Losing track of time in Bikanel is easy. I always forget myself in the warm sands and dry heat. Being back with the tribe makes me feel more like my old self. They all treat me like the princess I am.

Even with sin gone, there are still some residual prejudices against the AlBhed. Old habits die hard I suppose. After hundreds of years of persecution and hatred against the AlBhed I think people are still a little afraid to accept us. Just like a lot of people still think Machina is bad.

It was kind of ironic that I was completely infatuated with an ex-monk of yevon. Then again, he was never the normal yevonite.

I groan as Auron pops in my head. The entire week I've been here my mind has been wandering back to him. I find myself worrying that he thinks I am ignoring him, or worse, rejecting him. What if he came to my house and knocked and knocked and finally went away thinking I didn't want him anymore. Ugh! Such the case would definitely be the best for my mental well being, but I think I'm finally ready to admit that I'm addicted to that sexy, sexy, wonderful man.

Dammit.

As I pack my few belongings back into my bag, my movements become unconsciously more and more angered. Damn him! If the tournaments didn't start tomorrow I would totally spend another week out here... I don't know what good it would do though... Its not like I can stop thinking about him.

Unfortunately, my dad is read for me to stay here permanently. He's ready for me to settle down and get married and taking over his duties as leader. The thought of all that just made me sick. I definitely I was not ready, nor did I ever think I would be ready. Give the job to someone else.

I was always very proud of the fact that I had made my own life for myself in Luca without the help or influence of my father.

Besides, Marriage was NOT in my agenda anytime soon.

I sigh and slip on my shoes. My brother was already waiting with the Celsius just outside of the encampment to take me and a few other AlBhed to Luca for the Tournaments. I stand up and toss my bag over my shoulder. I almost fall backwards. I giggle a little sheepishly. My bag was a little heavier now than when I first got here. I always came back with more than I come with. More clothes, and trinkets, and of course some really cool things I managed to dig up in the desert. Also, a nice sack full of Gil I managed to sneak off with courtesy of pops.

I hear Brother beckoning me over the ships intercom. Jerk-Face! Always out to embarrass me!

I stomp out my tent and breathe in the warm dry air. It always seemed to smell like salt water, with a faint tint of cinnamon from the Spice Deposits the giant Sand worms left in the deep desert (Dune reference.. yay!).

I raise my hand to my forehead to shield my eyes so I can see in the bright sun. In the distance I can see Buddy waiting patiently outside the ship to give Brother the go ahead to take off. I grip my bag tightly and begin to sprint across the sand. Easier said than done. As soon as I read the Celsius, I have barley made it inside before the ramp starts to close and the ship begins lift off. I let out a squeal and hit the cold steel floor hard.

"Meanie!" I screech over the ships engines. I stand up and rub my sore back side and straiten out my rats-nest of hair. Showers were a luxury only afforded in bigger cities like Bevelle and Luca, so whenever I came home from the desert, I usually looked (and smelled) like a half naked street urchin.

I groan and pick up my bag, heaving the heavy thing over my shoulder causing me to almost fall over again. I look up and see Buddy standing on the walkway above me. I grin sheepishly at him and stick out my tongue. He shakes his head and continues inward towards the cockpit.

The trip to Luca is typically a short one, although I think brother had to make a few stops to pick up other people going to Luca for the games. I entertain myself by first kicking the shit out of brother for being such a jerk, then I hit up bar keep for a stout glass of spice beer.

I knock back the first glass in one gulp, then order another to take to my bunk with me. Even though the gullwings aren't together anymore, we all still managed to hang on to our private beds while on the ship.

I sip on this one slowly while I play with the few trinkets and gadgets that I found while out playing in the desert. I lay back on my bed and balance a small cylindrical device on my chest while I look over the various buttons and innards of the device.

I found that I have to keep myself distracted or else I'll start thinking about certain people... and even most of the time, that doesn't work.

The ship hits a rough patch of turbulence and makes a slight free fall before recovering. The combination of spice beer and momentary zero gravity makes my stomach turn in a pukey sort of way. I close my eyes tight and will the head rush to go away.

The next thing I know I open my eyes and everything is silent.

I jump up scattering screws and little pieces of my what-cha-ma-call-it everywhere. I hoist myself up to the window over my bed and see that we've arrived in Luca and by the looks of it, its late in the afternoon already. Holy Chocobos! I guess I was more tired than I thought. I suppose going from the arid environment of the desert to the air conditioned ship put me in a coma. I'm sure the spice beer didn't help any either.

I giggle.

I throw the few things I took out back into my bag, making sure I scour the floor for any screws or little pieces that may have fallen and then hastily make my way off the Celsius.

The entire ship is vacant. M sure the crew (and by crew I mean brother and Buddy) have the intention of staying in Luca for the next few days for the tournaments.

The streets as I walk home are of course more crowded than usual. People from all over Spria still come here twice a year to watch the opening games and the closing tournaments.

I wonder briefly is the Besadian crew is here yet.

I get my answer when I get home and there is a note stuck on my door. At first my hear skips a beat, thinking maybe the note was from Auron, but I realize quickly that its in Yuna's bubbily handwriting, with the "i" in my name dotted with a heart.

I rip the small note off the door, more than slightly disappointed and flip the note open.

Rikku!

Where the heck are you! No one has heard from you in over a week! We're in Luca for the tournaments staying at the player's dorms. I would much rather be crashing at a friends place though since were gonna be here a few days and all *hint*hint*.

Anyways.

Hurry up and come find me!

Love,

Yunie.

I smile at her self invitation and punch in the password on the door to let myself in.

The small apartment is dark compared to the outside and I have to stand in the foyer for a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the dim lighting.

I lay the note Yuna left on the small table next to the vase with the dying flower and hall my stuff to my room. The bedroom is as I left it from my temper tantrum before I left. I groan and decide to ignore it for now. I lug the bag to my bed and unzip it, dumping the entire contents on my bed. I pick a few things out here and there and set aside my new favorite set of clothes.

Its an orange top, similar to the one I wore in the first pilgrimage, however this one is cut off just below my boobies. The brown belts still keep the sides of the shirt together. The skirt is green in color, also with brown belts up the side, needless to say, it shows quite a bit of thigh. I still intend to wear my yellow bikini underneath the ensemble. I found a pair of knee-high brown boots to go with it all. I was damn proud of my new purchase, along with the various other things I brought back from the desert.

I take my new wardrobe into the bathroom with me for a much needed shower.

After my very long shower, I feel much more like myself. Gone is the grit and grime from the desert and in its place is a totally awesome tan! I stick my tongue out at myself in the mirror when I notice my tan lines then shrug. Oh well, no one will really see them except for... DAMNIT!

It had literally been a whole hour since I thought of him!

For a brief moment I consider just staying home and not seeking out Yuna and the others. I'm sure Auron will be with them or lurking somewhere close by, bu I shake it off. NO! I will not let him ruin the rest of my afternoon. Besides, I wanna show off my new sexy outfit, that doubles as a blitz suit. I will make all the boys druel (and by boys, I'm really only thinking of Auron.)

With renewed determination I make sure my hair is perfectly imperfect. I slip on my new boots and grab my utility belt to go around my wait making my outfit whole! I hadn't tried it on in the desert, but it was much better than I would have imagined.

I have to get out to the arena anyways to check in and get the match up lists and practice schedule for the tournament anyways.

First I head to the player dorms to see if Yuna was serious about staying with me. I hoped that she made other arrangements though. I really need a little alone time after my week in the desert. Before I can even get half way there I hear Yuna screaming my name not far behind me.

I turn to see her bouncing towards me. When the heck did she get so hyper! I think sometime in the last two years she and I traded personalities. Me, becoming more stoic and slightly less annoying, and Yuna becoming, well, me! I chuckle. I suppose getting a taste of happiness can do that to a person.

Yuna grew up way too fast. I on the other hand had many lazy childhood days playing in the sand and chasing fiends with Brother and Gippal. Yuna accepted death and loss at an age at which no child should even be considering the subject. She accepted death as soon as she decided to follow in her fathers foot steps and become a summoner. She never had a childhood, which is why I suppose she is now reliving what she never had.

Yuna stopped in front of me bouncing on her heels with Tidus and Lulu and Wakka's first born, Valinda, bringing up the rear. Tidus was out of breath. Valinda pushed his way around Yuna and latched himself onto my leg

"Kuku!" He used his nickname for me.

I smiled and patted his mess or wirey red hair, "He there kiddo, you sure have gotten big!"

He giggled. Honestly, the kid was kinda scary. Bright red hair and huge red eyes, he reminded me of some kind of demon you heard about in stories of ancient spira. Of course, I would never say that out loud.

"Whats up Yuna, babysitting duty?" I asked trying to pry the child from the death grip he had on my leg.

Yuna giggled, "Yeah Lulu and Wakka asked for the day off, and of course I couldn't say no."

Tidus had parked himself on a bench not far from us. Valinda finally relinquished his grip on my leg and ran over and jumped on the unsuspecting blonde. He immediately started pulling Tidus' mess of hair... He really did need a hair cut.

Yuna giggled, "Really, he's been doing all the work." Then she leaned in closer to me, "Honestly, I'm trying to get him use to the idea of having a kid around all the time." She whispered.

I rolled my eyes. They were so in love, it make me sick. No one should be that happy together. Its just not normal! I began to think on my own sad excuse for a love life, but Yuna interrupted.

"So who are you playing first?"

I shrug, "I dunno, I was on my way there now. I've been Home for the last week, So I'm kind of out of the loop."

"Ah-Ha! So that's where you've been for the last week..." Yuna said pointing a finger at me, "Anyone inparticular you've been spending time with!"

I shake my head and hold up my hands defensively, "No! I just needed to get away"...From Auron, I add the last part at the end in my head. Yuna looks as if she doesn't believe me, "I swear!"

"Uh hu, Okay." She says holding up her hands in surrender, "You know though, you really should get a boyfriend... What about Gippal?"

"HAHA" I laugh, "Not in a million years!" Gippal and I had out past together. At one time he was "the one" but now... Yeah, he's little more to me than someone to flirt with when I'm drunk. I know that he wishes there were more to it...

"Why not!" Yuna says putting her hands on her hips.

"Hes a man whore!" I say offended.

"Well maybe you can tame him..." She pouts.

"That man won't ever change. Don't think I haven't tried. I don't have the time nor the patience to try to train him, Someone will end up dead, and it won't be me!"

Yuna shook her head, "Well you need to find someone, I mean you aren't getting any younger." Yuna said sarcastically.

"Have you been talking to my dad or something! Whats with the matchmaker game?" I ask suspiciously.

Yuna shakes her head, "No, I just want you to be happy!"

I shake my head and roll my eyes, "Anyways... I need to get to the lockers to see my schedule."

Yuna nods, "Come find me later! I won't have Valinda and we can go out and do something."

I smile, "There will be plenty of time to get you all liquored up to embarrass yourself. I mean this thing lasts for at least 3 days!"

"Hey," Yuna pouts, "that's not funny. Tidus is the one who always makes an ass of himself, not me."

I smirk, "right, you just fall asleep in strange places..." Yuna giggles.

We say out good bye for now's and Tidus as decided to accompany me to the stadium, giving Yuna the excuse that he wanted to double check his schedule, buy I could tell he wanted away from the Demon child.

We walk in silence, but I got the impressions that he wanted to say something to me...

Finally he did..

"Is there something going on with you and Auron?" I almost trip over a bench. Holy shit, that came out of nowhere.

"Excuse me?" I stopped.

He turns around and laughs, "I mean I'm just curious." He continues walking.

I run a few steps to catch up to him, "Why would you be curious about something like that!" No on has even seen me and Auron together alone in public, much less actually speak to each other in a manner that would give off the impression that we were anything more than friends... Not even friend, more like acquaintances!

Tidus scratched the back of his head in that very Tidus sort of way, "He asked about you, while you were gone, Ya know?"

"Do wha?" I was genuinely surprised.

"Yeah." he shoved his hands in his pockets as we continued to walk at a steady pace, "He asked if I knew where you had gone and if you were alright."

"How did he know I was gone." I asked but I already knew the answer.

"I dunno. I just told him the last I had heard from Yuna, you were probably in Bikanel. "

What did it mean? Was he actually worried about me or was he just drunk and horny... Probably the latter of the two.

I shrugged, "I have no clue, maybe he wanted to yell at me about something..."

"Yeah that was probably it." Tidus confirmed.

We had finally made it to the locker rooms and him and I went our separate ways. Apparently I had gotten there just in time. We were about to start practice, then our first Game was right after. Fortunately my clothes doubled as my Blitz gear, otherwise I would have been screwed.

Ben on the blitz Field felt good compared to Bikanel. The cool water was a welcome change to the hot sand. I wasn't a blitzfinatic by any means. I did it more as a hobby, rather than a career choice. I just happened to be a strong swimmer and my hand-eye coordination under water was excellent. I really never cared if we won or lost, it was no sweat off my back. I stayed in shape, and got paid to do it.

The first game was against Killaka. It was an easy win. Tomorrow we would be against the Ronso or Luca depending on the winners of the next game..

I didn't stick around to watch. I dried myself in the locker rooms and had decided to see if I could pull Yuna away from the games to take her up on that drink. It was dark now, and when I exited the locker rooms the hallways were pretty much empty. Everyone was watching the game.

I had the uneasy feeling there that I was no alone... and lo and behold I screamed, or tried to scream as I felt one hand go around my mouth and an arm around my waist pulling me back against the locker room entrance. I tried to fight the attacker, but he was stronger than me, if only I could get to my garment grid...

"Easy there, Cid's girl!" The familir voice breathed in my ear.

I stopped struggling and he let me go. I turned and tried to punch him in good eye, but he quickly dodged laughing.

"Dammit Gippal! You scared the Chocobo's out of me!" I yelled.

He continued to laugh, "That was great!"

I kicked him in the shin and he stopped laughing, "What the hell? I was just playing..."

"Whatever" I sneered, "leave me alone, I font have time to play with you right now."

He pouted. I could tell he had been drinking, probably for most of the day, "Aww, c'mon princess, I remember when you use to love to play with me."

He had been backing me up against the wall the whole time and I hadn't realized it until he was so close to me now. I put my hand on his chest to try and push his away, but he grabbed them and pinned them next to my head.

I was actually starting to get a little scared... I didn't think that Gippal would normally be capable of hurting me, but he had been drinking, "Yes, well I was young and stupid, and you were the most readily available boy around." I said trying to distract him from his goal. Maybe hurting his pride would do it...

"You don't mean that..." He said with his face in the crook of my neck. I could feel his lips hovering just over my skin. It made me shiver. I don't deny that I'm attracted to Gippal, and yes, him and I had some good times in the past... but it was just that.. all in the past. He was a skeeze and I wanted nothing to do with him now.

He brought his face to mine, and now his lips were mere inches from mine, "I do mean it Gippal, get the hell offa me..." His lips came down on mine and I fought it with all my might... I couldn't move much though. He had me pinned.

I get the idea to give in, at least for the moment, long enough for his to let his guard down, then maybe I could attack. He takes this has a sign to push forward and deepens the kiss. I was right, he had been drinking. I wanted to puke.

I had finally managed to get an arm free from him and was about to grab my blade when I heard someone clear their throat behind us. Gippal stopped immediately and I fell to the ground. Tears threatened to spill from my eyes, but I would not let him see me cry.

I looked up to see who my savior was and my heart stopped. Auron...

"What do you want old man..." Gippal slurred.

I couldn't say anything. Auron looked from Gippal, to me, then back to Gippal, "I was sent to find Rikku."

"Well you found her..." Gippal said, "... and my work is done here... for now."

What the hell was that suppose to me... Did Gippal do this on purpose? Why would he! He walked past Auron and out of the locker rooms casually.

I was speechless. He wanted Auron to find him and I like that... Why? Jealousy? Being a drunk ass? I had no clue.

Auron stood there, emotionless as always. I stood up shakily.

"Thank you..." I said softly.

"For what?" He asked stoically.

"Well, you kinda saved me..."

"Humph, it didn't look like you needed much saving." He said turning away from me.

Seriously! Could he not tell that I was NOT enjoying myself... "but Auron, I..."

"Yuna is requesting that you meet her at the blitz-bar..." He started to walk away as well.

"Auron wait!" He stopped, "It wasn't what it looked like! He came at me from no where..."

"What, and who you do is none of my business, child..." Ouch, he had to throw the child in there... By this time the tears that I had been holding back were falling freely.

"But I- I- just-" I couldn't finish my sentence.

"You what?" He turned. He was angry now.

I didn't know what to say. I just wanted you to know because I'm madly in love with you can can't get you off my mind? I just wanted you to know because you are the only one I want to be with? Neither of those seemed appropriate... I shook my head and continued to sob, "I don't know..." I whispered.

He must have heard me, because he turned and walked away.

I fell to the ground and continued to sob.

Okay, Long chapter... no Aurikku... The next chapter will be the last... and everything will be resolved... promise!

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