First order of business: EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. As stated on my profile page, a reminder to you all that regrettably, I will no longer be posting here at . My fanfiction will stay up and everything will still be available, but nothing new will be posted. This is because it's becoming too much of a hassle to maintain this page, my LJ, and try to set up my upcoming website, .

If you want to continue reading my work, you can find it at my LiveJournal under the username WILDEJOY. (The URL is wildejoy..) My fanfiction is posted publicly, and sorted by tags in the sidebar. If you want to be notified when I update, create an account or use your Open ID, and add me as a friend. From there you have the option of selecting "Get notifications for new entries", and from there you can check the box reading "wildejoy posts a new entry tagged --". Select it, pull down the menu and pick 'fanfiction'. Or, you can simply select "wildejoy posts a new entry", but my entries are not always fanfiction.

I'm very sorry for the hassle this will cause those of you who don't have an LJ, but I'm afraid I just don't use this site anymore! Feel free to keep reviewing/favoriting my stories and I won't take anything down, but you won't see me around much.

If you have trouble with any of the above, please contact me. You can PM me, review here, or email me at micayashachan(at)hotmail(dot)com.

Auron is not an easy person to sneak up on. He has spent many nights awake just to listen for approaching fiends or other threats. He thinks of himself as quite observant.

But the tiny hand landing on his shoulder startles him so much that in the same instant that he stands, he draws his sword to round on his attacker.

It's Rikku, her mouth gaping in shock. "Sorry," she says, her voice a squeak. "I didn't mean to scare you."

Auron knows he is mistrustful, but it has been so long since anyone has snuck up on him that he can't help it. "I didn't know you could be so quiet," he says wryly, sheathing his sword.

Rikku grins nervously. "I'm a thief," she says, shrugging. "I do it by accident sometimes – I just got used to sneaking, and now I have to be loud on purpose or else people get jumpy."

"Hn." Auron turns back to looking out at the sky. The ocean flies by below them in such a blur that it's almost impossible to tell where sky meets sea.

"I love the deck." Rikku beams as she squints into the daylight. "The sun, the smell of the ocean, the fresh air—" She flings her arms wide and turns her face up to the sunlight, closing her eyes and looking for all the world like she means to sprout wings and fly. Auron watches with something like affection, and hopes that none of it is clear on his face. Rikku has the intelligence and maturity of a woman twice her age: he hasn't thought of her as a girl in a long time. But there are times when she is so full of childish delight and wonder at the smallest of things – the sun on her face or the wind in her hair; the way snow glitters or the feel of sand between her toes. She reminds him of his childhood, what little he had of it. He had forgotten the kind of awe that children hold for the world, and though he would never tell her so, he likes that even as she becomes a woman, she hasn't lost any of it.

"Was there something in particular that you wanted?" he asks, gruffer than he intended because he can think of nothing except not to lose face.

She opens her eyes and blinks at him, as if she'd forgotten he was there. "Oh," she says with a self-conscious little laugh, "yeah. I wanted to ask you something. A favor, really."

"Oh?" Auron raises an eyebrow and waits. Knowing Rikku, she has to be up to some kind of mischief, and that is seldom a good thing for anyone in a five-mile radius.

"Yeah. I—" She stops, tilting her head as if trying to figure out the best way to say it. "Look, you're a good fighter. I mean, you're better than good. You're Auron, for pity's sake, even Al Bhed have heard your name. And – well, I've never been that good a warrior. I'm a natural thief, and I'm real fast, but I'm not all that strong."

"You are physically stronger than Yuna or Lulu."

"But they have other ways of fighting – Lulu has her black magic, and Yuna has the aeons. I don't have anything except my grenades and what I steal. What if I'm caught without items, or whoever I'm fighting doesn't have anything to steal?"

Auron says nothing, and Rikku starts to fidget.

"So what I wanted to ask, is – will you teach more how to fight?"

How to – what? "You know how to fight," he says, frowning. "What can I teach you?"

"The sword!" Rikku's eyes light up in a way that he's never seen before. "The way you and Tidus move – you're the strongest of us, and you move so fast – I want to fight like that. I can learn."

Auron shakes his head. "We don't have time. You are an asset to us in battle as you are, and once Yuna acquires the hidden aeons, we're fighting Sin, whether or not you can use the sword."

"Okay." Rikku nods earnestly, leaning forward and clasping her hands behind her back. "That's okay. Teach me and I promise I'll learn fast, and if I haven't by the time we get all the aeons, I won't say a word. We'll fight whether I'm ready or not. Just – just gimme a chance."

Everything in Auron wants to say no, and there are a hundred reasons why – but mostly it's that he doesn't like what it might do to her ego. She'll think she's invincible. She'll be rash and foolish. She'll get hurt.

But he looks at her face, so open and honest in her eagerness that even he can't bring himself to let her down.

"Fine," he hears himself say, and her face blossoms into a smile of such gratitude and excitement that he allows a small smile of his own. At first it looks as though she's going to fling herself into his arms but she seems to restrain herself.

"Meet me in the engine room in an hour," he says, turning away. "The deck of a moving airship is not the best place for this."

Rikku is a good student – surprisingly good. Auron had given her some of Tidus' earlier swords, the ones he'd used before he'd developed enough muscle for the heavy hitters. Rikku is naturally skinny, and not made for muscle-work – but she is working hard to develop everything she can. She's begun lifting weights every day, and hasn't once complained of pain or fatigue, no matter how many hours he runs her through drills.

"I like this," she says one day as he circles her, studying her stance. She's running through a new pattern, her grip on the hilt so tight that her knuckles have gone white. Her brow is drawn and her lips pursed in concentration.

"What?" He raps her belly sharply, feeling her abs tighten under his hand. "Keep your stomach tight."

"The sword. The feel of it in my hands, and, and – I don't know how to say it. It feels right."

Auron makes a noncommittal noise. "Straighten your shoulders and keep them open. You don't have the same kind of natural talent for it that some warriors do, but you're… progressing well."

Rikku glances at him out of the corner of her eye. "Is that the closest thing I'm gonna get to 'Good job, Rikku'?"

Auron fights a smile. "Yes. That sword seems to be getting much easier for you."

"Yeah, I can actually hold it up, now," Rikku says, grinning. "I think I've gotten stronger."

"Good." Auron plucks the sword from her hands as easily as he would a pencil. "Time for a real one."

Rikku gapes at the monstrosity he's holding out to her. "You're joking, right?"

"You were having no trouble at all with Tidus'."

"Yeah, but – but that's one of your swords! I don't think I can even lift the darn thing!" But despite her protests, Auron can see a glimmer in her eyes – a thrill of excitement at the seemingly impossible feat he has presented her with. Rikku thrives on challenge, and Auron knows it.

"Let's find out."

Rikku takes hold of the hilt with both hands, and Auron lets go. The blade falls to the cement floor with a dull thud, and inwardly Auron winces at the scratching it will have produced.

Slowly, uncertainly, unsteadily, Rikku is straining to lift the sword, her feet already having slid into battle stance on simple reflex. And inch by inch, she does manage to raise it – her arms are shaking and she's biting her lip so hard it's gone white – but she's doing it, holding it high enough to fight with, now, and Auron feels a swell of pride, taking care to keep it off his face.

"You see," he says without expression, "brute strength is no longer your problem. Now all we need to work on is technique and agility."

Rikku turns her attention from the sword to him, a smile of pure joy spreading over her face, and –

And the sword falls again to the floor. This time, it's Rikku who cringes, looking like a child expecting punishment.

Auron can't help it – he laughs, a deep, rumbling laugh that he hasn't done in – well, in years, he supposes, maybe not since Braska's pilgrimage. As alien as it feels, the look on Rikku's face only makes it harder to stop – she looks so shocked he worries she might faint.

And then she's laughing with him, and the damaged blade is forgotten.

A few days pass in which Auron is happier than he's ever been as a dead man. It wasn't as though Rikku hadn't made an effort to get to know him before; she certainly had, and it was for that reason that he had pushed her away. At the time he hadn't been sure whether it was misplaced hero worship, actual affection, or simple curiosity, but none had been reasons that could overcome the unflinching fact of his death. In the end, when he is finally Sent, he wants no tears to be shed over him. He has no right to this world, now, anyway, and that includes the people in it.

But now that she's tasted even a little friendship between them, she has become as unshakable as a burr, tangling herself in him and absolutely refusing to let go. It is what makes her a good swordswoman, her determination, but it makes her a hell of an admirer, too. She has squirmed her way into nearly every detail of his life, smiling as though nothing is out of the ordinary, even when she turns up in his bedroom at dawn to wake him for training, or when she drags her blankets and pillows in to sleep on his floor during a thunderstorm.

And Auron tries to push her away, but this girl has a way of bringing out the childishness in anyone, and eventually he gives up altogether – because now he's no longer sure he'd take the chance even if he had it.

In the end, though, it's her who ruins it.

Auron is shifting her grip on the hilt, reminding her how to properly hold a two-handed sword, when she shivers, and suddenly makes him aware of just how close they're standing. He's at her back and so her face is a mystery to him, but there are goosebumps rising on the back of her neck, and he realizes he's been speaking into her ear, and possibly in softer tones than quite necessary.


"Are you all right?" he asks, and sees the wisps of hair that have escaped from her ponytail flutter with his breath.

Auron watches the muscles straining in her arms as she slowly lowers the sword out of battle position, and the tendons in her neck becoming apparent as she turns her head to look at him out of the corner of her eye. "I—"

And then, as sudden as everything always is with her, Rikku is pressed up against him, the sword clattering to the ground as her wiry arms wrap around his broad shoulders, pulling him so close that the crook of her elbow is at the back of his neck, and her mouth is on his all hungry and desperate and absolutely determined, and she smells like engine oil and sweat and metal. It's reflex, he tells himself, when he leans in and groans into her mouth, kissing her back with so much enthusiasm that she stumbles back a few steps and until her back is against the wall. Auron tastes coffee on her lips before his brain catches up with his body and he realizes, he's attacking a teenaged girl too sweet, too impressionable, too kind to have her heart broken like this. He plants his hands on her shoulders and steps back, and then again when she tries to follow him.

Rikku stares at him, gasping for air, her cheeks flushed and her eyes blinking in confusion. There's silence for a long moment as Auron tries to stop wondering about the exact taste of her skin or the kinds of sounds she would make.

It's Rikku who breaks the silence.

"Sorry," she says, her voice the barest squeak. "I—" She takes a deep breath and when she speaks again, she sounds much calmer. "I just thought – you kissed me back, you know, I felt it, I'm not stupid. You don't just go around kissing people—"

"Apparently you do," Auron says, because he's never been very good at handling embarrassment and awkwardness and the way her shirt has ridden up is not making this easier. But the hurt in her eyes brings such a sharp stab of regret that he immediately apologizes. "Forgive me, I didn't mean to—"

"Actually," Rikku says, and she won't meet his eyes as she fidgets and squirms, twisting her hands together and looking so hurt, "I think you did. I, um – I think I know what you're gonna say, that I'm too young and inexperienced, that you're gonna hurt me, that I'll regret this. But I'm sixteen, and it's not like I've lived some sheltered life. I can make my own decisions. And you wouldn't be the first guy to break my heart. You only live once, you know?" She looks him right in the eye then, some of her old bravado back, and she stands so tall and strong that he can't help but think that if she's only sixteen, she's going to be nothing short of a force of nature when she's older. "And I'd rather regret having tried something than regret having to wonder what it would have been like."

"I need to think," he says, and does his best not to notice the disappointment flooding her face as he leaves without another word.

The thing is, it makes no sense. He can't understand it. She's a young woman, beautiful, strong, smart, resourceful. Full of hope and love and passion. Full of fire. She could have anyone, he thinks, and instead she chooses an old man.

Why him, when she could have someone young, handsome, charming – she could have a man like Gippal, who would hold her during thunderstorms, who would protect her when she needed it and step back when she could defend herself – whose hair was clear of gray and whose face was free of the marks of time.

He is young in years, perhaps, but both his life and his death had left him with scars.

Rikku is crazy, had always been crazy, but this is one thing he had never expected from her.

At least he, Auron, could be the reasonable adult here. He has an iron will and plenty of practice resisting temptation, and Rikku would be no different from—

She is sleeping so soundly he doesn't want to wake her. Goddamn it all, but he'd gone to her room anyway, because – well, he isn't sure why except that it hadn't seemed like such a bad idea at the time. He sits on the edge of her bed, searching his mind desperately for something, anything to say to explain why he's here.

"Auron?" It's sheer willpower that keeps him from jumping in surprise. She'd woken on her own, and he wonders if it was because she is a thief that she sleeps so lightly.

"I shouldn't have come," he says, more to himself than to her, but she grins at him dangerously.

"Then why did you?" she asks, and it's quite clear she knows the answer as well as he does, because she's already leaning up until her mouth is scant inches from his, and he can smell peppermint on her breath. He can feel her hands fumbling with the catches on his coat, pushing it off his shoulders and it lands in a clatter of belts and buckles and buttons. He feels frozen in place.

Funny. He never would have believed that Rikku could – or would – seduce anybody.

"Auron," she breathes against his mouth, her eyes searching his face. "I'm not as innocent as everybody thinks."

Yevon help me, he thinks, closing his eyes as her hands, warm and small and rough with calluses, slide up underneath his shirt and over his stomach, tracing the definition of his muscles.

"I don't need protecting," she goes on, and though the words and their solemnity sound so unlike her, there is a mischievous gleam in her hypnotic eyes that Auron knows too well, and the curl of her lips is nothing short of predatory. "I just need you, Aur—"

Auron closes the rest of the distance between their lips before she has even finished his name. Still smiling into the kiss, she leans forward, pressing so close to his body and this sound escapes her, this soft, breathless moan as she pushes her hips into his.

This is too much, even for Auron, who prides himself on his self-control. Oh god her legs are wrapping around his waist and her hands are sliding up and down his spine.

When he finally manages to pull away to breathe, Rikku doesn't hesitate to tear his shirt over his head, allowing him just a few breathless gasps before diving back into a kiss. She tastes like toothpaste, fresh and clean, and he's mortified to realize that he must taste like cheap sake and smoke. Her cheeks are soft against his and he knows he hasn't shaved since yesterday morning and his face is sharp and bristly. Her skin – bare shoulders, arms, legs, and the strip of stomach between her shirt and shorts – is smooth and unmarked, and he wonders if he could even count the number of scars and burns and tears on his body.

And yet she's devouring him as though it's her last night on Spira, and her hands are everywhere, not shrinking from scars but tracing them like she did the lines of his muscles, as though they're simply part of what makes him Auron.

She laughs as he tugs clumsily at her shorts and she reaches down to unfasten them before he can blink, pushes them down over her hips and his hands follow hers, running down toned, tanned leg.

Rikku breaks the kiss as she tries to kick them off and instead falls into him with a cry of surprise and a shy little laugh. "Never said I was graceful," she mutters to no one in particular, and suddenly she's pulling her own shirt over her head. Auron's groan is completely involuntary, but at the sight of her nearly naked – in nothing but her undergarments – miles of golden skin, all muscle and power, he can't help himself. She leans in for a fleeting, surprisingly chaste kiss before pulling back to start on his pants, her fingers deliberately brushing his stomach, making his muscles jump with surprise . She grins in satisfaction before shoving the pants down unceremoniously and he stands to kick them off.

She's looking up at him with hunger in her eyes, a degree of desire that he's never seen before, at least not directed at him. And though he feels vaguely guilty for thinking with the wrong head, his eyes are drawn to the shadows above the waistband of her panties, the junctions of hip and thigh and the lines of her abdominals as she shifts, standing up. She raises herself onto tip-toes and kisses him, so slow and languid that he melt into her hands when they curl around his hipbones.

The clasp of her bra is too small for his warrior's hands, and she laughs again as she reaches back to do it herself. He flushes, because once, he would have been the one in control, the one teasing and smiling. But his embarrassment is soon forgotten as the bra is flung across the room and she presses close again, and he can feel every detail of her small, soft breasts against his chest. He swears he can even feel her heartbeat.

Rikku gives a startled yelp as he pushes her down to the bed, and then she's laughing until he starts to kiss her neck – tentatively at first, because he is so aware of his day-old beard – but she sighs contentedly, tangling her fingers in the hair at the back of his neck to hold him there. He feels her pulse under his lips, thrumming with the life in her veins, warm with the blood rushing under her skin. She moans, and he feels the vibration in her throat.

Her hands are down at her hips and he realizes she's wriggling out of her panties, kicking them off the end of the bed and good gods, she's naked now and it's all he can think about. It doesn't take her long to divest him of his own underwear, and though he knows it's going to drive her crazy he asks anyway.

"Rikku," he says shakily, feeling her gasps rushing over his ear as she struggles to catch her breath. She makes a quizzical noise to let him know she's listening even if she isn't quite coherent.

"Have you ever done this before?"

She looks almost angry when he pulls back to see her face. "Does it matter?" she demands, and damn it, must she roll her hips against his like that when he's trying to be gentlemanly? "I'm old enough, and I'm doing it now. Besides," she adds coyly, "you'll find out soon enough, won't you?"

She reaches down, placing his hands at her hips, and she meets his eyes steadily. There's no hesitation or fear in her face, just certainty and raw desire. And he knows right away that she hasn't ever gone this far before, because though she doesn't complain or cry out, he feels the last vestiges of her childhood breaking under him.

The worst thing is, he thinks as her eyes squeeze shut and her face goes blank against the pain, that he can't bring himself to regret it.

He waits, patiently, praying to anyone that might be listening that she won't hate him for this – but it isn't long before she's bucking up, her legs snaking around his hips once again and her heels dig into the small of his back. Her hands twist in his hair, yanking him down to kiss him with all the passion she'd had earlier. She arches up, grinding into him and in some far-removed part of his brain he hopes that the walls of the airship are thick, because Rikku is not a quiet person in most aspects of life, and it seems that sex is no different.

From there it is familiar – easy, even – one of the few things that stays the same in death as in life – a frantic and desperate writhing, a thing that feels like grace and looks like carnality; a thing that can make sweat and blood smell sweet; a thing that creates an undignified symphony of groans and gasps. Auron knows this rhythm like he knows a heartbeat – it is as much a part of him as his sword and his scars.

It isn't until later – when she's sound asleep once more and he watches his hand, resting on her breast, rise and fall with her breath – that he considers just how very different this was from any of his trysts with past lovers. Women he had never loved fully because his duty was first and foremost to his summoner, and he hadn't known how to deal with women anyway. And now as he buries his face in Rikku's warmth and the security she provides just by breathing, presses a kiss to her breastbone and feels her heartbeat pulsing against his lips, he feels those loathed words that would someday soon ruin them both, rising in his throat.

"I love you," he whispers into the salty, sun-kissed skin. "Rikku." And now he can't stop them, rushing out of his mouth in a flood of raw honesty that he won't allow himself to her, conscious. "I love you, I love you, Iloveyou, IloveyouIloveyou—"

He tells himself he imagines the unevenness of her breathing and the twitch of her eyelids. He tells himself she's still asleep.

"I love you."