Last part!

Still own nothing.

Chapter 2

All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.

J. R. R. Tolkien

It took three days to run from Luca to Djose. I barely stopped, hardly slept. And by the time I was trudging through the doors of the temple turned Al Bhed sanctuary, I was exhausted. I had forgotten how incredibly tiring it was to fight when I hadn't done it in so long.

It didn't help that I was all by myself wither. I had always fought with a group before.

The Al Bhed all looked up when I stumbled in. a stocky, tan man with goggles and a clipboard approached me cautiously.

"Lyh e ramb oui?" he asked me (Can I help you?)


Yeah, I had been trying to learn Al Bhed, but I had never finished putting together my primer and I was rusty. I decided not to work through the translation in my head and just ask my question and hope for the best.

"Uh…fr…frana'c Rikku?" I stuttered. I had seen the Celsius parked just outside the small town. (Where's Rikku?)

The Al Bhed man gave me a disturbingly knowing look. Cra'c eh dra pylg nuus fedr Gippal," he said, gesturing towards a hallway beneath the Cloister of Trials. "Kuut milg, pitto." (She's in the back room with Gippal. Good luck, buddy.)

I didn't understand, just a word here and there, but there was no mistaking the way he was pointing. I started in that direction with an absent minded 'thank you' mumbled at the man. I didn't even bother to speak in Al Bhed that time. I didn't bother to check if he understood me, just entered the hall underneath the Cloister of trials. All the doors I encountered were locked and only the last one stood slightly ajar, light and voices softly filtering through.

A female voice.

One I knew.

"…ya know? And it's not like I don't think Yunie deserves…something, but it's not like she was the only one that was there," I heard her voice say. It was muffled by something and I edged closer to get a better look by peering in the six-inch space where the door was open.

"So, you're saying you need a reward for saving Spira, Cid's Girl?" a sardonic male voice asked. "That's not very altruistic of you."

I could see the man now, leaning against a work bench, arms folded and one eye shining with mirth. He could only be Gippal.

"No!" Rikku sputtered. I saw her small feet sticking out from under the machina she was tinkering with. "It's just…ugh…how do I explain this?" She slid out ans sat cross-legged on the floor, streaks of grease on her arms and legs and one marring her cheek.

She looked beautiful.

"She's not the only one who loves him, ya know?" She blushed and ducked her head as Gippal smirked at her obvious discomfort. "I mean, I'm happy for them. I am," she said decisively, as if she was trying to convince herself as much as him. "But it's gonna be so hard to see them without, you know, just blurting it out."

"Well, you're strong, Cid's Girl," Gippal said affectionately, leaning over and ruffling her hair and chuckling when she scowled at him. "They'll never know if you don't want them to. I, personally, think you should tell him because, hey, that at least gives him the chance to choose…"

"And me the embarrassment of never being picked…" she grumbled.

"…but if you want to spend the rest of your life hiding this, then that's up to you," he finished.

"She won't have to," I said, stepping through the door before I had even made the conscious decision to do it. But there was no chance I was going to miss my moment this time.

Rikku looked up in shock that quickly turned to mortification. Gippal grinned at me. "You must be Tidus," he said jovially. "Heard so much about you. I'll just leave you two alone then." He strode to the door. "And remember, Rikku," he said as he paused, "that machina isn't going to fix itself." He laughed heartily as he dodged the wrench the young Al Bhed woman lobbed at his head.

We both laughed as it bounced off the doorframe and clanked onto the floor. A moment that could have been stunted and awkward became lighthearted for a moment before seriousness set back in.

"So…" I said as I scratched the back of my head, desperately trying to find a way to broach the subject I had come so far to discuss. When nothing was forthcoming, I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. "You love me, huh?"

Smooth. And I was once a famous blitzballer with legions of fans.

Yeah. Not really surprising that none of it was real, is it?

Rikku was bright red when I met her eyes, digging the toe of her boot into the stone floor in embarrassment. "Uh…um…" she stuttered, trying to find some way to backtrack and save face, and I thought if she was left to stew long enough, she would probably find a way to explain away what I had already heard her admit to Gippal.

"That's good," I pushed on, not really wanting to hear whatever story she would concoct. "Because I'm in love with you too. That's why I'm here."

She looked up at me in shock, spiral green irises wide and uncomprehending. "But Yuna...I mean…I thought you and Yuna…" she trailed off, unsure of how to voice her confusion.

"Yuna was never the one," I told her, reaching out to grab her small, long fingered hand. "When I met her, my heart already belonged to someone else."

Her brow wrinkled prettily. "I saw you, ya know? Kissing her."

There. It was out after all this time.

"A mistake. I wish I could take it back," I told her. "I didn't mean for it to happen. It just did. But I'm here now. Isn't that what matters?"

She stared at me for a long moment, face pensive. "But she's in love with you. The fayth brought you back because of her."

I sighed. "Yes, they did. I could go and live with Yuna in Besaid, get married, have kids."

She looked stricken at the thought.

"But I'd never be happy. I'd be living a lie. I'm not going to waste this chance by being with someone I'm not in love with. She knows that," I said vehemently. "She knows it was never her. I'm in love with you," I said again, sensing somehow that she needed to hear it again. After standing so long in the shadow of the High Summoner, she needed validation. And I was more than happy to spend the rest of my life giving it to her. "I knew the moment I looked into your eyes that I would never love another girl. And when I thought I'd never see you again? When I fell off the salvage ship? I tried to love Yuna, but I couldn't. I kept thinking of you. Wondering what you were doing. If you thought about me at all."

"I did," she said softly, and two crystal tear tracks slowly traversing the gentle contours of her face. "I thought about you all the time. I thought you were dead. We all did."

I smiled at her and brushed her tears away with my thumbs as I stepped in closer. "I tried to fill that void, but Yuna was a poor substitute for the girl I really wanted and thought I could never have. The one with the long limbs and the sweet smile." I ran my fingertips over her soft, pink lips.

My eyes were riveted to the path my hand had taken. I had meant to tell her that I loved her upbeat attitude and the way she always stood up for what she believed in, even when the rest of the people around her, like the Guardians on the pilgrimage believed her to be wrong. I meant to tell her that I thought it was adorable that she had been afraid of lightning and had clung to my leg in the Thunder Plains. I was going to tell her that I thought it was amazing that she could dismantle and rebuild a piece of machina before anyone else would know where to start.

But I didn't say any of that.

I just stared at her lips and wondered what they would taste like.

"You know, if you were thinking about kissing me," she said with a smirk, "you should probably know that it works better if you use more than just your eyes."

I grinned at her, caught in my blatant appraisal. I moved my hand slowly to the back of her head, fingers slipping gently through her silky hair as I tugged her forward those last few inches.

Now, I've heard all about the magic of first kisses between two people. I've had more than a few myself, but none had ever compared, even come close to the one that I shared with Rikku. I could taste her light raspberry lip-gloss and rather than being put off by it, I was more turned on than I ever had been before.

I placed my thumb on her lower lip and gently pulled down, coaxing her to open her mouth, savoring her natural flavor. It was something I looked forward to tasting for the rest of my life. I groaned as her tongue tentatively followed mine back to the warm cavern of my mouth, yanking her closer until there was no discernable space between us.

I had been so intent on the kiss, the culmination of all my hopes and wants and dreams, I had forgotten I needed to breathe. I pulled away, gulping air and staring dazedly into beautiful spiral green eyes.

"I love you," she breathed. "So much, Tidus. But I never thought…"

"It doesn't matter now," I told her firmly. "None of that matters. The only important this is that we're together now. It won't be easy, but if it's all right with you, I never want us to be apart again."

She grinned widely at me. "I think I can handle that."