A/N: No particular setting for this; just some Rikku and Paine dynamic set around FFX-ending-angst

Silver Lining

Paine catches her crying one day, gloomy gothic Paine, standing at the top of the stairs gaping as if lightning has struck her, while Rikku rubs her nose and her eyes and sniffs back her snot and goes, convincing as convincing can be, "What are you looking at," and then because it obviously hasn't worked she has to roll on her back and dig her face into the pillow and prepare herself for what is obviously going to be a load of teasing. She hears the big black boots of doom thumping closer to her bed and tries to stop hiccupping and groaning and grumbling, because this is so not cool.

Only it was never cool, not since Spira was saved, not since Tidus went biddy-bye and Yunie wore Zanarkand all over her chest and yeah, even stupid Auron is someone worth missing even if all Rikku ever wants to be is happy. Because they're free, and they're heroes, and she's had a growth spurt in the last two years and actually fills out a bikini top now, hah, that would show all those nonbelievers. But sometimes it still hurts so bad like a big fat balloon between her ribs and she's not a baby anymore but she wishes she could be on occasion. That way she wouldn't always have to be Little Miss Sunshine and Rainbows, and she does the job well enough, but that's only because Yunie has turned into the Queen of Teardrops, and yeah. They've both got it bad.

But Paine won't get that because she wasn't there when they beat stupid old Sin; she wasn't watching when Yunie cried and danced her dance and they all saw Tidus hug her but his arms were going through her and Auron was dispersing into pyreflies and it was all heartache and dying dreams and Yunie fell on the floor still crying and it was incredibly unfair. Because they were supposed to come home to trumpets and fanfare and everyone singing and no more Yevon and discrimination and crap; Lulu and Wakka would announce their marriage and everyone could kiss and make merry and somewhere in her imagined victory there would be confetti and rice throwing and candy, too, but it didn't happen.

They went home feeling like death and disaster and all torn up inside with the most precious parts still missing; and Rikku didn't love Tidus like Yunie did and she couldn't like Auron like that, dude, that's gross, but still, it wasn't her family that came home that night, it was some of it. And they never knew those silly soppy thoughts in her head but she had them, anyway; a happy dream of herself as Li'l Sis Rikku and there was Mommy Yuna and Tidus was an awful dad but he fit the role somehow, and Aunt Lulu and Uncle Wakka and Grandpa Auron, and Kimahri who was just Kimahri because he didn't exactly fit the pet bill.

But now they're just Yuna, and Rikku, and she does like Paine an awful lot and they've got all these awesome adventures, but sometimes (and this is a very great and terrible secret) - she wishes that Sin were still not vanquished; that they were still together and there were no appalling realizations like dreams and forever-never-never. And today she remembers, like a broken record, like food she's already digested but somehow it's in her throat again – and then her eyes are leaking but it's okay.

Because Bartender is just a hypello and extremely discreet about it and she thinks Paine and Yunie are away on some mission, only they're not – well, Paine's not.

And Paine asked her once, don't you know how to be gloomy, but she just shook her booty and grinned a great big grin because Ms. Leather and Fancy Pants Fighting Style didn't have to know that much. No sir. This misery is Rikku's and Rikku's alone and it's so dumb for her to feel this way, but she does.

So when Paine pulls her back away from the pillow and her face is splotchy and oops, there's snot, and gee Paine's pupils are like a fire when your own eyes are blurry from all that crying, and she can't seem to wriggle away like a worm. "It's nothing," but now Paine is giving her a hug and it's too funny because she's goth and rock and all humpty-grumpy and I-don't-care and here she is comforting Rikku in a way Brother never could (she swears he is the lamest sibling in the universe, and that is probably the only grudge she will ever bear against the world).

"You look like a freak," Paine tells her unceremoniously, before producing a tissue and instructing her to blow her nose like a weird corpse mommy, and Rikku manages to laugh before snotting all over the tissue. And then Paine sighs and she's rubbing her own neck and patting Rikku's back through her ebony gloves, almost as if they don't need words, but Rikku wants to explain herself and not look like a ninny. The weird thing is, Paine is not cold like Rikku thought she'd be, she's being patient and warm even if she's pale as a ghost and here's the thing, she always knew that Paine was nice and sisterly under that mean facade, promise.

"I'm not crying for a stupid reason."

"Of course."

"And I'm not crying coz I want to."

"Rikku," Paine says, not-quite-sarcasm but rather exasperated just the same, "It's not a crime to cry. Even if it's you."

And Rikku blinks at her as if this is the greatest bit of advice she's heard since Yunie told her gloss could keep her lips from chapping, and she says, "Then you won't mind if I drip onto your lap, right?"

Silence (and maybe it's a little put off), but the warrior pats her head and offers a shoulder anyway, and Rikku digs her face into this weird and bony pillow and sniffles, and it is not a crime to cry, it never was a crime to cry, she was just ashamed of not being strong. Because Yunie whistles every time they're near the sea and cries and has nightmares at night, but still does her best for Spira. And Paine is tough as nails even if she's gotten shot before and doesn't have an awful lot of friends now, and she's been keeping people away from her just for safety, but that's strength in itself. Rikku wants to keep being sunlight. Honest.

But even the bluest sky gets rainclouds some days, and when they've run out of tissue there's always her scarf, and Paine tells her Yunie's on a mission and she'll be horrified to come home and see Rikku looking like a drowned dog ("You know, 'wet rag' would be a better simile," Rikku quips), and she feels a little better and more like herself already. And when she's done mimicking a leaking faucet, she turns to Paine and asks, "Are you curious?"

The answer is a shrug, but it's a curious one, and after a moment she goes, "If you're okay with it. Tell me about it." There's an awful lot to tell, about Tidus and his abs and the cold Ronso mountains and Seymour was really truly gay, and Auron teasing her in the Thunder Plains, and Lulu wouldn't even give Wakka the time of the day before, but it's a fun story. So she jabbers about it and the record plays in her head and the memory is more sweet than bitter now, and this is not exactly therapy, but it works.

Then she says she feels better, and really she does. There's a good-deed down on Gothgirl's list; surprise surprise, she never thought Paine could smile so pretty, but she can. And suddenly they're friends. In return, Rikku will give her a massive makeover someday. Starting with the hair.

A/N: I apologize for any headaches caused by the endless run-on sentences. I hope you enjoyed it just the same. :D Comments would be very greatly appreciated. Thanks for reading!