Characters: Rikku, Auron
Other: A writing meme done for katmillia on the theme "Five Times That Rikku Nearly Stole Auron's Gil and One Time She Managed to Pull it Off." I guess if you want to stretch it you could see this as a prequel for Memento Vivere, but I really just wrote it as a stand-alone one shot. All standard disclaimers apply, the most important one of course being no profit. Please leave a review if you like it.
The first time Rikku tried to grab Auron's money, they were at the Moonflow. She considered it only fair; after all, it was payback for that embarrassing eye-check thing he'd done to her, and in front of everybody else, too! It was a good thing that almost all the men in the group were so clueless; all but the eyeball-checker himself and Kimahri, and at least the latter knew how to keep his muzzle shut. She was certain the men had been dazzled by the grenade tossing skills she had displayed earlier; if not dazzled, at least slightly stunned and still partially deafened from the blast. In other words, it was the perfect time to strike. She kept on chatting with Tidus - it was rather difficult, considering that she practically had to holler her words directly into his ear for him to hear them - but it did help with her plan, which was to hold him back from the others. When she finally saw the flash of a not-so-familiar red coat pass them by, she heaved a quiet sigh of relief and quickly excused herself from the conversation. Rikku left the confused blonde behind on the pretence of having to 'catch up with Yuna.' And if she just happened to brush a little too close by the big grump, who was to say it wasn't a simple, unfortunate accident?
Apparently he was one to say, as he caught her arm and yanked her backwards before she could pass him. She wondered briefly how he had noticed; his hand had snaked out and arrested her own before she had even managed to get inside his coat at all. He lowered the shades just enough to glare at her with his one good eye from over their rim and ask her what she thought she was doing.
"Umm... chasing Yuna?" she had offered with a wan smile. His incredulous gaze made it clear what he thought about her explanation, so she laughed weakly. "Sorry," she said, pulling her hands behind her back and surreptitiously crossing her fingers. "It won't happen again, I promise!" He only grunted and released her with a warning look. She waited for him to turn around and stalk off so that she could stick her tongue out, but he remained there, staring at her. "What?" she finally asked, exasperated.
He had simply pointed further up the road at Yuna with the gentlemanly offer of 'ladies first.' So he wasn't going to turn his back on her? Well, poop. She'd have to be a little more careful next time; there was always tomorrow.
. x . x . x .
The second time Rikku wasn't going for his gil; even a careful questioning of Tidus and a staredown with Kimahri hadn't managed to unearth the location of his mysterious gil pouch. Instead she went for the lone piece of gil decorating his shoe. Beggars couldn't be choosers; besides, what kind of person tied gil onto their shoes as accessories? She was really just saving him from a terrible fashion mistake.
They were in Guadosalam; both she and Auron had opted to stay outside of the Farplane. He looked a little under the weather, she noticed as she surreptitiously cased him over. She might have felt guilty about harassing him when he was so obviously unwell - if it wasn't for the fact that he was a GREAT BIG STUPID HEAD. So, she tossed the fruit in her hand carelessly back and forth in the air, until she heard him grunt in annoyance.
"Problem?" she asked cheerfully, slyly scoping out the glint of the coin on his footwear as he leaned his head back against the stone pillar. She was going to need a dagger to sever the straps that were holding it in place. Which might put a not-so-small dent in the effectiveness of his boots. She was already fingering the small knife in her pouch when his eye slid closed. She waited until she was sure his shallow breaths had evened out; then she waited some more. When she was certain he had drifted to sleep, she slowly crept off her ledge and slunk over towards him, knife in hand. Oh, but she was sneaky. There wasn't an Al Bhed in the books who could pull one over Rikku, no sirree-
She froze when he spoke, her eyes darting to his face in shock. He hadn't moved at all; well, except for his lips. Not that she could tell, what with that huge red collar pulled up around the lower half of his face. He told her not to even think about it, and she was baffled. Then he told her to put the knife away, and puzzlement faded into annoyance.
"How did you know?" she asked in irritation as she tucked the tool away in her pouch.
He told her he was tired, not blind. She didn't buy that for one second; for one, he only HAD one eye, and for two, she was absolutely positive and ready to bet her shorts - and these were her favourite shorts, too - that it had remained closed for the entire time. She was beginning to think he was psychic. Or maybe he had x-ray sunglasses. Damn that man and his all-knowing eyeball of doom; she would get him yet.
. x . x . x .
He trapped her hand under his own the third time, and Rikku was certain she was going to die. She let out a loud scream and he let go, though not before untangling her fingers from the cord of his jug. She wasn't going to quibble over the small details, though, so long as he put BOTH hands back on the handlebars of the speeding machina.
"Don't EVER do that again!" she yelled into his ear, taking some satisfaction from his wince. "You nearly killed us, you creep!" Thankfully, he didn't point out the fact that she was the one who had been trying to swipe the jug in the first place, so technically it had been her fault. She was certain the task of piloting the machina would have kept him sufficiently occupied; too bad she had forgotten that he was totally psychic. And psychotic. Driving a sled machina right next to the slick, ice-covered drop-off at breakneck speeds with only one eye AND one hand was a little too much even for the Al Bhed sense of adventure. Rikku just wanted the ride to be over and done with; it figured that her luck would be this rotten. Going over the edge of the frozen cliffs of Macalania with her second-worse nemesis after Wakka would be the perfect end to an already horrible Guardianship.
"I... I just needed a little support," she finally said, burying her face into his broad shoulder, not caring what he thought when she wiped the tears leaking from her eyes on the thick red fabric of his coat. Heck, anyone would need a stiff drink after the things Wakka had said to her. She had actually thought they were friends until that moment; all it took was one loud announcement from her clueless brother to ruin that, though. Well, one announcement and one close battle for Yuna, that was. All the same, it wasn't every day that a girl renounced her race and her family for the sake of a religious institution which she didn't even believe in and, in fact, wanted to destroy.
Thankfully, Auron kept his normally blunt reprimands to himself, not even flinching when she sniffed loudly and dried her runny nose on the same cloth-covered shoulder. He did tell her not to push it, though, which made her smile through the tears. In his own gruff way, he was making her feel normal, like nothing had changed between them. And he was right there in front of her, driving the forbidden machina himself, rather than choosing to hike across the unforgiving landscape as Wakka had; maybe nothing had changed, at least between the two of them. Unconsciously she tightened her grip around his waist and whispered her thanks into his sodden back. The wind tore away her words before he could hear them, but she didn't mind. He was psychic after all; he would know.
And then all too quickly, the temple was approaching.
. x . x . x .
Rikku's next victim was Auron's sword. By all rights, she should have had access to it; she had made the thing herself, after all. He didn't actually need to catch her for that particular instance; she was defeated before she even started by the sheer and unexpected weight of the weapon. There was just no stealing something you couldn't lift.
They were camped out for the evening once again in Macalania, this time in the crystalline woods. Rikku was feeling restless; so they had officially turned against Bevelle and had been branded traitors. That was nothing new; she was, after all, Al Bhed. She felt the faint stirrings of hope; maybe Yunie would just abandon the Pilgrimage and live a normal, peaceful life as an ordinary girl. She knew Tidus had chased after her cousin to talk some sense into her; there was no way they could be continuing the Pilgrimage, not with Bevelle hunting them at every turn. No matter what the one-eyed grump thought.
But there was a niggling feeling of doubt. And the fact that she knew Yuna. Responsible, caring, thoughtful Yuna; Yuna, who would never abandon Spira to Sin's fate. In her heart, Rikku already knew the truth, as much as her mind tried to vehemently deny it - there was no stopping her. No Summoner's Sanctum, no heart-to-heart with Tidus, not even the guns of Bevelle would stop Yuna from defeating Sin. That was her destiny. Rikku hated things like 'destiny.'
So, she searched for a distraction. One that would preferably involve sharp, pointy objects and breaking a lot of things. And what better volunteer for the task than Auron's sword? Well, alright - maybe Tidus' sword would have been the smarter choice. But there was no challenge there; Tidus might have been slow, but he wasn't blond enough to take his sword with him to a make-out session with a girl. At least, not the big one. That led to all sorts of thoughts that Rikku really didn't want to dwell on, so she busied herself with acquiring Auron's sword instead. The big one, that is.
He found her sprawled across the ground on her back, pinned under said sword; Wakka and Lulu had come running too, each brandishing their weapons at the loud crash she had made upon landing. Lulu had only rolled her eyes and sighed, while Wakka laughed and then abruptly quieted down and shot her an apologetic look when he caught wind of Auron's cold glare. They left her alone with him, and Rikku spent her time wondering if it would have been better to have fallen on the sword instead of under it.
He surprised her once again by simply plucking the sword off - she marvelled at how effortlessly he lifted it - and then offering her an outstretched arm. "Why are you being nice to me?" she asked when he pulled her to her feet.
He had looked away then, the lines in his face growing heavy with something like sadness. Except Auron, Legendary Guardian, never got sad. Broody and moody, maybe, but not sad. Then he apologized to her, and it was all she could do to pick her jaw off of the forest floor.
"W-why?" she repeated again, shakily this time.
He had looked at her then, his eye hidden behind the dark, reflective lens of his glasses, and the weariness, the sadness, had been wiped away as if they never were. And he told her why, what she already knew in her heart. Then she realized that he was not apologizing for something he had done, but for what he had been about to do. Cruelly he brought her fears into the harsh light of truth; that Sin was eternal, that Yuna would continue the Pilgrimage, that no matter what happened, Spirans would die. And Yuna would not suffer those deaths to be any other than her own; not when it was in her power to stop them.
It wasn't fair; she had set out that evening to steal from him, and instead, when he left, she was the one who felt she had been robbed.
. x . x . x .
The fifth time she tried to steal from him, it wasn't because she was greedy, curious or bored. It was because she wanted revenge. Auron had taken something from her in the woods, something precious and dear to her, and left in its place a bitter, heavy weight. Tidus was doing his best to lighten that burden, but it seemed that even he carried his own secrets from them, at times looking distant and distracted. But in all fairness, she was distracted, too; she wanted to strip Auron of his defences, the same way he had decimated her own.
So she went for his glasses. They were in the Calm Lands; the hike across the vast expanse of plains was both peaceful and boring, if you didn't count the murderous fiends that trolled through the area. This was a good thing; peaceful and boring was exactly what Yuna needed after all that excitement in Bevelle. She waited until after a particularly hard day trekking through the grasslands; waited until everyone was sore and exhausted and just a little bit too tired to want to sit up around the campfire and chat. She waited patiently until it was her turn for the watch, and then, when she was certain everyone was asleep, she approached Auron's bedroll quietly.
A quick scan revealed that his eye was closed; his signature red cloak and high collar were still tightly bundled around him, however. And, she noticed with a quiet laugh, he was still wearing his glasses. She was right; he never took them off his nose, not even to sleep. Her fingers descended slowly, ever so slowly, freezing each time the fire popped or an insect chirped just a little too loudly. This time, she wouldn't get caught, she swore; she focused her concentration completely on the shades, sweat beading across her forehead. She was only a hair's breadth away from the rim of the shades when she noticed his eye was open and watching her.
"How long have you been awake?" she asked finally, frustrated. There was just no getting past that man's defences, it seemed.
He didn't answer; his silence unnerved her. She hesitated, biting her lip in uncertainty; should she move her hands? But she was so close; should she make a grab for the glasses instead? Apparently she waited just a moment too long, because he shifted underneath her and she started, and all of a sudden her fingers were no longer hovering above his glasses, but rather on his cheek. His eye widened, and his rough stubble scratched her calloused fingertips. They both froze, green trapped in amber; her slim fingers were a ghostly white against his sun-darkened tan. The accidental touch turned into a hesitant caress, and she marvelled at how cold he felt.
He said her name, so softly and gently that it seemed he was telling her the most precious secret in the universe, and not just repeating her plain, ordinary title. There was no recrimination in his tone, no unspoken demand for her to remove her hand. His next word, however, revealed the truth of it, burned her so much that her hand was a blur from the speed with which she removed it - he was a cold man, so cold, as cold as the surface of his frozen skin.
She slunk away from him, and he didn't chase or call after her, not that she was expecting him to. It was silly, really; after all this time they had spent together, she should have been growing a least a little bit psychic herself. But for the life of her, she still couldn't tell what went on in that man's head. All that she knew, as she morosely resumed her watch, was that she was left once again unsatisfied and empty-handed.
. x . x . x .
She finally pulled it off, of all places, inside of Sin. Under any other circumstances, she would have considered it the heist of a lifetime. As it was, she would have rather traded her success for all of the failure in the world.
He had told them he was leaving, in his own reticent way; he had ordered Yuna to continue her dance. The pyreflies whispered around him, bathing him with their wispy green light. She had never hated them more than at that moment; he was leaving her, leaving all of them, without so much as an explanation or even a proper goodbye. She hated goodbyes; she felt the tears building in her eyes and reached out to stop him, but he wouldn't look at her. So, in one last, desperate attempt, she reached for his rosary.
And let out a quiet gasp of disappointment as the ring of beads fell away and clacked in her hands. He didn't even pause as he strode towards the edge of the airship, sword in hand, one set of prayer beads lighter. She grasped them to her chest, so tightly that the porcelain cut into her palms. A few of them shattered, much as his body did.
His second death truly was beautiful.
Much later, when it was all over, in the privacy of her own cabin on the airship, she carefully collected the remaining beads. There were only a few that were left undamaged, and she cursed herself for having been so careless. Staring at them, winking cheerfully in the artificial light, Rikku felt the edge of a wry smile tipping the corner of her mouth. So what if he had let her have them? In the end, they were still her trophy, her war-prize, her evidence of his presence. Cold, unyielding, brittle - but comforting all the same.
"I would have preferred your glasses," she said aloud. "But I guess this'll have to do."
And with that, she reached for the first bead and began to braid her hair.