A Line in the Sand

Author's Note: Sorry for taking my time with this update, loves. But I hope that you will find it was all well worth the wait. This one is, more or less, a continuation of the last chapter. Things would have gotten too long and drawn out if I hadn't cut it off where I did. Please let me know what you think and, perhaps if you feel so inclined, let me know where you'd like to see things go after the end of this chapter.

Before letting you all get on to the story, I would like to take a short moment to truly thank everyone who has read, reviewed, and reached out to me with kind words and encouragement. It truly means the world! So it is all for you and with my utmost appreciation that I continue.

But I hope that you will

Warning ~ This chapter contains a slight (and by slight, I mean I really did leave out quite a lot that I potentially could have added) hint of lemon and other citrusy notions. If you're easily offended by adult material or if you're not interested in reading it, I ask that you please skip this chapter. Thank you very much for your maturity and I'm sorry if I offend anyone by including this in the telling of my story.

The Sparks that Start a Fire

She could hear his footsteps echoing down the empty hallways and she wrapped her arms around her slender form more tightly as she shivered in the darkness. It would have been hard for her to miss the conversation that had taken place, even if she hadn't been straining her ears for the sound, even if she hadn't wanted so desperately to know who was on the other end of the commsphere. The sound of Gippal's voice brought a rather painful tinge to her heart and she quickly placed a hand over the throbbing muscle.

Why was it fair that there was a worried tone in his voice? Why had he called damn near everyone in Spira to find her? It was his fault that she wasn't curled happily in his arms, resting her head on his chest so she could hear his heartbeat.

Rikku hadn't gone any further into Paine's bedroom than she'd been when Baralai had left her there. Even if she hadn't been straining to hear the conversation between Baralai and Gippal, Rikku wouldn't have been able to bring herself to rummage through the drawers that she knew had to contain Paine's clothing. She wasn't able to touch anything; she couldn't bring herself to feel that familiar electricity that seemed to comprise everything Paine was involved with. Rikku assumed that her belongings would have been no different, regardless of how long she'd been apart from them. But the Al Bhed had very little respect left for her friend, the powerful warrior; Paine's decision to be with Gippal had been hurtful to both herself and Baralai.

It was not a good feeling to be on the outside of a relationship that she still so desperately wanted to be on the inside of.

"Rikku?" Baralai's voice was soothing behind her, a sound that was almost lost between a sigh and a whisper. And it snapped her out of her thoughts. When the praetor placed a hand on her shoulder, Rikku couldn't help but take a step backwards towards him. He was warm, comforting and she was feeling rather cold and alone.

"I-I just can't, Baralai," she looked up at him with sadness in her eyes. But it was different than when she had first gotten to the mansion because this sadness wasn't solely for her to bear on her own. This sadness was for her and for Baralai both to come to terms with. "They're Paine's things."

Blinking for a moment, Baralai's eyes widened before he gently moved his hand to her elbow to lead her safely out of the bedroom. His voice was soothing, understanding, comforting all at once and the tone of it was what Rikku had been so silently praying for, "Oh, of course."

His rage seemed to have been forgotten, though Rikku was unaware that it had existed at all. He quickly closed the door behind them and Rikku flinched just slightly at the way the sound echoed through the empty mansion. Baralai's hand moved from her elbow to her shoulder and he looked down at Rikku for a moment; she felt his eyes bearing into her, as though searching her for some sort of truth. But they weren't cruel, prying eyes. They were kind, urging her to open up and tell him everything about what had happened that night. But the praetor was patient and Rikku was thankful.

They were in Baralai's bedroom before Rikku had really registered that they were moving anywhere. In all honesty, she'd only noticed that they had moved because Baralai had broken contact with her for the first time since he'd looked down into her sad, confused eyes in Paine's bedroom. But he was gone already, in the room Rikku knew to be his closet, and he had returned a few moments later to break the silence by handing her a crisp, button down shirt and a pair of tall white socks.

"Forgive me," he offered her a rather weak smile. "But I'm afraid this is the warmest I have."

Rikku gratefully accepted the dry clothes and quickly hurried towards Baralai's bathroom to change into them. Her dress, while being difficult to remove because of the water it had acquired, was the first thing she took off. Rikku pulled it over her head, feeling the strands of her long, wet locks against her back and shivered despite herself. She took a moment to ring her hair out over the sink and pulled the shirt on over her head, not bothering to unbutton or rebutton it. Her hands stopped for a moment, running over the smooth material of the thick socks he had provided her with, and she quickly pulled them onto her feet.

She was warm almost instantly and, as she looked at her reflection in the mirror, she noticed that some of the color was returning to her face. It wouldn't be long before the shock of the situation wore off and Rikku could feel something other than embarrassment, confusion, hurt. Looking at the place where the shirt ended, just halfway down one of her smooth, toned thighs, Rikku traced the curve of the bottom of the shirt. It cut upwards rather quickly near her sides and Rikku wondered if every man owned shirts like this. Because Gippal had had an entire closet full of them in what had seemed like every possible color.

Scowling at this realization, she quickly turned on the water in the sink and made quick work of wiping away her makeup. By the time she'd erased all traces of what had happened earlier in the evening, Rikku stepped out of the bathroom and noticed Baralai sitting on the edge of his bed, as though he had been waiting for her.

"Perhaps you should call Gippal?" his voice was slightly bitter as he'd spoken the words, indicating that he hadn't spoken because he'd wanted to but felt it was his duty to Gippal to try and help mend things between his two Al Bhed friends, but his posture said nothing of his true feelings. He lowered his eyes as a slight blush crossed his features, "He was rather worried when I spoke with him earlier."

Rikku's voice was flat and she quickly crossed the distance between them to sit next to her friend on the edge of his bed, "Let him sleep on it."

"As you wish."

There was silence for a moment as Rikku played with the ends of the shirt she had borrowed. The cuffs of the sleeves spilled helplessly over her hands, but it was the smooth material that she was interested in more than the bottom of the shirt. While still maintaining her ministrations, Rikku gazed up at Baralai and her breath caught in her throat as she noticed his intense gaze at her.

"If you'll forgive my prying," he began, placing one of his strong hands on top of hers to still them. "What exactly transpired between the two of you this evening?"

She took a deep breath, beginning to feel her strong façade weakening at the very core. Her heartbeat had quickened and Rikku had to close her eyes for a moment in an attempt to stop the tears threatening to fall from her eyes. His hand was a comfort to her. It was warm and welcome in her lap. But she couldn't help but feel a strange sort of mystery pulling her towards him in that moment. She knew that he had already heard Gippal's side of the story but Baralai was looking at her as though he wanted to believe something else entirely.

"There was a storm."

Resisting the urge to let sarcasm get the better of him, Baralai remained patient, waiting for her to continue on her own. She was silent and her eyes were focused on the floor; so to remind her that he was still there, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to him in a hug.

"And another woman," she added, her voice completely betraying her strong façade. She hadn't realized that she had been crying until she felt her tears soaking her cheeks. And when Baralai pulled her form against his bare chest, she worried about what his reaction to those tears might be. Her shoulders were shaking and, while not a sound escaped her lips, Rikku wanted very desperately to answer him. She wished that she could depend on Baralai the same way that he had depended on her when he had been trying to heal after Paine left him. Cautiously, she wrapped her arms around Baralai's neck and let herself fall into him.

He rocked her back and forth, occasionally stroking her quickly-drying hair and rubbing the small of her back. They were close together, closer than they had been since the day she'd left Bevelle to return with Gippal to Djose. And Baralai would have been lying to say that it didn't feel good to hold her so close. Instead of dwelling on the thought, however, he would occasionally present the woman in his arms with soft whispers of 'shh! I'm here' or 'everything will be alright, you'll see'.

But when she pulled away and met his eyes with her own, Baralai tightened his grip on her waist just slightly and used a thumb to wipe away the remaining tears on her cheeks. His skin was so soft and the way his hair glowed in the moonlight made Rikku remember the nights before this one when she'd stayed after Yuna had left Baralai's mansion and she'd secretly watched him sleep. Rikku remembered the times when she'd had to force herself to keep her hands from running through his silky hair or brushing across his finely chiseled chest. She wasn't ashamed when she felt chills rush down her spine in response to his touch.

She was surprised when he kissed her.

His lips pressed against hers suddenly and his hands made their way upwards, lacing through the long strands of her golden hair. He couldn't be sure why he'd lost control of himself or even if he'd struggled against his desires at all. It might have been the way the moonlight fell around her in the darkness, it might have been how small she looked in that shirt of his, how damn good her body had felt pressed against his. They were thoughts that might have betrayed the praetor. But he was reminded of his days in the Crimson Squad, of times before he'd been held to such a strict standard of conduct.

This was something he wanted; she was someone he wanted. He'd held those desires somewhere in his subconscious for so long and, now that he was holding her he couldn't bring himself to stop.

Rikku was surprised by his kiss but not disappointed.

And she tightened her arms around his neck, kissing him back and meeting every ounce of his passion with her own. She couldn't say when it was that she had realized she was surrounded in the sheets of Baralai's bed. Rikku had only been aware of his body against her body and when she noticed that he was pressed firmly on top of her his hands were already too warm against her skin and his lips already too familiar over hers for her to ask him to stop.

She couldn't ask herself what she was doing or what she was thinking. It didn't matter to Rikku that she should have been in Gippal's bed and that it should have been him on top of her, his hands all over her, him instilling this pleasure in her. There was nothing on her mind but the feeling of Baralai's warmth, of his lips finding their way all over her skin.

Her breath was coming in short, quick bursts and her heart rate had escalated rapidly. Baralai's fingers were fumbling with the buttons of the shirt that he'd loaned her and before Rikku could pull his lips back to hers, he was already sliding the garment off of her shoulders. Her fingers were laced through his hair and she'd had to sit up to catch his lips with hers. It started as a small kiss, as she ran her fingers across the broad expanse of his chest, and it grew to something more as his tongue gently played at her lips until she obliged its entrance to her mouth.

Without being conscious of how it had happened, Rikku had pushed Baralai into a standing position off of the bed and she was sitting down near the edge of it. Her shirt was completely open in front, her shoulders were exposed, the garment only clinging to her figure because her arms were still inside the long sleeves. Their lips were still holding them together and, somehow, Rikku's fingers managed to find their way to the waistband of Baralai's sleeping pants. She urged them down slowly, breaking away from him for long enough to look into his eyes.

There was passion written where concern had been so shortly before. But the way that he was looking at her only fueled her desire to be rid of the garments separating them. Baralai, however, seemed to have a different plan, as he scooped her up in his arms and laid her gently down in the center of his bed. Hovering over the top of her, he wasted no time before letting his hands roam freely once again.

Gippal had stolen his woman away and the praetor would be damned if he'd let Rikku leave before he'd had a chance to expend his frustrations of the evening. It wasn't often that Baralai was so passionate about something, but it also wasn't often that his best friend was fucking his fiancé behind his back… not to mention that he was also hurting the beautiful, amazing, respectable young woman who was in love with him. But it was Baralai's turn to love Rikku; to show her passion and affection that he'd, previously, saved for only Paine. The praetor was so angry, so frustrated. And he couldn't remember how long he'd been wanting Rikku.

The only thing that mattered in the entire world to the beautiful golden-haired woman were his kisses, those caresses, his breath over her skin. Baralai was so gentle where Rikku had only known urgency and insistence. The only man she'd ever been with in her life was Gippal and his hands had been rough, his touch had been forcible, his eyes were always hungry; everything was fast and resolute, urgent and organic. With Gippal, Rikku only knew raw, unrefined passion.

But this…

Baralai's touch was gentle, his hands were so smooth against her skin. His touch was longing, burning. And his eyes, Shiva his eyes! Rikku drew in a deep breath, feeling it catch in her throat as his lips kissed smooth, deliberate lines across her chest and down her smooth abdomen. And her hands reached desperately for something, some part of him to hold onto because his attentions were beginning to wreck havoc on her delicate senses.

This wasn't the touch that would send her back home to Gippal, ashamed of herself. This was a touch that would keep her in Baralai's bed forever, lavishing in every pleasure he would allow her.

His was a touch that left her body longing in the places he moved his hands from. She was fragile under him and he understood, answering with a passionate demand and determination. His lips, his hands, his body; everything moving in perfect unison, as though Rikku were the only woman in this universe he had on his mind, as though she were the only other being he wished to please.

And when her voice broke through the silence, a small, desperate sigh, "Baralai, please," he'd been so happy to oblige. He took her quickly, but maintained control of himself when he heard another gasp escape her slightly parted lips. He wanted her to remember this night, he wanted her to remember him; because this was something he'd wanted to do for so long. This was the only power he could ever hold over Gippal. This was the only time that he might be able to fulfill one of his desperate fantasies. He was going to possess Rikku; send her senses into overdrive and bring her over the edge so many times his would be the only name she could think of.

Everything was so much slower with Baralai, as though he was more focused on taking his time and savoring every moment. With every passionate thrust, Rikku could feel herself longing for the next one. It wasn't a dizzying passion. It wasn't confusing, and fast, and uncontrolled. This was something that Rikku knew she would remember in the morning, something that she would long for.

She felt herself let go and fall over the edge. Her heart was racing, her mind completely numb. And it wasn't until the warm form of Baralai collapsed on top of her that she was able to open her eyes and return to consciousness. Rikku wrapped her arms around his neck, lacing her fingers through his soft silver hair as the fatigue began to pull at her. His arms were tight around her waist, holding her body close to his. Baralai's breath was warm against her neck, sending more chills down her spine.

'Is this what it feels like to make love?' she caught herself wondering as she felt Baralai's tender lips gently caressing that special place beneath her jawbone; the place she'd thought only Gippal knew how to find…