Once upon a time there was an awesome girl named Princess Aurora. In case you haven't been keeping track, that is me. Once upon a time I pretty much thought this one guy I know was the kind of jerk who puts brass gil in gumball machines so it gets all stuck and no gumballs come out and everyone is really upset because hey, no gumballs, and he does this specifically so nobody can ever have gumballs because you know, gumballs might actually make someone happy. They might actually make someone enjoy their life outside of desperate and tragic monotony.

Then I thought he was the kind of guy who gives you detention just for looking at him funny, no matter what your marks are in maths, no matter if you're captain of the pep squad, because that is his idea of a good time. But then maybe I found out that he gives you detention because you are captain of the pep squad and he's been looking at your butt all this time he should have been teaching you differential equations or something. What are you looking at me like that for? I told you. I've read a lot of books. I didn't say they were all classics or anything, although that one I just made up pretty much is.

Once upon a time there was a man who was dead who pretended at being alive. I didn't like that so much. But then he became a man who was alive and pretended at being dead, and that I could love.

Once upon a time I met a princess and priestess and goddess fair, and her king and lord and monster husband, who knew civil law and was a guado and made a bathtub out of the sea and wore sunglasses and played the saxophone (I found out later) and liked poetry and had the eyes of a god. Their story did not end well to begin with, but then their story stopped ending so much and it was better.

Once upon a time I told you a story that you knew didn't end with 'happily ever after' because I told you it didn't, or maybe because you skipped ahead and read the ending first.


Everyone, everywhere in the world has a story to be told.

Whether or not you think their story is important

or interesting

or even worth listening to at all,

it's their story and no one else's and no one can ever take that away from them.

Whether it's a good story,

or an interesting story,

or even a story with a moral --

well, that's up to them, and when all the cards are down, I don't think anyone has any room to point any fingers.

We all play the hands we're given the best we can

and maybe that makes every hand a winner more than every hand a loser.

Me, I play the cards no matter what the odds are.

My name is Rikku, and nobody's ever gonna tell me that I didn't hit the jackpot.

The Shape of His Heart

Epilogue: Felting the Red Dog

By Gabihime ( gabihime at gmail dot com )

It was different coming up than going down, and I don't mean the pudding, which was pretty much the same going down as it was coming back up. Ba-dum-chh.

It was different coming up than going down, because climbing those stairs out of that terrible hole was something that only took a few minutes, and not days and days and horrible, awful days. While we walked together, me chatting like a jay bird, Auron patiently listening, the both of us getting used to the fact that both Ashura and Leviathan would matter themselves at random moments when they wanted to take part in the conversation, and then dematter themselves just as suddenly, when they preferred to be inner monologue, I looked at the song-texture on the walls of that stairwell and felt the beat of the hymn like my pulse, like the water over the rocks, and I felt at home.

To be square with you, I was a little afraid even now of what it would be like when we were with everyone again. I had gotten so used to being alone with Big Red, the kind of casual comfort that had developed to fill up the spaces between the words, that I was afraid of that changing. I didn't want things to go back to being the way they had been. Too much of me had changed. To much of what I understood about him had changed. I didn't want that to be forgotten in the midst of the clamor of our Summoner's Grand Tour, when nobody was allowed to have any time to themselves or selfish wishes or hopes or wants or anything at all other than finishing the pilgrimage and defeating Sin.

I wanted him to always remember what I wanted. What I wanted. After Sin.

After Sin.

I wanted him to remember that I was always wanting it, all the time, not just when we had the uncommon luxury of thinking of ourselves, not just on holiday, not just down the Aurochs's hole.

He will never forget that, and that was Leviathan, in my ear. Nothing could make him forget it, not flood nor fire nor cold, cold death, now that you have said it.

Sometimes, maybe it was a little nice having him around.

Auron was our pathfinder as we hiked through the cave, and instead of leading us back to that impossible little crevice I had crammed myself and my gear through, he led us out through this very much man-sized cave maw and I felt a little silly.

As we made our way out into the snow, Ashura manifested and fluttered over to talk to me because everybody knows I am good conversation. I again expressed how impressed I was that she and Leviathan could just up and leave their temple like that, especially what with it falling apart upon their exit and all. She took it upon herself to clear things up for me.

"So you see, Rikku Cidolphus," Ashura explained patiently, after some minutes, "You are his new pillar of Fayth. This is why we could let Indara and the old statues there fall, because Leviathan has been bound to your self just as I have been bound to the self of Auron Faris."

I scratched my head, "So why didn't you just do this a long time ago? You've been lonely down there for a long time."

"We have pride, Rikku Cidolphus," she reminded, with the faintest edge in her voice, "And no one had ever bested us." She paused for a moment and then shook her head briefly, "And it is more than simply pride. We had to be sure of your worth. Our fates are now bound with yours. That is the price for binding with the living instead of binding with stone, which is nearly ageless. We will live until you cease to live. When you pass, the Fayth of Indara will truly be no more and Leviathan and Ashura will be gone from this world. This is now your responsibility to consider as much as it is ours, Rikku Cidolphus."

I thought about it, "So what you're saying to me is 'No more ill-advised bets without thinking about the children.' Right?"

"Don't worry about it so much," Leviathan waved me off nonchalantly, "We always win, anyway. I wouldn't spend the energy trying to plan all that out."

I raised a skeptical eyebrow, "Was he actually a good lawyer?"

"Better than Perry Mason," she assured, and then when I looked totally lost, she explained, "An old sphere drama that used to be a favorite in Zanarkand."

Auron spoke up then, "He was a lawyer that never lost a case." Things I didn't know about Auron number five hundred and twenty four: he used to watch old sphere dramas when he was bored and lonely.

"Trust Ol' Reliable to know about ancient sphere shows. Must be one that didn't survive," I shrugged, "Did Leviathan never lose any cases either?"

Ashura opened her mouth to say something, but Leviathan waved to cut her off.

"Never," he answered resolutely.

Auron grunted and I wondered if Ashura had let him know some additional and secret information.

There is no secret information. I never lost a case. That's the end of it.

"Never," she chimed in after him.

I guess that's what marriage is all about: solidarity. Or completely covering for one another, if you know what I mean. Why do I get the feeling that I'm going to be the one chiming in "Never!" when someone asks "So did Auron never lose any fights?" instead of vice-versa.

Because no one would believe it the other way, offered Leviathan helpfully.

Hey, I thought, Shut up. And then I thought of something snappy to say, but it wasn't quite good enough, so I tried to think of something better to say --

You know, I can tell when you're thinking lame jokes, even if you don't say them.

I wasn't prepared for that one.

Apparently, he didn't think I had quite gotten what he was getting at.

That last one you were thinking was really bad. I wouldn't say it if I were you. People will laugh at you, and not with you.

I wish I could punch you, I thought.

You always think that will make you feel better, but it never does, does it?

I dunno, I thought, I'm willing to try again --

Just then, on the other side of the snow bank I heard:

"I mean, what I can't figure out is how he fit through that hole. Rikku, yeah, maybe, if she hasn't been eating too much noodles and sauce -- "

"Tidus, forgive me for pointing this out, but no one eats too much of your 'noodles and sauce.'"

"Well, I'll give you that, Lulu. It pretty much is that good."

"You misunderstand me -- "


"Hey a chocobo's not supposed to make sounds like that, ya? You sure you know how to ride it?"

"Of course I do! I mean I spent a couple hours training one once. I bet that was a happy sound it made."

"Kimahri has never heard chocobo make that sound before."

"Then I guess that proves you've never been around any happy chocobos -- "

And at that I exploded out from behind the snow bank and took Tidus off the back of that startled yellow bird with a clothesline of pure joy. We both went sprawling into the snow, me giving him noogies as he attempted to wrestle me off.

"WARK WARK WARK!" cried the chocobo, I'm sure because it was happy to see me too.

"Hey guys," said Tidus, mostly muffled by the fact I had him in a headlock, "I think I found them."

About the time I got tired of giving Tidus noogies -- which was about four seconds -- I noticed a pair of dainty feet nearby and I threw myself off of Tidus and I hugged myself some drape-y blue summoner's skirt instead.

"Yunie!" I shouted, like it was an old episode of Bevelle's 'This is your life,' and I was guessing all the mystery guests before they signed in.

"Rikku," she laughed, as she tumbled on top of me and we both landed in the deep snow, "It's good to see you too."

Tidus got himself out of the snow, and then helped Yuna out of the snow, but I guess everybody figured I was fine at fending for myself, because no one gallantly offered to help me out of the snow. I bet you are somehow not surprised.

I was shivering now, trembling all over like I was sitting on a metal plate that was wired with electricity and I as getting a jolt every few seconds. Whether this was because I was wearing little tiny ruffly shorts and sitting in two feet of snow or just because I was rockin' around the clock with my pure and unbridled delight at seeing everybody again -- including everyone's favorite chocobo Frances, who happened to be the big yellow bird at the end of the traces that Wakka was holding onto and trying to quiet -- is anybody's guess. Considering my past track record you might want to assume the ants-in-my-pants explanation, but let me tell you something: Big Red didn't. He just came sauntering over the crest of the snowbank and then skidded down the side like he was sledding on those aurochs-kicker boots of his and then before he said anything to anybody he was undoing the buckles on his coat like it was a good time for an Auron strip-tease.

This is where I hit you with When is it not a good time for that? Thank you, thank you folks. I'll be here all week.

Before I could even think of anything snappy to say, he had shrugged out of his big red coat and then thrown it on top of me -- and notice here I said on top of me and not at me. So while I was looking like you do when you're five and decide to play 'campsite' on your bed, when you're the only tentpole of the tent that consists of your blanket, scrabbling around, flailing with my arms and legs as I struggled to get into the coat as opposed to being smothered by it, I totally missed the meaningful look Wakka gave Tidus, but I found out about it later from a reliable source. And this wasn't so much the meaningful look that says "come hither -- " so much as it was "Oooooh-kay. Judge Red just gave her his coat. There is something goin' on 'round here." Of course, you know, if Wakka and Tidus picked up on this clue, then you know everyone else in the universe had already figured it out, I guess from Big Red's body language or something. This is the part where I point out again that he does all this stuff on purpose, with Auron Effect(tm). Just like that he had thrown something I had been all antsy-pantsy over out in the center of the ring and then said You wanna say something about it? Do ya? Well then, go ahead. Here is a hint as to how this played out: nobody said anything. At least not then. Not to him, for sure. A little bit later that evening you bet your bottom gil that I was raked over the coals for information though. I guess that's because I don't have Auron Effect(tm).

Speaking of Auron Effect and forcing people to have the kind of impression of you that you want them to have, he wasn't finished yet.

A second passed. Then another.

Then --

Finally, he spoke, and Auron's voice rolled low and supple over all of us, and although I did not take the time to shiver, I thought about it, which probably counts for something.

"We have been on our own pilgrimage," he said, but he didn't appoligize or anything. I think maybe being Auron means never having to say you're sorry.

I had finally managed to sort myself out and into his coat, so I scrambled to my feet all at once like a long-legged-Rikku-spider wearing a red tablecloth. The only thing I could think of to do to aid in his explanation was to engage in interpretative dance, so I started to jump from one foot to the other, like I had hot coals under my toes. "It's pretty much my fault we were gone for so long but we totally found something too awesome for words so -- "

Tidus held up his hand. "What are you talking about? You've only really been gone for about two days. We weren't sending out the dogs or anything. Yuna was just worried and well, I figured I've never seen the scenic Macalania Hills so -- "

"Wait," I said, and stopped dancing to hold up my own hand, and we must have looked like a pair of goons facing off in the snow with our hands up like we were ready to play patty-cake, "That doesn't make any sense at all. I am not carrying six watches on me or anything but -- "

"No really," Tidus insisted, and we kept standing there with our hands in the air, like I was saying talk to it, and he was saying no you.

"Well," I said and thought about it. "What day is it?" I asked triumphantly, because that would settle things for sure.

He told me and I dropped my hand and slumped a little. I turned to Lulu for confirmation, because, well, Tidus.

"Is that really what day it is?" I asked, and she nodded and I sat down again in the snow, confounded.

Time turns differently in the belly of the world, said someone who wasn't me.

I screwed up my face in concentration. What exactly do you mean? Above ground or underground, a minute is a minute, an hour is an hour, and a day is a day.

When you are close to the hymn, many things are not as they appear to be. Time has a different way of shaping itself.

So when did you become all fortune-cookie brilliant, I demanded. You sound like you ought to be standing under a waterfall or something.

I am just trying to explain it in a way that you might be able to grasp, he explained cordially.

"Hey!!" I shouted, and everybody turned to look at me. I could just hear Leviathan giggling like a school girl.

Then Tidus broke in, "Hey, has anybody noticed that Rikku has been making these weird faces for a few minutes now?"

Wakka seemed a little doubtful, "Rikku's always makin' pretty weird faces, ya? Figured it was just because she was Al Bhed."

"No," answered Tidus thoughtfully, "I'm pretty sure it's more just because she's Rikku. And these were weirder faces than normal."

Trust me to completely derail Big Red's Auron Effect. I flailed around for something to distract all of them with until we could get the company properly introduced. Since I didn't think 'Hey, wanna see my tattoo?' was gonna work in this situation, the closest thing at hand was big and yellow and smelled of Gyshal Greens (and wasn't Wakka).

"So where'd you get Frances?" I asked, since it's not hard to do the math that if I hadn't been gone for too long, then Frances hadn't either.

"Him?" Tidus asked, "Oh yeah, we ran into him just a little while ago, coming pell-mell down the mountain. Little guy looked kind of lost, so we figured he was maybe your chocobo -- "

"Kweh!" interjected Frances happily.

"That's a girl chocobo, Tidus," I announced with my hands on my hips. "Can't you tell the difference? Also I am kind of mortally offended that you decided she was mine because she looked lost. What does that say about me?"

"That you got us lost on Bikanel Island?" Tidus tried helpfully.

"I didn't get us lost!" I cried, waving both my hands above my head irately.

"Kimahri agrees. Rikku did not get us lost," came support from an unexpected area. I felt like high-fiving that big blue Ronso just then.

I pounded one fist into my palm, "See? I totally didn't. Kimahri always calls it straight."

"However," and that was Big Red. I'm always kind of worried when he begins his statements with 'however.' I don't ever think it's mean't anything good for me. "She did not do much to get us unlost."

"Kimahri agrees with this also."

Oh man. Slammed by the home team. I didn't really have a snappy rejoinder for that one. But hey. Landmarks kind of move around in a rolling dune sea. Kind of like they don't in the mountains. I wasn't really counting on anyone's grasp of geography to bail me out of this one. Anyway, it was about time everybody had another laugh on me. It is one of the things I'm good for: constant frivolity. Sometimes you gotta laugh.

Fortunately, the Red Man is pretty good at setting the mood for things, even when I'm there rolling around on the canvas and making everything look like your three-year-old sister's 'watercolor painting,' and he took this moment to turn to Yuna and speak very gravely.

"Summoner Yuna, we have brought with us two who wish to speak with you."

"Very formal, Auron," laughed Ashura, and she was suddenly there, on his arm, "To be true, we wish to do more than speak with you, child."

"Whoa!" cried Tidus, because he is pretty much good at shouting things like "Whoa!" and "Totally!" and "Excellent!" "Where did that hot lady come from?"

"Zanarkand," said Leviathan, who was suddenly standing in front of me with his arms crossed, and quite between Tidus and Ashura, "She's already married." He didn't have to say it because I could hear it pretty clearly. So step back.

I finally took my cue, before Tidus could roll out the chestnut "Hey, you're a guado!" because when the cards are down? I've got some showmanship.

"Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, may I present the Fayth of Indara, Temple of the Summoned Sea, all the way from the Magic City Zanarkand, the City that Never Sleeps: Ashura, the All Holy," I waved with a bombastic flourish, "And Leviathan, the Lord of all Waters."

And then the hymn rippled out from us, Auron, Ashura, Leviathan, and me, like we'd been holding our breath, and it swallowed them up.

I don't think I really have to tell you this, but the crowd? It went wild.

The next few minutes were a tangle of examination and hand-shaking and admiration and just general chaos, but I know Leviathan at least enjoyed it, because when does he not enjoy attention? Finally, everyone had met everyone else, and I had repeated the basic gist of the story about three different times in three different ways to various and sundry persons, adding my own embellishments and sound effects as I went along.

"Wait, wait," said Tidus, in the middle of my first revision, "Let me get this straight. You went through all that and you still didn't win your leg back?"

"Well," I said, putting my hands on my hips, "That's a complicated question without a clear sort of answer -- "

"No," interjected Auron levelly, "She did not."

And then Tidus laughed at me, but you can't really blame him because he fell on his head a lot as a baby and can't help it.

So I kept on giving my spangled retellings and I was just in the middle of a good one, all "So then I pretty much shot out his eye, and all this horrible nasty pink goo came out everywhere -- " when tall, dark, and sinister grabbed the back of my collar -- or really, grabbed the back of his collar that I was wearing -- and dragged me back behind him, which I took as my cue to hold the rest of my amazing story-telling until it was a little more appropriate. With me yanked off center stage, Leviathan and Ashura occupied it with both grace and majesty, because when that goldfish-snake wants it? He's got it.

Leviathan gave me a long look, then turned to Yuna and bowed to her deeply and graciously, sweeping one long-fingered hand in front of himself.

"Enchanted," he said to her.

Yuna clasped her hands to her chest and bowed back, "You have my gratitude, Master Leviathan, and all my thanks for agreeing to walk this difficult way with us."

"I am honored to pact with someone who would change the world," he answered, and I started to get worried it was all just going to devolve into a mutual admiration society, but he just moved close to her and then something magic happened -- the air around Yuna all heavy and blurry with pyreflies as Leviathan touched her and her body seemed to draw him in with an aquamarine pulse. It only took a moment, that touch of grace, but after it was over I somehow knew that Yuna had received the fayth. Leviathan stepped backward to let Ashura join with Yuna, and as he did he looked at me over his shoulder, just one eye like a shark, and so smug.

Why aren't you ever nice like that to me? I demanded.

Don't be incestuous, fry, came his long-suffering reply.

To my credit, I did not shout "I am not being incestuous!!" (with three exclamation points, no less), causing everyone present to stop what they were doing and then look at me very sadly and carefully, although it was a pretty near thing, so I'm not really sure how much credit I actually deserve there.

"Hey," observed Tidus, "Rikku's making those weird faces again."

Nobody really paid attention to him this time. I am not sure if I should count that as a success or not, considering everyone else was watching Yuna receive the fayth.

"I have faith in your resolve, Yuna Braska," said Ashura after it was done and she fluttered over to stand behind her husband. "And be sure that it will take both faith and resolve to change this world."

"Not just that," I broke in, and everyone turned to look at me again, like I was covered in bees. "Not just that," I repeated, and looked at all of them, clustered there around the chocobo.

"It takes friends," I said.

"It takes those that go on," said Auron, suddenly behind me, and I knew he was in my corner, because maybe I'd finally earned that. "And those that stay."

And then Yuna smiled at me, and I knew that she knew.

"It takes family," she said.

"It takes everybody," said Tidus as he put his hand on Yuna's shoulder, because maybe he can be pretty smart when it counts.

"Alone," Ashura quoted like the wisest of the wise, "One man may shift the world. Together, it becomes inevitable that we do so."

Ev oui lyh'd rumt uh du cusadrehk, oui sekrd yc famm tea frana oui cmaab.

And no, that's not something my pops says.

It's something I say.

Live on, and fight your sorrow.

Maybe it took grinding us both into the dirt, grinding us both into each other to really understand what that meant.

And after all that spit and grit and dirt and filth and vomit and sweat and blood and hurt I felt it in my bones, writ there in ink as indelible as whatever it is that makes up my soul.





So that's the story of how I changed the world (somewhat) got a dead boyfriend (kind of) and a lawyer in my brain (unfortunately).

But, just so you know? That's really not the end of my story.

What did I tell you?

Stories? The good kind?

They never end.

Mine's never gonna.

Once upon a time I changed the world some more.

But that's another story.

Lydlr oui uh dra vmebceta.

We'll see you then.


Part the First: Liner Notes

Battle Strategy


For this fight, Rikku is equipped with a Cerulean Targe with the effect Watereater. She also equips Deus Ex Machina, a claw with all four elemental strikes. Auron equips the Thunderblade with the effect Lightningstrike. His bracer, Rikku tells us, is already pretty good. Pretend it has whatever favorite effects you like.

The first turn is taken by Leviathan, who assumes his Aeon form. He immediately begins 'gathering water,' like all Leviathans we know and love. You can consider this like a countdown to overdrive, rather like Bahamut's (although I am sure Leviathan will tell you he thought of it first.) The next two moves are Rikku's. She uses Chocobo Feather both times to cast haste first on herself and then on Auron. Leviathan continues to hang, building up a wave, and Auron dashes off to strike him. On her next turn Rikku doublecasts Thundaga. Auron is up close, hitting Leviathan. Rikku doublecasts Thundaga again and then takes the trigger command 'Shoot.' They continue this way, with Rikku taking turns to take a mana tablet and then ethers when her MP is low, until Leviathan succeeds in filling up his overdrive bar and then uses his overdrive 'Tsunami' which changes the battle environment from ground-based to underwater. Rikku eats the damage as her targe has the Watereater ability, but now Auron is a liability as he cannot fight underwater. Rikku takes three turns where she doublecasts Thundaga, but as Auron is now effectively KO'd, Leviathan turns his attention to her and having found that she eats his water attacks, resorts to physical ones. Rikku continues to alternate between doublecasting Thundaga and slugging potions, but she cannot keep up with the damage he's doing particularly because at the moment she's fighting him solo.

Here's the kicker. She casts Float, a spell that's not on the spheregrid, and this spell has the effect of returning the battle to effectively ground-based, as she and Auron can now tread safely on the water. Rikku has more or less killed herself by casting this spell. Fortunately Auron has an overdrive stored up and uses Tornado to finish Leviathan off. The audience is distressed because it looks like our heroine is done for! Auron wants to dump some elixir on her, but we are told that won't work! Never fear, Ashura casts Curaja which can pretty much fix everything. The day is saved. Our intrepid party of two has successfully defeated Leviathan. You get 'Proof of Lawyer' or something.


For this fight, Auron is equipped with his katana Muramasa, which carries the inherent abilities Triple Overdrive, Triple AP, Overdrive-AP. He gets a lot of sphere levels when he's done with this fight! Both he and Rikku have their overdrive mode set to stoic since Ashura's All Holy overdrive hurts a lot. He comes into this fight with a partially full overdrive meter and Rikku comes in with a full one. This is important for their strategy!

Ashura takes the first turn to assume her Aeon form. Rikku takes the next turn to user a Chocobo Feather on Auron which puts him in haste status. Then Ashura switches forms and uses her special attack 'grab' to seize Rikku. Rikku is effected by status effect Mortal Terror! Yikes! Auron attacks, causing Ashura to drop Rikku. He uses remedy on her to clear her status and then attacks again. Ashura shifts forms again and casts Curaja on herself, healing herself a jillion points. Crap. Rikku finally manages to haste herself by using Chocobo Feather and then uses a Star Curtain to cast reflect on Ashura. Ashura shifts forms yet again and casts dispel, because she ain't stupid. Now Rikku finally takes her Overdrive and mixes Dark Matter and Lightning Marble for Trio of 9999. From now on, both Rikku and Auron will be doing 9999 damage each time they hit. Ashura shifts back to scary sword lady. Auron must have high evade, because he goes on to avoid or parry most of Ashura's strikes while he makes his attacks count. Rikku uses Star Curtain again and this time Ashura does not notice she has been put into reflect status. Rikku also steals at this point. Auron is in Guard mode and takes a hit for Rikku, and then Rikku uses Elixir on him, presumably the one he tried to use on her earlier. They each do a number of physical attacks for a while, until Ashura is driven into Overdrive. Rikku uses Lunar Curtain on both herself and Auron, putting them in Shell status, and this keeps them alive, although in critical status, during her powerful overdrive All Holy. After her overdrive she casts Curaja on herself again, but it reflects off and cures the opposing party instead. Auron gets to his feet and uses the special command Entrust to hand off what's remaining of his overdrive meter. This puts Rikku in overdrive again and she Mixes Ice Gem and Dark Matter for Supernova.

This finishes Ashura and she congratulates the two of them by casting another Curaja, this time out of the battle environment. You get spoils of battle, hurrah!

The World According to Cid


Things my Pops is Always Saying


Ajano zuinhao cdyndc fedr dra vencd cdab, yht ajano tyo pakehc fedr dra vencd nyo uv mekrd.

Every journey starts with the first step, and every day begins with the first ray of light.

Ed'c dra meddma drehkc dryd kad oui.

It's the little things that get you. -- Or, as Rikku puts it: The devil's in the details.

Hajan keja ib.

Never give up. Pops always says she never knows when to quit.

Rumt ouin duhkia, Rikku.

Hold your tongue, Rikku. Here's one from Brother. I somehow think he's probably always saying this to her. It's the Al Bhed equivalent of STFU.

Cammehk ouin haekrpun'c lrelgah ec paddan dryh cammehk ouin ufh.

Selling your neighbor's chicken is better than selling your own. Words to live by.

Chapter Three:

Fecrehk fuh'd dinh dra cgo knaah.

Wishing won't turn the sky green.

Chapter Five:

Ed'c dra meddma drehkc dryd kad oui.

It's the little things that get you. Again. It's always the little things that seem to get her.


Shit. Naturally. Pardon her language.

Chapter Six:

Oui meja dra pacd oui lyh.

You live the best you can. In Rikku's words: you play the hand you're dealt.

Chapter Eight:

Rikku, pa bnybynat.

Rikku, be prepared. This is the motto of the boy scouts, which confirms Rikku's suspiscions that it is just something he heard some kids repeating.

Chapter Nine:

Cbudmacc, Rikku. Fa sicd taveha aqlammahla ev fa yna kuehk du lrynka vun ed.

Spotless, Rikku. We must define excellence if we are going to charge for it. And here's one from our favorite Al Bhed entrepenuer, Rin, whom Rikku calls Rin-pucc, that is, Rin-boss.

Ev ed'c fundr tueh', ed'c cyjuneh'

If it's worth doin', it's savorin' -- More words to live by, especially if you are undressing an underage girl! It's a good thing Spira has no age of consent laws!

Uhmo po vymmehk tu fa maynh du kad ib.

Only by falling do we learn to get up. This applies to faith, but also a whole lot of other things. Try saying it when anything crappy happens. People will think you're really wise!

Chapter Ten:

Syho ryhtc syga mekrd fung

Many hands make light work. This is another boy scoutism. I think everything wise Cid says he really stole from the boy scouts.

Ed yeh'd dra fyo dra funmt'c syta

It ain't the way the world's made. In the sense that Rikku is using it here: the sun doesn't shine on the same dog's ass every day, but it sure is likely to shine on it some of the time.

Huputo ajan vuiht y haf luihdno fedruid mucehk cekrd uv dra cruna.

Nobody ever found a new country without losing sight of the shore.

Fa ymm kuddy ku cusatyo.

We all gotta go someday. Or, as Rikku puts it, you live until you don't, and that's all right too.

Play to Win

Poker Terminology in Shape

Gimme the Odds

The title of the prologue. The odds here are naturally the odds to beat. This one's pretty simple. Outside of bluffing, poker's really just a game of probability. Each of the winning hands has a certain odds of coming up. Of course, poker's not just about probability. Every hand's a winner, just like every hand's a loser. Rikku could've won this game with just a high card. As you know, she does not. Although she's playing a good hand here: three of a kind, queens no less, Auron has four of a kind, even if they're deuces. The odds here are in her favor. She knows she has three of a kind Queens and he's only showing two of a kind deuces. She's playing the favorite. But she still loses. One thing to remember is to never count too closely on the odds. Sometimes they're only good for pissing you off.

Follow the Queen

Follow the Queen is a seven card stud wild card game. Whenever a queen card is dealt face up, the next card that's dealt will detemine the wild cards. For example, the Queen of Spades is dealt face up. Next comes the Three of Clubs. Threes are wild until another Queen comes face up, when they are no longer wild and instead the next card following the Queen will be wild. Wild card games are always fun and somewhat more unpredicatble, particularly since the wild card can change in the middle of a hand. Here we can assume Rikku is the Queen card. If Auron turns up next, which he does, that means he's wild. Well.

Under the Blue Chip

This is an old-fashioned way of saying things. In games where red, white, and blue tokens are used, a blue token, that is, the blue chip, is the one with the highest value, therefore, blue chip generally means something that's worth having. Nowadays, it's more common to hear someone actually talking poker using the phrase "black chip," since a black is worth a hundred dollars. When players use chip declaration in a split-pot game, revealing a hand with a blue chip (or any chip, actually) declares an intent to play high hand. In this case, they don't have control of the blue chip, they are in fact under it. It's something worth having, but it's something that's crushing them.

Being the Kicker to Hold

In a hand of poker, a kicker is a side card, one that doesn't go into determining the value of the hand, but one that can be used to break a tie between two hands of equal value. For instance, a hand A-A-3-J-6, the 3, J, and 6, are kickers. This hand has a pair of aces. It will beat any other hands with pairs or lower hands, except another pair of aces. If this hand goes up against the hand A-A-4-7-Q, the second hand will win, because the kicker card Q is higher than the kicker J. In draw poker, a kicker can sometimes be held in an attempt to pull another card to match it, thus building a stronger hand, instead of discarding everything that doesn't match. Here Rikku is trying to be the Kicker to Hold, that is the card that doesn't match and yet isn't discarded, that may turn out to win the hand anyway.

Building our Big Cat Flush

A Big Cat Flush is a non-standard poker hand. A Big Cat is a no-pair hand defined by the highest and lowest cards, that is high card K, low card 8. (For example, K-Q-J-10-8). Commonly it ranks above all other cat and dog hands, as well as over a straight, being beaten only by a straight flush. Some house rules make it the highest hand in poker, under the logic that both Little Cat and Little Dog top regular straights, so it makes sense for Big Cat to top straight flush. Here Rikku is trying her best to build a hand that'll beat any other hands.

Bluffs Called, Antes Forced

To Call in poker is to see their bet or raise. To call a bluff means that you see through a bluff, or are otherwise sure of your hand and raise or see the bet no matter what the other player wants you to think he's holding. To ante is to put your money where your mouth is. In this case a bluff is called and the player is forced to either ante or fold. Even if Auron folds here, Rikku chooses to ante, as we shall see.

The Burn Card in my Pocket

A burn card is a card dealt off the top of the deck and discarded before each round of play. This is done so that players who might have been able to read the card during the previous round will have less of an advantage over those who could not. This card is effectively "burned" from play. It will not enter play this round. While it is still a little useful to know what the burn card is, it is not nearly so advantageous as knowing what one of the cards in play is. Of course, we know from experience that Rikku cheats. Any card that's burned from the deck will end up in her pocket when no one's paying attention, to be used for her benefit at a later date. Consider this her ace in the hole, or rather, the ace up her sleeve.

Drawing Dead Against the House

To draw dead is to draw to complete a hand even when the hand will lose no matter what is drawn. For example, drawing a card to complete a straight when an opponent has a straight flush already completed. In this circumstance drawing to complete your hand is futile because it will always be beaten by the higher hand. Generally, drawing dead is only realized after the hands have been shown. In this case, I think the analogy is pretty clear.

Killing the Chernobyl Cowboy

Chernobyl Cowboy is a seven card stud game, like Follow the Queen, only Chernobyl Cowboy is a kill card game rather than a wild card game. The Chernobyl Cowboy is the King of Hearts. Whenever this card appears face up, the round is dead. Then everyone antes and begins a new round, until the Chernobyl Cowboy appears again, and kills that round. Anyone who folds during the course of the hand is out until the end of the game. The Chernobyl Cowboy here is Leviathan, the King of Hearts. Their challenge is to kill the kill card before he kills the game.

Two of a Kind and Working

The title of this chapter refers to the ridiculously cheesy country song whose full title is "Two of a Kind, Working on a Full House." Alas, even I have weaknesses, and one of my weaknesses is to awful country songs about playing poker. Or using poker euphemisms. If you ever want a good time go look up the lyrics or listen to the song and try to place our intrepid heroes in the roles as prescribed. It will net you ten endless years of entertainment. If you are not getting this title then I think you need someone to explain puns to you.

Showdown: All in, Cards Speak

If the final betting round in a game of poker closes and there is more than one player left, these players then enter the showdown. During the showdown the remaining players show their hands to determine the winner(s). To claim a part (or all) of the pot, a player must show all of the cards he or she has, whether they were played in the final hand or not. Cards speak during a showdown -- that is, even if a player mistakes the value of his hand either accidentally or purposefully, it is the actual value of the cards that stands, not what he or she calls as his hand. All in denotes that the player has put all of their remaining chips in on the last betting round. At last the only players left are Ashura and Auron and Rikku. The last betting round has ended and this is their final showdown.

Felting the Red Dog

Red Dog is just another poker variant, but here I'm using it as a stand-in for someone else we know who is big and red and kind of a dog. To felt someone, in common poker parlance, is to clean them out so bad that instead of chips all they've got in front of them is a piece of felt -- that is, the table. I almost wish I was making this up, but alas, it is true.

Part the Second: Author's Notes

Well, what a long, strange trip it's been. When I started writing Shape in golden ages past I had never written anything of length for a Final Fantasy fandom. Oh, don't get me wrong. The wheels in my head are always turning, but generally I keep their turning to myself -- that is, I draw stupid, gunky fanart and spend my time telling people who'll listen to me "what really happened." In the beginning I was playing FF7 with intentions to write something for Yuffie and Vincent, but then like Rikku I took an ill-advised bet -- that I could write for a fandom that other Final Fantasy fandoms like to make fun of for being kind of the slow kid in class who never gets picked for blitzball, that I could go into it with no rabid personal convictions one way or another and make some magic.

Four years later, well beat the drums and hold the phone, the sun came out today. It's finished, and I'm proud of this misbegotten child one way or another.

My pops always says, E'ja kud vyedr uv dra raynd. E's kuehk frana so raynd femm dyga sa. E'ja kud vyedr du pameaja E lyh tu yhodrehk. Or wait. Maybe it's Rod Stewart that says that. I forget.

When I started, I had a clear picture of where I was going and more or less how I wanted to get there. Writing Shape has ever been a pleasure. It is neither difficult nor complicated. I write what I feel and what I think and out comes Shape in manageable pieces. Anyone who has seen me in action knows that I go about my business in two modes: A) research and B) development. In my research phase I immerse myself in whatever it is I plan to be writing about. I eat, sleep, and breathe my subject, become the foremost expert on just about everything pertaining to it. I play it forward. I play it backward. I play it to the bone. Then after I have wallowed in it for some indeterminate period of time I sit down and write. I write as I have always written: on the fly and at a stretch. I write each chapter of Shape all out of order as I get down the scene that needs to be gotten down, and then stitch them together into the shape you end up with. Then I go back through and edit it for sound and flavor and well, sense-making because sometimes I get carried away and forget Shape is supposed to be fun and easy and write it a little too much like Finnegan's Wake or The Waves.

I have sometimes thought it would be awesometimes fun to go to a Con and preform a live reading of Shape. I think I'd have a good time doing it. Shape is a story that's meant to be read aloud. Next time you want to reread it, corral one of your unlucky and white-eyed friends and tie them to a chair and perform a reading for them. Nothing is quite like hearing somebody say "Maester Kinoc on a tricycle" and really mean it.

So a lot of things have changed since I began Shape, a lot of things in my personal life and my public one. But through trial and hardships I find that the French have a way of saying it that really comes to the heart of it. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Trust the French. They have a saying for everything. I know you've heard that one before, but maybe it takes living it a few times before it really means to you. I write for a living, but then everybody knows that. I've struggled in the past with whether I should continue to write Shape because when I write Shape I'm not writing my other projects, maybe the ones that people outside internet lands respect more, maybe the ones that may someday help me pay my grocery bill. In the end I decided that I'll damn well write whatever I want whenever I want. I value the freedom to work on what I want to work on, and if the thing I want to work on at the moment happens to be something for Shape or for FF fandom, then that's what I'm going to work on.

So I guess what I'm here to say is: this ain't the end, if for some reason you were hopin' it was. When I started Shape I intended it as a stage-setter. It does nothing more but put the pieces in place for the story I really wanted to write when I started. So if you feel like there are things left unfinished by the end of Shape, that's because there are. There are supposed to be. This is by no means the end. If you're upset because you've been waiting forever for closure, then be my guest and make up whatever closure you want. I think one of the pleasures of fandom is seeing what it is that people do with your work once it's out there. If you're ready for more, then great, we're both on the same page.

And remember, it ain't over even when the fat lady tells you it's over, in song.

Otherwise, people reading Shape with an ear for Final Fantasy will find that there are bizarre references crammed into every corner. If you think it's a reference from Final Fantasy Tactics? It is. Considering who our supporting cast is, there are several references to FFIV. I also throw in references to FFVII, VIII, and IX whenever possible, because I am just kind of like that. Leviathan has ever been my favorite summon in any game, across fantasies. I was sorely disappointed when he was not in FFX. But then, my loss was your gain, right? Now I spend most of my time pretending he actually is in FFX because that suits me.

Here at the end, there are some things I need to go back and change for consistency. Just little things ultimately, to make it mesh more with my understanding of FFX and the backstory of Spira as it stands now. I'm sure you can pick them all out, if you want to be picky, and I know I'll get around to fixing them, along with the terror has wrought upon the formatting of the earlier chapters by declaring war on anything that isn't an alphanumeric. I imagine they'll start outlawing extraneous punctuation next. Changes from the beauteous good old days aside, I'll keep posting my work here since this seems to be the best place to get it to as many people as possible.

Remember that I write primarily for all of you. I'd like to take this moment to thank everyone who has ever read Shape, everyone who has ever reviewed it, everyone who has ever recced it anywhere, or just told their friends about it. Thank you. I really appreciate it. All of you make my heart full. Shape started as a little story that no one much cared about, written on a bet, written for giggles, and maybe it changed into something that made a lot of people happy, or maybe just made a lot of people roll around laughing. If it did, that makes me happy. If it did, you should be proud because you had a hand in making it the way it is too. Please continue to let me know what you think about this story whenever you cross paths with it again. Every note someone leaves for me is another drop in my bucket of happiness.

If you do like my stuff enough that you think you'd like to read my original fiction, then please get in touch with me through the magic of email and I'll arrange for it. I'd be more than happy to share it and I'd like to think that some of you might enjoy it. Hey, it has a stoic guy in a red coat. I am just guessing here.

In other words, hold my hand. In other words, darling kiss me.

It's been a great ride guys, and I hope it keeps going for a good long while.

Catch you on the flipside,





What did Rikku steal from Ashura? I bet you want to know.