Chapter 1: Separate Ways

Evening was paying its nightly visit to Luca. Merchants packed up their carts for the day, eager to get home to their loved ones. The store lights illuminated the plaza, morphing it into another town altogether. The nightlife was awakening, and partygoers were eager to drink and dance the night away in one the many clubs that seized the town when the day was through. Some were out dressed to the nines, probably out looking for a new romance or maybe a one-night stand. For the many couples beginning their journeys together that night, it seemed an Al Bhed couple, as they sat on a bench facing the water were reaching the end of theirs.

"We are so finished Rikku!" He spat at her, disgust dripping from within his voice. His one eyed glare could have killed her instantly had it been a weapon. Fighting back the swell of tears she could feel building in her eyes, she stood up from the rusty bench they shared and with her hands defiantly to her hips, dealt him a glare of her own.

"E fyhd du ghuf fro!" (I want to know why) She pleaded, retreating to the railing that bordered the tides below. Rikku pressed her back to its cold, steel surface, waiting for him to reveal his reason for wanting to end their relationship. Her blonde hair blew from behind into her face, causing her much discomfort. She furiously pulled the free-flying hairs away, eventually giving up on them in frustration and turning against the wind. Her back was now to him and she let her tears fall of their own accord into the salty sea below.

Gippal relieved himself from the bench and crept up towards Rikku. He placed his hands on the railing, encasing her between his arms; he was so close she could feel him breathing down her neck. She restrained herself from turning around, she couldn't bear to look at him now; he had been so cold towards her. Still, him being so near made her body tremble and her skin hot with desire. It had always been that way for her, she couldn't resist him even at his worst.

He cut through their silence with a whisper.

"E's Cunno, Rikku." (I'm sorry) he breathed into her ear. "You're just too much of a child. I need someone who's…you know, more mature." He pushed himself off the railing freeing Rikku from his arms' grasp.

Rikku turned around and knuckled away her tears. She perused Gippal, hurt and confused. Her scarf danced with the wind in front of her, just touching Gippal's chest.

"Well, if that's not the pot calling the kettle black!" She retorted snottily, but quickly recoiling into a more disconsolate demeanor. " I helped to save Spira twice, Gippal. How am I not mature? Could a child have done what I did? And what of the countless times we've made love? No child could ever satisfy you the way I do, and you know it!" Her body quivered, her hands frozen to her sides as her glare persisted on the young man before her. Biting her lower lip feverishly and looking away, Rikku asked him the question she was hesitant to.

"Is it someone else?" she queried, eyeing the concrete beneath her feet as if fascinated by it suddenly.

Gippal strode back over to the railing and leaned into it with his elbows. He sighed as he stared out into the never-ending sea, the answer he had wasn't a positive one. He turned around to face her, prominent guilt in his eye.

"Yeah. There is someone else." He responded soberly, leaning his right foot onto the middle railing. The impact of his boot shook the bars all the way down the plaza. The townies leaning on it down the way felt the vibration and looked to see the source of it, scowling in annoyance. He paid them no mind, continuing with his view of the water.

She marched over to where he was and seizing his shoulder, forced him to face her. She stared at him for a moment and he beheld her in shock at the nerve of the move she just made. Gippal awaited the inevitable question that would come from those lips he once loved to kiss with uneasiness.

"Who is she?" she wondered. "Do I know her?" Like it made any difference. It wouldn't change the fact that she was losing him, but maybe just knowing who it was would help her in some way deal with this whole mess.

He put his back to the railing, feeling the coldness shoot through him mercilessly. He averted his eye to the concrete now; it was his turn to be fascinated by it. He couldn't look her in the eyes. Indeed she did know whom it was he was interested in, and he wasn't sure how she would take it if he told her. He stood there silently contemplating the right words, although he knew there weren't any. Not for this situation, not this time.

"Well, Gippal, are you going to tell me or what?" Rikku demanded after his pregnant pause, her arms to her chest as she eyed him inquisitively. She tapped her boot impatiently; the stomping sound amplified in Gippal's skull until it seemed to be the only thing he could hear. He couldn't take another moment, he breathed in as hard as he could, exhaling his answer.

"Paine. I'm seeing Paine." He slid down the railing until his knees were parallel to his head, which he buried into them shamefully. He wrapped his arms around his knees, hoping he would just disappear into nothing. He could sense she was still standing there, her presence obvious only by the deep, angered breathing emanating from her mouth. After another period of suspended activity between the two, Gippal emerged from his knee cocoon and looked up at her.

Rikku wasn't looking at him; her eyes just gazed vacantly into the air. This wasn't good. Paine was her best friend; they defeated Vegnagun together and brought never-ending peace to Spira.

"How could this have happened?" Rikku thought to herself, standing there solid as stone. "Why didn't I see this coming?" She was afraid to move, embarrassed by the fact that she was getting dumped, and her best friend had stolen her boyfriend's heart from right under her nose. Rikku rubbed her arms, causing goose bumps to form colonies on them from the chill in the air. Her eyes began to sting; she could feel the swells coming from the ducts that secured them beginning to emerge.

She closed her eyes. "I don't want to cry, I don't want to cry." She chanted rhythmically to herself, hoping that would stop them from streaming down her ever-flushing face. Rikku didn't want to give Gippal the satisfaction of seeing her upset with his revelation. Managing to stifle the tears, she stared back at him and rubbed her cheeks trying to get her face back to its normal color. He still didn't move, he braced himself for her response, expecting her to scream, but she didn't. Rikku just breathed deeply and blinked her eyes as she began to speak.

"Well, there isn't much I can do, you've made your choice." Rikku reasoned, sad but sternly. She didn't want him to think she was totally ok with this. No girl in her right mind would be, but there is such a thing as 'saving face' and Rikku wanted to salvage as much of it as possible. Gippal didn't have a response; he just sat there silent. He couldn't deny that it was what he wanted, but that didn't mean he stopped loving Rikku right then and there.

He pushed himself up to his feet and walked up to Rikku who was facing the other way with her hands folded, and wrapped his arms around her. Glancing at him from the side she tried to wriggle free, but his grip was too tight.

"Fryd yna oui tuehk, Gippal, mad ku uv sa! (What are you doing, Gippal, let go of me)!" She pleaded as he held her, but he wouldn't budge. His chin nestled in her shoulder as she continued to try to escape his embrace.

"Please, you're making this harder for me, let me go now!" The tears broke free of their bonds and she began to sob hysterically. Townspeople began staring at the two as they stood there. Gippal glared at them angrily and shouted for them to mind their own business, which they did, scattering like pyre flies released from a dead fiend. When he finally let go of her, a tear fell from his own eye and he lowered his head. Rikku lost her balance and stumbled to the ground, colliding with the cold pavement below. Pulling her knees into her chest she continued to cry, stuttering sobs between shallow breaths.

Gippal knelt down beside her and paused. He wasn't sure what to do with her, he wanted to hold her, but he knew the last thing she wanted was for him to touch her. He brought his head to his bent knee and sobbed a little himself.

"I'm really sorry, Rikku." He cried, sitting beside her on the pavement. "I never meant to hurt you, please forgive me." His shoulders trembled wearily as his crying transformed into full out sobs. Rikku lifted her head; her tears glistened from the light of the streetlamps and she looked at Gippal pitifully. Reluctant to show him any compassion at first, she resolved to put her arm around him anyway.

"I know you didn't." She cooed, crunching him into her as he continued to cry. They sat there for a moment, the wind whipping around them, causing her to shiver slightly. After all, she was clad only in her dress sphere and let's face it, there isn't much to it.

Gippal raised his head up and she did the same. They looked at each other and sighed somberly. He could see the hurt in his now ex girlfriend's eyes knowing full well he was the cause of it, one thing he never wanted to be held responsible for. Rikku glanced at him quickly and turned away even faster, clearing her throat.

"You love her?" She asked quietly, still looking the other way. He breathed another heavy sigh and said nothing. Rikku looked over at him sadly. The lack of response on his part was answer enough for her and she promptly stood up. She threw her hand down in his direction and he grasped it firmly as she pulled him to his feet as well. Both proceeded to wipe themselves off and stood there awkwardly for a brief moment before Gippal spoke.

"I guess this is it then?" He asked, putting a hand to the back of his head. Rikku folded her arms behind her as she swayed back and forth like an old rocker on the balls of her feet; the awkward feeling between them growing at a rapid pace.

"Yeah, I should get going." She said, staring at her boots. "You don't want to keep Paine waiting. You better go yourself." Rikku's voice cracked with the last expression.

Gippal was about to turn and walk away when she spoke again, the words escaped her lips in a barely audible tone. He heard her though. She used to talk like that late at night when they lie side by side during happier times. He turned around, the cold breeze piercing his lips and smacking him in the face.

"Can I hug you just one more time, please?" Rikku pleaded, her back was to him, the wind continued to whip her braids in every direction. She didn't want him to see her cry again if he denied her this last request. However, he embraced her willingly, wrapping his arms around her tiny waist. After first resisting, Rikku finally wrapped her arms around him as well. She wanted to get just one more feel of what it was like to be in his arms before he was out of her life forever. A few minutes later, he let her go and kissed her cheek.

"Goodbye" he whispered into her ear. Rikku just stood there, her arms to her sides as he walked away from her, disappearing into the endless crowd of people.

Another group of passersby gathered around her and looked on sympathetically. Rikku wiped what tears were left on her face and smiled at them, her hand tousled her blonde braids carelessly.

"I'm fine." She assured them, the smile growing bigger. "It wasn't working out anyway. Now I'm going to have myself a little celebration because I'm free!"

She jumped up into the air triumphantly and headed to the nearest club. "Drinking and dancing is what I'm going to be doing tonight! Watch out Luca, Rikku is here and she's going to paint the town red!"