Author's Note/Disclaimer: It took a while, but I finally got to writing this oneshot. Here's another deleted chapter from "Silence in Paradise" about Nine and Seven. Don't worry if you haven't read that story though, you'll understand what's going on if I've done my job right. To those of you that voted on my profile poll, I thank you. I do not own "9" or its characters.

*S. Snowflake


Before Too Late

"Come down from your fences, open a gate.

It may be raining, but there's a rainbow above you.

You'd better let somebody love you

Before it's too late."

-The Eagles.

The sky was gray and stormy that day above the ruins. If a bird had flown overhead, it would have seen a pile of twigs and metal shards piled in one spot in the wasteland. But there were no birds in the dead world, and this pile of wreckage was not quite what it seemed.

Every now and then, a movement would rustle amongst the wreckage, and a new tiny piece of wood would be added to the mess. This stirring was caused by four rag doll creatures, called Nine, Three, Four, and Seven.

Seven was putting in the lion share of work. Where her comrades would bring back one or two pieces of wood to their strange project, she would bring back two or three pieces at each turn. The others admired her persistence, but they hoped that she was being careful all the same.

The clouds that appeared on the horizon grew thicker as the day drew on. Nine, the leader of the group, stopped his gathering. Three and Four soon followed, and the three dolls' optics locked on the forming storm.

"That looks like a bad storm," Nine said. He stayed quiet for a bit longer before turning to the twin dolls Three and Four. "We have to find shelter." Then he looked around. "Where's Seven?"

The twin dolls, incapable of speech, made clicking noises as a response. From what he could understand of their language, Nine understood that Seven was out gathering more wood.

"Well, when you see her, tell her that we're calling it a day," Nine said. "I'll go cover up the boat."

Nine thought about Seven as he searched for a discarded sheet or rag. Being around her was awkward ever since he had tried to kiss her at the twins' library. She had been angry about his advance, and wouldn't speak to him unless it was absolutely necessary. As bad as he felt after her rejection, it was not being allowed to even talk to Seven that took its toll on him.

As fate would have it, Seven appeared right in front of him just as he had found a sheet. Nine tried to avert his eyes, but Seven's fierce warrior gaze was locked on his activities.

"What are you doing?" she asked, not even attempting to be friendly.

"I'm covering the boat up from the storm," Nine answered. "It looks like a bad one."

Seven raised her eye stitching and huffed. "Well, I'm not afraid of a little water."

Nine frowned as the female doll walked past him with a heavy load of lumber under her arm. He offered to take one of the pieces of wood, but she refused with the words "leave me alone."

Now Nine was angry. He tried to control his temper with Seven, but now she was being foolish, and endangering her life because of it.

"Seven, we need to stop!" Nine demanded, standing in front of her.

"Get out of my way," she growled.

Nine locked eyes with her and stared her down. "No, I won't."

Seven gave Nine a fierce glare. "Do you want me to get angry, Nine?"

"I don't care if you get angry," Nine retaliated. "I just want you to be safe."

"Ohh, I'm sure that's not all you want from me," Seven grunted.

"I apologized, didn't I?" Nine yelled, losing control against his better judgment. He cooled down a bit and added, "Whether you forgive me or not, I don't want you to get hurt. You could rust, or if another flash flood happens, you'll drown!"

Seven trembled as she tried to control her temper, then stopped. The young male wasn't worth her rage, especially when she wasn't really sure that she was mad at him. She looked away from the brown doll and sighed.

"Don't worry about me. I just want to work a bit longer."

Nine could have pressed the issue further, but he knew that he was going up against too stubborn a contender to trifle with. "Fine," was all he said and he walked away.

He soon returned to the twins, who both questioned him about Seven with their eyes.

"She'll be back soon," Nine lied and covered up the boat frame with the sheet. As soon as he was done, he and the twins headed to their nearest shelter, an old cellar, and settled down.

The rain came down in a matter of minutes. It started out as a gentle shower, but soon enough was pouring so hard that a small trickle of water streamed through the old cellar floor. As the minutes slowly turned into an hour, Seven still did not join the group. Three and Four click-whispered to each other about the pale doll while Nine paced back and forth in worry. Then, when the sky roared with thunder, Nine knew he'd had it.

"I'm going to bring her back, whether she likes it or not," he said and turned to the twins. "If I'm gone for more than an hour, that's when you should worry."

The twins nodded and Nine set out. Each droplet of water on his skin felt like ice seeping through the burlap pores. Somehow he made it to the construction site and rested there, hoping that Seven would appear. He didn't see her though, and he knew he would have to search farther, even as he was starting to develop a chill.

A lightning flash lit up the landscape, and Nine called her name desperately. Another, even brighter flash of lightning came, and this time it actually helped him find her in the dark.

There she was, dragging a large chop of wood along. Seven's knees wobbled and her feet struggled to stay put on the slippery ground. Just as she was about to fall over from sheer exhaustion, her load felt a lot lighter and she carried it along faster.

"Nine, what are you doing?" she asked, not even turning to look at him.

Nine smiled, even though he knew Seven probably wanted to slap him. "I'm helping my friend."

Seven scowled and trudged onward. "You're wasting your time then. I'm not finished."

"Yes, you are. Look at yourself. You're shaking!" Nine said.

"No I'm no–" Seven started before she slipped and fell face first into the mud.

"Seven!" yelled Nine as he dropped the plank of wood to the side so it wouldn't injure her. He knelt at her side as she struggled to stand back up. "Are you okay?"

Seven blindly reached out a hand to push him away, but her aim was too far off. She merely flailed further and looked even less confident. "I'm-I'm fine… I—okay, maybe I should stop."

"I'll say," the younger male agreed and helped her to stand. "Are you hurt at all?"

She scoffed, but was more friendly than hostile now. "It takes a lot more than mud to stop me, Nine." She shivered quite visibly then and drew closer to the younger stitchpunk.

The pair slowly made their way back to the cellar hideout, avoiding the rain as much as they possibly could. This was the most they had spoken to each other in days, and both felt terribly awkward as they stayed rather clung together for warmth.

"I…I'm sorry," Seven finally muttered under her breath, as the cellar came into view. "–For not listening about the rain, I mean. I'm still mad at you for the library."

Nine would have rolled his eyes if he was able to do so. "Of course. It's fine." He paused and added, "We're going to have to work together on this trip. I just don't want that mistake to come between us… as friends."

Seven momentarily looked into Nine's optics. He was always sincere in his words, yet she knew that deep down he wanted to be more than just her friend. Truthfully, she wanted to be more than just his friend too, but the stubborn, lone doll in her had no time for romance.

"We'll see," she said as they both ducked into the cellar and separated immediately.

The twins clicked with glee when they saw Seven and hugged her tightly. Three, in one of his less brilliant moments, dragged Nine into the embrace, forcing he and Seven to be close to each other again. And though it lasted only a second, Seven's smile made Nine hopeful that they could still be a family.