A Message from an Echo

This all takes place about a year after the good ending of X-2. It would all probably make sense with the perfect ending as well, but I wouldn't know considering I can't seem to get past 99 % completion! But that's a different story. Anywho, you may feel a bit out of the loop throughout most of the first chapter, but you'll catch on. Please read and review! I will love all of you forever, and if everyone likes the story, I swear to you I will continue it til it ends… or til my hands fall off, whichever comes first.

! Crystal

Chapter 1

Another Story

She opened her eyes at the sound of footsteps climbing the stairs to the cabin's loft. Having been lying in her bed for hours now, Rikku had yet to fall asleep. There was too much on her mind, too much left to wonder, and too much left to want. And as she sat up, staring at this arresting creature before her, it only made her heart ache.

Even before opening her eyes, she had known it was Gippal. His footsteps, they gave him away. The loud, careless clomping sound of his boots was now unmistakable to her ears. It was the oddest thing that now after all these years of a seemingly harmless crush, this asshole was breaking her up inside.

Keeping silent, she considered his appearance. She noticed a hunt of rose sheen spreading across his narrowly hollowed cheeks, and his striking blonde hair was soaked through by melted snow. He'd obviously just come in from the blizzard that was presently holding all of Mt. Gagazet captive.

Trying hard to keep all emotion from her face, she rose and now stood before him. Nevertheless, his form still towered over her. A look of longing crossed over his face but only briefly. Smiling to hide his real feelings, he reached out a hand toward her. His touch was ice on her bare skin, and her brilliant green eyes studied his fingertips as they lay gently placed on her shoulder. She could feel her eyes brimming with salty tears, and it made her angry. It wasn't fair, and everything she'd ever done made her want to snap at him. It told her to pull away, which would have been her reaction in most cases, but this, it was different. Her mind was telling her one thing, something so completely familiar, but her heart was speaking a different language entirely.

However, Rikku was stubborn, overly stubborn. She didn't want things to be left like this, but as she quickly turned away from him, she couldn't help herself. "Go," she demanded, her eyes avoiding his gaze. She tipped her chin upwards and crossed her arms. "Just go," she said again, emphasizing the words even more so.

Hooking his thumbs through his belt loops, Gippal surveyed the situation. His gaze searched her entire body, up and down. He took in her enclosed body language. He took in her downtrodden expression. And he couldn't help but take in her unique beauty that showed through even this state that she was in. Knowing her well enough to understand her reaction, a light smile appeared on his face. The smile played with his lips for a short time as he stood there, refusing to comply with Rikku's demands just yet. He took a few confidant strides in her direction.

Catching the movement in the corner of her vision, Rikku glanced up at him briefly. Grimacing, she almost let a growl escape her throat as she took a few of her own steps away from him. When she was with him she lost all sense of direction, logic, and time, which would explain why as Gippal took one more step in her direction and she took one back, she hadn't been looking behind her and crashed into the loft railing. Tumbling backwards, Rikku would have fallen off the landing and hard onto the first floor. She probably would have broken most of the bones in her small frame had it not been for Gippal.

Having almost anticipated Rikku's fall, Gippal's reaction came quick. He took hold of both her arms with firm hands and pulled her back down onto her own feet. Steadying her, he slid his hands down the lengths of her arms before letting go.

Rikku glared at him, no longer afraid to look him in the eye. "Why did you do that?" she snapped. "I would have been perfectly fine on my own," she paused in thought but went on to add, "and I will be now, when you leave. So go already, will ya?"

Gippal knew that she would go on talking when he didn't stop her. Rikku was like that. Once you got her started, it was hard to get her stopped. So, listening, he folded his arms across his chest and rested his left foot on his right knee, that same cocky smile tickling his lips.

"Don't just stand there!" Rikku threw her arms into the air and stomped her foot. However, her anger was slowly melting, giving way to a soft sadness underneath. "Come on," she said, her voice quieter this time. "Don't make me do this." Her somber eyes bore into him as her teeth grazed her bottom lip. "Please go?" her phrasing, now lacking all demand became a pathetic request, one that she was trying so hard to believe herself.

The longer Gippal stayed with her, the more difficult it became to avoid listening to her heart. And now as he stood inches from her, his eyes, his nose, his lips hovering just above her, it was next to impossible.

Strike that.

He leaned in, even closer now, and pressed his slender lips firmly against hers.

It was impossible.

Rikku surrendered herself to the kiss. She surrendered to Gippal. Her eyes closed, and a solitary teardrop rolled down her cheek as she deepened the kiss. Feeling the need to be even closer to the girl, Gippal was pushing his body heavily into her, pressing her even further against the railing. Rikku felt the hard metal dig into her back, and so she faught the motion. She placed her palms flat against Gippal's chest and shoved, still never pulling her mouth away from his.

Stumbling backward, Gippal hooked Rikku's waist with one arm, while the other coiled around her shoulder, his still icy hand resting at the name of her neck. A chill trickled down her spine, but nevertheless she wouldn't give up her battle for control. Throwing herself into him, she forced the both of them even further back. Gippal's heels hooked the foot of Rikku's bed, and he tripped and dove backwards onto the soft mattress, his strength heaving Rikku on top of him. Only now pulling out of the kiss, Rikku tilted her head slightly to let out a soft giggle.

Gippal opened his eyes to watch her innocent face. Knowing Rikku meant that he understood just how deceiving appearances could be, but he liked that about her. Though right now he was only thinking about how happy he was to see her smile. She had been depressed ever since he'd told her of his plans. The least he could do was make her forget for a little while.

Offering her a smile, Gippal pulled his arms back towards his body, sliding them softly across her skin. He kept his gaze trained on her supple lips and reached upward to take a hold of her hands, removing them from his chest. He felt the distribution of her weight change on his body, her hips settling deeper against his. Lifting his head slightly, he closed his eyes and kissed her once more. He parted her lips with his tongue, needing more than ever to intensify the kiss.

Rikku's eyes drifted closed. Her brief moment of happiness at her victory was fading. She was going to miss this, miss him. She breathed deeply through her nose and somberly welcomed the kiss. Unable to control her emotions, Rikku knew that Gippal would be able to tell what she was thinking. He wasn't like most other members of the opposite sex who wouldn't know a smile from a frown, and he didn't come across as so perceptive. But he really was, or at least he was perceptive to her.

Rolling over onto his side, he moved her off of him, but still kept her close. He could read her easily. The way she kissed him, her pacing had slowed, and he would swear that he felt a tear drop from her eye and onto the bridge of his nose. He moved his head back, removing his mouth from hers.

Her jaw hung slightly, and her lips were still parted, the bottom one trembling faintly. She hadn't exactly wanted him to stop, but her head told her heart that it would be easier this way. Watching his jaw lower, she say his mouth mirror hers with his lips separating as well, and she waited for him to speak.

"Rikku," he said her name, something he only did on serious occasions, "you know I have to do this." He gave her hands a gently squeeze. "Baralai and Nooj, they're going to go charging into this thing, and I have to follow them."

Just like the self important hero that he sometimes came off as.

"And Paine?" she asked, ignoring her inner thoughts, which by now she would know were wrong. Gippal wasn't like that. He wasn't all cocky; he wasn't all bad.

Gippal shook his head, "Why do you even ask?" His vision searched her face. He didn't have to be a genius to realize that Rikku didn't want to face what lie ahead of her alone.

"She's going with you," he told her, his voice deepening in a soothing tone. "No matter how independent you may think you are, you need her." A slight smile rose to his face, though this smile was different that his previous smiles. It was the smile of a man who as about to give a sad girl some good news. "Kimahri too," he added with his smile growing.

"What?" Rikku asked him, happiness evident in her voice. "Kimahri will come?"

Gippal nodded, unable to drop his grin. "Wakka too, he just told us through the COM sphere."

"No way!" Rikku's eyes brightened, and she pulled herself into a sitting position, while also tearing her hands away from Gippal's. She clapped once, gleefully glancing out the airship windows.

The sky was dark, but it was showered with falling white clumps of snow, almost like dying angels. It reminded her of the one that wasn't joining her on her journey. She looked to Gippal, "I know you can't come."

He nodded slowly, the effects of his smile having faded now. "I wish I could."

"Me too," she breathed, leaning back again onto her side. She placed her head down onto the pillow and curled close against Gippal's body, draping her arm over his side. It was odd timing, but sleep was falling upon her. Yawning, Rikku shut her eyes tightly. "Don't leave until I fall asleep, okay?" she asked unhurriedly, still through closed eyelids.

She couldn't see him do it, but he shook his head anyway. "I won't." He slid his arm over her hip and laid his palm at rest on the indented curvature at her waist. Using his other arm he propped his head up on his elbow and watched her drift asleep.

When he finally rose quite a while later, Gippal pulled the covers at the foot of Rikku's bed over her sleeping form. About to turn and leave, he hesitated and moved back to plant a kiss on her forehead. He then proceeded to tip toe down the stairs so as not to wake her, but again Rikku heard him, though this time through her dreams.

Soft thuds beat their rhythm into the ground below. She was being chased by the same monster that had murdered her friends, and would continue to do so if she didn't stop it. Her heart was racing, and beads of sweat poured off her. 'No,' she pleaded, racing past the bodies of her fallen comrades.

Kimahri, conquered Kimahri. His blue fur was stained with pools of red blood, and his eyes were frozen open in a look of unmistakable defeat. He'd failed them all, but most of all he failed Yuna. He'd spent his entire life protecting the girl, but this time was different. This time he hadn't given enough.

Wakka, poor Wakka. His arms and legs were twisted at odd angles. A deep stab wound had torn his abdomen apart. He too lay dead. His baby would grow up without a father, just as he had himself. It wasn't what he'd wanted. He'd only wanted to help Rikku, to save Yuna, to save Tidus.

Paine. She was missing, but Rikku couldn't dwell on that. She had to get to Yuna and Tidus. She had to live long enough to find Gippal and help him. She had to –

Tripping, stumbling, falling, she flew towards the ground. She felt a sharp stabbing pain in her lower back, and she was on the ground. She was bleeding, and the red sticky fluid was pooling around her body on the ground. She was dying.

"RIKKU!" The shout came from over the intercom on the ship. It was Brother, rattling off at top volume in Al Bhed for her to come to the bridge.

She woke with a start, shoving the covers off of her body. The nightmare was not still evident in her mind. She awoke nervous and frightened, but she didn't know why.

Within minutes Rikku had arrived on the brige. Brother stood there, arms crossed an expression scowling, as she stood at the landing overlooking the rest of the bridge. Placing her hands on the rail, she eyes him with a force expression of annoyance. "What?" she demanded in Al Bhed.

"The storm has died down, Rikku. We leave for Besaid," he instructed her in the same language before crossing back to his place at the front of the ship.

Rikku glanced about the bridge. She noted Buddy, good old Buddy behind the controls. Shinra was there too, having shown up mysteriously not more than a month ago with a plethora of new gadgets and a neglect to explain anything. Brother was of course there as well. But Paine was missing, and Rikku hadn't seen her in the cabin either, she'd woken up alone. A sinking feeling settled in her stomach. "Where is she?" Rikku demanded. "Where is Paine?"

She felt a presence behind her, followed by a deep and familiar voice. "Paine gone."

Rikku spun around to face Kimahri, the color red rising to her cheeks. "What do you mean she's gone?" she exclaimed. Rikku probably should have hugged the big blue guy, but she was preoccupied with Paine and possible betrayal. She was also probably overreacting.

"Paine go with others into mountain cave," he answered calmly. "Kimahri stay and protect Rikku. Kimahri and Rikku find Yuna."

Rikku shook her head. "How could she?" she asked no one in particular. "She didn't even say goodbye!" Her hands balled into tiny angry fists, and she began to jump around, taking aimless swings through the empty air.

She had no idea what made Paine decide to join the others on the quest into the depths of that unknown mountain cave, but it had to be something important, right? Rikku gritted her teeth. Maybe she'd just decided that old friends were better than new friends. When she saw Paine again, she was going to have it out with her, no matter how tough Paine was.

Storming off through the corridor to the ship's transportation capsule, Rikku angrily punched in the code that would bring her back to the cabin. With a swoosh, the transport took her there, and the doors slid open. The slight gust of air caused a strand of her blonde hair to fall into her face.

Blowing at it, Rikku swatted the strand away and stomped off into the cabin. She pounded her way past an ignored Barkeep, who asked her what 'sheemed' to be the matter, and made her way over to her personal console hidden around the back of the living quarters.

Clicking up a type screen, she began to write feverishly.

So this must be my story.

I begin it on my own with only an old and silent fried to help. I do not expect any of the others to follow us after we gather Wakka, and I wouldn't ask them to.

But it all started when you heard about that hidden temple being found, and you just couldn't contain your curiosity …