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At the Car Wash

Title: At the Car Wash
Rating: G
Challenge: forget, regret, shield
Words: 895
Summary: “Take the job, Gippal.”
Note: Happy early birthday, mariamcardoso!


“No way.”

Gippal smirked. “Way.” He stuck his hand in the bucket of water, stirring up the liquid soap until it frothed. “Your dad just finished posting the job assignments.”

Rikku’s mouth opened, but no sound came out. “But,” she finally started, grabbing a sponge. “I’m better at customizing things than you are.”

Gippal sprayed the dusty hover with the water hose. “No offense kiddo, but some of your stuff tends to blow up after you’ve finished customizing it.”

She huffed, scrubbing the metal harder than she needed to. “It’s called experimenting with different variables.”

“It’s called driving your dad insane, that’s what. If he had any hair, he’d have pulled it all out by now.”

“It’s my job to keep him on his toes,” she said, working around to Gippal’s side. She spared him a critical once-over out of the corner of her eye. He’d gone through another growth spurt when he hit fifteen last month and his voice had finally evened out to a lower tone than it had been between the ages of eleven and fourteen. His features had sharpened and Rikku had heard more than one girl around Home giggle whenever he went by.

She didn’t get it. This was Gippal, the boy Rikku had witnessed eat paste when he was five, who led her on so many troublemaking capers that the corner of her room was permanently known as Rikku’s Time Out Spot, who had laughed so hard at one of her jokes once that milk came out of his nose, and who had broken his arm during a game of Pin the Tail on the Lupine that had dissolved into a great big bout of roughhousing between him and a few other boys his age.

But then again, he was also the boy who never laughed at her when she cowered from the thunderstorms that came to the island during the wet season. He was the one who taught her how to throw a punch and how to filch cookies from the kitchens without getting caught. He was her buddy, her partner-in-crime. Gippal was the one person in Home she knew she could annoy without him getting too mad at her.

Okay, sure he had gotten a lot taller and his voice was deeper. And yeah, his face had turned into all angles and his hair looked better now that he cut it so it wasn’t in his face anymore. So what if his hands were bigger and more callused than hers or that he could pick her up by her elbows and sling her over his shoulder without getting winded. She still didn’t get what the whole fuss was about.

And now you’re lying to yourself, she absently thought, spreading soap suds over the side of the hover. She was right there with every other girl, daydreaming about him when she should be busy doing something else, like proving to her father that she was more than capable of going on a salvage team for a sunken airship that may or may not be near some old temple ruins.

Gippal gave her one of his crooked grins. “Cheer up, Buttercup,” he said, rinsing what she had just scrubbed. “I’m sure your dad just missed putting your name up there.”

She snorted, wetting her sponge. “Oh yeah, because it’s just like him to forget important stuff like that.” She scrubbed another portion with less enthusiasm, not noticing when Gippal failed to rinse.

“I don’t want the job.”

She stopped what she was doing and stared at him. “What?”

He shrugged. “I get seasick, you know that. Can you imagine how bad I’d get out there?” He reached out and put a hand on her arm. “Besides, if I don’t go, then that spot would be open for you.”

Rikku instantly regretted moping. She knew that Gippal had been excited about getting the job and his claim of seasickness was a weak excuse. “Take the job, Gippal.”

“What, you want me to barf my guts out?”

“You’re a better mechanic than I am,” she said.

“Yeah, but you really wanted this spot.”

She smiled. She couldn’t help but notice the complete lack of modesty at his answer. “Hey, the actual work isn’t for another year. I’ve got time to bug Pops into letting me on.” She watched his face as he thought her words over. This is the guy who’d step aside from something he really wanted just to make me happy, she added to her mental description of Gippal.

“You’re thinking about something,” he accused.

“Huh?”

“Your nose is all crinkly.” He dabbed at her face with his soap sponge, leaving a big cluster of suds sliding down her face.

“Hey!” She retaliated by smacking him in the arm with hers. “And here I was thinking about what a nice guy you were!”

He grinned and sprayed her with the hose. She shrieked and ran to the other side of the hover, using it as a shield as she lobbed another sponge his way.

In the end, both of them were sopping wet and trying to look contrite when one of the garage supervisors yelled at them for wasting water. Gippal gave Rikku a sideways glance and winked, which Rikku returned.

Oh yeah, she thought, sidling closer to him. I totally see what the big deal about him is.

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