This is kind of a redo of my very first story (which is gone now). But it is a lot different, actually. I won't say anymore.


Rikku lay on her cot, sorting through her spheres. She arranged them into three different categories. Gullwings, Post-Gullwings, and Pre-Gullwings. The Gullwings stack had the most. Post-Gullwings, she found, had only three. And they were short too. "Poopie..." she sighed. "This is so boring! Why can't something exciting happen on this stupid desert..."

The Gullwings had been disbanded for over half a year now. Of course YRP kept in constant communication, occasionally spent a day together and such... but ever since Yadonoki they had not embarked on any thrilling adventures. No, Rikku was stuck here in Bikanel, helping Nhadala dig up dirt and then sort through said dirt.

Right now she was on her lunch break. She liked to spend the coveted hour inside of her tent. She had one all to herself. Actually, she shared it with Nhadala, but the woman never came inside anymore. Rikku had never seen herself as a nine-to-five kind of girl, especially not when she was barely eighteen-years-old. Every night she returned home after work, and prayed for some excitement.

"Three more days..." she sighed. In three days she would have a whole five days off, and she planned to spend those days traveling around Spira. She could not wait. It was going to be so much fun. She had invited Yuna and Paine to come along, but of course Yuna hardly left Besaid anymore, now that Tidus was back. Paine had told her she was taking a little trip of her own already, and that it was impossible to reschedule. So, sadly, Rikku was all by herself.

"Rikku! Lunch break is over! We have some work to do out by the Oasis!" Nhadala poked her head inside the tent flap. "Are you looking at all those old spheres again?" she asked the princess.

"So what if I am?" Rikku asked.

"You know we're not supposed to dwell on the past," Nhadala actually stepped into the cool, shaded tent.

"I know. Just... I miss it," the blond shrugged. "Yunie and Paine. I wanted them to come with me on my vacation, you know. But they're both busy next week."

"Well... why not take an early vacation?" her boss suggested. "Just start early. You'd actually get more time off that way."

"I can do that? Isn't it too late to change? I mean... there's so much stuff we have planned for tomorrow-"

"I'll take care of it." Rikku gaped. Nhadala was not usually so lenient. Under any other circumstances she would have been suspicious. But if she left early then she could see Paine before she left on her trip.

"I think I'll take you up on that offer," she said. "Thank you, Nhadala... You have no idea how happy I am right now!"

"Hey, you still have some work to do. Let's go. The sooner you get it done the sooner you can leave on your vacation."

0o0o0o0o0o0

Paine listened to her friend's proposition calmly, sitting just out of the comsphere's view. She was having difficulty paying attention to Rikku while also concentrating on putting her pants on right. She had just woken up, and there were so many buckles. "I know you're leaving on Sunday, but maybe tomorrow or something I thought we could meet in Luca. I asked Yuna to come too, but she hasn't decided yet – dunno why... it's not that far away from Besaid. Please, Painey, please?!"

The silver-haired girl sighed, glaring over at the small blue sphere. "Luca's pretty far away for me, Rikku," she said. "Besides: we're leaving at dawn Sunday, even if I did meet you there for the day I'd never be back in time."

"We?"

"Yeah... Baralai, Gippal and Nooj are coming too," Paine explained. "We're camping out on Mount Gagazet for a few days. We've had it planned for a while..." she sighed, snapping a few more of her buckles into place.

"Gippal...?" Rikku squeaked.

"Interested much?" the warrior chuckled.

"Oh, no... I just thought that I could maybe stop by and see him during my break. But, obviously not." By the sound of her voice Rikku was more than just a little upset. Paine frowned, lying back on her large bed.

"Sorry to disappoint you, Rikku, but... like I said: we can't change it now."

"It's alright," Rikku sighed. "I just haven't seen him in a while. Since the Machine Faction disbanded it's been hard for me to get a hold of him. I heard he moved." Paine looked cautiously towards the door of her bedroom, thankful that it was shut.

"Yeah," she said, "I heard that too."

"Oh well," her best friend chirped, "enough about that grease-monkey. Please come, Paine, please!? We can meet at that hotel they named after the Gullwings! I heard it's been finished recently, and I've been absolutely dying to check it out!"

"I'd like to... but I don't know how to get there," Paine shrugged. "I don't exactly live on an airship anymore-"

"Yeah, how is that apartment thing working out for you!?" Rikku injected. "You just moved in right?"

"Two months ago."

"Bevelle must be so pretty. You live near Baralai, don't you?" Paine's eyes found the door again.

"Pretty close," she nodded, although Rikku could not see it. "I'll ask him, but I'm not making any promises."

"Oh, come on, Baralai will do anything if you ask him," Rikku teased.

"I really have to go, Rikku," said Paine. "But I'll call you back when I know if I can come tomorrow or not."

"Okie-dokie. Catcha later, Painey." Rikku's voice was suddenly replaced with static.

"Wow... she actually hung up first this time," Paine whispered, getting to her feet. "That's a first." The nineteen-year-old pushed into the small landing of her apartment. It was in a wide fan shape, with two doors to the left of hers and a set of five stairs leading down into another room. It was a large apartment, in her opinion, and had a lot of space to it.

"Hey, Paine," Baralai suddenly came trotting up the stairs onto the landing. "Who was it you were talking to?"

"Rikku. What are you up to?" she asked.

"Just need to finish packing for Sunday," he said. "Are you excited?"

"Don't I look it?" Paine joked, keeping her face emotionless. Her friend laughed lightly, continuing towards his room. "Listen... 'Lai..." she began.

"Yeah?"

"Is there anyway you can take me to Luca tomorrow? Rikku wants to meet with me there."

"Why doesn't she just come here?" Baralai asked, looking at Paine with suspicious eyes. She merely shrugged. "Haven't told her yet, have you."

"Might of slipped my mind..." she lied. "But I did tell her that you and Gippal were coming with me on the campout."

"But you forgot to say: 'By the way, we also live together'?" he grinned teasingly.

"It's Rikku. When it comes to Gippal she gets all weird," Paine explained. "But... I'll tell her tomorrow, I promise. That is, if you take me..."

"Take you where?" that was when Gippal decided to jump up onto the landing as well. He looked between his two roommates, grinning slyly. Paine scowled, folding her arms.

"Gippal..." she began, "get your mind out of the gutter."

"Hey!" he snapped jokingly. "You can't tell me what to do!"

"I'm older," Paine sighed, starting towards the living room.

"By like three months!" Gippal exclaimed with exasperation. His red-eyed friend had the tendency to pull the 'I'm older' card on him, even when they were in the Crimson Squad. It was only a few months.

"I'm still older," she said, passing him.

"Well Baralai is older than both of us," he pointed out. "And he pays for most of the apartment – so you have to listen to him!" Baralai clapped Gippal on the shoulder, also heading down the stairs.

"Gippal, get your head out of the gutter," he commanded.

"Oh like you don't wish-"

"Enough," Paine snapped, plopping down on their couch. Her face was blank, but there was still a slight pink tinge to her cheeks. She flipped on the spherescreen which hung on the wall opposite her. Her two friends joined her in the living room. Gippal sat on the floor, and Baralai stood behind her.

"The news is on," he said. Paine shrugged, changing the channel.

"Why do we always have to watch the news in the mornings?" Gippal groaned.

"It's not like there's anything else on anyway..." said Paine.

"There is plenty of other stuff on!" he shouted.

"Shut up," she snapped, hitting him over the head with the remote.

"Guys..."

"Ow! Fryd dra ramm?" Gippal yelled.

"That's what you get-"

"Guys!" Baralai shouted over them. Paine looked up, as did Gippal. "Look," the oldest of the three pointed at the screen.

Shelinda was standing in the center, with a scared looking old man wringing his bony hands at her side. At the bottom of the screen was the caption: Reborns: Are Sents walking among us again? "You heard it hear first, everyone!" Shelinda chirped in her usual tone. "We have eyewitness accounts of Sents walking among the living. How many are there? How did they get here? Are they a threat? Please, send us your thoughts on the matter and any footage you have of these mysterious Reborns-" Gippal snatched the remote away from Paine's hand and changed the channel.

"Gippal!" his roommates exclaimed.

"What are you doing?" Baralai asked.

"What? You actually believe that load of crap?"

Paine tapped Baralai on the sleeve lightly. "Yeah?" he said.

"You never answered my question. Can you take me to Luca tomorrow?"

"Luca? Why are you going to Luca?" Gippal turned his head.

"Go see Rikku..." she answered.

"Can I-!?"

"No. I am not having you within 100 yards of Rikku and a hotel."

"Hotel!?"

"I don't know how..." Baralai drew attention back to the point, "I'll probably have to pull a few strings for an airship, but I'll get you there somehow, Paine." Gippal frowned, folding his arms. "Promise."

"I hate you both..." he grumbled.

0o0o0o0o0

Rikku sat in the lobby Saturday morning, with her cousin sitting across from her. Yuna had just arrived, but Paine had yet to even call. "This place is so cool," Yuna beamed, looking around at the large lobby. It looked much like the engine of the airship, on a much larger scale and without the smell and noise. There was a gift shop and even a Gullwings Museum.

"Have you seen the rooms?" Rikku asked.

"No."

"Neither have I... But I heard we can get one for free if we asked. We each have our own suites named after us, isn't that awesome!?" the blond laughed, riffling through a free brochure sphere. "Of course your's is the most expensive. Aww, mine's so cute!" she said, enlarging the thumbnail view of 'her' room. "We should really stop by the museum before we leave. It looks like fun. There's like a ton of interactive stuff..."

"Where's Paine?" Yuna frowned, staring towards the entranceway.

"I don't know, but I'd wish she'd show up soon," said Rikku.

"Hey... is... is that her?" Yuna breathed, pointing over her shoulder. She stared at the door as a young woman waltzed inside. Red eyes, pale face, one pierced ear. The only difference between the newcomer and Paine was her hair. Instead of grey and up in Paine's usual style, it was jet-black and framed the young woman's face. There was also her outfit. Not a single shred of leather or scrap of metal. She was far more covered up, with a dark shirt, baggy pants, and a ragged trench coat.

"Must be. Wow, love the new hair," Rikku smiled.

"I didn't know she'd changed it... Are you sure that's her?" Yuna asked cautiously, doubtful. Something did not feel right.

"Only one way to find out," said her cousin. She raised her hand high and called out, "Hey, Paine!"

Yuna watched as the woman's head quickly turned in their direction.