Disclaimer: See chapter 1.

Author's note: Wow. Okay, I totally didn't plan for there to be this much time in between updates, but, um. I'm still slowly trying to get back in the swing of things. Bear with me, 'kay, guys?

Author's note #2: For ease of writing and reading, Brother is speaking in Al Bhed.

Chapter summary: Paine and Rikku try to take it slow easing into a physical relationship… but you know what they say about the best-laid plans.

Chapter 11: Don't Look Back

The rest of the week was spent with relative calm. Though they spent long evenings talking, Paine would inevitably need a break and it would be up to Rikku to come up with the perfect distraction. Sphere Break was first but it ended soon when they found themselves in a heated argument and then a wrestling bout. Cards were next, but Paine grew bored and started teasing Rikku relentlessly; this, too, ended up with them roughhousing around. Fishing was the last. Paine seemed to like it, the sport requiring lots of patience and lots of quiet. Rikku regretted suggesting it since it was hard for her to sit still so long. That, and Paine was reeling in more fish than she was.

The night before they were to head back to Luca's port, Rikku curled up in one of the state rooms, ready for bed. The sounds of Paine in the head's shower a backdrop, the thief thought about how they'd agreed to take the physical aspect of their relationship as slow as possible.

Go figure, 'cause I can't seem to keep my hands off her, Rikku thought and giggled. She hooked her hands behind her head and closed her eyes. But at least she doesn't flinch anymore…

One night after their failed Sphere Break match, Paine was surly and avoiding Rikku as much as she could on the yacht. Rikku had tried giving the warrior her space—but it wasn't like they were on the Celsius and Rikku could go to another level. After steering the boat for a while, Rikku had wandered down into the galley to find Paine waiting for her.

"Hey," Paine had greeted her, voice low.

"Um…" Rikku folded her hands behind her back. "Hiya."

Paine rolled her eyes upwards. "Listen. I'm sorry for snapping at you. Let's just forget it, okay?"

Rikku had watched her quietly for a few minutes before launching herself over and onto Paine. Paine had reflexively wrapped her arms around the smaller woman, eyebrows rising.

"I'm sorry I bit you!" Rikku mumbled into Paine's shirt.

Mouth twitching, Paine had patted her on the back. "It's okay," she'd said. After a pause, she'd added, "I didn't mind all that much."

Shocked, Rikku had pulled away and looked up, only to find Paine grinning down at her.

"Meanie!" Rikku headbutted her in the chest.

Chuckling, Paine had gestured with her chin. "Stargaze?"

Man… how surprised was I? Rikku thought, remembering how she'd stared at Paine like the woman had grown a second head. But they'd gone up and stargazed, Rikku arms around Paine's waist, Paine's arm around her shoulders. Yep, definitely made progress from the days when she wouldn't even lemme touch her. An' the days where I could touch her, but she'd flinch, like I was some sorta enemy…

Paine exited the head, rubbing a towel against her damp hair. "Hey," she said.

Rikku opened her eyes and sat up, leaning back on her hands. "Hi." She smiled, nose wrinkling. "Nice shower?"

"Yeah." Paine tossed the towel back into the head and wandered into the room, shutting off the lights and crawling into the bed.

Paine had initially wanted to take separate rooms, but Rikku was quick to argue that Paine would probably wake up in the middle of the night and end up with her anyway. Unable to argue with the logic of that, Paine had agreed but quickly set boundaries: No wandering hands, no suggestive talk, and absolutely no tickling. Rikku had acquiesced.

They got into their usual position where Paine was flat on her back with Rikku curled up at her side.

"What was that smile for?" Paine asked. She twirled a lock of Rikku's hair around one of the fingers of her left hand and tugged playfully.

"I was just thinkin'," Rikku said, playing with Paine's pendant. It amused the warrior how fascinated Rikku was with it, like a child.

"Oh yeah? What about?"

"You." Rikku let out a happy sigh and snuggled closer. "Mmm, you smell good." She felt rather than heard Paine's chuckle.

"Uh huh." Paine tugged again and Rikku giggled. "Must've been some thoughts."

"Mmn." Rikku rolled over so that she was on top of Paine. She folded her hands on the other woman's sternum and put her chin on them, smiling in response to the twinkle she saw in Paine's eyes. "Yeaaaaah."

"Wanna share?"

"What'll ya give me?"

Paine pretended to think about it. "Dunno. What do you want?"

Rikku bit her lower lip and grinned mischievously.

Paine laughed. "Other than that, dreav."

"You don't flinch anymore. Ya know, when I touch you."

"Did I ever?" Paine thought, frowning.

"In the beginning. 'Member?"

Paine shook her head, falling silent. Did I…? When was that? I can't believe I don't remember that. It must have been when we first met. She's lucky I just flinched and didn't deck her. Her mouth twitched at the mental image of her punching Rikku. She could see it now. She'd have to spend the rest of her life apologising, unless she wanted to spend the rest of it in misery from Rikku's whining and puppy dog faces.

"Heyyy, what's that for?" Rikku slid herself up, effectively drawing Paine's attention, and tapped the tips of her index fingers against the corners of Paine's mouth. "Was that a smile I just saw?"

Paine scowled. "No."

"No?" She giggled. "I think it waaaaas."

"It wasn't," Paine growled, putting her hands on Rikku's sides.

"It so was! What were ya thinkin' about, huh? Huh?"

"You really wanna know?"


Without thinking twice, Paine quickly flipped them over and began to mercilessly tickle Rikku. "How fun it is to make you squeal."

"PAINE! Not fair, not—Paine!" Rikku did in fact squeal, squirming and trying to escape Paine's strong grasp. "Knock it off, knock it off!"

All she got was a wordless growl in reply and Paine tickled in earnest.

"Yaugh!" Rikku used her smaller frame to her advantage, moved down, and tickled Paine behind the knees.

"Hrk." Paine jerked and collapsed on Rikku, unable to help but laugh.

"Gotcha!" Rikku said triumphantly. She made a face. Now she was trapped under Paine. Though… that's not exactly bad, is it? Let's see…

Paine took a deep breath and pushed herself up on her elbows, face inches above Rikku's. "You're trouble, you know that?" she asked rhetorically.

"Uh huh." Rikku grinned. She put her hands on Paine's shoulders, fingers curling into the woman's black shirt. "Hey," she whispered.

Paine went still, breath caught in her throat. She was suddenly hyperaware of their legs tangled, of the close proximity of their faces, of Rikku's smile and the look in her eyes. Say something. She tried, "Hey," and it came out as a half-croak. She almost winced. Great. Oh, shit.

"Trust me?" Rikku kept her voice low.

Paine swallowed and nodded. This is ridiculous. It's just Rikku. It was just Rikku and it was just getting hotter and it was just so very hard to keep her breathing under control.

"'Kay." Rikku tugged her down a few centimetres by her shirt collar. "Kiss me?"

I can do this. I can do this. Giving into both Rikku's request and the want building within, Paine bent her head and complied.

Rikku's eyes closed and she hummed, hands flexing.

Try as she might, Paine couldn't formulate one coherent thought. She closed her eyes too and her heart felt like it was going to thud right out her chest. She opened her mouth and kissed Rikku deeper.

That's it, Rikku thought. It's okay. Her hands moved up and she threaded her fingers through Paine's hair, opening her mouth and returning the kiss. At the touch of Paine's tongue she moaned and shifted.

It's okay it's okay it's okay became Paine's mantra. She felt heavy and hot and when Rikku moved beneath her she wasn't even aware of her answering groan, wasn't even aware that she was moving now too. She couldn't stay like this; she couldn't support her own weight. She rolled them back over, Rikku more than happy to straddle her and tighten the hold she had of Paine's hair. Paine slid her hands through Rikku's hair and down her back, chuckling throatily into their kiss when she felt Rikku arching her back in appreciation.

Oxygen became an issue and they both broke away, their foreheads together, noses touching. Rikku was the first to open her eyes and when Paine felt it she opened hers. They stared at each other, Paine like she was searching, Rikku like she was offering.

It was in mutual agreement that they started to kiss again, their mouths open and eager, hands starting to roam. Paine slid hers underneath Rikku's nightshirt, callused fingertips trailing up the smooth line of Rikku's spine. Rikku shuddered and gasped, pulling away to pant hotly onto Paine's neck. An obvious sign of encouragement and one Paine gladly took, long strokes massaging lean muscles. Rikku gulped in air so she could breathe, "Off," and sat up. Paine sat up with her and helped her out of her nightshirt, leaving her clad in only her underwear. Rikku took Paine's hands as she kissed along the warrior's jaw. When she reached an ear she said, "Here," and put Paine's hands on her chest.

Paine closed her eyes and choked out, "Rikku." She swallowed hard and opened her eyes, once again searching. Rikku smiled and cupped Paine's face between her hands, kissing her on the nose, then the chin, and finally her mouth. Paine kissed her back and without hesitation began to touch Rikku just as she wanted to be touched. When they broke to breathe again Rikku wrapped her arms around Paine's shoulders and trailed her tongue along Paine's jaw to her ear once again, whispering gentle instructions. Paine followed them, full of wonder and excitement.

And as Rikku picked up on this, leaning back and moving to reciprocate, that's when Paine stopped and tensed. Immediately stopping her efforts, Rikku took Paine's face in her hands again and said, "Okay."

Paine swallowed and awkwardly dropped her hands away from Rikku's chest. "I…" Her mouth worked but she couldn't find the words.

"It's okay," Rikku repeated. Even though her body was flushed and thrumming with raw energy, she pushed at Paine's shoulders. Paine fell back and exhaled, running her hands through her hair in frustration.

Both of their emotions were running too high to think clearly. But when Rikku asked, "Okay?" Paine looked at her and couldn't help but smile. Rikku's eyes widened and Paine rolled hers.

"Come here," Paine said and wrapped her arms around Rikku's back. She drew her into a tight hug. "Okay. I—I. …Just…"

"Time," Rikku said. She put her forehead to Paine's. The warrior nodded. "Okay. All the time in the world."

Paine's expression showed what she couldn't verbally express. She kissed her and Rikku snuggled close. They lay like that for a while, comfort replacing arousal. When both their hearts had slowed, Paine asked, "Not giving up?"

"Paine…" Rikku squeezed her tight. "No. No. Never. I meant what I said."

I don't know where I'd end up if you didn't, Paine thought. She said, "Thank you." But might have meant I love you.

Rikku whispered, "You're welcome." Definitely meaning I love you.

Neither really knew this, but it was the subconscious knowledge that kept them wrapped up in each other's arms and sleeping peacefully through the night.

"Looking forward to rejoining the gang?" Rikku asked teasingly, bringing the Ela Syetah around. It was late morning and they had already cleared with the dock guard. Luca was bustling with activity as usual, people eager to take their boats out and get in some fishing and blitzball practise.

Paine snorted and crossed her arms. She sat in the other command chair, slouched comfortably. "Oh, you know it," she drawled. "I just can't wait to hear Brother's whining and Shinra's smug tone and see Buddy's constant concerned looks."

"I wonder if Gippal said anything to him."

"What do you mean?" Paine narrowed her eyes.

Rikku giggled nervously. "Um… about us…?"

"Great. Just what we need. A real reason for Brother to pester us."

Rikku laughed.

"You think it's funny now, but not when he's spying on us in the middle of the night, hoping to see some action."

"Ew! Paine!"

"What?" Paine smirked. "You know it's true."

"It's still gross," Rikku grumbled.

Paine chuckled.

"Heyyy, that's Gippal! Wow, I thought we weren't gonna see him 'til lunchtime," Rikku said, pointing. She blinked. "That looks like Baralai, too! Hooray, our own welcoming party!" The last was said with some amount of sarcasm.

The warrior sat up and spotted the two men in question, scowling when she saw Brother behind them. "Uh huh. One with your bothersome brother. Something's up."

"Huh?" Rikku stood and peered. "Oh. Oh, geez."

"I guess we'll find out if you were right," Paine said, also standing. "Take her in. I want to get this over with as quick as possible." And hopefully as painlessly as possible. …For Rikku and I, at least. She started to go below.

By the time they were moored, Paine had hopped off and met Gippal and Baralai as the men strode over.

"Howdy! How was trip, Dr P?" Gippal asked, grinning.

Paine gestured and replied shortly, "Fine." Her eyes fell on Baralai temporarily and she nodded to him. "Baralai. Good to see you."

The soft-spoken young man smiled and bowed a little. "It's good to see you, Paine. You look well rested."

Despite Rikku's advances, Paine almost said, but caught herself just in time. She turned away and faced the boat before they could see her slight blush. "Yeah."

Rikku hopped out and bounced over, her grin wide and sunny. "Hey, guys!"

"Hello, Rikku." Baralai sounded amused. "How are you?"

"Pretty good." Rikku glanced at Paine. "Um…" The thief looked around. "Where's Brother?"

Paine turned back around and folded her arms across her chest. "We saw him with you."

Gippal cleared his throat and put one hand on a hip. "Um, well…" He laughed and rubbed the back of his head. "I told him to take off. He wanted to, uh…"

"He knows," Baralai interrupted, shaking his head.

"Oh." Rikku looked up at Paine.

The warrior didn't look too happy. "How'd he take it?"

Gippal and Baralai exchanged looks. "Well…" the Al Bhed man began.

He was rudely interrupted as Brother came barrelling through the crowd. People yelled and cursed as the tattooed maverick headed their way with a determined look on his face.

"Oh brother," Paine muttered, rolling her eyes. "Here we go."

"I refuse to return to the Celsius without speaking my mind!" Brother announced as he came up to them. The volume, the Al Bhed, and the dramatic gestures he was using garnered the attention of the surrounding people.

"Can we not do this here, if it's gonna hafta happen?" Rikku asked quietly. She toed the ground.

Alarm bells went off at Rikku's behaviour and before the other two men could rebuke Brother, Paine strode up and grabbed him by the suspenders. He jerked and fell silent in surprise.

"If you've got something to say, say it to me, and we do it on the Celsuis," she said, voice low, tone filled with barely contained anger. "I'm not going to let you make a scene and get us kicked off the docks."

Brother looked around. People immediately found something else to look at. He cleared his throat. "Very well! It makes no difference."

Paine let him go none-too-gently. "Let's go," she said. Without a second glance and after taking Rikku's hand, she led the smaller girl through the crowd. Rikku turned and said, "Get our stuff!" before matching her pace to Paine's.

Letting out a soft whistle, Gippal rocked on his heels. "Man… maybe you and I should stay back here, eh, Baralai?" he whispered to his friend.

Baralai shook his head. "No. If need be, we should be there to support them."

Gippal winced but nodded, his eyes following Brother as the pilot angrily followed the women. This is gonna be fun, he thought.

By the time everybody was on the bridge of the Celsuis, the air was thick with uneasy tension. Gippal and Baralai hung back to quietly watch and Buddy started to get out of his station to welcome the girls back. Shinra wisely stayed where he was and kept silent.

"Welcome back, you two," Buddy said. That's when he noticed Brother tapping a foot impatiently and glaring at Paine, while the woman in question was standing with Rikku. The thief looked uncharacteristically downtrodden. "Um…"

"How could you do this?" Brother exploded, pointing at Rikku. "What will father say? I will not allow it, not on my ship!"

Rikku kept her eyes on her boots, her hands folded behind her back.

"I told you to say what you have to say to me," Paine said, stepping forward.

"I have plenty to say to you, but you will wait your turn!"

"You aren't the boss of me. You aren't the boss of her, for that matter," Paine angrily responded.

"This is my ship and you are my crew! I am exactly that: the boss!"

"We aren't the Gullwings anymore."

"Then why are you on my ship? Off, get off!"

Buddy moved over to where Gippal and Baralai stood. "Um… what happened?"

Gippal shrugged and Baralai whispered back, "He almost did this on the dock, but Paine got him to come back up here."

Buddy frowned. "Shouldn't we intervene?"

"And have Paine rip our heads off?" Gippal asked incredulously. "No."

"We should only step in if it gets physical," Baralai said. "Not before. We probably shouldn't even be here…"

Buddy sighed and shook his head.

Brother and Paine were still yelling at each other, separated by several feet, though the distance looked like it was about to be shortened considerably.

"How dare you do this to my sister? We trusted you!"

"How dare I do what? I haven't done anything to her. Don't you even begin to tell me you trusted me—you didn't even want me to join in the first place."

"Only because of Rikku! What spell have you cast upon her? She is but a child!"

"She's no longer a child, Brother! She's a grown woman and can make her own decisions!"

Brother spun and pointed at Rikku. "I forbid you to see her," he said, still directing his speech towards Paine. "Get off of my ship!"


Everybody stilled and looked at Rikku. Her hands were balled into fists at her sides, her face set in determination. Her eyes were on Brother and they glinted with tears. "I'm not a kid anymore, Brother! I'm not a little girl. You can't tell me what to do, and Pops has no say in which person I choose to be with. And I wanna be with Paine!"

Brother sighed and walked over. When Rikku raised a hand to stop him, he lifted his own and said, "Rikku. You are my sister." He looked uncomfortable but he continued, "I only want what is best for you. Surely, Gippal…"

The man in question blanched and stepped behind Baralai and Buddy just at the mention of his name.

"I just told you, I don't want to be with anybody but Paine!" Rikku retorted hotly, stamping a foot. "Why don't you ever listen to me?"

"Paine is not right for you! She will only hurt you! She is no Al Bhed. She is an outsider. She keeps her heart closed to everyone. What makes you think she will ever love you?" Though Brother's words were harsh, he kept his voice soft; he was pleading with her.

Rikku's nostrils flared and she took one large step forward but one of Paine's arms was suddenly blocking her way. She looked up, anger fading to confusion.

Paine kept her eyes on Brother. "How long have you known me?"

Brother blinked then frowned. "What? What does this have to do with anything?"

"How long have you known me?" Paine repeated.

The pilot threw up his hands. "As long as you have been a sphere hunter!"

"How many times have we talked?"

"I do not know!"

"Can't be very many, then, right?"

"What is your point?"

"You don't know me. Don't even begin to presume you know me."

"Rikku knows you and knows how you are!" he countered.

Paine looked down at Rikku. The blonde had wrapped her hands around Paine's. "You know me?"

Rikku flushed, wiped her eyes and sniffled, but also nodded. "'Course I do."

"You trust me?"

Brother glanced uneasily between the two of them.

"Of course I trust you," Rikku replied. Her tone suggested she thought Paine had gone insane, especially if she was about to agree with Brother's stupid notion!

"Do you think I'd ever hurt you?"

Rikku frowned and shook her head. "Why wouldja? You'd never hurt me! Not intentionally, anyway."

The taller woman looked back at Brother. Rikku followed her gaze and it dawned on her what Paine was doing. Resolve hardening, Rikku said, "Paine wouldn't hurt me, Brother. Not ever. If nothing else, we're friends."

Brother stared at Rikku, his face falling. "Rikku…"

Jaw clenching, Rikku stared him down.

He sighed. "She makes you happy?"

"She makes me happy," Rikku confirmed.

Brother threw up his hands then turned his ire back on Paine. "If you ever hurt her…!"

Paine leaned over to get in his face and growled, "You'll do what?"

He swallowed but said, "Well, you just better not hurt her! You will have to answer to me, to her father, and to the rest of the Al Bhed!"

Gippal, along with Baralai and Buddy, had been silent so far. Now he whispered to the other two, "I dunno 'bout you, Buddy, but I wouldn't bet on those odds."

Buddy hid a grin behind his hand. "You said it," he murmured. "Even all together and with machines, she'd be a force to be reckoned with."

"Nothing to worry about," Baralai quietly interjected. "Paine will never harm Rikku."

The other two nodded and looked back at the scene before them.

"Sure," Paine said. She straightened back up. "…You done being an ass?"

Brother flushed and stammered. Rikku rolled her eyes and release Paine's hand to punch him in the shoulder.

"You stupid lug," she said. "I can take care of myself!"

He guffawed and folded his arms. "You get into much trouble! I would not be a good brother if I did not look out for you."

Paine sighed and turned to walk away, waving over her shoulder. "I'm gonna go bring in our stuff." Then she was up the stairs and gone.

"Well, that was…" Gippal started, scratching his head.

"Anticlimactic?" Baralai voiced dryly.

"Nerve-wracking?" Buddy tried.

"Weird," Gippal said.

"Very weird," Baralai and Buddy echoed and they all chuckled.

"I'm gonna go help her," Rikku said, dancing in place for a moment before quickly disappearing.

Brother waited until she was gone before he fell forward into a slouch. "Ahhh… it's so stressful…" He straightened and looked over at Shinra. "Shinra!" He received no reply so he repeated the boy's name louder.

His answer was a loud snore.

"Hey, Paine, wait up!" Rikku called. Her boots clicked on the ramp as she ran down, jumping the last few feet.

Paine paused and half-turned, waiting until Rikku caught up before she continued walking over to their stuff.


The warrior picked up two duffel bags, slinging one over each shoulder. "Yeah."

"You okay?" Rikku crouched and folded both hands around a suitcase handle. She lifted with her knees and grimaced.

Paine looked down at her with exasperated fondness. "Yeah." She moved back towards the airship.

"You sure?"

"I should be asking you. …Are you?"

"What? Okay?"


Rikku bit her lower lip and half-dragged the suitcase up the entrance ramp. "Yeah, I guess so. I mean… I was kinda scared there for a while. Ya know, that he might totally flip and try to hurtcha or somethin'."

"You were afraid for me?" Paine asked bemusedly.

Rikku laughed. "No, for him! He's my brother and he can be a jerk but I wouldn't want you to hurt him." She didn't continue until they had put their stuff down and were taking a seat at the top of the ramp. "Too much."

Paine grinned lopsidedly and rested an elbow on an upraised knee. "I promise I won't hurt him." She paused for effect and added, "Too much."

This got a giggle out of the thief.

"You're…" Paine started. She cleared her throat and lowered her voice. "You're sure you're really okay?" Man… I really don't know how to do this kind of stuff. I trust her, but I gotta make sure. She… really looked bad back there. Was she really all afraid for him or was she afraid for me, too? Because I'd hold back for her?

"Hey," Rikku whispered.


The smaller girl sidled up to her and leaned her head on Paine's shoulder. "Thinking too muuuuch."

Paine chuckled. "Okay."

Rikku curled her hands around Paine's forearm. "Paine…"


"The stuff he said… did it bother you?"

"It…" Paine exhaled. "It did have some truth to it."

Rikku went very still.

Sensing the sudden change, Paine rested her chin atop Rikku's head. "I'm a very private person."

"Understatement of the year," Rikku mumbled.

"Uh huh. But… it bothered me when he said that I didn't care about you." Anger started to boil again and Paine forced it back down. "Because I do."

Rikku shifted until she could face Paine. She reached up and brushed silver bangs back from the older woman's face. "You care about me?"

"Yeah." Paine swallowed and tried to brush it off. "What, friends don't care about each other?"

Rikku smiled slowly and Paine felt her mouth twitch in response. "You care about me, just as a friend?" Rikku asked.

No. I… …I can't say it. I can't say it yet. I do a little, I feel it, but I can't tell you that yet. I'm sorry. "You know better than that," Paine gently chided.

Rikku giggled and leant up, kissing Paine's nose. The warrior let out a breath and pushed at her, but Rikku wouldn't budge.

"Public display of affection," Paine warned.

"Oh, in that case." Rikku jumped up and held out a hand.

"…What?" Paine lifted an eyebrow.

"Gimme your hand."

Paine blinked but gave Rikku one of her hands.

Rikku tugged for several moments before pouting at the bemused Paine still sitting down. "Ya gotta move with me."

Paine rolled her eyes and stood smoothly. "What?"

She received no reply. Instead she was led back into the lift.



Letting out an annoyed huff, Paine nonetheless complied with this request as well. Paine leaned against the railing in the lift as Rikku punched for the cabin.

What's with her? Paine wondered, watching the blonde carefully. Did I say something? She shrugged. Guess I'll find out soon enough.

She did.

Rikku stopped the lift in between the cabin and bridge and turned around, smiling.

For one brief moment, Paine felt panic. But instincts kicked in—this was Rikku. Couldn't be bad. Right?

"How's this?" Rikku asked, lifting her eyebrows.

"How's this for what?"

Her answer was Rikku in her arms and kissing the breath from her lungs.

Several moments later they broke apart. Paine licked her lips and gulped in a breath. "…Fine," she said, and kissed her.

Rikku mewled and dug her fingers into Paine's shoulders, whose back was hurting from the railing already digging into the small of it. Paine ignored the ache from the railing and focused on that of Rikku's fingers, wanting more of it. She buried her hands in Rikku's hair, fingers curled through the braids, cradling the back of her head.

Rikku trailed her fingers from the defined edges of Paine's shoulders down her chest, splaying them so the pads of her thumbs brushed across her sternum. When they pulled away to breathe, Rikku slid her hands even lower. This time Paine didn't pull away. Intent on making up for lost time, the thief echoed Paine's touches from last night.

It tore a groan from Paine's throat and she ducked her head because she needed to kiss her, anywhere; her lips landed on Rikku's jaw and she moved lower to place one underneath it. When the tip Paine's tongue slid over her pulse point, Rikku's head fell back and her hands reflexively squeezed, needing something to ground her under the wash of emotion and physical reaction.

"Need..." Rikku exhaled, sliding her hands up and folding her arms behind Paine's neck.

"What?" Paine whispered back. She trailed her tongue to flatten over the arch of Rikku's collarbone. "What?"

Rikku's reply was a breathy moan.

Paine tightened her hold and Rikku's hands combed through her hair, pulling her head back. They looked at each other for a moment before their mouths were meeting again, open and wet.

"Cabin," Paine said, when they pulled apart. She reached blindly over to try and get the lift moving again.


Paine couldn't think with Rikku rubbing up against her like that. All she could get out was another, "What?"

"Engine room."

Paine blinked.

Rikku smiled and kissed her languidly for a moment before explaining. "Cabin's too open."

"Engine room's too hot," Paine countered.

She got a raised eyebrow in return.

"Oh." Right. Shit. "Um." Paine cleared her throat.

Rikku laughed and was about to say something else when the intercom hissed and clicked. They both jumped and jerked away from each other as if burned.

"Everything all right?" Buddy asked, his voice laced with concern. "Problems?"

Paine ran her hands through her hair and sighed while Rikku giggled and clicked off, "Everything's fine! Leave us alone!"

"Huh?" Buddy's voice went faint and other voices could be heard. When he spoke again, it was clearer and obviously embarrassed. "Oh, um, right, er, sorry, I, uh. Sorry!" The intercom went quiet.

Rikku turned and leaned against the railing, smirking.

The warrior was rubbing her face with both hands, as if she could wipe the blush away. "I can't believe this…"

"Hmmm?" Rikku wrapped her arms around Paine's waist. "What can't you believe?"

"This." Paine gestured loosely before resting her forearms on Rikku's shoulders. "We're acting like… like…"

"A couple'a kids, which we are?"

"Who you calling a kid, kid? …You wanted to go make out in the humid engine room, where it's so loud you can't hear yourself think," Paine said, shaking her head.

"Ya'd be able to think anyway?" Rikku teased.

Paine rolled her eyes. "Whatever."

"Killed the mood, huh?"

Chuckling, Paine dropped a chaste kiss to Rikku's lips. "Uh huh. Come on. We should put our stuff up."

"Okay, okay," Rikku grumbled. She untangled from the other woman's lithe form and put the lift back on track. "Promise we'll make out later?"

"I'm sure we can find a utility closet somewhere," Paine drolly replied, folding her arms across her chest.

They glanced at each out of the corner of their eyes and laughed.