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Better Late Than Never

Title: Better Late Than Never
Rating: G
Challenge: Happy Birthday
Note: Happy Birthday, shelliebelle!

“Hand me the converter, will you?” The voice underneath the heap of machina was muffled, but definitely female. As were the legs that stuck out, Gippal noted. To confirm his observations, a slender hand searched for said piece of equipment, bright yellow fingernail polish a sharp contrast to the dark brown grease stains over the knuckles and wrist. Gippal silently handed her the converter, along with the tool he knew she was going to need to attach it.

“Thanks.” There were a few grunts, then she gave a small noise of triumph when she got it fixed to her liking. Her heels dug into the ground and she pushed herself out from under the metal.

“Hey Dollface.” Gippal said casually as Rikku emerged. He leaned against the work bench, his hands in his pockets.

“What are you doing here?” she asked from her seat on the floor.

“What? I can’t come back to the desert whenever I want? And here I was gonna be nice to you.” He made a move to turn as if he was going to leave, but Rikku held out a hand.

“You know that’s not what I meant. You usually call before you leave Djose.” Inwardly, she cringed and knew what a state she looked. Hours working in the garage had left her sweaty and grease-stained. Even if she was out of the sun, the heat was almost as bad as if she had been in the open.

He shrugged. “Guess I forgot.” He circled the mass of spare parts and frowned. “Whatcha building?”

“Solar generator.” She made a face. “Or at least I’m trying to make one. This stupid thing won’t cooperate.”

“Wanna take a break? Maybe some time away will let you come up with new ideas.” He didn’t wait for her answer, he just took her hand and led her outside. Rikku shaded her eyes with her free hand and dug her heels in.

“I’m filthy,” she protested, seeing that he was leading her toward a two-seater hover.

“But still cute. Does it look like I care?” He reached out and wiped at the streak of oil on her cheek with the pad of his thumb. “Come on, I’ve got a surprise for you.” Seeing as he wasn’t going to take no for an answer, she climbed up on the hover behind him and put her arms around his waist. One of his hands squeezed hers where it rested over his heart before he started the hover up and drove off.

“So where’s my surprise?” Rikku asked playfully when they stopped near the coastline. There wasn’t anything or anyone for miles, the sound of the waves hitting the sand the only thing that broke the silence.

“Right here.” He pulled a small box out of his pocket and presented it to her. “Happy birthday, Rikku.”

She carefully opened the box, gasping in delight at the bright shine of metal inside. “I thought you might like them,” Gippal continued casually, watching as she took one of the hair pins out and inspected it in the sunlight. They had taken a long time to create, but the effort had been worth it.

“I love them,” she said, putting the box aside and tugging off her bandanna. The pink and blue beads followed, each hitting the sand with a muted plop.

Gippal reached out and started undoing one of her braids. “I know your birthday was actually last week, but I just wanted to let you know that I hadn’t forgotten.” He grinned as the newly released strands of hair wound around his fingers. Gently, he pulled on her hair, bringing her face closer to him.

“I know you’ve been busy,” she whispered, the task of unbraiding the rest of her hair abandoned. Her hands cupped the sides of his face, fingers stroking his sideburns. She pressed her lips to his, lingering long enough for him to nibble her top lip, before feathering kisses across his chin and jaw. Dancing away from him, she pulled her hair up and twisted it behind her head. Using one hand to keep it in place, she picked up her new pins and fastened them.

“Well? How do you like it?”

Gippal took a few steps towards her. He reached out and cupped the bare skin of her waist with one hand. “Looks nice. I like this even better.” With his other hand, he deftly pulled out the pins, enjoying the way her hair fell down and settled against her back. He swallowed her laugh with his mouth, pulling them both down to the sand.

“Gippal?” Rikku gasped his name out between kisses.


“Best birthday present ever.”

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