Typical Disclaimer-ness: I don't own FFX, anything familiar ain't mine, yadda yadda.

Note: The obsessiveness continues as I write my 2nd FFX fanfiction in 3 days. Whoopee. Same rules apply as the 1st.

Setting: A future-verse fic, set after the end of FFX but also an AU, considering certain people's... liveliness.

Summary: Stuck in a room together, Rikku busies herself with irritating Auron while the guardian wonders what he's done to deserve this. WARNING: Contains hints of Aurikku. You've been warned, so any reviews I get should be constructive criticism or just someone doing their good deed of the day.

Rikku scowled over the desert of Bikanel Island as the party waded through the sands. Her day was plummeting down the proverbial toilet, and it was not looking up anytime soon. Earlier that morning she had woken up to discover her 'monthly badge of female fiendishness' (as her father Cid had so eloquently called it during The Dreaded Talk) had started.

Now she was traipsing with four male companions, two of which talked about nothing except Blitzball while the other two were stern-faced mimes. Cid had said that her mother had been. . . passionate, during her monthlies. Rikku was the exact opposite, despising her male companions's presences more than any other time.

Her only relief was that she had two other women to soothe her during the cycle. Although, if the rumor was true and women traveling in groups also began their menstrual cycles around the same time frame, she might be safer keeping to herself. No one wanted to be on the receiving end of Lulu's Black Magic. And while Yuna was a very calm and very polite girl, she also had a mighty Holy spell to work her fury. Rikku doubted even Auron would risk Yuna's wrath (never mind his promise to Lord Braska).

Rikku wanted to be Home. She wanted to curl up on her real bed, sipping iced tea and reading a good book about the latest machina inventions the Al Bhed discovered. But Home was still a lot of miles of sand away. So she traveled through the sand, striving for minimal particle intrusion in her shoes.

"Man, this sucks, ya?" Wakka's distinctive voice rose over Yuna's soft conversation with Lulu. "Why couldn't your father get us a ride on his airship, Rikku?"

Lifting her eyes, Rikku scowled at the blitzer, causing him to falter. "One of the main engines was giving Brother trouble. Unless you wanted to crash in the middle of the freaking ocean, leave it alone!"

Wakka and Tidus both stumbled, falling into the sand at her raised voice. Lulu and Yuna sustained their conversation. Auron and Kimahri continued walking, their gait steady. Rikku stepped over the two fallen men, arms crossed and glaring down at the sand.

"Geez, what's her problem?" she heard Tidus mutter.

Before Rikku could whip around and yell, Lulu halted her conversation and trained her crimson eyes on Tidus. "Leave Rikku alone, or risk a hit by my Ultima. It's your choice."

Even Auron and Kimahri paused at Lulu's declaration. The Ronso stared between Tidus and Lulu. Auron simply blinked his one eye, sighed softly, and resumed trekking across the sand. Rikku, being closest to the legendary guardian, heard him mutter, "Jecht can screw himself, I'm not getting my ass fried for someone that clueless."

Rikku decided that Bikanel's sun was doing something to her hearing. She never heard Auron speak that many syllables, or say 'ass' not in reference to the actual donkey.

Tidus squealed his apologies and rushed ahead of Auron, distancing himself from Lulu, Rikku and, in effect, Yuna. The party walked toward Rikku's Home in silence once more.

They stopped at an oasis for rest, Wakka and Tidus staying to one side of the water in deference to the women. Rikku sat at the water's edge, feeling crabby and nauseous. She hated this time of the month…

"How are you feeling?" Yuna's soft voice penetrated Rikku's cloud, the summoner smiling gently down at the younger woman.

"Like I wouldn't mind borrowing Ixion to pummel some guys," Rikku muttered.

Yuna put a finger to her lips, whether to stifle laughter or in thought, the Al Bhed did not know. She lifted Nirvana and said "Cure."

The ache in Rikku's belly faded, the nausea disappeared, and her gloomy outlook beat a hasty retreat. Rikku returned Yuna's smile with a soft thank you.

"Every time it comes, I'm grateful for my White Magic," Yuna confided to Rikku as she took a seat. "I would confuse the priests at Besaid so much: one minute I'd be grouchy and glaring, and the next I'd be the brightest ray of sunshine east of Bikanel."

Rikku chuckled. Yuna being grouchy seemed impossible, yet funny. "Glad I'm not the only one who gets touchy."

"You haven't seen touchy til you've seen Lulu," Yuna chortled. "I used to hide in my room whenever she started."

"I appreciate the humor at my expense," the black mage startled them from behind, crimson eyes revealing her amusement.

"I'm sorry," Yuna bowed briefly. "But it is true. You practically lit Besaid on fire when Wakka tasted your cake."

Lulu frowned. "That's because it was my cake. My chocolate mousse cake."

Rikku shook her head. Honestly, boys should know better than to touch a woman's desserts, especially chocolate desserts. "Tidus is going to be so hopeless when you're married," she told Yuna.

The summoner blushed. "Who said anything about marrying Tidus?"

"Yuna," Lulu tsked, "Wakka knows about you two, and he's as dense as they come."

Again, Yuna blushed, but she said nothing further.

Rikku began to fidget. She wanted to be Home, now. Usually she hated Auron's enforced speed of travel, but now she longed for the brisk pace. Had they not paused long enough for the guardian's tastes?

Sand crunching behind them made the women turn, exposing Tidus and Wakka's approach. "Er, Rikku, I'm not sure what I did to make you mad," Tidus started, shifting from foot to foot and scratching the back of his head, "but whatever it is, I'm really sorry."

"Me too," Wakka added quickly, nodding so much Rikku was surprised his head remained attached. "I'm really, really, really sorry."

Beginning to feel bad, Rikku decided to put them out of their misery. That was when Wakka's mouth began flapping.

"If we'd known you were gonna be all sensitive about it, we wouldn't have bothered you, ya? But you're usually so. . . cheery, and I don't know why you overreacted so much—"

Rikku's sunny mood darkened once more. "Sorry to rain on your parade, then, Wakka!" she yelled, rising and poking him hard in the chest. His eyes flew wide as she raved, "I'll try harder to be the retarded, happy person that never shuts up the next time I'm having a bad day, but for right now I'm going to be as moody as I want, so deal with it oui runnepma zang!"

She stormed off, contemplating throwing a grenade behind her to emphasize her point. Two things stopped her: Yuna and Lulu were still back there, and Auron was in her path.

"I don't want to hear it!" she screamed as he started to address her. His eye widened in alarm. "I don't care if I'm stirring up bad morale for the party, I don't care if Sin is back, I don't care if Seymour is dancing around Zanarkand in a tutu singing 'I hate Al Bheds'! I just want to be Home, and I'm not going to be pushed around by you, Sir Glares-and-Orders-People-Around-A-Lot, anymore!"

Rikku glared at Auron as she fumed, fists clenched. No one spoke; not even Kimahri's or Lulu's bangles clicked.

Auron stared down at the much smaller person in front of him, eye blinking a few times as if he couldn't believe she had yelled at him. At him, the legendary guardian. Then he said, voice still even and solemn, "I was about to say that we should gear up and start moving. It will only take another thirty minutes to get to Home."

Rikku blinked. "Oh."

With a slight bow, Auron turned and led the way out of the oasis.

Home welcomed them with cheers and plenty of confetti. Hugs were distributed all around, though most went to Yuna and Rikku. Wakka was still seen as the Yevonite, and Tidus hid behind the blitzer, thus keeping him out of the heartier reunion. Lulu, Auron, and Kimahri watched the celebration from a doorway, giving their unique glares to anyone who dared to near.

An hour later found Rikku curled up on her real bed, sipping iced tea and reading a good book about the latest machina inventions the Al Bhed discovered. Yet her bed was uncomfortable, her tea was overly bitter, and the discoveries were dull and insignificant.

I shouldn't have yelled, Rikku thought to herself gloomily. Auron never toed over the line, he never bothered me. In fact, he never had anything to do with me.

Rikku made a face. She would have to go apologize. To Auron. To the man who could effectively shut anyone up with a well-placed, one-eyed glare.

She hated that Cid had raised her right. Perhaps in odd ways, but right.

With a mutter Rikku stalked out of her room, heading toward Auron's rooms in the most linear way possible. Those who knew her well cleared her path; those who did not know Cid's daughter quickly learned the darker side of Rikku's temperament.

Here was Auron's door, shut firmly against any intruders. She sighed, she paced, she almost walked away, but in the end she knocked ever so quietly.

Silence. Maybe he wasn't in?

Feeling faintly relieved and a bit guilty, Rikku turned to leave.

"Come in."

Swearing in Al Bhed, Rikku opened the door and peeked inside.

The room's lights were off, and for a moment Rikku imagined that perhaps Auron's scarred eye was really an infrared optic. Then she realized the guardian had been sleeping.

"If this is a bad time, I can come back later," Rikku whispered.

Auron clapped, and the lights turned on slowly. Apparently he had learned how to use the machina in the room. "Now is fine." He eyed her, brow slightly lifted. "Are you going to yell at me some more?"

Rikku's cheeks heated. "No, it's not like that. I want to apologize for. . . earlier."

The brow raised another quarter of an inch. "An apology?"

"Yeah. So, um. . . I'm sorry for yelling at you when you didn't do anything wrong," Rikku smiled weakly.

Slowly, the brow lowered, and Auron shrugged. "It was my fault for approaching you so directly. I should've known better than that."

The smile grew stronger. "So, we're good?" she outstretched a hand.

Auron smirked. "We're good." He shook the hand firmly.

The door slid shut behind Rikku. They stared at the door, Auron suspicious, Rikku relaxed. "Is it supposed to do that?" he asked.

"Yeesss. It's a door, silly, it's made to be shut," Rikku joked, going to the panel and tapping the 'Open' button. The door stayed closed. Narrowing a brow, she pushed the button again. And again. And again. They were locked in.

Scratch that, Rikku thought nervously. I'm locked in with a man who wields a very big, big sword and an even bigger temper. Tysh.

"Rikku," Auron's voice was deceptively soft, "are we locked in?"

"Um. . . . yeah."

Auron contemplated that. "Damn. I should've eaten that sandwich."

"I spy. . . with my little eye. . . something—"

"My cloak."

"How'd you—"

"You were staring at it for the last seven minutes."

"You were—"

"I've nothing better to do than to time how long it takes for you to find an object."

"Stop answering my—"

"Then stop being predictable."

"Gaaaaah!" Rikku yanked at her hair, getting up and stomping around the room. "Stop it stop it stop it!"

Auron wisely said nothing. He had been yelled at once by Rikku; he preferred to keep it at one.

Rikku smashed the PA panel again and screamed, "Brother, if you're on the other line listening and snickering, I'm going to take my Godhand and ram it up your—"

Listening as she began spouting off how she would dismantle Brother's masculine genitalia, Auron wondered if he should move further along the bed or sit very, very still.

His judgment betrayed him that day: he scooted, catching Rikku's eye.

"And what the hell are you doing, huh? I'm in no mood for you and your stupid lectures! So just leave me the hell alone, or by whatever god does exist in Spira I'll—" and there Auron lost track of the conversation as she screamed in Al Bhed, flailing her arms and kicking the walls. He caught the occasional word like 'coffin' and 'dog' and what sounded an awful lot like castration, but the verbs flew over his head. He was grateful; he really didn't want to know what dogs, coffins, and castration had in common.

So much for not getting yelled at a second time.

Several conspirators kneeled outside the doorway, listening as Rikku shouted.

"Whew," one whistled. "That guy sure is in for it now. I haven't heard her use so many swears in a row."

"I feel sorry for Sir Auron," another whispered. "He honestly didn't do anything to deserve this. Maybe we should let them out—"

"No, we can't do that!" a different conspirator waved their arms. "We're so close."

"Besides, Rikku's gotta cool down first," one looked near to tears. "Didn't you hear what she said she was gonna do?"

"That's only if you were on the other end of the line," a cool voice told him.

"She ain't gonna remember it that way. I say, start running, ya."

The teary one whimpered. He hoped this worked and she was in a better mood, or he would wish he was rotting in the Bikanel sun.

Since spurring Rikku into her rant, Auron had sat perfectly still on the bed, watching her carefully. Thanks to Braska's stays in temples praying to the fayths, Auron had gotten used to sitting for long, long periods of time.

Rikku did not have that talent. She would sit for a minute before rising and stalking the room before sitting and repeating the cycle. Sometimes she would toy with things and mutter to herself in Al Bhed, but mostly she paced and sat.

Auron wondered for the briefest of moments whether all women acted like this during their periods. He didn't remember Lord Braska's wife being irritable and snappish, but then he had had little to do with the kind woman. The only other woman, aside from Lulu (he hesitated to call Yuna and Rikku women—they were still young girls in his eyes), that he had spent longer than two weeks with was Tidus's mother, and that had been for a month before she passed away in grief.

Movement caught his eye. Rikku had abandoned the pretense of sitting and now sifted through his cloak's pockets.

He frowned. Temper or no, no one went through his personal items.

Rikku was enjoying herself thoroughly, her long fingers digging through Sir Auron's mysterious cloak for anything of interest. She never knew there were so many pockets! She was unaware of his proximity until the treasure was snatched away. "Hey!" she glared.

Auron glared right back. "I respect your need for personal space. Respect mine, and stay out of my cloak."

"What's the big deal?" Rikku folded her arms, huffing. "It's not like you have some sort of naughty magazine in there." At his upraised brow, she widened her eyes. "Do you?"

"Of course not," Auron rolled his eye. "Perversion was Jecht's department, not mine."

"Then lemme take a look, please?" she folded her hands in front of her, eyes begging.


The barest flicker of a frown flitted across her face. Alright, time to pull out the big guns. She leapt onto the bed, bounced, and rested her chin on his shoulder. "Pretty, pretty please?" she asked again, pulling out the puppy dog look that made the hard-headed Cid crumble.

To her credit, Auron paused a whole five seconds before denying her the cloak. Rikku silently fumed, then did something she hadn't done since her mother died, giving him a butterfly kiss on the cheek. "Please?"

He stiffened. His hands stilled, though they gripped the cloak tightly. He turned his one eye to her, the chestnut orb digging deeply into her emerald swirls. Rikku waited innocently, all the while thinking, You just invaded his physical bubble, you just invaded his physical bubble, you're going to be a very very very dead Rikku by the end of the day. . . .

She waited for his growl, his temper, his stiff air-slicing and glaring. To her complete shock and pleasure, he conceded the cloak.

Auron berated himself for his lack of discipline, for not discouraging her against any physical contact, but to be honest the puppy dog look had beaten him. He had simply needed time to gracefully give up the cloak when she had given him that kiss. While it was a nice kiss, it was unfamiliar and unexpected.

He had thought once he gave in to her request Rikku would leave him be. She had other things in mind, plainly, as she squealed and placed herself squarely in his lap, rifling through his cloak like the little thief she was. Auron stilled, wondering, When did I sign up for Saint Nikolai duty? And what child would believe me a Saint Nikolai?

Rikku's movements stalled, and she furrowed her brows. Auron took inventory of his pockets. Potions, phoenix downs, a few distillers, maybe one or two elemental Gems, and. . .

Oh shit.

"Sir Auron, what is a bra doing in your pocket?" Rikku pulled out the garment, wrinkling her nose at the vibrant pink shade. She noted with some envy that the cup size was larger than her own.

Auron considered hemming and giving a lawyer's reply. But then Rikku's curiosity would only stew, and then Tidus would eventually become involved, and involving that boy meant involving the entire group, and he most certainly did not want a particular person to know about the garment's history.

"It's. . . it was about three months before Lord Braska's pilgrimage," Auron began, wishing fervently he could shrink behind the collar of his cloak. "Lord Braska was going on a walk into Macalania Woods with his wife. I went to the temple to pray." If Rikku thought he was stalling, she let him. "I— I had loaned Lord Braska my cloak; he had asked. Since it was winter and particularly cold, I thought he'd use it to cover his wife since he really had no need for it himself. And. . . well, I'm sure it did, at some point."

Rikku's eyes widened. She stared at the cloak, the bra, and him several times. "You mean— Your cloak— This bra—" She then flung it away, and pushed the cloak to him. "Eww! Why didn't you say anything?"

Gratefully, Auron put the cloak back on, making sure the collar covered more of his face than usual. "My skills at repression are astounding."

Still glowering, Rikku said, "You still haven't explained why you have the bra in your cloak, after all these years."

The humility in Auron's face dimmed a bit, and Rikku recognized it as his brooding face. "Lord Braska asked me to. . . hold onto it, for his sake. I never knew why; it probably had something to do with marriage and the insanity it incurs. After his death I. . . it was another promise I could keep for him."

"Oh," Rikku twiddled her fingers, then said, "Sorry for poking around. If I'd known—"

"But you didn't. That's what matters. And not a word of this to Yuna," Auron's eye twitched. "If she knew. . . I would just rather she didn't. It makes it much simpler."

"Yeah," Rikku said simply, understanding very well what he meant.

He peered at her over his collar and his lenses. "Now, for a question of mine."

Rikku listened attentively. It wasn't often Sir Legendary-Guardian had questions.

"Why are you sitting on my lap?"

He watched in amusement as her eyes widened and she stammered, unprepared for the query. She made several lame starts, then she brightened. "Because I wanted to do. . . this!"

For a moment Auron thought she might kiss him again. That thought provoked both bad and good thoughts, most of which were what he supposed people would call 'dirty' and 'perverted,' though none of those thoughts concerned Rikku. . . . well, most of them, anyway. Then he barked, "Hey!"

She had stolen his lenses. First my cloak, now my lenses. Next she'll be hauling my Masamune out the door.

She hopped away and grinned, placing the dark lenses on her face. "Ha! I've successfully stolen Sir Auron's famous lenses! Bidding starts at ten gil!"

Pausing in his rise, Auron frowned. "My lenses are worth more than a measly ten gil."

Sticking out her tongue, Rikku amended, "A hundred gil!"

"Thank you." Then he darted forward, slung an arm around her waist and plucked his prized possession by the frames.

"Hey! No fair!" Rikku squirmed. "Put me down, you big cheat!"

"Promise to behave?" Auron inquired, sliding his shades back in their proper location.

She smiled up at him deviously. "Behave? I don't know the meaning of the word." Her hand streaked to his face, but his own grabbed her wrist before she could topple his lenses.

"Obviously," Auron sighed internally. Had she been younger, say, seven years old, he would have taken her over his lap and spanked her like he had Tidus when he ate more cookies than vegetables. Now, at the age of sixteen, it would be seen as indecent.

In his momentary lapse of thinking, Rikku had loosened his hold. She stole his lenses again and skittered to the bed, grinning mischievously. "Ha! Too fast for you, old man!"

Auron sighed again, this time aloud. Honestly, he wasn't that old. Was he? "I'm thirty-five. That's not old. That's middle-aged."

"You're nineteen years my senior, that makes you eighteen years into the 'old' range," Rikku replied, tilting her head in several directions. "Y'know, these are kinda cool."

"Glad you approve of my eye-wear. Give them back."

"No," Rikku put her hands on her hips. "I like 'em. I'm keeping 'em."

"They sell them at Djose for seventy gil," Auron told her, exasperated. "Give me mine and get your own."

"You go buy yourself a new pair," Rikku flopped onto the bed, wincing as her cramps renewed. "You've probably got more money than I do."

Auron glared. Then rolled his eye. "Don't get comfortable. I'll find a way to take them back, I promise."

Rikku gulped. Auron was infamous for his promises. He never broke them.

"I'm so hungry," Rikku moaned.

"I should've eaten that sandwich," Auron grumbled from the bed. She was surprised at his lack of dignity; he was sprawled on his back with his knees bent, feet on the bed, and his head dangling off the edge. She suspected he could care less about his appearance at the moment, if his loudly growling belly was any indicator. As for herself, she was sitting across from his position on the bed, against a wall near the oak desk. The door stood between them to their right remaining obstinately locked.

"I'm so hungry I could eat a snow wolf," Rikku declared.

"You don't want to eat those. Their meat is tougher than steel."

She rolled her eyes. "Fine. Then I'd eat snow flans."

"Ah uh. Tastes like wool, and has the same consistency."

Frowning, she peered at him. "Is there anything you haven't eaten?"

"A Rikku sandwich," he dead-panned.

"Very funny."

"I try."

Rikku thought. "Have you eaten sand wolves?"

"Tastes very much like sand."


"Oily. Very, very oily."

Pausing, she asked with a frown, "An ogre?"

Auron shook his head sagely. "Never let them tell you it's like eating beef. It isn't."


"Makes a very good stew, actually."


"If you drink plenty enough sake."


The lull was comfortable. Rikku asked, "How long do you think we've been stuck here?"

"Four hours, seventeen minutes, nineteen seconds."

Rikku lowered her head to look over the lenses' rims, letting the shades slide down the bridge of her nose. "How do you keep track of that?"

His thumb tapped against a knee. "Obsessive compulsive thing. Braska claimed it was a mental defense against Jecht. Jecht claimed it was a 'mental whatsits for Sin's hee-noss stratatagom against the great and mighty blitzball'. I still think Braska was right."

"'Hee-noss stratatagom'?"

"Jecht's drunk attempt at sounding clever."

"Oh." Another lull. "So, how long have we been stuck in here?"

"Four hours, eighteen minutes, forty seconds," was the prompt reply.


The thumb continued to tap against the knee.

Nine hours, forty-six minutes, and fifty seconds they were trapped in the room.

Nine hours, forty-six minutes, and fifty-three seconds he was trapped with no food.

Nine hours, forty-six minutes, and fifty-six seconds he was trapped alone with Rikku.

Nine hours, forty-six minutes, and fifty-nine seconds he was trapped with absolutely nothing to do.

Nine damn hours, forty-seven damn minutes, and four damn seconds he was trapped.

Auron did not take to being stuck in a room very kindly. Meditating at a temple was one thing. One could get up and leave whenever they damn-well wanted to. And even the most stoic warrior monks never meditated for a solid nine hours at a time. Stomachs demanding food usually goaded them into feeding themselves.

Auron wanted out. Auron wanted freedom. Auron wanted damn food goddamned now!


"What?" the rebuttal was gruffer than he typically addressed his comrades. He blamed it on the hunger.

"Are you upset?"

"Why would you think that?"

Rikku bit her lip. Auron had used that voice. That voice, which meant he was not in the happiest mood. "Your thumb's kinda. . . I dunno, twitching out of control."

Auron expanded his awareness. Yes, his thumb was 'twitching out of control.' Were he in a better mood, he might have cared. He let it tap and said nothing to relieve the girl.

He had never considered himself claustrophobic. He had been in tighter spaces, with more people, than this. Of course, fiends tended to draw his attention away from the narrow space and he never stayed in one location for very long. But this room had turned into his nightmare, his prison, an ever-shrinking cage that refused to let him out.

Auron decided that he would go someplace for a change of scenery. Lots of changes of scenery. And food. Lots and lots of food. So much food, he would grow fat like Yojimbo's dog.

Well, that settled it. Apparently he was claustrophobic. Even Tidus hadn't made him this crazy, and the kid was responsible for quite a few of the gray strands in his hair.

He needed something to do. Something to pass the time. Time. Nine hours, fifty-three minutes, thirty-one seconds. Dammit.

Auron opened his eye and searched the room. So far, nothing. His eye landed on the bathroom. He had wanted a shower before all the madness, but the desire had flung out of his mind. Now he considered the luxury.

Rikku snapped her head up as the bed groaned and Auron rolled off gracefully. Her hands immediately clutched the lenses to her face, eyeing him warily.

He turned his eye to her. "I'm taking a shower. Considering our. . . current problem," he shot a dark glare at the innocuous portal, "I'm leaving the door open. You peep, and that Masamune is entering your body seven different ways before you can say 'cunno.'"

"Gotcha," Rikku nodded, and with no further ado he entered the bathroom, stepping out of her line of sight. The mirror above the sink offered her a view of his face as he disrobed, but that was as far as she looked. She was sure that his scarred eye offered him a 360 degree view around him; that was the only way he could possibly know the things he did. Even Lulu agreed to the theory, though with some hesitation, and the black mage rarely gave into rumors.

The water ran, signaling Rikku to do some exploring. She crawled across the floor and began a more thorough search of his room, specifically in the gear he left behind. Nothing sparked her interest, though she did swipe his Stamina Tablet and the very shiny Dark Matter he kept in the supposedly 'hidden' pocket.

She resumed her place on the floor when the water stopped. She juggled the few Al Bhed potions she had with her, to give an air of complete boredom. He came back into the room with a towel wrapped around his waist and his clothes slung over an arm.

"Take your turn," he told her, dropping his load onto the bed.

She blinked. How had he known she had wanted a shower? "How—"

He turned and gave her a tired look. It read, "Don't ask, just do as I say."

"Thank you," she got up and bolted for the bathroom. As she entered she heard him call:

"While you're in, know that I'm finding my Dark Matter and Stamina Tablet."

Damn that eye! It sees through walls, too!

Rikku glared at the legendary guardian, ruffling her wet hair with a towel. She had been miffed that he knew of her thievery, but finding the bathroom neat and tidy and ready for the next person's usage had left her feeling guilty. That in turn made her angrier.

It didn't help that he wasn't confessing his secret.

"How'd you know?" she demanded once again.

Again, he gave her no answer. He lay on the bed in the same position, though his thumb was much calmer than before.

Tidus had warned her (and in effect the rest of the party as they had been in the same room) about him and his 'all-knowing ways.'

"He always knows," he had told them seriously, head nodding in that funny way of his. "It doesn't matter how hard you try and conceal it, he finds out. And when you ask him how, he'll never say a word. It's like. . . I dunno, he's got some invisible dog tailing you and it tells him everything when you do something."

At the time, Rikku had scoffed at the thought of an invisible mutt chasing after people and talking to, of all people, Auron. By now, however, she was beginning to wonder if the theory was so far off from the truth.

"Come on, tell me!" she whined.

Auron fluttered his eye open, snorted, then closed it.

Rikku folded her arms. "Old meanie. Very old meanie."

"The insult is old and rotting. Pun intended. Tidus overused it by the age of eight."

She harrumphed. "Why won't you tell me?"

Again, silence.

She fumed, wondering how to break his shell.

An idea struck her.

Slowly, quietly, she crawled over, until she was next to him. She kissed his cheek.

And cried out as he slid off the bed and landed on his head, legs falling into her lap.

Auron wondered why the day was out to get him. First he got stuck in a room with Rikku and no food, got kissed by aforementioned Rikku, been embarrassed straight to hell with the discovery of the bra, showered with water that refused to be cold, and now lay on the ground, head aching, because the girl had kissed him again.

He was a good man. Auron knew that. He kept his promises, ate his vegetables, and treated women with kindness and respect. Oh, and he helped save the world from overwhelming evil once or twice. So why was the world against him?

Jecht. It had to be Jecht. It was Jecht's old ghost, come back to haunt him, and was laughing hysterically at his expense.

When he got to the Farplane, he was going to have a few choice words with the man, and not a single one of them were going to be, "Hello, dearest friend."

Meanwhile, he had to deal with Rikku, the stubborn door, and his head. It ached like hell.

"Can you get a potion out of my cloak, Rikku?" he asked her with a wince.

She folded her arms. "And why should I do that? You won't tell me how you knew. And you're crushing my legs."

With a sigh he slid his legs off hers and fumbled for a potion. "Why do you want to know so much?" he asked, the side of his mouth quirking upwards when he found his potion.

"Hello? Thief extraordinaire! How can I thieve and pillage and skulk around when you have a secret way of knowing? It's the number one rule in Survival of the Thief: know how your victims can detect you."

"How tempting. Inform an ally of mine how to avoid being caught while robbing me blind. I'll pass, thank you."

Storing in the back of her mind the fact that Auron had actually called her an ally of his, Rikku wriggled in annoyance. "That's not fair! Come on, tell!"

Auron frowned. "One: we're stuck in a room at your Home. Two: you tried to steal my Dark Matter and Stamina Tablet. Three: You stole my shades, which I am getting back soon. And four: you made me hit my head. Four very good reasons why fairness is not a factor here."

Rikku frowned right back at him. "Well, in rebuttal to your number one: Brother is to blame for technical failures, not me; that is the Golden Rule at Home. For two: your Dark Matter and Stamina Tablet are the reasons why we're having this conversation, so they should not be included; it makes your judgment biased. For three: my shades have nothing to do with your secret ability to sniff out trouble. And as for number four: you're the idiot who fell off the bed, and I didn't do anything except this!" With that she leaned in and pecked the same cheek, sitting back and watching as color tinted his skin.

"You really need to stop doing that."

"You really need to stop dodging the question."

Auron fought an internal battle. He tried to stay aloof. He tried to glare disapprovingly at the girl. He tried not to look as she brought out her puppy dog look, letting her emerald eyes grow bigger and the swirls became more prominent. . . . .

Dammit. I am getting old. I'm letting a child not even half my age goad me into things. "You do the same thing Tidus did," he admitted with a tired eye roll.

Rikku blinked. "Huh?"

"You talk to yourself while you commit your crimes. Loudly. I heard you in the bathroom. Tidus did the same thing when he tried to act conniving."

Rikku blinked again. "'Conniving'? Tidus?"

"Not big things, he was only eight or nine before I scared the inclinations out of him. Usually he tried flushing his vegetables down the toilet, or trying to hide the dead goldfish in the cookie jar." Which reminds me, I still need to pay him back for that one.

"Again with the huh? Why would he hide goldfish in the cookie jar?"

"He was a sensitive brat. Thought I'd smack him if I found the goldfish dead. And I did smack him, for vastly different reasons than he came up with."

"You hit a little kid?" Rikku let her jaw drop, aghast.

"On the head, with a pillow. Better than he deserved, after what happened."

Curiosity made Rikku ask, "What happened? The goldfish come back alive and take vengeance for improper burial rites or something?"

Auron snorted. "Might as well have, considering I ate it."

"Ewwww. So maybe the kid did deserve a few smacks."

"Yes." Auron looked around the room and sighed. "If you're done interrogating me?"

"One more question. How long have we been stuck in here?"

"Ten hours, fifty-seven minutes, twelve seconds."

Rikku sighed. "Brother, you are so dead when I get out of here."

The room was quiet. Auron reveled in the quietude, eye shut against the surroundings. Rikku's soft breathing filled his ears, as well as his own, and that was the only thing that kept him from sleep.

Finally, peace. I never thought I'd get it. Auron gave way to the slumber that awaited.

Five minutes later, he awoke from a click. And a whirring noise. His eye snapped open, and he sat upright. To his right he saw Rikku jerking awake, eyes blearily looking for the source of the noise. Her tired eyes widened.

The door was open. They were free.

Auron bolted to the door, but the smaller girl was faster. She skidded through the portal, exclaiming, "We're free! We're free we're free we're—what the ramm is that?"

Pausing in the doorway, Auron followed Rikku's gaze upward. Attached to the door's frame was an out-of-place mistletoe, dangling innocently.

He blinked. "I believe it's a mistletoe."

"And you know the custom!"

The two turned sharply at the voice, finding Yuna, Tidus, Lulu, Wakka, Brother and his girlfriend, and Kimahri standing down the hallway. They were watching the two carefully, wide smiles on their faces.

Rikku stared, jaw dropping slightly. "You guys—you're the ones that locked the door?"

"They made me do it!" Brother informed her, vigorously pointing at the party. "It wasn't me, it was all their fault!"

Auron, meanwhile, stared at the mistletoe. He wondered if throwing it at Tidus's head would be painful. Doubtful. Maybe ingestion would be better. . . . .

A thought occurred to him. "It took you over thirteen hours to hang up a single mistletoe?" he growled, eye glinting.

Everyone shifted and blushed, embarrassed. "We had a few. . . difficulties," Yuna explained slowly.

"What kind of difficulties?" Rikku demanded.

Yuna glared pointedly at Wakka. "He lost the first mistletoe."

"Hey!" the blitzer cried, "I ain't the only one at fault! Lulu's the one that flamed the second one, ya!"

"Tidus crushed the third one," the black mage defended herself.

"Kimahri ate the next one!" Tidus pointed at the Ronso.

"Kimahri no feel good after," the Ronso shook his head somberly.

Auron and Rikku traded glances. As one they shuffled inside, to the party's confusion. The confusion was cleared as they exited again, armed with Godhand and Masamune. And Auron juggled a very menacing Dark Matter in his free hand.

"Run!" Brother's girlfriend shrieked, and in a stampede everyone vanished.

"Should we chase them?" Rikku asked the elder.

"Later," Auron grunted, pocketing the Dark Matter. "After we eat. I'm starved."

"Me too," Rikku agreed, walking off in the direction of the kitchen. A hand grabbed her arm and twirled her around, pulling her flush into Auron. She looked up with a gulp.

"I believe," he murmured, bending his head, "the custom is an exchange of a kiss."

"That's what I heard," Rikku agreed, heart beating rapidly. Was Auron going to kiss her?

The anticipation evaporated as he lifted the dark lenses off her nose and replaced them onto his, centimeters before their lips could meet.

"I always keep my promises," he told her, walking away to eat his long-awaited sandwich. He lifted an arm to accommodate her form as she hurried to match his gait.


oui runnepma zang -- you horrible jerk

tysh -- damn

ramm -- hell