One more time, people: I am not the owner and/or proprietor of Final Fantasy IX. That privilege belongs to Squaresoft.

love (`luv) n:
By Trick Sparrow

Chapter 6

"I've never told anyone this before," said Blank quietly, his arm around me tightly, "but when my mother became pregnant with me, I wasn't the most welcome presence. I'm surprised she didn't just get an abortion. I don't know if my father, whoever he is, knew about me, but I'm sure he never thought twice about my mother after their one night stand." He shook his head in disgust. "She was a slut.

"After I was born, she neglected me as much as humanly possible. She didn't even bother to provide a name for my birth certificate, so the doctors just assumed my name was 'Blank'." He laughed bitterly, and I waited patiently for him to continue. "My mother hated me from the second she saw me. I'm not sure if it was because she had to waste all her money supporting me, or because she couldn't get a single date after guys found out she had a kid, but... one day, she just got sick of it.

"When I was four years old, she took me into one of the back alleys in Treno and dropped me into a garbage can. She didn't want anyone to find out what she had done, so she... lit a match and threw it in."

"Oh, Blank," I whispered, blinking back tears. I wrapped my arm around his chest-- his blessedly intact chest, and closed my eyes, horrified that anyone could do that to their own child.

"Thankfully, someone found me and put out the fire. But by the time I was taken to the hospital, my skin was so badly burnt that the doctors had to do massive skin grafts. That's why--" he held up his hand, "--I look like this. And I'm also half-blind."

Looking up into his face through the falling rain, I was appalled beyond words. Not because of what he had become. To realize how lucky I was to be here, in Blank's arms, when he could very well be long dead, incinerated by his own selfish mother, was almost more than I could bear. I clung to him gratefully, fearful that his precious life might be snatched from me at any moment.

Slowly, hesitantly, he lifted his hands and unbuckled the leather belt. As he lowered it from his face, I saw the Blank that he had never allowed anyone to see. His auburn eyebrows were half-burned away, and there was a mass of shiny scar tissue covering his forehead. His right eye was completely grown shut, his lid melded with the flesh under his eye. An angry red scar streaked across his left eye, which was bloodshot. The iris was a pale, lack-luster grey.

They were the most beautiful eyes had ever seen.

I leaned in close to him and kissed the rain from his ravaged lashes, pressed my lips against those destroyed eyelids. Resting my forehead against his; smooth skin to scarred flesh, I smiled.

"Now I know what love is," I said.

He traced his fingers, his wonderfully mismatched fingers, down my cheek. Lifting my chin up gently, he lowered his lips to meet mine. I gasped softly, enveloped in pure bliss, as he caressed the nape of my neck lightly and deepened the kiss. Burying my fingers in his wet cinnamon hair, I wished for anything but to have to break away.

When Blank finally drew his lips away with a sweet, aching reluctance, he grinned his precious lopsided grin. "I'm cold," he whispered.

:::Dearest Zidane,

I have you, Dagger, and Marcus to thank for everything. I will write them both letters expressing my gratitude, but for now I just wanted to tell you that *you*, Big Bro, did something that nobody else did: You believed in me.

You knew everything was going to be fine again, and you were right. You always seem to know just what to say, even if it does not always comfort me. Thanks to your faith in me, I am happy. No, more importantly, Blank is happy.

I have sworn him the secrecy of keeping his past between us, but I must tell you something while keeping my promise. He still wears the belt. It saddens me that he cannot come to terms with that which has befallen him, yet I understand why he chooses not to.

At least he is happy, and that is all that matters to me.

I sometimes think I do not deserve to have you for a brother. I snapped at you when you took me from the Black Mage village, but now I cannot imagine life away from Lindblum, my friends... And Blank. I love him, Zidane, and I would never have met him if it had not been for you.

Thank you.

Your little sis,


*reaches for Kleenex box* Oh, my Lord, I'm actually crying. Please... leave a review... Click the little link at the bottom of the screen.