AS ALWAYS, Final Fantasy IX, its characters, and its elements do not belong me, but the all-powerful Squaresoft. If they were in my possession, I'd be rollin' in the dough, let me tell ya!

love (`luv) n:
By Trick Sparrow

Chapter 1

No matter how many times Zidane had told me, I was certain that I did not fit in here. In fact, I was beginning to think that bringing me to Lindblum was merely a practical joke on his part. People on the street would stare at me, whisper to each other, and ask me irritating questions. Why my brother refused take me back to the Black Mage village was beyond me. I simply stood out.

Quite frankly, if it had been up to me, I would still be on Terra, in my familiar home in Bran Bal. It was comfortable, reassuring. But thanks to Kuja, that is no longer a possibility. Arrogant fool. Why couldn't he have found some other way to assert his independence?

Zidane... you're as difficult as our older brother sometimes.

"Hey, if it isn't Tribal's little sis! Glad to finally meet you!"

I looked up from sorting and cataloguing books at the Lindblum library (Zidane thought it was the perfect job for me. I'll get him someday.) to see a strange figure standing before me. He was short young man of about seventeen, two years older than I, and his flaming red hair was decidedly not his most outstanding feature. He had a belt of some sort around his head, drooping low enough to prevent one from looking in his eyes. But the most unusual thing about him was his skin: mismatched and varying in color, almost... crudely sewn together. Still, there was something warm and friendly about his lopsided grin that made me instantly relaxed.

I blinked, my tail thrashing in confusion. "I'm sorry, do I know you?" I tried asking politely.

The man laughed, a pleasant, easy laugh. "Oh, whoops, I didn't even introduce myself. Name's Blank, your brother Zidane told me you were living here. Your family trait--" He gestured to my wildly swishing tail, "--gave you away."

"I'm Mikoto. Pleased to meet you, Mr. Blank," I said, only to hear another laugh.

"No, it's just Blank." He smiled. "Mikoto, huh? That's kinda pretty."

Suddenly I realized Zidane had pretty good taste in friends.

"So when did you get here, anyway?" Blank asked as we rode in the aircab to the Business District, where my embarrassingly small apartment was located. He had insisted that he accompany me home after my shift was over, standing by his claim that "Lindblum after dark is no place for a defenseless Genome."

"Four days ago," I replied, tearing my eyes from the window as the cab flew over the city. Though Bran Bal had been a highly advanced establishment, I still could not hide my fascination with the countless airships that flooded the skies over Lindblum.

"And Zidane left, just like that?" He shook his head in disbelief. "Some bro. If he was here right now, I'd kick him from here to Daguerreo."

I smiled faintly. "At least someone shares my intentions."

He leaned toward me intently, apparently studying my features. How such a thing was possible for him with that belt covering his eyes was hard to guess. "Was that a smile I just saw? You really should do that more often."

I shrugged, letting my gaze return to the view out the windows. "Smiling was unnecessary in Bran Bal."

His head cocked to one side. "What was it like on Terra, anyway?"

"Very orderly," I replied. "Nothing was out of place. Even the water was predictable. Everything had a logic to it." I leaned back, sighing. "Things are so much different on Gaia. This city, the people, the whole world is... illogical."

I looked up at Blank to see him smiling. "God knows you're not the only one who's realized that." The aircab came to a stop, and he stood up, holding out his hand. "Shall we?"

I placed my hand tentatively in his, and we stepped out of the cab. After a few short blocks, we were standing outside my apartment building.

"Thank you for walking me home, Blank," I said, attempting another smile.

This seemed to please him immensely. "Don't mention it, Mikoto. It was *great* meeting you." He hesitated. "What are you doing tomorrow?"

I stared dumbly at him, then realized what he was implying. "Tomorrow is Saturday, so I don't have to work. I suppose I am not doing anything."

Blank bit his bottom lip. "Do you... Would you like to meet the rest of the Tantalus gang? We just got finished rebuilding our headquarters, and it looks great. I'm sure Marcus, Cinna, and the boss would really like you."

I smiled again, genuine this time. "That would be nice, Blank."

"So you will?" He grinned in refief. "Okay, I'll come over tomorrow at ten. Unless--" He trailed off, glancing askance of me.

"Ten o'clock is fine."

"All right, I'll see you then!" He took my hand awkwardly in his and pressed his lips against it. "Good night, Mikoto."

My eyes widened as he released my hand. Human behavior was such a strange thing. Still, I would be lying if I said I hadn't enjoyed it. I shook my head, dazed. "Good night, Blank."

He waited for me to open the door to the apartment building before he stepped off the stoop and began walking down the street, back to the aircab station. He stopped once to wave.

Waving back, I finally turned and headed up the stairs to unlock my apartment door. Once inside, I sat down on the windowsill overlooking the street, hoping Blank was still in sight. Sure enough, the red-haired young man was just entering the station. I craned my neck to watch him as he disappeared inside.

He was an odd human; probably one of the oddest I had ever met. He said and did unusual things, and he certainly was not the most ordinary-looking human I'd seen. But he had one of those personalities that made one feel lucky that one knew him.

In any case, Zidane would be happy that I had become friends with someone he was close to. I decided to write him a letter. After getting a sheet of paper and a feather pen from my battered desk, I sat down at the window and began to write.

:::Dear Zidane,

I thought you might like to hear from your sister, whom you dumped out here in "the big world". You will be pleased to know that I am not completely alone in Lindblum. Today I met one of your closest friends, Blank, who promised he would take me to meet the rest of Tantalus tomorrow. Blank is... strange, I must say. But he is also very warm and affectionate. I can see why you have a friend like him.

I would keep writing, but I must deliver this letter before the moogle downstairs goes to sleep. Besides, I must go to bed now if I am to be ready when Blank comes to meet me tomorrow.

Your little sister,

I stood up, stretching, and hurried downstairs to give the letter to the little animal. It was just getting ready to turn in for the night. "Excuse me?"

The moogle looked up at me. "Can I help you, kupo?"

"Yes," I said, handing it my letter. "Will you please deliver this to Zidane Tribal in Alexandria?"

It nodded excitedly, its red pompom violently bobbing. "Master Zidane! Yes, of course, kupo!"

I thanked the moogle and went back to my apartment upstairs. After I had finished changing into my nightclothes, brushing my teeth, and combing out my hair and my tail, (so many rituals one must perform before going to sleep) I crawled underneath my covers and closed my eyes.

Inexorably, my thoughts returned to Blank. Why was I thinking about him so often? He was just a human, just like Garnet, Eiko, Steiner, and Amarant. Why was he any different? I continually asked myself this question as I drifted off to sleep, the image of Blank's unsymmetrical smile forming in my head.


Hey, this is pretty fun, writing about characters who aren't even playable. I can bend them any way I want, and it won't make them out of character!