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Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (2/12)

Title: Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (2/12)
Rating: G
Words: 2,694
Summary: Rikku goes to see a friend before getting down to business.
Note: Chapter 1 found here. Index of chapters here.

Three days later saw Rikku sitting in the Blitzball stands of Luca, screaming her lungs out. She was torn between cheering for Besaid and the Psyches. If the Aurochs had been playing any other team, she’d have been behind them one hundred percent. It just so happened that the new players the Psyches had recruited this season were gorgeously hot. So in the spirit of fairness, she jumped around in her seat, cheering like a maniac at the top of her voice for both teams.

The game had ended in a tie. Rikku went down to the player’s dressing rooms soon after, intent on finding Tidus. He saw her in the crowd before she spotted him, waving from the entrance of the Auroch dressing room. He gave her an apologetic grin, gesturing with his head at the reporters waiting for interviews. She nodded in understanding and wandered around a little. As luck would have it, several of the Al Bhed cuties were outside their dressing room, so she spent her time waiting chatting them up and getting autographs. One of the players had even asked her to dinner, but she regretfully turned the offer down, explaining that she had to leave the city soon.

“Hey,” Tidus said, coming out of the dressing room twenty minutes later, hair damp and a towel in hand. “Sorry about that, they’ve been asking for interviews for three games straight.”

“No problem. Everybody wants to talk to the former guardian turned star player of the Besaid Aurochs.”

He winced. “I wish they’d pay less attention to me. I’m not the only one on the team, you know.”

Rikku’s eyes widened. “Wow, this coming from the guy that prided himself on being the best only a few years ago.”

He grinned. “What can I say? I grew up.”

“You did? This is news to me.”

“Hey!” He rolled up his towel and smacked her on the arm with it. “I am too grown up!”

“Oh, so the guy I saw a few weeks ago dodging lightning bolts Lulu was throwing must have been your look-alike.” Rikku crossed her arms. “Just what did you and Wakka do to make her so angry?”

Tidus cringed. “Believe me, you don’t wanna know.”

“Anyway, that was a great game.”

He rubbed the towel over his head vigorously. “Thanks. The Psyches’ offense is great this season; Keepa really kept us in the game.” He let the towel drape over his shoulders. “So what brings you here?”

She quirked an eyebrow. “What? I can’t visit my favorite cousin-in-law during tournament time?”

“It’s not that, it just looks like you’ve got something on your mind.”

She bit her bottom lip. “Well…”

“Go on, spill.”

“You remember Gippal, right?”

He rolled his eyes. He’d been privy to all the ‘why can’t he see that I like him?’ rants Rikku would go into whenever she visited Yuna. “Oh, I don’t know. Is he that guy you used to talk about, the one with the cute butt that lives in the old temple at Djose?”

Her cheeks flared a vibrant pink. “I never said that.”

He laughed good-naturedly at her obvious discomfort. “Yeah, whatever. It must have been the other Rikku I know that said it instead. Anyway, what’s up?”

She ground the toe of her boot against the tile floor. “I kinda took a job offer from him,” she mumbled.

He grew serious. “You sure that’s a good thing to do?” He didn’t know all the specifics, not wanting to get too deep into whatever the two had going on between them, but he knew enough to figure out that they had some sort of history. “The last time you brought him up, you wound up crying and moping around the beach for a week.”

“I do not mope.”

“Okay, so you brooded.”

She huffed and crossed her arms over her chest. “I don’t do that either.” She rocked back on her heels. “I don’t know if this is a good idea or not. That’s why I came to talk with you.”

He led her out of the dressing room area and towards the main portion of Luca. Sitting down on the bench one level above the ticket stand, he patted the spot next to him. “Shouldn’t you be talking to Yuna instead? Maybe Lulu?”

She plopped down beside him. “I need a guy’s perspective. And before you say anything, no, I’m not going to talk to Brother. He has some issues when it comes to Gippal.” She still didn’t know why her brother disliked him as much as he did, but she wasn’t about to discuss her romantic life or lack thereof with him either way.

“So what do you need me for?” Honestly, she didn’t really know. After Gippal had left Bikanel, Rikku’s first instinct was to run off to Besaid and talk things over with her cousin. She was in the middle of packing a bag when she realized that as much as she loved Yuna; she would only say the same thing she always said whenever the subject of Rikku’s old crush came up. She had always advised her to follow up on her feelings, to take a risk that Gippal might feel about her the same way that Rikku felt about him.

Rikku might be somewhat fearless in other situations, but here, she was a complete chicken.

Twisting her hands in her lap, she bit her lip again. “What would you do in my place?” She leaned back against the bench. “Say that Yunie told you she found an airship and needed your help unearthing it and fixing it up.”

Tidus sat up straighter. “He found an airship? How big? Where?”

“Yes he did, he didn’t say except that it’s not as big as Pop’s or Brother’s, and he found it in the Moonflow,” she answered. “Come on, focus.”

Tidus cradled his chin in his hands and thought about it. “Fine. Well, I’d go for it, and then I’d try to wrangle out a date. She is my wife, after all.” The flash of teeth he gave her was downright wolfish.

Rikku blew out an exasperated sigh. “Pretend you’re not married for a second and you hadn’t seen her for four years.” Okay, so maybe this was a bad idea, she thought. I should have just gone to Paine instead.

“Depends on how the first meeting went. How did you feel when you saw him again?”

“It was…” she searched for a word that would best describe how she had felt. “Not awkward, but weird.”

“Was talking to him difficult?”

“No, not really. There were a few gaps in conversation, but after a while it was as if nothing had happened.” She didn’t know how to feel about that. “I expected him to be mad, or at least bring up the fact that I had been the one to stop talking to him.”

“Well, from what I’ve heard about him, he’s a pretty forgiving guy. I mean one of his friends did shoot him and leave him for dead and he’s still talking to him.”

“That’s true, but…” She wanted to believe that her friendship with Gippal meant more to him than his friendship with Nooj.

“You expected him to be miserable without you, like you were without him, didn’t you?”

Why did he have to suddenly be all perceptive? “Is that too much to ask?” she whispered. She’d been in love with him for so long; it hurt to think that Gippal might have thought so little of their friendship. She hadn’t talked to him in four years, but he hadn’t made any move to contact her either. Maybe all he wants is for me to work for him. That thought hurt more than she expected it to.

Tidus reached over and gathered her close to his chest. He smelt slightly like the chemicals the stadium managers put in the sphere pool, but she didn’t care. “You still love him, don’t you?”

“Yes. No. Oh hell, I don’t know.” She burrowed her head against the crook of his neck. “Why does he have to be so damn confusing?”

He rested his chin against the crown of her head. “Maybe he’s just as thrown as you are.” He gave her shoulders a squeeze. “I’m not going to say that you should tell him how you feel,” he started. “But at the same time, if the opportunity comes up, don’t just sit there and say nothing.”

“So I should just act professionally?”

He shrugged. “Yeah, I guess. Do you think that you could be friends?”

“Yes.” There was no questioning that. After the initial awkwardness she had felt, it had been easy to fall back into the easy friendship they always had.

“Then just be yourself. Do the job Gippal asked you to do and have fun while you’re there. Because seriously,” his smile went ear to ear. “An airship. How cool is that?”

She sat up and kissed his cheek. “Thanks, I feel a lot better now.”

“That’s what I’m here for. Man, if it was the off-season, I’d ask if I could help out.”

“What, having a baby in the house getting on your nerves?” She smiled fondly; the newest addition to the family was notorious for keeping the entire household up at all hours of the night.

Tidus rubbed his temples. “It’s not that. I just can’t wait for Jecht to get into some sort of sleep routine. He’s been really fussy. I’ve been dozing off during practices lately and Yuna almost fell asleep in her breakfast the other day.”

Rikku playfully punched his arm. “Just think of it this way – if you can survive this phase, the rest is going to be cake.”

“I hope so. Fighting Sin wasn’t as hard as fatherhood, you know?”

She laughed. “Wakka told me the same thing. You’ll get used to it, Daddy.” She stood up and stretched. “I’ve gotta head out. Tell Yunie hi for me, okay?”

“Will do. Take care of yourself. You know we’re just a sphere call away.”

Rikku slung the pack she’d been lugging around over her shoulder. “Thanks. Good luck for the rest of the season!”

She wound her way through the crowds before making it to the Highroad entrance. A lot of people recognized her from her Gullwing days. She’d pretty much made Bikanel her permanent home, but she still did a couple of sphere runs with Brother and Buddy every now and then. The guys had recruited a couple of other girls over the years, but they always had room for her on the Celsius whenever she felt like coming aboard and getting away from the desert for a couple of weeks. Besides, it gave her a chance to tell the new girls some embarrassing little tidbit of information about Brother. She was his little sister; it was her job - no, her duty - to do things like that from time to time. Plus it was fun to make his ears go bright red and hear him try to deny her stories. Buddy played along too, which was always entertaining.

On the Highroad, she gave the chocobos resting at the entrance a wary glance. They were cute and everything, but the last time she had been on one, she’d been bucked off and had needed a potion to help heal a nasty goose egg on her behind. She unconsciously rubbed her back pant pocket as she sidled up to the hover technician.

Several minutes later saw her at the Travel Agency’s door. She popped in to see if either Rin or Lina were around, but neither was. She was hoping to get a chance to talk with Lina, to see if Gippal had maybe told his mother anything about her coming to work with him. After giving the girl at the counter a friendly wave and a message to tell Lina hello the next time she came through, Rikku hopped on the next hover heading towards Djose.

Fiends were still around on the roads, but thanks to the sentinels from the now long disbanded New Yevon and Youth League, their numbers were remarkably less. Rikku elected to stay on the hover route instead of walking; it was hot and she wanted to look her best on her first day of work. Call it vanity, but she didn’t really want to greet Gippal all sweaty and wearing fiend goo. She paid the driver and hopped off, hitching her pack higher on her shoulder. She took a deep breath and squared her shoulders as she stared the temple down. Stopping to ask a few people where Gippal was, she followed their directions to the room that had once served as a receiving area for pilgrims. She put her palm against the heavy door and pushed.

***

Gippal was tired. He’d spent the majority of his day working on salary requisitions and figuring out which vendor was cheapest to purchase metal from and which would be best to buy parts from. Normally his secretary would be the one dealing with the more tedious paperwork, but she had come down with something and couldn’t make it in. Numbers swam in front of his eye and he gained a new respect for the job she did. He made a mental note to raise her salary, eying the stacks of paperwork that was threatening to slide off his desk.

Yawning, he stretched his long legs out in front of him and leaned back in the chair he was sitting in. He still had to make a couple of rounds to check if everything was ready for the Moonflow operation. Rikku had told him she’d be ready in a few days, but she hadn’t given him an exact time frame to work with. He wasn’t worried; if she got there before things were ready, then he’d have an extra pair of hands around. If she got there after everything was set, then that was fine too. They could spend the time fine tuning planning details.

I don’t care. She’s coming back and we’re talking again. That’s all that matters. After leaving New Home, he’d felt both elated and emotionally wiped out. He had expected to feel good about seeing her again, but the exhaustion threw him for a loop. It had taken all he had not to hug her and never let her go. Part of it had been because she’d grown up so much in the four years apart. The other part had been realizing just how lovely she looked. His hands had itched to run through her hair and hold her close.

And now she was going to live at the temple until the ship was done. They were both adults; he wondered what her reaction would be if he tried to move their relationship past the “just friends” stage. He’d have to do it carefully; the last thing he wanted to do was to scare her off. And he couldn’t do it in his usual manner either because she always did see right through his charm and managed to brush off what had been a serious attempt for her attention as just a joke. He decided to play everything by ear and see how things went before making any moves. He hadn’t gotten any signals from her when he had been in Bikanel, and he sincerely hoped that he hadn’t missed his chance with her.

He shuffled the paperwork on his desk and set it aside for the day. Rubbing his forehead to stave off the headache forming, he stood up. There was a bottle of vintage Kilika wine in his bedroom that was singing his name. After juggling finances all day, he figured he deserved a glass or two to unwind. He was at the door when he heard the footsteps outside. Opening the door, he stepped back in surprise as Rikku stumbled forward. They stood there blinking at the other for a moment before she gave him a sunny smile.

“Hi there boss,” she said, clutching at the shoulder strap of her bag. “Rikku here, reporting for duty.”

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