AN: Okay so when I said a while for an update I didn't mean three months! Sorry! Anyway please take this lengthy one as a holiday gift to you as well as a sincere thank you for continuing to read after all these years. I'm still working out how I want to have Al Bhed so bear with me.



Chapter Forty Two

Both parent and child remained levitated in a state of equal parts confusion and anticipation for an anguishing sixty six seconds. It was as if time stopped, and the span or reality didn't stretch far beyond their little living room. Jelly wasn't real, and so neither was the rest of the world unseen.

Keira spoke first.

"Ah." She seemed pleased with herself for coming to her own conclusion. "The placebo results, they were favorable then? How wonderful."

Rikku couldn't help her breathy smile. Okay so it wasn't the full truth but Keira genuinely seemed happy about the pre-news. That was a good sign right? She looked over to her father who not only wore a look of indecision but also a fatherly one of concern she could only recall remembering when she first starting dating Paine and when she kissed that boy in seventh grade... It made her impatient.

"Well say something Old Man." Rikku put her hands on her hips.

"Iqbceur dned, pre-pregnant. Paine."

Paine opened her mouth but words had failed her miserably once again. She had accidentally gotten her wife real pregnant by using some desperate deli clerk's sperm. Somehow she didn't think that's what he wanted explained. The Judo fighter glanced at Rikku for help.

"And this placebo?" He raised his brows at the taller of the two.

"Oh Pop, stop asking Paine like it was her fault. You're the one who started all of this."

"I can't possibly understand how." He shook his head as if not believing the conversation they were embarking on.

"Sus not being able to have babies l-it freaked me out and so we...we took a test."

Cud grew confused. "Milan we had you and Turin."

"After like a bajillion tries" she shook her head and crossed her arms. "Paine and I wanted to see if we could..." they glanced at each other. "And we can."

And we did… Paine thought as she avoided Keira's pressing gaze.

"When the time comes I'm sure you'll make excellent parents, Rikku, Paine." Keira added to the slowly deteriorating molecules that made up the space around them. Rikku and Paine looked at one another again, clear admiration in their eyes along with what looked like relief until Cid spoke again un-intestinally disrupting the moment with a clear and careful tone.

"When the time comes Keira is right, but you two are way too young to be thinking about this now."

Paine looked over at Rikku and found her voice, the blonde suddenly looked heartbroken. "We've decided it's what we want sooner which is why we invited you here, Keira."

The songstress nodded slowly as she began to detect something different in the two. "I see."

"I just don't understand where this is coming from. Is it because of your grandmother? The trial?"

Rikku stared at him for a moment before uncrossing her arms. "No Pop, it's because we are married and it's what we want."

"How on Spira could you both have time to come to such a decision in the span of three months?"

"Four." Paine corrected.

"Four!" Cid threw his hands up and then brought them to his knees.

"I'm sorry Pop if Paine or I were a man this wouldn't even be a topic of how, and when, and why and you know it. Just deal with the fact that this is our decision."

"It's not a sane one, Milan!" He shook his head not really understanding what had gotten into them. "This seems poorly planned, and not to mention a huge financial burdens considering the money spent on this h—"

""Ed'c hud ouin taleceuh!"

The room silenced again at her cry.


"I.." Rikku looked over to her wife again and shook her head. There were tears welling quickly in pools of jade that she refused to give permission to fall. She was thinking about their baby, and how though thoroughly enraging clearly – her father was right. They were not prepared, and this was not the time, but they were going to be parents, and the affinity that grew daily with her bean shaped parasite grew tenfold right then, she had to protect it.

Seeing how emotional she had become Cid sighed heavily and looked around for a moment as if to reign in his temper. "I don't know what you two would like me to say. I did not mean to upset you—"

"And I did not mean to tell you, Pop." She spat wiping an invisible tear from her face.

He had been made sincerely aware of that and was trying to remain calm, but this was ludacris! "Fryd yna oui tuehk du ouincamv? Oui dfu tuh'd haat drec nekrd huf."

"Support, Cid." Keira finally stood from her seat not being able to sit still any more, she didn't speak or understand much Al Bhed, but she knew enough and she had had enough. "I think they just wanted a little support." She looked over at her daughter who was comforting her wife with a small backrub.

Cid stood as well. "This is dysfunctional support, Keira. They both aren't thinking, and I understand that this is an emotional time for everyone but this, I cannot support." He shook his head. "Am I to believe that the events of the past few months." He looked over at Paine. "Have vanished completely and that you are emotionally ready or even able to be parents?

"You're disappointing." Paine said finally finding her voice. It was the only thing she could think to say that wouldn't add to the bubbling situation. She had been taken over by a feeling of needing to balance out her wife and be a place of calm, but she wasn't going to not say anything with their kid to be possibly maybe not hearing all of this.

He reached for his coat that was hanging over the back of the couch he and Keira had been sharing. "Well quite frankly Paine, you are too. I honestly expected you to be more level headed about this, it appears I was wrong." He slipped the trench coat on regarded his daughter one more time. "I urge you to think longer about this." He glanced at Keira before leaving.

She felt her watch the door for a long time before taking a large breath and shifted out of the arm Paine had around her shoulders. They couldn't wait anymore; she had to let it out. "Excuse me." She offered tightly to Keira as the blonde darted up the stairs with her hands wiping desperately at her face. Paine called after her once before letting her posture slack. Keira watched the staircase carefully before looking at Paine who shrugged slowly and let out long breath.

"Rikku's pregnant, Keira."

The songstress blinked in surprise but soon found herself nodding in full understanding. "I see."

Paine ran a hand through her hair. "Sorry this was such shit… we wanted to tell you…."

"They have a very complicated relationship, Cid and Rikku." Without agreement they both sat on the couch again. Paine slouched and rested her elbows onto her knees and rubbed gently at her temples.

"Yevon, do they."

Keira nodded. "I'm happy for you…"

Paine looked over at her mother. "He didn't lie, this is the worst possible timing, Keira, this isn't some story okay? My job is shit and Rikku works way too hard for pennies and we…" She shook her head. "This wasn't supposed to happen like this….fuck we're two women, this doesn't happen like this."

Keira waited for Paine to calm down a little. "How far along is she?"

"Eight weeks."

"So you've had an ultrasound, been to a doctor?" She watched as the crease of stress leave her daughter's features and an unmistakable softness wash over her.

"Yeah…" Paine nodded. "Looks like a little popcorn shrimp…."

Keira smiled back. "You didn't look any better."

Paine snorted a little in amusement before frowning again. "When did you um…know about me?"

"Week nine."

She looked back down at her hands. "Did you know what you would do?"

Keira remembered the time like it was just thirty minutes ago and the things she hadn't really recalled like having morning sickness while at an audition for one, began to flood back to her then. Sitting with Paine in her home almost twenty six years later was unfathomable at the time. She not only did not know what she were going to do, she did not know how she were going to eat or cloth herself or the innocent growing inside her. It was a fresh panic, a never dulling stimulus. All she thought about was Paine and what she could offer. Looking at that same popcorn shrimp now made her understand her daughter's concerns fully.

"No… I was prettified, immobile, and a few years younger than Rikku." Paine looked at her when the older woman touched her arm. "You have each other though, and judging from the bits you wish to share you both have lived lives rich with experience, good and bad."

"Does it mean we're ready to be parents?"

"Don't let anyone mislead you, Paine Amelia, no one is ever ready to be a parent."

"So what do we do? How do we manage?" She asked seriously needing an answer here.

"Is this what you want?"

Paine looked back down at her hands. "Yeah…"

"Don't be afraid of how you feel." She urged softly.

Paine nodded once to herself. "I am…afraid of feeling..." She still wasn't looking at Keira. "I mean… yeah I always wanted this with Rikku, I just thought that maybe we'd get more time to figure it out." She shook her head. "Given our track record I have no idea why I thought that would be true if I'm honest." She let herself be amused by just how amazing and at times comically dramatic their lives have been since they tied the knot. "I just…" She shrugged and finally glanced at her mother who was leaning forward and listening with all of herself. "We're doing this… and I just… I wanna be a good mom and shit, and I'm realizing that it's actually really important to me…"

"It's throwing the image you have of yourself off."

"Yeah, exactly… recently it' been hard to um…cope with the PAWS." She had finally told her mother years ago how it plagued her. "What if Jelly has a sleepover and Rikku's out of town doing Rikku stuff and I have to pick him or her up and I'm fucking drenched in a habit I kicked six years ago?" Paine shook her head at herself, now she was just spiraling.

"Jelly?" Keira asked and then smiled as Paine mumbled something about the chewy candy Rikku had a concerning obsession with and it's similarity to the little Kerrigan that was sure to be just as obsessed. "Paine." The older woman interrupted. "The mere fact that this is on your mind at eight weeks is proof enough that you will find your own way. You both will."

Paine nodded. "It won't be the same…for Rikku, for me…"

"No, and it's important you remember that but it doesn't mean you cannot complement one another in this."

Paine nodded slowly and thought on that for a moment before looking at her mother. "Thanks for… stepping in back there." Paine motioned to the living room where both Bayla had stood just moments before.

Keira shook her head. "We all have our prospective that shapes our reality. I suppose I empathize with how you two are feeling, especially Rikku."

Paine nodded, she understood that there was just some things about this whole journey that Rikku would experience by herself, she wouldn't be alone, no Paine would never leave her family when she and Jelly needed her most, but there also had to be a loneliness to pregnancy. "This book II've been looking at has a chapter on same sex adoptions and stuff and one part said it's good to have someone there who has been though something similar that you could y'know bounce things off of."

Keira nodded. "Yes, this makes sense."

"Well, maybe you and Rikks should have like a night where you go out or I go out and y'know, you guys could bond or something. I think she'd like that."

Keira smiled. "I would like that as well, seeing as she is my daughter now."

Paine chuckled. "Alright then grandma."

Keira's smile fell. "Is there a better more… youthful name for grandmother in Al Bhed?"

Paine stood she just remembered the watermelon then. "Let's ask, Rikku." She stilled and then crossed her arms when she noticed her wife standing from her seat on the stairs.

Rikku put her hands up and gave her wife a smile in return. She had taken a private moment to collect herself, wash her face, and give the night they had planned for one more try until she came downstairs and saw Keira touching Paine's shoulder and speaking softly, it was a rare sight to see the two women like that and she didn't want to interrupt. "Keira." She called after stepping up to Paine and leaning into a side embrace. "Are you still hungry?"


She grinned as the watery sweetness collapsed with ease in her mouth with a satisfying crunch.

"Mm." She hummed lightly as she shifted over her wife to wipe the corner of her mouth as some of its wetness collected there.

Paine's hands hugged her upper thighs to support the slight movement and chuckled softly as more of the watermelon's cold juice dripped onto her bare stomach.

"Is it sweet?" Paine asked knowing it was the Al Bhed's main gripe with the off season fruit arriving into the house.

Rikku took another big bite of the piece in her left hand while wiping pointlessly at her wife's tone stomach effectively spreading the watery juice over the small rise and fall of her abdomen.

"Try." She brought the fruit to Paine's mouth and giggled as the woman lying on her back attempted a bite. "Ay Pypo, the sheets." Rikku chided with a small grin as Paine chewed while juice and bits of watermelon rolled from the crease of her mouth down her cheeks and onto the pillowcase she was lying on.

Paine chuckled to herself as the blonde hurried to clean up after her. "When you put it to my mouth like that what do you expect?"

Rikku was shaking her head as she wiped at her wife's cheek with her free hand. "Take a bite like a human being not a shoopuff!" She brought the piece of fruit down to Paine's lips again and the older woman tried to take a bite but they both ended up giggling midway resulting in a bigger mess.

Paine's sat up as best as she could with Rikku straddling her lap. "It is sweet though."

Rikku laughed and tossed the green rind into a bowl of similar contents on the ground near their bed. She loosely wrapped an arm around her wife's neck. "Oh yeah? You have a sweet tooth tonight?"

Paine grinned. "What are you selling?" She raised a brow suggestively and then blonde's gaze grew darker. Paine couldn't help but feel herself respond.

"Nice things." She purred as she wrapped her other arm around Paine's other shoulder. She kissed her wife gently before pulling away. "But it will come at a price."

"A price? Mm nah I think you should just give it to me for free." Her hands settled at Rikku's hips to encourage them. The small noise she got in return only served to prove her next point. "You want to."

Rikku chuckled sexily despite the truth. "Nothing is free. Not even what I want you to have."

"What do you want me to have?" Paine bit her lip without noticing, the action made Rikku smirk.

"You have to-" Rikku moaned softly and then laughed as Paine's lips found her neck. "Mmmm Pypo-" she arched her back and neck back to give her wife proper access as her tongue and lips nipped and licked gently in a particularly sensitive area. "I'm still talking." She half whined half breathed.

Paine kissed down her chest before stopping at her bra. "And for the life of me I can't understand why."

Rikku laughed at how she actually sounded a little pissed. She pulled her wife's head up to meet her darker lust filled gaze. "Ooh I like it when you get a little testy I don't want that going anywhere, just hold it and listen." Paine nodded once. Rikku's smile softened a little as she pulled some of Paine's hair behind her ears. "I need you to ask Keira over more often... I... I want her to be a big part of Jelly's life seeing as how she's the only sane grandparent the little thing will have, but I need you to be the person to say that to her, she needs to hear it from you."

Paine regarded her wife carefully. "I can do that." More importantly she wanted to do it. Once Cid was gone and they were all able to be honest the three of them had a great night. Keira didn't ask a lot of questions on how or why Paine knew it was coming but the songstress seemed genuinely delighted to hear of the developments and see the ultrasound photos and for the first time this whole thing seemed an ounce less crazy.

"You can do that? You can talk to her about it?" Paine nodded. "You're not just saying that so you can get it in tonight, Pypo I know your game."

Paine chuckled lowly and then cleared her throat some, yeah she was extremely horny right now but she agreed with Rikku. "I was thinking the same thing tonight... she'd be a good grandmother... maybe."

Rikku chuckled softly before leaning forward hard enough to knock Paine back on her back. Paine's hands already beginning to slide her panties off. "I'm selling cupcakes, and jelly beans, and-"

Paine chuckled into their kiss. "Oh yeah?" She cupped the blonde's bare ass as Rikku kicked out of her panties. "I'm gonna need a bigger bag."

Rikku laughed into their next kiss. "You're such a dork." They kissed again. "C'mere, let me help you." she whispered.

An hour later Paine emerged into the room wearing nothing but what she had on the day she were born. Rikku was lounging under the covers wearing a small grin. "You're so beautiful." She sighed watching her wife's stately frame approach. "Y'know I can write an opera about your boobs alone, Muja?"

Paine snorted as she handed the glass of water to Rikku before sitting down on the side of the bed. "You hit your head?"

Rikku smiled into her glass. "No." She said simply.

"Hm." Paine watched her hydrate and sighed contently for the first time in a long time. Rikku caught the sound and lowered her glass.

"You love me?" She teased softly.

Paine shrugged. "Nah."

Rikku chuckled to herself and continued to drink the cool tap water. Remembering the last couple hours of her life filled her with a sudden happiness, it was unsettlingly sweet, she could drown in it almost. She finished her glass and placed it on her nightstand before lying back on their watermelon stained pillows and pulled their love stained sheets around her body. Paine was sitting on the side of the bed still, her nakedness catching Rikku's attention before the blonde thought to bring a smile to the other woman's face, she loved Paine's smile. "You know when you go to work for Yunie and Lulu you can't do nudes."

Paine raised a brow softly, a smile slipping its way onto her features. "No?"

Rikku nodded as she got more comfortable and yawned. "No see all this here?" She mmotioned to Paine's body. "It's mine, and you have to agree too because I'm your wife, and I'm always right."

Paine shook her head as she leaned back on her palms. She hadn't yet decided what temperature she was, and Rikku looked extremely comfortable and warm, and yet she felt herself flush and then chill one right after the other, was it the sex? PAWS? Or both the judo fighter wondered as she regarded her wife. "Correction, you're my pregnant wife, which means as long as you're being manipulated by hormones you're always right."

Rikku smiled. "I'm going to be horrible."

Paine smiled back. "I know."

"I hope we didn't bother him or her..."

Paine lay lazily above the covers beside her. She rested a tentative hand on Rikku's flat lower stomach over the covers and shook her head when the blonde looked at her again in silent repeat question. Paine's hand slid across the expanse of her waist until it settled at Rikku's side

Rikku turned toward her and for a moment they just stared at each other. The glow of their lovemaking fading gently and taking their world with it replacing them in an entirely all too familiar second space; reality. "It seems so sensitive." Rikku whispered staring into warm pools of auburn. "The tests." She explained further.

"We're looking good though." Paine whispered back.

"Are we?"

It was a much bigger question Paine realized with pride she was sure she could answer. She rubbed gently at Rikku's side above the covers before nodding. "Yeah, babe we are."

Rikku scooted a little closer. "It could not stick and all of this with Pop and Keira would have been for sand y'know?"

Paine nodded. "I want it to stick." She admitted below a whisper.

Rikku's eyes softened. "You do?"

Paine nodded, she couldn't be afraid to express these things with Rikku, like her mother had said they were only going to get through this together and Rikku had to know that despite the chaos that Paine did want this. She didn't want her to get an abortion, she didn't want Rikku to walk around holding the burden anymore like she had while she were locked up. Paine wanted to be an equal partner in this, she wanted to be that person that Jelly could be proud of, and the first thing she would teach their kid she decided was how to say the things that they felt, and how to share it often with the people they loved because you could never know what the future held. This was sure as hell a lesson in that.

Rikku's expression was unreadable so Paine waited until a small tear slipped from her right eye and melted into the pillowcase before she whispered back. "I'm so glad, Paine." Paine hugged her closer. Rikku sniffled and then chuckled. "I love you."

Paine kissed the side of her face. "I love you too."

"I- I think you're gonna be great." She continued to chuckle as she wiped her face. Paine held her close the whole time. "Oh Paine, look at me."

She smiled. "Don't cry, baby."

"I'm just really…happy, and I'm nervous, oh poop am I nervous, and with everything with testifying and my Pop and work-" She couldn't forget to tell Paine about work. "It's just too much and you saying that…I was worried." She nodded once at her wife who was just looking at her with this goofy sort of love struck awe. She was sure she looked simply insane. "I was worried that… well I felt that this was my fault and if it…"

"I'm the poor dyke who couldn't tell real splooge from fake splooge."

Rikku only smiled. "You saying that, Pai. It canceled out all the other stuff and it made me… us, I guess." She looked to the space between them at her stomach briefly before looking back at Paine. "It made us happy."

Paine nodded. "I don't think it will ever be this easy…"

"No, probably not."

"But you have me. I'm exactly where I want to be, Rikku."

Rikku snuggled up closer. "I love you."

Paine smiled into her hair. "I love you too."

The next morning the two lay awake snuggling after Paine's gym alarm went off and the blonde begged her not to leave her to die of frostbite in their heatless second floor. They didn't like to put the heat on unless it were a snowstorm to save money but on mornings like this; where Rikku could feel the tips of her fingers bite with numbness she thought of how ridiculous the whole thing was.

Although like now she reasoned it was well worth the sacrifice if it meant she and her love bunny could spend a morning in snuggled close like this.

Paine had the cutest post sex bed head right now; it kept a small smile on her features even though she could feel the bait of nausea pulling at her stomach lining. "No?" She asked quietly.

A warm and sleepy chuckle escaped Paine as she held both arms around the woman who was lying half way on top of her. "I have to go to work babe."


Paine smiled. "How do you expect me to be able to take care of my own if I never work a day in my life because I'm laid up here snuggling you?"

Rikku was grinning. "Ay, Pai just give me one thing in my life, you never get me things I want." She lied knowing full well but machina she was so warm! She'd do just about anything to keep Paine in bed with her for as long as possible.

Paine chuckled again at her pout. "Would you believe me if I said I'm doing this for you and the baby?"

Her pout remained. "No."

Paine smiled. "You're fucking impossible."

Rikku nodded proudly. "Anyway about that."


Rikku rolled her eyes. "Tuh'd cyo dryd duu muitmo drec meddma crnesb sekrd lusa uid pameajehk dryd dryd'c ed'c hysa."

Paine grinned. "What studious Al Bhed name is better than Cletus?"

"So many." They laughed. "So so many."

"Ah well." Paine shrugged.

"…Y'know Jelly doesn't have to be Al Bhed." She shrugged. "Plus you're picking the name so."

"What? Why me?"

"Because I'm doing everything else. We've been over this."

"Well… I like Cletus."


She grew just a little shy. "So you want me to really name our kid?"

Rikku smiled becoming just a little shy herself. "Well..yeah."


"Is that okay?"

"Yeah I just… it makes it feel more….permanent doesn't it?" She remembered her reoccurring duckling nightmare. In the most recent one she had named it Bob.

Rikku nodded. "Well you know we don't know what's going to happen so…"

It could not make it to term. Paine nodded remembering the very real possibility. The thing with the tiny microscopic knees could die. A pit formed in her stomach as she processed the reality.. "I know I know…"

They grew quiet.

"In Solae Pops pick the names of all their babies…"

"I know you want him involved…"

Rikku sighed heavily and rested her chin below Paine's exposed collar bone. "Paine he sucks."

"I know."

"And like for once in his whole Pophood he's right and it's the worst thing ever to be right about and I can't even say anything because we're pre-pregnant…"

"You said you weren't ready to tell him."

"And I'm not, he…I'm still trying to get into all this with the trial and buying a boat and selling family things and disappearing and reappearing… I need him staying in the past until I'm ready to bring him forward…" She frowned then. "Jelly deserves to be y'now brought into happiness, not confusion and mistrust and yelling…"

"I agree babe. Eventually though this is something he's going to have to know about."

"I don't have space to think about it…I need to put other things first. Let him harass Brother into working on their relationship. Machina knows they need it."

Paine huffed in mild amusement. It was true. "As long as you know it's what you want to do, I got you babe."

Rikku let a smile slip onto her face. "Last night was nice."

Paine smirked. "Which part?"

Rikku slapped her hand down on Paine's chest playfully. "Dinner with your mother you teenager."

Paine chuckled and put her left hand over Rikku's hand before taking it in hers. "Right, that part."

Rikku watched the other woman openly regard their wedding rings. "So pneta." She whispered to herself not worrying if Paine heard, she was sure the other woman were thinking the same thing. It was amazing in times like this, when it was just them alone time seemed to slow to a grinding halt and Rikku was able to fall into those fluffy chocbo feathers and soft looks. She loved Paine with all of her being, and that once had a meaning of such highs but now flew entirely beyond those once limitless peaks.

Jelly was a part of her being now.

"One day at a time." She reminded.

Paine nodded. "That's all we can do. No more, you can't be stressing yourself into labor." Ikku chuckled to herself. "I'm serous, Ri. We're going to tell everyone and then I'm shipping your ass out to a seven month spa."

"Can Yunie come with me?" Paine didn't see why not. "Okay, Pypo, also she wants to talk to you more about Alex Shaw, are you really thinking of doing this again after what it did to your street cred last time?" She asked in jest but really wanted to make sure Paine were doing it because she wanted to.

"I can't lie to my wife right?"


"Right…babe I just want to be able to pay for diapers. I don't mind it, it's kinda ridiculous to me honestly but I need to be able to help, for me to be okay y'know?"

Rikku rubbed soft circle onto Paine's chest. "I know, honestly I'm kinda worried about that myself…everything is tied up with the house and we still need to get some work done on things, but Pai I want you to have fun with it, and I want you to take you dan test, and I want you to be a trainer because I know how much you enjoy that work. Don't give up on your stuff just because there is going to be another one of us to think about. I won't fight about this with you. I won't Paine."

Paine wrestled briefly with what to say to that. So much of their tats recently had been because of not communicating correctly. Well then she went to jail… "I promise, babe. I didn't like how things were before I went in, and before we knew about Jelly… "

Rikku remembered sleeping alone. "I missed you so much, and I was scared, but I need us to keep moving forward. That's how we'll work it, Muja." As far as she was concerned they were able to put way bigger things behind them and work together. This was no different.

Paine nodded. "…So who do we tell next?"

Rikku rested her ear to Paine's chest dramatically. "Shhh!" Paine pulled the blanket over her shoulders in response and rubbed her back. Rikku hummed in thanks.



"Maybe today we just go to work." She could feel Rikku chuckle against her.


Juliann paused at the sight before her upon entering the kitchen that morning. She was clad in her morning robe and was about to declare that it was too cold to give a damn and she was stating home yoday to unpack all of her summer clothes in protest when her saw her husband clad in charcoal slacks and a simple under shirt holding his arms crossed and a coffee mug staring at the small glass jellbean jar in the corner beside the toaster oven.

"You do know Cidney that she has a phone number, one in which you can call her on." Whether she'd pick up was the question.

Cid didn't say anything for a long moment before looking at Leblanc, "She and Paine want children."

Leblanc moved toward to full pot of coffee and frowned when she reached to grab it. It was ice cold. How long had Cid been standing in here. "Well they are married…Why are you drinking cold coffee-wait if Rikku Milan isn't speaking to you darling then how did you get this information?" She set the coffee pot back on and hugged her robe close to herself. If this were winter's last protest she was fine with it, but if ongoing she would need to find an excuse to travel south.

Cid uncrossed his large arms and took a sip of his cold coffee. "I went to see her."

Juliann sighed. "Cid—"

"I was worried how she were handling everything."

"The trial."

"Yes exactly."

"Cid she's so very clearly not a child anymoe, you know Rikku Milan would have said something to you when she were ready, and she would always eventually be ready."

"I can't use the complaint that she's growing up to fast right?"

His wife gave him a sad smile. "It's too late, she has already grown up." She moved to the cupboard to see if they had oatmeal. "Your grief over what you've done is causing you to loose sght of things, my love."

Cid watched her take a box out and fill a pot wth milk and rest it on the chrome gas range. "Possibly." Juliann snorted. "What?"

"Possibly Cid?"

"Well alright yes, but she's testigying you know, on Auron's character."

Juliann nodded, Braska had mentioned it. "Adult." She reminded. Though she personally would have advised against it it was Rikku's choice.

Cid put his coffee cup down. "They will rip her apart on the stands, and for what? Everything is already sorted—"

"Do we have cinnamon?"


The greying blonde sighed. She turned to her huaband. "Cid, she wants to do something, take control of what happened and set her own clourse. It's completely noral for a victim of sexual assault." He didn't like hearing those words and Juliann Leblanc knew it but t was there for a reason, an impact. He needed to stop being so utterly bone headed or he were going to loos his daughter. "Let her do what she feels is right and approach the aftermath, that girl is more like you than either of you care to admit, she is resliant, leave it alone and when she is ready, she will speak to you."

"Why do I feel like with the both of them things have gotten worse since my mother passed?"

Juliann stepped up to him and touched his arm. "Because Darling, they are grieving just like you, and that's hard."

"They're looking into donors I suppose…"

"Paine and Rikku?"

"I left before I put my foot in my mouth any further."

"I doubt it wasn't already in your intestines love." Cid smiled softly but he still seemed plagued. "Are they seriously considering it?"

"How would I know? Keira Kerrigan was there, they invited her to dinner to talk about it."

"And you felt left out."

"No…. " He knew he were lying to himself. "There was a time when Milan would tell me everything, even the things I rather not know about, and then Auron…. I just want to let her know that I can still listen."

"Then show her that by leaving her be Cid."

"She's way too young to have a baby."

"It's her decision, her and Paine's."

"They love each other, I understand, but there needs to be more stability, Paine was just in jail."

Leblanc nodded. "I remember."

There is no need to rush into—"

"If it were Kirill would you have the same response?"

"No. Milan isn't her brother."

"Ah Darling but she is still an adult. The last thing I know you'd want is not to be in their child's life so leave it be until she wants to talk about it." Cid nodded and moved to sit in the breakfast nook lost in his own thoughts as Juliann made them both oatmeal. What was she going to do with him she wondered as she stirred the warm milk and spices.


Rikku hit send on the text message to her cousin before pulling the mitten part of her gloves back over her fingers. The sudden shiver that crawled up her spine when Paine opened the driver's side door and hopped inside made her wince.

"Fuck it's cold." Paine muttered to herself as she placed her coffee thermos and Rikku's tea thermos between them in the two cup holders in front of the manual gear.

"Ooh ooh, let me hold mine." Rikku reached quickly for her herbal tea and sighed into its warmth. She looked over at her wife dressed simply in jeans and a hoody and shook her head. There was something seriously wrong when all you needed was a hoody in this weather.

Paine reached into her pocket for her wallet and car keys and tossed the former into the empty cup holder. "Wha?"

"How are you not wearing a hat and gloves?"

Paine started the car with a chuckle. "I'm a New Lucan baby. We're all a little cold blooded." Rikku was bundled up from head to toe in multiple layers and even had a set of earmuffs sitting on her lap. "You look like you're going to hike Gagazet." She checked her mirrors as she reached for a sip of her coffee.

"Cold hearted is more like it, I'm freezing my vagina off over here."

"You want more heat?" Paine asked as she shifted into drive before touching the vents with the back of her hand and fiddling with the knobs.

"This thing isn't cranked all the way up already?" The blonde asked incredulously.

Paine chuckled to herself and turned it up higher. "Sorry my car doesn't have seat warmers, Princess."

"Remind me again why we are driving your car then?" Paine only shrugged as she checked to see if Rikku had her seatbelt on before shifting into drive and getting out of her parallel park in front of their house.

"You didn't want to drive, and I didn't want to drive your boxy car."

"It's a luxury vehicle, luxury." She had the same pearlish white car since college and the thing still purred like a cat at ninety five on the expressway. Rikku wasn't giving her up any time soon. She took a sip of her tea and watched Paine drive through their sleepy neighborhood before turning to her own window to look out. It was still dark out but there were children in puffy winter parkas being bribed to school by their adults. The occasional man prancing out in nothing but his pajamas to turn the car on before dodging back inside his home. Their block was generally quiet though. They lived across from some youngish looking renter, most likely grad students Rikku assumed wth how quiet and tidy the yard was and how close they were to where she studied. They lived between an older couple with adult children whom were long passed early school morning age and another family they seldom saw. Rikku was way behind on the meeting and greeting but the older couple had come by one evening when she were moving things in with Baralai an Gippal while Paine was locked up, they brought coffee and pastries. Rikku was sure they thought she was psychotic based on appearance alone (she hadn't slept in three days.) but they seemed nice.

At a stop sign Paine reached for her coffee thermos and took a sip before placing it in between her legs when it was their turn to advance. Soon enough they were out of their district and getting ready to jump onto the highway. The plan was that Paine would drive Rikku to work and then pick her up to head over to Lulu's for an impromptu dinner that night. Luckily and unluckily her shift today at the gym was only three classes long, luckily because she wanted to spend time with her family and was concerned how Vidina was holding up with Wakka out of town and his lungs acting up, and unluckily because they were having a baby and from what she heard they costed quite a bit.

Rikku had touched the radio dial and was laying back listening to the news and weather forecasts/

Paine whistled to herself at something that was said. "A whole week of this?" She shook her head and shifted gears to get in front of a car she was certain was coming home from the bars with how it was sqirving. "Fucking idiot." She grumbled.


"Sorry babe."

Rikku picked her head up from laying back. "Anyway spring needs to figure it out. I packed up all my winter work clothes already." She pulled out her phone and read a text from Luce and chuckled. She put her phone down and watched Paine drive for a few moments before finally figuring out why she was staring at her in the first place. She had forgotten something, something she needed to tell Paine. . "I almost forgot to tell you about work."

Paine glanced at her "what happened?"

"William is giving Luce and I a promotion of sorts."

Paine glanced at Rikku and then the toad and then Rikku again. "What the fuck that's awesome baby, congratulations."

"It's working as a real designers apprentice, but I don't know.."

"Don't even say that, if I have to do the things I love so do you."

"I just know I'll have to tell William at work soon about Jelly and even though he's a pretty okay boss I'm sure even he won't be able to hide his misogyny." Rikku shook her head. "I want to try."

"Would you still have the responsibilities you do now?"

"Yes and no. He gave us a bundle of things to read. Luce and I have been combing through it to make sure we won't end up killings ourselves even more."

Paine nodded. "I'm real proud of you babe, this is what you were hoping for right?" Was she missing something? Why did Rikku seem so torn?

"It is..."

"So why so sad?"

Rikku let herself smile. "Okay it's pretty cool, but I just want to make sure I can balance it all you know? I don't want to ...go backwards." She said referencing the big fight they had early last year and now that they were having a baby could she really do it all? Could she ever be the same person again? It had been something weighing heavy on her minf since she and Paine decided they would try,

Paine nodded understanding fully. She wanted Rikku to be happy and in a lot of ways her work brought a lot of happiness to the blonde. Before they got married she took Paine to a building that had just finished construction. She was so proud of herself for being the person who realigned all of the interior walls to spec. Paine didn't want her to give that up, Whatever it took she would make sure her wife got to do the things that fulfilled her too. "Well you can't let Lucile beat you at this too." She joked.

Rikku chuckled "ugh I know!"

"So tell me what you'd be doing?"

"Pat is this functioning alcoholic at work, one of the lead architects for Leonardi and he's so talented. He's the one that would be overseeing these tiny projects for Luce and I, helping us along the way." Paine nodded. "I'd still be a supervisor in Urban Draft Initiatives but a bulk of my time in office would be training someone to take over my role and learning the role of a Lead Architect."

"Damn babe, that's pretty awesome, how long will it take for you to do all this?"

"A few years."

Paine chuckled. "Bet you could do it before that."

"Probably." Rikku grinned. Paine probably had no idea of her impact but whenever she shrugged a challenge off in front of the blonde as small potatoes Rikku found herself brimming with pride and not wanting to let her woman down. "There will be some late days though, I think I will be able to work up until this little breadcrumb rolls out though."

Paine chuckled. "Just rolls on out of there, no issue."

"Exactly." She chuckled. "Aye Pypo, at least that's what I'm hoping." She looked down at her flat stomach with concern.

Paine nodded. "Me too Ri, don't go working yourself into labor alright? The second Dr. Raymond says you need to be at home then you need to be at home, done deal."

"Yes yes, I know." She noticed a familiar exit approaching. "Can we stop by a Rin's?"

Paine moved into the lane to exit the highway, traffic was surprisingly tame today. "Yeah, isn't there one up the block on tenth?"

"They're like on every corner now, pick one." She joked.

"What do you need?"

Rikku was working to get her purse up from the car floor. "Some more tea for work, I put a percription here yesterday, they have an open system so I can pick it up anywhere-turn here, Paine turn."

"I'm turning, fuck." Paine waited for the gagle of people in morning attire stroll down in front of her car blocking her right turn. "You want me to run these people over and get locked up again?"

"You had the right of way."

"I'm sorry I'm not driving like I'm bent on destruction."

Rikku laughed. "That's not how I drive!"

Paine only smiled as she made the turn finally. "The first time I got in a car with you I thought you were trying to prove something then I got in a car with you again and realized there was nothing to prove, you just drove like a maniac."

She located her wallet as Paine pulled into the unkept parking lot of Rin's Pharmacy on tenth avenue. Paine knew what happened in the parking lot at night, it used to be a known area to score, tenth avenue was the beautiful New Lucan mix of the homeless and drug dependent by night and the wealthy and drug dependent by day. She spotted a homless man near the far orner of the lot but the luxury cars parked all around told her the witching hour was well over. Rikku worked on eighth avenue which was well a ways from here thankfully.

Rikku located her wallet and unbuckled her seatbelt. She paused and watched as Paine made no move to exit the warm car. "What do you think you're doing?"

Paine raised a brow. "Sitting in the car…" She put two and two together, :"It's fucking cold out there, you don't need me."

"Whatever happened to oh we're cold blooded blah blah New Lucan blah." She imitated her wife almost to a tee and then slipped her earmuffs over her ears and gave her a serious look. "I'm pregnant."

She waved her off. "You and Cletus need some alone time."

"Paine, Kad uid uv dra lyn."

Paine pulled the keys out of the ignition and pulled her hoody over her head. "Independent woman my ass."

"What was that?" Rikku lifted an earmuff.

"Nothing." She grabbed her wallet and braved the few feet to the automatic door of the Rins. About twenty eight minutes later Paine was pulling in to the oval drive way of Leonardi's main headquarters on eight avenue. She leaned over and kissed her wife goodbye.

Rikku touched the side of Paine's cool cheek. "Bye Wifey." Her smile was soft and only for Paine.

Rikku had a a way of making anyone she interacted with feel special, and it was in these little moments, when her eyes were bright and very much directed at Paine that she couldn't believe how lucky she was. "Bye, baby." They kissed one more time.

"Will you call me today?" She ginally puled her hand away from Paine's face and was fathering her blueprint tube.

Paine nodded. "You gonna bring me lunch? Like the old days?"

Rikku seemed amused. "No I brought you dinner, that's completely different."


"Well I'm sure you had many women brining you lunch Dr. P." She hiked her bag on her shoulder. "I needed to cement my place above all those other ladies. Dinner is more intimate."

Paine shook her head in amusement. "Ah." She wabed her left her hand a bit to show her wedding band. "Don't think it can get more cemented than this."

Rikku grinned and suddenly wished she could spend the whole day flirting with her wife instead of getting a stigmatism squinting at small floorplans and peeing every thirty minutes. She opened her car door and braced the cold air for a moment before turning to Paine with one leg out the door. "You'll realize how wrong that is when I roll out a little Kerrigan." She closed the door and walked around to enter the main building but not before waving and blowing Paine a kiss.

The judo fighter waved back and then nodded to herself with a smile. "Yup." She shifted into drive. "I'm fucked."