This was the last straw

This was the last straw! Rikku stormed away from Gippal's workshop, fuming from their latest friction. It wasn't enough that he was always treating her like she was still a child to be coddled, but lately he had begun interfering with her choice of a life as an adventurer. It was dangerous, he said. As if Rikku didn't know that! As if she couldn't handle herself! She had, after all, survived both Sin and Vegnagun. Yet Gippal still seemed to believe she was a fragile girl. Rikku let out a wordless scream of frustration as she left Djose Temple and stomped down the Mushroom Rock Road. It took forever, but eventually she came to the entrance of the Youth League headquarters. Rikku paused and looked down the road speculatively. Paine was visiting Nooj (again!). Maybe she would have some words of wisdom to calm Rikku down.

This, of course, was a mistake, which the blonde should have realized before hand. Paine had even more of a hot temper than Rikku herself did. The red-eyed woman, upon learning that Gippal was being even more pig-headed than usual, promptly up and left without even a goodbye to Nooj, off to beat some sense in to Gippal. Hurt time. Paine, however, was much more reserved in her anger than her blonde friend. She took a hover down the trail to the temple, silent and brooding the whole ride. She had carefully planned what it was she had wanted to say to her intended victim, but when she strode in the large workshop in the huge temple foyer and saw Gippal bent over his own machina project, pouting, all her careful planning went out the window. She strode right up to her oldest friend and turned him forcefully around by his shoulder.

"What is wrong with you?" she demanded. The Al Bhed man blinked wildly at her, blindsided by her sudden appearance and random seeming interrogation.

"Um, hello Paine," he said. His innocent answer only angered her more.

"Do you want to explain to me why you're being such an ass?" she asked in that deadly quiet voice that meant she was truly mad. Gippal threw up his hands up mock surrender, his one visible eye a little wide. She did have a rather large sword strapped to her back after all.

"First things first, explain what you're talking about, then I'll make my apologies and excuses," he told her, eyeing the sword. Paine crossed her arms over her chest.

"I am talking about Rikku," she spat at him. He sighed in resignation.

"I see," he said. "Look, I'm just trying to look out for her, it's not my fault she doesn't realize the dangers she's putting herself in." He made to turn back to his machinery but Paine again turned him to face her. Annoyance crept in to his face.

"She can more than take care of herself and you know it!" Paine exclaimed, "Why do you insist on bothering her about her way of life? At least she's happy!" Narrowing his eyes, Gippal grabbed a nearby rag to wipe the grease from his fingers, succeeding only in smearing the biggest globs off on to the cloth.

"I know she can handle fiends, but that doesn't mean she has to go seeking them out! Just because she can handle the danger doesn't mean she has to go looking for it!" he threw the rag away and walked around Paine to a workbench filled with parts, rummaging through them. Paine followed him, her black boots clicking on the dirty marble floor.

"But she likes it! Yevon help me, Gippal what is your problem!" Paine demanded, throwing her hands in the air. Finally anger welled up in Gippal's chest and he hurled the metal piston he was holding at the floor, causing echoes to explode all around the huge workroom, and faced the woman.

"I'm just trying to protect her!" he roared.

"Well she doesn't need you to, so why?" Paine yelled back.

"Because I love her!" his voice cracked a little.

"I know that!" Paine dismissed his reasoning.

"But she doesn't!" Gippal's voice wound down and he went still. "She doesn't know," he said quietly. Paine crossed her arms, a bit of anger still simmering, but overshadowed by her confusion now.

"What does Rikku not knowing about your feelings have to do with any of this?" she questioned him. Gippal threw his head back and put his hands over his face.

"She doesn't know what it would do to me, Paine," he said, lowering his gaze to the floor. "How could I go on living if she died? Huh? She doesn't understand how hard it is to watch her ride off in that airship of hers and know that…that this might be the last time she comes back. What if she didn't come back? I couldn't…" he trailed off. He'd been over this so many times in his head it seemed almost pointless to voice it all to Paine. What could she possibly say to him that he hadn't said to himself? He looked up to find her expression a trifle surprised.

"Gippal," she began, then stopped, not really knowing what to say.

"What can I do Paine?" he asked. "She doesn't even know how I feel. She doesn't know what I do, what I'd give for her! If she asked, I'd drop the Faction like a rock and follow her around on her little quests. But she wouldn't ask, would she?" He turned back to the bench, leaning his hands on the edge and hanging his head, feeling sweat drip down his forehead. It was clear to any who knew him how much he loved the Faction. The fact that he'd give it up for Rikku said a lot, he thought. Paine was thinking along the same thoughts. And so was the unnoticed person in the open temple doorway.

"What can I do Paine?" Gippal repeated, head down and eyes closed. "How could I tell her I love her? I can't. I just…can't. I-" He raised his head away from the bench and caught sight of who was in the doorway. He froze, unable to look away from Rikku, framed by the afternoon sunlight. He felt himself start to shake in a sudden rush of fear. He heard Paine gasp behind him as she saw what he saw.

"How long have you been there?" Paine asked. Rikku didn't take her shocked eyes off the terrified Gippal.

"Ever since you said I was happy," she replied meekly. Gippal felt his heart shrivel. She had heard everything! Everything! Anger aimed at nothing in particular flooded him, and yet he felt himself deflating just as fast. A million and six emotions battled for dominance on his face before his features finally settled in to a look of defeat.

"I don't even care," he whispered. He stuck his face in to Paine's and said it stronger, "I don't even care." Then he turned and walked away, up the pathway to the Cloister of Trials, where quarters had been installed. "Just get out of my shop," he called back over his shoulder. "Leave me to my…my…ugh I don't even have a life!" and with that he retreated deep within the labyrinth of corridors, one of which held his rooms. When the doors had shut the workshop was silent for a few seconds before Paine turned to Rikku, still standing in the doorway.

"Rikku, why did you come back?" she asked. Rikku was still staring at the door Gippal had disappeared behind.

"I…I was so mad…I wanted to hear what his excuse was when you yelled at him…I had no idea that he…" she finally tore her eyes away from the Cloister to glare accusingly at Paine. "You knew!" she screamed. Paine winced.

"Yeah. Yeah I knew," she confessed. Rikku crossed the room to her and poked her in the chest.

"Why didn't you say anything?" she demanded. Paine rolled her eyes.

"Duh, he asked me not to," she replied. Rikku glared at her once more, than stalked away, her head in a whirlwind of confusion. Paine watched her go and wondered if Gippal's whole world had just been destroyed and without even having anyone to blame. And what could he even do about it?

A month went by and the Machine Faction had seen neither head nor tail of their leader. Things were running ok without him, but he was their best mechanic, their best foreman, and a wise problem solver. A frequent visitor of his, that red eyed woman, had told them that he had locked himself away in his rooms, but no one in the Faction knew which rooms in the maze of the Cloister were his. He was, therefore, impossible to find. Some grew frantic with worry; a blonde haired woman and her gray haired friend in particular never went far from the temple.

Gippal glared at the sunset light that managed to circumvent the shades drawn over his window. His room was a mess, clothes and dishes everywhere on the floor, the bed rumpled and unmade, and the en-suite bathroom was just as bad. None of that, however, compared to Gippal himself. He was a wreck. His face was unshaven, his clothes were a week old, he hadn't showered in a few days, and his eyes had such a dead look to them that he had shoved his fist into his mirror. This resulted in huge cuts in his right hand, but he hadn't bothered to wash them out and they grew infected. Thus here he sat with a constantly throbbing hand and a broken heart. He had cried a great deal in the first few days, and now they had mostly run their course, although he still had occasional fits. He had descended in to the stage of grief where one no longer cares about anything, even living. Therefore, although he knew he was wasting away, he didn't move from his position, laying on the floor and half propped up against his bed. Sleep would not come without nightmares, so he had taken to letting exhaustion overcome him before dousing himself with Sleeping Powder. He had just so doused himself and drifted off, head lolled against chest, when the door cracked open and a gasp came from the slim figure that stood there. They immediately shut the door and ran off again, a short event and he was none the wiser that his solitude had been disturbed.

It was sunset again when finally Gippal swam up in to consciousness and he immediately wondered if he had slept at all. The shade over his window made the room dark, which he approved of. He felt dark. Just as he was fully awake, his door cracked open. Confused, he squinted up in to the sudden light with his one good eye, painfully aware that he was not wearing his eye patch and the scars were bared for whomever it was to see. No one had ever seen his scars. Without an once of care he stared blearily at the figure in the light. They let out a feminine gasp and shut the door behind them, leaning back against it.

It was Rikku.

Pain ripped through Gippal's chest as he saw whom it was that had finally found him and he turned away, staring at the floor in front of him. Rikku leaned against the door it total shock. She had been warned that the place was a 'freaking state of the emergency' as Brother had once put it, but she hadn't quite expected it to be this bad. It was as if the man had just given up on life or something.

"How did you find me?" his voice was dead and empty and she hated it. He was supposed to be full of life and laughter and a never dying spirit. To see him so broken tore at her.

"Yuna," Rikku whispered. "She…I don't know how she did it. But you were sleeping when she was here. She told me where you were." She almost couldn't bring herself to believe that this was, indeed, the Gippal she had grown up with.

"What are you doing here?" he asked in that same soulless voice.

"Gippal…" she whispered, venturing slowly away from the door and kneeling down next to him. He refused to look at her. She gave a small cry when she caught sight of the injury he had given himself. "Your hand!" she cried in concern. She immediately grasped it in her own hands to see what was wrong with it, but caught the fleeting look of pain that crossed his face. It wasn't a physical pain. She sighed and reached up to turn his face towards her. He let his head fall to the side, but still his eyes remained fixed on the ground at her feet.

"Gippal please look at me?" she pleaded with him. She needed something, some sign of life. She needed to know he was still himself deep down and she needed it with a desperation that she had never felt before. She couldn't lose him! Eventually his eyes wandered away from the floor, slowly rising, inch-by-inch, as if he feared to meet her gaze. And he did. He feared that to look at her would be his undoing. When their eyes finally met she saw him begin to shake, holding back the tears.

"What are you doing to yourself?" she whispered, as the tears grew thicker in his eyes until one trailed softly down his cheek.

"I tried so hard," he whispered back. She gave him a confused look, stroking his left cheek softly. "I tried so hard not to let you know. And then suddenly you're there, hearing everything I've ever wanted to say, and all I see in your eyes is disbelief." Now that she held his gaze, he seemed unable to tear his eyes from hers. He seemed afraid that this would finally be the last time. In fact, he seemed convinced. Gently, yet firmly, Rikku took his face in her hands.

"Gippal you have to stop this," she pleaded with him. "Please, you could die!" He blinked and another tear fell as he looked her right in the eye and said words she never thought he could say.

"Who cares?" he whispered. Rikku gasped and suddenly her own tears were welling. They fell hard and fast and he watched them in an abstracted sort of incredulity, like he didn't understand.

"Why are you crying for me Rikku?" he asked.

"Yevon damn it Gippal!" she cried, pressing her forehead to his. "Couldn't you tell?" she asked. He continued to look at her with those dead eyes that broke her heart.

"Please Rikku," he whispered, but she cried out and suddenly brought her mouth crashing down on his. His breath stopped. His heart stopped. His entire world stopped spinning as he felt his life spark grow just a bit brighter and his eyes widened. He couldn't even kiss her back. When she pulled away she was sobbing brokenly, looking at him like he had wanted her to for so long. But she couldn't, could she?

"You fool!" she said softly through her tears. "Couldn't you see that this whole time I've wanted you too?" She barely gave him enough time to realize what she had said before she crashed down on him again like a wave. He stirred to life, burrowing in to her hair with his good hand, sitting up and pulling her closer with the other. Her tears soaked his face and washed away some of the sweat and grief as they kissed, their lips moving together like the world would end. He couldn't believe the bliss, the peace that washed over him as he felt her hands touching his face, memorizing every detail. He couldn't bring himself to move his hand from her silken hair, afraid that if he moved any more she would vanish like she always did in his dreams. Eventually they broke apart again and he realized that the tears on his face were not all hers. He smiled a very small smile as she wiped her thumbs under his eyes to push away the tears, but they wouldn't stop coming. She laughed at him a little, until suddenly he saw her gaze go to the pale flesh that had been covered by his eye patch for so long. She reached out a hand towards that part of his face and he immediately stiffened, giving her pause.

"I always assumed that you'd somehow lost the eye," she said, examining the scarring around a perfectly functional eye. "What happened?"

"An accident," he replied quietly, as if the memories still hurt. "I was very young." He finally let her reach out and trace the scars, but he remained quite stiff. They were sensitive; although they had lost the ugly purple-ish cast that they'd had for years. Now they were simply a ring of hideously cratered and bumpy lines around his eye. Said eye was slightly sensitive to light because of its long time hidden behind an eye patch. Rikku found herself fascinated instead of repulsed; but this wasn't surprising, she'd always found battle scars a little…sexy. They showed that the person was an adventurer, they weren't afraid of a little danger. She traced each scar before looking in to his eyes again. They were the same old Al Bhed green, with the swirl in the pupil, but his had a tint of blue that was uniquely him. She loved it. Suddenly he blushed deeply and she tilted her head in confusion.

"I must smell horrible," he said sheepishly. Rikku threw her head back and laughed loudly.

"It is a bit raunchy in here," she teased him. He smiled and struggled to stand on his weak legs. She helped him until he was up and using the wall for support.

"I'll go shower, wouldn't want to offend you," he joked back. Rikku's smile was like the dawn when she finally saw his old self behind those beautiful eyes. This was the Gippal she had grown up with. This was her Gippal. She watched him retreat in to the bathroom then looked around. It took a bit of digging around, but finally the laundry shoot was located and all his dirty clothes were piled in to it, on their way to the laundry room to be washed by those who worked down there. Now to tackle the bed.

Gippal closed his eyes and leaned his head forward, letting the steaming water flow over his blonde hair and naked body carelessly. He had washed himself over twice by the time he felt clean enough to not offend Cid's girl with the smell of him. The heat and steam helped clear his head and his thoughts as well. He twisted the knobs and the jet stopped pounding his now red skin. Stepping out, he groped for a towel, wrapped it around his waist, and looked over at the fragments of the mirror he had smashed. The wall behind where it had sat had a lovely crack in the tiles, and a few dried blood streaks. Gippal picked up one of the larger fragments off the floor and gazed at his reflection. There was a marked difference from the man that Yuna had found alone on the floor, waiting for nothing. His eyes were no longer so dead, no longer haunted by himself. There was something else there, something almost like a hope he was trying hard not to let take hold. He was too afraid to hope just yet. With a small smile he used a broom that was miraculously behind the door to sweep the mirror together and in to the garbage bin. Then he opened the door and stepped in to his room. He stopped and blinked; it was clean! His clothes and dishes were all gone, his shades were up, and his bed was made. And to top it off, there on his bed sat Rikku, swinging her legs over the side and smiling up at him. Her smile faltered a bit and her eyes widened when he stepped in to the room though, and she stared, making him nervous.

Rikku took in his wet hair, the low-slung white towel, and the lack of any other clothing, and was a bit speechless. His muscles were still chiseled after a month of sloth, although he had lost much weight, and his skin looked so smooth she had an urge to lick it. Even more distracting was the fact that his entire body was still glistening wet from the shower. Her eyes tracked the path of a droplet that fell from his hair on to his shoulder, watching as it made it's way over his chest, beside his nipple, down his delicious abs, and in to the depths of his loose towel. Rikku swallowed rather hard at that point. Finally she managed to pull her eyes away from Gippal's – she gulped again – wet body and when she did, she noticed that he seemed a bit nervous.

"Feeling ok now?" she asked, trying to sound nonchalant instead of insanely turned on. He shifted his weight from foot to foot.

"I didn't think you'd still be here," he replied uncertainly.

"Why would I leave?" she was a bit surprised that he would assume so.

"I don't know," he said lamely, seeming uncomfortable in just his towel, but she was sitting on the end of the bed, right next to his dresser. When she realized this she grinned wickedly and didn't move. She'd be damned if she would speed up the process of him hiding his body behind clothes.

"You never told me what happened to your eye," she stated instead. She watched his face grow surprised, then close off even worse than when she had first tried to touch the scars. He stepped over to and past her, rummaging through his dresser without meeting her eyes.

"I did," he disagreed in a tight voice. "It was an accident."

"An accident with a machina?" Rikku tried to pry gently, but the curiosity was killing her. He'd had that patch since before she could remember. She'd never even thought to ask about it, it was just a part of him!

"Not quite," he said quietly, turning away with garments in his hands and heading for the bathroom.

"Gippal!" Rikku jumped up and put a hand on his bare shoulder, suppressing the shiver the wracked her at how smooth his skin really was. He stopped walking, but didn't face her. "What happened?" she asked in a whisper. He was silent for a long time, and he kept his back to her while he spoke, head down.

"My father did it," he said, making her gasp. "He was drinking, walking around the junkyard back Home. I was looking for him, but when I found him he attacked me. Said I wasn't the son he had wanted. I haven't seen him since." Rikku stared at the back of his head, shocked. She had heard a rumor when she was young that it had been a fiend attack, and had grown up thinking that was what had happened.

"Oh Gippal," she whispered, taking him by the arm and turning him around. The look he gave her was searching for any sign of disgust, whether of his or his eye, but she gave him only a smile. She threw her arms around his neck and he shyly hugged her back. She pulled her head back and, without stopping to think about it, kissed him reassuringly. When she pulled away from the kiss he was wide-eyed and breathless.

"What?" she asked warily. His eyes shone with honesty as he spoke.

"If you kissed me every day for the rest of my life I could never get over the wonder of it," he told her fervently, so innocently. Rikku blushed a deep pink and giggled in spite of herself, then wrapped her arms about his still bare waist and rested her head on his chest. He had no objections to this. When she sighed his name almost unconsciously she was in a perfect position to hear his heartbeat rise rapidly. Rikku decided she wanted to make it beat harder. The kiss she pressed to his lips was a serious type of kiss, one that promises amazing things to come within a very short amount of time, and as they moved together she was grasping his hips and moving backwards, walking him towards the bed. He seemed almost frightened as she lowered them on to the sheets together. It was so sweet and innocent it caught at her heart.

Gippal found himself on his back with Rikku above him, gazing in to his eyes reassuringly as her hands soothed his chest and abs, trailing about and leaving fire in their wakes. His eyes closed of their own accord the lower her hands ventured until suddenly they stopped. When he opened his eyes to see what the matter was it was to witness her pulling off the lacy arm covers she wore and tossing aside the blue bandana. The way her hair fell about her in a million tiny braids shortened his breath and he ran his good hand through the loose hair, loving how alive it felt. Rikku lifted herself until she sat astride his waist. Gippal watched her like he couldn't believe this was actually happening. However, when she reached behind her back and sensually untied the strings holding that skimpy yellow bikini top on and tossed in carelessly aside, freeing her breasts, instinct took over. Hunger glazed his eyes and Rikku found herself on the bottom now, with Gippal's hot mouth suddenly ravaged her breasts, leaving her gasping for air. His suckled on a nipple and bit it lightly, making her cry out. Then he was kissing her stomach, making a trail downward, his hands grasping for the edge of her skirt, and all she could do was fist her hands in his hair, pulling him closer. And then her skirt was gone and he was kissing a trail around the rim of her yellow bottoms, teasing her and yet driving her closer to the edge without effort. His nimble fingers reached in to the material and pulled it off her agonizingly slow.

Gippal watched as every bit of her was exposed with the wonder of a man discovering hidden treasure. He had waited so long for this and every moment was precious, every new inch of skin revealed was to be coveted and memorized. When she lay fully nude before him he lowered his face to her folds, blowing warm air across her and feeling her shiver violently against him. He drew his tongue along them slowly and Rikku could no longer hold in her moan. With that music in his ears, he kissed her folds once before delving in with his tongue and making Rikku cry out raggedly. Gods how he had waited! Not to be inside her, but simply to hear her cry out for him, and only him. Her hips rocked against him as he plundered deeper, stroking her velvet insides and reaching up a hand to circle her clit. Just when he knew she was about to explode she reached for his shoulders and pulled his face back up to her own. He looked up to find her eyes half lidded and unfocused, her expression dazed and eager. Her tiny hands slid between the two of them and untied the towel from his waist, throwing it to the ground and sliding around to grasp his ass. Gippal shuddered as she brought him closer so he dragged against her and they both moaned together.

"Gippal," his eyes shot up to her face again to see that she had cried out his name without thought and happiness threatened to overwhelm his lust. But then she was pulling him closer, pleading with her body. So before he could have time to hesitate Gippal placed himself at her entrance and slid inside. All of a sudden he was fighting not to come right then and there. Yevon, but she was so hot, so tight! And she might not have known it, but she was his first. How could he ever have another when he had only ever wanted her? She was making the most delicious sounds and as he pulled out and pushed slowly back in she only increased her volume. Rikku pulled at his hips as desperately as he clung to the bed sheets beneath her. Both were breathing in shaky gasps and neither could resist the moans and cries that welled in their throats. And then Rikku was clutching his back, her nails digging in so hard they pierced his flesh, and her cries were more frantic than ever. He was leading her to an edge higher than she had ever been to, and she crashed down screaming his name in such a beautiful way. Her felt her insides clamp down on him and he fought against his own orgasm. There was, however, no denying Rikku, and she pulled him crashing right along with her, yelling her name with abandon, his voice filled with love despite how animalistic the shout had been. Instead of collapsing on top of her, Gippal forced his shaking arms to hold him up for a moment longer so he could stare down at Rikku, while she tried to recapture the art of breathing. She finally managed to open her eyes and saw how he was looking at her. It melted her heart. Then she laughed gaily at him.

"I've gone and made you all sweaty again," she pointed out. His arms finally gave out and he fell beside her, laughing along.

"Yes but now you're dirty too," he shot back jovially, making her laugh harder.

"Gippal, I love you too, you know," she whispered in his ear, mid laugh. When he turned in surprise she captured his lips, rolled him over, and they started all over again.