Look! Another update! Wow! I've kind of decided that I'd really like to finish something I start for once in my life so I'm pretty sure that barring any setbacks, I'll likely finish it within a few weeks. Maybe two—three more chapters? It's really awkward trying to pick this back up now. I can't remember half of it and it's almost… traumatising to go back and read through shit I wrote back in high school. Hahaha. Besides, so much has changed since then! So it's really difficult to try to keep the writing style and characterisations in tune with what I had previously written. Especially 'cos I never particularly liked either of those. :P I think I've improved by now. Hopefully. I take solace in the fact that I still write better than Stephanie Meyer. Did you know we're from the same city? The shame! In any case, once I finish this novel I'd really like to stick to shorter things that I can actually finish and things that weren't written when I was a delusional/spastic/immature 16 year old. I consider rewriting this one yet again, but eh. I'm over it. I just really want to tie up the loose ends and move on :||

Chapter 20:

So the Final Showdown With Sin had been postponed momentarily. The group may have been able to defeat Lady Yunalesca, but they were still no match for the chaos that occurred beneath Yu Yevon's armour. After days of relentless and fruitless fighting, they retreated back to the Airship to regroup.

It had been a difficult week for all of them, knowing that they were really on their own now, feeling out brand new territory for the first time in Spira's history. Now none of them, not even Auron, knew for sure what was going to happen or how to proceed. All they knew was that they couldn't give up now; they had to keep fighting until they were victorious.

At Cid's advice, they chose to strengthen themselves by searching for better weapons, better items, and developing better fighting techniques before attempting the labyrinth of fiends and danger that lay under Sin's surface again. Travelling Spira was made much more convenient with the Airship, any city or location was now within an hour's flight and the group used Cid's enthusiasm for flying to retrace their steps all across the land. Racing Chocobo's in the Calm Lands had earned Tidus a more powerful weapon, the power of Yuna's Nirvana staff had greatly been enhanced after defeating the Aeon's at Remiem temple, and Wakka had entered a Blitzball tournament to earn himself a new weapon as well.

After spending another rain-soaked couple days in the Thunder Plains, Lulu had acquired the sigil needed to upgrade her Onion Knight as well. Rikku had spent that entire excursion clinging to the folds of Auron's coat, cowering each time a bolt of lightning struck the ground. Once the sigil was retrieved, she took off running as fast as her legs would carry her towards the Macalania Woods. In the relative safety of the forest, she fell to her hands and knees, gasping for breath and rolled onto her back, waiting for the rest of the group to catch up to her. She really had no idea how they were all so comfortable with standing in the middle of a bloody thunderstorm.

It made her think back to the first time they had journeyed into that forsaken place. She smiled awkwardly now at the memory of how she had clung to Auron then and how he had seemed so irritated with her. She knew it was dumb. But she didn't really care. She really had been scared! It hadn't (at that time) been an excuse to be closer to him. Or had it? She didn't really know anymore. She closed her eyes and put her hands over her face, embarrassed by the whole deal.

"We should rest here tonight." Lulu said as she and the rest of the group approached, drenched head to toe in cold rainfall. Rikku's thoughts scattered and she sat up.

"Huh? What about the Airship?" she asked.

"How can Cid land his ship anywhere near here?" Tidus asked.

Rikku thought for a second. Oh yeah. They had been dropped off in Guadosalam, on the south end of the Thunder Plains. And when she took off running, she did so in the complete opposite direction and now there was nowhere in these woods for the Airship to land. Damn it.

"Well there's no way in hell I'm going back through that place!" She cried, pointing wildly back towards the Thunder Plains.

"Then either we rest here tonight or continue travelling through until we reach the Inn at the lake," said Lulu, "And I, for one, am tired after that ordeal."

Tidus nodded. "Let's just set up camp here. For old time's sake, y'know?" He, too, was beginning to feel dragged down by the knowledge that their days together were limited.

And so it was settled. Tonight they rested in the thick of the Macalania Woods. The moon shone through the iridescent trees, illuminating everything with an eerie yet serene blue glow. It was one of Rikku's favourite places, she decided, and not just because it wasn't the Thunder Plains. So much had happened here in these mysterious woods. While the others set up camp near the fire, she felt like taking a short stroll beneath the moonlight, giving Auron a sideways glance as she left the company.

Auron stood wordlessly and followed her shortly after she had departed. He met up with her not a long ways off, sitting by the Moonflow, shoes and socks removed, letting her feet play in the cool stream.

"Hey." She said as he sat beside her. He said nothing, sitting with one leg bent, his arm resting atop it. Rikku leaned into him, sighing. No words were spoken but Auron realised that she was crying silently.

"Are you all right?" He asked her, putting her arm around her side.

She sniffed and shrugged. "Yeah."

But Auron was unconvinced. He pressed his forehead against her temple. "What's wrong?"

She didn't say anything for a while, just wrapped her arms around him and held him close. "I'm going to miss you." She finally mumbled into his side.

He sighed. This is why it was a bad idea.

"I keep thinking," she said, "that we're going to do it- we're going to beat Sin and defeat Yu Yevon. We're going to win, I know it." She paused, "But I can't stop thinking that maybe I don't want to. Because I know, I know that when we do, you're not going to be there anymore. You won't even get to enjoy the Calm that you've tried so hard to create. And I feel terrible thinking that, but I don't want to fight Sin anymore. I don't want you to leave. Auron, I saw you die back there in Zanarkand. I can't watch you die again."

"Rikku-"

"I know; it's selfish of me. I want Spira to be happy, I want Yuna to be happy, but I want to be happy too. And how can I be happy if you're not there?"

Auron sighed. "This should never have happened."

Rikku hugged him closer. After all they had been through together, was it really going to end like that? They toppled churches to get where they were. Governments had been thrown into disarray. Entire religions and races had been challenged. And through all of this fighting and dying and sacrificing and losing, love had emerged. An unlikely love, but love nonetheless. This now, too, was going to end. Like everything else.

Through her blurred eyes, Rikku looked up at Auron's face. Clouded over with some kind of inner turmoil and regret, she knew that look well from him. Blinking away the tears until they ran down her face, she reached up to kiss him. Once, twice, on the lightly stubbled cheek until he turned his head to meet her lips. They kissed again, lips parted, desperately, hungrily, passionately. He kissed away the tears on her face as she shut her eyes and let nature take control of her body.

She ran her fingers through his hair, tugging lightly on his ears to bring him in for another kiss as his hands felt for the clasps on her shirt. Unbuckling them clumsily, his fingers worked their way up through the thick fabric, her young, firm skin shivering under the pressure from his weathered hands. He felt the twenty-five years of life –and death- pressing hard against him then. Her shining blonde hair contrasting his dull graying ones. Her life, her vigor, opposite his rugged shell. His Lord's niece. His Lord's fifteen year old niece. Cid's daughter. Cid's fifteen year old daughter. It was like a balled fist in his stomach and he was struck by the hopelessness of it all once again. Why was she clinging to him? But Rikku, of course, saw none of these things as issues. And she kissed him, ignorant of it all, caring only for what she felt there, in this moment, one of the last they would have together.

Auron, who had taken on Yevon, who had taken on Sin, who had taken on Yunalesca, who had won despite all the odds… surely he could take on Death again, too? Surely he could find another way? Wasn't she worth living for? If not living, technically, at least cheating Death?

Tears still streamed down her face as clothing was removed, as more touching, more kissing, more grabbing and grasping occurred. Auron feeling sickly guilty about it, Rikku desperate to show him that there was more reason for him to stay than just bringing the Calm… please, Auron, stay with me.

But as clear as the moon sinking again towards the horizon, time was not standing still. There was work to be done, still more sacrifices to be made. The Pilgrimage had been momentarily forgotten as Auron and Rikku tangled limbs and feelings beneath the canopy of the Macalania Woods, but once morning came, it would be time again to move on and face the End.

End chapter 20:

Bet you never expected an update so quick. But I'm serious about wanting to finish something! I hate unresolved conflict! I'm also considering more seriously rewriting the first half a bit to make it less painful for me to reread. Hahaha.