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Mission: Incognito

Title: Mission: Incognito
Challenge: feather, ocean, cocky
Rating: G
Warnings: None
Words: 2,520
Summary: Gippal hires Rikku to catch a slacker, but gets unexpected results.


“I still don’t know why I have to wear this damn thing.” He could hear Rikku laughing, even if he couldn’t really see her all that well. It was as if his face wasn’t lined up correctly; all he could see was the top of Rikku’s head.

A swirl of yellow hair and orange feathers flittered past his face. “Don’t be so grumpy. I thought you wanted to catch your lazy employees partying on company time.”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “I hired you to do the legwork for me, not drag me into it.” His voice was muffled, but irritated sounding nonetheless.

“What’s the fun in that? Lighten up, Gippal.” She reached up to adjust the Cait’s head. “Better?”

It was, though he’d never let her know. “It’s hot in here.” Not to mention that the inside of the costume smelled like oranges, some sort of flower, and an underlying hint of something sugary sweet. Every inhalation he took was like a breath of Concentrated Rikku, which was driving him nuts. The faster he found the digger that had ditched Nhadala’s crew for the past week the better.

“I would draw an eye patch on its face, but that might give you away. Just pretend that you belong here and watch the master work her magic.” She gave him a cheeky wink and skipped away from him, her tiny skirt hitching higher with each step and the beads in her hair jangling together merrily.

She led him through Luca, lingering in front of shop stalls. While Gippal tried to entertain a group of kids that had flocked towards him, he noticed when she picked up a bracelet. He recognized the make of the bauble; it was pretty useless as is, meant purely for decoration. Yet he also noticed how Rikku debated about buying it before regretfully replacing the sparkly, slightly gaudy accessory in the vendor’s hand. Maybe he would buy it and customize it for her later. He had a couple of spare stamina tablets lying around the temple and he was certain that he could rustle up a few blessed gems while he was at it. It wouldn’t make the thing any less ugly, but at least she’d have something useful.

He stayed behind her at all times, blending in with other entertainers mingling through the square. Every once and a while he would grumble about the suit being too hot; which he said mostly as a guilt trip instead of genuine complaining. The fifth time he said something, he felt a thin layer of ice cover his body, effectively shutting him up.

“Thought you hated spells.”

She blew frost off her fingers. “Just the thunder ones. I’m getting pretty good with the rest. Wanna see?” After that, he stopped complaining.

They canvassed the port areas, Gippal pantomiming the act of digging as his mode of questioning. He could have argued that joining Rikku in interrogations hadn’t been part of the initial deal, but hearing her laugh at his antics was worth it. Besides, he was having fun hanging around with her. Truth be told, he thought they should do this more often, just minus the incognito business.

He had a good hunch that his stray digger was in Luca for the Blitz semi-finals, so they headed to the dressing rooms next. He kept Rikku in his line of sight, slightly annoyed when she started chatting up players from the Psyches. He decided to ignore the pang of jealousy that came out of the blue and focused instead on one of the players that pointed towards the exit. Rikku batted her eyelashes at him and waved, going off in the direction the player had indicated.

“Your digger is back in the café. He’s doing a pretty good job hustling people at Sphere Break too. Want to go catch him in the act?”

“You any good?”

She scoffed. “Good? I’m one of the best.”

“Shinra says otherwise.”

Rikku snorted. “Hrumph. Yeah, well what does he know? He’s just a kid.”

She looked cute when she made that face, he thought. “Apparently out of all the games you’ve played together, he’s won every one.”

“Maybe I’m only giving him a false sense of security. When he drops his guard, I’m going to wallop him one.”

“So you’re going for a best out of three hundred and counting?”

“You betcha.” She tugged on his arm. “Come on, I’ve been practicing. I promise not to lose too much of your gil.” She wiggled a very familiar looking wallet at him.

“Much? How the hell did you get…?” He let his question drop, seeing that it was a waste of breath when she turned her back to him and did that little skippy thing with her feet again that had her hair bouncing and her scarf swaying.

Inventing Sphere Break had been a stroke of genius on Rin’s part, its popularity spreading like wildfire through Spira. While Gippal rarely participated, he did enjoy the occasional match every now and then. Numbers were second nature to him, as were making quick strategic decisions. The café, which normally had a decent amount of people milling about during the off-season, was stuffed to the max with gamers and Blitz fans alike. Gippal winced when several people stepped on his oversized feet or bumped into his costume’s head, making him adjust his vision more than once.

“That’s it,” he grumbled, sitting down at a rare empty table. “The next time she drags me into one of these situations, I’m picking the disguise.”

Meanwhile, Rikku had walked up to the digger sitting in the corner, challenging him to a game. Gippal knew that he had asked her to help him out because she had an innate talent for making people feel at ease, for getting them comfortable before they even had a chance to think about running, but he hadn’t considered his wayward employee’s reaction to Rikku. Gippal didn’t care much for the lingering looks directed at her bare legs or the way the man leaned forward towards her, trying to get a better look down her top. Rikku, as usual, was oblivious. Then again, that was just her. She spent an enormous amount of time whining about not having the generous attributes her friends had, all the while clueless to her own brand of beauty. Fists curling, Gippal wanted to wipe the man’s smarmy leer off his face when Rikku lost two games in a row.

“Oooh, no fair!” she pouted, bouncing in her chair. Gippal guessed that if she sighed any harder, she just might fall out of her bikini top. The digger must have thought the same thing, because he slid over in the booth and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

“You know, this isn’t the only game that we could play…” The man whispered something in Rikku’s ear that made her face go beet red.

Okay, that’s it. Gippal jumped out of his chair just as Rikku opened her mouth to tell the man off. Even though Gippal knew that she could deal with the situation herself, it didn’t stop him from acting. It was as if he had been disconnected from his body, unable to do anything but watch events unfold. He caught the “Oui zang!” she screeched at the digger around the same time that he saw himself shoving Rikku behind him. He watched as his right fist, seemingly in slow motion, crossed over his body to hit the man square in the nose.

“Take it…outside?” the bartender demanded, probably ending on a questioning note because it was a first in his establishment for a mascot character to get into fisticuffs with patrons.

Gippal could faintly hear Rikku yelling at him, but couldn’t stop his fists from pummeling the guy. His soon-to-be ex-digger got in a lucky shot, making the Cait head topple off Gippal’s shoulders.

“Ur ramm,” the man muttered, finally getting a good look at who his assailant was.

“Got that right.” Gippal stood up and glared at the prone man. “Don’t bother coming to work tomorrow, you’re fired.” With that, he reached out and looped an arm around Rikku’s waist, hauling her off her feet and carrying her like a sack of potatoes under his arm. He ignored her indignant cry and marched out of the café, red still clouding his vision.

Rikku pushed him away from her when he finally set her down near the stairs leading to the Mi’ihen Highroad. “You know, there are times I forget that you were raised by sand wolves,” she started, her cheeks still glowing pink. “Then you go and do something stupid that reminds me.”

“My mother would be offended if she heard you calling her a lupine,” Gippal drawled, disengaging the borrowed garment grid. He watched the sparkles dissipate around him, once again clothed in his normal attire. His temper slightly cooling, he couldn’t help but notice that as mad as she was at him, she looked beautiful against the backdrop of ocean and blue sky.

“Then it’s a good thing she isn’t here, now isn’t it?” She slammed her hands on her hips and scowled at him. “I have never been so humiliated in all my life.”

“You? You weren’t the one that was in the cat outfit.”

She inhaled sharply, her face screwing up in anger. “No one told you to come to my rescue. I had the situation under control.” She reached out and poked him in the chest with her index finger. “I never asked you to be my personal hero.”

He took a step back as if she had hit him. “No,” he said softly, in a voice that was so unlike him. “No, you never did.” He looked at her, then walked away towards Djose, his shoulders slumped. He was near the travel agency when he started to get angry. Turning on his heel, he waved over the hover driver who had just dropped him off.

He found Rikku sitting on one of the stone benches near where he had left her. She looked upset, her teeth worrying her bottom lip and her hands twisted in her lap. “Yeah, so you might not have asked me to be your hero, but guess what buttercup?” She jerked her head up and looked at him. “You’re stuck with me.”

“Gippal…”

He held up a hand to stop her so he could continue. “I don’t care if you didn’t want me sticking up for you back there, but damned if I could have just sat and watched him make a pass at you.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “And before you say anything, yeah, maybe I was a little jealous.”

Her mouth hung open. “I never said that.”

“Didn’t have to; I knew you were thinking it. You have a crappy poker face.” It was true; he had seen her face go from astonishment to disbelief to a faint flickering of hope in the span of three seconds. He knew how she felt about him, had known for some time. It was just that she was Rikku, the little girl that tagged along with her older brother. She was the bubbly, energetic guardian-turned-Gullwing who occasionally served on his payroll in the desert. And if he was honest with himself, she was the irritating splinter that had gotten under his skin without him realizing it. Somewhere along the way she had wiggled her way into his heart and he didn’t want her to leave. These feelings had for her scared him. He wasn’t used to wanting someone in his life romantically for the long term. He tried to keep her at arm’s length, to keep any physical contact light, friendly. Lately it had been getting harder and harder to do, and the incident in the café just topped things off.

“So that justifies you acting all caveman?”

He raked a hand through his hair. “No guy likes somebody else moving in on his girl.” There, he said it. Glancing at her from the corner of his eye, he knew that she was going to go all girly and complicate a confession that should have been simple.

She stood up. “You think I’m your girl?”

He shrugged. “Yeah.” He inwardly cringed at the expression on her face. Her bottom lip started to tremble enough to make him backpedal. “Maybe. I don’t know, are you?” Great one, Gippal. Way to be assertive, he admonished himself. It was all her fault; his usual confidence flew the coop when it came to her, making him second-guess himself. Maybe he had been wrong all these years. Perhaps he had misinterpreted her signals and she really just saw him as yet another older brother. He was going to open his mouth to do damage control when his breath was knocked out of him as she launched herself into his arms.

“Dummy, of course I am.” She wrapped her arms around his waist and hugged. “It’s about time.”

“For?”

“For you to grow up and realize I’ve always been your girl.”

He grinned over the top of her head and held her close. “So am I forgiven for acting like I was raised by sand wolves earlier?” He cupped her chin in his hand and tilted her head up.

She raised an eyebrow. “Oh, I don’t know. You really embarrassed me back there, you know.”

He laughed. “Liar. You were more mad than embarrassed.” He bent his head and trailed a kiss over her cheek, smiling against her skin at her intake of breath. He was completely taken unaware when she went up on tiptoe, turned her face and kissed his lips, her fingers tangling in his hair. He sank into the kiss, his eyes closing as his hands slid down her sides to her hips.

Leaning back to let both of them up for air, she smiled. “You have this habit of barging in whenever I have a situation under control,” she said softly. She kissed him again when he opened his mouth to argue. “But I’m glad that you’re there anyway.”

He grabbed her hand. “Good, ‘cause trouble tends to follow you around like a lovesick puppy. You need somebody to back you up.” He tugged her arm to get her to follow him back towards the main square. “Come on.”

She laughed, but then thought of something. “Hey! I caught the guy, where’s my payment?”

Gippal rolled his eyes. Using his free hand, he pulled his wallet out of his pant pocket. “You’re not the only person that can pick a pocket around here,” he told her, cocky grin firmly back in place. About time things went back to normal, he thought. Heading back to the accessory vendor, he picked up the gaudy bracelet she had been eyeing earlier. Thinking to score bonus points, he picked out a matching arm cuff and was rewarded when Rikku hugged him tightly around his neck. They left the stall and went off, arm in arm.

Maybe this whole relationship thing wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.

End.

***

Translations:

Oui zang: You jerk!

Ur ramm: Oh hell.

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