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Desert Blues (2/2)

Title: Desert Blues (her version)
Words: 4,628
Rating: PG-ish for violence
Spoilers: Events at Home during FFX
Note: Gippal's version can be found here

When Rikku opened her eyes, she didn’t know what to expect. She certainly didn’t expect to see familiar, multicolored woven material above her, nor feel the warm, grainy sand beneath her body. For a split second, she thought that Sin had transported her back in time. Well, if Tidus could do it, anybody could, she figured. Then she caught sight of the protective targe on her arm that she had customized in Guadosalam to protect her from the upcoming Thunder Plains and knew that she hadn’t been flung back into the past, merely thrown across Spira.

She sat up and rubbed the back of her head. Sand slipped under the collar of her shirt and itched all the way down until it escaped at her waist. The canvas awning covering the aid shelter filtered the harsh sunlight down to a bearable level and cooled the temperature down slightly in the shade. Experience told her that once she stepped foot outside, she’d be assaulted by the blazing hot sun within seconds.

“Is everybody okay?” she asked, looking around. Finding no one, she jumped to her feet and stumbled out of the shelter. “Guys?”

She ran in a wide circle, always keeping the shelter in the corner of her eye. It wouldn’t do for her to panic and get lost. “Oh no,” she breathed. “Yunie!” She yelled for her companions until her voice cracked. Pounding the sand with her feet in frustration, she walked back to the shelter.

“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath. “Focus. If you’re going to find your friends, first you have to find out where you’re at.” For some reason, her inner voice sounded a lot like her oldest brother. She glanced around the shelter, finding all the items that she knew to be there: first aid kit complete with several Al Bhed potions, check. Several canteens: some filled with water, some empty, check. List of directions from the point she was standing and back to Home, check. Two-way radio with a long distance frequency range, check. The last two items were vitally important. She took out the list and read through it. As her luck would have it, she was in one of the central areas of Bikanel. Home was north by only several miles.

“See, we can do this!” she told herself. “This is nothing like the test you totally aced a month ago.” She’d been dumped out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but a canteen of water, a screwdriver, and her trusty claw with a deadline of a week to get back to Home before Keyakku or Brother had to go out looking for her as part of the coming of age ritual every Al Bhed teenager went through when they turned fifteen. Years of running around in the desert with Gippal had finally paid off and she had made it back within the third day, an all time new record. She’d even snagged a few machina parts she had found on the way, which was all sorts of good.

She pressed the button on the side of the radio and hoped that someone on the other end was listening. “Um, Rikku to base; over?” She never really knew what to say when starting a conversation on one of those things. She depressed the button and listened to the static filled silence. “Anyone?”

“Oui yna cibbucat du pa yd Macalania.” Rikku’s back straightened as she immediately recognized Brother’s voice.

I’m supposed to be at…who the heck is he to tell me where I’m supposed to be? “And you are supposed to be on my side, you big dork!” she yelled back, not caring if Brother couldn’t understand a word she was saying. It wasn’t her fault that he never learned Spiran. “Where in the big brother rule book does it say ‘I must sic a giant piece of machina on my little sister at some point in her life’?”


She stomped around the shade of the shelter and put her mouth directly into the radio’s speaker. “The next time I see you, I’m tearing you up into little shreds,” she said, switching over to Al Bhed so Brother understood her perfectly. “Then when I’m done doing that, I’m gonna tear the little shreds up into smaller shreds and, and…” she searched for something equally nasty.


“And spit on them!” she exclaimed, stomping her foot for emphasis.

“Keep the channel clear; you can kill your brother when you get back here.”

Rikku blinked at the blasé tone her father used. “Oh hello, Pops,” she said in a syrupy sweet voice. “Is Yuna there with you, by any chance?” She said the last seriously, because as irritated as she was with her immediate family, she really was worried about her cousin.

“As a matter of fact, we picked her up a little while ago. She’s in the Summoner’s Sanctum with the rest.”

Rikku let out a breath she wasn’t aware she had been holding. “She’s not hurt, is she?”


She sighed. “I’m fine, by the way.”

“Of course you are; why wouldn’t you be?” Cid asked, as if there would be any doubt to her well-being. Rikku was feeling pretty good about herself after her father’s semi-compliment until his voice came booming over the radio again. “Fer somebody that’s wanted for killing a Maester! Your scrawny little hide is wanted dead or alive!”

Rikku winced. “Heh, keep the channel clear,” she said meekly. “You can kill your daughter when she gets back home.”

“If those Guado combing the desert don’t get to you first,” he growled. “Where are you?” He sounded exasperated. If Rikku knew him, and she did, he was probably pinching the bridge of his nose right now and mentally counting to ten. The big vein in his forehead was more than likely throbbing too.

“I’m in the Central Expanse. It should only take about two hours tops to get back.”

“Two? Should only take one.”

“Well, I’m on foot and Sin didn’t exactly place all of us together in a nice, neat pile when he shipped us out to the desert.” She bit her lip and looked around again for any sign of her friends. “They’re kinda lost out there.”

“Well, that’s just great.” There was a pause and Rikku listened to dead air until her father picked back up. “Listen, the last sandstorm wound up piling up the dunes. I’ve had hovers try and make trails just so we don’t have sand in engine problems. Everything leads to the Central Expanse, so if your friends are lost, they’ll eventually wind up where you’re at.”

Great, I hate waiting. “Um, okay,” she said instead. “Rikku, over and out.”

“Take care of yourself, Girl,” Cid gruffly commanded. “I want to have you back here in one piece when I yell at you.” The radio crackled, then went silent. Rikku rocked back on her heels, scanning the horizon line in all directions. Sure enough, she could see a barely visible track where the sand had built up. It wouldn’t take the rest of them long to get there, which got Rikku to thinking.

If no one had found each other, she figured that Kimahri or Auron would find her first. They were the most logical of choices; Kimahri was a born hunter, even if Rikku was slightly worried about him getting heat exhaustion with his heavy coat of dense fur. Auron…well, he was Sir Auron. If anyone could walk across the desert, he could.

Lulu would be next. Rikku sat under the shade of the shelter and stretched her legs. I wonder if casting water spells would keep things cool? With all the black leather and fur trimming on her outfit, Lulu was another one Rikku was worried about here in the desert. Then again, those loosely woven belts that made up the front panel of her dress probably let some air circulate and the heavy sleeves only covered her from below the shoulder down. She might have to worry about sunburn though, Rikku thought, wincing in sympathy as she remembered all the pale, pale skin that their resident black mage usually had on display. Well, whatever happens, she’ll figure something out. She sighed, wishing that she could be more like the older woman. Yeah, like that will ever happen, she thought, glancing down at her slight chest. There’s some things that even magic can’t fix.

Wakka would either be with Lulu or come stumbling along by himself. Rikku frowned. He’d probably be cursing the Al Bhed, as if it were their fault for the heat and the sand. Really, we just live here, we didn’t manufacture the island. She paused. Though give Pops and Keyakku some time and I’m sure they could figure out a way to make one. Huh, that would be neat. Rikku Island: only cute guys allowed. She giggled at the thought and brushed sand out of her boots.

Tidus would either find someone else or come around on his own next. For a guy that lived, breathed, and talked about Blitz all the time, he was quick to adapt to everything that everyone threw at him. And he’s cute too. Of course, Yuna’s body language throughout the journey had unofficially told everybody to back off, that she’d seen him first. Not that Rikku would horn in or anything. She had her own fledgling relationship to deal with. She grinned and for the billionth time since she saw him last, wondered what Gippal was doing. Whatever it was, she hoped that he was safe. She wrapped her arms around her knees and pictured him, all cocky bravado as he waved from the back of a hover headed towards the coastline. She had stood outside until his form had been a tiny speck on the horizon, then stayed standing there even longer, trying to keep him with her as long as possible. She sighed and flopped backwards, her head cushioned by the sand. As long as she had to wait, she might as well catch a nap in the shade.


As it turned out, Tidus had found everyone and they all had reached the Central Expanse together. After explaining where they were and asking if everyone would keep the location of Home a secret – something that she was positive Wakka would do, but he was going to make a fuss about anything Al Bhed anyway – she led them through the desert.

What she saw over the horizon chilled her to the bone, even in the scorching temperatures. Home was a burning ruin, fiends crawling everywhere. Her brother was dead, her father was shouting for them to get to safety, and the buildings themselves were falling apart with the attack.

Everything was a blur of color and noise to Rikku. She told herself that she had merely unfocused her eyes so the last memories of the place she had grown up in wouldn’t be of blood soaked walls and crumpled metal. She angrily swiped at her cheeks, trying her hardest not to cry. She wasn’t some kid; she was a guardian, and everyone knew that guardians did not cry.

Right now, the summoner that she was supposed to be guarding was missing. The bad guys had taken Yuna and now Rikku had to be strong so they could all get her back. Out of the entire group, she was the only one that knew the way out, so she had to focus. It didn’t matter that her childhood friends were…she shook her head again. The last thing she wanted to remember was the sight of so many people she had known lying lifeless in their own blood. Blinking back the tears she refused to shed now, she ran deeper into the bowels of Home, towards the sanctuary she knew the summoners were being kept at.

Alarms blared and lights flashed all around her, making her head ache. Her father’s voice came over the speakers positioned everywhere, yelling for Rikku and her friends to get underground. “We’re trying!” she screamed in her native tongue, clenching her fists when a fiend closed off their route. While Auron and Tidus attacked it with their swords, she ran in and swiped a few precious items off of it. Part of her brain that was always flittering around asking questions wondered just exactly why, never mind how the three-headed chimera carried restorative potions, but she shoved the thought aside and barreled past the dying monster.

It was only when she didn’t hear footsteps echoing behind her that she realized she had gotten too far ahead. She was about to run back when she heard a very familiar voice cursing amid the sounds of rapid gunfire.

“No,” she whispered, blood going cold. Mind made up, she ran towards the sounds of battle, her weapon arm stretched out in front of her.

She skidded to a halt just in time to see a badly injured dual horn try for a last-ditch attempt to gore a bloodied Gippal. She heard someone scream a denial, but it wasn’t until she felt her throat burning did she realize it was her. She leapt onto the fiend’s back, stabbing it unmercifully with her claw. Rikku’s breath went out in a whoosh of air as she and the monster slid to the floor. Hopping off the beast, she frantically tried to roll its dead weight off Gippal.

“You aren’t supposed to be here,” she said angrily, running her hands over his body to look for hidden injuries as she tried desperately to cover up the panic that welled up at the sight of the nasty looking cut on his hairline and the freely flowing trickle of blood that was currently sliding down his temple and dripping off his chin.

“Funny, I could say the same thing to you,” he told her, rolling fluidly to his feet. Before she could react, he had grabbed her arm and shoved her behind him, firing his gun at the chimera that had just come out of the corridor Rikku had run out of. “What are you doing here alone, Cid’s girl?”

She watched as the monster went down and thought about everyone else that had been behind her. “I’m not. My friends are here too.” She moved so she was beside instead of behind him. He’d been gone for months and it seemed that he’d forgotten she could handle herself just fine.

“You need to get out of here,” he growled, stepping ahead of her, his shoulder messing up with her line of sight. She frowned, thinking that this was definitely not the time for him to try to protect her. “Cid has an airship down in the old storage area.”

“I know! I have to find Yuna first!” She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw her friends running out of the corridor. Lulu looked particularly upset, and Rikku saw why. One of the Guado had cast silence on her, making her lips press together without any way of being unglued, effectively taking the spell caster out of the fight. Rikku pulled out a spare remedy from her belt and gave it to her.

“Friends of yours?” Gippal asked, reloading his rifle. Rikku nodded and ushered everyone along. “Go, I’ll cover you.”

Rikku’s eyes went big. “You can’t be serious!” What he needed to do was to get his butt in gear and follow them, not stay behind. Isn’t this just great, he decides now that he wants to play hero.

“Do I look like I’m joking? Grab Yuna and then get your butt on that ship.” He fired at the advancing Guado coming at them. “Go!”

“I’m not leaving without you!” She might only have a two-pronged blade attached to her arm as a weapon, but it was sharp and she knew how to use it. If he was going to wind up doing something stupid, she was going to stick by him and make sure he didn’t get himself killed.

“Damn it, this is not the time to play stubborn!” He reached out and grabbed her belt, tugging her to him. He kissed her then, his mouth hard against hers. She didn’t have any time to actually respond when he was shoving her away from him, her back hitting Kimahri’s furry arm. “Get her out of here, now!” Kimahri nodded, but Gippal didn’t see; he was too busy taking out the fiends coming their way. The next thing she knew, Kimahri had his hand around her arm and was tugging her down the corridor. She must have struggled, because then he blew out an impatient growl and picked her up, running down to where everyone else was already headed.


On the bridge of the airship, Cid looked at his daughter in relief before actually hearing what she was frantically trying to tell him.

“ - and he’s still back there! We have to wait for him!”


Gippal! He’s in the exit!”

“There’s no time to waste. If he was in the exit, then he‘s bound to be on the ship by now,” he said gruffly, moving to stand behind the pilot’s seat. “We’ve saved all that we could.” The last part was whispered more to himself than towards his daughter.

Rikku hugged herself silently as the airship lumbered to life. She never looked away from the windows as Cid ordered forbidden machina to destroy the attacking fiends along with the place that so many of her race had called Home for so long. She watched as the desert seemed to reach up and grab the high building, dragging it back into the sands where it had come from. Her nails dug into the skin of her upper arms as she thought of Gippal’s bloodied face. “He made it,” she said out loud, not wanting to think anything otherwise. Without another word, she left the bridge, intent on finding him somewhere on the ship.

Children cried in corridors, their mothers trying to comfort them. Men bled in passageways, others trying to patch them up as best as they could. Everywhere she looked, all she saw was the aftermath of destruction. She stopped to talk to everyone, asking softly if anyone had seen Gippal. She received the same answer every time: no.

Since she had been part of the salvage crew to raise the airship from the depths of the sea, Cid had let her help out on restoring it before she went off to follow Yuna on her pilgrimage. Rikku knew the ship from the inside out like the back of her hand and used that knowledge to scour the place from engine room to sleeping quarters. Panic welled inside her heart at every empty room and suddenly it became hard to breathe. She resisted clawing at her throat as she blindly ran towards the ship’s deck. As the cold wind outside hit her face, she realized that at the moment she didn’t want to be a guardian. She didn’t want to be stoic and grown-up like Lulu. She didn’t even want to be Rikku; the hyperactive, overly cheerful Rikku that everyone knew and counted on to lighten up situations like these. All she wanted to be was the fifteen-year-old girl that she was so that she could cry. She slid down the outer wall of the ship and buried her face in her hands. Doing so made her bang her leg painfully into one of the overlapping pieces of metal that held the ship in place. She started laughing at the pain shooting up from her shin to knee, but it came out as a watery sob. After that, it was as if the dam had burst. She rocked back on her heels and bawled: for Yuna, for the Home she had lost, for the loved ones that had died during the attack, for him…

She didn’t register the warm fingers gently prying her hands from her face at first. She blinked as the wind stung her eyes, then blinked again.

“Hey there, Cid’s girl,” someone whispered, crouching in front of her, gently peeling her hands away from her eyes. “People are going to think fiends are attacking the ship with all the howling you’re doing.” It took her a split second to realize that the dirt-streaked, bloody face belonged to Gippal. She was so relieved to see him there that she couldn’t move, fresh tears already blurring her vision.

“Rikku? Say something.” He looked worried as he knelt in front of her, his hands warm on her shoulders. She couldn’t think of a thing to say, so she did the next best thing: she flung herself into his arms and held on for all she was worth.

“You’re hurt,” she finally managed, her head tucked securely under his chin. His heart was beating so fast against her ear, but all she could think of was that he was fine. He was safe.

“Can’t feel a thing,” he said, and she knew he was lying. She felt the muscles at his back tense when her hands clutched at his shirt and heard the tiny little inhalation he did whenever something hurt him and he didn’t want anyone to know. “Are you hurt?” He held her at arm’s length and looked her over for any injuries, just like he’d always done ever since they had been little.

She shook her head, letting him know that she was fine. She pulled him to his feet and he led her into the airlock, his arm never leaving her shoulder. She wondered if he knew about Keyakku or not and wondered how she was going to tell him. Just thinking about her older brother brought another wave of tears to the surface, which she violently swallowed back.

“I’m so sorry,” Gippal whispered, his hands comforting against her back. That was all he said, but it was enough.

“It doesn’t seem real,” she told him, her hands clinging to the front of his shirt. “When I couldn’t find you, I was so scared that you’d…” She let the sentence drift off, not wanting to relive the panic she had just been through. Losing her brother had felt as if someone had cut a piece of herself off; she didn’t know what she would have done if she had lost Gippal as well.

“Hey, I’m not going anywhere.” He cupped her chin in his hand and tilted her face up to look at him. “You’re stuck with me.”
She smiled, her lips trembling. “That’s good, because you’re stuck with me too.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” He bent his head and kissed her and it was as if all those months apart had never happened. She sighed against his mouth and ran her fingers through the hair at the back of his head, grateful that for all the bloodshed they had just witnessed, there was something good still in the world, someone that made her feel safe and loved.

Both of them jumped as Cid’s voice came over the loudspeakers. “When did he put speakers in here?” Rikku asked, her hand at Gippal’s jaw.

He turned his face to kiss her palm. “Do you think he can hear us?” he wondered.

“You bet your hide I can, Sonny,” Cid barked. “Rikku, your friends need you up here on the bridge. You can bring him with you.” Rikku rolled her eyes.

“Go on,” Gippal said, letting go of her hand. “I think I’m gonna catch a nap.”

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Chicken.”

He shook his head and held his hands up defensively. “I prefer the term ‘tactical retreat’ instead. I’m not in the mood for the men in your family to rake me over hot coals.”

“Fine, take your nap. See what I care.” She flounced out of the loading area, taking the elevator back down to the observation deck. As the elevator went down, she caught sight of Gippal’s face. He looked old, older than any sixteen-year-old boy should look. When they got a chance, she was going to sit down and ask him about what he’d been doing since leaving the desert.

“Check on your boyfriend?” Brother muttered from the cockpit. Rikku’s face went red and she coughed, grateful that her friends didn’t understand Al Bhed. As it was, Wakka was looking at her as if he was wondering why her ears had decided to start glowing.

“Yeah, and you’re going to be nice to him,” she replied back in their native language, leaning against the console near her father. “So what’s up?”

“We found Yuna,” Cid said. “But there’s a little problem.”

“Oh yeah, what kind of problem?”

Lulu spoke up. “An Evrae kind of problem. Bevelle’s guardian wyrm doesn’t take too kindly to unannounced visitors.”

“That’s where you and your friends come in, Girl,” Cid told her, his hand whacking her on the shoulder. “Go out there and do whatever it is you guardians do.”

Rikku held back while everyone else left the bridge. She smiled at her father and then impulsively hugged him. As a rule, Cid was never too big into hugging or anything emotional, so it was a surprise when his arms went around her and he held onto her tightly.

“I still haven’t yelled at you yet,” he said, his voice gruff. “You get back here as soon as you can so I can blister your ears good.”

“Will do, Pops,” she said, her voice none too steady either. “Just keep this hunk of junk in the air and let us get to work.” She went out of the bridge then, not trusting herself to say anything else.

As she was catching up to her friends, she caught sight of Rin wrapping fresh bandages around Gippal’s chest. The traveling merchant was scolding Gippal for something, but she couldn’t make out just what, he was speaking too quietly for her to catch everything.

“What’s going on?” Gippal asked, having the good grace to wince when he caught her staring at his chest.

“Evrae’s outside wanting a fight,” she said, crossing her arms over her chest. “You didn’t tell me you were that hurt.” She was about to ask him how exactly he had gotten hurt so badly when Rin intervened, giving her a new targe that would deflect Evrae’s poison, free of charge. She made a mental note to pester everyone to buy weapon upgrades and stock up on extra potions. She gave a lingering glance towards Gippal as she went down the hallway, buckling her new shield on her arm as she went.

“Hey, Rikku!” Gippal yelled. Huh, so he does know my name. “Don’t go getting yourself killed out there!”

“Don’t worry,” she answered, waving at him. “I’ve got it covered!”


The next opportunity she had to board her father’s ship, she immediately went looking for Gippal. When she saw Cid standing in the loading dock though, she knew immediately that he wasn’t there.

“He stayed to help with repairs before jumping ship two days ago,” he said, already knowing what she was going to ask him. “He said something about going off to be a jackass, not that the fool boy has to try hard at that.”


Something on her face must have betrayed her thoughts, because Cid patted her on the arm. “It’s fine, girl. You don’t need him.”

“You’re right,” she said, bright smile firmly back in place. “I’m a big girl, I can take care of myself.” Besides, she was a guardian. She still had a summoner to keep alive, an unsent maester to deal with, a big bad guy to kill and a world to save.

Gippal would just have to wait.

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