DISCLAIMER: Final Fantasy X-2 and all related characters belong to Square-Enix. I own all other characters in this story that aren't from S-E.
A/N: At last, another fanfic has been revealed. This one will be equivalent to my other story, "Waiting Between Memories" in terms of drama and on a similar level—length. I've wanted to do something like this for a long time now, so all I can say is that I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I know I'll enjoy writing. RikkuxGippal fans will be very pleased, I hope.
Dance With Cupid
The young girl looked up at her mother expectantly, her youthful eyes shining with wonder. She watched as her mother sat down in the chair, tugging on a wayward strand of her golden hair.
"But Mommy! You promised me that you'd tell the story!" the little girl cried. She stamped a foot down as the small sound echoed on the metal flooring of their home.
"I know, I know. But sweetie, how many times have I already told you the story?" the mother smiled. Her little girl pouted.
"I dunno, Mommy. But I…" she paused a moment to climb onto her mother's lap. "…I think it's such a great story…"
The young woman laughed, brushing away her daughter's bangs and looking into the swirls of her green eyes. "Okay, okay," she smiled, much to the delight of the little girl.
"I knew I'd win!" her daughter squealed triumphantly. Her mother laughed at that point. The girl was just like herself at that age.
"But you know, darling, I've told you this story so many times that you already know how it ends!" She hugged her daughter warmly, much to the child's delight.
"I know, but it's still such a pretty story. And it's so roman…roman…"
"Romantic?" her mother offered, giggling at her daughter.
"Yeah! Romantic! That's it! I remember learning that word in school the other day," the little girl said with a grin.
"So, where shall I begin?" her mother asked gently as they settled down into the chair. The girl put a finger to her mouth before smiling slowly.
"The beginning of course!" she finally responded, causing her mother to laugh even more.
The woman had told her daughter the story countless times. So many times, in fact, that she had lost count. It was a story that she remembered all too well, one that she was able to recall as clearly as what she had for breakfast that day. The tranquil sky, warm desert air, the laughter, sorrow, joy. She leaned back in the soft chair and closed her eyes as her daughter snuggled against her.
"If I were to tell you that there is someone out there that was born in order to find you, protect you, and love you with his entire being, then I would have just told you the first of many truths. If I were to say that the journey to find him is easy and will not make you cry, then I would have just told you the first of many lies.
I didn't realize this when I was young, and I thought that I would never fall in love. To tell you the truth, I was even…afraid. At the time, I couldn't quite explain the reason why. Maybe deep down, I was frightened of being alone one day. Afraid of falling so deeply in love that if he were to one day leave me, I would never be able to find myself again.
Your grandfather and I had never been close enough for me to talk to him about these things, but your two Aunts were always there. The three of us went on so many fun and exciting adventures together that I thought the days would never end. Those were some of the greatest moments of my life.
When I was 19, your Grandpa came up to me with a strange look on his face. At the time, I figured it was to tell me that I had another dangerous mission to do, but I was wrong. Instead, I learned that the rest of my life had just been decided completely, and all the plans I had made for myself had disappeared completely.
was shocked. I remember even losing my balance at one point, and was
convinced that it was an early April Fool's joke. But I was wrong
A small piece of crumpled paper landed on her desk, causing her snap awake again. It was the second paper that had flown in her direction in the span of one hour. The instructor had been droning on and on for the last 75 minutes and she had been fighting to stay awake before the white paper flew in from her side. Peeking up at him, she watched as the instructor turned around to write on the board again.
Stuck in math class. The worst subject of the day.
She looked down at the note knowingly, shaking her head in amusement as she did so. Unfolding it, she read the messy handwriting.
Careful not to fall asleep, Ms. Rikku. You leave yourself open for people to ogle you. (smily face)
She felt eyes on her back and slowly turned around to see the familiar young man in the back. Her classmate winked at her, his other eye hidden by the spikes that came down one side of his face. A sudden blush began to creep across her cheeks and she quickly spun back to face the front.
"Does he have to look at me like that…" she whispered under her breath.
"Is there something you'd like to add to the discussion, Ms. Rikku?" the instructor's deep voice boomed. She looked up slowly as he raised an eyebrow from his position in front of the room.
"U-Uh, no. Nothing, Sir," she replied slowly, her face heating up even more. She could feel the eyes of everyone in the class on her.
"I would assume that you would have something to say since you did score exceptionally high on the previous examination, Ms. Rikku," the instructor continued.
Rikku paused as she heard some of her classmates around her whispering. She looked around at them quickly and scratched her head nervously. "Ahaha. W-Well, I wouldn't say I did that great…"
"Oh? You don't consider getting a perfect score on the exam great?" her instructor laughed.
"Wow, Rikku. I didn't know you were that smart!" one of the class clowns beside her exclaimed. She glared at him before slapping him on the shoulder. The class laughed.
"Alright, alright. That's enough, class. Let's continue with the lesson," their instructor finally said.
Rikku slumped back down in her chair, staring at her notebook full of mathematical calculations. She groaned inwardly and checked the time. One more hour left in this awful class. Not that she didn't mind getting high scores. In fact, she thought it was a bit comical that she was still able to get good grades despite her daily boredom in the class.
It had been a year since the whole ordeal with Shuyin. She had decided to go back to school to get more training in order to become a Mission Officer. She was tired of taking orders from people and figured that she was good enough to start taking charge of others for once.
Naturally, Cid was against it. She was 19, and in his eyes, it was time for her to think of settling down with a husband. Rikku made a face at that thought. She was 19. All the more reason NOT to get married.
"Yo, Rikku. Wait up!" a voice called from behind her. She turned and felt her face heating up again as she looked up to meet the familiar intense gaze.
"Uh, h-hey Kai," she greeted, standing with her arms clasped behind her back. Her hand gripped her bookbag tightly.
"Hey there, Ms. Smartypants," Kai teased. He fell easily into step beside her as the two of them headed down the hallway. "I hope my little note earlier woke you up," he laughed.
Rikku looked up at him and smiled shyly, remembering the crumpled papers from class. Distantly, she remembered that they were inside the pocket of her skirt. "Well, it actually got me into some trouble back there, mister," she replied, sending him a playful glare.
Kai raised an eyebrow curiously. "Huh? Why?"
She shifted her schoolbag to the other hand and shook her head. "Nevermind, um…forget I said anything," she smiled weakly at him. Only because the instructor heard me whispering about you.
He stopped walking, hands in his pocket. His head was tilted slightly to the side as he smirked. "You weren't mumbling about me back there or anything, were you?"
A bubble of laughter suddenly escaped her lips and she shook her head quickly. "What! Of course not! Why the heck would I be thinking of you!"
Kai laughed, his voice rich. She soon found him standing beside her, leaning down a bit to look at her face. "I didn't say that you were thinking about me, Rikku."
Face flaming, she stepped back and away from him suddenly, noting his confused but adorable expression. "W-Well, I gotta go now! I'll see you tomorrow then! Er, uh, later Kai!"
And with that, she walked quickly down the hallway, leaving the 20-year old confused and just as equally amused. He watched her retreating back curiously before heading down the opposite direction.
Rikku mentally slapped herself as she sped quickly off the school grounds. "Well that was a graceful exit…geez…"
The sun was setting in the horizon as the last students began to exit the campus grounds, herself included. The academy wasn't her first choice, but it was near her house and would allow her to become a mission officer in less than 2 years.
Yuna and Paine were surprised when she had announced her decision to go back to school. Her cousin had moved to Besaid for good to start up a little magic school with Tidus, Lulu, and Wakka. They wanted to educate the children about the history of Spira, magic, and what everything meant for the future. It was a life that Rikku had imagined Yuna to have after all the adventures were done and over.
Paine traveled back and forth between cities in order to ensure that the people of Spira could live in peace. Even with Vegnagun and all the threats removed, there were still people who couldn't let go of their grudges. Because of this, Paine worked with Nooj and Baralai to restore peace to Spira for good.
Her thoughts were quickly halted by the sound of someone approaching her from behind. Whoever it was, he or she must have wanted to really catch up since the steps sounded quick, rushing to reach her. The rocks crunched beneath the person's boots as Rikku turned around.
She immediately paused at the figure before her.
"…Oh, um…hi," she greeted plainly, sighing with relief after seeing who it was.
He frowned at her for a second, but was smirking nonetheless. "Hm, and I thought you'd be happy to see me. Guess not," he shrugged with feigned exaggeration.
Rikku giggled a little, continuing in the direction of her home. "Sorry, didn't mean to sound rude or anything." She swung her bag to the side as they walked. Up above, the sky was streaked with orange and yellow hues, the sun retreating for the day. Their two shadows cast a reassuring presence beside them as Rikku looked down.
"Never thought the day would end, eh?"
She turned her attention to him as she paused in mid-thought. "Oh, yeah. Classes were boring as usual…" Rikku raised her arms to stretch. It had been one unusually long day. Sometimes classes would go by quickly, but for some reason they felt unnecessarily lengthy that day.
Apparently, the young man beside her had also been thinking the same thing.
A thought came to her at that moment. "Hm...why'd you come to this academy, anyway?"
He chuckled at that, regarding her lazily with one eye. "What? Am I not good enough to be at this school or something?"
It had surprised her when the instructor had introduced him to the class during engineering just a week ago. She remembered doodling in her notebook just as the door slid open. Not bothering to look up, Rikku had instead focused on the little rabbits she had been drawing. Once the instructor had asked the new student to introduce himself and she heard his familiar voice, her head had shot up.
"Hey, good to meetcha. I'm Gippal," he had introduced himself.
"Please show him around if he needs help, class," the instructor said. A few of the girls in the class had begun to whisper about how cool they thought Gippal looked, and Rikku couldn't help but smile a little herself.
She had watched as he took the seat next to Kai. From her position in the room, she was just in the row beside him and two seats up. Rikku averted her gaze the moment he had looked up at her. The corner of his mouth had turned up ever so slightly when he saw her that it surprised him when she had looked away.
Surprisingly, no one in the class recognized him. It didn't matter that he had the title of being the leader of a faction under his belt, or the fact that he had been involved in the fight against Vegnagun.
Nope, Gippal was just Gippal at this academy.
Rikku rolled her eyes at his question, already accustomed to the blond man's usual arrogance. "I meant that this is a school for future officers. I didn't think that you'd need to come here with your position and all…" she trailed off as he stopped in front of her with a grin. Her eyes met his. "Ever think for a minute that I came here for another reason?"
She felt her mouth open slightly, completely caught off-guard by his words. "What do you mean?"
"Rikku, I can't believe that Cid still hasn't said anything to you yet." He raised his eyebrows.
"Huh?" she shook her head in confusion. A little boy chasing his dog ran quickly past them as she regained her thoughts. "Sorry, Gippal, but I really don't know what you mean."
A shadow of understanding crossed his features momentarily as Gippal paused. She watched as he kicked up some gravel from beneath his boots. He seemed to be in deep thought as a few more seconds of uncomfortable silence hung between them.
"Are you being followed by anyone here?" came his question in a hushed whisper.
His question came out so quickly that it took Rikku a few more nanoseconds to see if she really had heard it. "W-What?"
"Kai…the guy I saw you with earlier in the hall. Is he always near you or something?" Gippal asked again, crossing his arms and standing with his weight on one leg.
"I uh…" she couldn't go on after that, realizing that this was happening too fast. "…wait, why does that matter? He's just someone from class. I guess I sorta think he's cute too, but what difference does it make?" Rikku said with a nervous laugh. It was her turn to cross her arms at him.
Gippal felt a sudden twinge within himself at those last words, but he shrugged it off quickly. "Alright, I won't say anything more," he shook his head, his words coming out slowly. "Just come talk to me once Cid tells you everything," he said as an afterthought, resuming his usual cocky demeanor. "Come on, I'll take you home."
"Thanks, I can make it from here, y'know," Rikku said cheerfully, looking up the rest of the way towards the house. It had been a while since either of them had said a word, so she decided to break the tense atmosphere.
He seemed to search her eyes for a moment before finally nodding. Sending her a short smile, he had turned his body halfway around to head back down the path before Cid came up to greet them.
"Oh, Rikku. You're home already?" her father said, looking at his daughter before shifting his attention to the other young man beside her. He held a stack of folders in one hand and a commsphere in the other.
"It's pretty late, don't you think, Pops?" Rikku asked, surprised that her father would ask her such a question. It was almost dark outside. Something wasn't right with his tone of voice either, and the fact that Cid had kept his eyes on Gippal for a few extra seconds made her believe that there really was something wrong. "Okay…what's going on here?" she finally asked them.
Cid looked at Gippal again and the blond sighed.
"That's alright, kid. I'll tell her myself," Cid interjected quietly. He beckoned for the two of them to follow him into the house.
Rikku stared after her father with worry and confusion but followed after him nonetheless. She was surprised when Gippal trailed after her also.
"Have a seat, Rikku," Cid commanded quietly once they had entered the study. Gippal closed the door behind him and sat down as well.
Ok. There really was something going on here and it began to make her nervous. Her father hardly ever referred to her as "Rikku."
"You're already 19," Cid began after sometime. She simply raised an eyebrow in confusion but nodded. "I've been doing a lot of thinking about your future, and I finally figured it all out."
Her father's words made her palms a little damp with nervousness. She smoothed out the hem of the skirt of her school uniform, licking her lips with apprehension. Looking up, she saw Gippal avert his gaze immediately after she had rested her eyes on him. It was strange. He seemed to always avoid her eyes lately.
He was seated on a sofa opposite her as Cid gazed out the window with his back towards them.
"You're set to be married this spring to the son of the Yuvera family."
Rikku felt her heart come to a winding stop. Wait, what did he just say…? Surely, Cid did not just say "marriage." She stood up shakily, recognizing the family name. "Y-Yuvera family? But aren't they in charge of the 'New Home' development?"
Cid turned around to face her slowly. His face had deep wrinkles as he regarded his daughter. "Yeah, they are. Which is why this would be good for you…for all of us…"
She opened her mouth in preparation to scream and protest as loudly as possible. But instead, her knees had decided to give in, and Rikku found herself falling back onto the couch behind her. Her father looked up, eyebrows set and mouth in a firm line.
"No…you've gotta be joking, right...? But…why?" she managed to whisper.
Cid didn't blink as he clasped his hands tightly behind him. "In order for us to get back on our feet, I need to re-establish our family name. This was the only way, Rikku. I'm the only one with the original plans for Home. No one else can build it but me."
"But what does any of this have to do with me!" Rikku exclaimed, her voice finally increasing in volume. The flare had returned to her eyes as she slammed her fist into the sofa.
Cid ignored her outburst. "In exchange for my involvement with the program, the Yuveras thought it would be best if the two families joined. In their eyes, my original plans for Home would make them twice as successful. Of course, we needed a way for the two families to join…"
"…and you figured that I'd be the perfect solution. Way to go, Pops. I appreciate how you asked me first!" Rikku interrupted.
"What the hell did you want me to do! You realize that your brother is out there trying to make a living for us again!" her father shot back. She fell silent after that, frowning and looking down at her boots.
Gippal sat helplessly across from them, his jaw set and his hands tightly folded. He had his own thoughts on the matter as well, but chose to keep his mouth shut.
After what seemed like a lifetime of utter silence, Cid finally spoke up. "I'm sorry…"
Rikku stood up and walked to the large window. Below, she could see the same little boy from earlier as he chased after his dog. After seeing them disappear over the hill, she turned around to face them again.
A fixed marriage in order for the family to recover from the recent debts that Cid had incurred.? Why now of all times, and why her? Right when she had decided to go back to school to take charge of her own life and become a real officer. She looked up at Cid's face, shadows and wrinkles dominating his expression. Somehow, he looked older than she remembered, perhaps with all the stress he'd been under the past year.
If there was one thing Rikku didn't want to see, it was whenever someone near her was in pain, in trouble, or both. Sure she fought with her father and disobeyed him countless times as a child and during her early teenage years, but the way he had approached her today, and the current situation her family was in, made her realize that perhaps it was time to start seeing the bigger picture for once.
If I were to get married, I would help Pops and Brother with all their problems. I'd be helping our whole family…
"I have some questions."
Her father took this as a surprise and sat down in the armchair. She had been silent for a long time when her announcement came suddenly.
"But first, I just want to say that I'll think about all this because I care about you guys and I don't like seeing ya hurt…" she trailed off after that. Okay, so that wasn't the whole truth. Her father had put an enormous amount of pressure on her. She knew that Cid would be nothing short of disappointed if she thought of declining. But it wasn't as if she had a choice, right?
Cid looked down, trying to hide his surprised expression from his daughter. He had predicted that she would run away from home after hearing the news, screaming about how it was her life and how he had no right to interfere.
"So my first question is when do I meet this guy I'm supposed to marry?" Rikku's face was expressionless and her eyes held no glint of feeling. Gippal looked away from her at that statement.
"Whenever you're ready. I hear he's at Luca right now."
Cid and Gippal exchanged quick glances.
She nodded slowly before looking up at the fiery sky, the first stars peeking from underneath the fading reds and yellows. "And second, what does he have to do with this?" she asked as she turned back around.
Cid's gaze shot up at that, seeing that Rikku was referring to the young man in the room. Her father rubbed the back of his head, trying to put it into the right words. "Well, he's here to guard you."
Her eyes widened at that. "Wait, why do I need a bodyguard, and why him of all people!" Rikku demanded.
"You need 'im because people will now try to kidnap you for ransom since you're the key to the Yuveras' multi-million Gil project," Cid replied simply. He gestured in Gippal's direction. "And I chose him because he's willing to do the job for free."
She raised an eyebrow as Gippal met her gaze for the first time since they had entered the study. "For free…?"
Gippal leaned back, folding his hands behind his head and shutting his one good eye. "That's right."
Rikku made her way over to him and jabbed a finger into his chest, startling Gippal. "Listen, you. I want to know the truth. There's no way someone like you would do this without anything in return," she narrowed her eyes at him suspiciously.
She had him cornered this time. What person would guard another for months without some type of payment in return? The wedding wasn't going to be held until that spring, which was months away.
"Ever think that I'm doing it just 'cuz I want to?" Gippal asked smoothly. He smiled at her sideways.
"Nope. I never thought of that once. In fact, I'm even more suspicious of you now," she answered quickly. His smile faded but he was still sitting on the sofa with that same arrogant position, his face full of confidence.
She had to admit that having someone like Gippal as a bodyguard would not disappoint. His appearance alone was enough to keep the boys away. She blinked, realizing that she was acting as if she had already agreed to the marriage.
I've really lost it, haven't I?
Cid looked up, his eyes shifting and sending her a silent "What is it?"
"Let's say I refuse the marriage." At this statement, both Cid and Gippal widened their eyes and sat up in their seats. She took note of their expressions and pressed on undaunted. "Could you at least give me some time to think about all this?" she asked instead.
Her father let out a long sigh. "Take as much time as you want. I told the Yuveras that I needed at least a week before you'd give an answer."
Rikku was surprised. "You mean you already expected me to wait things out?"
"Of course. Who else would know his own daughter?" Cid replied calmly, heading towards the door. She watched his retreating back for a moment before looking down at the floor.
"Oh, and Rikku."
Her gaze went back up.
"When you do tell me your answer, find yourself a good dress for when we go out to dinner with the Yuveras." Cid had stated it as if the only answer Rikku could give him was a "Yes."
Her expression fell a little and she nodded, even though her father had already left the room.
The door closed quietly and Gippal sat studying the blond Al Bhed for a moment. She simply stood there, her hands in front of her as if she was playing with something, a habit he knew she always had. Standing up, he walked over to her.
"Come with me for a minute." His voice was warm, a strong reassurance for Rikku's cloudy mind. She looked up at his stern face as he came over and led her out of the room, his hand gently gripping hers.
She didn't resist him as Gippal opened the front door of the house and stepped out into the warm air. The stars had dotted the skies with a shimmering brilliance as they walked down the path towards town.
Normally, she would have protested against going out that night. But to be honest, a large part of her just wanted to get away from the house and from reality, if only for a few hours. Thankful for the time being, she let Gippal take over.
It was strange though. Even if they weren't especially close, she had always felt unusually comfortable whenever she was with him. As if they had known each other for years.
"Where are we going?" came Rikku's quiet voice after sometime had past.
He didn't turn around to look at her.
"You feeling okay?" Gippal asked instead, choosing not to answer her question. When she didn't reply, he turned around to glance back. She tugged gently on his hand and they both stopped walking.
"Thanks, Gippal. But I think I just wanna head back home and go to sleep. I've had a long day and I kinda want to get my mind off things for a bit…"
He simply watched as she continued her sentence in a quiet voice, seeming like a completely different Rikku than what he was used to.
"Sounds to me that you're not alright at all," he informed her, his tone firm. He paced a little before turning in her direction to see her expression. In the dark, he could barely see her face, her features only outlined by the light of the moon behind them.
"No, really. I'm fine. Thanks for everything today." She paused for a moment, looking up at him and smiling. "I've kept you here long enough, so I'll just see you at school tomorrow." She turned around.
For a few agonizing moments, Gippal had to fight against his gut instinct. If he let her go now, who knew how long it would take before he could speak with her privately like this again. But a part of him was telling him to just shut the hell up.
And so, he simply watched as she headed back up the hill and towards the house, cursing himself as he walked in the direction of his own apartment.
End of Chapter 1.
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this first chapter and made you all a little curious about what exactly is going on. Sorry, but you'll find out the truth later on in the story!