A Spadone is a large, two-handed sword used by knights in medieval times.

And Baby Makes Three

Chapter Seventeen

By: Digi-Esca Girl )

Disclaimer: If you don't know what goes here by now, you need help...

IMPORTANT CHAPTER NOTE!!!!! : We check in with Rikku and her family first, and then switch back to Lulu, Wakka and Jade. If you will recall, their last scene took place in the afternoon, and their scene in this chapter picks up immediately after where it ended last chapter. Basically, Rikku's scene takes place the night before, and then Lulu's happens the next afternoon, k? Have I confused you yet? (-)

SECOND IMPORTANT CHAPTER NOTE!!!!! : I'm back from the dead!! Yay!! You guys would not believe how difficult it was to get writing this again, but once I got started I found that I couldn't stop! It's currently quite late where I am, and I've finally wrapped this up so I can go to sleep! Anyways, thank you to everyone who has ever reviewed this fic; your support means sooooooo much!! I'd like to send out special thanks to DClick and Lucifer's Garden: DClick, you reminded me that I should move my author's note so that my story wouldn't get deleted, so thanks muchly!! And Lucifer's Garden, you took the time to send me your ideas for this fic, which were very awesome by the way, and actually helped me to write this chapter; your story "Someone To Lean On" inspired me to write tonight, so thank you so so so so so much!! So here we go everyone: enjoy the ride and keep reviewing!

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"I suppose I'd better get used to this..." Rikku muttered absentmindedly under her breath as she turned to the 235th page in her romance novel. It seemed like a normal enough setting.

She was curled up under a small quilt on a burgundy armchair, the fireplace burning and crackling to her right. The only other lights on were the oven light in the gleaming white kitchen and the dim lamp on the end table beside Rikku's chair. The CD spinning in the stereo sitting on the shelf behind her was playing a young woman singing softly in Al Bhed, and little Alatriel was sound asleep on the couch. She had been reading through a large picture book and had fallen asleep some time ago. Rikku simply didn't have the heart to move her just yet, even though she figured she probably should soon. The only thing out of place was the small musical clock sitting on top of the television that was about to chime three times, signaling the start of 3:00 AM.

Rikku sighed. "It's not fair to Riel though..." She had taken to using the nickname she'd given the child more often than her actual name. When she'd told Carter he'd smiled warmly, laughter shining in his warm chocolate eyes. At the thought of her handsome housemate, Rikku frowned, remembering that he was the cause of her current state of malcontent.

Ever since he'd landed a job downtown at the technology mega-conglomerate Nanan-Tech, Rikku and her 'daughter' had been seeing less and less of the tall blonde young man. Alatriel cried the first two nights when he wasn't there with Rikku to tuck her in, but she had not seemed as bothered on the three nights that had passed since then. This disturbed Rikku more than her tears had.

The young Al Bhed had been tempted, on more than one occasion, to call up Carter and demand that he come home. She realized however, that only having known him for a week and some odd days did not give her the authority or the right to do such a thing. She shook her head, closing her book and setting it gently on the end table beside her.

Rising to her feet, she slowly made her way over to the couch where Alatriel was sleeping. She stood over her for a brief moment, smiling warmly as she watched the girl suck on her thumb in her slumber. Bending over, Rikku lifted her slowly into her arms, shifting her until she lay lax against her shoulder. The tiny girl sighed in her sleep, shoving her thumb further into her mouth for more comfort. Rikku patted her back gently as she walked out of the living room and made her way carefully up the stairs.

Just as she was closing the door to Alatriel's room, where she was now all tucked into her bed, Rikku heard the almost inaudible sound of the front door being shut very quietly. She smiled broadly, lengthening her strides so as to reach the stairs faster as she moved down the hallway. She stopped abruptly at the top of the staircase, looking down at the young man who was almost always in her thoughts. Her smile widened, despite her lingering anger, when he glanced up at her and he seemed to relax slightly.

"Hey." He called out quietly, placing his shoes and jacket in the closet. "Shouldn't you be asleep?"

Rikku's quiet giggle couldn't be contained. "I wanted to wait up for you. I know I hate coming home to a seemingly empty place, I thought you might too." She watched as he left his briefcase beside the door and began to walk in the direction of the staircase. He loosened his tie as he ascended the carpeted structure, moving ever closer to her current location.

Once he was standing in front of her, he couldn't hide his smile despite being fatigued. "Thanks Rikku."

"No problem!" Her returned smile was bright, just like it always was in his thoughts of her.

He was about to start walking to his room, when he seemed to remember something and turned back towards her. "Were there any leftovers from dinner? I'm starved..." As if on queue, his stomach growled hungrily, eliciting a giggle from the Al Bhed girl and another smile from Carter.

"I'll go warm them up for you and you go have a shower and get your jammies on, okay?" Her voice was surprisingly bubbly for 3 am, but Carter couldn't imagine her any other way.

He looked puzzlingly at her. "Jammies?"

"Your pajamas, silly!" She replied, laughing quietly again. He nodded his understanding, turning and heading for his bedroom after throwing her another turn-your-legs-to-jelly smile.

She sighed once he had walked through his bedroom door, and turned to walk dazedly down the stairs and into the kitchen. Once there, she shook her head and berated herself for acting like a love sick teenager.

'Why am I always so giddy around him?' She thought as she pulled open the fridge door and searched for the dinner she'd served several hours ago. 'I mean, it's not like I'm in love with him...'

"Aha!" She whispered triumphantly as she extracted a blue plastic container from one of the upper shelves. She peeled off the lid, inhaling the scent of Fettuccini Alfredo that hit her nose. She piled the pasta onto a plate and stuck it in the microwave, inputting a time and hitting 'Start' to warm it up. In the meantime, she put a fork and knife on the table and poured the last of the red Kool Aid she and Alatriel had made that day into a glass, also setting it into the table. She put her hands on her hips and surveyed what she'd done. Deciding she was satisfied, she made her way into the living room to pick up where she'd left off in her novel.

Meanwhile, Carter stood upstairs under the stream of hot water coming from his shower, his eyes closed in relaxation as the gentle pounding eased away the tension of the day. He was so busy at work, and he doubted that it would ease up anytime soon. They had just signed a huge deal with the biggest video game company in all of Spira, and there was so much work to do it seemed inhumane. He sighed, remembering all the files he had saved on his computer for tomorrow. He simply did not have the energy to stay at work that long and finish all of the invoices and quotes they passed down to him from the shipping and manufacturing offices.

A smile came to his face, despite his grueling day, when he thought of his welcoming party. He couldn't remember a time when the blonde Al Bhed he was staying with had ever looked cuter than she had when she'd greeted him from the top of the stairs. With her hair piled atop her head in a messy ponytail and her loose fitting pajamas hanging gently on her lithe frame, she looked like the slightly more grown up version of a little girl waking up too early on Christmas morning.

'She probably loves Christmas...' Carter thought, squirting some shampoo onto his head and rubbing it into his hair. 'Which is great, considering it's my favorite holiday!" His smile widened at the thought of her racing down the stairs that morning and practically leaping for her gifts. A faint blush stained his cheeks when his mind wandered over to the image of the two of them getting caught under the mistletoe, and he shook his head reluctantly to clear the picture.

After he had washed his hair and gone over his body with the body wash that sat on the shelf in the shower, he stepped out and dried himself off with the red towel he'd grabbed from the hall closet. He walked out into the bedroom with that same towel slung around his waist, and he made his way over to his bed where he'd already laid out his pajamas. He pulled on the forest green cotton pants after he'd relieved himself of his towel, and yanked the thin white t-shirt over his head and down over his torso. He headed out into the hallway, turning off his light and closing the door behind him as he went quietly. Creeping on tip-toe past Alatriel's room, he finally made it to the stairs and descended.

As he neared the kitchen, the scent of his favorite pasta wafted through his nostrils and up into his brain, sending him all sorts of pleasant feelings of anticipation. If given more time exposed to the wonderful aroma, the young man was sure his mouth would have watered. The last few meters of distance between him and the kitchen were closed with three long strides, and his eyes widened slightly at the feel of the cold pale tiles under his feet. He took in the already set table, complete with a drink of Kool Aid, and smiled when he saw the microwave mounted above the stove flashing a message in green that 'his meal was ready to enjoy'. It was after this that he noticed that something important was missing from the picture. His eyes darted around the kitchen, but Rikku was nowhere to be found.

Turning his attention to the other rooms of the house, he stepped back out of the kitchen and entered the living room. He let a sigh escape past his lips when he found the young Al Bhed curled up in an armchair with her recent favorite book, fast asleep. He walked over to her and kneeled down so that his face was level with hers. Unable to resist, he reached out a hand and brushed her golden bangs back behind her ear, letting his fingers dance softly down her jaw-line before retreating. She stirred lightly, and the novel she grasped loosely in her small hand fell to the carpeted floor as her grip relaxed. Her swirled viridian eyes opened slowly and took in the sight of Carter quietly placing the fallen book on the end table beside the chair, and then rising to his feet to turn off the still-playing stereo. She smiled up at him when he turned his attention back to her and kneeled down beside her once again.

"Sorry 'bout that..." Rikku sighed, her small mouth opening wide in a yawn.

"You can go to bed if you want, Rikku." Carter offered politely. "I can see you're tired."

The young woman looked appalled at the very thought. "That'd be rude of me!" Her perky attitude returned in a matter of mere seconds and she sat up straight with a smile on her face that could put the sun to shame in its radiance. At least...that's what Carter thought...

"Well then," He said, standing and holding out his hand, "you'd better come and sit with me while I eat." The smirk that appeared on his face was irresistible; Rikku reached out and placed her small hand into his without any hesitation whatsoever. He led her into the dining room, only letting go of her hand when he sat down and she moved in the direction of the microwave.

Rikku got out the container and brought it over to the table, grabbing Carter's fork and pushing the pasta onto his plate. It steamed and wafted up to his nose; he inhaled it greedily, loving the smell. He smiled warmly up at Rikku, who had now taken her seat at the other end of the table.

"It looks delicious," Twirling several noodles onto his fork, Carter put them into his mouth. After he'd swallowed them he corrected himself, "It's really good, Rikku. I love pasta!"

As he continued to eat, the Al Bhed couldn't help but feel that he was being overly complimentary and much too enthusiastic. 'He's probably just doing it so he'll get...' She shook her head, not liking where her thoughts were traveling.

After a few minutes, Carter noticed that Rikku's chin was resting against her chest and her breathing had become deep and even once again. He smiled, shaking his head lightly and finishing his meal. Once he was done and had put all his dishes in the sink, he walked over to her and lifted her gently into his arms.

Turning off the lights as he went, Carter made his way upstairs and into Rikku's bedroom. He leaned her against his chest and held her close with one arm, using the other to push back the sheets on her bed and arrange her pillows properly. He then laid her down, covering her up to her chin with the covers and watching as she unconsciously adjusted herself and shifted onto her side. Carter brushed her hair out of her face again, noting mentally how soft it was to the touch, and watched with a smile as she sighed lightly. He began to lean forward, but stopped himself as if debating. He remained in thought for several minutes before he made up his mind. Leaning down slowly, he pressed a light butterfly kiss to Rikku's forehead, allowing his lips to linger on her warm skin for a few fleeting seconds.

He rose after that, double checking that she was fully covered by her sheets. When he was certain she'd be warm throughout the night he headed out the door, closing it softly behind him. Leaning against it he sighed, running both his hands through his sandy blonde hair. He walked only a few steps down the hallway before reaching Alatriel's door, and he opened it as quietly as he could and peered inside.

The small girl was curled up in her child-size bed, covered up to her nose and sleeping as peacefully as one could. He marveled to himself at how much he'd come to care for this child, and he began to think about what would happen to her once their year with her was up. Shaking his head he decided not to dwell on it as he entered his own room. He pulled his t-shirt slowly over his head and tossed it nonchalantly into a corner near his dresser.

He climbed into bed and began to slowly drift off to sleep, but he simply had too much on his mind to allow slumber to take hold of him right away. Pushing away all thoughts of work and orphanages, he rolled over onto his side and continued to try and clear his mind. After a while all that was left in his thoughts was the memory of the day that he, Rikku and Alatriel and gone to the park and played in the sand. He smiled and closed his eyes, burying his face into his feather-pillow and allowing the satin folds of sleep to wrap around him and enclose his mind in darkness and dreams.

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"Daddy!"

Wakka turned his gaze from the window to the grinning little girl at his feet. A wide smile wound its way onto his lips as he reached down and hoisted the small child up into his arms. He sat her on his shoulder, supporting her legs to keep her from falling. She assisted with this endeavor by wrapping her arms around his neck.

"You're here!" She squealed, delighted that Wakka had come at all. Then another thought entered her mind and she voiced it. "Did you watch me?"

"O' course I did!" Smiling wider, if it was possible, the blitzer continued. "Someday I'll be watchin' you up on a big stage, ya?" He heard quick footsteps behind him and felt Lulu's eyes on his back before she spoke up, but he chose to ignore it and let her think she surprised him.

"I hate to say it..." Lulu began, coming to stand in front of Wakka and look up at Jade on her perch, "...but I think Wakka's right about that. You're very good, Jade."

A grin appeared on the girl's face that could have lit up the entire city. "Thanks! I watched it on T.V lots and practiced."

Stealing a brief glance at Wakka, Lulu replied, "I bet you did!"

A giggle was the response she got, followed by a squeal as Wakka picked her up and shifted her to sit behind his neck, each of her legs dangling over one of his shoulders. "Shall we?" His accent was lighter than it usually was, but Lulu had already picked up on the fact that it was less pronounced when he was at ease.

"Back home?" The mage questioned back, her left eyebrow raised.

Another idea suddenly struck Jade. "Ice cream! Ice cream!" She offered, looking down at both Lulu and Wakka hopefully.

The Besaidian was glad that he couldn't see her face; he knew her green eyes were huge and adorable, and he also knew that he'd give in immediately if he saw them. He was contemplating saying no and letting Lulu finish, because he was sure that she would also decline. That's why her answer was quite surprising when it floated from her cranberry-tinted lips up to his ears.

"What a great idea, Jade!" There was a gleam in her deep eyes Jade hadn't ever seen before.

Wakka looked at her face skeptically, but the smile set there was genuine. "...Okay then!" Speaking after a moment, Wakka agreed. "Let's go, ya?"

Jade clapped approvingly, wrapping her small arms around Wakka's head in a thank-you hug. The blitzer reached up and patted her forearm with his left hand, digging in his pocket for his keys with his right. Seeing out of the corner of his eye Lulu walking in a different direction, he spoke.

"Where you goin' ?" He stopped and turned to look at her; she was already five feet away.

"To my car." Lulu replied, wanting badly to just shout 'DUH!' and walk away, "I figured Jade would want to go with you." She cut him off when he opened his mouth to speak. "I can meet you at the diner on 42nd street, okay?"

Wakka closed his mouth slowly, eliciting a giggle from Jade, and nodded dumbly. How had she known what he was going to ask?

'Man I hate women sometimes...' He thought, turning to walk to his truck with a shake of his head. He lifted Jade off of his shoulders and put her in the back seat of the quad cab vehicle, buckling her in tightly before he closed the door and went around to the driver's side. As he got in he looked over to where Lulu had also climbed in, but hadn't yet shut her door.

He blinked several times as he took in the sight of her long legs, even more exposed as a result of her skirt riding up, and found that he couldn't tear his eyes away. Continuing to blink mechanically, as if in a trance, Wakka found that he couldn't react fast enough when Lulu's gaze traveled up to meet his and she followed his line of sight.

What happened next, Wakka wasn't exactly sure. A red-hot glare appeared in her eyes that could melt steel, but a very satisfied smirk curled its way onto her lips, serving to confuse the blitzer. She left her door ajar for only another second before slamming it shut, turning the ignition and pulling out of her stall. Shaking his head again, Wakka cleared his throat and rubbed furiously at his eyes.

'What the hell, man?!' His mind screamed at him.

'Niiiice...Very nice...' Another voice sounded.

'Isn't it illegal to show that much skin off of a beach?!' Some other vocalization exclaimed.

"Daddy?"

'Okay, that one didn't come from my head...' Wakka stated mentally, turning around to look at Jade, the source of the fourth voice.

"Yeah?" He replied, meeting her hazel gaze.

Tilting her head to the side, she asked, "You okay?"

Wakka smiled and turned back around. "I'm fine!"

As he turned the ignition, pulled out of the parking lot and got onto the street, Jade couldn't help but wonder why Wakka had lied to her. After all, when you gripped the steering wheel so hard your knuckles turned white, you weren't fine. Even four-year-olds knew that...

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Just as Lulu sat down in a booth near the back of the small diner minutes later, she saw Wakka's yellow truck pull into a stall right next to hers. Her smirk reappeared at the memory of the look on his face when he'd gazed at her legs, and for the first time in her life she actually felt attractive.

'Hard to believe that it's thanks to Wakka...' She thought, putting her elbow on the table and resting her chin in her palm.

Wakka strolled in, Jade's hand held gently in his, and his russet eyes searched the somewhat crowded eatery for the black mage. When he spotted her something flashed in his eyes that seemed akin to apprehension, but it wasn't there long enough for Lulu to clearly decipher. The two of them walked over to the booth, Wakka slightly pulling Jade forward so that she could slide into the seat first.

She wouldn't let him guide her forward, however, releasing her hold on his hand to move over to Lulu and look up imploringly at her. The mage raised an eyebrow at the girl before pointing to the seat beside her.

"Do you want to sit with me?" She asked quietly, her voice sounding unusually cautious.

Jade's nod backed up her reply. "Yes, please."

The unnecessarily polite response made Lulu smile, and she shifted over so that Jade could clamber up onto the seat that she had just vacated. By the time she had climbed onto the bench, taken off her shoes and bent her legs so that she was sitting on her feet, which allowed her to be high enough to see over the high table, Wakka had taken his seat and was drumming his fingers against his thigh.

"Okay!" Jade announced, "I'm ready now!"

"Well, good!" Wakka replied with a smile, "'Cause now you have to go get the ice cream, ya?"

"No!" Smiling a smile only a child can, Jade brought up one hand to hide her blushing face.

"Weeeelllllllll..." Wakka dragged the word out as if deep in thought. "I suppose I could go get...But just this once, ya?"

Jade nodded approvingly. "Can I have Cookie Dough??" She questioned, gazing up at the now standing Besaidian.

"Sure, why not?" His voice caught very briefly in his throat as he turned to address Lulu, the memory of her smooth ivory legs still fresh in his mind. "What do you want Lu?"

"I think I'll have the Mint Chocolate Chip." She replied after a moment of studying the long list of ice cream flavors displayed on a rectangular video-screen that was mounted on the wall behind the counter.

"Done. I'll be right back." Wakka said, turning to walk up to the counter and order the double-scoop cones. He selected Fudge Chocolate for himself and tried his hardest not to vividly remember exactly what Lulu's legs had looked like in that car...

"Am I gonna go to ballet all the time now?" Jade asked quietly, shyly casting her gaze to her lap.

"Whenever you want to go, we'll take you." Lulu replied softly. "It all depends on when your class meets during the week."

This elicited a wide smile from the girl, and the black mage couldn't help but smile back. Her gaze shifted over towards the counter where Wakka was leaning against the plastic dome that kept the ice cream covered and cold. He was thumbing through the various notes of Gil in his wallet, searching for a certain one. Pinching the tip of his tongue between the incisor teeth on the left side of his mouth, the look of concentration on his tanned face seemed to deepen. Lulu's smile lingered on her cranberry lips a little longer than she'd thought that it would, and she turned her attention back to Jade as the man behind the counter handed Wakka three ice cream cones.

"One cookie dough..." Wakka's voice interrupted the thoughts of both occupants of the table as he approached from the counter. He reached out his left arm towards Jade, her child size cone resting between his thumb and first two fingers. Taking it from him with a smile and a quiet 'thank you', Jade was the picture of what every parent would want in a child: quiet, polite and cute!

"...mint chip for Lu..." He handed her the double scoop cone along with one of the napkins he'd grabbed from the counter.

"...and a whole lotta chocolate for me, ya?" A smile crept onto his face as he took his seat opposite the two girls and gazed at his triple scoop cone. His mouth was practically watering as he noticed that a change had been made to his favorite ice cream: they'd added chunks of fudge brownie to the already sinful mixture.

"Thank you Wakka." Lulu's voice broke his train of chocolate-thought and turned it to something else entirely when she took her first lick of her cone.

"No problem." Wakka replied simply, unable to tear his eyes away from the sight of her tongue tracing a path across the ice cream. After three more licks he finally managed to turn his gaze to Jade, who was happily getting her ice cream everywhere but her mouth, it seemed.

He'd been able to avert his gaze once but the true question he do it again?

'It's gonna be a long day, ya?' He thought, groaning inwardly as Lulu unconsciously licked away some ice cream that had found its way to the corner of her mouth.

An hour later found the three of them back at home. In the truck on the way there, Jade had quietly asked Wakka if he would play with her once they reached the house. Even though he desperately wanted to get in more practice time before the game, he found that he just couldn't make the declining words form on his tongue. The two of them went straight into the backyard, where Wakka discovered that Jade's idea of play was showing him all of the things she'd learned in class earlier. The blitzer surprised himself by not once complaining about the fact that he'd already seen these beginner moves before, opting instead to continually compliment the girl with a smile on his face.

Meanwhile, Lulu had noticed a thick envelope sticking out of the mailbox when she'd driven up, and had taken it inside with her. She sat down at the kitchen table and used the sunlight pouring in from the wide windows as her reading light. Opening the envelope with a silver, blade-shaped letter opener, Lulu extracted the crisply folded papers from inside and slowly flattened them out in front of her.

The first starch-white sheet sported a blue and gold border and had "Zanarkand High" printed in bold navy ink across the top. As she skimmed the page, she discovered that it was an introductory page of sorts; it was a welcoming message that outlined the basics of their assignment and reminded the reader of how important it was. Already knowing all of this general information, Lulu flipped it over onto the table so that its blank side was facing up and turned her attention to the next page.

It had the same border and heading, but this page was serving as a table of contents for the package. She knew that she was going to read all of it, so the mage didn't even bother with this page, simply flipping it over on top of the first one. The next page outlined what she'd learned the night she and Wakka went to pick up Jade from the orphanage. It displayed information about her and Wakka, their past schools, parents, where they were born, and the like, and also showed Jade's general information. It was the same material that had flashed on the registration screens they'd encountered at the orphanage that night. There was a footnote underneath Jade's information that stated that it was continued on the following page.

Lulu eagerly flipped over her current page, eager to find out more about the engaging little girl that had been entrusted into her care. As the title heading came into her view for the fourth time, she realized that she should probably go over this information with Wakka later on, as he was currently closer to Jade than Lulu herself was. With this in mind she flipped over pages four and five, the ones with Jade's background on them, and focused on page six. This page contained the requirements that were needed in order to obtain a passing grade, and what would get them the 85% that was necessary in order to receive the scholarships. It basically said that each couple had to have their finances in order - if either or both students got jobs on the side - and their passing grades maintained in school. Also, they had to be living together in a civil way; meaning that they had to be getting along and be happy with each other. The most important thing was listed as "The Interview"; it accounted for 49% of the final grade. A footnote under it read, 'For more details, turn to page seven'.

As Lulu read on through the package, she discovered that the interview was an examination of sorts for the child in each family. They would be questioned about their home life and how they got along with their 'parents' on a daily basis. Not much more detail was given on what kind of questions would be asked.

'I guess they don't want us to make our children memorize appropriate answers so we can pass. Pretty easy way to cheat...' Lulu mused as she continued on to page eight.

The remaining three pages of the document outlined how the students would be returning to school the Monday following the blitzball tournament. It included information on the play-school set up inside the high school, which would allow all of the students to commit their full attention to their work and not have to worry about the children. It came at no cost by default, a fact that served only to confuse Lulu.

'I thought we were supposed to pay for everything...?' She wondered, flipping the page over and skimming the next. It answered her question, more or less.

The play-school would always remain a free service, but if the students offered to pay for it, meaning that they had the means by which to do so by way of a job, they would receive a bonus percent for being more independent and resourceful. It also outlined the bank accounts that each couple was given access to. The sum inside it was more than enough to tide students over for a year as a small family, but if they decided to go ahead and get a job anyway, they would be rewarded with another bonus mark. The only catch to this was that they were expected to keep the job for at least six months out of the year allotted, preventing students from just getting hired for the extra mark, and then quitting for convenience's sake.

"So..." Lulu muttered to herself, her eyes darting over the page once more, "if we pay for things ourselves we get bonus marks, but we have to keep the job as long as we can...? And we don't actually need to get a job?"

The last paragraph on the page read that the students would be 'punished' by sticking only to the account that the school had set up for them. They would lose five percent from their final grade if neither of them got a job, and would lose three if they instead, for some reason, became involved in volunteer work for no profit. It also mentioned that the healthy sums of Gil in these provided accounts had been contributed by the city, and were additionally sponsored by the Spiran Blitzball Association, the very heart and soul of professional blitzball.

The final page basically stated that students would be expected to stay students, no matter what was going on in their households. If there were problems at home, like students not getting along, they were to be dealt with by the students. Any dispute that involved any kind of police intervention would result in a failing grade and possibly even expulsion from school if the problem were severe enough.

Lulu leaned back in her chair and stretched her arms out in front of her. 'I wonder if Wakka will even be interested in this...After all the tournament's tomorrow...' A frown made its way across her lips as she thought of the dilemma that faced Wakka and his team-mates.

As much as she hated to admit it, Lulu actually felt somewhat sorry for the Besaidian, despite the fact that the whole situation was partially his fault...

"Hey Lu!"

The mage turned her head at the sound of Wakka's voice, and was surprised to hear it coming from the front door instead of the backyard. She cocked an eyebrow, leaning to the side in her chair to look around the corner at the foyer. Sure enough, her ears had not deceived her and Wakka was walking inside from the front foyer, Jade in one arm and another envelope in his free hand.

"Check that out, ya?" He said, tossing the thick package at her lightly. She caught it with ease and examined the sender address, which caused her eyebrow to rise further.

"You applied to the sports campus in Bevelle?" She questioned, watching as Jade began playing with the neckline of Wakka's shirt absentmindedly.

Wakka grinned, taking a seat beside her at the kitchen table. He seemed in a genuinely good mood, and Lulu was surprised to find that he looked much more attractive when he was happy and smiling. "That's the beauty of it; I didn't even have'ta apply, ya?"

"Does that mean Daddy's smart?" Jade asked, reaching around behind Wakka's head to pull at the tag of his shirt.

"It's a blitzball school, Jade, not an actual school." Lulu replied, trying to take the sharp edge out of her voice.

"Oh. Okay!" The girl smiled and continued with her yanking.

There was a short pause before Lulu spoke again. "So I take it that you're going? It is a very prestigious school..."

Wakka actually hesitated, which came as another surprise to the mage. "I haven't decided for sure yet, but there's a 95% chance, ya?" He replied, shifting Jade from his left arm to his right. She looked a little perturbed that her pulling had been interrupted, but she resumed after only a few seconds of 'being angry'.

There was another short silence, but it was broken before too long. "So is that from the school?" Wakka gestured to the documents in front of Lulu on the table. She nodded somewhat curtly, as if she was really stressed and could only allow herself so much movement before she snapped. "We'll read it later, ya?"

"Yeah!" Jade replied, despite the fact that the comment was not directed at her. Both teenagers chuckled at this, catching each other's gazes for a moment.

Wakka once again found himself marveling at the strange color of Lulu's eyes; he simply couldn't understand how someone's eyes could turn out such a...sexy color. He might not be particularly fond of the mage right at this moment, but he wasn't blind; she was very attractive. Lulu, meanwhile, began fighting off thoughts of drowning as soon as she met Wakka's warm gaze. The red-russet of his eyes almost reminded her of milk chocolate, and she could feel a seemingly magnetic pull drawing her to them as they had before.

"Can we play now?" Jade's request broke the moment, and Lulu looked away as Wakka sighed and turned his attention to the girl.

"Yeah sure, Jade. Let's go, Lu." He replied, rising to his feet and gesturing to the backyard.

Lulu looked surprised that he'd addressed her She would have normally flipped him the finger and gone to read, but since it was in regards to the little girl they both had a soft spot for, she too got to her feet and headed outside. "What are we going to play?" The mage asked as she closed the patio doors behind them.

"Dunno..." Wakka replied, scratching his head in a gesture that bordered on cute as he placed Jade on the grass.

But the girl already knew full well what she wanted to do. "Tag! You're it, Daddy!" She exclaimed, slapping Wakka's leg and tearing off across the expansive lawn.

A predatory grin spread across Wakka's face as he turned to Lulu, and the mage suddenly realized that she was wearing a skirt: not exactly the best apparel for tag! Still, she wasn't really faced with any other option but to run when Wakka advanced towards her with long strides. He cackled evilly as she took off running, faster than she thought possible with her current wardrobe. The skirt rode up as she extended her legs, and she was grateful that it was made of a silky material that slid up her legs and stretched when she ran.

Wakka was grateful for it as well, but for different reasons.

He chased her for a few moments, which surprised him; he hadn't thought that she could out-distance him for as long as she did, what with her being so much shorter. He finally caught up with her when she turned to avoid him. He had anticipated the sharp turn and had run straight so as to cut her off. Out of reflexive blitzball habit, Wakka leaped and tackled the mage onto the grass instead of merely tagging her, rolling several times until he had her pinned beneath his weight.

They ended up lying in such a position that Wakka was able to pin her arms above her head, holding her wrists gently, yet firmly, in his hands. Their legs were entangled, and Wakka was holding himself above her by propping himself up on his elbows so as not to crush her. Their breathing was fast, and their faces were closer than either deemed safe. Nonetheless, neither found it a top priority to try and move, even though Lulu was now technically 'It' and Wakka should have been running to escape from her.

Lulu knew that she could fight the impulse to kiss the Besaidian when they were standing apart from each other, but it was impossible to resist when they were lying such as they were. Just as her eyes reflexively began to drift closed and Wakka dipped his head down to meet her, an incessant ringing filled their ears. Wakka growled in frustration, releasing his hold of Lulu's right wrist to grab the cell phone that hung at his waist.

He flipped it open and held it to his ear, shifting his weight to his left arm as he did so. "Yeah?"

"Wakka! It's Damien." Came the voice from the other end.

"Whadda ya want, man?" Wakka replied, managing to prevent most of his annoyance from leaking into his tone.

The twin didn't seem to notice. "Are you coming over to Leathen's house tonight? We're all gonna wind down before the games tomorrow."

Wakka hesitated, his lips beginning to form words along the lines of 'I'll be there soon'. He gazed down at Lulu, lying flushed beneath him, and he just couldn't force himself to accept the invitation.

"Nah, I don't think so, Dante--shit! Sorry Damien..." He could hear the twin's chuckle on the other end. "I got somethin' else planned. Sorry, man."

Lulu couldn't believe what she was hearing; since she was in such close proximity, she could hear what Damien was saying as well as how Wakka was replying. She had to admit, she was actually...glad that he wanted to stay here...or at least, that's what she was assuming he meant by saying that he had other plans...

"Hey no problem! See you at the tourney then!" Damien replied.

"Yeah, see ya." Wakka responded before snapping the phone shut and replacing it at his hip. He also replaced his hand on her wrist, which hadn't moved, and smirked down at her.

"I'm surprised." Lulu said, trying her best not to smirk right back at the pretentious bastard.

"I'm hurt..." He retorted, feigning pain by means of a faked flinch. "Where were we?"

"You know I don't exactly recall-"

She was promptly cut off by Wakka's lips descending on her own, and the only sound she made was a quiet sound of resignation as she lifted her head to press more into the kiss. White-hot shocks raced through her system, and Lulu remembered all too well why she had wanted to kiss this dumb Besaidian again after they'd first embraced several days ago. She felt her stomach churning in a most delightful way, and she pulled her right wrist free so she could trace her fingers up the tanned arm supporting the blitzer.

As they exchanged several passionate, but still innocent, kisses Wakka found himself singing praises in his head. He was suddenly very glad that he'd turned down Damien's offer, and he was still trying to figure out what it was that had made him speak the declining words. Finding that he really didn't care at the moment, Wakka brought one hand to Lulu's waist, caressing the inch of bare pale skin there that had been exposed as her shirt had ridden up in their tussle. His arm tingled where she touched it and he noticed, quite happily, that she moved so that her shirt moved upwards a slight bit more when his fingers lighted on her skin.

He had to fight to quell his surprise when he felt her tongue tracing his bottom lip in a way he was certain should be illegal. Just as he was about to open his mouth and meet her tongue for an overdue game of tonsil hockey, they were interrupted.

"Daddy! Which one of you guys is it?!" Jade yelled, running up beside them just as they pulled apart, which they did reluctantly.

Lulu looked up at Wakka, taking in his slightly swollen lips and frustrated expression, and smiled.

"I am!" She yelled suddenly, pushing Wakka off of her and getting to her feet, chasing after the girl with a wide smile still on her face. Jade squealed and took off, which left Wakka lying on his back, quite discontented. He could still feel that warm, soft tongue on his lip, and as he rose to his feet to re-join the game he vowed to gain a rematch with it as soon as was humanly possible.

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"Puppy!" Kieran's excited cry pierced the heavy silence inside the vehicle, causing Yuna to jump slightly in her seat. "Look!" The boy continued, pointing towards a large dog that was loping down the sidewalk.

Yuna smiled, despite her gloomy mood, and reached over to gently ruffle Kieran's chocolate locks. She returned her gaze to the intersection lights before her just as they turned from red to green, and she pushed on the gas pedal with much more force than was necessary.

Kieran waved to the dog as it fell behind their car, grinning broadly as only an innocent child can. "Where are we going?" He asked spontaneously, their destination already long forgotten in his mind.

"We're going to see Sir Auron, remember?" Yuna replied, glancing over at the boy to find that his ice blue gaze was turned upon her instead of the passing buildings. Kieran's grin returned and he shifted in his seat so as to get a better view of the things outside the car. "Okay, I 'member now!"

The smile remained on the boy's face. Yuna, however, unconsciously recalled the reasons she had taken Kieran and left the house in the first place, and could not muster a smile of her own. Both her dark dreams and Tidus' angry voice filled her aching head, and she found herself wondering amazingly at how Kieran could forget hearing someone get angry so easily. Her face fell when she realized that living in an orphanage like he had, he'd probably been exposed to stressed and angered adults much more than he should have been.

'Maybe...he was right about that...' She mused, recollecting the words that the blitzer had let slip past his lips less than ten minutes prior.

Shaking her head to try and clear it of dark thoughts, Yuna reached out and turned up the volume on her radio. The sad love ballad that was playing did nothing to improve her mood, only adding something else to the gloom that hovered above her like a cloud. It reminded her, with its slow beat and lyrics about longing for love, that she had never had a boyfriend. She had never had someone she could lean back against after a particularly hard day and relax into his arms as he soothed away her tension just by holding her tightly. She had never had someone to kiss when she felt the need to be kissed, or touch when she was compelled by the sheer human need for contact, or phone late at night and talk to when sleep was being particularly elusive. She had never had it and even though it sounded, even to her own mind, like something out of a novel that was all but impossible in the real world, she still craved it just the same.

'I at least want someone I can...kiss and...' A blush lightly colored her cheeks as she began to imagine all of the things she wanted to try before her next birthday, and it faded as she realized that the likelihood of any of it happening was very, very slight.

Just when she thought that she could sink no further into the quicksand of teenage longing and worries over low self-esteem, 28th Avenue came into her view and she made a rather sharp right turn. She drove down this road for a few minutes, watching the strip malls and houses fall behind her car with a lazy eye. Upon spotting the entrance to a large residential area, she drove towards and through it and began searching out the somewhat elusive street that she could never seem to find on her first try. Bearing this in mind, she decided to try a new tactic to try and prevent her from getting lost practically at Auron's front door...again.

"Kieran?" She inquired, briefly turning to check that she had his attention, "I want you to keep an eye out for a sign that has the numbers 14 and 17 on it, okay?"

"Okay...Ummm....Mommy?" Kieran replied, looking out the window at something they were going past.

"Yeah?"

"...You just passed that thing."

".......Oh." Yuna sighed and brought her car around the concrete street divider to her left, turning left once more at the sign she had passed right by...again.

She pulled up to a two-story house that looked to be owned by some kind of weapons enthusiast. Coincidentally, it was. Two highly polished suits of traditional samurai armor stood as sentinels on either side of grand looking front doors made of wood. The yard was devoid of any flowers or brightly colored plant life, but was home to two magnificently matured willow trees that shaded the driveway and the garage from the afternoon sun.

She and Kieran made their way to the doors, and Yuna rang the doorbell as the boy beside her beheld the armor with such adoration that one would think he was hero-worshipping. It took only a moment for the door to swing open and reveal the house owner, Auron. He stood before them in a deep crimson turtleneck and black business slacks, the newspaper clutched in one hand.

He raised his un-scarred eyebrow at the young summoner, and glanced briefly at Kieran as he greeted her. "Missed the turn again, didn't you?"

"Ha ha, very funny; let's all laugh at Yuna, the poor girl who can't read numbers!" Yuna joked as she saw the very slight smirk that appeared at the corner of the former guardian's mouth.

Auron smiled and moved aside to allow them entry into his home. It wasn't as decorated as one would assume, with comfortable looking, yet not much, furniture and no feminine touches whatsoever. The walls of the living room were a very different story, however.

As Auron led them into the room, Yuna looked down at Kieran and watched his reaction to it with a smile on her face. Swords of every kind imaginable covered the walls, shining as the light streaming in from the windows hit their reflective, polished surfaces. There were katanas from every era, highly decorative fencing sabers, broadswords, double-bladed and double-edged swords, scimitars, long-swords, rapiers, and a huge Spadone hanging over the fireplace and demanding the most attention. The boy was clearly in awe, and even Auron was brought to amusement as he took his seat in an armchair near the hearth and watched his expressions change between reverence, awe, curiosity, and childish longing.

"So what do you think of them?" The former guardian asked, folding the newspaper in his lap and regarding the boy with a curious expression. Yuna smiled; she knew Auron had always had a soft spot for children.

"They're...so cool!" Kieran replied, apparently over his initial shock. A grin spread across his face as he stepped forward and examined a beautifully detailed katana that hung on the wall at his eye-level. He reached out a hand to touch the shiny wooden hilt, but stopped suddenly as if afraid to be burned by the sword. Keeping his hand frozen in mid-air, he turned tentatively to Auron to ask for permission.

Auron spoke first, already knowing what the child wanted. "You can touch it, but try not to take it down from the wall; you could hurt yourself." His tone was gentle, but there was an underlying concern that did not go unnoticed by anyone in the room. Watching Kieran out of the corner of his eye, Auron gestured to the chair on the other side of the coffee table. "Please sit, Yuna."

The young summoner obliged, situating herself in a cross-legged position on the comfortable furniture with ease. She leaned back against the soft cushioning, her gaze traveling from Kieran to the raging flames inside the fireplace. She briefly pondered how Auron could stand having the fire so built up in the summertime, but shrugged it off, recognizing that he was also wearing a thick sweater.

Setting his newspaper on the coffee table, Auron decided to get right to the heart of the visit whilst Kieran was quietly occupied. "So what seems to be the problem?"

"My dreams...they've gotten much more vivid and they happen a lot more often." Yuna replied softly, staring at her lap and watching her fingers fidget. This particular subject was rather touchy with her, but she knew she had to talk about it at some point.

"What happens in these dreams? Is it always the same thing?" Auron questioned, sounding an awful lot like a psychiatrist.

Yuna shifted in the big armchair, glancing over her shoulder at Kieran. The boy was running his fingers along the hilt of a rapier, admiring the soft squishy leather. She sighed and replaced a strand of hair that had fallen forward into her face behind her ear. "It's the same dream, but every time I have it, it seems to get longer...like I'm slowly watching a movie piece by piece, you know?"

"But what happens exactly, Yuna?" Auron inquired again, noticing how uncomfortable the teenager was already. "What do you see?" The gentle firmness of his voice was enough to coax Yuna into explanation.

"I see..." She looked over her shoulder again to make sure Kieran was occupied, and when she turned back to Auron to speak again her voice was lowered. "I see Sin...rampaging in Bevelle like it never left."

"This is what's scaring you so much?" Auron's eyebrow was raised in question.

Yuna shook her head, her gaze still fixed on her lap. "Not just that, Auron. In my dream, I'm right there in Bevelle watching it destroy everything and...it turns to me at looks right at me with all of those horrible eyes..." She shivered unconsciously; Yuna had actually seen Sin when she was twelve, when vacationing with her family in Luca. It had risen out of the water like some ocean-dwelling demon from legend, but hadn't advanced on the beach like everyone expected. It just sat there, observing the terrified people as if amused by their fear. After twenty long minutes, it turned and disappeared back beneath the waves as if it had never been.

Auron took her pause as an opening to try and lighten the situation; something he would normally never bother to do. "Yes, it's not exactly a pretty sight to behold..." He was rewarded with a slight smile and another sigh before Yuna continued.

"It speaks to me...It says 'I'm sorry' over and over again, even as it's trampling buildings and people!" The young woman sounded slightly angered by this, but Auron didn't press, allowing her to go on. "And just last night...it finally stopped apologizing and it turned to me again. It flashed for a second, as if it was a hologram or something, and then went back to normal. It flickered like that a few times, but I woke up before anything else new happened." Yuna spoke as if she was disappointed by this; as if she had expected Sin to flicker into another form.

Auron was silent for a moment, and they both observed Kieran as he continued on his way around the perimeter of the room, closely scrutinizing each and every sword within his reach. Running his fingers down the length of the weapons, the boy looked so happy he seemed fit to burst.

"So...you find these dreams to be overly frightening?" Crossing his arms over his chest, Auron looked slightly puzzled.

"They feel...like they're..." Yuna's gaze wandered from her lap to the fireplace as she searched her mind for the right word. "...prophetic, if that makes sense..."

Auron attempted to clarify. "You feel like what you see will come to pass?"

Yuna nodded, finally looking up and meeting his gaze. The ex-guardian could clearly see that the young woman honestly believed her dreams to be premonitory, even though the idea was slightly far-fetched.

Rising to his feet, Auron motioned for Yuna to follow him. She did, calling over her shoulder to Kieran that she'd be right back. She soon found herself in a large kitchen, where Auron was pouring himself a cup of Green tea.

"Would you like something?" He asked, stirring a very small amount of white sugar into the cup.

Yuna helped herself to a glass from the cupboard. "I'll just have some water." She filled the dark blue glass with cold distilled water from the fridge and took a sip, leaning back against the counter.

"Well..." Auron spoke after a moment, pausing to sip on his tea. "Sin was banished only a year ago, so..." He held back again, this time out of respect for Braska's memory. It was an unconscious thing he always did when speaking of his friend's recent defeat of the monster. "Even if these dreams of yours become reality, we won't have to deal with the repercussions for another nine years. The Calm will hold it off for that long at least..."

Yuna nodded her agreement, glad to finally be reassured. She had thought the same things all along, but she simply needed to have her fears alleviated by another person she trusted.

"Now, onto other matters." Auron said suddenly, replacing his cup in it's saucer on the countertop. Yuna looked up at this comment, her bi-colored eyes swimming with confusion. What else had she come to talk about?

"That Holy spell that you performed was quite advanced. Tidus also mentioned a force-field of some sort? Would you mind explaining, Yuna?" Auron's eyebrow was raised again, and Yuna suddenly remembered the events of the morning. She recalled everything clearly now that she had been reminded, especially the part where she had woken up in Tidus' warm embrace. She fought back the urge to blush as she pictured his bare, tanned chest again and remembered how comfortable being in his arms had been. The moment had been broken however and now...she was here.

After taking a gulp of her water, Yuna replied. "You talked to him?"

Auron nodded. "Yes. He called me after he brought you inside. Seemed concerned..."

Yuna scoffed lightly, avoiding Auron's gaze. 'He probably was just worried that he'd have my death on his conscience if I was hurt that badly...' She thought, recalling his angry face when she'd left the house.

"I'd read about the Holy spell more specifically in one of the books my father left for me...That was probably around three months ago, but after I had seen more in my dream I felt this crazy urge to know that I could properly protect myself. I mean, when I called you this morning and you told me to just go back to sleep and come visit later on, I was reassured of course, but I still didn't feel right about it." Yuna set her glass on the countertop and started wringing her hands in front of her, just one of her nervous habits.

"You also didn't tell me anything about your dream in detail." Auron reminded her, setting his now empty cup in the sink.

"I know... So I took the book out and reviewed the spell and how powerful it was. I..I didn't think I could do it, but my fear kind of fueled me, you know?" Auron nodded at this, and she went on. "When I found out how strong the magic was, even when it's used by a beginner like me, I knew I needed a couple of things for it to work without damaging anything..."

"You needed an enclosed area and a target to absorb the magic." Auron stated matter-of-factly.

Yuna met his gaze and nodded firmly. "Exactly. The enclosed area part I could handle, but I had no fiends around to target."

At her silence, Auron voiced another thought. "So how did you get one? Tidus said that you vaporized one to pyreflies with the spell."

"I...well, I....had help." Yuna admitted reluctantly, as if afraid. Doing nothing except raising an eyebrow, Auron simply leaned against the wall and waited for her to go on. "I was thinking about where to get a fiend, when Shiva's voice came into my head. She offered to go get one for me from the outskirts of the city so I agreed." Yuna fought off a sudden icy chill that spread from her neck to the base of her spine; Shiva was miffed that she was being blamed. "She was only helping, so I let her do it." The chill's bite subsided at this, but Yuna's flesh still remained pimpled from the glacial cold flash.

"You do realize that she could have been spotted?" Yuna nodded slowly, looking at the floor tile. "What would people have assumed then?"

"I don't know, Auron. I didn't think about it, okay?" Her sharp reply wasn't exactly surprising, but Auron was still not used to it. "Anyway, she brought back a Machea from one of the Gagazet Caves and froze it until I was ready. I summoned up Shell and Protect spells at the same time and forced them to leave my body as one complete casting. It naturally formed a kind of circular form, so I just forced it to assume a dome shape over the yard. Shiva was already in the area with the fiend, so I just dismiss her and used a Nul-Frost spell on the Machea to thaw it out." Yuna smiled slightly, as the concept of shoving a fiend into a microwave oven and hitting 'Defrost' was quite amusing, and this was how one usually thawed something.

"And I take it the spell worked?" Auron inquired, already knowing.

"Yes, it did. It really shocked my system though..." Yuna trailed off, wondering if performing that spell before she was technically ready had done anything harmful to her body.

"Mommy, Mommy!" Kieran chose that instant to come tearing into the kitchen, his dark blue eyes wide and a broad smile on his face. He dashed over to her and started pulling on her pajama pant leg vigorously.

"What is it?" Yuna questioned, unable to hold back the smile that blossomed on her own face. Auron looked particularly amused as well.

"He has an Air Hockey table!!" The boy practically screamed, pulling at Yuna with even more enthusiasm.

Yuna raised an eyebrow at the tall ex-guardian as she allowed herself to be pulled past him towards the hallway. Auron merely smirked as he pushed off from the wall and followed them, not at all annoyed at being interrupted.

"It was an impulse purchase."

--------------------------------------------------------

"I can't believe that girl!" Tidus growled angrily, staring at his clenched fist. His knuckles were already beginning to darken as a bruise began to paint itself on his skin. "I say one little thing about that damn kid and she's all pissed off! Damnit..." He trailed off, running the hand that wasn't throbbing through his jagged blonde hair.

The blitz ace couldn't have told an observer why he was so angry at Yuna leaving. She was going to go visit Auron today anyway, after all. But she had left angry, angry at Tidus for being a 'jerk'. And for some reason, her being pissed at him was something that genuinely bothered him and nagged at his mind when he tried to ignore it. He had to admit, the summoner had gotten under his skin quite fast.

Muttering a string of curses under his breath, Tidus pushed against the wall and slid up to a standing position. He glanced down at the dents he'd made in the wall, shaking his head at himself almost in disappointment. He knew full well that he often let his quick temper get the best of him, and it had cost him quite dearly in the past. Suddenly recalling something Leathen had said to him the night before at Jecht's house, Tidus strode out of the weight room and headed outside, not even bothering with shoes.

Reaching into the mailbox mounted next to the front door, his searching fingers lighted upon two rather thick envelopes. Extracting both and returning to the house, he glanced at both as he made his way to the living room. He collapsed onto the same couch he'd laid Yuna on just a short while ago, skimming over the return addresses on both tan-colored envelopes. One was from his school, undoubtedly regarding the project. Tidus briefly contemplated opening it, but put it aside upon thinking that Yuna would probably want to read it WITH him instead of on her own.

Just as this totally-unlike-Tidus thought entered his mind and was processed, it was forgotten as his cerulean eyes took in the sender of the second envelope. Bevelle Sports Camp. He grinned broadly and ripped open the package, tossing it down onto the couch beside him as he eagerly unfolded the papers inside.

The first page was a letter from the director of the facility, a personal letter thanking Tidus for taking the time to consider the contents of the package. It briefly outlined what was to be discussed in the rest of the document, which was namely Tidus attending the camp the following September, and thanked him several times for expressing interest in the camp.

Over the next half-hour, Tidus read through page after page of information about the Camp itself. He was informed about dormitories and housing around the area for students to occupy, costs per semester, and what he was to actually be doing at the facility. Basically, it was a dream for any aspiring or already professional blitzball players, and it was very difficult to get in. It was a huge ego boost to Tidus that he was being invited with this letter; he didn't even have to apply! On one page it even stated that he had been recommended for acceptance by several people, like the President of the S.B.A. and Sir Auron. He also noted, with slight surprise, that his father had also put in a letter of recommendation in his favor.

He let the papers fall down onto his lap with a grin on his face, imagining all of the things he could do down in Bevelle with his father nowhere near to stop him. Feeling assured that Wakka would also get an invitation, Tidus allowed himself to get caught up briefly in his thoughts. His imaginings of off-the-wall parties all the time, constant blitzball activities and hot athletic girls that were just as obsessed with the sport as he was kept him busy for a few minutes, until he was brought back down to reality by the harsh ringing of his video-phone.

He leapt up from the couch and ran to check the call display, smiling when he saw Jaxon's cell phone number flashing in blue. He pressed the flashing "Accept Call" button and waited for the redhead's face to appear before him. It did, and Tidus could see from the background that his teammate was in an immobile truck, using the small vid-phone mounted inside.

"Hey Jax! What's up?"

"We're all goin' over to Leathen's tonight for a little...wind down before the tournament. You in? Hurry up you jerk-offs!" Jaxon directed the last sentence to several people outside the vehicle that were currently climbing in.

"Hey it's Tidus!" Dante exclaimed upon catching sight of the blonde on the screen. He had settled into the seat to Jaxon's right and was clutching a paper bag in his lap.

"Hey Dante; where's the bro?" Tidus questioned, not having to wait for his answer long as Damien slid into the other seat beside Jaxon and slammed the trucks' back door shut.

"Right here! So are you coming tonight? Wakka already bailed on me!" The twin looked hurt, but Tidus could tell that it was all an act.

"Yeah I'll be there...Why do you guys have bags with you?" Tidus noticed that both twins were holding onto bags.

"Just stopped at the booze barn, my friend!" Came yet another voice, this time from, Tidus assumed, the front seat.

Tidus chuckled and shook his head. "Leathen, is that you, man?"

"Yup! Got Jarvis here with us too; say 'hi' dip-shit!" Leathen replied, directing his last comment jokingly at the defense-man seated shotgun.

"Hey Tidus! You better show up tonight!" Jarvis called.

"Alright, you've convinced me." Tidus said, laughing quietly and Dante and Damien began arguing over who could drink more without passing out.

"Alright! Head over to Leath's, and we'll see you there! Out!" Jaxon responded, hanging up after he saluted mockingly.

Tidus chuckled to himself again, terminating the call on his own phone and heading to the stairs. Leathen's parties usually consisted of the entire city and then some being invited, which meant lots of girls. This meant, in turn, that Tidus actually had to dress in a way that flattered his blitzball-sculpted body. This was never a problem.

He took the stairs two at a time, in a very jovial mood, and covered the distance of the hall and into his room in several long strides. He went directly into the shower, pulling off his clothes as he went to save time and throwing them on the floor. He washed his hair and body thoroughly, somehow not feeling totally clean until after he'd scrubbed his skin several times over. After toweling dry his hair and body, he went straight to his closet and studied what he found quite seriously.

He selected several outfits and threw them on the bed for examination. After several minutes of careful deliberation, he chose one. It consisted of a pair of loose-fitting, black cargo pants and a navy T-shirt that he left un-tucked. It had a slight v-neck and hugged his chest quite well for being a supposedly unflattering T-shirt. He slipped a black leather belt through the loops and secured it around his waist and went over to his dresser. Whilst spritzing himself with his favorite cologne, he shook his head several times and watched as his hair took its usual form of jagged spikes that fell surprisingly neatly about his head.

As a final touch he pulled on some socks and put on his Zanarkand Abes necklace, admiring the shiny silver in the mirror for a brief moment. He doubled back into the bathroom and brushed his teeth before finally leaving his room and returning downstairs. Grabbing his car keys from the kitchen table and placing them in his pocket, he moved to the front door and put on his runners. Just as he was about to leave he hesitated and strode back into the kitchen in a somewhat frustrated manner.

He hastily scrawled down a note to Yuna explaining where he'd gone, wondering out-loud why he was even doing it. After he finished, he walked out the front door, locking it behind him with a resounding click. As he climbed into his car, he vaguely wondered if he was even going to bother returning home at the end of the night. He imagined what Yuna's reaction would be if he came home late again, and he decided that he'd had quite enough of the beautiful summoner occupying his every thought.

He would stay at Leathen's that night, and would thereby avoid the hurtful gaze of azure and emerald that somehow tore him up inside...

TBC