The Ties that Bind

Summary: There's only one thing that Gippal ever wanted in his life and, because of his past mistakes, he's struggling to come to terms with the fact that he just doesn't deserve to keep her for himself.

Author's Note: I'm not really sure what inspired this piece of fiction. It's a bit angsty and perhaps a little more nostalgic than I might have liked, but I think you'll agree that it's a pretty good read. I really do feel like this piece is complete as it is, though I'm sure I might be able to find a way to continue it, perhaps from Rikku's point of view, if you're willing to convince me. I'd appreciate it if you would take the time to read and review. Thanks and happy reading!

Gippal knew all the dangers of becoming too attached. He knew, perhaps better than most might have given him credit for, the risks of letting himself depend too much on the comforts of any one certain woman. But mostly Gippal knew best of all that it was healthier to keep whomever his pretty new flame might have been at any particular time of his pondering at arm's length. He'd learned his lesson more than his fair share of times over; all thanks to a certain Al Bhed Princess that seemed to always find some way to chalk his affections for her up as nothing more than their comfortable, childish banter.

It hadn't taken him the entirety of the four years that had passed since he'd last seen her to realize that, hard as he might try, he couldn't just ignore his feelings. But the three years and nine months that had passed since he'd actually admitted this realization to himself had only gotten more excruciating for the poor leader of the Machine Faction. Sometimes Gippal could feel himself going crazy, all cooped up in Djose temple, so far away from the object of his affections all the time.

He'd always been interested in the Princess of his people. Hell, he was certain beyond any amount of reasonable doubt that almost every Al Bhed man between the ages of living and dead would have given more than just a few of his limbs to have only a moment of her attention. So Gippal should have been happy to have even her friendship, right?

But, Shiva, was he so selfish that he honestly wanted more?

Gippal had always been interested in Rikku. But for the span of three years and nine months, he'd become obsessed – suddenly inextricably so. He was startled, at first, and somewhat frightened by how fast his feelings had escalated from 'fine-with-just-friends' to 'dying-to-be-something-more'. He was puzzled by how he could have lost control of his emotions in such a way; by how quickly his interest in the young Al Bhed Princess seemed to sky rocket.

And perhaps he was a little more than disappointed at how slowly her feelings seemed to do the same for him.

He should have known all along that she wouldn't have chosen a man like him. Gippal had a history, a past that he would have never been able to live with himself for tainting her with. Rikku was pure, the hero of Spira several times over and in ways that he couldn't even begin to understand. But what had he ever done to deserve her?

Run away from home and join the Crimson Squad without ever saying goodbye?

But by now, his hands were already too stained with blood and his fate already marked; scarred by the errors of his youth and the regrets of his past. He had been glad, so glad, that his Princess hadn't noticed the stains on his hands that day he'd asked her for hers. But he would have felt so guilty, not knowing how to explain things to her when she would finally realize the truth. She would be bemused by the way her hands would come away scarlet red after touching his shirt collar, woven with sin and dyed with death.

He'd listened so carefully as the only woman he knew he'd ever have the energy to love denied him. She'd denied him with her silence; never saying anything, at all.

But Gippal discerned the truth so well. Things were for the better this way; he'd never deserved to be in love with her in the first place. At least this way, she would never have to think that her brilliant white dress would be stained an adulterated shade of crimson if he'd ever been allowed to pull her close to seal their vows.

She left her books, her boots, her clothes, and a gap between them so wide he almost wondered if there was anything in this world to contravene it. He questioned if she knew that the greater the distance she put between them the more he wanted to be near her. But it had been so long, too long; and Gippal had filled the space between with so many different women that he'd lost count somewhere along the way. Sometimes he wondered if Rikku knew that, of everything she'd left behind, his heart seemed to be the only thing she'd taken with her.

But his heart was the only thing he didn't want her to bring back to Djose.

It was hers; it had always been hers and only hers. Gippal could console himself that, if only she would keep holding onto it, there would always be something more between them. There would always be some tie that could hold them together through anything.

No matter the distance that separated them.

No matter the time that tore them apart.

And Gippal was happy to throw his wants, his wishes and hopes and needs, to the heavens in a whirl of pyerflies. What was out of sight could be out of mind. Like his mother, died protecting him from the fiend that had claimed her life and his perfect vision. Like his comrades in the Crimson Squad, died at the hands of shady training exercises and secrecies they'd sworn to protect. Like his Home. Like his destined-to-fail relationships. Like his desire to return to the desert.

Out of sight.

Out of mind.

And so far out of reach.

Like his Al Bhed Princess.