A Line in the Sand

Summary: After three years with Gippal, Rikku's relationship ends on a stormy night in Luca when he reveals a desperate secret and breaks Rikku's heart with his revelation. Regretful that she ran into the arms of his best friend and the powerful praetor of New Yevon, Rikku finds herself waiting to meet with Baralai while she reflects on everything that brought her to this point. As Rikku struggles to convince herself to stay until he arrives, she is not aware that Baralai is just as conflicted about their actions as she is. Will seeing each other once again bring about the relief that each is so desperately searching for? Is the weight of their actions too much for their fledgling relationship to stand under?

And what are these feelings betraying Rikku that still long for the touch of Gippal?

Author's Note: This story is going to take place under a set of slightly complex time-changes from past to present. I'm thinking that they are going to flow nicely, every other chapter. But this is only the first and I'm farther away from foolish enough to promise you that sort of pattern. I really don't want to have to italicize an entire chapter to denote that it took place in the past, though I will do this if it is necessary to keep things clear and within the realm of easy understanding for everyone. Please just let me know which option would make reading this story easier.

Thanks for your time, and I hope that you enjoy this story. Please take the time to review and offer me suggestions for the next chapters or opinions on what you think I can improve on. TurboTwistedFire was kind enough to leave constructive criticism and I have already put those suggestions into action with this, a revised version of chapter one. So, thank you in advance to everyone who leaves constructive criticism. You are my favorite people for helping me make my writing better!

Struggling Behind Her Doubts

Somewhere from across the waves a gull was calling. The cry, loud at first, seemed to get lost somewhere between the waves breaking against the shoreline and the unnatural sounds from the bustling wharfs of the city, nestled safely above the shoreline. Though the gull continued in its large, precise circling of the water's surface, it received no notice from the people who milled about on their own. The shuffled around from one shop to the others, passing one restaurant after another and not taking much notice to anything outside of themselves.

It was a pleasant day, she took a moment to note, as the sunlight poured around the docks, bursting with activity. There was a slight enough breeze to, every once in a while, play lightly at the strands of her radiant blonde hair, tied away from her face in a rather elaborate weave of braids, beads, and elastics.

Blinking her sea green eyes to the occasional passerby, Rikku found herself rather content to leaning her elbow against the glass surface of the high, narrow table she found herself waiting at. Her chin made its resting place in the palm of her hand and her legs would occasionally cross and uncross in impatience. She might have looked a bit reticent to those who noticed, as though she was caught up in one particularly pleasant fantasy or another.

Ex-guardians and Heroes of Spira didn't have fantasies that weren't pleasant. They didn't have bad days and, almost certainly, they never waited at seaside cafes with distant, forlorn looks on their faces.

But Rikku was far too caught up to really consider the image that she was casting to those around her. Running a free hand through her hair cautiously, she took a deep breath, really enjoying the fresh smell of the salty sea and the warm sunlight on her naturally bronzed skin. But even the novelty of being in Luca couldn't tear her worries away from the matter currently at hand.

'Ooh! Why here?' she curled her toes unconsciously inside of her boots before unfurling them once again. Drumming her fingers impatiently, yet deliberately, against the glass beneath her, Rikku let her thoughts drift further towards their current destination, 'Why this, of all places?'

"Excuse me, Miss," the waiter had been the one to interrupt her thoughts. His eyes scanned her slender figure, the way her tanned legs had crossed and uncrossed themselves, the way the smooth fabric of her dress stretched temptingly across her thighs, the sun-kissed glow of her bronzed shoulders, the gentle rise and fall of her chest…


Blushing slightly at how quickly the Ex-Guardian had been able to snap him out of his thoughts, the waiter buried his gaze into the palm of his hand, where a notepad was waiting for her order. Clearing his throat, he smiled at her, "Might I bring you something to drink while you wait?"

Rikku hadn't given a second thought to her too-tight dress so reminiscent of sunlight or the elaborate orange and white ribbons that held her hair away from her face when she'd arrived in Luca. Rikku didn't let her thoughts question if she looked nice enough to see him again; her waiter had made that all but painfully obvious. With a polite smile, she sent him on his way with a sweet, "No thanks! I'm sure he'll be here any minute!"

She had pretended not to notice the look on his face as she'd admitted her guest was male. Rikku imagined that he wouldn't be the only one around her shocked when Baralai showed up to sit in the seat across from hers. It was an unlikely match, especially considering that she'd been paired with the leader of the Al Bhed Machine Faction, Gippal, and he'd been engaged to her best friend and powerful Ex-Guardian, Paine. But this was lunch between friends.

Rikku tried desperately to make herself believe that.

The waiter turned on his heel so quickly that Rikku wasn't sure if it was the breeze that toyed with her hair was natural or man-made. She smiled because, still, the reaches of that breeze were slow and calm as it brought the familiar smell of the nearby ocean. A scent that, here in Luca, was nothing like it was in Besaid.

Besaid. The water there was crystal clear, deep and vast, but still shimmering and cool. In Luca, the water was a deeper shade of blue, darker; like a storm. And, for the moment, all Rikku could find herself remembering were stormy nights. Most notably her worst stormy night; when the waves had crashed against the shoreline, loud, harsh, unforgiving. It was a string of thoughts that she had been so desperately trying to keep her mind from tracing; they brought guilt, uncertainty, and questions.

Because it was thoughts like these that reminded her of the night she'd gotten herself into this mess in the first place. The night everything had fallen apart.