A/N: Playing FreeCell right now and I am bored out of my mind.

Disclaimer: I don't own it.

Only a Plank Between One and Perdition

Chapter Four: The Menagerie

LeBlanc Meriian, reporter extraordinaire, waited on the front lawn of Yuna Bustamante's dormitory. The young college student was nowhere to be found, so she decided to spruce up her appearance a bit.

LeBlanc had a taste for the overly dramatic. Her former ensemble consisted of purples, pinks, and a giant red heart in the middle of her chest. The boss at the head of the network she worked for said it was "too risqué" for the younger children who viewed the news program. This simple and magnificently boring outfit was her new and more 'sophisticated' look.

The blonde woman thought the producers were turning her into her rival, Shelinda Thompson, more and more every day.

She smoothed down her gaudy fuchsia suit and took out a compact to check for any cowlicks or leftover asparagus in her teeth. She was on the new all vegetable diet. The name of it escaped her for the moment.

"Is this ok, darling? How do I look?"

The silent cameraman nodded his head in affirmation and continued waiting for Miss Bustamante.

LeBlanc's thoughts turned toward her young husband, Nooj Merivian. She couldn't wait to she him when he returned from Kilika. He had been in the hick village for almost two months trying to resolve some issues between the despairing young people and the elders of the Temple. Ever since the arrival of the Corelli kid and his medicine, the young people had been demanding changes in the way they lived from day to day.

Most of the work was done by the young men of the village, so they decided to go on strike to teach the old people a lesson.

To tell the truth, LeBlanc thought as she flicked her hair back and forth, I don't give a damn about those backwoods morons. As long as my Noojie Woojie comes back in one piece, I'm fine.

LeBlanc Saint-Saëns and Nooj Merivian were married two years ago when she was twenty-nine and he twenty-one. Her friends and associates were worried over the nine year age difference, but she would not let that little detail get in the way of what she thought of as true love. The first year was hell. They had to adjust to seeing each other all the time and waking up to the same person every morning. But Nooj's political job kept him away most of the time, so they were never tired of each other whenever they met. In a way, it was more like a dating situation where both parties had their own homes and could back away whenever things got too heavy.

She loved her husband dearly, but there were times when she just wanted to bask in her own beauty for a day.

LeBlanc's cameraman whistled once he saw the now familiar profile of their target for the day.

"All right, baby, here she comes."

»º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º«

Yuna regretted leaving her mailbox for this. She arrived to her dorm only to find a gang of reporters in front of her building.

It was eerie how still they were as she walked up to the ten story building. She knew that as soon as she was three feet away from them, they would throw a barrage of questions her way.

Yuna looked to her left and right, her long rattail smacking her in the cheek with the movement.

She wouldn't make it if she tried to make a run for it. They would probably twist her actions if she did so anyway. So Yuna decided to tough it out and see what happened.

Yuna almost did a double take once she recognized the snide mug of LeBlanc Merivian. Paine watched all of LeBlanc's exclusive interviews just for kicks. The woman was piercing and hard hitting. She showed no mercy for her guests and always got a response from someone, given willingly or not. Yuna was not looking forward to facing the intimidating woman.

As soon as she saw LeBlanc's start to form a question, a strong arm grabbed her out of harm's way.

»º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º«

"Oh my gosh, Gippal! Thank you so much!"

Yuna giggled and gave her cousin's boyfriend a giant hug. "What are you doing here? Weren't you at Home scheduling a dig or something?"

Home is the Al Bhed headquarters that used to be hidden in the middle of Bikanel Desert. After the peace treaty with Bevelle was signed, the Al Bhed disclosed their location reluctantly. There had been many extreme confrontations between Bevellans and the Al Bhed. Their only reassurance was in the fact that Home was hidden their only enemy.

She was so excited to see him. Now, maybe her cousin would get off her back and start clinging to Gippal again. She was starting to get annoyed with the eighteen year old.

Gippal Casem was the epitome of an Al Bhed man. He had their blonde hair, strange, green eyes, and cat-like features. Because Gippal grew up in Home, his skin was toughened up from the sun exposure and he was tall and lean from foraging and digging through the desert.

Yuna looked Gippal over and noticed that he had a new eye patch on. This one was dark and shiny like a hematite stone with a barely noticeable checker design.

She remembered the day when Gippal lost his right eye. She and Gippal were trying to teach Rikku how to swim. Because stayed in Home, there weren't many opportunities for her to learn how to swim. Gippal moved away to Zanarkand when he was fourteen, much to the chagrin of Cid and Rikku.

Rikku was just got the hang of floating when she decided to take a break. She was lying down on a lounge chair watching Yuna dive when some guy tried to hit on her. Yuna had never seen anyone so jealous in her life.

One thing led to another and the man whipped out a pair of brass knuckles and punched the guts out of Gippal's eye. He had to be hospitalized immediately. But even their expedience couldn't save his eye.

Yuna shook herself out of her reverie and brought her self back to the present. Gippal had gotten more tan as well.

"I came back three days ago," Gippal started, "but then Rikku kicked me out again last night." His jaw tightened with the thought of their most recent argument. She was certain that the reason why he never took her anywhere with him was because he had a little extra on the side. That wasn't the case, of course, but one couldn't convince Rikku otherwise when her mind was made up. The reason why she never tagged along was because she was too loud and didn't think to cover herself up every once in a while. He actually made the mistake of saying that out loud and that opened another can of worms.

Gippal tousled his dirt-blonde hair awkwardly as he thought about the argument. "I'd rather not talk about it here, if you don't mind."

"Sure." Yuna stated, while trying not to look too sympathetic. Gippal hated people feeling sorry for him. "Anything you want after saving my skin like that."

"How 'bout you treat me to a burger and fries. I'm kinda strapped for cash right now." Gippal scratched his head again — he seemed to be doing that a lot lately. "I left my wallet and other valuable objects back at the house."

»º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º«

Dingo Dango was a beloved burger joint in Downtown Bevelle. It was established about fifty years ago and was still as popular as it was back then. Its signature logo consisted of a goofy looking water flan with bucked teeth and huge eyes named Boingo. Every commercial was about Boingo's never ending quest to taste a Dingo Dango burger. Recently they had been a little bit dry and not funny, but Yuna still ate there.

As far as Yuna was concerned, Dingo Dango was the ultimate authority figure on burgers, and should be the only burger place in all of Spira. They were cheap, good, and dependable.

Yuna ordered her usual triple-decker bun value meal while Gippal ordered three cartons of jumbo sized fries. He didn't really feel like eating meat at the moment.

Yuna didn't like talking while she ate. Most of her friends seemed to respect that fact, expect Rikku of course.

The two were almost done with their meal when a familiar face walked in.

"Oh, Yuna! I haven't seen you since. . . I haven't seen you in ages!" The man shouted across the small room.

"Oh no, Gippal, it's that kid Donnie I told Rikku about."

Gippal remembered her stories about the weird guy who worshipped her underwear on a nightly basis until she moved away.

"Apparently he's into chocobos now."

Yuna didn't want to talk to him now, or ever.

Donnie slowly walked over to where Yuna was sitting. His hesitation was due to the fact that there was a strange guy sitting with her. He'd never she him before anywhere. He was also looking like he could crush his head if he tried anything on Yuna.

Gippal eyed the man walking across the room. His hair was ruffled and he was looking a bit rough around the edges. Not to mention a pungent stench that was coming off of him from at least five feet away.

"Do you want me to get rid of this guy for ya?"

Yuna nodded her head vigorously. It seemed like it was Gippal's day for rescuing her, and her day for needing rescuing.

Just then, Gippal gently grabbed her neck and started to play with her hair. She had to admit that she was a little surprised, but whatever got her out of the situation was fine.

She started to blush a shiny crimson when his calloused fingers tickled up her neck.

Donnie got the picture and decided to leave her alone. "Ok. . . well, I guess I see y—"

Just as he was about to exit the establishment, the bell rang and he bumped into a petite figure.

"Well, hello there beautiful. Can I get—" Donnie was cut off by a sharp thrust to the stomach. Apparently, 'beautiful' was as angry as he was to see the two canoodling at their table.

»º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º«

Calm down, Rikku, just calm down.

She stopped by Yuna's dorm only to see a swarm of reporters on the lawn. Paine shoved through the confusion stating that she was going to the gym to let off some steam. Rikku asked where Yuna was and Paine suggested that she was probably hiding from the 'blithering idiots' gathered on her lawn.

Rikku went to Yuna's house just to talk about her fight with Gippal. The girl completely forgot the upcoming trial and Yuna's involvement in it. She knew she needed to tone down her jealous tendencies, but Rikku remembered how much of a playboy he was back at Home. Gippal would flirt all his life if he was given the chance. He couldn't stay away from a beautiful female face no matter what. Yuna told her he tried to get into her pants when they first met, but then he realized that the two of them were cousins.

She was anticipating his arrival for weeks. He called her about two weeks before he knew when he was coming back. She had been so excited that she didn't stop to think why he never called her before. Normally when his digs lasted for months she would get to talk to him at least three times a week. Sometimes a sand storm would stop him, but he would call eventually.

It was just a few days before his arrival when the wheels in her mind started to click. She put together scenarios and analyzed imaginary suspicious pauses in his speech. She dreamt up some gorgeous Al Bhed girl who knew everything about machines and was interested in organizing digs and didn't nag as much as she did. Pretty soon that dream became real and Rikku began to see her in every female she saw on the streets.

She even snapped at a girl in Yuna's dorm who was known for her promiscuous ways and success with the boys. The girl was just talking to one of her friends about how she slept with some guy who already had a girlfriend in a unisex bathroom. She was bragging about it for at least fifteen minutes before Rikku walked over and hit her with a barrage of Al Bhed curse words.

Her jealousy had definitely gotten the best of her when she accused Gippal of bringing another woman in their small house. Her foundation was a loaf of bread that was leaning to the left and a well-trodden floorboard in the living room.

It was stupid of her, but how would it look if she all of a sudden took her words back and actually admitted that she was wrong?

So Rikku decided to ask for Yunie's advice. She may not have had many boyfriends, but Yuna seemed to be wise enough. Plus, she had helped her with her first breakup with Gippal.

So when Paine told her that Yuna was gone, she left her car in the parking lot and started the short walk to Dingo Dango's. She knew it was Yuna's favorite burger place. Rikku also knew that Gippal would try to come home again, so she figured the free food would butter Yuna up before she asked to stay at her place for the night.

She opened the glass door of Dingo Dango's only to see that same cousin gushing over that same jerk, Gippal.

Never mind that idiot at the door, or the staring customers. Yuna, over there, with her Gippal?! Was she going insane?

Just walk over, calmly and slowly. Don't make more of a scene than you've already had, Rikku.

»º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º«

"Oh shit. I'm in for it now."

Gippal set his head on the beige table. His hearing wouldn't be the same after this one-sided yelling match.

"Hey Yunie. Hello Gippal." Rikku had a very scary smile plastered on her face. To their audience, she looked perfectly amiable, but to them, they could see the maliciousness and anger behind it.

"How's it going guys?"

Yuna gulped and replied, "Everything's fine. Um, hey, this," Yuna pointed between herself and Gippal for effect, "is not what it looks like."

"You know, Yuna, I expected this from Gippal, but not from you."

Gippal scoffed when she said this. "Is that what you think about me?" He turned to Yuna. "The reason why she thinks I'm cheating is because some area on the living floor has been walked on. And, according to her, she doesn't wear her heels in that spot, so that must mean that some woman was in the house when she wasn't there."

Rikku started to interrupt him but he held out his finger. "Then, get this," Gippal laughed scornfully, "because the bread was leaning to the left, she thought some left-handed woman was there."

By this time, Gippal was furious. He had told her before that if her attitude didn't change, then he would leave. "She never once thought that maybe there was axel grease on my right hand, or that one of my friends was left-handed." He was trying his best to keep his voice down, but it wasn't working. "I guess that never crossed your mind did it?"

"Well," Rikku started shakily, "I remember a time when you would jump into any girl's pants if you were sure you had the chance!"

"I remember that that was a long time ago." Gippal retorted. "I also remember that I chose your pants to get into."

Things were a little quiet after that and it seemed like the whole establishment was looking at the tiny drama unraveling itself at the beige table.

Yuna started to feel uncomfortable, so she got up to leave.

"You stay right there." Gippal stated. "Some guy was trying to bother you and I was just helping. Rikku is going to apologize because she realizes this and the fact that you nor I would never do that to her."

Yuna sat down immediately. She looked to a now teary-eyed Rikku.

"I'm sorry, Yunie. I shouldn't have jumped to conclusions."

"Apology accepted, Rikku."

Yuna was seriously wondering when she could leave. She had somewhere to be in an hour.

"I'm telling you Rikku, I won't stand for this again."

"I know."

"Most guys would have left by now."

"I know."

"I think it's time for me to leave, Rikku."

"No please don't do that!"

Now Yuna really wanted to leave, she knew exactly where this line of conversation was going. Pretty soon they would be slobbering all over each other.

Yep, I was right.

Those two really had no self control. They were in a public place full of people, children even, and they were going at each other's throats, romantically speaking.

Yuna high-tailed it out of Dingo Dango's as fast as her feet would carry her. On her way to her appointment, she swore to herself to never put two people together. They would only end up blaming her for their problems.

»º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º•º«

A/N:

ThePirateJilt: That's my problem with this story. In the game, Tidus went through near death situations and the fact that his could-be girlfriend was supposed to die. Even through all of that, his very rambunctious personality still showed. There were some dull spots, but he was still positive. In this story, Tidus is facing a for-sure death situation, but he's all sullen and whatnot.

I suppose I'm trying to fit Tidus into something he isn't, but it works for this story (at least in my mind it does). So he's going to stay borderline genius, even though I know that that's stretching a little too much, and he will be calm for the most part. A possible note of interest would be this quote from the last chapter:

"They loved how he could be loud and flamboyant in one second and meek and well-behaved the next."

So does this work or at least alleviate the blatant OOC-ness? It probably doesn't mean much now, but I'll keep it in mind and try to make it work now that you've pointed out the problem.

Also, I was going to have a meeting in this chapter, but I thought that this would be a good place to end. I'm going back to school this week so there won't be any internet connection going on here for a few days. My schedule is ridiculous for real this time around. I'm also thinking about getting a job, so I'll try really hard but I don't know about updates for this semester.

LeBlanc's last name came from the French composer, Camille Saint-Saëns. He is most recognized for his composition, The Carnival of the Animals. My favorite sections from it are "The Swan" and "Aquarium".

BTW, in the first Austin Powers, they said that they saved Dr. Evil's semen and created a son for him. But in the second part, there's this memory where Frau (sp) basically says she's pregnant. So how is that possible? And how old is Scott then? Just wondering.