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Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (9/12)

Title: Of bad gil pieces and airships (9/12)
Rating: G
Words: 4,682
Challenge: gloves, dirty, crystal
Summary: Construction continues and Rikku razzes Gippal about his prowess with electrical circuits.
Note: Whew. The last of the edits are now done. Now it’s new stuff from here on out. Chapter 8 can be found here. Index of chapters can be found here.


Welding pieces of metal together for hours on end wasn’t one of Rikku’s favorite ways to spend a day. She liked the process well enough and respected the effort it took to create, but she could think of other ways to pass the time. Welding pieces of metal together for hours on end in an extremely humid environment was even worse. She was sweaty and dirty and probably smelled pretty funky. She took a whiff and wrinkled her nose. Yep, definitely funky. She paused, taking the time to wipe a bead of sweat off her forehead before it fell into her eyes. The sky around Djose was a weird greenish yellow color; she figured there was going to be one huge summer storm coming in the near future. Gully washers, she’d heard them called once. The microburst of rain would come down in sheets and then be over in a matter of minutes.

I just wish it would hurry up and get here. At least then it’ll cool off. She sharply jerked her head forward to drop the welding mask back over her face and relit her torch. Bright bits of metal slag flew in all directions as she continued work on the belly of the ship.

The demolition had finally been completed a week ago and the reconstruction phase had started up. She’d gotten together a few like minded, engineering-keen mechanics and as they took the ship apart piece by piece, they painstakingly catalogued just how the ship went together. She had been surprised at how quickly a detailed blueprint of the ship’s schematics had been drawn up. She named a mechanic named Henrik the lead engineer and they worked together seamlessly. She’d known him ever since she’d been a little girl in pigtails and he would sneak her bits of hard candies, even though Cid hadn’t wanted her to eat between mealtimes. He’d also helped with the reconstruction of New Home, so as soon as Rikku had been aware of him being at Djose, she jumped at the chance to ask him to help. They had a great working relationship; she’s ask for something and he would magically conjure it up, or else already have it ready for her before she even had a chance to ask him about it.

He still remembered about the candies he used to give her too; she’d find a piece of peppermint tucked inside her napkin at lunch and a bit of butterscotch at dinner. She would look over where he sat a few tables over and he’d wink at her, his sun-weathered skin crinkling at his eyes, then go back to the conversation he had been having with other technicians or tuck back into his meal.

Something cold touched her shoulder. Turning her torch off, she lifted the mask and turned. “Looked like you needed a break,” Gippal said, offering her a frosted over glass of water.

“Boss man’s doing a water run?” she quipped, taking it and gratefully gulping the contents. She shivered as the cold stung all the way down, making her back hurt. “Gah, that’s cold.”

“You’re not the only one that can cast a blizzard spell.” He leaned forward to check on her progress. “And who said I couldn’t be a water boy every now and then?”

“It’s getting there,” she said, referring to the metal skeleton that was slowly taking shape. She and Henrik had kept the ship’s design pretty much the same, but they altered it a bit for better aerodynamics. The finished product was going to be built for speed, yet still be able to carry a decent amount of passengers or cargo. She’d shown the plans to Rayne, who had given them his seal of approval. He hadn’t helped out much in the initial construction of his ship all those years ago, but Rikku was finding out that he was a bit of an engineer himself. She had introduced him to Henrik and it was as if the two of them were long lost friends, how well they got along.

She had to hand it to Rayne. He knew his stuff. She found herself working late, just so that she could hang out with him more. While they worked, he told her some back history on how he and Aya had met. Apparently, he had been working as a shipping pilot and had gone into the café she worked at one day after a run. It had been love at first sight.

“I’m sorry I haven’t been around to help out much,” Gippal said, bringing her attention back to him. There’d been a huge breakdown at the dig sites in Bikanel that had required his full attention, and then as soon as he had gotten back from that, several hovers along the Highroad had needed emergency repairs. He’d either been holed up in his office filling out requisition forms and assigning crews or out in the field working. She’d insisted that he take the mechanics he had designated hers for her project to help out. As a result, she had taken on the majority of the work by herself, relying on only one or two other workers along with Rayne.

“That’s okay,” she told him. “I’ll just twist your arm to do the electrical stuff.”

“Yeah, so if something bursts into flames it’ll be all my fault.”

“Of course.”

He gave a melodramatic sigh. “I was fifteen. I’ll have you know that I’ve never melted a circuit board since then.” He reached out and snatched the cup from her hands, drinking the last bits.

“Hey! I wasn’t done with that!” She tugged off her heavy leather gloves and proceeded to put her equipment away. Thunder rumbled off in the distance, heralding the storm that had been threatening to fall all afternoon. “You think the tents will hold?” Since taking everything apart, the entrance to the temple had been cluttered with multicolored canvas tents to protect the ship parts. It looked as if a caravan of gypsies had taken up residence at the temple steps.

“They should. They can ride out the roughest desert storms without a grain of sand getting inside, they should hold up to a little rain.” He wandered about and gathered a few loose tools that Rikku had left scattered in her wake. Another boom of thunder sounded, and he shook his head when Rikku jumped. “Thought you weren’t afraid of thunder any more.”

She took the welding mask off with more force than necessary, wincing when a few stray hairs got caught in the hinges. “I’m not afraid,” she said, tucking the helmet under her arm. “Just slightly uncomfortable. There’s a difference.”

“Didn’t you say that you camped out in the Thunder Plains for a while?” Knowing Rikku, she had spent the entire time there in the perfectly safe, practically soundproof rooms of the Travel Agency. The way she squirmed under his questioning glance confirmed it. “Rin have you washing dishes to earn your keep?” When he had been younger, Gippal had spent a summer or two working at the travel agency. Back then, Rin had still been in the process of establishing his chain of inns and the Thunder Plains agency was brand new. The only reason that his mother had allowed him to go out and explore Spira was that she had trusted Rin to keep Gippal out of trouble. They never told her that Gippal had been the one on the roof trying to recalibrate the lightning rod during particularly stormy nights or about the many times they had to fight back fiends from around the perimeter of the building. What Lina hadn’t known hadn’t hurt her, and even better, it hadn’t hurt Gippal. If she had known, she would have blistered both his and Rin’s ears and forbidden Gippal to step one foot away from Home for the rest of his life.

Rikku looked sheepish. “He tried, but every other dish wound up getting broken. That’s when he sent me to my room for the rest of the week.” She had gotten somewhat used to the noise by the end of the week, but was relieved to see the Fahrenheit touch down to pick her up all the same. She put up a brave front when Cid questioned her on how her week went, but whenever her father sent her and her brother out to show the rest of Spira how machina worked, she made sure Brother and Buddy were assigned to the Plains.

“He always did have a soft spot for you,” Gippal said. “If you hadn’t decided to apprentice in metallurgy, I think he would have asked if you wanted to learn the tricks of the trade.”

“He did?”

“Yeah. You were around so much when we were kids, I think he kind of adopted you as the daughter he never had.” Gippal knew that Rin had been in love with his mother since Rin had been the age Gippal was now. His mother had told him that she had feelings for Rin as well, but since he had never given her any hints that he was interested and Gippal’s father had, she went with Amal instead.

“Don’t get me wrong,” she had told him once. “I loved your father very much. It was kind of hard not to; he practically swept me off my feet.” When his father had been killed in one of Sin’s attacks, Rin had been there to help pick up the pieces of their world that Gippal’s larger than life father had left behind. He hadn’t moved in on his mother right away; he had carefully danced around her until she had finally realized his feelings for her. Gippal had always respected Rin for that. He also respected the fact that Rin was willing to take a four-year-old boy under his wing and help raise him. Rin had made certain that Gippal knew he wasn’t a substitute for his own father, but someone that would be there for him whenever Gippal needed him. When he had gotten older, Gippal had asked Rin why he hadn’t originally married Lina instead. Rin had only shrugged. “Your father was my best friend,” was all he had said. “I couldn’t stand between him and the one person that could make him the happiest.”

“I always wondered,” Rikku said, bringing Gippal back to the present. “Why you never went in with the whole commerce thing.”

“Who says I didn’t?” Gippal asked. “It takes a lot of salesmanship to get people to follow your lead, you know.”

She laughed. “No way.”

“Rule number one,” he held up his index finger and looked at her solemnly. “Promise the consumer something. In my case, I promised people a dependable guy that could capitalize on the sudden lift of the taboo on machina and help them understand machines better. Rule number two,” he held up a second finger. “Deliver on what you promised in rule number one. I just happen to be a really dependable guy that knows his way around machines.”

They made their way through the tent, securing the entrance flap against the coming rain. “Well, you do a really good job of it,” Rikku said, hoisting up the welding kit in her arms as they walked towards the equipment building.

Gippal took the kit from her arms, lifting the cumbersome thing like it was nothing. “I credit my overwhelming charisma, surplus of charm, and handsome good looks.” He hid the satisfied rush of pleasure at her compliment behind a customary smirk and glib remark. He knew what he was doing as a leader and he knew he did it well, but it felt good hearing a confirmation from her.

“Oh yes,” Rikku teased, nudging him with her elbow. “I’d want to join the Machine Faction only because that Gippal is so cute.” She pitched her voice up high and fluttered her eyelashes at him.

“Actually,” Gippal mused, handing over the welding kit to the attendant. “I get a whole lot of applications for digging with that exact reason written on it.” He laughed at the flash of jealousy on her face that she tried to hide unsuccessfully. “They never last more than a week at most, though. They find out pretty quickly that the hot sun and low pay just isn’t worth it.”

“Bet that just breaks your heart, all those girls dropping like flies.” She scuffed the ground with her boot heel. After coming back from Zanarkand, the two of them had pretty much openly said that they were seeing the other. Rikku couldn’t help but be amused by the somewhat jealous glares a couple of girls had given her since then.

“It might,” he slung an arm around her shoulder. “If I was interested in any of them. They aren’t my type. I like my girls cute, blonde and stubborn as hell. It doesn’t hurt if their names happen to be Rikku, either.”

She rolled her eyes, but wrapped an arm around his waist. “So you must run into a lot of Rikkus then, do you?”

He rested his chin on the top of her head and grinned. “Nope. I think Spira can only handle just the one of you.” He had the good grace to pretend the punch she gave his arm actually hurt.

***

Hours later, a particularly violent sounding peal of thunder woke Rikku up from the nap she had inadvertently taken on top of several very old textbooks in the library. Still groggy and half asleep, she shrieked and bolted upright, ending up under the table. She gave a shaky laugh as she finally woke up all the way, glad that no one had been present to see her. Crawling out from under the table, she closed the books she had been poring over, double checking for drool marks. Thankfully finding none, she put everything back where she had found it, setting one book aside to peruse later on in her bedroom. After her crew finished rebuilding the metal structure of the ship, the next big project was going to be rebuilding the engine room. The schedule she and Henrik had drawn up didn’t call for that happening for another week or two, depending on weather conditions. Still, she had scoured through countless pages trying to find something that resembled the strange power supply. Unlike the Celsius, which ran on some sort of odd crystal-based fuel she still wasn’t quite sure of, she had found some plans for solar cells. The technology was pretty simple and slightly old – now that she had seen the explanation for it on paper, she had remembered working on something similar for the previous Home’s backup generator. It was one of those things that could stump people until it was taken out of its original context and looked at closer.

Back aching, she made her way to the kitchens to brew a mug of tea. Someone who lived in the temple before had created a fantastic garden just outside the kitchen door and someone in the Faction had taken the time to keep it maintained. A generous selection of dried herbs hung in a pantry, and Rikku picked a few she knew were good for muscle aches and pains. Steaming mug in hand and book tucked securely under her arm, she made her way back towards her bedroom.

The light under Gippal’s door stopped her though. She could hear him moving around in there, and she had half a mind to just keep on walking. Curiosity got the better of her though, making her knock on the heavy wooden door.

“What are you still doing up?” she asked, poking her head in. “It’s really late.” She hadn’t seen the inside of his private office in years. It hadn’t changed much; there were still the stacks of paperwork piled to the sides of his desk and the floor to ceiling bookcases crammed to the bursting point with blueprints and rolled up plans. She understood his need for a secondary office: there was just so much stuff that couldn’t fit into his larger one. The difference with this office and the one up front was that where the one everyone and their mother went into felt businesslike and formal, this one off his bedroom reflected more of Gippal’s personality. It was functional, but it was also laid back. There were a set of chairs in the corner that practically begged to be sat in. Rikku knew from personal experience that they were the best things to curl up and take naps on. The big area rug his desk sat on broke up the hard tile, the vibrant colors warming up the cold slate floor.

She jumped as the crackling lightning fixture in the middle of the room sizzled and gave an ominous flash. “What’s up with that?” she asked, backing away before it would up zapping her.

“Lightning rods are replenishing energy,” Gippal answered nonchalantly. “Happens every time there’s a storm, you get used to it.”

“I’m just glad my room doesn’t have one,” she admitted. “It would keep me up all night.”

“So what are you doing up so late anyway?” he asked, looking up from a stack of planning books. His hair looked more rumpled than usual, signaling that he’d been running his fingers through it.

“I was heading to bed,” Rikku countered, taking a sip from her mug. “Don’t do that.”

“Don’t do what?”

She sighed. “Rub your eye. You’re going to get it irritated if you keep that up.” He’d taken off his eye patch for the evening. From far away, no one could tell that anything was wrong with his eye. Even from a closer range, you really had to look hard at his face before finally pinpointing just what was slightly off about it. The sandragora that had blasted poison into his face years ago had only partially blinded him, leaving him with only about ten percent vision in his right eye. He claimed that if he closed his good eye and only used the injured one, he could see blurry black shadows at best. Sometimes he’d get a flash or two of color, but they were gone almost before he registered seeing them in the first place. Gippal claimed he wore the patch because trying to focus between barely there shadows and clear vision often gave him a headache.

Anticipating a late night of work ahead of him alone, he had also taken off his shirt and boots. “I already have a mother,” he groused, rubbing his eye intentionally with the back of his knuckle to get a reaction out of her. He grinned at her exasperated sigh and head shake.

“And she’d tell you the same thing. Let me have a look at it.” Setting her mug on a clean space and her book on top of a stack of files, she leaned in closer. The white of his eye was nearly opaque, the cloudy gray color muting the vibrant green of his swirled iris to a dull mossy hue. He had been fortunate enough to retain muscle control over his eyelid, his dark gold eyelashes nearly touching his cheekbones as he blinked. I’d kill for lashes like that, Rikku sighed wistfully. Her own were decent enough, but tended to go spiky on her and only looked exceptionally good with the aid of cosmetics. “You’ve been straining your eye,” she said accusingly.

He couldn’t help it; she was too close. Leaning over, he pressed his lips softly against hers, enjoying the way that she swayed towards him, her body pliant under his hands. “Guilty.” His accountant had gotten over the bug she had suffered, but now her family was stricken with it. He’d given her as much time off as she needed to take care of them, telling her she was on paid leave until everyone in the house was back on their feet. As a result, he’d been doing double duty, even with Lina’s help. This meant twice as many things to look over in the paperwork department. He closed his eyes as Rikku’s fingers absently ran lazy circles over his temples, her thumbs smoothing over his eyebrows. “I really am sorry that I haven’t been around more often,” he said, his hands settling over her hips, his thumbs playing with the belt loops of her pants.

She kissed his forehead. “That’s okay. I’ll just have to make you take me out to some expensive place to make up for it.” She slid her fingers in his hair, her nails lightly running over his scalp. “Here, drink this. You need it more than I do.” She stepped back and pushed her mug towards him. She rounded the desk and picked up her book. Pressing a palm against a knot in her lower back, she turned to leave. “Good night.”

“Wait.” Gippal reached out and put his hand on her elbow. “Your back hurts, doesn’t it?”

She turned her head. “Guilty.”

He frowned. “You’ve been working way too hard.” He stood up from his chair and came up behind her.

“I already have a father,” she said, echoing his earlier words. She hissed when his hands found a sore spot at the base of her neck.

“Yeah, and Cid would have told you the same thing, just with a lot more complaining thrown in.”

She sighed. “I have to get this done. You saw how miserable Aya and Rayne looked.” She turned and tucked her head under his chin. “It’s not fair to them.”

He stroked her arms and hugged her. “I know, but at the same time, it’s not fair to you to go at the pace you’ve been keeping up. You work long hours each day, longer than all the other workers do. One of these days you’re going to start work still tired and make a mistake that’s going to cost you.” He rested his cheek against her hair. “I don’t want to see you get hurt.”

“I just want to help them,” she said stubbornly.

“You are. We’ll get this ship up and running, but I’m not going to let you kill yourself over it. They’ve waited for a thousand years to see the other; they can wait a few more weeks.” He tried for his best placating tone and resumed rubbing her back.

“This isn’t working,” he said, stepping away. He took her hand and led her to his adjoining bedroom.

“What?” She took a curious once-over of the place. Pieces of dirty laundry were kicked in a corner. His set of armor was hanging on a stand at the far wall, flanked by his oversized multi-weapon and a collection of knives Rikku knew weren’t just mounted to the wall for decoration’s sake. Masculine flotsam and jetsam littered a side table to the right of the main bedroom door: discarded cufflinks, a money clip, and a few loose gearwheels were among the detritus strewn around haphazardly. Yet another brightly colored area rug broke up the expanse of hard stone floor and brought a burst of indigo, olive, and scarlet to the room. A low chest of drawers housed all his clothing and his bed was sandwiched between two sturdy looking end tables. There was a large framed painting over the bed depicting a panoramic view of the desert, the orange colored sand sliding sideways in the wind offset by brilliant blue skies above.

“You’re about to fall on your feet,” he noted. “Slide over.” He guided her towards the side of his bed.

“I can sleep in my own room,” she protested.

“You’re not sleeping here. You’re going to lie down while I finish getting all those knots out of your back. I can’t work with you wobbling all over the place.”

“How generous of you,” she told him, toeing off her boots so she wouldn’t get his sheets dirty. She rubbed her fingers against the material, the neutral colored linen cool to the touch. That’s when it clicked. The rugs in each room were pieces that she was used to seeing in Bikanel; the thick material trapped sand and barred it from entering the rest of the house. The linen sheets were cool enough for the daytime hours, but the heavy red blanket draped at the foot of the bed provided warmth through the evenings when the temperature dropped dramatically. If he couldn’t be there himself, Gippal had brought the desert to Djose.

“I’m a generous kind of guy,” he replied, sitting on the edge of the mattress. He kneaded the spot between her shoulder blades. “Better?”

“A little.” They lapsed into a companionable silence. It was only until Gippal felt her muscles go completely slack and hear her even breathing did he realize that Rikku had fallen asleep. Not even pulling the sheet out from under her body and covering her with it woke her up. He glanced at the bare spot next to her, then at the door leading to his study, then back again.

Sometimes he hated being the boss. At least the tea on his desk was still warm.

***

Rikku woke up, wondering why she had decided to go to bed almost fully clothed. Her back was warm, as if there was a heating pad running the entire length of her body. An unfamiliar weight at her waist had her picking up the sheet covering her and looking down. Huh, there was an arm there. She looked at both of her hands. Drawing the conclusion that she hadn’t grown a third arm in the middle of the night, she turned her head and came face to face with a sleeping Gippal. Events replayed in her head and she flushed, hoping that she hadn’t fallen asleep on him while he had been talking to her. She gingerly turned in his arms and took the opportunity to watch him.

He looked a lot younger in his sleep. Unguarded, he didn’t have the it’s me against the world, baby expression he sometimes wore while awake. His dark eyelashes fanned out over his cheekbones and his mouth was slack, his lips partially open in sleep. Dark blond stubble covered the bottom half of his face, defining the sharp angle of his jaw line. He sighed a bit in his sleep and his arm tightened around her waist, his hand pressing against her shoulder to snuggle her closer to him. Then he let out a sort of snorting kind of snore and tilted his head so that his forehead rested on hers. His hair tickled her nose.

As comfortable as it was lying in bed, Rikku’s internal clock was telling her that it was time to start the day. It took a while, but her highly honed thievery skills allowed her to wiggle out of his embrace without waking him up. She watched as he frowned in his sleep, his hand reaching out to the space she just left. Gathering up her boots in one hand, she gave him one last glance. This is probably a stupid idea, she thought, putting her boots back down. She leaned over and gently brushed the hair out of his eyes.

“I could really fall for you if I’m not careful,” she whispered, softly brushing her lips over his. She ran a hand over his cheek, her fingers catching on his stubble. “And I don’t think I’d mind all that much if I did.” Picking her boots back up, she tiptoed out of his room, closing the door with a soft click.

It wasn’t until Gippal heard her footsteps fade outside his door that he opened his eyes. Little did she know, he had woken up earlier and had watched her as she slept; only pretending to be asleep when he felt her stir.

“Then I’m gonna have to work on that,” he murmured. Stretching, he debated getting up and starting the day. Inhaling the bright citrus fragrance that had clung to his pillow, he decided to give himself the luxury of another hour’s worth of sleep.

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