It hurt. Rikku couldn't pretend it didn't. It hurt a lot. It was what she had been expecting, and it was why she'd never said a word, but...

That didn't stop it from hurting.

She thought she'd been so sneaky - spending half the night staring at his sleeping face, his hair turned silvery by moonlight and face peaceful in a way she never saw it when he was awake. She was careful never to show any sign of it during the day. After all, if she'd hid the monster crush she'd had on Gippal when she was thirteen, it couldn't be too hard to hide this from Auron.

She should have known better, though - Gippal certainly wasn't stupid, but there was no denying that Auron was a thousand times more perceptive. She supposed he had probably known right from the start, and had ignored it in the hopes that it was simply hero worship. It wasn't, though. Al Bhed didn't really worship summoners' guardians, even really legendary ones - it was all part of the whole mess of Yevon. They might respect good fighters, but they viewed guardians with none of the awe and wonder that the rest of Spira did.

She'd never thought she'd be caught staring - when he opened his eyes, she at first thought she had to be imagining things.

"What are you doing?" he rumbled, and she squeaked involuntarily.

"Nothing!" She scrambled backwards a little as he sat up.

He looked at her steadily, his eyes dark and serious - for once not covered by black sunglasses, for which she was thankful. She wondered if he knew what nice eyes he had. "You were staring at me," he said tonelessly.

"I couldn't sleep," she said, forcing herself to lower her voice despite her panic.

"You've been staring at me for several nights, now." Auron's voice was not really made for a whisper - it was too deep and growly, Rikku figured - but he made an effort not to wake the others.

Rikku resisted the urge to slap herself for her stupidity. "I - well, okay. Yeah," she admitted, because there was really no way for her to plausibly deny it.

"I could ask you why, but I fear I already know."

Rikku chewed on her lower lip and said nothing.

"It has to stop, Rikku." She almost shivered at the intensity in his dark gaze.

Rikku guessed it had to be that lack of sleep had finally driven her completely insane, but for whatever reason, it was then that she lurched forward, grabbed his collar in her fists, and yanked him forward into a kiss - clumsy and awkward because she'd sort of missed and was kissing the corner of his mouth, and was totally unsure of what she was doing, but god, she was kissing Auron - his stubble scratching at her cheeks and his lips tasted of sake and his hair was tickling her forehead -

And then he was shoving her back, perhaps a little too roughly out of shock. She was surprised to find that although it had been a rather chaste kiss, he was breathing just as hard as she was, despite the cold tone of his voice. "Rikku. No."

With that, he lay back down and turned onto his side, facing away from her. A moment later, he heard her do the same. He pretended not to hear the sniffle that followed her movement.

Auron glared at the sky, his lips almost itching with desire. It was better this way. It would save them both heartache. This way, she would never have to know what they could have had - and would never have to lose it.