Set: During the game, at Lake Macalania
Spoilers: Through this scene and hints at later things
Pairings: Auron/Rikku, sort of
Notes: This is my entry for heyheyrenay's FFX badfic summary challenge. (Better two weeks late than never?) I was assigned cupcakemonster's summary, and you can see the original here. A rough translation from the fanbratese: "Please forgive my difficulty in writing summaries. Auron is in love with Rikku. Will she return his feelings, or does she love another? Dear friends, please do read and review."
So, Aurikku. To say that I am not a fan of this pairing would be a bit of an understatement. Apologies, I know many of you like it, but it almost never works for me. I tried everything I could think of it to get around it -- creating an original character with the same name, Auron actually in love with Yuna's mother who shares a name with her niece, Kingdom Hearts crossover... but in the end it all fell flat. So I decided to embrace the challege instead, to see if I could actually write an Aurikku and keep Auron in character. Here is my humble attempt.
As a side note, this started life as an outtake from A Guardian's Legacy. I knew there was a reason I kept it around.
We stood atop the ice of Lake Macalania, the smoking ruins of a machina cannon at our feet. It had been a hard, bloody hour of fighting, but eventually we'd destroyed the weapon, a final blast of lightning from Lulu rendering it useless. Yuna walked away with Trommell, headed for the temple and Seymour, as Rikku argued loudly with a tattooed Al Bhed standing in the distance. They both spoke her native tongue, so I could not follow the conversation. Wakka stared at the girl, open-mouthed. No denying her heritage now. Although how the islander could have missed it up until now escaped me.
I drifted toward one of the mechanical sleds our attackers had left behind and looked over its controls. They looked vaguely like vehicles I had ridden as a passenger in Zanarkand, but my discomfort with machina was such that I had never learned to drive one. And I had no way to tell whether it was even working. I turned back to the party to ask Rikku or Tidus if they knew how to work the contraption, and discovered Rikku deep in a heated argument with Wakka. They were discussing the use of machina as it related to the rise of Sin and whether the Al Bhed bore any blame for the situation. It was an argument I had heard before, and even participated in, with Braska's wife Alla. Our talks on the subject had been rather less heated, though; more like good-natured ribbing. This was a knock-down drag-out fight, one that I wanted no part of, and I turned back to my examination of the machina until the girl's high, clear voice rang out across the ice. "There might be a way to stop it, you know!"
I looked up, startled, amazed. This statement was the first real indication I'd had that anyone in the party would be open to following some path other than the Final Summoning. And it had come from Rikku.
As Wakka immediately launched into the Yevon party line about atonement, I watched her vibrate with righteous fury. Clearly she loved her people, and she loved Yuna, and she had dedicated herself to looking for a way to save them both. And I admired her for it, and for her restraint in not slugging Wakka in the gut.
"Rikku." Wakka fell silent at my interruption. "Will this move?"
"Yes!" she chirped, and ran over to me. She took a quick look over the sled. "Just let me fix this thing here; should only take a sec." She whipped out a set of tools from her pack, knelt down over the engine, and began to work what had always seemed to me even more mysterious than magic. I found myself hypnotized by her slender, deft fingers as they tightened bolts and checked connections.
When she had adjusted the contraption to her satisfaction, she jumped up and grinned disarmingly. "Ready!"
We both turned back to the others just in time to see Wakka stalking off, heading down the trail to the temple. Tidus looked like he wanted to follow, but I stopped him with a gesture. "Let him go," I said. "Give him time to think." Lulu nodded her assent.
"Sorry," said Rikku, looking crestfallen. Her tone was so different from her earlier defiance, and eagerness to be of use, and I wondered at the change.
Lulu shook her head. "You've done nothing to apologize for," she said.
"Anyway, let's ride!" said Tidus. Kimahri upended one sled, sat down and rode away. Tidus and Lulu took the second sled, leaving the remaining vehicle, the one Rikku had fixed, for the two of us. Not how I would have arranged matters, but for once the rest of the party had gotten the jump on me. Well, I would make the best of it. I took the back seat and she settled in at the front, flipping switches to bring the engine roaring to life. The machina lurched forward, and I grasped the handles on the side as I considered the improbability of the situation I had landed myself in.
I hadn't thought much about Rikku when she first joined the group. I had noted her resemblance to Alla, of course, and quickly surmised her relationship to Yuna, but after that I had essentially put her out of my mind. But ever since our last hour on the Thunder Plains, when she had stood up to her fear and then to Yuna, I had taken notice. Her words had been vague, but to me her purpose was clear -- she had hopes of keeping Yuna alive. That day I began considering her an ally, and now, after several days marching through the woods, I was considering her as much more than that.
It was ridiculous. I had told myself that a thousand times. She was a teenager, a girl, young enough to be my daughter. True, Spirans grow up fast, and she was a great deal more mature than the giggling girls her age in Zanarkand who would crowd around Tidus's houseboat, hoping to get a glimpse of him before a game. But part of me still saw similarities and recoiled from them. Her Al Bhed heritage also came between us -- what did she have in common with an old, dyed-in-the-wool Yevonite like me? Perhaps I had turned secretly heretic, but I still had to project the image for a little while yet. And old habits died hard.
It was ridiculous. And yet it was there. I had thought that my death had moved me beyond such feelings. Ten years, and nothing had stirred my heart. Until Rikku. Her simple beauty, her easy spirit, and more than anything her vibrant personality attracted me. She was quite possibly the most alive person I had ever known. Maybe that was it, I mused. Could I be attracted to the life in her, to the life that, despite everything, I missed in myself?
"Hey, can I say something?" she said, breaking into my silent thoughts. "I'm sorry about being such a baby the other day, on the Thunder Plains"
"It is already forgotten," I responded, then changed the subject to safer, more business-like matters. "So then, you know the Al Bhed who attacked us?"
She nodded. "Yeah. Didn't you hear me telling the others?"
"Oh, okay." She sighed. "Yeah. Their leader is my brother. I told him that I was guarding Yuna and can keep her safe. So hopefully they'll leave us alone from--" And she broke off, realizing too late that she'd revealed more than intended.
I finished the sentence for her. "From now on. So. You admit that the Al Bhed have been trying to interfere with Yuna's pilgrimage?"
She stayed silent, tossing her head in a gesture that struck me as very familiar, and I chuckled fondly. "Your aunt used to flip her hair just like that."
"Who?" Her voice dripped with fake innocence.
"Don't try to deny it, Rikku," I said, my tone gentle. "You are Yuna's cousin. Cid's daughter. I knew Alla quite well. You look like her, and you seem to have inherited many of her personality traits as well."
She tensed, and then relaxed. "Are you mad at me? For hiding the truth?"
"Not at all," I replied. "It was necessary. Yuna has taken great pains to shield Wakka from her heritage. And with good reason, as we learned today."
Her shoulders slumped. "Big stupid meanie. He doesn't know anything about the Al Bhed!"
"No," I agreed, stilling my impulse to reach out to her, to pull her to me and assure her that everything would be all right, that not everyone detested her or her people. "But he will come around, as he has the opportunity to get to know one."
Rikku glanced back over her shoulder. "Do you really think so?" And I saw it in her face and heard it in her voice -- sadness mingled with hopeful longing. The show of emotion was quick, but its implications were unmistakable: Rikku had feelings for Wakka.
It took me a moment to swallow my disappointment. I had not really expected anything to come of my attraction. There were a hundred reasons not to act on it, each one more compelling than the last. But I knew then that something in what remained of my heart had still hoped, and giving up on that hope was more difficult than it ought to have been.
"I do," I finally said. "Wakka is stubborn, but he is also loyal. He will get past this. Just give him time."
At that moment, we pulled up to the entrance of the temple and, after Rikku had parked and turned off the vehicle, we joined the rest of our party and waited. Wakka arrived a few moments later, nose red from the cold but with a calmer demeanor than we had seen earlier. He glanced at Rikku, and something passed between them as she looked up at him, defiant and hopeful all at once. Then he nodded, she smiled, and the moment was over. Perhaps not all was well between them yet, but the healing had started.
It was for the best. Rikku was a distraction that I did not need. I had set my feelings aside for the sake of duty before, and could do so again. I told myself that, and made myself believe it.