Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy X-2, or any of the places or characters mentioned in that series or this piece of fanfiction. No profit is being made, I write for free.
Notes: Swanwhite asked for Paine/Yuna - "There's a girl right next to you, and she's waiting for something to do, and if you can't be with the one you love: love the one you're with!" I'm not sure how well I got it, but this thing mutated a hundred times and got a lot of rewrites, and I finally settled on this.
This fic follows the non-perfect ending of FFX-2, and so obviously contains spoilers for that. 2,100 words.
It has always seemed strange to Yuna, how easily Paine swings her sword. The handle is steady in her grip, and the blade hangs heavy before her, the unique shape of the Samurai's weapon casting a faint shadow back onto her legs.
It looks effortless. Paine sprints forward, the tip of the blade trailing the ground; as she runs she gathers force, and releases it in a powerful swing upwards that hits the attacking fiend hard. It strikes its neck and jaw, the head snapping sideways-the momentum of the hit knocks it backwards, and it tumbles a few feet, the misshapen front paws obscuring its face as it lands. It moves once, briefly, but not again.
Paine lets out a single, heavy breath as she stops, the only sign of what must be a growing fatigue. To Yuna, it all looks so easy. There is no bead of sweat on Paine's forehead, no sagging of her shoulders. She stands still and lets the tip of her blade hit the ground with a soft thud.
"That was easy!" calls Rikku, knocking the hilts of her daggers together and grinning from ear to ear. Yuna returns the smile and Paine nods once, gripping her sword again and trailing it back to them.
She stops at Yuna's side and presses her blade into the soft ground beneath them, leaning against the handle effortlessly, as though it weighs no more than any other part of her. "We should get back to the ship," she says, her voice low and serious. "Where's Brother?"
Rikku lets out an, "Oh!" and runs a few feet away, then begins speaking into her transmitter in a string of quick Al Bhed.
Yuna looks over at Paine again, and now that she is closer, she can see the slight colouration of Paine's cheeks, the way her fingers clutch at the notched handle of her sword until the knuckles turn pale. It shouldn't surprise her. Paine has always been like this, like some sort of barricade-strong and steady and always protecting something. Her past, her pride; Yuna has never really understood why she does it, not around the Gullwings. They have been together long enough, haven't they?
"Yuna." Paine's voice interrupts her thoughts, and her gaze drifts up to meet Paine's eyes. "Is something wrong?"
The question seems strange at first, but it doesn't take Yuna long to understand what it is that Paine is asking. She considers her answer carefully.
"Nothing," she says finally, and smiles, though it feels brittle. Paine looks as though she is about to respond, but then Rikku shouts something about the Celsius and the roar of its approaching engines cuts her off.
Yuna and Rikku meet each other's eyes, and Rikku covers her mouth with her hand and pretends that her quiet giggle is a cough. Paine raises an eyebrow, but seems to ignore them otherwise. "With what?" Yuna asks, and laughs lightly.
Paine seems to have been expecting this; she grins briefly, and before Yuna can wonder exactly what it is she's thinking, Paine changes dress spheres. The black of her outfit fades to purple, and the shape changes, tightening and growing longer. The long dress of Lady Luck clings to her, and Paine's grin widens.
"Hey, no fair!" Rikku jumps up out of her seat. "That's cheating!"
This time it is Paine who laughs, the sound low, a soft purr like the ship's engine. "Then maybe you shouldn't be wearing that," she responds, giving Rikku's outfit a pointed look.
"It's not like I'm going to use it," Rikku says, indignant. "Thief's honour!"
"I thought the point was that thieves didn't have honour." This time it is Yuna who speaks. "I mean…"
Rikku glares, and with a soft sound of defeat, Yuna stops talking.
"Like I said," Paine continues, shuffling the cards in her hand and grinning, "I'll deal."
Yuna feels as though the whole thing is somewhat unfair - the others have their own advantages, but she has nothing to help her win. Then again, she remembers, Paine is always the one who wins: her poker face beats both hers and Rikku's. Dress spheres won't affect things at all.
Smiling slightly to herself, Yuna notices Paine glance across at her as she deals the cards. The look on her face is unreadable, but as Yuna smiles more widely at her she returns the gesture.
It has been years, but Yuna doesn't think she'll ever forget his face.
She sits in the engine room of the Celsius, the rumbling of the engines a steady comfort at her back. It is dirty in here, oily and dusty and noisy, and every time the ship speeds up she begins to sneeze as all the dirt in the engines gets dislodged. But it also happens to be the warmest room on board, and she is beginning to think that so long as the ship runs smoothly and no repairs need to be made, she is the only one who even comes in here.
Yuna glances up and spots Paine standing there, arms folded and her head tilted down to take in the sight of Yuna sitting on the floor. "What are you doing in here?" she asks, and Yuna shakes her head.
"Nothing," she tells her, but knows that she has never been any good at lying; Paine probably sees right through her. But it doesn't really matter.
The world is getting back on its feet again. After the threat of Vegnagun, they had all spent some time apart helping the various organisations get themselves going again. It had taken time, and effort, for them all - New Yevon, the Youth League, the Machine Faction - to learn to trust each other; things still aren't how they should be. Yuna wonders if they will ever get to that point.
And he is still gone.
Yuna feels that she has come to terms with things in her life, and understands her place in the world for the first time since beating Yunalesca. But that still doesn't stop it hurting, does it?
The Fayth, Vegnagun, Shuyin, Lenne - it all seems different now. Spira seems different now. And even though Yuna feels that she is healing, slowly, the pain of loss is always with her.
"Oh, nothing?" Paine's voice interrupts her thoughts, and she steps over to stand at Yuna's side, the heels of her boots clicking against the metal of the ship's structure. "Me too."
Yuna smiles. It feels as though she has known Paine for far too long, even though they are both still so young. In Spira, people always had to grow up fast; Yuna feels glad that this is beginning to change, even slowly.
"What was he like?"
The question comes as a complete surprise, and Yuna feels her cheeks heat up as she turns to look at Paine. Was she really so transparent?
The words stick in her throat slightly. "He was…" she trails off, trying to find the words.
Paine sits down beside her, her knees drawn up to her chest and her arms draped around them. Her thigh touches Yuna's, barely there, and she looks forward into the engine as it whirrs.
It is difficult, and probably always will be, Yuna realises. Still, somehow, she finds the words.
The Celsius at night is eerily quiet. Depending on where the Gullwings are and how much time they have, they usually either land somewhere safe and quiet and sleep until morning, or keep flying through the night, with all of them taking turns to drive and sleep.
Tonight is one of the nights where the Gullwings fly through. They are seeking a sphere in Mount Gagazet, and the flight from Besaid is a long one. Yuna, Rikku and Paine came into their makeshift bedroom to sleep an hour or so ago, and so far, it seems that only one of them has succeeded.
Rikku's quiet snores are strangely comforting, and Yuna listens to them for a little while longer before sighing, running one hand through her hair and pushing herself out of bed.
Not long ago she had heard the rustling of sheets and seen a Paine-shaped shadow descend the stairs to Barkeep's bar; the clinking of bottles and glasses had followed not long after. For a while, Yuna had continued her efforts to sleep, but now she feels fairly convinced that it just isn't going to happen.
She gazes down at herself briefly, taking in her rumpled clothing, then makes the short walk down the stairs. The heels of her shoes clatter against the floor.
"Yuna." Paine swivels around on the barstool she appears to have claimed, giving the older girl a quizzical look. "Why aren't you asleep?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Yuna's lips quirk up into a smile. "What are you doing?"
Paine returns the smile, though hers is much slower, and in the darkness Yuna almost can't tell what lies behind it. "Do you want one?" Paine asks, holding forward her half-full glass.
Yuna nods and settles herself onto a stool next to Paine's. Paine leans forward and pulls another glass towards herself over the bar, hooking onto a bottle with her other hand and drawing that in too. She pours whatever is in the bottle into the glass, then holds it out. "No ice. Sorry."
Taking the glass from her, Yuna shakes her head. "That's okay." She glances down into the glass, at the cool liquid, before bringing it to her lips and drinking. The alcohol is bitter and burns her throat, and she winces as she swallows, slamming the glass back down on the bar with a thud of wet glass on metal. Paine laughs and shakes her head, then nurses her own drink.
Briefly, Yuna wonders why she is here when Rikku would do a much better job getting Paine to open up. The two of them are friends, of course they are, but it has always seemed to Yuna that Rikku is the one who holds the three of them close together. When both she and Paine are quiet, reliving the past, thinking, it is Rikku who draws them out again. By rights, it should be Rikku sitting here now, wishing for the bitter burn to leave her throat.
Turning, Yuna notices Paine watching her. "What is it?" she asks, blinking, Rikku's light sounds of sleep drifting down to them.
Paine shakes her head. "Nothing," she says, and Yuna is reminded of the engine room. The heat at her back, damp skin, the slick leather of Paine's thigh against hers.
At the sound of Paine's voice again, Yuna glances over at her, eyebrows raised. "I remember, when you brought the Calm, the way everybody talked about you." She shakes her head again. "Lady Yuna." Paine meets her eyes, and the way she smiles is strange.
They have both seen Yevon's secrets, Yuna thinks suddenly, and they have both come out the other side. They have both lost important things.
When Paine kisses her, Yuna doesn't expect it - she doesn't react for a moment, Paine's warmth against her, the humming of the engine loud in her ears, her thoughts muddled. She doesn't react for a moment; then she leans closer, her hands reaching out to rest on Paine's thighs to keep herself steady.
Paine's lips are soft on hers, and her thighs are warm under Yuna's hands. They kiss for a few moments, the bitterness of alcohol on both of their tongues. Then they break apart, and Paine's hand reaches up to run through Yuna's hair, the tips of her fingers almost sharp against the other girl's scalp.
Her hand moves away, then runs down to Yuna's side, creeping under the hem of her shirt. Yuna shivers at the feeling of the leather against her bare skin, and presses closer. One leg wraps around Paine's, and Yuna moans into her mouth as they kiss again.
Yuna feels strange, her cheeks burning and her hair slightly mussed where Paine curled her fingers into it. She remembers her very first kiss, and Paine's skin on hers reminds her of water. She shivers.
Pulling her hands back, Yuna sits upright on her stool again, her eyes still on Paine. Now that she is looking for it, she can see the slight colouration of those cheeks, the way her fingers clutch her glass until the knuckles turn pale. Yuna is reminded of Paine in battle.
The silence around them is strange, and when Paine catches her eye again Yuna feels herself flush. She searches for something to say.
Somehow, Yuna knows she will find the words.