Gippal has over looked the fact that you can't walk off an island.

Which is necessary if one wants to leave Besaid.

And with his precious airship gone, there's no way out of this forsaken place save for by boat, and this very premonition is enough to send Gippal into a corner to soil his pants accordingly.

Not to say I'd mind, of course. Gippal piddling in his pants is something I'd gladly sell half my vital body organs to witness, but water seems to send the man into some sort of catatonic like stupor where he's incapable of breathing let alone pissing, so I doubt the feat will be performed any time soon.

Though the look on his face right then was priceless.

The lure of all the gil in Spira could not compare to the milky sheen gracing my pilot's visage as he gaped in horror and stood on a rickety dock, swaying ever so precariously in the wind, surrounded by water on all three sides and me on the other.

He was clutching his lone flask of vodka like some kind of alcoholic life line and I was mindlessly fiddling with the previously radish strewn Comm Sphere wondering when to try dialing into the Celsius again, because it felt like I was becoming border line obsessive.

The boat we were assigned to travel to Kilika was monstrous in size and almost as big as the island itself. (When the ship is larger than its destination, that's when you know you have a problem.) Gippal had spent the better part of the day scowering around for a spare power converter but—come on—it's Besaid here, people. They're too busy building sand castles and knitting blankets and cooking pot luck suppers to even know what a power converter is, let alone happen to have a spare one up their ass.

I think he was just trying to avoid the ocean.

The scary, big, blue thing that it is.

Tidus was contemplating hiding under the dock just to jump out and yell 'boo!'

Yuna, sensing tension, offered to change into her thieve dress sphere and this seemed to dim Tidus' enthusiasm (well, at least for taunting the immaculate Gippal) and aroused an entirely different one, thus he became preoccupied for the better part of the morning.

This left me alone to pester whoever I could find and perhaps mediate or try Pilates.

Needless to say, mediating for me always lead to some rather terrifying results, and while some people are able to picture themselves in some tranquil, picturesque environment sipping a martini and turning golden under the sun, all I could ever think about was random, inexplicable things that made no sense to no one. Even me.

So today it happened to be Auron.

And that is usually where my mind travels when at a lack of better places to go, and it's not because I secretly revered him as some sort of father figure (already had one of those) or clandestinely harbored an unyielding romantic passion for a man who scarcely knew I was alive (already had one of those, too.) It's just that everything he said became more poignant after he died, ya know? Like all of the sudden he was full of wisdom and knowledge just because he got sent to the Farplane.

So. Well. I guess we can commence a flashback now.

"So why the fear of the Farplane?"

(Also commence the first words Auron ever said to me; or acknowledged my existence.)

"It's icky."

"That isn't a very well thought out explanation."

"You didn't say it had to be thought out."

Shift. Groan. Insert some unscripted grumbling here.

"You're avoiding the question."

I squinted at this, because usually, when I attempt to be vaguely cryptic about something, the men of my family know to leave well enough alone. Either that or they're too dense to pick up on it—or simply do not care, as is the case with certain bleach head pilots.

At any rate, I was not used to being analyzed like this.


"So when most people pose a question, they expect to receive an answer."

"Well what if I don't wanna give you one? Huh? You ever think about that?"

Needless to say, I was not a fan of Auron when I first met him. He was assisting in my cousin's suicide. I mean, so was I, but he was big time assisting. I at least had to be persuaded.

"Why the fear of the Farplane?" he repeated.

It was then that I chose to note that Guadosalam was typically eerie and vacant. There were never enough people—or Guado—milling about. They all stayed locked up in their tree-trunk-meets-granite homes playing Solitaire or something. This left me at the mercy of Auron who was at the mercy of the Farplane. And neither of us was exactly happy about it.

"Neeeeeh, let it go already, will ya?"

Auron chewed this over for a moment, and then finally came back with, "Alright, then would you like to propose a subject?"

I huffed at the absurdity. Why was he being so persistent? Why was a fifty thousand year old man resorting to bugging me?

"I…I dunno! I don't like dead people, alright?"

And at this he twitched, but I don't think I realized it then.

"And why is that?"

"Because once they're dead…they're dead! You can't bring them back! So what's the point in gawking at their pyreflies? It's just a bunch of bugs and magic and…and crap. That's what it is. Crap."

"…Most people prefer to call them memories."

"Well then memories are crap. Because they're just memories."

I thought the conversation would flat line there. It didn't.

"But would you rather have none at all?"

And that will forever be what I hate about Auron: the relentless way he pursued you until you were made to face all those things you would rather leave under your bed or in your closet or in a drawer with your bad yearbook photos.

"Why do you even care?" I finally asked, crossing my arms over my concave chest. I'd like to say it's developed since then but it hasn't.

"All men should pay this much heed to a woman."

I full out gawffed at that one, because, hello, Auron here. He uses words like they're rations during a cold war.

"Why? You certainly don't."

Auron began scrubbing his temple this way and that, trying to resist the urge to strangle me, I'm sure. The stupid blond bimbo with and unnatural fear of lightening and a penchant for sticky fingers and a tendency to gargle her hi-potions and—

"Yes I do," he began finally, voice like rocks and face like plaster. "You just don't listen."

"Listen?!" I shrieked, my voice echoing off the rocky sides of Guadosalam like an air raid siren warning the inhabitants of an oncoming frontal assault. "Auron, you never say anything!"

At this, the man heaved a sigh, so heavy it could probably crush me with the sheer power of its dead weight.

"Rikku. Who said it had to be audible?"


So we're back at the dock again.

Gippal was shivering like a lost puppy, trepidation marking his every step as he inched closer and closer to the boat that was to take us to Kilika.

"If you go any slower you'll be going backwards," Tidus chided from the shore, the merry couple of love and prosperity there to wave us off as we ventured to lands we knew only too well.

"I think that's his intent," Yuna muttered to her husband, elbowing him gently. "He doesn't seem too keen on leaving the desert in the first place." I noticed she was now wearing her gunner's dress sphere. Much more modest. Well. In comparison.

I was stuck behind the immovable Gippal, swaying from side to side in impatience. I swear, there are glaciers in Gagazet that move faster than him.

"He is aware the water is only three feet deep, right?" Tidus whispered to his wife, who was about three seconds away from grabbing some pom poms out of hammer space and cheering our tragic hero on.

And hearing this sparked ideas anew.

"Gippal, if you're not on the boat by the time I count to five, I'm pulling out Machina Maw."

I think I saw Gippal's back tense. But only slightly.

"Rikku! Don't abuse your dress spheres!"

I looked dimly at my cousin.

I wanted to ask if using the white mage robe to cure hangovers counted in that arena.


Gippal inched forward slightly and then stopped.


No progress this time.


I think he was starting to turn around.

And. Well. That's never good. So I went into self preservation mode and did the only thing left to do: shove him over the edge.

Yuna screamed and Gippal gargled some very appeasing looking salt water while Tidus and I clawed at our sides.

I could tell my comrade was really freaked out by the fall because he wasn't seizing the opportunity to flail around wildly and beg Yuna for CPR. He sort of just sat there in a daze, the water only reaching his shoulders.

Giddiness taking a stronghold on me, I chipperly skipped the rest of the way down the dock and told Gippal to hurry it up before we missed the Ribbons Ceremony all together.

He emerged out of his stupor long enough to glare.


And I never took into account motion sickness.

Maybe because airships aren't prone to the same amount of turbulence, or maybe because Buddy flies like a dream. Either way, I was hacking up my pot luck now.

"Tomato juice, Cid's Girl?"

I dragged my head out of the toilet long enough to see a can of unopened tomato juice Gippal must have procured from some vagabond merchant intent on making my life a living hell.

"That's not even funny."

"Maybe I should try to steal the ship."

"Yeah, except I'm not piloting the ship, dummy, I'm riding it."

I knew before it even left my lips Gippal would have some witty comment in reserve for the word 'ride.'

And as it goes, once he's buoyant, Gippal seems to regenerate his annoying habits, one by one, until he is at full operating capacity, one hundred percent dumb ass.

"So whaddya got in there, anything good?"

Gippal indicated the porcelain with the jab of a finger.

"Nothing I can identify," I answered honestly. "Wanna take a look?"

"Think I'll pass. But maybe I'll take a rain check."

And. Hell. I was sea sick. I was prone to laugh at anything. Even that. As lame as it may be.

"I thought you sailed on ships all the time," Gippal noted, taking a seat next to me on the hard wood floor. For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why, except that perhaps he wanted to revel in my misery as a sort of twisted pay back for shoving him in the kiddy pool. Which he totally deserved, by the way.

"Yeah, but our Al Bhed ships are built, like, way totally better that this!"

Gippal chuckled.

"The gentle rocking doesn't put you to sleep, now does it kid?"

I veered and returned to my toilet bowl.

"Why are you so happy all of the sudden?" I questioned, voice echoing off the sides of my prison.

"Vodka," Gippal answered simply.

"Can I—"

"All gone."


"I hate you. With an uppercase H. I just wanted to let you know that before I die."

"Plan on suffocating on a wad of your own vomit?"

"Drowning in this piss water, maybe."

"That's a hell of a way to go."

And as I dragged my head out of the toilet again, I realized, with a shot of adrenaline, that Gippal was seeing me as a spewing, puking mess, and this didn't seem to phase him.

My hair was limp. My lips were chapped. My eyes were glazed. My snot was evident. Why didn't this turn him off? Why was he acting as though I was still…normal?

You can only pull that off if you're really turned on by somebody or really turned off.

'Or really in love.'

Auron, shut up. I gave you your spotlight already. Wait until next chapter.

"So you think the poisoned tomato juice was a plot to kill your father?"

I watched Gippal regard his beverage skeptically for a while.

"If it was poison then you'd be dead."

The man paused for a moment, lost in his own reverie.

"Dammit. Didn't think of that."

I smirked into my vomit.

"I think it's fairly evident I'm the brains of this operation, now isn't it?"

I said it without thinking and preferred not to hear Gippal's witty retort, so I returned to the shelter of the toilet.

After five minutes of silence, and therefore a retort-less Gippal, I slowly raised my head so that I was eye level with the rim of the bowl.

"So how come you're not laughing at me?" I asked softly, almost timidly, fearing the answer so much I wondered why I posed the inquiry in the first place.

"Who says I'm not?" he replied, avoiding eye contact, and taking great interest in the tomato juice.


He rolled his eyes at this.

"Yeah, that much I gathered, sweetheart."

"Well it could have been the voices in your head," I argued weakly.

"Like the crickets from last night?"

"No, no, no, last night was Auron, I told you that already."

"The Dead Guy?"

"Yes, Gippal. The Dead Guy. You're lucky we're not all so fond of referring to people by their short comings or you would forever be known as Cyclops."

"…And I'm sure there's plenty of people with a vast array of nick names stocked up for you, too, kid."

"Wait, hold up," I panicked. "I feel Pot Luck emerging."

Gippal patiently waited for me to finish hurling out my guts before carrying on.

"I'm laughing on the inside," he informed me.

At this, I was genuinely confused. So much so I almost reached up and scratched my head for emphasis, but I refrained seeing as though only gods know what those Besaid people put in their conditioner, and I didn't want any dandruff making its way to my bare shoulders. In case you haven't already figured this out, us Al Bhed have some very intense shampoo where we come from. That's probably why Gippal's hair can defy gravity in triple degree heat and mine looks hydrated even in the desert.

('This is so not good for my roots,' Yunie had complained upon returning to the desert sometime ago on one of our nondescript ventures. Paine offered to chop some of her precious hair off with her mega emo sword of doom—gods, I think it even had a skull emblazoned on it—and that shut my cousin up quite nicely. 'You think that's bad,' I had muttered. 'You should have seen her do before the make over.')

"Laughing on the inside? Laughing at wha—oh, you mean from before!"

I was so proud of my newly drawn parallel I wanted to applaud myself. Or something.

"Why do you always do that?" I finally questioned. "Hop around a conversation like the words are hot coals and you're doing the moon walk in bare feet?"

"Um, I've never heard it worded like that—"

He was paused with the aid of a finger shot directly at his lips as I garbled up whatever was left of Yuna's supper into the toilet.

"Flushing would be a good idea right about now."

"Stop avoiding my question. Why are you so conversationally schizophrenic?"

"Conversationally—Rikku, what? You're not even making any sense."

"I dehydrate easily. And we're surrounded by sea water."

This was of no intelligence to Gippal, as was clearly evident by facial expression, or lack thereof.

"Get it? You can't drink sea—"

"Yeah, I get it. And you can't be conversationally schizophrenic either."

"There! Right there! You did it again! You cut me off and ran on with another topic!"

"That you chose!"

I paused. He had got me there.

"Well…well… so what? I was right, wasn't I?"

"Says who?"

"Me and my pot luck."

"…It's talking to you now, huh?"

"Well, it does right before it comes out," I admitted truthfully. Someday I will learn that not all men want blatant honesty when they ask a question. Unlike Tidus, who practically petitioned you on whether or not you did number one or number two behind the bushes in the Calm Lands. But that was two years ago. I like to pretend he's matured.

"Is that really tomato juice?" I finally asked, voice horse with effort.

"Why? You interested?"

"Hell, no. Bored, is more like it."

"Then no, it's not really tomato juice. Just some carbonated soda pop that was conveniently cherry in flavor. Gotta love that artificial red dye, now don't ya kid?"

My strategically placed 'muck foo' was once again distorted due to inconveniently placed physical surroundings. One of these days I'll spit the profanity out articulately.

"By the way, you never answered my question, Mr. Smart Ass. Why aren't you laughing?"

"By the way, Miss Anal Retentive, you never really wanted an answer."

I choked on air. Air, I tell you. Friggin air.

"How…how could you possibly know—"

"Facial expression," he offered simply, tossing the soda pop from out monstrous hand to the other. They must be good for tinkering with things. Or tuning into his girlfriend's chest radio. (Though, I had to admit, he did have exquisitely long, delicate fingers that even got me a little hot under the collar—except that I don't ware a collar, and therefore you are obliged to forget everything I just said.)

"Gippal, my face was in the toilet."

"Who says I needed to see it to know it was there?"

I huffed.

"Not everything is obvious, kid. Learn to not take people at face value."

And there he goes and ruins it. See? See? We're having a decent bonding moment—nothing like the kind I used to have on the Celsius but whatever, it's Gippal—and then he goes and says something so utterly moronic it's a wonder he has more teeth than brain cells to begin with.

"Don't patronize me!" I whined, self sabotaging my own point before it ever left my mouth. "I'm not shallow, Gippal! I'm not…I'm not like you!"

"…You're distorting again," he dead panned, messaging his temples, in total Auron like fashion.

"I am not! And why would—hey! What do you mean again?"

Gippal scratched behind his neck, the only sign of awkward confrontation he ever permitted himself to show.

"I think we're done here."

"Nu-uh! We were just fine…until you came along and ruined it all!"

He opted the high road and chose not to comment. I didn't realize how gracious that was of him until later that night when I was rocking myself into epileptic fits of psychotic sea sickness in my bunker when it finally dawned on me just how totally brainless I had previously sounded.

(I choose to blame the subconscious influence of Tidus. You should too.)


And it's not like I'm totally one dimensional, ya know?

Just, maybe, more honest than most. And I expect people to be honest in return. Not anything wrong with that. Not anything at all. (And there's nothing wrong with saying there's nothing wrong with your logic, either.)

And, Gippal? Please. He couldn't be more faux if he traipsed a catwalk. (Though, funny, for someone I claim has build such magnificently ornate facades, I am quick to say he is but one dimensional.)

And maybe if he'd just shut up for once, not…not spill everything out there wide in the open. But maybe it's not quite that either, because he actually does have this weird, reserved side about him I haven't quite figured out. It's more like he feels the need to fill in every awkward silence with something so empty it would have been more profound with an inserted ellipses. Because then at least we could pretend he was brooding. Or, gods forbid, even thinking. But brooding is sexier. (Sorry, Shinra.)

And, come to think of it, he couldn't even pull that off right. He wouldn't brood, he'd sulk. He'd turn it all around and vacuum all the potential sexiness out of it. Auron could brood. He could brood like nobody's business. But…Wakka? Just some award winning sulking going on there, folks. And maybe Gippal falls somewhere in the middle, because at least he has the foresight to surround himself with machina whilst angsty and therefore made himself somewhat useful on various occasions (like, say, with the making of that kick ass gun he used to carry around ever since Sin wiped out Home for the first time. That was some serious angst put to good use. All Wakka ever did was chase a ball around. Loser.)

(Though Tidus wasn't much better.)

Then again, Tidus just got loud. And cried a lot more than your average male normally should. The worse the situation grew, the louder Tidus got, and that's how you knew you were really in trouble. At least until it surpassed the sound barrier and Tidus actually went mute. That's when you were royally screwed. So screwed even Auron may feel compelled to say something. Something like: 'Pray. Now.' Or 'Make haste!'

All I even did was call fiends 'poopie face' or 'big meanies.'

Yuna prayed to dead gods that didn't exist and Lulu spit out profanities in long forgotten eastern languages, except that Auron still remembered them but wouldn't let on lest we figure out how old he really was. Half way through our venture, when the undead shit hit the fan, he actually started to respond to her verbal cyanide and the two held wonderfully clandestine conversations over our heads in the battle field. Many a comment was directed at Tidus, but I think I got a couple of my own words, too. I'd shoot things back in Al Bhed but that was no biggie, cuz everyone knows Al Bhed, except for Wakka, because he's a stubborn prat who refuses. (And also Tidus, at the time, because of, ya know, Sin's Toxin and all. Or should I say preggo brain? Futuristic preggo brain. There we go.)

And I don't quite know what Gippal does under stress. I never fought beside him.

He, I dunno, flirts? Sleeps around? Resorts to butt sex given his lack of female companions on the battle field? (Note to self: never ask Paine.)

But seriously—what did he do? Was he all macho or all sullen or all stupid or all what?

Gods, now I want to go kill something with him just to gauge a reaction.

I need therapy. Like, seriously.


I was still main streaming pot luck the next morning.

"Gods, Rikku, you didn't eat that much pot luck to begin with."

"How do you know, huh? You weren't there. I seem to recall you getting kicked out—oh, gods, gonna blow—"

"That way," Gippal directed, shoving me towards the side of the boat. Kilika was on the horizon. Which was swaying. And therefore inducing more pot luck spewing glee.

"Hey, I've got an idea. Aim at oncoming fishing vessels and let's see if we can hit them starboard."

"…You disgust me, Gippal."

"You're the one drooling spit up, darling."

"At least The Pest didn't face paint me with it."

Gippal paused, racking his recent memory as to who The Pest was.

"Ya know, for a guy who assigns lame ass nick names to everything…"

"Not babies!" he chided, suddenly all pious and righteous and up in my face.

"The ones you can't pork, at least."

"…Those are babes," he corrected after a respective silence, in which he probably had some intense mental imagery going on in his frontal lobe. I'm glad his skull was in the way.

"And what do they call you, pray tell?"

I started to regret asking the minute Gippal started to flirt with smirking.

"The Love Machina 3000."

"Gods Gippal!" I squealed. "You serialize your libido!?"

"Not me. Them."

A pair of totally trashy teenage skank whores walked by us in a wave of perfume and hair spray, eyeing Gippal's body for every ab that it was worth. They then seductively licked their lips and him and started to unbutton their blouses.

Really? No. They were just two normal girls who happened to be unfortunate enough to be within ear shot of Gippal. But they had bigger chests than me, so that automatically makes them slutty.

"Jealous much?" Gippal queried, after noticing my line of envious vision.

"Am not!"

"Well it's either that or you're gay."

"Comparison, Gippal. Like you haven't done it."

"I don't gawk at things that are capable of possessing their own orbit. Anything bigger than a handful is a waste."

I fought my bile twice over. Sometimes I think he intentionally tries to turn me off.

"Too much information, Love Machina 3000."

"Again I feel the need to point out: not my words. Yours."


"Not me."


"If you say so, Cid's Girl." Pause. "Have I mentioned how good that Vodka tasted last night?"

See? He would have been better off with an ellipses.

"It wouldn't have stayed down."

Another smirk. "You'd be surprised at what you can swallow."

At this, I grew so disgusted I just threw him overboard.


No, he wasn't happy about it, and yes, I was probably going to pay, but not right now. Why? Because Kilika is made up primarily of docks. With the exception of the jungle which is where Gippal swears he got some of his Crimson Sphere training. (Total turd to that, by the way. Which has a nice ring to it, now that I think about it.)

I finally, after nineteen, long, laborious years, had the upper hand in this quasi abusive relationship. I was finally empowered with the gift of dominance and I could finally steer this boat into whatever port I wanted to. Why? Because Gippal, in all his unnatural fear of water, had temporarily forgotten just how mad he was at me a scant five minutes ago and was now clutching the edge of my scarf while whimpering like a kicked puppy left out in the rain for far too long.

Okay, so maybe he wasn't whimpering, but he was clutching my scarf. My scarf! Of all things! (Though I suppose it's better than, say, my hand.)

Is it wrong to be nineteen and never have held a guy's hand?

No. No, I don't think so.

(At least I don't until I start thinking about how my cousin is married and pregnant, but, gods, what is family for?)

Anyhow. That whole tirade aside.

The thing I have over looked about Kilika: sluts.

Tramps. Vapid whores. Skanks. Hoes.

All of the above.

Okay, I'm gonna point something out here, folks. I wear pants. Yes, yes I do. A top? Well, that's debatable. But pants? I cover my hind quarters up, thank you very much. And that's with my dehydration condition.

But these Kilika prostertots?

Well. There's nary a scrap of fabric up north or down south.

And I suppose, logically speaking, it makes sense. They are surrounded by water, after all. But but but – is it really necessary to go grocery shopping in a frickin' bikini?

I'm sure the tomatoes appreciate it very much.

(And the bananas – ha ha ha; double entendre, for the win.)

(I've been hanging around Gippal too long.)

Speaking of which, Gippal seemed to forget all about his innate fear of H20 the minute the first beach bunny ever so impeccably decided to…hop…in front of him.

"Gippal, what are you doing?" I queried, watching him dish out elevator eyes to every female passerby.

"Window shopping," he answered simply, then resumed this very daunting task.

I chose not to grace him with the courtesy of a response. He probably couldn't comprehend my very scintillating repertoire anyway.

"What? No smart ass comment, Trampie?"

"Yeah. You're…you're a giant poopie head!"

Scintillating, I tell you. Scintillating.

"I smell jealousy."

"And I smell BO, when's the last time you showered?"

That had to be the most blatant lie in all of history – the man wore enough cologne and deodorant to suffocate anyone with even a remote respiratory disorder.

"Alone?" he asked, as if I really wanted to know.

I went to push him over the side of the dock once again, only I had forgotten he had chosen to latch onto my scarf sometime ago.

So this time, I tumbled down with him.


I'm not a jealous person. Not really.

I mean – well, okay – sort of.

Alright, alright. So I get a little envious from time to time, who doesn't?

Let's not forget who made Shadow Prancing a practical career in light of following around the super star summoner of Spira. (Who could sing, on top of it all. Was it not enough that she was able to save the world from complete and utter destruction? Did she really have to go out and get a record deal too?)

And the dance moves. Let's not forget the dance moves.

Ya know, Paine and I were supposed to be the original back up dancers. No – really. Betchya didn't know that, did ya? Yeah – we were going to get matching dress spheres and all that shiz, but for some reason, the deities that may or may not exist decided dancing would not be a skill I could add to my ever lacking itinerary. Paine's, either. But that was pretty much a given. She's much more apt to sulking around with a quixotic expression adorning her features, or simply beating the crap outta something. She's not one to hand jive and fox trot, ya know?

(Brother was always pretty good at hand jiving, now that I think about it. Tried to make it an intermediate school sport. But the team consisted of only me, Brother, and Buddy. Needless to say, we never got very far. I say we were ahead of our time. The rest of the class said we were out of our minds. Both are plausible, in my opinion.)

But back to what I was saying – I think it's normal to be jealous. I do. It's part of…of having a uterus. Of having estrogen. Of having frickin hormones, for gods' sake. Guys are competitive and girls are envious. It's as simple as that. (Unless you are Shinra, in which case we were never really sure what to make of him. I mean, he claimed he was a guy, but never really got into the whole 'I'm better than you' charade that seems to characterize most men to the grave. We always assumed he was of the male persuasion, but none of us had actually seen proof of the penis. Perhaps he was dressing in drag all this time. Who knows? Nothing ruffled his chocobo feathers. I don't think that's normal.)

(Besides, there must have been a reason he never took that mask off.)

Now I'm debating the gender validity of my team mates. See what lack of intelligent conversation does to a girl?

We retreat. We close up. We freak in.

Guys freak out.

Gippal was proving this fact right now.

"So. Um. Luca. Tomorrow?" he suggested, though not really, because the luster of said beach bunnies had worn off some time ago, say when he fell back into the water for the millionth time. He derived little satisfaction from dragging me down with him.

"Why are boobs so important?" I finally questioned, sitting down on the lush foliage that made up the better half of Kilika. The jungle was dense and humid, just like I remembered it. Little had changed in that regard, and I figured this much was good. I was still getting over the fact such a lattice work of boardwalks and shops had emerged from a town that was pretty much demolished the first time the world was nearly annihilated. You would think Shuyin would have made a pit stop here on his happy road to self destruction just to make a point – like, hey, you can rebuilt all you want, suckers, but this is still my domain – and then proceed to blow it all to the Farplane. Again. Because that's what bad guys do. They blow stuff.

…Ahem. Ignore that, please.

"Boobs?" Gippal reiterated, like he hadn't heard me. He did, for the record. I know he did. He just likes having an excuse to say the word 'boobs.'

"Yes, Gippal. Those lovely little things women sport on their chest."


I heaved a sigh that could have toppled over a couple trees, given the right direction and general weakness of the bark.

"Do you even bother to have conversations with your penile conquests?"

"Not unless they initiate it."

"I somehow doubt that. Even you aren't that shallow."

"Wanna bet?"

I debated this internally for a moment.

"No. I don't have the gil."

"Well, there ya go then."

I chewed on the corner of my lip. It wasn't glossed and it wasn't lush and it wasn't even anything remotely remarkable. It was simply there. So much for eye candy.

"This is me trying to initiate a conversation," I pointed out, in case this point was somehow floating over his spiky blond head.

"And this is me trying to ignore it."

The sun was setting, and it was beautiful and lovely and all that crap, but romantic sight seeing doesn't hold the same 'oomph' when you're laying idly next to a guy who's IQ is smaller than his shoe size.

Shadows were dancing across our bodies, provided in part by the vast array of trees engulfing our make shift campsite (for we were too cheap to stay at an inn – or at least, that's what Gippal claims. In reality, we all know he simply did not want to have naught but a measly piece of plywood and a mattress between him and the deadly, dangerous ocean.)

There was no bonfire, because there was no need for one.

It really was just the two of us sprawled out on our backs in the middle of the jungle, waiting for night to envelope us with its stars and characteristic chill.

I was trying to spark a verbal exchange.

Gippal was trying to doze off before the sun did.

"Why didn't you want to go to the Ribbons Ceremony?"

"Nergh," was his intelligent reply.

I waited a couple beats.

"And why are barely clothed skanks so appealing? Do you really think they'd make good mothers?"

And, of course, this is the line of questioning Gippal chose to comment on.

"Confidence is hot, Trampie." A pause. "And it is something you definitely don't have."

I snorted, resounding and irreverent.

"And how could I when I've got dick wads like you constantly putting me down?"

"Ya see, a smart girl would know how to handle that."

"Enlighten me. How would a smart girl handle it?"

"By kicking my ass," he offered simply.

I startled. "Pifft. I could so kick your ass."

Gippal seemed to smirk a little at this last line.

"Alright then," he breathed, getting up and stretching in a lame attempt to circulate blood back to his lousy excuse for a brain. "Let's go."

"Wait, what?"

"You. Me. Let's go. Right now."

I was unaware if he was referring to a fist fight or intercourse.

"…You mean, like, battle?"

"Sure. Why not."

My brow furrowed together.

"What's in it for me?"

"Well, you mean besides the opportunity to give me a free ass kicking?" Gippal laughed. "You, um, need more incentive than that?"

"No, not really," I mused, taking this into serious contemplation. "But I do want a conversation."

"…About what?"

"About whatever I decide I want a conversation on, that's what."

"And what will that be?"

I paused. "I dunno yet. I'll let you know when I figure it out."

Gippal looked me over with his good eye, though it wasn't in the same elevator manner he was providing all the other girls with earlier that day.

"This is bull. You just want an excuse to grope me."

"Now that's my incentive," he admitted. "You're the one who chose philosophizing over a nice little roll in the hay."

"First of all, there's an obvious lack of hay anywhere on this island," I pointed out. "And second of all, I prefer my guys with balls that hang."

Gippal didn't have a witty comeback for that one.

"Yeah, you're not the only one who can demolish self esteem. So how does it feel to be talked about like a piece of meat?"

"Pretty nice, actually," he said. "Must mean I look tasty."

"Who says I'd eat you?" I grumbled. "Maybe I'd just char your ass over a campfire."

"Funny how you chose my ass over various other parts of my body."

"…Anything done to your face would be a definite improvement."

"Aw, Rikku," Gippal admonished. "You can do better than that."

I paused. I probably could.

"Alright, well, let's get this ass kicking over and done with."

I jumped to my feet, readying my daggers of merry mayhem and destruction.

Gippal started to load his phallic symbol of a gun he was using as a temporary pillow beforehand.

"Knives aren't gonna do much good as far as bullets are concerned."

He idly began to pop some ammunition into his chamber.

"Yeah, but you forgot about the time it takes to reload."

I then flew through the air and made an attempt for his jugular. He thwarted me off with the butt of his gun, sending me orbiting into a near by bush just full of lovely thorns and thistles. If I didn't know any better, I'd say his nonchalance was planned.

Except for the fact that he lost his grip on the handful of bullets he was trying ever so effortlessly to load.

I leaped back up and once again made for another attack, only this time I went for his knees, because I had no desire to have my cranium cracked again.

Let it be known: Gippal can kick.

Maybe he should have been Yuna's back up dancer.

Gods know he's got the hips for the job.

(And he's always jutting them this way and that, like it's of some extreme form of sexiness to be able to toss around your torso on any given whim. Personally, I found it rather feminine. And so did Paine, for the record.)

The light was fading, and I could opt to go with stealth, except you and I both know me and stealth are on worse terms than me and Wakka, so that made a surprise attack from behind out of the question.

But not necessarily a piggy back.

I latched myself onto Gippal's broad shoulders, debating where to drive the tip of my knife into his flesh. Nothing mortally wounding, of course, but perhaps enough to leave a scar or two. He could do with a couple marks that didn't originate from the bedroom.

"You rabid monkey fiend," he hissed, as I grabbed a fistful of hair and unwittingly locked myself around him. "Ha; you just wanted to wrap your legs around me, now didn't you sweetheart?"

I responded by slitting the back of his platoon pants.

I did him a favor. Purple was not the man's color.

"Aw gods, you little bitch!"

"…Out of curiosity, what is it that women find attractive about you, Gippal? 'Cuz it's not your chivalry, that's for certain."

I released the cyclops from my grip of doom, letting the gentle night breeze do my talking for me.

I stretched out on my back, propping my head up on my forearm as I watched Gippal dance around in circles, trying to gauge the severity of the incision.

"Great – now I'm gonna have to go shopping."

I love how he has perfected the art of saying shopping like some third world disease.

"And what could be worse than that, I wonder?"

He grumbled yet another excerpt in some language I did not know, and after much tossing and turning, opted to simply sit down on his now exposed hindquarters.

He then made a very unappealing face.

"Gah, dew!"

I giggled myself into a fit of hysterics, liable to split open my sides and spill visceral fluid onto the floor.

"I'd say I won. One conversation to go, please."

"Wasn't official. We didn't sign anything."

I dead panned.

"And is that the best you can come up with?"

Gippal swallowed at the repetition of his own line.

"I have that patented, ya know. You can't use it."

"I just did."

I followed up my little act of rebalance by simply turning around and going to sleep.

What? It's not like the man could sue.


My thoughts on Kilika?


It's a double edged sword. It's got enough water to make Gippal revert back to the age of five. At the same time, it's got enough harlots to make any girl with an ounce of estrogen feel inferior, even if they are prancing around in a neon yellow bra.

(Which is really all it is, when you get right down to it.)

But – hey – I wear pants!

Which is where I kept the Comm. Sphere. In my pants.

Wow, that sounded disconcerting. I meant in my pockets.

It's a good thing Gippal does not have access to my internal monologues.

Not that I don't resort to saying half of them out loud, anyway.

Dial. Dial. Buzz. Twerp. Bing. Boink. Dial. Dial.


"Does this piece of crap even work?" I asked rhetorically, for Gippal had disappeared sometime around the crack of dawn to look for a new set of suspenders to hide his crack of dawn. Seriously. He'd be better off meandering around in his boxers. His fashion sense? Zero. And he makes fun of my attire. (Or lack thereof.)

No. Apparently not. This thing does officially not work.

But, just to make sure: dial dial buzz twerp bing boink dial dial.


"Rikku? Where the hell are ya? That don't look like no desert."

"That's because I'm not in the desert, Pops. I'm in Kilika. On my way to the – "

"I thought I told ya to get your scrawny little white ass back here."

Since I had no ready excuse as to why I was traveling half way around the world with a man I utterly despise to take part in a ceremony I didn't even agree with, I changed the subject.

"I stabbed Gippal."

"Good gods Rikku – did ya kill him?!"

I rolled my eyes.

"I wish. No Pops – I just intensified his butt crack."

I was rather proud of that descriptive imagery. But I received no acolytes for the feat.

"Oh. Dat all? I was about to congratulate you on a job well done, too."


"Well don't I get some sort of brownie points for slashing his butt in two?"

"…It was already in two, Rikku. How else would his boyfriend manage to get up in there?"

"Okay. Pops. Ew. Like, majorly. Ew."

"Yeah, dat's wut you say now. Wait until tomorrow. You'll be quoting me on it."

"Will not."

Yeah. I probably would. It was a decent line, now that I think about it.

Probably accurate, too.

"Just remind him to bend over every once in a while, yeah? Show him who's boss. Just like I taught ya."

"To sexually exploit my enemies?"

"…Sumthin' like that. I kinda forget. But it sounds like sumthin' I would say, now don't it?"


And they wonder where I get it from.


"Why are we talkin' again?"

"It's what fathers and daughters do, Pops. Converse. Occasionally."

"We could converse just fine if ya came back home."

"I will, don't worry."

"Yeah? That's what you said last time, and then you went out and started up that concubine of yours. You're probably recruiting for a new one right now, as we speak. Gods know Yuna won't be able to return, what with her baby poppin' goodness and all."

"…I'm turning off the Comm. Sphere now."

"Wait – I ain't done wit ya! Don't you touch that button little missy – I said don't ya dare touch – "

Dial. Dial. Buzz. Twerp. Bing. Boink. Dial. Dial.

So much for that.

But for the life of me, where the hell was Brother? And Buddy? Did they crash into Mt. Gagazet or something? (A possible option, now that I think about it.)

"Where's my brother?" I wondered out loud, hearing footsteps behind me and rightfully assuming it was everyone's favorite little man whore of the century.

"Probably out getting laid. Gods know that's what I'd be doing if I finally got rid of you."

I didn't try to initiate eye contact. I might have barfed.

"You wouldn't bother to get rid of me, Gippal. You'd just lock me in the broom closet."

"Actually, that's where I was planning on doing it…"

I didn't bother to point out the lack of logistics concerning a broom closet and its severe impediment to dexterity. Even a virgin knows that. Seriously.

It's like some fetish held among all young males of the world. Must do it in a broom closet. And where, I ask, is the romance in that? Answer: there is none. Kind of like the kitchen table.

(You eat off that thing, for gods' sake! Buddy would have a heart attack.)

(Then again, he's anal enough to do it in the bed, and nowhere else.)

(I'm all up for a little adventure – but not the kitchen table or the broom closet.)

(Why are we discussing this?)

"Get some new pants, Cyclops?"

"Does it look like I got new pants?"

I risked a glance over my bare naked shoulder to see that, indeed, Gippal had finally altered his color scheme to black instead of purple. Now he looked reasonably heterosexual.

I should get a Noble Peace Prize for inspiring this feat.

He actually looked…well…hot.

Ahem. I mean temperature wise, of course. Humid mornings in Kilika. Always has and always will be. Right? Right.

"The boat leaves in three hours," Gippal pressed on, his left hip characteristically jutting to the side. He seemed to perform the latter whenever there was a pause in the conversation. Gippal doesn't seem to take well to silences. Unless he's flying his stupid ship. Then he's all serious business.

"You think it's gonna take us three hours to get back to the docks?"

No answer.

"Well," I began, pondering. "With you it might…"

I received another glare, though it was a gossamer version, and therefore really didn't bother me, as I stood up, modest pants and all, and tagged along a hesitating aeropilot who was at home with the clouds, just not with the ocean.

"I'm practically a nun compared to these other girls," I pointed out as we approached the edge of the jungle.

"Yeah, definitely," came the scoff. "I can see your string thong poking through your short shorts. Nuns dig that. I bet they all wear neon yellow garments under their robes."

There was a pause in which we both recovered from at the exact same moment.

"We should totally ask Shelinda."

And – good gods – we actually laughed.


Author's Notes


Hopefully the length of this chapter will make up for the insane amount of time it took to compose it.

You can blame Gray once again for the update. She ventured off to college recently and this was her going away present.

Never mind that it was, like, two months late.

At any rate, I want to thank you all for these very helpful and very kind reviews you are all taking the time to leave. It means a lot that not only do you read my chicken scratch, you feel compelled to share your opinions, and I am truly grateful.

I was doing really well with review replies (a habit I am still getting into, for I started ficing before that option was available and therefore have a tendency to forget that such things are possible) until I went on an official NONSENSE hiatus. And now I forget who I replied to and who I did not. I think I got around seventy five percent of you. The other twenty five percent have permission to brandish me with pitch forks.

(Honestly, though, thank you one and all for the comments. I do truly appreciate such displays of benevolency. It makes me all warm and tingly inside.)

So, Luca is up next!

(And, in case you were wondering, yes, Auron's words were meant to parallel certain other male members of the story. Gee, wonder who.)

: Showers everyone in a plethora of cookies! :