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Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (6/12)

Title: Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (6/12)
Rating: PG for language
Words: 3,109
Challenge(s): skirt, petal, caught; dare, stare, strut
Note: Chapter 5 can be found here. Index of chapters can be found here.

“Excuse me?” She stared at him before shaking her head. “What?”

He gave her one of his smirks that she found to be both irritating and yet still irresistible. “You heard me,” he teased, raising an eyebrow. “What? Did you expect me not to want to kiss you at all?”

She sputtered. “No,” she finally said.

He frowned. “Then you don’t want to kiss me?” He stuck his bottom lip out in a mock pout that had her rolling her eyes.

“You know that’s not the reason. And don’t stick your lip out like that; you’re likely to step on it.”

He grinned and swiveled in his chair. “Then do something about it. I dare you.”

“Gippal…”

“Rikku…”

Well, at least he’s not calling me Cid’s Girl any more. “I don’t have time for this.”

“Chicken.” He was banking on goading her into action. The method worked in the past and it hadn’t failed him once.

And wouldn’t you know; it still worked.

“Fine,” she said, licking her lips somewhat nervously even as her face set in determination. “You asked for it.”

He watched as she went around his desk and didn’t offer any resistance when she pushed at his chair until it turned on its bearings and he faced her. “Oh, well I wouldn’t want to pressure you or anything,” he murmured playfully.

She tunneled her left hand into his hair and braced her weight on his chair’s armrest with the other. “Shut up,” she told him, her lips curving in a smile as she finally, finally kissed him.

He’d expected the somewhat sweet taste of her lip gloss. It was a cross between vanilla and some other confection that he couldn’t quite place. He’d already had a taste of it at the Moonflow, though at the time he’d been far too busy trying to save her life to actually notice it. What he hadn’t expected was the wave of heat that hit him square in the gut, leaving him breathless. This wasn’t some random girl that he’d flirted with for a short time; this was Rikku and he’d dreamt of kissing her for years and now she was there and her hands were in his hair and…

He had kept his hands on the armrest of his chair, but he moved them now so he could trail his fingers along her sides.

“Okay,” she whispered, moving away only far enough to speak. Her lips brushed his with every syllable, small kisses in their own right. “I have to work now.”

He licked his lips, still tasting her on his tongue. “Yeah, me too.”

Her fingers sifted through his hair and she looked down at him. “Okay.” She still hadn’t moved.

His hand slid down her arm and he captured her wrist, his fingers warm against her skin. “Okay.” A single tug put her off balance, giving him enough room to stretch up and fit his mouth over hers. She let him guide her right arm over his shoulder, where her fingers bunched his shirt in her grasp. She didn’t protest when he tightened his arms around her waist and only slid her hand from his shoulder to cup the left side of his face when he slanted his lips and took their kiss deeper.

He’s really good at this, she vaguely thought, arching her back slightly to press even more of her body against his. She felt his murmur of approval rumble in his throat and then decided to stop thinking and concentrate on the moment.

Gippal grabbed two fistfuls of her shirt in his hands and dragged his lips over her jaw, stopping at the hollow of her throat. This is what he’d been waiting most of his adult life for. Yes, he had shared many first kisses with women over the years, but they all paled in comparison to the compact bundle of energy that was Rikku. The clean citrus scent of whatever perfume she used was strongest behind her ear and he inhaled greedily, wanting to imprint the feel of her under his hands and the taste of her on his lips forever in his memory. His teeth rasped over a sensitive spot on the side of her neck and she gasped, pulling at his hair until he looked up at her. His mouth curved into a soft smile when she kissed him, his hands leaving her waist to gently frame her face. He wanted her to know that he was serious about what was beginning between them. She’d always been an important part of his life; he was determined to treat this new phase of their friendship right.

A sharp noise at the door slowly filtered through Rikku’s foggy senses. When she didn’t turn around, it was followed by an even louder sound. It took Rikku a long time to realize that someone else was in the room with them and that they had been standing there clearing their throat for a while now. She regretfully broke contact with Gippal’s mouth to look over her shoulder.

“Land sakes, Girl,” Cid admonished, looking every inch the disgruntled Al Bhed leader. “I said flirt with the boy, not throw yourself at him.”

Rikku squeaked and untangled herself from Gippal. Somewhere along the way, she had wound up in his lap and the tip of her little finger had somehow gotten caught in a buttonhole of his shirt.

“Man, if this is how you act professional,” Tidus quipped, peering out from behind Cid to stare and earning a dirty look from Rikku, “I sure would hate to see your friendly side.”

“Okay, out!” She yelled at him, pointing to the door while trying to get out of Gippal’s chair. The hold he had on her leg wasn’t helping matters any.

“So are you going to tell me what they’re doing here?” he asked her, his thumb absently stroking the skin at the back of her knee.

She bit her lip. “Side project. Shouldn’t take very long.” She finally slid off his lap and bolted towards the door, grabbing Tidus by the arm as she went. “Talk to you later!”

“So,” Cid folded his arms over his chest and watched as Gippal tried to push his hair out of his eyes with one hand and slide a suspender back into place over his shoulder with the other. He would have laughed at the dazed expression on the boy’s face, but it would have ruined the tough-ass image he was trying for. “You and I have got to have a talk, son.”

***

Rikku’s face was still burning hot as she and Tidus slipped into the main area of the temple. Yuna was standing near the statue of her father, a fussy Jecht in her arms.

“He’s been like this all day,” she told Lina. The older woman reached out and made soothing noises as she transferred the baby into her arms.

“They always are.” She stroked his neck with her index finger and dropped a kiss on his petal soft skin. “Gippal used to drive Amal and me insane the first few months until he started sleeping better.” She rocked lightly on her heels and hummed a few bars of a lullaby Rikku was familiar with. Jecht tried to put up a fight, but wound up falling asleep instead.

“How did you do that?” Yuna whispered, afraid of speaking any louder for fear of waking him back up.

“Practice.”

Teach me.

Lina quietly laughed and held out a hand to take the bag of Jecht’s things. “I’ll be more than happy to, but I think your cousin wants to talk to you first. Don’t worry about this one; I’ve got him.” Lina walked past Rikku, her skirt swishing against her legs as she stopped to give her a smirk. “He messed your hair up, dear.” Rikku’s hands flew up to her head to try and fix the damage.

“Something you want to tell me?” Yuna teased.

“If she doesn’t, I will,” Tidus said, a wide grin breaking out over his face. “I got an eyeful.”

“Later,” Rikku said, ignoring Tidus and clearing her throat. “We’ve got a job to do.”

Yuna picked up the staff she had leaning against the wall. “So have you been out there yet?” she asked.

“No way. I’ve been listening at the dining tables and my crew kind of wants to take this slowly.” She shrugged. “With everything that happened yesterday, I think that they want to make sure I don’t keel over on them.” She might have been preoccupied, but she couldn’t help but feel touched at the amount of concern that her team had for her welfare.

Tidus pushed open the heavy front doors of the temple and walked in front of the two women. It was a habit on his part; he knew that they could both fend for themselves, but it was something that he could never quite break himself out of. “I took a look when we got here,” he said over his shoulder. “I couldn’t see anybody on board.”

“Maybe he just comes out whenever I’m around,” Rikku wondered. “Are there rules for this sort of thing?”

“Everybody’s different,” Yuna confessed. “Though I’ve never come across anything describing anyone being so attached to an object or a place that they actually look like they’re dead if they leave it before. Lulu hadn’t either.”

“Well, let’s get this started.” Rikku didn’t think that weapons were necessary, but she was comforted by the fact that she kept two sharp knives in sheathes built into both of her boots just in case.

“Lead the way.” Even though he said the words, Tidus still stuck like glue in front of them, his hand on the hilt of his sword. Obviously, he didn’t have the same mindset that Rikku had and had decided to err on the side of caution, which was exactly why Rikku was glad Yuna had asked him to come along. “What do you think they used this for?” he asked as they came alongside the ship. It hadn’t been a very long walk; the workers had no other choice but to park the wreckage only a few feet away from the temple’s front doorstep. How they had gotten it over the series of narrow bridges was beyond her, but then again, she had left that detail up to Gippal to figure out.

“Probably small cargo transport,” Rikku replied. “The size is about right for it.” She put her hand on the side of the ship. Taking a breath, she stepped inside.

Almost instantly, Rayne appeared in a halo of pyreflies. “Are you okay?” he asked, concern lacing his voice. “You ran out of here like you’re seen a ghost.” He made a move to step towards her, but Tidus shifted so she was blocked by his shoulder.

“Who are you?” Rayne asked, eyes narrowing in irritation.

Yuna stepped forward. “He is my husband,” she explained. “My name is Yuna.”

He nodded his head at her in acknowledgement. “Nice to meet you. Aya, what’s going on? Where are we?” He frowned and looked out one of the busted out windows. “And why are we in this wreck?”

“How much do you remember?” Rikku asked, one of her hands on Tidus’ sleeve. “Or better yet, what’s the last thing you remember?”

Rayne frowned in concentration. “I was coming back from Kilika after a fabric run. I remember talking to you on the vid screen going over the Moonflow, then…” he paused, rubbing his chest absently. “There was something wrong, something happened, but…” He shook his head. “I can’t remember anything after that.”

“We’re at Djose,” Rikku explained. “Yesterday my team salvaged this ship from the bottom of the Moonflow. I think you must have crashed there several hundred years ago.”

Rayne stared at her before throwing his head back and laughing. He caught his breath, wiping at an eye with the back of his knuckle. “Oh, that’s a good one, babe,” he said, still chuckling. “You know I just finished paying for my ship a month ago. This is a good replica though, but you’re not fooling me.” He shook his head. “Wrecked. Hah, pull the other one.”

Rikku stepped out from behind Tidus. “I’m telling you the truth!” she said. “How else do you explained what happened in the water? You were the one that saved me, after all.”

“I…well…” he crossed his arms. “Okay, so I can’t explain that one. What were you doing there in the first place anyway?”

Rikku blew air through her nose. “Because I was salvaging this ship.”

“You know, the first time was cute. This is not my ship, Aya.”

“You’re right. This is Gippal’s ship and he put me in charge of restoring it because my name is Rikku, not Aya.” She poked Rayne in the chest with an index finger. Wow, she thought. He’s pretty solid for a dead guy.

“This isn’t funny any more.” Rayne looked down at her, fear starting to show in his eyes.

“No, it isn’t,” she agreed. “It never was.”

“So I’m really…” he trailed off, not wanting to say the words.

“I’m afraid so.”

Rayne looked like he was processing everything, then he shook his head. “No. No, it can’t be true. If I was dead, I wouldn’t be able to do things, right? I wouldn’t be able to touch you.” His hands reached out and grabbed Rikku’s shoulders desperately.

“I don’t know who you are,” Gippal drawled from behind Tidus and Yuna. “But get your hands off my girl.”

“Excuse me?” Rayne asked, letting Rikku go so he could face Gippal. Gippal stepped in front of Yuna to better look at him. His stance was relaxed, his hands stuck in the back pockets of his pants. Rikku knew from experience that the easygoing expression on his face was forced, that he was capable of quickly shifting from aloof to dangerous if necessary.

“I haven’t seen you around here before. Odd, since all new recruits have to come through me before they get to work on any projects.”

Rayne narrowed his eyes and moved so Rikku was partially behind him. “And you are?”

Gippal stuck a thumb behind one of his suspenders. “I’m the boss.” He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet. “And you’re in my airship harassing my girl.”

Rayne rubbed his chest again. “Okay, can someone please explain things to me? Aya, what the hell is going on?”

Rikku bit her lip. “We’ve been trying to tell you. My name isn’t Aya. This used to be your ship, but you crashed.” She pointed to the pilot’s seat and the large spike of metal that went straight through it. “And I’m guessing that the reason you keep messing with your chest is because of that.”

Rayne touched the seat and shuddered. “No,” he whispered. “This can’t be right.”

“I’m sorry,” Yuna said. “We can Send you to the Farplane.”

“No!” Rayne’s chest heaved, clearly panicking. “I’m getting out of here.” He took a step out of the open windshield and faded into a vision of bones and tattered flesh.

“Holy crap,” Gippal breathed, standing beside Rikku. “Look at yourself. They’re telling the truth.”

Rayne stared at his ruined hands, shaking his head. “No, we’re supposed to be getting married next month.”

“I’m so sorry.” Rikku looked at her cousin. Yuna nodded and raised her staff.

Rayne’s head shot up. “No! Wait, please!” He stepped back inside the ship, instantly becoming whole again. “We promised the other that if something were to happen, that we’d wait so we could go together.” He stared at Rikku before looking away. “Please, don’t let me go until I know if my Aya is all right.”

The look on his face made Rikku’s chest constrict almost painfully. “Okay. We can do that,” she told him, suddenly close to tears.

Rayne exhaled. “Thank you,” he said, dissolving into a cloud of pyreflies before vanishing again.

The four of them stared at the spot he had been. “So that was the dead guy Cid told me about, huh?” Gippal asked, breaking the silence.

“You knew?” Rikku asked.

“Well, yeah. As soon as your dad told me what the three of you were up to, I headed here.” He looked down at her critically. “And what’s this about loaning my people out for projects?”

Rikku winced. “I really needed Yunie out here,” she said weakly. “Besides, you just got a free engineer. You know Pops is itching to help out.”

“So what do we do about this?” Tidus asked.

Yuna tilted her head. “I guess we can start at the Farplane. How old did you say this ship was?”

Gippal shrugged. “Between seven hundred and a thousand years is the best estimate we could come up with.”

“So it’s pretty safe to say that Aya is no longer…” Yuna looked around, not wanting to say that another man’s love was dead where said man might overhear. “No longer staying nearby.”

“Okay, so the Farplane it is. It shouldn’t take long to get to Guadosalam if we used hovers.” Rikku looked pointedly at Gippal.

“Oh, like I’m going to force you to walk. You know where the keys are.”

“What, you’re not coming with?” She almost sounded disappointed.

“I’d really like to, but my work isn’t going to do itself.” He made a move to leave, but Rikku grabbed his arm.

“Hey! What was all that stuff you said about me being your girl? You still haven’t asked me!”

He smirked. “I figured sticking your tongue down my throat earlier was answer enough.” He dodged her fist and smiled. “So will you be my girl?”

She frowned. “No. Ask me later.” She walked out, strutting past him. “Coming, Yunie?”

Gippal shook his head. “See what I have to deal with?”

Tidus rolled his eyes. “You’re the one that picked her.” He clapped his hand on Gippal’s shoulder. “So, this is the part where I tell you that I’ll kick your ass if you hurt her, right?”

“Yep.”

“You hurt her, and I’ll beat you up.”

Gippal snorted. The statement would have been more threatening if Tidus hadn’t been grinning from ear to ear. “Duly noted. Who gets to beat her up if she hurts me? Why do I have to be the punching bag?”

Tidus laughed. “You’re a big guy, you can handle it.” He turned around and looked at the ship. “So, while we’re here, need a hand?”

“Depends. You as good with a wrench as you are with a blitz ball?”

“I can manage.”

“Then welcome aboard.”

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