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Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (8/12)

Title: Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (8/12)
Rating: PG
Challenge: treasure, awkward, promise
Words: 4,649
Summary: The group heads to Zanarkand to find some answers. Gippal and Rikku have a heart to heart talk.
Note: Chapter 7 found here. Index of chapters can be found here.


As it turned out, Gippal’s longer legs helped him reach the bridge before Rikku, which was the only reason he got to pilot the ship to Zanarkand. Though she put up a fuss, Rikku really didn’t mind. Not having to fly gave her an opportunity to take in the scenery they were going over. The wind whipped her hair away from her face as soon as she stepped onto the deck. The altitude they were at leant for colder temperatures, making her wish for her old multicolored red and orange scarf she used to wear all the time. She rubbed her hands over her bare arms and stared down. She couldn’t tell exactly where they were at, but it looked as if they were coming close to Macalania. The trees had thinned out significantly over the years, making way to snowy drifts in the north and grassy plains to the east. It was kind of sad, how something so pretty – yet full of fiends – was slowly disappearing from the world.

The ship lurched a bit as it hit a pocket of air. Rikku took a step sideways to balance herself before stretching her arms out to her sides. She closed her eyes, content to feel the wind blow through her clothes.

“You look like you did when we were kids,” Gippal commented, coming up behind her. “You’d always pretend you were flying when we got to go along on hover rides.”

“You always yelled at me for not holding on right.” Rikku leaned back, relaxing against his chest. His hands slid down her arms and he tangled his fingers with hers. She sighed contentedly, bringing their joined hands up so his arms were wrapped around her. “I always figured you were afraid of heights.”

“Not the heights, just falling from them.”

“And now?”

He grinned and rested his chin on her shoulder. “I’ve got you here to keep me safe.” He noticed that she had gone still in his arms. “What’s wrong?”

She moved away from him and went inside the holding bay, Gippal close behind her. “Why now?” she asked him. She saw the expression on his face and continued. “I’m not saying that I don’t want this, but what made you want me?”

He moved so he was right in front of her. “It’s always been about you, Rikku. I’ve felt this way since I was sixteen.” He smiled ruefully. “I was just too stupid to tell you.”

Rikku swallowed hard. She had never known. If I had, this would have been a lot easier. “That long, huh?” It wasn’t the most eloquent thing she could have said to his confession, but it was the first thing that came to mind.

He stepped forward until they were almost nose to nose. “Yeah, that long.” He reached out and rested his hands on her hips. “But I want us to agree on something first.”

“What?”

“No matter where this leads, I want us to promise to stay friends.” His fingers tightened on her skin and he stared her straight in the eye. “I don’t care how I might feel about you; I don’t want to jump into this if it means losing your friendship.”

She cupped his face in her hands and smiled at the way he turned his head to press a kiss against her palm. Standing up on tiptoe, she lightly touched her lips to his. “We’ll stay friends,” she whispered.

He grinned and pulled her closer to him. “So now that I told you I’ve had a thing for you since we were kids, what made you suddenly go along with all this?”

She blushed and put her head on his shoulder. “Maybe I thought you finally grew up,” she teased. “And maybe I thought you’re kind of cute.”

He scoffed. “Just kind of?”

“Like I need to feed your ego any. You know you’re gorgeous.” She looked up at him and bit her lip. “And maybe because I’ve felt this way about you even longer than you’ve felt about me.”

His eye widened. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

“I didn’t know how.”

He brushed his nose against the side of her cheek. “Give me a chance, Rikku.” He held his breath, afraid for an instant that she’d shoot him down again. “And I’m not asking because I could have lost you or because I was jealous over some other guy; I’m asking because I want to be with you.”

She smiled. “I thought you’d never ask.” She was going to say something else, but Gippal’s mouth crushed over hers and whatever she was going to say completely flew out of her head. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and returned his kiss enthusiastically.

“I sure hope that was a yes,” he finally said when he let them up for air. “Because you’ve totally ruined me for other women if it wasn’t.”

She gave a shaky laugh and gasped when his fingers trailed over her sides. “It was.” She paused and thought about what he had said. “Jealous?”

He shrugged. “Okay, so maybe when Rayne thought you were his girlfriend and went all touchy-feely I got a little bit jealous.” His hands traced over the small of her back. “I really didn’t like that feeling,” he admitted.

“Me either.” She thought about all the women around the temple and the way they looked at him. “So here’s another rule: no jealousy while we’re doing this.”

He brushed a kiss over her forehead. “Deal.”

She leaned back, suddenly thinking of something. “Gippal?”

“Yes?”

“If we’re both here, who’s flying this thing?” She had a sudden vision of them plummeting from the sky and crash landing in the Calm Lands. The attractions would never be the same, but somehow her mind saw Tobli making a profit off of the event.

“Autopilot. I punched in the coordinates and we should get to Zanarkand within the hour.”

She let out a breath she wasn’t aware she had been holding. “All the same, I’m going to head back to the bridge. Coming?”

He shook his head. “Nah.” He yawned. “I think I’m going to go find someplace to grab some shuteye.” He stepped away from her and let his fingers slide away from her hands. “Call me when we get there, okay?”

Rikku watched him walk away and couldn’t keep the goofy grin off her face if she tried.

***

“So did you finally give the guy a break?” Tidus asked, swiveling in the pilot’s seat.

“You were listening?” Rikku narrowed her eyes.

He whistled. “I might have accidentally turned on the intercom speakers.”

Incredulous, she slapped her hands on her hips. “Accidentally?”

The embodiment of boyish innocence nodded. “Of course.”

She growled. She couldn’t keep the angry look up though, not with Tidus staring at her like he was. “You drive me crazy, you know that?” she asked, shaking her head.

“Yeah, but you still love me.”

“Someone has to. Where are we?” she asked, changing the topic.

Tidus shrugged. “I’m guessing we’re passing over Bevelle. We should hit Gagazet pretty soon.” He arched his eyebrow. “So are you going to tell me what went on over there or am I going to have to ask Yuna later when you tell her?”

“You’re not going to give up, are you?”

“Nope.”

She perched on top of the pilot’s armrest. “It looks like Gippal and I are going to start seeing each other.” She twisted her fingers in her lap. “It feels weird though.”

“Why?”

“Why? Because he’s my friend! To have him look at me like he’s interested or something after resigning myself to being the girl he always just hangs around takes some getting used to.”

“Yuna’s the girl I always hang around with and I look at her like I’m interested,” he smirked, enjoying his friend’s discomfort. “Or something.”

“Okay, that was a little bit too much information there. You two are different though; you have that kind of happily ever after sort of love. You deserve it.”

“And you think you don’t?”

She looked down. “I don’t know.”

He reached over and gave her knee a reassuring squeeze. “I think you do. You’re just too afraid to let it happen.”

“You think?”

“You’ll never know for sure if you don’t let go and just see where things go.” He tilted his head and nodded. “So anyway, there’s supposed to be a bunch of monkeys waiting for us?”

The non sequitur gave Rikku pause. “Yeah, there should be,” she finally said, realizing that Tidus had ended the topic of her relationship. “Lots and lots of them.”

***

“Man, you weren’t kidding about the monkeys,” Tidus breathed, looking around at the masses waiting under the airship.

“Yeah, it’s a good thing that the Fahrenheit hovers.” Rikku braced her hands on the deck’s side as she looked over. She’d managed to land the thing at the beginning of the ruin path farthest away from the old blitz dome, but the closest she could get it to the ground was about five feet.

“We make a jump for it?” Gippal asked, not looking forward to landing in a pile of simian fur.

“Don’t see any way around it.” Rikku had strapped her larger red daggers to her sides in preparation for dealing with whatever fiends might still inhabit the ruins. Sliding her hands through their metal grips so she wouldn’t accidentally stab herself on the way down, she tried to look for a landing spot that wouldn’t be covered in monkeys. Taking a breath, she did a running leap off the ship and rolled to a stop on the ground below.

“Oww,” she grumbled, brushing off bits of gravel and dirt from her behind. She looked up and watched as Tidus made a slightly less awkward landing, then as Gippal jumped. True to form, he managed to look classy as he landed on both feet, not a hair out of place.

“So where do we start?” he asked, looking around.

Rikku shrugged. “I don’t know. Hey Tidus, where were most of the houses built?”

“Towards the right, near and in the water. Most of them were houseboat types that were just tied to the docks.”

“That might be a good place to start looking. If Rayne and Aya had a house, that would probably be the best place for them, right?” Rikku picked her way across stones half submerged in the water.

“Be careful, we don’t know how stable things are,” Tidus warned. He stared out at the inky blackness and tried to envision just how the Zanarkand he remembered looked compared to how it was now. If he closed his eyes, he could see the vibrant lights of the metropolis, hear the never ending hum that the city that never slept gave off, feel the life that had practically pulsed from every piece of stone. For a moment, he wished he was back there.

Then he opened his eyes. No matter how grand his past had been, his present in the modest beachfront village of Besaid was even better. If given a choice, he would choose the soft torchlight and calming surf over bright lights and buzzing crowds any day. It was where he was meant to be, where his heart ultimately lay.

“Maybe this works like in the Farplane,” Gippal suggested, hopping up on the remains of a metal rooftop.

“Worth a try,” Rikku said. She clenched her eyes shut and thought about someone that could pass as her twin. “Anything?”

“Nothing.”

“Nope, not here either.” Gippal shook his foot, trying unsuccessfully to get a monkey from climbing up his pant leg. The monkey chattered as it grabbed handholds on Gippal’s shirt, ultimately ending up on tip of his head. “Don’t get comfortable up there,” he warned, trying to pick it off. The monkey just swung down so that it was eye to eye with him and shrieked.

Rikku pressed her lips together, but a guffaw managed to slip through. “If you’re finished attacking the wildlife,” she said, giggling, “maybe we could try somewhere else.”

***

Five hours, numerous fiends, several potions, and a scraped knee later, they hadn’t come closer to finding Aya. They did manage to find a few treasure chests Isaaru had left behind when he closed the ruin tour, but the contents had long since gone rancid and were worthless.

“Oww,” Rikku moaned, eyeing the raw skin of her knee. She’d gotten hurt rolling out of the way of a particularly nasty Behemoth’s path of destruction. “This is getting us nowhere.” She reached into her belt pouch to grab the makings for spare potions, but came up empty. Groaning, she sat down hard on a broken stair riser.

Gippal bent over her leg, his hands warm on her skin. “You’re such a big baby,” he teased, his lips moving silently as he chanted out a healing spell he had learned from the Crimson Squad. He didn’t know any of the higher ones, but he could cure small injuries. He couldn’t help but notice the way Rikku’s skin broke out into goosebumps, especially when he stroked her knee with the backs of his fingers. “But you’re right; we need another way to do this.” His pistol was running out of ammunition; he was going to have to resort to the knife he kept in his boot if they kept on running into fiends like they had been.

“Maybe we’re going about this wrong,” Tidus said, wiping his brow with the back of his hand. Nice memories of the once whole Blitz dome – the excitement he had felt before each game, the rush he had gotten listening to the crowd cheer him on, the feel of the water rippling around him as he played – had been displaced by slightly creepy images preserved within Pyreflies of former pilgrimages long gone. He had counted no fewer than seven past images of his own pilgrimage with Yuna and Rikku and at least three images of his father’s. The faster they could wrap this mission up, the better, in his opinion.

“So what do you suggest?”

Standing up, Tidus looked around. Taking a deep breath, he shouted. “Aya!” Rikku and Gippal stared at him as he made his way further into the old Blitz dome, shouting every other step. Then they looked at each other and shrugged.

“Aya!”

***

“Guys! I think I might have found something!” Rikku shouted, climbing back up from where she had scouted ahead. “It’s really faint, but I’m thinking it’s somebody.”

“This place gives me the creeps,” Tidus muttered, looking around where they had fought Yunalesca six years ago.

“I thought that something was off when Yunie, Paine and I came back here. It felt so sad,” Rikku said. “At first I thought it was just the impression Yunalesca left behind, but maybe I’m wrong.”

Gippal pointed at the faintly glowing figure in the corner. “Is that it?” he asked.

“Yes. So what do we do now?”

“Don’t look at me, this is your adventure.”

She scowled. “But it’s your airship. Figure something out.”

Gippal pressed his lips together in a thin line before cupping his hands around his mouth and shouting out a greeting. “Hello?” The glow pulsed and then grew brighter.

Rikku poked her head around Gippal’s arm. “Say something to her,” she said, her fingers bunching into his shirt.

Gippal lifted his arm and looked at her. “You’re a big chicken, I hope you know,” he whispered to her.

“Yeah, me and the chocobos. Just make sure it’s her,” she hissed back.

Gippal let out a long suffering sounding sigh before looking at the glow. “Are you Aya?” he asked, taking a tentative step forward as the glow slowly became a hazy outline of a person.

“I am,” the outline solidified. “Who are you? No one’s talked to me for a while, you’re the first ones.”

Rikku stepped out from behind Gippal. “Wow, she really does look like me.” There were tiny differences, but the physical resemblance was uncanny. Aya’s hair fell down her shoulders in thick, tumbling waves, but it was the same honey blonde color as the windblown mass Rikku had tried and failed to tame into a messy bun at the back of her head. Their builds were similar, but Aya’s arms were more toned and Rikku’s legs shapelier. “No wonder Rayne thought I was her.”

At the mention of Rayne’s name, Aya gasped and held her hands to her chest. “You’ve seen Rayne recently? Where is he, is he all right?”

Gippal glanced at Rikku, who looked at Tidus.

“What happened here?” Tidus asked instead, trying to see if maybe Aya could tell them what she remembered before they told her that Rayne was as dead as she was.

Aya looked around, her hands smoothing the material of her purple skirt. “I don’t know. The last thing I can remember is going to a Blitz game. I’d gotten the night off from the café and a few friends and I were going to see the Abes play…” her eyes widened as she suddenly recognized Tidus. He nodded and gestured for her to continue. “The next thing I knew, people were screaming and running all over the place. I tried to keep up with my friends, but I couldn’t.” She looked down at her hands.

Tidus grimaced. “Sin. Probably the same attack that brought me here.”

Aya looked up at them. “I’m dead, aren’t I?” Rikku nodded. Aya let out a breath and closed her eyes. “I thought so, I mean, I can remember part of the dome falling down and after looking at this, there couldn’t have been a way that I had survived. I was just too afraid to ask all the other people that have come through here.”

She means all the summoners and their guardians, Rikku guessed. “I’m sorry.” She didn’t know what else to say.

Aya swallowed. “But it hasn’t been all that long ago, has it? There’s nothing here to note the time, but it couldn’t have been but a few weeks ago, right?” Her eyes widened. “Oh no, Rayne is probably so worried about me.” She reached out to grab Rikku’s hands, but her own just passed through without resistance. “You have to tell him where I am for me. We always promised that if we were separated, we’d wait for the other so we could be together.”

Gippal shook his head. “There was a crash. He’s already waiting for you at Djose.” There was no way to tell her gently and he stood there as his words sank in. “He’s been waiting for you for almost a thousand years.”

Aya’s eyes closed, silvery tears running down her cheeks to drip off her chin. She pressed her lips together until they became a thin line and hugged her arms, her fingers going white around the sleeves of her blouse. “Did he suffer?” she asked when she composed herself enough to speak.

“He doesn’t even remember going,” Rikku told her. “All he’s been worried about is you.”

Aya let out a loud sob before pressing a shaky hand to her mouth. “As soon as I figured out that I had died,” she started out slowly, “I’ve hoped to see him again to make sure he was okay. I always hoped that he would live on, that he’d find someone else to fall in love and grow old with so he’d never be alone.”

“You love him, don’t you?”

Aya nodded, wiping at her face. “With all my heart. I always will.”

Rikku took a breath. “Right. I’m going to find a way to get him here.”

Aya’s face brightened. “You will?”

“He’s stuck around his old airship, so we’re going to fix it up and fly it back here, I promise.”

Aya clasped her hands to her chest again. “I don’t know how to thank you. I’d give anything to be with him again.”

Gippal held out his hands. “Just wait for us here. That’ll be enough.”

“I’ve gone outside the dome, but that’s as far as I’ve ever gone without getting really tired. I’ll wait for you there.” She looked around. “A thousand years. I’ve waited this long, waiting a while more won’t hurt. Just do something for me?”

Rikku tilted her head. “What is it?”

“Tell Rayne that I love him. And tell him I’m fine, that he doesn’t need to worry about me.” She smiled sadly and wiped at her cheek again. “He always fusses over everything.”

Rikku nodded. “We’ll tell him.”

Aya’s body dissolved back into multicolored lights. “Thank you.”

***

The trip back to Djose was a quiet affair. Rikku spent most of it pacing the bridge, which had driven Gippal crazy. He had threatened from the pilot’s seat to put the ship on automatic and sit on her for the rest of the trip if she didn’t stop, which resulted in Rikku sitting in the co-pilot’s chair and brooding until they touched down near the temple.

“Well, how was it?” Yuna asked, rocking a sleeping Jecht in her arms.

“Productive,” Rikku said. “Here, we brought Vidina a pet.” She handed Yuna the monkey that had managed to stow away.

“I’m sure that Lulu will appreciate the gesture,” Yuna said dryly, rolling her eyes as the animal clambered up her arm to rest on her shoulder. “Besides the monkey, what did you find?”

“Aya. She took the whole being dead thing a lot better than Rayne did. As soon as we get this ship off the ground, we’re brining him back to her. She said she’d wait for him.”

Yuna motioned for Tidus to get the monkey off her shoulder. “And anything else?”

Rikku glanced over at Gippal, who had gone to check with Cid on what had been done in his absence. “We’re going to take it a day at a time,” she said.

Yuna leaned in. “Anything else?”

Rikku rolled her eyes at her cousin’s blatant attempt to fish for information. “He’s a terrific kisser. Like knock your socks off terrific.”

“I hate to break in,” Tidus said. “But I was checking the sphere network on our way back. The repairmen fixed the ferries and the postponed Blitz games are starting up again tomorrow.”

Yuna sighed. “I guess that means we’re going to have to get moving.”

Rikku ran a finger down Jecht’s cheek. “I wish you could stay longer, but I’m glad that you came.”

“Just like old times, wasn’t it?” Tidus asked, slinging his arm over Rikku’s shoulder. “It was fun.”

Rikku groaned. “Only you would think that fighting fiends is entertaining.”

“Gotta stay in shape somehow.” He hugged her, then ambled off to speak with Cid.

“Keep me posted on the Gippal front?” Yuna asked.

“You’ll be the first one to know if anything happens,” Rikku promised.

“You find what you were looking for?” Cid asked, coming up towards them and wiping his hands on a rag.

“Yeah. You don’t waste any time,” Rikku quipped pointing with her chin at the workers who were finishing up their measurements.

“Thought you wanted to get this one over with quick,” he replied gruffly. “All the projects I put you in charge of back Home aren’t getting done, you know. This little side trip of yours is putting everything off schedule.”

Rikku stood on her tiptoes and kissed his bristly cheek. “Thank you,” she said. “I really do appreciate your help.”

Cid’s cheeks darkened. “Aw, wasn’t anything. Still don’t know what’s up with the power source though,” he said, covering up the wave of fatherly pleasure at his daughter’s sentiment. “You’re on your own there.”

“Hey, you gave me a big head start. It’s better than nothing.”

“Guess I’ve got to ship the three of them back to Besaid now.” He glanced longingly at the airship. Part of him wanted to stick around and tinker, but another part acknowledged that the project was his daughter’s. He had to let go some day, but it didn’t make it any easier. “I’m just a sphere call away.”

Rikku smiled. “I know.”

Cid hesitated, but then reached out to hug her. “I’m so proud of you, Sprocket,” he whispered against her hair.

He hadn’t called her by that name since she had been a little girl and forever tagging along in his shadow. Tears stung in her eyes, but she didn’t let them fall. She’d lost count of how many times she had wanted her father’s approval in the past. “I love you, Dad.”

“Hey now,” Cid said, his voice thick. “No sense getting all emotional on me. You’ve got a job to do.”

“I’ll be seeing you around,” Rikku said, waving at Yuna and Tidus as they boarded her father’s ship.

“He acts tough, but he’s just a giant teddy bear, isn’t he?” Lina asked, sidling up next to Rikku, a smirk on her lips.

“Don’t say it too loud,” Rikku warned. “Word gets out and there goes his reputation for being a hardass.”

Lina laughed. “My lips are sealed. Come on, you look like you could use a shower and a change of clothes.”

Rikku wrinkled her nose at the state of her clothing. Spending most of the day attacking monsters and running around really did work up a sweat.

***

Hair still damp from her shower, she bounced down the temple steps and towards the ship.

“Did you find her?” Rayne appeared as soon as Rikku stepped aboard the bridge. “Is she all right?”

“Rikku nodded. “She’s fine. She told us to tell you not to worry about her.”

“Not worry? How the hell am I supposed to do that? She could be sick or something.”

“No, she can’t.”

Rayne stopped pacing and stared. “What do you mean?”

Rikku winced. “This ship is around seven hundred to a thousand years old. There’s no way that she could have possibly lived that long.”

Rayne’s face fell and he braced his arms on a nearby wall. “How?” He swallowed, turning his head to look at her. “I mean, she grew old and died, right?”

There was so much hope in his voice that Rikku hated to be the one to tell him the truth. “There was an attack. Zanarkand was destroyed. She looked very young.”

Rayne’s mouth twisted in anguish. With an inarticulate cry, he kicked at a nearby panel, sending a shower of rusted metal particles into the air. “I want to see her,” he said, sinking down into the pilot’s seat, his hands over his face.

Rikku reached out and impulsively touched his shoulder. She didn’t know why, but her fingers touched firm flesh instead of going through to the chair. Maybe different ghosts acted differently. “You will. I have a plan.” She bit on her thumbnail as she told him about rebuilding the ship and then flying to Zanarkand and Aya.

“I’m with you,” Rayne said as she finished. “I don’t need to rest, so I can work twice as hard.”

“There’s only one problem,” Rikku countered. “Every time you leave here, you get all skeleton looking.”

As if to discount her, he went to the open windshield and stuck his hand out of the opening. At once, his fingers shifted to ragged bones and tendons, making his shoulders sag in defeat. “Did she say anything else?”

“She wanted me to tell you how much she loves you.”

Rayne straightened his shoulders and with a determined look on his face, went towards the windshield again. “For her,” he said, closing his eyes and stepping down. Rikku looked on in surprise as he stood there, just as whole on the ground as he was on the ship. He looked down at himself and then looked up at Rikku triumphantly. Cracking his knuckles, he surveyed the ruin of his old ship. “Now let’s get to work.”

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