Behind The Smiles

"You must be joking," said Paine.

"Nope!" Rikku giggled. "That constellation right there is the Rikku Constellation!"

"And just who told you that?" Paine asked, not believing it for a second.

"Brother did, of course!" Rikku informed her happily.

"Ah, then it must be true," came Paine's reply, her tone dripping with sarcasm.

The Celsius soared through the starry night sky, enroute to Bikanel Desert from Luca. The course was already locked in, and the airship proceed at a slower autopilot cruise, rather than the break-neck speed that Brother preferred to fly. Up on the top deck, Rikku and Paine were laying on their backs, watching the sky and the stars zoom past overhead.

"Are we there yet?" Rikku whined.

Paine rolled her eyes. "We'll be there by their morning time," she stated for what seemed like the millionth time. She sighed. "I've always wanted to ride an airship, but jetlag is such a pain."

Rikku started giggling again, but tried to muffle it. Paine turned her head slightly to see her fellow sphere hunter clasping both hands over her mouth as her whole body shook with laughter. "What's so funny?" she asked.

With that, Rikku lost the battle and burst into laughter. " 'Such a pain,'" she repeated. She sat up, still laughing, when she noticed Paine's blank expression. " 'Such a -- come on! Don't you get it? You called jetlag a pain and you name is Paine. Oh, come on, it's funny!"

Paine locked eyes with Rikku. "No. Its not funny," she told her friend. Like I've never heard that one before, she added silently.

Rikku's laugher stopped abruptly. "Well, I thought it was funny," she said dejectedly, and pouted.

"Wasn't there something you promised to tell me back in Luca?" Paine asked, trying to change the subject.

It suddenly became very quite on the deck of the Celsius, save for the rush of the wind and the hum of the engines. Paine sat up, and was about to repeat herself when she noticed a strangely somber and faraway look on Rikku's face.

"You remembered that, huh?" she asked quietly.

"Of course," Paine replied. "It's not everyday that you say something so worldly and downright wise."

Rikku folded her legs underneath her and crossed her arm over her chest. "You know, there's more to this Al Bhed than smiles and giggles, Paine!" she said crossly.

"Well don't get angry with me!" said Paine, more than a little defensive. "I was just --"

Rikku waved her explanation away. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you," she apologized. "It's just -- I've never actually spoken about this to anybody." She chuckled lightly. "Heck, I've never even said it out loud."

"So, do want to talk about it now?" Paine asked. "About this person you're connected to?"

The young thief shook her head vigorously. "Not yet," she said, her voice strangely serious. "Maybe there'll be a chance soon, but not now."

Paine gave her one of her best penetrating stares, and Rikku met her eyes, but said nothing more. "Well, alright then," she said at length. "Maybe when your ready. Then we'll trade secrets."

Rikku nodded and smiled, but it seemed off somehow.

Paine stood up, stretched, and started toward the lift.. "I'm going to head down to the cabin. Coming with?" she asked.

Rikku shook her head. "I'll be down in a few," she replied. Then in a somewhat cheerier voice she added: "Sleep tight!"

"Good night," was Paine's simple reply as she the door to the lift close behind her. She didn't see the flash of light as Rikku activated the Songstress Dressphere.

----------

On the bridge, Buddy was fiddling around at Shinra's station trying to access the Comsphere network to see what they could expect once they arrived at Bikanel. Unfortunately, the sphere at that location was inoperative, so she shut down the station and headed for the bed himself. Or at least he thought he did. As he stepped into the hallway, Shinra's station winked back on, and the monitor displayed a single message:

Sphere Screen: Online.

----------

Ok, Lenne, Rikku thought as she approached the front most part of the deck, the same place where Yuna had sang at her concert not so long ago, if you're really in there, help me find the words now.

With Celsius as her stage, and the night sky as her back drop; with the wind pulling and her hair and her skirt, Rikku raised the microphone up to her lips, and the words came.

"I have a smile
Stretched from ear to ear
To see you walking down the road
We meet at the lights
I stare for a while
The world around us disappears…"

Lost in the words and the feelings, Rikku didn't notice the swarm of pyreflies begin to flow from her outfit, as Lenne's spirit once again began to affect the sphere screen around the Celsius. Her eyes fluttered closed and all around her memories began to take shape. Only this time they were hears, and not Lenne's. Memories of a certain Pilgrimage two years past. Memories of a determination to save Yuna from herself, and the teachings of Yevon

Mostly though, just memories of Yuna.

"Its just you and me
On this island of hope
A breath between us could be miles
Let me surround you
My sea to your shore
Let me be the Calm you seek…"

The images spun around the screen as fast as they flashed through her minds eye. Rikku wanted to slow them down, examine and fully recall each one and treasure it, but decided not to. It seemed more fitting this way, a whirlwind of images of her favorite summoner, to match the whirlwind of emotions that her precious Yunnie stirred up inside her without even trying. Was it any wonder she was always so hyper and happy all the time? A small part of that was just Rikku being Rikku, but the fuel for those endless smiles and cheerful laughter and her numerous other cute little ways was her sweet cousin, Yuna.

"Oh and every time I'm close to you
There's too much I can't say
And you just walk away

And I forgot
To tell you, 'I love you'
And the night's too long
And cold here, without you
I grieve in my condition

For I cannot find the strength to say
'I need you so'"

It wasn't a matter of forgetting, Rikku knew. It just wasn't possible. The scene on the screen changed, now showing a quiet, wordless evening in Macalania Woods two yeas ago. The memory focused on a confused Yuna, having just discovered that everything she had believed, everything she had been ready to die for, had been a complete lie. Rikku wanted to go to her, but what could she have said? What would she have done? She was only 15, and couldn't even begin to relate to what Yuna was going through.

But he was there. He was knew what to say, knew what to do. And she watched from the treetops as Tidus took Yuna in his arms, and for one evening at least, was everything to her that she could never be.

And then he was gone. Erased like a dream upon waking. Rikku could still see is running leap form the airship as he began to fade away, could still hear Yuna's last words to him. Words she will never say to her, not the way she wanted to hear them. And she knew then, even at 15, that Yuna would never be quite the same after that.

That was why she brought Yuna that treasure sphere as soon as she discovered it. The distorted fuzzy image of someone who could be him was enough to bring happiness back to her face. And bring Yuna back into her everyday life.

"Oh and every time I'm close to you
There's too much I can't say
And you just walk away

And I forgot
To tell you, I love you
And the night's too long
And cold here without you
I grieve in my condition
For I cannot find the strength to say
'I need you so' "

The words and music that seemed to pour from her very soul, aided by the magic of the dressphere, slowly ebbed off into silence, and the sphere screen winked out once more. The suddenly lonely Al Bhed was again surrounded by the nighttime sky, and slowly collapsed to her knees. The microphone fell from her hand, and rolled of the edge of the airship. It fell for quite a ways before it exceeded the range of the dress here's magic and vanished in a halo of light. She opened her eyes to find her vision was swimming with tears. Surprised at herself, she wiped the tears away quickly, and tired her best to smile.

"Thanks, Lenne, I think I needed that," she said, half to herself. She stood up and headed back toward the lift, sphere-changing back to the thief sphere as she walked. Before she reached the door, the it suddenly opened, startling Rikku for a moment. She thought everyone was asleep! Did some one hear her? How was she going to explain this?

While her she struggled to come up with believable excuses, Yuna stepped off the lift, dressed in her night shirt and robe, rubbing the sleep out of one of her eyes. "Rikku!" she yawned in surprise. "Why are you still up?"

Rikku worked up her best 'I didn't do anything wrong, no sir,' smile. "I was actually just headed down. Guess I couldn't sleep. How about you Yunnie, why are you up already?"

Yuna shrugged. "I come up here a lot at night. It's a good place to think."

"Oh," Rikku replied. "Then you probably want to be alone."

Yuna looked uncomfortable. "If you wouldn't mind. I know its your brother's airship and all, but…"

Rikku made a big show out of shaking her head and waving her hands. "No, no, its ok, really! And besides, this is our airship; it belongs to the Gullwings, remember?

"Thanks, Rikku," Yuna said with a smile.

"Well," Rikku said as she headed on the lift. "Nighty-night!"

"Good night, Rikku," Yuna responded. As the lift door closed, Yuna turned around, brought her thumb and index finger to her lips, and blew.

The shrill whistle that he had taught her followed her all the way down to the cabin.

----------

Paine watched silently, pretending to sleep as Rikku climbed into her bed, and proceeded to cry herself to sleep. She looked back up to the window from which she has seen Rikku's little trip down memory lane. She felt bad for the young Al Bhed, but there wasn't anything she could do.

Rikku finally fell asleep, out of sheer exhaustion and heartache. Paine got up then, and removed the other girls shoes and scarf, and pulled the blanket over her.

"Your secret is safe with me," she told the sleeping girl. "No one has to know the pain you hide behind the smiles." She finished tucking Rikku in, then climbed back into her own bed.

"At least for now," she added, then rolled over and went back to sleep.

The End (?)

Disclaimer: FFX-2 belongs to SquareEnix. "I love you" belongs to Sara McLaughlin. I made no profit form this. Go look for you next meal elsewhere, you salivating lawyer demons.