“Core break!” Rikku announced triumphantly. “And look at that echo bonus! I'm on a roll!”
Paine raised an eyebrow. “Hardly.”
“You're just a sore loser!” Her voice took on a sing-song tone, “Go on, you know what you have to do...”
Paine cast Yuna a look that would have seemed like annoyance to anyone else and Yuna interpreted it as slight desperation. She wavered for a moment, but wasn't giving in that easily.
“We did agree on the rules, Paine.” she said, calmly. “Gambling makes it more fun, and none of us can afford to lose any Gil right now.”
Paine let out a sharp huff of breath and, without another word, unbuckled one of the belts from around her waist and let it drop to the floor with a clatter.
“Hey, waitta minute!” Rikku went rapidly from grins and giggles to indignation. “No fair! If that's all you're going to take off, you'll be dressed forever!”
“Not my fault you choose to fight in that stupid bikini.”
Rikku let out a horrified squeak. “My outfit is both functional and fashion-rific, thank you! Anyway, you can't talk - what about that purple dress you had on for our last battle? It showed almost everything and you still couldn't move your legs properly in it!”
“That was a dressphere, Sand Worm-brain. It's not like I had a choice.” Paine rolled her eyes, and took a gulp of the drink next to her without wincing at the strength of it; something neither of her companions had yet managed.
“I'm just sayin',” Rikku started to sort through her coins for the next round, her expression studiedly innocent. “You seem awfully fond of that Lady Luck one, recently.”
“Let's play some more, shall we?” Yuna interjected hurriedly, and set the next core number.
“Another flawless victory. Lose the skirt, princess. Unless you want to start from the top...”
That was the moment that Yuna, feeling rather vulnerable without her gun-belt, boots and hood, and uncomfortably aware of how intensely Paine was watching to see what Rikku would do next and just how much Rikku was revelling in the attention, decided that strip-Sphere Break was definitely a two-person game.
She scrambled unsteadily to her feet. “Well, I guess I'll head back to the cabin now.”
“What?” Rikku was momentarily distracted from a silent power-struggle that Yuna already knew she was going to lose. “But Yunie!” She flapped her hands about. “You can't go! It's just getting interesting!”
Yuna laughed. “Goodnight girls. Don't let the Cactuars bite!”
She turned away just as Rikku gave in and untied the string of her halter-neck.
A damp and misty dawn was breaking when Yuna stepped back out onto the deck of the Celsius. She was not in the least surprised to spot two figures curled around each other, a blanket not quite covering their nudity.
Clearing her throat, she turned to look pointedly out over the Calm Lands as a yelp and a rustle came from behind her. “I hate to, um, bother you, but I'm pretty sure Brother will be up soon...”
After a few moments of frantic scurrying, the whoosh of the door signalled that she was alone again, and the silence was only broken by the soft hum of the idling engines. Beneath them, Spira was beginning to wake.
She hoped Paine had found someone who could brighten the darkness she carried with her. And Rikku? Yuna smiled. Dear, indomitable Rikku. Maybe she finally had someone to protect her from the lightning.
Yuna turned away from the edge of the airship and headed for the bridge. She wondered where their mission would take them today.