which, over the years, Tidus had learned stood in for many different words, phrases, or occasionally entire lectures. Auron was a master when it came to economy of words and inflecting his hmph's.

With that, the rest just shrugged and went on. They were nearly at the end of the lowering ridge that would take them to the Calm Lands planes.

Returning to their whispered conversation, Tidus asked Rikku, "So how do we find out if Auron knows a clothes-cleaning spell?"

Rikku said, "When we get to Rin's, we'll have to look at the Sphere Grid very carefully. And if that doesn't work...we'll just have to find a way to get him to take off his coat, without getting the Auron Special Patented One-Eyed Glare of Doom'."

Tidus laughed. "Good luck avoiding that one! If you figure out the mystery on how to avoid that, you let me know!" Tidus spoke from experience. For ten years, Auron had been as much a father to him as either would allow, and that meant Tidus had been on the receiving end of many, many of Auron's dark looks.

---

It took the better part of the day for the summoner and her guardians to reach Rin's Calm Lands Travel Agency. Rikku immediately dragged Tidus into a corner to discuss her plan, even though Tidus had been eyeing the Chocobos with obvious intent on learning to ride them. Yuna went to the counter and secured three rooms for the group, and the rest made their way to the rooms, preparing to rest.

Rikku pulled the Sphere Grid from her Inventory and held it so she and Tidus could examine it closely. She also pulled out a Luck Sphere, just to keep up appearances. "OK, where do you think we should look for the clothes-cleaning spell first?" Tidus asked quietly.

"Well, since it seems like Auron's the only one who has it, we should look in his section first." So Rikku tilted the board around until rust red lines appeared, indicating Auron's path on the grid.

The two hunched over the board, examining every node. So intent was their examination that it excluded all else. Thus it was that Tidus and Rikku actually dropped the Sphere Grid when Auron's covered face appeared next to them. The already seated spheres rattled in their nodes, but fortunately, none were dislodged.

"You feel I need more luck?" Auron asked calmly.

"Ghuuuuuh...," Tidus replied.

Rikku was quicker on the rebound. "Well, yeah. See, you're really bad at hitting the flying enemies, so we thought maybe some more luck would help you...well...get lucky and hit one sometime."

"Hmph," Auron answered. It was difficult to tell if he was frowning or not, since he always looked like he was frowning. There was, however, some heat evident in his one light brown eye. Glare of Doom, check. "Fine, place some Luck Spheres in my path. I hope you also have Fortune Spheres available to activate them. Next time, however, I would rather walk my own path on the grid." Then he moved away, towards the item dealer.

Once Auron was out of ear shot, Tidus said, "Translation: You are nosy and beginning to aggravate me," deepening his voice to mimic Auron.

Rikku grimaced. "And Rikku, next time, don't insult my fighting ability," she said, also mimicking Auron's tone. "We better put the spheres on the grid then, huh. I was hoping to save them for me...."

"Yeah, he'll get suspicious if they aren't there."

Reluctantly, Rikku placed the group's only two Luck Spheres in Auron's section of the grid and used their only two Fortune Spheres to activate them on his behalf. She muttered to herself the entire time, grumbling about how much better her stealing would be if she had those spheres. After Rikku settled down, the two returned to their scrutiny of the grid.

After nearly an hour examining the Sphere Grid, desperately searching for the secret clothes-washing spell, Tidus threw his hands in the air in defeat. "I'm telling you, Rikku, I'm looking at the entire grid and it's not there!"

"Then how does he DO it? Huh? Huhuh?"

"I don't know! How am I supposed to know?"

"You've known him for ten years and you really have no ideas how he washes his clothes?" Rikku muttered, sitting back and working kinks out of her back from huddling over the Sphere Grid for so long.

"Rikku, I never cared. Even when he was living in the same houseboat as me, we didn't talk that much. I did my own laundry, and I just assumed he did, too!"

Rikku gave Tidus a singularly annoyed expression, the spiral pupils of her Al Bhed eyes narrowing. "You are such an idiot. Of course he does his own laundry. The question is how!"

Tidus glared at Rikku. "If you want me to help you with this freaky obsession of yours, don't call me names."

"Oh, sorry, sorry...just got carried away is all," Rikku apologized with great haste. Then she tapped her chin. "Now...now we have to go to Plan B."

Tidus groaned. "Plan B. Trying to get his coat."

"Yep!" Rikku chirped. "So, I need some leverage. I saw you sniffing him in that creepy Seymour's house. What did he smell like?"

"Holy hell, Rikku, you are obsessed!"

"Just tell me...!" Rikku insisted.

"I don't know! He smelled like Auron!"

Just then, Lulu passed by and made a valiant effort not to break her usual façade of calm indifference and fall down into a fit of giggling. But she managed, and passed, leaving Tidus to glare at Rikku.

Rikku grumbled and twiddled with one of her braids. "Naturally. But did he smell like a clean, fresh Auron or a sweaty, stinky Auron?"

"Rikku...," Tidus put his head in his hands. He had begun to wonder if Rikku were entirely sane. "He smelled like leather and wet silk. So I guess stinky', since it was kinda damp in there and leather and silk smell bad when they get damp."

"Well, that's not good enough. I wanna know if he smelled clean or dirty, and what that smelled like."

Tidus began pulling on his hair. "Why don't you go sniff him yourself?"

"It looks like I'll have to, since you won't help!"

Before Tidus could react, or strangle her, one of the two, Rikku bounded away, leaving him in charge of finding a place to put the Sphere Grid. He never had quite mastered the whole concept of Inventory, since no one had Inventory in his Zanarkand. Eventually he settled on just holding the thing and looking like a fool.

---

Rikku, meanwhile, wandered around the Travel Agency until she located Auron, who was sitting by himself in a chair. "So...," she began, hands clutched behind her back and her head tilted to the side. "We put the Luck Spheres in for you."

Auron merely glanced at her and dipped his head in a curt nod. Apparently, he thought that was the end of the conversation.

Normally, it would have been, but Rikku was on a mission. "Uh...I was about to go wash some of the rest of the group's clothes...so I was wondering if you would mind me washing your coat?"

Auron turned his head to look at Rikku. "My coat is fine."

Abruptly, Rikku darted in closer and sniffed at Auron's heavy silk kimono. She affected a look of disgust and pulled back. "But it's so dirty!" In actuality, however, Auron's jacket was not particularly odiferous, outside of the peculiar scent that silk had.

There it was: the Auron Special Patented One-Eyed Glare of Doom, and Rikku appropriately flinched, wincing and pulling back, trying to get away from the glare by closing her eyes. "My coat is fine," Auron repeated in tones so icy the ambient temperature dropped twenty degrees.

"Roger, your coat is juuuust peachy!" Rikku squeaked, peeking open one eye in hopes that that horrible glare was shut down. She wondered if Auron wore sunglasses because without them he actually killed people with that death glare. Then she ventured, with a boldness born of desperation, "Even if it does smell like death warmed over...."

Apparently, this was the wrong thing to say. Auron actually growled, and Rikku skittered away like a frightened mouse under the intent eyes of a hungry cat.

---

Rikku dashed back to Tidus, gasping for breath.

"Didn't work, I take it," he observed, his arms crossed.

"Nooo, didn't work." She turned her back to Tidus and lifted her braids, exposing her neck. "Any burn marks?"

"Uh...no... Should there be?" Tidus asked warily.

"After that glare he gave me, I thought maybe he might have like heat vision or something. He's really mean!" Rikku pouted, turning around.

Tidus laughed softly. "Well, he certainly glares a lot."

"Now it's your turn. Maybe he'll let you take his coat. But don't say it's so you can wash it for him...I already said that."

Before Tidus could reply to that, both Wakka and Yuna came up to Rikku. Wakka was wearing a pair of boxers with little Blitzballs printed on them, while Yuna was wearing a short, white wrap around robe. Tidus couldn't help but stare, and Yuna noticed, smiling slightly. Both people had their arms full of their day-to-day clothes.

Wakka spoke first. "Auron said you were washing everyone's clothes, so here's mine. Thanks a lot, ya? That's real cool of you." He handed Rikku the reasonably bulky pile of cloth.

Yuna bowed slightly (and although she didn't notice, Tidus leaned down a little with her) and handed Rikku her specially tailored kimono. "Yes, thank you. It is very kind of you to offer, Rikku." Then she too passed Rikku her clothes, and the two left, heading towards their rooms.

Hidden slightly by the pile of clothes in her decidedly unwilling arms, Rikku hissed. "He...is...such...a...MEANIE!"

Tidus put a hand over his mouth to stifle his giggles. "You told him you were washing everyone's clothes?"

"No I did not! I said some people's clothes! Argh! He must have told everyone! I have to get out of here before Kimahri and Lulu drop their clothes on me!" She dashed away, and as she ran, trying to find a place to stick all the clothes she was carrying, she called back, "It's up to you now!"

Tidus slapped a hand over his face and wondered to himself how he'd been roped into this. Then he tentatively went to see if he could separate Auron from his coat, although he honestly had no idea how he would manage it.

---

When Tidus tracked down Auron, the crimson-clad man was standing outside, apparently watching the sunset. Tidus went and stood next to him, watching the sun go down as well. "It's a nice view from here, not much like Zanarkand though," Tidus said quietly.

"Hmm. No, it is not," Auron answered. Tidus inwardly grinned. Auron had sounded more like the Auron he knew from his childhood, rather than the much sterner Auron he knew now.

Tidus chose to use this to his advantage. "Spira's nice...but I really do miss Zanarkand."

Auron simply nodded his understanding.

The younger man tapped his chin with a finger. "Y'know, it took me a good six years before I realized you didn't dress like anyone else there."

"Oh, really?" Auron asked, but it was actually more of a statement than anything.

"Yeah. Well, I guess I know why now. Your clothes are Spiran, aren't they?"

Auron nodded, glancing at Tidus and wondering why he would be thinking about clothes at such an odd time.

"Mind if I try it on?"

"Try on what?"

"Your jacket. I kinda always wanted to...." That wasn't strictly the truth; Tidus had very occasionally wanted to snitch Auron's coat when it was particularly cold out and they were sitting out stargazing or something, but it was always so much easier to go back into the houseboat and get his own jacket. And maybe he had been curious about it when he was seven, but past that...well...he was pretty much lying through his teeth.

"Hmm. You want to wear my jacket?" Auron asked, his voice making it quite clear he didn't believe Tidus in the slightest.

"Uh...yeah. Can I?" Tidus tried to look hopeful, but somehow he knew this had been a lost cause from the start. Besides, even if Auron did let him try on his coat, how was that going to further the purposes of finding out how he washed it? If Tidus ran away with it, he'd probably never live to tell the tale. That is, if he even managed to get farther than three feet with it; Auron was faster than he looked.

Softly, Auron asked, "Is this what you and Rikku have been conspiring about? Is there some reason you two want my coat?"

Tidus winced, which was all the answer Auron needed. Then Tidus slumped. "No particular reason," he answered, "it was Rikku's idea. Maybe she just likes silk or something."

Auron chuckled. "If Rikku wants a kimono, tell her to get her own; I'm rather partial to mine."

Tidus smiled wanly. "Right. I'll tell her."

At least Tidus hadn't received a death glare from Auron. The taller man must have been in a particularly indulgent mood. In actuality, Auron was simply amused at the two teen's antics (although he hadn't appreciated Rikku's lies about the smell...but he felt she had certainly received her just desserts for that), all for the purpose of getting his coat.

Or so he thought.

---

"It's no use," Tidus said, defeated, sometime later inside Rin's Travel Agency.

Tidus and Rikku were out of options. They hadn't found a super-secret clothes-washing spell on the Sphere Grid, and both attempts to separate Auron from his coat had been miserable failures. They dare not try more than that.

"We're just...going to have to do this the hard way," Rikku muttered as the two huddled in a corner of Rin's Travel Agency.

"Hard way? I don't know what you mean. There's nothing left for us to do. I'm sorry, but it looks like you're going to have to live with this minor mystery."

Shifting around, Rikku said, "No...I have to know! We're just going to have to catch him taking a bath."

"What?!" Tidus shouted, attracting the attention of a wandering customer. Then he lowered his voice. "Are you sure you aren't getting a tad obsessed with this? You can't go spying on Auron while he takes a bath! You've done enough bath-spying, haven't you?"

Rikku's cheeks flushed red, but she persisted. "It's the only way to find out!"

"Rikku! Are you so gung-ho about this because you have a crush on him or something?"

"No, you dork. I simply...must...know!" The minor mystery had grown in her young mind until she thought she might self-destruct if she didn't solve it.

"Positive? I mean, he is the tall, dark, and handsome type, isn't he?" Tidus teased.

Rikku growled. "Tall, dark, and MEAN, is more like it." Then she grinned mischievously. "Sides, why would you notice if he was handsome?"

Tidus floundered for a bit at that, then narrowed his eyes at Rikku. "I watched just about every woman he came across throw themselves at him in Zanarkand...at least when they weren't throwing themselves at me! Heck, I think even my mom was taken with him, for a little bit." Tidus bit his lip at that. "Which is really freaky, if you ask me. So it's not that I think he's handsome, it's that pretty much every woman I ever met thought so."

"Probably because they never got glared at constantly," Rikku grumped. Then she waved her hand in the air and said, "That's not important. What is important is finding a way to catch him taking a bath."

"I'm not helping," Tidus declared. He was willing to go along with Rikku's schemes for securing Auron's coat, but actually committing himself to spy on him while he took a bath was beyond him.

"But you have to!" Rikku whined. "I need help!"

"Go ask Lulu," Tidus declared, as he turned to walk away. "She's willing to spy on people taking baths."

"Maybe I will!" Rikku shot back. Then, when Tidus was gone, Rikku went to do just that.

---

"Oh Lulu!" Rikku called, knocking on the other woman's door.

A few moments of shuffling, then Lulu cracked the door. "What is it, Rikku?"

"I need your help with something," she answered, somewhat mysteriously.

Lulu narrowed her visible eye. "Help with what?"

"I...I need...um. I need you to help me catch Auron taking a bath."

For a long moment, Lulu said nothing, just stared at Rikku. Finally, after Rikku had begun squirming, she said, "Why?"

"Well, we might as well make it a matched set, don't you think?"

Lulu blinked. "I don't think so. Having a little fun at Tidus and Wakka's expense is one thing; Sir Auron is another story entirely."

"But why? What's so special about him?" Rikku asked, insistently.

"I'd ask you the same," Lulu responded.

Rikku pouted. "It's not what you think. I'm just dying to find out how he washes his clothes."

Lulu placed one of her delicate hands to her temple as if to ward off a headache. She thought about it for a moment, then realized it was foolish to try to dissuade Rikku; it was clear Rikku would stop at nothing to unravel her pointless mystery. But she tried anyway. "And you think spying on Sir Auron while he takes a bath will answer this question?"

"Yeah! He has to do something with his clothes, right? We couldn't find a clothes-cleaning spell anywhere on the Sphere Grid...," at this, Lulu actually rolled her eyes, "...and I figured he has to have some super-secret way of washing his clothes. Remember how on Bikanel Island, he wouldn't get cleaned up like everyone else? Well, the next morning, he was all spiffy-shiny clean and all his clothes were dry. I know he used some of the soap, I checked. And he had the last watch that night. I have to know how he got his clothes clean and dry so fast!"

Lulu leaned her head against the door. "Rikku, you are hopeless."

"C'mon, help me, pretty please?"

The dark haired woman sighed heavily. "All right, I'll help."

Rikku fairly bounced out of her shoes in glee.

"But—the only thing I'm willing to do is lend you one of my dolls. It can act as a lookout for you. After that, you're on your own." Then Lulu went back inside her room and fetched a Cait Sith doll. After whispering a spell over it, she handed it to Rikku. "It will tell you when it's safe to sneak into Sir Auron's room. But if you dare breath a word of this to anyone, especially Sir Auron, I'll use you as a practice target for Flare, got it?"

"Yes, ma'am!" Rikku replied, saluting and smiling broadly. Then she dashed off with the enchanted Cait Sith in hand.

Lulu closed the door and said to herself, "That girl is going to get herself killed."

---

Rikku bounced back to Tidus and held out the doll. "Lulu said this will help!"

"What? No!" Tidus cried, knowing that Rikku wouldn't let him off the hook as easily as he had hoped.

Rikku ignored Tidus, off in her own world. "See, Lulu says this doll will tell us when it's safe to sneak into Auron's room. I figure we can ask it to tell us when he's running the water; that way, we'll have a much easier time getting in."

"Rikku...!"

"In for a penny, in for a pound!" she stated, bouncing. "You know you're just as curious as I am."

"I am not," Tidus insisted, but after all their little machinations, he had fallen prey to curiosity.

Rikku just smiled at him, as if she knew just what Tidus was thinking.

"Fine, fine, I'll go with you," Tidus declared, defeated.

---

Wildly against his better judgement, Tidus quietly followed Rikku into Auron's room after Lulu's Cait Sith had come back with the report that he was drawing a bath. Tidus wasn't as quiet stepping barefoot across the floor as the accomplished thief was, but apparently he was quiet enough not to draw Auron's attention. The little Cait Sith doll accompanied the two, taking point so it could let them know when the legendary guardian was actually in the tub. Tidus had no intentions whatsoever of seeing Auron without his clothes; his only concern was seeing what Auron did with his clothes. Whatever Rikku was concerned with, if it went beyond Auron's clothes, he neither knew nor wanted to know.

And even that really wasn't his concern either; he made a mental note to kick Rikku in the shins when they were done with this little espionage.

The Cait Sith doll motioned with its stuffed paw that everything was set, so, crawling behind Rikku and staying as low to the ground as he could, Tidus advanced on the bathroom door.

The door was ajar, and with the quietness of a born thief, Rikku pushed the door open slowly, hopefully slowly enough that Auron wouldn't notice. Then the two crawled a little forward, and from their places on the floor, they peered in to the room.

From their vantage point, Rikku and Tidus could see no more than a tuft of damp gray hair and a bare arm lying on the edge of the tub. Auron was drumming his fingers on the porcelain. Tidus glanced around the room, but all he could see of Auron's clothes were the tall gray collar he normally wore and his blue tinted sunglasses setting on a small table. Exchanging a look with Rikku informed him that she was even more curious than before.

Tidus suppressed a groan while Rikku carefully lifted herself up a bit, in order to get a better look. Then her eyes widened, plainly with shock. With some mounting curiosity of his own and not a little dread, Tidus moved so he also could get a better view. He suddenly understood why Rikku was so surprised.

Both Auron's hands were visible now, and one was clad in black leather.

He would curse Rikku for a blasted fool later, and himself, as both teens quietly stood, trying to stay hidden.

Well, there was the answer to the mystery, plain as day; Auron washed his clothes by bathing in them. Other than the collar and his sunglasses, every stitch of clothing Auron normally wore, including his jug, was on him and in the water.

Flabbergasted, the two could only gape as Auron proceeded to wash his booted feet as if they were bare. It suddenly dawned on Tidus that they had to leave, and quickly. Auron would not appreciate this interruption of his privacy, and Tidus had belatedly realized that he and Rikku were standing on Auron's good side instead of his blind side.

Grabbing Rikku quickly by the hand, Tidus tried to make a break for it. But he must have made a sound, or maybe it was Rikku, he didn't know...all he knew was that Auron had stopped washing his clothes and started staring at them with frightening intensity.

---

Yuna yawned and walked down the hallway towards her room when suddenly she was nearly bowled over by Tidus and Rikku running at full speed, white as sheets and clearly terrified. She looked around, startled, wondering what had frightened them so badly. Then she saw Auron running after them, one of his massive swords at the ready and blazing with the dark fire of his Banishing Blade Overdrive. The man, his clothes soaking wet and covered in soap bubbles, shouted, "Pray. NOW!"

Down the hall, Rikku screeched, "PRAYING!" as she ran.

As Auron passed in a rage, the only thing Yuna could figure that got him so angry at the two younger guardians was that they had played some practical joke on him, perhaps setting up a bucket of water over his door or something. She shook her head and sighed. They should know better than to play practical jokes on Sir Auron. She didn't notice when a soaked and dazed Cait Sith doll dashed out of Auron's room and tottered away.

---

The End

_________________________________

Author's Note: This entire bit of silliness brought to you by the sudden realization on my part that all the Unsent, when they finally dissolved into their component pyreflies, took their clothes with them. I don't honestly think this is how Auron washes his clothes, but I found the idea too amusing to resist. Many thinks to Alhazred for helping me with some of the ideas and dialogue!