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Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (4/12)

Title: Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (4/12)
Rating: PG-13ish for language
Challenge: coarse, wiggle, pout
Words: 4,258
Summary: In which Gippal freaks out and Rikku finds herself in an eerily familiar situation.
Note: Chapter 3 can be found here. Index of chapters can be found here.


Don’t leave me, love. Huh, that was odd. Rikku felt as if she was floating in the darkness. It was unnerving, especially since the air around her was so cold. She frowned at that; hadn’t she been in the water before? She twisted, trying to figure out where the voice had come from. She didn’t recognize it, but there was something comforting to the tone, something soothing that put her mind at ease. I’ve wanted to see you again for so long. Please, stay with me. There it was again. She shivered, the voice whispering against her ear, dark and smooth like velvet. Suddenly she wanted nothing more but to curl up and rest, that voice lulling her into sleep.

She was violently jarred out of her half-asleep state by something that hit her hard on her back. Damn it, Rikku, stay with me! Now wait a minute, she knew that voice. She was going to answer when she felt palms press against her chest and firm lips against her own. Come on Cid’s girl; breathe! The dark was getting lighter and brighter by the second, the air seeming to warm up.

The first thing that greeted Rikku when she came out of the floating blackness was an up close and personal view of Gippal’s mouth. Why he was kissing her now was beyond her realm of imagination. Sure, she had been dying for him to touch her like that for years, but now was probably not the best time. They still had an airship to unearth, for crying out loud. Before she could say anything or even try to kiss him back, she was brought harshly back to reality, quickly jerking her head to the side and violently coughing up river water. Gasping for air, she turned to her side and curled up into a ball, oblivious to the silt plastered to the side of her face from the Moonflow’s bank. Everything hurt. The back of her head felt as if someone had taken a sledgehammer to it and her lungs felt as if they were on fire.

“What the hell were you thinking?” Gippal growled, wrapping a thick blanket around her body someone had thrown to him. Though his words were harsh, his hands were remarkably gentle. She didn’t answer; she just burrowed deeper against the coarse material and shivered, watching all the pairs of feet that she was now aware of circling them. Her arms and legs felt rubbery and wobbly. She didn’t know if she’d be able to stand if she tried.

He felt her shaking against him. “Fuck.” It wasn’t like him to swear, but the situation called for it. Gathering her up against him, he rubbed his hands over her arms to try and warm her up. A thin trickle of blood seeped out from the nape of her neck, staining the collar of her shirt. He pushed her hair aside, stopping when she hissed in pain. From what he could see, the cut against her scalp was shallow, but there was a large knot forming at the base of her skull.

“’m sorry,” she mumbled, her words muffled by his chest. She was so tired. Her hand weakly reached out from under the blanket and splayed against his skin, which was still damp from the river but blazing hot to the touch. She could feel his heart beat a rapid tattoo against her palm, as if he had just been running for miles and miles.

“It’s okay, we’ll talk about this later.”

“Someone else is on the ship.” She closed her eyes tightly and clung to him. “Dead.”

He wiped at the dirt on her cheek. “Everybody’s here, we’re all accounted for.”

“But…”

“Shh. Get some rest. We’ll be back at the temple soon and we’ll look at your head better.”

She was going to argue, that she had seen someone on the bridge, but before she could say anything, she felt his fingers run gently through her hair. The pain at the back of her neck lessened slightly to a more bearable level.

Sleep, dearest. The velvety voice was back again, and the only thing she could do was follow its suggestion.

***

He couldn’t stop his hands from shaking. He held Rikku close to him the entire hover ride back to the temple, mentally cursing the machine for being too slow. They could have been going at warp speed for all he knew, but it still wouldn’t have been fast enough.

As they neared the temple, he saw that someone else had arrived before him from the south. He recognized the woman that disembarked from the hover as it pulled to a stop and let out a grateful woosh of air from his lungs. Mother. The long sleeved blouse and flowing turquoise skirt were as familiar to him as his own clothes, and the short bob of golden hair that framed her face was something that he would always be able to pick out of a crowd.

“What happened?” she asked, her long legs easily coming into step with his.

“I don’t know. There was an accident. She’s hurt.” He held Rikku closer to him, feeling her breath puff against his shoulder. Without another word, he marched to the back passages of the building, his mouth set in a grim line.

When people first visited the temple, they thought it was only comprised of the two front antechambers and the Cloister of Trials. Gippal had been surprised himself when upon further investigation – meaning he had gotten incredibly lost all by himself - he had unearthed a rabbit warren of tunnels leading to wings burrowed deep within the rock itself. There were meditation rooms and living quarters for the priests and acolytes along with guest bedrooms for visiting pilgrims. There was even a secret, massive library full of written information and detailed sketches of machina, of all things. Gippal had snorted at the hypocrisy surrounding the teachings of Yevon, but took the wealth of long forgotten information as a gift. The textbooks along with the seemingly endless power supply had cemented his decision to use the abandoned temple as his headquarters. The long hallways and passages of rooms became test laboratories and living areas for the technicians that had decided to stay on site. He had taken two of the more austere chambers as his own personal living space.

His feet automatically headed there now, arms growing tired from carrying a dead-weight Rikku. Toeing the door open, he went straight for his bed. As gently as he could, he slid her across the sheets, grimacing at any sign of discomfort she gave. He was in the middle of getting her foot to wiggle out of a sodden boot when he felt a hand at his shoulder.

“Cuh.”

“Sudran,” he answered in a clipped tone. Not looking behind him, he let the boot fall to the floor with a muted thump and reached for its twin.

A shadow fell over his shoulder as Lina peered into Rikku’s face. “Head injury?”

“Back of the head, base of the skull.” Internally, he was going through every single bit of first aid training he had picked up from the Crimson Squad, cursing himself that his knowledge was so limited. “She’s cut, but it isn’t very deep.” Rikku shivered again in her sleep. Dry. Gotta get her dry and warm. He peeled off her socks, noting that her vibrant orange tipped toes were ice cold.

Lina used her thumb to open Rikku’s right eye. “It doesn’t look like she has a concussion. Does she have any other clothes?”

“In her room.”

“Could you go get them?”

No. I need to stay with her. When Lina didn’t see her son moving any time soon, she put a gentle hand on his arm. “If we’re going to help her, you need to get out of the way.” Her eyes softened when she saw him flinch. “Go get her clothes, my boy.”

Gippal paused at the doorway, looking across the room. Lina had already risen from the bed, moving to the attached bathroom to gather towels in the quick, no-nonsense manner she had always had in situations like this.

“This wasn’t your fault,” she said quietly, efficiently blotting out the majority of water from Rikku’s hair with one hand while placing another rolled up towel under her head to catch any more blood with the other.

He watched as she left Rikku alone long enough to dig through the satchel she had brought with her, producing a potion vial. “I know that.” He turned on his heel and stiffly left the room.

Space issues made him give Rikku the room farthest from his. At the time, there hadn’t been any other rooms available. Now, it was more like slow torture. The long, twisting hallways gave him plenty of time to remember what she had looked like, floating face down in the water. Her skin had been so cold. He wrenched open her door with more force than necessary.

She had unpacked pretty much everything since she had arrived; most of her belongings were placed in the wooden dresser against the wall opposite her bed. The large leather satchel she had brought with her sat next to it, looking curiously deflated now that it was emptied of its contents. The pack was familiar; it was a hand-me-down he had given her when he had upgraded his own traveling bag years ago. He opened up the dresser drawers and went through the items packed inside, picking out clothes that would keep her warm. Much of her wardrobe was brightly colored and cheerful, yet woefully inadequate for warmth. At least it would give her something dry to change into. This wasn’t your fault. He picked up her brush, staring at the yellow strands of hair caught in the bristles. I’ve missed us too. As an afterthought, he riffled through her dresser again until he found the ties he had seen her pull her hair back with recently. Damn it, Rikku! Stay with me!

His knees gave out then. “Shit. Oh shit.” He sat down heavily on the bed, balling her clothes in his fists. In all the years that he’d known her, this was the first time that he’d been close to actually losing her. He clenched his teeth, trying to get the memory of pale skin and blue lips out of his mind. It had been his fault. He’d been too damn caught up in his own excitement to give her a second thought. He should have gone in there with her. He should have known she would have wanted to explore. Maybe if he had been there, she wouldn’t have gotten hurt. Something had scared her down there, and he was determined to find out what.

He flexed his hands, willing them to stop shaking. He gave a mirthless grunt of laughter; he could see Rikku now if she knew he had gotten this worked up about her. She’d roll her eyes, punch him in the arm, and tell him that she was a big girl; that she could look out for herself.

“Really, I’m not made out of glass,” she would have told him, hands on her hips.

“I know,” he murmured back to the empty room. “Your head is as hard as a rock. Still doesn’t change the fact that I want to look out after you.” Composing himself, he gathered up all her things and made his way back to his room.

***

Rikku lurched into a sitting position, a half-strangled gasp caught in her throat. She couldn’t remember what she had been dreaming about, just that it had left her with a sense of dread. She instantly regretted moving when the room decided to tilt and spin on her in a way that was not pleasant at all. A wave of nausea had her clamping a hand over her mouth.

“Probably shouldn’t have done that,” a voice said from nearby. There was movement, then a spark. The lantern at the bedside table flared to life.

“Lina?” she clutched her head as her eyes adjusted to the light. This certainly wasn’t the bedroom that Gippal had shown her to two days ago. Most of the room was dark, the lantern giving off a pale golden glow and sending everything else into shadow. And these are certainly not my clothes, she thought, looking down at the oversized shirt she was wearing. The pale lavender color and faint scent of cologne indicated it was one of Gippal’s. She took a quick inventory of things and realized that it was the only thing she was wearing. She was hoping that the lantern light was dim enough to hide her fierce blush.

“How does your head feel?” Lina asked, moving Rikku’s hair out of the way to check on the healing lump. Two potions later and the large goose egg had been whittled down to a barely noticeable bump on the scalp.

“Like a shoopuf stepped on it,” Rikku groaned, gingerly scooting towards the head of the bed so she could lean against the headboard. “What are you doing here?”

“A mother can’t visit her favorite son?”

“Gippal’s your only son.”

Lina pushed her shoulder length hair out of her face. “All the more reason why he’s my favorite.” She twisted a corner of the blanket in her fingers. “Rin and I have been having… difficulty seeing eye to eye on certain issues. I felt it would be best to give us some space before we wound up killing each other.”

Rikku could hardly envision the normally placid Rin laying down the hurt on anyone, which meant that Lina had left before she blew up in his face. It was pretty common knowledge that the two of them had been seeing the other since Gippal had been little. Seeing how she had spent more time around Gippal’s home than she had her own when she was a kid, Rin was a sort of secondary father figure to Rikku. Rikku was suddenly curious about what sort of problems they were having, but refrained from asking. Lina wasn’t one that liked to be pressed with personal questions; if she wanted Rikku to know anything else, she would tell her in her own time.

Shaking her head, Lina waved her hand in a dismissive manner. “Anyway, enough about me. Before our favorite faction leader comes storming in here again, care to tell me what happened out there?”

Rikku’s brow furrowed. “Is he really mad?”

“No. He’s more worried than anything. He was hovering, so I sent him out.” Lina smiled and pressed another vial of potion into Rikku’s hands. “Drink this. It works a lot better when taken internally instead of dabbing it on the injury itself.”

Rikku wrinkled her nose at the smell, but gulped it down in one swallow. “Ugh, what was in that?”

“Oh, a little of this, a little of that. My own special recipe.”

“Couldn’t you have made it better tasting?” Rikku considered herself somewhat knowledgeable in alchemy and the spare potions she always mixed had a sweeter aftertaste.

Lina arched her eyebrow in a way that was eerily similar to her son. “It’s always the bitter medicines that work the best. Your head doesn’t hurt any more, does it?”

“Actually, no. I’m feeling a whole lot better.” The room had stopped spinning, which was a good thing. Then she stopped and thought of something. “Gippal hovered? He never does that.”

Lina sighed. She’d known Rikku since the girl had been a bump under her mother’s apron. How she was so blind to the fact that Gippal adored her was beyond Lina’s realm of comprehension. “You managed to scare him a great deal. You didn’t look good for a while there.”

Rikku felt bad for making anyone, especially Gippal, worry about her. “Did they at least get the ship out of the water?”

The bedroom door creaked open. “It’s out of the water, but it’ll take a while to get it on the transport vehicles. Should be at the temple doorstep any time now.” Gippal said, pushing off the doorframe. “How you feeling?”

She smiled up at him. “Good. Your mom gave me something.”

He curled his lip. “The stuff that tastes like battery acid or the stuff that smells like old socks?”

Lina rolled her eyes. “When have I ever given you anything like that? I swear, boy. You act as if I spent your entire childhood poisoning you.” She stood and ruffled Gippal’s hair affectionately; ignoring the brief and perfunctory sneer he gave her. He may be a grown man, but he’s still my son. “Go easy on her,” she whispered in his ear. She slipped out of the room, closing the door behind her.

“So.” Rikku fiddled with the sleeves of her shirt. The cuffs fell over her fingers, giving her plenty of fabric to play with.

Gippal cleared his throat. “I brought you some clothes.”

“Thank you. Lina put me in this,” she tugged at the collar of the shirt, unintentionally letting it gape open enough for him to see the curve of her shoulder. She pushed the blankets off of her and tentatively tried to stand up. So far so good, legs are cooperating. Go legs!

Gippal nearly groaned. The hem reached to mid-thigh on her, showing off a generous expanse of tanned skin. Growing up, he’d seen her in all stages of undress, just as she’d seen him. It was just that she was in his bed, wearing his shirt and looking incredibly too gorgeous for her own good.

There was just so much a guy could take. He turned on his heel and stared at the wall as he heard the sound of fabric rustling.

“I’m decent.” She sat again to tug on a pair of socks. “Look, about what happened…”

“Yeah.” He noticed that she had opted to keep his shirt on, though she had pushed the sleeves up her arms and buttoned the top higher.

“I’m sorry. I screwed up.” She bit her bottom lip and looked down. “I shouldn’t have gone off alone. I broke rule number one.”

“Rikku…” He was about to open his mouth to tell her exactly that, but she looked like she was beating herself up enough as it was. Rubbing the back of his head, he said instead, “It doesn’t matter now; we got what we were looking for and that’s all.”

She looked at him hopefully. “So you’re not mad at me?”

He reached out and gave her shoulders a squeeze. “Of course not. I will be mad if it turns out we can’t fix the pilot console. Your head left a really big dent in it.”

She stiffened under his hands. “What? Oooh, you’re such a…”

He grinned. “A what?”

“A meanie, that’s what.” She shoved at his shoulder and pouted. “So you were in it?”

“No. I got a radio transmission from the crew just a little while ago.”

Her fingers curled into his jacket. “Did they find anything? Anyone?”

“Nope. What did you see down there?”

She shuddered. “It was awful. I was on the bridge, getting ready to get out and back to the surface. Then this body just came out of nowhere.”

“Are you sure? It was pretty dark there; your eyes could have been playing tricks on you.”

“No, I’m sure. You don’t see something like that and mistake it for something else.” She slipped out of his arms and reached for the brush at the foot of the bed. Pulling it through the snarls in her hair, she titled her head. “How did you find me anyway?”

“You’d made it out of the cockpit. Thankfully you had time to light a flare. That’s how I found you.”

She frowned. “But…” But I never made it out of there. How…

“But what?”

“Nothing. So when did you say the ship was getting here?”

He stuffed his hands in his pockets. “They said there’s more structural damage than we first thought. They’re taking it slow and should be here in a few hours.”

“Well, if we’ve got some time to kill,” Rikku said, picking her wet clothes up from the floor. “I’ve got some stuff to do. See you later?”

He stared at her. She was trying to sound tough, like nearly drowning was an everyday occurrence to her, but he knew she was shaken. Reaching out, he cupped her cheek in his palm. “Rikku…”

She froze under his fingers. Tilting her head up, she stared for the longest at him, her eyes widening as his face lowered towards her.

His lips were whisper soft against her cheek, his mouth only inches away from hers. He gathered her up in his arms and held her tightly. “Don’t go scaring me like that again,” he told her, his cheek resting on the crown of her head.

She splayed her fingers across his back, wishing for the millionth time that they were more than friends. “I won’t,” she promised.

***

Rikku woke up disoriented. She had been sitting in her room working on a toy for little Jecht when she had apparently dozed off. He was still too little for hard metal playthings, but she had been playing with a voice recorder hidden inside a stuffed toy. She had ulterior motives though: as much as she loved her new cousin, he hated to be apart from his mother for too long. Rikku thought up a brilliant plan of having Yuna record something on the moogle, so that when Rikku visited and the little darling started screaming, all she would have to do would be to push a button to calm him down.

But first she would have to erase the track of her snoring right into the microphone. Yawning, she put the recorder aside and stretched. The rumbling in her stomach made her leave her room and head towards the kitchens. For a place that was supposed to house only a few priests at a time, they sure went all out with the kitchen. A couple of people were still lingering over plates of snacks or cups of coffee, which was the norm. It seemed that one could find anyone wandering around the temple at all hours.

Deciding to eat her newly acquired apple out by the steps, she stopped in her tracks at the front entrance.

“Wow.” The ship was a lot bigger than it had looked underwater. It still wasn’t as big as her father’s, but it was pretty impressive in its own right. Hunger forgotten, she wandered over to the bridge cockpit.

Now that it was on land, she noticed a moldy algae smell coming from the interior. It was unpleasant, but at least it wasn’t too terribly overpowering. Ducking under the bare metal window frame, she swallowed a lump that had formed in her throat. Her hand brushed over the console. Big dent, my butt! There’s hardly a scratch! She stood where she had seen the body, turned around, and didn’t see anything. What were you expecting, for something to come jumping out of the corner? Maybe you were seeing things.

“I’m so glad you’re not hurt.” Rikku let out a surprised squeak at the sound of the voice behind her. Whirling around, she found someone leaning against the pilot’s seat. Woah, where have you been hiding, handsome? She hadn’t seen him in the past few days that she’d been at the temple; she would have remembered him. He was tall; a dark red bandanna covering his dark, shoulder length hair. He had a swimmer’s build – all lanky muscles and long, lean legs. His shirt sleeves were rolled up to his elbows, showing off tanned forearms. “I can’t believe you’re here.” He smiled, showing off even, white teeth and dimples.

Wait a minute. Where have I heard that voice before? He had a smooth tone of voice, his words cutting through the dim light of the ship and sliding over her skin like silk.

“You were at the Moonflow, weren’t you?”

He nodded. “What were you doing there?” he asked, his brows furrowing in confusion. “I thought we were going to meet in Zanarkand.”

Rikku frowned. “What?”

He shook his head, smiling again. “It doesn’t matter. I’m just happy to see you again, Aya.” He moved towards her, his grey eyes shining with undisguised love.

She took a step back. “I think you have me confused with somebody else. My name’s Rikku.”

His smile faltered. “I don’t understand.” He took a step towards her, making up the distance she had tried to put between them. “Aya...” He reached out his hand as if to brush her cheek.

That was when Rikku noticed something. She had backed completely out of the cockpit, but the man was still inside. He braced his weight on the metal with his left hand, his right hand outstretched past where the window should have been. From the wrist down, his skin had faded, leaving only bone and rotted tendons.

At the sound of her horrified gasp, he pulled his hand back. “What’s wrong? Don’t you recognize me? It’s me, Rayne.” As soon as it was back in the cockpit, it was back to normal. He hadn’t noticed the change.

Rikku did the only thing she could think of doing: she pivoted on her heel and ran back to the safety of the temple as fast as her legs could carry her.

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