Nine Months
Chapter 1

She's starting to get tired of her reflection. Three days she's been looking at the same shameful face. Same broken girl with a dazzling smile that has walked away with her lover – walked away because smiling is for those who don't think they've made a mistake.

One of her, and yet two beings stare back at her from the mirror. And despite so, she feels alone.

She thinks of him. The friend that she would normally run to in times like these. But it's been awhile since they've talked. And she's not sure if he will catch her from her fall this time. But she doesn't really have any other choice.

She gathers the few belongings she thought to bring along and she travels, walking through the light, misty rain for hours before she reaches a fork in the road. Mushroom Rock. Djose. She turns left.

The early evening has arrived, and the courtyard is empty, but she goes inside anyway. She walks through the empty halls toward his rooms, nervous energy clouding her as her footsteps ring clearly on the stone.

She knocks on the door, and when no one answers, she lets herself in. Quietly, she closes the door behind her, turning to look around the room. He is asleep in his bed, facing the wall. The spare cot in the corner is empty. It's always empty. She drops her bag and pulls a spare blanket from the shelf, wrapping herself up and lying on the cot. She cannot sleep, but she is comfortable. More comfortable than she was, anyway.

He wakes up first, and nearly falls off his bed when he sees her sleeping form on the other side of the room.

It'd been a while since she last came, and he had already ordered a new desk to be put into his room right where she was sleeping now.

He pushes the blankets off of him, and stumbles a bit across the room as he walks to her side. There's the look of exhaustion and anxiety on her still form, and he wonders how long she'll want to stay this time.

He does a quick check up, her neck, her arms, for bruises or cuts. There's nothing to be found and he feels a little guilty for feeling a little disappointed. Because he doesn't know what's bothering her now.

He decides to let her sleep in a few more hours before waking her up. Scratching his bare chest as he steps into the washroom, he thinks about putting his new desk in his office downstairs.

She wakes in the early morning. She doesn't know where she is, at first. She is disoriented, unaccustomed to the faint, false lighting that fills the room. And then she remembers where she's seen the false lighting before, and she rests her head upon the pillow once again, tucking the blanket around her neck for warmth.

She stares at the cool grey wall. She doesn't feel so well. She knows not to get up. It'll only make it worse. She doesn't know if he is in the room, but she doesn't want to disturb him. Now that she thinks about it, it wasn't such a good idea to come here. She only ever comes here when she needs something. And that makes her feel guilty.

She takes a deep breath. She is uncomfortable again.

He remembers that he needs to buy a few razors when he looks at himself in the mirror. His jawline is covered in little hairs that make him look older and quite lazy and he knows that's not the proper image of a Faction leader.

He brushes his teeth and changes into his work pants and shirt. Rikku's arrival had been sudden. He already had plans with a girl tonight, and he wondered if leaving her alone in the temple - especially after all the workers will have gone home - would be alright.

Besides, maybe she doesn't plan on staying long anyway. Maybe she just came by to say 'hey' and grab a bite to eat or something. But somehow he knows that's not the case.

He returns to his room to get his eye patch, and sees her suddenly close her eyes tightly. He smirks a bit and grabs his eye patch from the top of his dresser, carefully strapping it on as he walks toward her.

"Mornin'," he says.

She jumps as his voice echoes through the quiet room, looking over her shoulder at him as he finishes putting on his eye patch. Now she feels even guiltier. She hopes he isn't smirking because he's happy to see her. She shouldn't have come. He is her friend, not her saviour, she tells herself.

She wants to jump up and go back to her lonely hotel room, though she feels better here, in this cot. She wants to leave before she allows herself to become a burden, or worse, before he tells her he won't let her stay. But Gippal would never do that. And she knows she'll make herself sick if she moves too much.

"Hey," she says back.

She doesn't sound so cheery, so he knows it's not just a 'hey long time no see' visit. She looks tired, and her voice is soft and weak.

The longer he watches her, the more he wants to ask her straight up why she suddenly decided to drop by. Why she never gave him a call, or even bothered with a quick 'hello' every time the Celsius had to come down for repairs. And maybe she didn't notice these things -- they weren't really noticeable against the backdrop of reform and peace in Spira -- and so maybe he'd seem a little desperate if he asks. And he's not desperate. Just a little worried.

She breaks their gaze and stares at the ground, and he gently runs his fingers underneath her chin before leaving the room and telling her that her toothbrush is still in the sink cabinet.

She smiles. Only he would keep her toothbrush. Others would have thrown it out to make sure she never came back. But Gippal was a good friend. He always took care of her.

She closes her eyes and braces herself before pushing the blankets off of her warm body and standing shakily. The room swims in front of her eyes, and so she waits for the dizziness to go away. She walks out of the room, breathing deeply as she enters the bathroom. She doesn't look at herself in the mirror, this time. She knows that she'll only see tired rings around her eyes and pale cheeks. Instead, she reaches into the cabinet and pulls out her toothbrush.

"Thank you, Gippal," she whispers.

There's a big cardboard box in the middle of the temple with the words: "RIN'S FURNITURE WORLD" printed in big, bold letters along the front side. Gippal is excited, and ready to rip open the box right then and there, and put the pieces together by the time Rikku comes down.

He does exactly that, carefully hammering in the last nail on the last wooden board to the final side of the desk before he hears footsteps coming from upstairs. He immediately drops his hammer and shoves the desk toward a corner cluttered with broken machines and useless garbage. And when she arrives and asks him about the noise, he simply tells her that it was from a failed experiment that the workers just blew up.

She'd forgotten how noisy Djose was. She likes it. It takes her mind off of things. She busies herself in an empty workroom. She doesn't think Gippal will mind, but she doesn't ask him about it, either. Maybe she can earn her keep by getting some things finished.

She brings her breakfast back to the workroom to eat silently, as she listens to the hammering and fizzing noises issuing from other corners of the temple. She likes the atmosphere. It reminds her of security. She needs security.

Halfheartedly, she munches on her toast as she works in the secluded room.

When it's nearly an hour left before he sends the last of the workers home for the evening, he really wants to ask her why she decided to come. They usually didn't go on quiet for this long, and he's starting to get worried again, and he doesn't like it because it makes him hammer his thumb twice and drill a hole through the wall by accident.

He finally finds her sitting in one of the emptier workrooms, a bit bent over and a bit sickly looking as she stares fixatedly on the pile of machine in front of her. "It's okay," he says.

He walks over to her and helps her to her feet. "I have to go somewhere later. You'll be alright here?"

He knows its a selfish question because she can't say 'no'. But he also knows it'll take a while for her to confess what's been bothering her all day, and it doesn't hurt to go out and have a little fun until she's ready to talk.

She glances at him, rubbing her arm distractedly. She's not feeling well, again.

He looks a little concerned, but she doesn't want to tell him yet. She doesn't want to be the burden yet. Especially if he's going somewhere later. She smiles a little... she knows what that means.

"I'll be okay. I'm fine... alone. It's... it's okay if I stay?" She looks straight at him, her defeated eyes questioning. She doesn't want to bog him down, she really doesn't. She doesn't want to be the girl who only arrives when she needs a shoulder to cry on, either. But she is. And she hates it.

He's a bit surprised and a bit offended when she asks him that. Giving her a reassuring smile and running his hand gently through her hair he says, "Yeah, of course you can."

But he feels a bit uneasy when he leaves the temple that evening. "...alone..." she had emphasized. And maybe he's feeling a little guilty for trying to block that out of his mind. But she's probably just having girl problems, or got into a typical argument with Brother.

He decides to drive back to the temple when he's halfway into town. Jumping off his new machine bike with the keys still in the ignition, and running up the steps and through the temple halls like mad until he finally reaches his bedroom.

And there she is. Looking up at him with a curious look as she holds a pile of clothes in her arms, wondering what he's doing back so early.

He stares at her for a little while, hand gripping the wall as he catches his breath. He eventually tells her he forgot his wallet, walks over to his drawer and pulls out a stupid, empty something and stuffs it into his pocket.

He gives her a quick kiss on the forehead before he leaves again, and this time he feels much better.

She was shocked at the kiss he planted on her forehead earlier that evening. Usually, he was not so sentimental. But, it seems, now he is. She stretches out on her cot, wrapped around a pillow, as she waits for him to come home.

She knows she shouldn't wait. He might not come back that quickly, after all. But she can't help it.

She glares at the laundry at the foot of her bed, waiting to be folded. She knows she should try to be organized, but she leaves it alone. She isn't yet ready for organization.

She watches the door, sighing when it remains shut. She wants to talk to him, but she knows she shouldn't. She wants to have someone to lean on, but she knows he shouldn't have to be the supporting beam beneath a fragile house.

Authors' Note: Hi, everyone… as you may be able to tell from the pen name, this story is written by both Jezzi and Black Eyed Mistress. We're writing it together, combining styles and ideas, and pretty much experimenting. This story is written in RPG forum style, so the perspectives switch a lot (as you've most likely noticed). We both hope you enjoy reading, and we both would love it if we got a nice amount of reviews as compared to views, if you know what we mean. Please, let us know what you think. This is the first time we've tried a combination fic in this style, and we want to know how you like it, what bothers you, what you hate, etc. Thanks for reading! Please review!