A/N: You know, I said it would take me a while to start a RikkuxGippal fic, but I just couldn't help myself. Tonight I was thinking about the plot for the story, and then it all came to me. So, let's go. =)

DISCLAIMER: I don't own FINAL FANTASY X-2 or any of its characters. I'm just borrowing them for a bit of fun. I do, however own every other character not mentioned in FINAL FANTASY X-2. Thanks. =)

Waiting Between Memories
By Ryee

{{ Chapter 1: Starting Over }}

Rikku stared ahead at the colorful painting hanging unsteadily on the back wall, a removed expression on her face. The intricate colors and image of the tiny moogles walking through a forest was the only object in the room that caught her attention at that moment. She barely saw the painting lean to one side before it crashed loudly to the floor.

Yuna jumped lightly, startled by the noise. She tilted her head to look at the back of the room at what had fallen.

"Oh no, it's not broken is it?" Yuna asked as she stood up from the chair to inspect the painting.

"Well if it is, we can always replace it," came Paine's reply. She was sitting next to Rikku, her eyes closed as if in deep thought.

Yuna threw an amused glance at her friend as she bent down to see if the painting was still intact. A tiny chip off the edge of the frame. Nothing too serious. At least the picture was still fine.

The three girls were sitting around the small table in a hut they were currently renting in Kilika Island. Tidus had left on a short journey with Isaaru and he made sure Yuna would be comfortable and safe in the hut while he was away. The journey, Tidus had said, involved a short trip to Zanarkand, although Yuna was not sure what business the two had there.

Leaving their long-time home on the Celsius, Brother and Buddy had accepted the girls' decision. They had assured the girls that the Celsius was always there for them if they ever needed a home, and they would never stop being the Gullwings no matter what.

The trio had been staying in the little hut in the second district of Kilika Island for nearly a month now, and had begun to decorate the place with their own personal objects-the moogle painting being one of Rikku's personal decorations.

"Why? You don't like the picture?" Yuna asked.

Paine cracked one eye open before drifting her attention towards the Al Bhed girl who was sitting next to her.

"Rikku, isn't that yours?" she asked the girl.

"Huh?"

Paine sat up in the chair and propped her elbows on the table, regarding Rikku with one quizzical eyebrow.

"I said, isn't that painting yours?" Paine repeated, pointing to the picture lying haphazardly on the ground.

Rikku gazed over at the painting. Yuna was standing next to it, a concerned expression very evident on her face.
"Rikku, is something the matter?" Yuna asked as she began to walk towards her cousin again.

"Oh, hehe," Rikku laughed hesitantly. Her smile quickly faded as she met the gaze of her two friends. "I guess I'm just not feeling well," she continued, her voice dropping to almost a whisper as she looked down at her hands.

"Are you sick?" Yuna asked, putting one hand on Rikku's forehead gently.

She laughed softly at this action again and suddenly stood up. Paine and Yuna's eyes followed the Al Bhed as she began to walk away from the table.

"I'm just going to take a little walk, okay?" Rikku said as she headed towards the door.

Paine turned her shocked gaze from Rikku to Yuna as if to ask her what was up.

Yuna didn't notice Paine's look, her eyes trailing after her cousin in deep worry.

"What the hell was that all about?" Paine asked after the door had shut.

"I...don't know. It's like she's bothered by something, but I just don't know what it could be..." Yuna trailed off, deeply concerned for Rikku.

Paine shrugged and reached over to get the glass of juice she had on the table. She lifted the glass to her lips and sipped the drink thoughtfully before turning her attention to Yuna once more.

"You know what I think?"

Yuna glanced at Paine curiously, catching the smile that was twitching on her friend's lips.

"What?" Yuna asked, her thoughts still on her cousin. She sat back down at the table and pushed her bangs out of her eyes.

"Maybe Rikku finally has a crush..." Paine trailed off, a smile in her voice.

Yuna's eyes flew to her friend in surprise.

"A crush? Rikku?" she asked with a small laugh.

"Hey, it could happen," Paine replied with a light chuckle. She set the glass down on the table once again, leaning back in the chair.

It was Yuna's turn to regard Paine curiously.

"Hm, I wonder..."

=====

The only sound in the forest was the soft crunching of pebbles and twigs under her small boots. Rikku tilted her face upwards and let the soft breeze tickle her face gently. Tiny beams of sunlight snuck in through the branches of the trees up above, allowing light to illuminate the dark pathway.

Rikku brushed her long bangs out of her eyes and tucked the soft strands back into her bandana. She was walking down the back path of Kilika Forest, lost in deep thought. Her fingers occasionally stopped to pick the nearby flowers and no sooner she had a small bouquet in one hand.

Although the others had no idea what she was feeling, Rikku knew that something was indeed bothering her. Hell, she didn't even know what was wrong with her. It was as if she had awakened one morning to find out that her once-carefree and cheerful nature had vanished-as if she was a different person altogether.

Rikku sighed softly. It was true that she didn't take interest in what she usually loved, and she knew Yuna and Paine had noticed it too. Perhaps she was depressed. Yet she didn't know why.

Rounding the corner, she kept her eyes fixed on the bouquet of flowers she held in her right hand. They were violet and white, almost reminding her of those flowers that bloomed at the Farplane Glen.

No sooner had she raised her eyes up momentarily, that she collided rather ungracefully with a warm body. She fell backwards onto the ground, her back hitting the hard surface painfully.

"Owww!!" Rikku exclaimed in pain. She rubbed her back, trying to relieve the stinging sensation from the impact. Not even bothering to raise her eyes to the person she had bumped into, she inspected her right leg and winced when she saw a rather large scrape on her skin from a nearby rock that had been sticking up from the ground.

"Whoa! It's Cid's girl!" came a masculine voice.

Rikku froze and slowly raised her eyes up to the person, her gaze lingering on his face. She knew that voice anywhere.

"Gi-Gippal?!" she managed to choke out, stunned by his sudden appearance.

He wore a light smile on his face as he regarded her lazily through his one eye. One hand rested on his hip as he stood over her casually.

Rikku promptly began to stand from her embarrassment but winced again as she felt the pain on her right leg from the scrape. She limped gently as she glared at the other Al Bhed.

Gippal's one good eye trailed down to her leg in concern.

"Hey, are you ok?" he asked gently and bent down to inspect it.

"Hey! Hey!" Rikku exclaimed and batted his hand away from her leg in embarrassment. She felt her face growing warm.

Gippal straightened up and stood in front of her. He brushed a wayward strand away from his forehead.

"Alrighty. If you don't want my help..." he trailed off with a small smile.

"What are you doing here anyway?" Rikku asked suddenly, completely changing the subject.

"Oh, me? You know, Al Bhed business," Gippal replied casually, waving one hand in the air.

Rikku couldn't help but roll her eyes at his smugness. "Care to explain some more?" she asked.

He sent her another smile as he gestured towards the temple behind them. Rikku squinted in the distance and saw that there were faint traces of machina parts lying on the stone steps.

"We got a call from there sayin' they needed help with a machina or something..." Gippal continued. He looked down at Rikku's leg again, a trickle of blood catching his one good eye.

"Hey, you're bleeding," he spoke gently and bent down to look at the wound in concern.

Rikku looked down at herself as well, and frowned when she saw the blood, one red trickle trailing down her leg.

"And whose fault was this, hm?" she asked him, trying to sound optimistic despite the pain she felt from the cut. She winced regardless.

He said nothing. Rikku watched as he reached into his back pocket and pulled out a white cloth. Reaching a hand to grasp her leg hesitantly, he raised his eyes to her as if making sure he had her approval. She stared down at him, a small blush creeping on her cheeks. Why the hell was she blushing so much today, anyway?

"I'm uh...just going to tie this up ok? Just to stop the bleeding..." Gippal's voice interrupted.

"I um...okay," she replied.

Rikku watched as he wiped the blood from her leg and tied the wound in one swift motion. The bleeding had stopped and the pain had disappeared for the time being. When he was done, Gippal stood up and studied her.

"Thanks..." Rikku spoke.

He looked out at her with one eye. "Nah, it was my fault anyway. I uh...sorry 'bout that."

"It's okay," Rikku replied. Even if she knew it was really her fault for not watching where she was walking, it was his solid back that had caused her to fall backwards. So in a way, it really was his fault. But she wasn't about to admit that to him.

"So, you stayin' here now?" Gippal asked suddenly when he saw that she was able to stand securely on both feet again.

"Oh, no. We're just renting a place here until Tidus comes back," Rikku answered quickly.

Gippal raised an eyebrow at her. "We?"

"Yeah. Paine and Yunie. We're just here temporarily. Nothing permanent," she explained again. Her eyes seemed distant as she answered him. Gippal couldn't help but frown a bit at her.

"Oh, I see."

Silence.

"So how about you? Don't you need to get back to this 'Al Bhed' business?" Rikku asked him mockingly.

He smiled at her.

"Y'know you got a point. I really should head back now. There don't seem to be any fiends here anyway," Gippal replied, his eyes scanning the area one last time.

Rikku nodded her head at him and watched as he began to walk away. She was about to head back too, when Gippal's voice spoke up.

"Why don't you stop by the temple some time. You know. Just in case you're bored."

Rikku raised an eyebrow at him fondly. "What are you guys doing there anyway?" she asked him curiously, the wind rustling her hair gently.

"You wanna know? Stop by. We could use an extra hand for the machina," Gippal answered smoothly and began to walk away again. He didn't see the tongue Rikku stuck out at him.

"Well maybe I won't show up then!" Rikku yelled at his retreating back.

"Oh you'll show up. Trust me on that one," Gippal replied as he continued walking.

Rikku could still hear him laughing in the distance. She pouted.

"Ooooh. He makes me so mad!!"

=====

Yuna looked up as the door to the hut opened and Rikku finally came in.

"Where did you go?" Paine asked from her position on the bed. She was polishing her sword carefully.

"Just for a walk through the forest," Rikku replied as she began to remove her boots.

Yuna watched her cousin in worry as her eyes trailed down to a white cloth that was tied on Rikku's lower leg. She instinctively bent down to touch Rikku's leg carefully.

"Rikku! What happened to you?" Yuna asked, standing up from her seat.

Paine looked up.

"Oh this? Ehehe. Well you see...I uh...had an accident with Gippal- " Rikku began and was promptly interrupted.

"Gippal?" Paine and Yuna asked at the same time, their eyes flying to the Al Bhed.

"Yeah. I was clumsy and wasn't watching..." Rikku trailed off, her embarrassment from earlier returning. "I ran into him and scraped my leg when I fell," she continued.

"How?" Paine asked as well. She set down her sword and stood up.

"I guess I cut it on a rock," Rikku finished with a nervous laugh. She walked over to the nearby chair and sat down with a flop.

Yuna stood back up and studied her cousin closely. "I guess Gippal was the one who helped you with this?" she asked, motioning to the cloth tied around Rikku's leg. Yuna couldn't help but smile.

"Yeah, but it was his fault, you know," Rikku replied with a short laugh.

"What's he doing here, anyway?" Paine suddenly asked from her position from the other side of the room.

Rikku glanced up at her friend momentarily before bending down to untie the ribbons on her arms, preparing to retire for the night.

"Um, I think he was saying somethin' about helping the temple with the old machina. I think they want them to disassemble it or something," Rikku replied as she set down the last ribbon on her bed.

"Oh yeah. I forgot that there was still machina there. It's a good thing they were so willing to do it..." Paine trailed off, moving over to the couch and seating herself down. She reached over to shut the window next to her, the evening air becoming unusually chilly that night.

"Really? Gippal's doing it for free?" Yuna asked as well.

Rikku couldn't help but laugh softly at this. "Nah, he's prob'ly doin' it for a fee of course."

"How could I forget. He's the ever-generous one, isn't he?" Paine replied sarcastically with a short roll of her ruby eyes.

Yuna giggled at this and sat next to Paine before her expression suddenly turned serious as if she had just remembered something.

"Um, Rikku. There's something Paine and I actually needed to tell you..." Yuna began.

Rikku looked up at her cousin curiously. "What's up? Sounds serious."

"Well Rikku, when you left earlier we got a call from Buddy and Brother. Tidus and Isaaru sent them a signal and it seems like they need some backup," Yuna explained hesitantly.

"Did anything happen to them?" Rikku asked in alarm. The girl couldn't brush off that dark feeling at the edge of her conscience that Tidus and the others had gotten into trouble. She was never able to handle the worry that one of her friends could have been in danger.

"We don't know yet, but we're going to go over there to make sure everything's ok," Paine replied.

"Hm, so what's the plan girls?" Rikku asked them with a clap of her hands.

Yuna and Paine looked at each other before their eyes landed on the Al Bhed. They smiled at the girl in silent apology.

Rikku instantly recognized that expression on their faces. She stood up suddenly and pointed a finger at them as they smiled nervously at her.

"Oh no, you don't! You guys can't leave me here all alone! I'm comin' with ya!" Rikku exclaimed in frustration with a stomp of her foot.

"I wish we could, Rikku, but who would watch this place?" Paine replied, gesturing around the hut.

Rikku was suddenly quiet. "I guess so...but..."

"I'm sorry, Rikku. I hate to leave you here, but this is the Zanarkand Ruins. It's dangerous for only one of us to go," Yuna explained gently.

"Yeah. And I don't want to stay here alone either. So I'm definitely going with Yuna," Paine replied with a laugh, causing Rikku to throw a glare at her friend.

"Oooohh, fine!!!" the Al Bhed exclaimed, throwing her arms into the air and flopping belly first on her bed. The pillows flew into the air before falling back down again.

Yuna and Paine laughed at this action and sat down on the girl's bed as well.

"So when do you guys leave?" Rikku asked, leaning on her side with her head resting on one hand. She watched Yuna pick up one of Rikku's stuffed toys lying on the bed and hugged it gently to her chest.

"We leave tomorrow morning," Yuna replied quietly. Rikku couldn't help but feel like she was missing out on the fun. This was the first time Paine and Yuna had left her alone.

"We'll be back in about a week or so..." Paine added.

Rikku blinked. "A week?!"

Yuna reached over and patted Rikku's hand reassuringly. "Don't worry. It shouldn't take that long," she spoke as she shot Paine a look. Paine smiled innocently at her. "We'll try to make it as quick as possible so we can get back quickly, ok?" Yuna said gently.

"Oh, alright," Rikku finally said. She let her back fall down onto the bed, her mind beginning to feel tired from the day's activities. It was almost ten.

"Well, we have to leave early tomorrow, so we should get some rest," Yuna offered upon seeing her cousin begin to fall asleep.

"'Night guys. Wake me up before you leave tomorrow, k?" Rikku mumbled from her position on the bed. The girl pulled a blanket up around herself.

Paine and Yuna walked over to their beds and began to settle in as well.

"Sure thing, Rikku. Goodnight," Paine responded with a stifled yawn. She pulled the blankets around herself as well and reached over to turn off the light.

"Goodnight, you two," Yuna spoke before settling down into the deep peace of slumber.

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A/N: Chapter 2 coming soon.