If you haven't read chapter 1 since 5-24-06 now might be a good time to do that, so this chapter has a little more meaning. Or not. You know. Whatever.

Chapter 15

So here we are. Me and Rikku. Or GippalandRikku as we seem to be getting a lot lately. It annoys the hell out of me, but I smirk every time I hear it because my name almost always comes first. I love to tease Rikku about it because I know that annoys the hell out of her.

When did we become this happy little pair? I can't quite say for sure. I mean obviously there was that day on the bridge, some weeks after Ryhcis had been killed. I'd been holding off as best I could, fully enacting all my protective instincts and quelling all the ones that kept telling to just grab her and kiss her until she stopped protesting.

Something on that day changed, however. I guess I got tired of holding back, or maybe the time was just right. It turned out good, anyhow, since I did end up grabbing and kissing Rikku, and she certainly wasn't protesting. I still wonder where the girl learned it. She wouldn't answer my questions about the Lady Yuna's obnoxious boyfriend. I at least know there's nothing between them now, since he and Yuna are still sickening in love. Happy Couple one-oh-one, Rikku had called them. Thank Spira we're not like that.

Now that Rikku and I aren't happy. We are, but it's not your traditional fairy-tale kind of happy. It's more like your shouting-matches-that-lead-to-pouting-that-lead-to-taunting-that-leads-to-making-out kind of happy. And yes, the pouting is on both sides. But I only do it because she does.

We're still discovering each other, too. That sounds awfully sexual, but I don't mean it in that way. Entirely. What I mean is neither of us have quite forgotten about Ryhcis, and while we've had our obstacles to overcome, just like Yuna and Tidus had, they haven't quite been the fire-and-brimstone sort of thing that makes us treasure every moment. In every given day I discover about six more reasons why it would be beneficial to all humanity to smother Rikku with a pillow, and about six more reasons why I can't live without her. Usually, those reasons tend to be synonymous. See why we're still figuring this thing out?

The whole Meyn-Ryhcis ordeal still plays in at times as well, which I guess is only to be expected. I'm actually amazed at how well Rikku was able to recover from the whole thing, in a fairly short amount of time too. I sometimes feel guilty, like I rushed her into us before she had time to get over him, but she says it's because of us that she's doing so well.

She still gets upset sometimes though, and she had nightmares for a long while, though those have gotten a lot better since she's had me to keep her company. I know what you're thinking-- what a scoundrel I am to take advantage of such a sweet innocent little girl like her, but you've got it wrong. First, about ninety-percent of the sweet and innocent thing is a total act. Rikku is like a kitten-- all little and fluffy, but totally willing to claw your eyes out, then sit back and lick their delicate claws with an oh-so-innocent expression while you writhe about in pain. Second, the first time she came to my room in the middle of the night, in pajamas and tears, I actually did not take advantage of her, as much as I may have wanted to.

The first time she came, it was a week or two after that day on the bridge and around midnight. I, having gone to bed early after a long day of standing in for several sick mechanics, was asleep, but I groggily awoke to the sound of someone tapping on my door.

While I had declined a larger office, I had upgraded my room when the Faction really began to take off. Actually anyone who stayed with the Faction for more than two years and planned to stay more than a year longer had the option to move to a larger room. None of them were extravagant, mine included, but they did have more room for things like queen-sized beds. I tend to roll about a lot in mine when I'm sleeping on my own, and thus I always get really tangled up in my covers, which is why it took me a while to answer the door after a nearly equal time spent trying to figure out what the tapping sound was.

When I finally did make it to the door to throw it open with half-worry, half-anger, I discovered Rikku standing on the other side, looking helpless and scared and beautiful.

"Rikku," I said, a mixed sigh of relief and consternation. "What's wrong?"

"Gippal," she said, a little wonderingly as though she wasn't quite aware of where she was or how she'd gotten there. "I. . . I couldn't sleep. I kept seeing him, his face--"

"Ryhcis?" I asked, suppressing the feeling of resentment that rose in me. I didn't really feel like that anymore towards the poor guy; it was mostly habit that caused the slight twinge in my stomach at the mention of his name, though I knew a small, petty part of me would always be a little jealous of and a little angry at what he shared with Rikku, and how much his death affected her.

"No," Rikku replied, twisting her hands in front of her. Her eyes flicked back and forth and she bit her lip, as though afraid the shadows of the hallway were about to attack. "Not Ryhcis." Her lip trembled, and I saw that she'd been crying. "M-meyn. I keep seeing Meyn. And he's talking to me. . . He's laughing. . ."

She fell forward into my arms and I caught her deftly, wrapping myself around her like a blanket, trying both to warm and comfort her. She was shivering, and clung to me like a drowning woman to a life preserver, mumbling incomprehensibly into my chest. I rubbed her back, making shh-ing noises, and slowly backed my way into my room. While everyone in the temple was aware that Rikku and I were a pair, I preferred not to alert them all to the fact that she-- their leader's daughter who at yet knew very little about our relationship-- was paying late night visits to my room.

Once I got Rikku's trembling body into the room I sat her on the bed, then untangled myself long enough to shut the door. The little whimper she made when we separated was enough to have me beside her and her gathered tightly back into my arms in an instant.

"It's okay, sweetheart," I murmured, pushing back her alluringly tousled hair to meet her eyes with mine. "It was just a dream."

"I know," Rikku sighed, then slumped forward and buried her face in my neck. "But it gets hard sometimes. I can't stand the thought of that. . . that pycdynt alive and well while Ryhcis is. . . because of him. . ."

"It's okay." I had kind of lost track of what I was saying as I ran my hands over her long back and her warm mouth moved against my skin. I began to regret bringing her into my room. "It's okay."

She lifted her head and met my gaze. Our faces were impossibly close. "Sometimes," she whispered. "I feel like I'll never be able to forget what he did."

"You don't have to forget," I whispered back. One of my hands had somehow become tangled in her hair. "You just have to overcome it."

She blinked at me once, her wet eyelashes sticking to her cheeks, her lips parted and moist, her eyes wide and green and bottomless. . .

Our lips slammed together. Rikku's hands came up to my neck, gripping my face in a rather uncharacteristically rough manner that I found equally startling and enticing. She leaned into me, pressing her small body tightly against mine. I started to lean back, the grinding of her body, the harsh stabbing of her tongue and the fierce roving of her hands all setting off warning signs in my head. She leaned with me and I ended half-sitting half-laying against the headboard, Rikku practically climbing into my lap.

Tell her to stop, my mind shrieked. She doesn't really want this. . . she's just upset. . . tell her to stop. Tell her. . . Rikku slid her hands under my shirt, and for a moment my body took over and shut out my mind. My hands somehow found their way under her shirt, gliding over her back, then smoothing over her taut stomach that bucked and rolled under my caress--

"Rikku." I tore my lips from hers, clamping my hands firmly on her upper arms and forcing her off my body. She whimpered slightly, sitting there breathless on my bed, shirt rumpled and hair mussed, looking goddamn gorgeous. I nearly lost my resolve and starting kissing her all over again. Instead, with a supreme effort of will, I simply took her hand.

"I can't, Rikku," I said solemnly. "Not when you're like this."

"I'm not like anything!" Her voice changed to a near-whine and she leaned closer again. "It's not like I'm drunk. I'm perfectly aware of what I'm doing--" She leaned in, lips parting, but I held her back. I have no idea how, but I did.

"If you were drunk Cid's Girl, we would be way pass this point." Strained as my voice was, that drew a little laugh from her as I had hoped it would. Slowly, I released my hold on her arms, a little afraid of what I'd do if her warm skin continued to be under my hands. "But I can't do this to you when you're sober," I continued as soon as I was sure neither of us were going to try anything again, at least then. "Because you do know what you're doing. You're trying to forget something huge and shocking by doing something that feels even huger. You don't really want this, Rikku. You know you don't."

Rikku looked down at her lap, her cheeks coloring. "Gippal," she murmured. "When you put it like that. . ." In a sudden gesture so reminiscent of a young girl that it made it much easier for me to temporarily forget my desire, Rikku covered her face with her hands. "Spira," she moaned into them, a moan that was upset rather than erotic. "I'm so embarrassed."

"Don't worry about it." I made my voice casual and boisterous, as though we were talking about some mistake she'd made in building her machina or something else equally mundane. "I understand, Cid's Girl. I won't tell."

"You'd better not!" For a second she joined the lighthearted facade, hitting me on the arm with a mock-glare. Then her face turned serious, and she looked down at her lap. "What do we do now?" she asked in a small voice.

It took me about a second to come up with a response.

"We go to sleep," I said, and twisted around to pull back my covers, working my way under them, then holding them open for her. She gave me a wary look, which I found quite almost humorously ironic. "No tricks, I promise." I said with my best smile. "I just don't want you walking back to your room all alone in that cold, dark hallway, and there's no way in hell I'm leaving here and going with you."

Rikku continued to survey me for a long moment. I could clearly see the indecision raging in her mind; stay and fully admit her mistake, or leave and save what face she could and confront the mortification another time. In the end, she decided to stay. We curled up snugly under the covers and slept comfortably through the night, though it took me sometime to actually fall asleep and Rikku does tend to squirm and I tend to sprawl. But they meshed well together-- the squirming and the sprawling. Two opposing forces that fight for supremacy but end up with a compromise that is even better. Just like me and Rikku.

There were a few more nights after that initial one where she came to my room, seeking solace from whatever nightmare plagued her or just from the crushing loneliness of the thought-swirled night. I'd let her in, listen to her talk for a bit if she wanted to talk, then tuck her neatly into bed with me, and we'd sleep. By some sort of unspoken agreement, we hardly ever even kissed during these nighttime visits, though, despite my noble words, it often became quite difficult for me to just lay there with her warm, languid body cradled in my arms. I took quite a few cold showers then, let me tell you.

Then came the night-- oh, Spira that night. I heard the knocking and opened the door, expecting to find Rikku standing there looking young and anxious like usual. Instead, she wore an unreadable expression that was anything but childish, and curiously enough was not dressed in her pajamas. She wore a pink tank top and jeans, her long golden hair clipped back, and before I could even get a word out she stretched out a slim white arm, curled her hand around my neck and pulled me down into a deep, soul-wrenching kiss.

"Rikku," I said as soon as she pulled away and I was able to breath again. "What--"

"I've been thinking about you," she said softly, moving gracefully into my room then taking both my hands, managing to seem like a little girl appealing to her father and a young woman about to seduce her boyfriend. Without much of a fight, I might add. "These nights that I've been spending here, with you. . . I've wanted so much--" She reached forward again, drawing me into another mind-blowing kiss. "Now I want more," she whispered in my ear.

"Rikku," I said, pushing her away while I was still able. "Are you sure you. ."

"I'm not drunk," she said, and I couldn't help but laugh. I put my arms around her, our bodies modeling together with comfortable familiarity that still held a bit of electric strangeness that night. I looked into her eyes, those beautiful eyes that I had seen so many emotions in through the years. This time I was looking for one particular emotion, one feeling, and after a long moment, I found it.

"That's too bad," I murmured, leaning in close to trail my lips along her jaw line. "I bet you'd make a cute drunk."

Rikku made a mock noise of outrage, elbowed me in the ribs, then wound her arms tightly around me. I scooped her up in my arms and carried her over to the bed, laying her down as gently as though she were a porcelain doll, though I perhaps more than anyone am aware of how strong she is.

I lowered myself next to her, kissing over her collar bones, her shoulders, her neck. Before I got to her mouth, I paused, holding myself back for the final time.

"Are you sure?" I asked. Rikku simply smiled, then tilted her head up so that our lips met. And that time, at last, there was no need to tell her to stop.

Like I said, however, she still has bad dreams sometimes, but as she almost all her nights in my room now they're becoming less and less of a problem.

Cid was here the other day. I arranged it so that he and I were only together when there were lots of other people around, but don't think that means I escaped a good, long lecture. And by lecture I mean shouting, swearing and nearly relieving me of my remaining good eye. And all he knows is that we're together; he has no clue how much I love her.

Yeah, you heard that right. Love. It's supposedly this huge thing, and I'll admit I've never felt like this for anything other girl, but it doesn't seem like some sort of giant epiphany to say it now. There was no light bulb moment, no hallelujah chorus, no illuminating realization. The knowledge that I was in love with Rikku, that I loved her more than anyone, came gradually, far more gradually than it should have due to Ryhcis and Meyn and my own stupidity. But it did come, and it isn't going away anytime soon.

Does she love me? I'd like to think so. I sometimes wish things could have been simpler for us, but I don't know if it would have all turned out so well if they had.

Turned out well. . . huh, I sound like it's over. Like we've reached the end of the road and built ourselves a little cabin of predictability with a routinely happy white picket fence and there's no where left to go. Well there are plenty of places to go, and I'm hoping Rikku and I can start visiting some of them soon. She's just entered the cafeteria now, stopping to talk to Shinra who returned a while ago, throwing a snarky comment to Brother, then searching for me. Her eyes meet mine, and, as always, it feels like I've received an electric shock.

Spira, do I love her. She's making her way over here now, long hair brushing those slim, tantalizingly swaying hips. I stand up before she's even half way to me, just so I can put my hands on those hips without delay when she finishes sashaying her way over. Saucy minx. She knows most the room is watching as she wraps her arms around my neck, standing on tiptoe to giggle impishly in my ear as I kiss the sweet-smelling skin just below her hairline.

I pull her down onto my lap, saying some smart-ass comment about her not letting me finish my dinner when I really I just don't want to let go of her. Ever. She squeals and squirms in my lap, making me growl as I have to reach around her to get to my food. The friction of her body against mine is also creating some problems, which is probably part of her intent. As I said, saucy little minx. She'll be punished for this later. For now I clamp my arms firmly around her waist and lean close to her ear, murmuring a deep, threatening warning that only makes her giggle again.

Eventually she settles, and I'm able to shift her into a more comfortable position. The atmosphere in the cafeteria has become quiet and calm as the day winds down around us. I've finished eating; Rikku leans her head on my shoulder and I put my arms around her. I can't imagine feeling more content.

"Look," Rikku says, and points to one of the few cafeteria windows. "The stars are coming out. It must be getting late."

I look as she commands, but nothing can steal my gaze long when she's so close to me. I look back to find her watching me with a soft smile playing on her face.

"What?" I say.

"Nothing," she murmurs, tucking her head into the hollow between my neck and shoulder that seems made to fit her. One of her hands traces idly up my arm. "I'm just really happy."

"Yeah?" My fingers glide down her hair, play over her back. The room is full of low murmurings and gentle sighs, evening sounds that flow together into a soothing river of serene happiness. The moment is long and shimmery and goddamn near perfect. "Me too."

I feel Rikku's lips curve into a smile. I know she can feel my answering smile against the smooth skin of her forehead. We both feel the love that flows between us, bright and indestructible and wonderfully flawed as the stars that glitter in the endless sky.


It's over! It's finally finished!!! Woo! I'm so proud, though I'm a little sad.

I love you all. Anyone who has gotten this far, read this whole thing. Thank you so much. A wonderful labor of love that I'm so happy with. Thanks to you all. Review? For the final time?