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Oneshot - An Experiment of Sorts

Title: An Experiment of Sorts
Rating: PG
Challenge: first date
Words: 2,253
Summary: “If I have to hear Yspan or Cia sigh about how sweet and adorable and special you are one more time, I’m going to throw up.”


“You have got to stop doing this.”

Gippal looked up from a blueprint he had been working on and cocked an eyebrow at Rikku. “What? I thought you wanted my input on the new building.”

Rikku blew out an exasperated breath that ruffled her bangs. “No, you dummy. You’ve got to stop dating your employees.” She perched on the edge of his desk and crossed her arms as she glared down at him. “If I have to hear Yspan or Cia sigh about how sweet and adorable and special you are one more time, I’m going to throw up.”

Gippal leaned back in his chair, propping his feet on the opposite edge of his desk. “Who I date is my own business.”

“Not when I can’t get any of the ladies I’m assigned with work for me.”

“What are you talking about? You’re not even on my payroll.”

Rikku rolled her eyes. “And?” She crossed her leg over her knee and leaned back, one of her palms landing on the blueprint Gippal had been trying to mess with earlier. “You’re my friend, and friends help each other.”

He slid the blueprint out from under her hand. “And the fact that you’ve been getting free room and board for the past three months hasn’t hurt in the slightest, has it?”

“Nope.” She gave what she hoped to be her best puppy dog stare and batted her eyelashes. “So will you please try to date outside the work pool?”

He grinned. “I can’t make any promises. I mean, have you seen the girls that come in here wanting interviews? I can’t help myself.” He gave her a look that said he was as innocent as a baby chocobo.

“You’re lazy, that’s what.” She resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at him. She was twenty-six, not six years old.

“And you’re jealous.”

Her jaw dropped. “I’m…”

He smirked as he reached out, his thumb and index finger on her chin to close her mouth. “If you weren’t, you wouldn’t be complaining.”

She inhaled and hopped off his desk. “I just don’t see what the big deal is about going on a date with you.” She gestured towards him with both hands. “I mean, you’re you.”

His feet fell off the desk with a muted thump. “That’s because you’ve never gone on a date with me before.”

“No, I haven’t.” Her eyes darted around the room to focus on the bookcase behind him. She’d pushed aside the crush she’d felt for him all those years ago, opting to work alongside him as a friend instead. It didn’t make her feelings for him go away completely, but it did allow her to stay at Djose for long periods of time. “I still don’t see what’s so spectacular about a night on the town with you.”

He shrugged. “So why don’t we fix that? You busy tonight?”

Crossing her arms in front of her chest, she glared at him. “No, I’m not going on a date with you.”

“But this isn’t a date,” he said. “Think of it as more of an experiment.”

She leaned back on her heels. “Well, if you put it that way, I guess its okay.”

He smiled. “Good. I’ll meet you at the front temple doors. Wear something nice.”

***

“Something nice,” she muttered, her fists on her hips as she surveyed the contents of her dressers. “That could mean a whole lot of things.” Staring at the mess she made of her room, she picked up a skirt and eyed it critically before tossing it onto her bed. Finally giving up, she closed her eyes and picked something at random.

***

“You look nice,” Gippal commented, taking in the sight of Rikku in a dress. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, and he’d never seen her wear that color of green before. She had her hair loose about her shoulders, the multitude of tiny braids and glass beads absent for the evening.

“You clean up well too,” she replied. He’d changed shirts, the blue contrasting with the wheat color of his hair. He’d shaved; the day’s worth of stubble that had adorned the lower half of his face gone. She missed it; that coupled with the eye patch had always leant him the air of danger.

“I aim to please.” He wound her hand over his arm and led her down the dirt walkway towards a hover. “You ready to have some fun?”

***

The restaurant in Luca was a newer place, very upscale in both design and menu. Rikku had heard about it when it first opened, but never really paid it any attention since it wasn’t a place she would usually go to if given the choice.

“So, now that we’re here,” she started, smoothing her hands over the heavy paper menu while trying to ignore the fact that no matter how hard she had scrubbed, she still had traces of engine grease under her nails. “Tell me one of your moves.”

He looked over his own menu. “Moves?”

“Yeah. You must have something that makes all the girls think you’re something special.”

He leaned forward, his elbow brushing against hers. “If I tell you one of mine, you’re going to have to tell me one of yours. It’s only fair.”

Her eyes widened. “I don’t have any moves.”

He laughed. “Then I guess I’ll just have to keep my secrets.”

“Fine.” She rolled her eyes and picked up her menu, scanning for anything she recognized. “But before I do, what do you think about the food? I don’t think I’ve ever heard of some of the stuff printed here.”

He leaned more towards her, his eye flicking from her puzzled expression down to the menu. The necklace she had chosen to wear brought his attention to the amount of cleavage his vantage point provided. He found himself staring at the tiniest hint of matching green lace visible down the neckline of her dress and jerked his eye back to the menu. “Nice one,” he said, leaning back in his seat. “Totally fell for it too.”

She grinned smugly before flipping another leaf of the menu open. “Why thank you. Now…?”

“Wait a couple of minutes.” True to his word, a waiter came by with an expensive looking bottle of wine.

“The management would like to welcome the leader of the Machine Faction,” he said with a flourish.

Gippal accepted the wine with a grateful nod. “Be sure to tell the management that I’m grateful,” he told him.

Rikku watched the conversation critically. When the waiter was out of earshot, she smacked Gippal in the arm. “You are horrible.”

The innocent look was back in full force. “Whatever do you mean?”

“You pre-paid for that bottle, didn’t you?”

He fussed with the linen napkin on the table. “Well, you could say that while making tonight’s reservations, I might have tipped the head waiter a little bit extra to do that.”

“And no one has ever caught on.”

“I’d appreciate it if you kept it that way.”

Rikku’s only answer was a snort as she reached for the breadsticks at the middle of the table.

***

“I really shouldn’t have taken you there.”

Rikku patted a hand over her full belly as they walked together back towards the hover and stifled an unladylike belch. “It’s your own fault. You know how much I love chocolate cake.” Besides, the main entrée portions had been far too tiny for her usual appetite. “And how often is it that you foot the bill for dinner at an expensive place? I’m going to milk it for all it’s worth.”

“At least you didn’t step on my foot.” The restaurant had a small ballroom attached and after eating, the two of them had danced for a while. Rikku had been exceptionally light on her feet and such a change from his usual dance partners. She hadn’t tittered inanely at the feel of his hand at the small of her back or tried to drum up small talk. The feel of her hand in his had been natural, as if it had belonged there and the conversation had carried over from dinner. They’d flirted and teased just like usual, and if either noticed how Rikku’s cheeks turned faintly pink at a compliment here and there or the way that Gippal’s hand tightened on her hip when she rested her head on his shoulder, they didn’t comment.

***

They were almost to the first bridge that connected Djose with the rest of the road when Gippal made a spur of the moment decision. Instead of turning right, he drove straight.

“Pit stop?” Rikku asked, yawning into his shoulder from her seat behind him.

“Nope. Just thought you might like it.” It was late; he hoped that they hadn’t missed it. Stopping the hover, he hopped out and helped Rikku down. It really was late; so late that it could be considered early by some standards. After dinner and dancing, they’d wandered Luca’s streets hand in hand before ducking into a couple of exclusive clubs. Their status as a former guardian of a High Summoner turned Gullwing plus Machine Faction leader tended to cut a lot of velvet rope. One of Rikku’s heels had broken on her at the last place, but instead of whining about it, she had just kicked her shoes off and kept on dancing like nothing had ever happened.

Gippal pulled her down the way, mindful of any rocks on the ground that might bother her bare feet, until they reached the banks of the Moonflow. The moon lilies had already closed; the lights that normally danced on the surface of the water at night gone for another day. In their place, the surface of the water looked like a sheet of glass, broken up here and there by the tightly closed buds and large leaves.

“It’s beautiful,” Rikku said, looking out at the way the stars were reflected on the water.

Instead of watching the river, Gippal watched her. Her hair had gotten windblown after the hover ride back from Luca, the carefully arranged look now in her eyes. Her lipstick had worn off several hours ago that she hadn’t bothered to touch it up and the bright orange polish on her toenails didn’t really go with the vibrant green of her dress. “Yeah, it is,” he answered.

***

The sun was threatening to come up over the horizon when they walked into the temple. A handful of workers were already starting up their day, mugs of coffee in their hands. All of them waved hello to both Rikku and Gippal, even as they gave the two of them looks as they passed at the obvious tells that the two of them had stayed out all night.

“Coffee?” Gippal asked, stopping near Rikku’s room.

Rikku yawned, rubbing at an eye with her hand. She winced when black kohl and mascara smudged on her fingertips. “No thanks, I think I’m going to get some sleep instead.” She paused, her hand on the doorknob. “Well, this is my stop.”

“Yep.”

“I had a good time,” she told him. “We haven’t had a chance to hang out together in a while.”

“No, we haven’t.”

“And okay, I can see why the girls go all ga-ga over you. Consider this experiment a success.”

Gippal moved closer until he was almost crowding her. “I’d say the experiment isn’t quite over.” Rikku swallowed hard, looking up at him with eyes that didn’t seem so sleepy any more. His hand slid up her bare arm, leaving a trail of goosebumps in its wake. “I had a good time too,” he murmured, his fingers reaching her cheek.

“You don’t have to do this part if you don’t want to,” Rikku whispered, frozen in place. Her eyes fluttered closed at the feel of his breath fanning over her mouth.

“But I do,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to.” Then he stopped talking, his lips warm over hers and his hands firm at her sides. She tasted like the chocolate cake they’d shared earlier and he couldn’t get enough of the way her arms went around his neck and how her fingers slid through his hair.

“So,” he said, his thumbs tracing maddening circles over her waist that were making it hard for her to think. “Want to make an honest man out of me?”

She blinked up at him in confusion. “Hm?”

“Are you free tomorrow night?” He leaned down and dropped a light kiss on her forehead. “Not for some dumb experiment, but for an actual date.”

She smiled and quirked an eyebrow. “Well, I don’t know. I mean, I’m not the type of girl you usually date. I’m not on your payroll, remember?” She said the last bit teasingly, laughing softly when he grimaced.

“I’m willing to turn over a new leaf.” He brushed his nose against the side of her head, his lips at her ear. “Either that or hire you.”

She rolled her eyes, even as she slid her fingers down his back. “Oh, so you have some more moves you hadn’t told me about?”

He grinned before lowering his mouth to hers, enjoying the way she moved against him. “I’ve got one or two up my sleeve, though I’m thinking about keeping them to myself. Can’t let you know all my secrets, can I?”

“Then it’s a date,” she said, going up on tiptoe to kiss him again.

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