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Title: Interview
Challenge: Multiple Meanings Challenge; port, screw, demonstration
Rating: PG
Warnings: Post X-2
Words: 1809

“Okay, so turn this to port, right?”

Rikku didn’t look up from her magazine, but she lazily waved her hand in the air for emphasis. “Port is to the left. You’re turning the wheel the other way.”

“You’re not even looking at what I’m doing; how would you know?” Even so, Gippal adjusted the ship’s course, looking over the controls to where Rikku was sitting. If Buddy knew that she was propping her muddy boots on his chair, he’d have a conniption.

“I didn’t live on this ship for over three years and not learn to have a feel for it. It’s leaning to the right. You’ll want to fix that before Barkeep throws a fit about his pots falling from their racks.”

Gippal shook his head. Brother and Buddy were off trying to recruit new Gullwings now that Yuna, Paine and Shinra weren’t a part of their team. They had thought they had left the Celsius at a safe docking port in Luca, but they hadn’t taken into consideration that Rikku might not have agreed enlistment criteria. Personally, Gippal didn’t think that all the talk about pretty girls that were easy on the eyes but so useless in defending themselves that they’d need the assistance of two readily available strong, brave, handsome Al Bhed guys to save the day and rescue them from whatever mess they’d get themselves into was something that Rikku would appreciate.

Or at least Brother hadn’t taken it into account. Buddy had merely sighed at Rikku’s all too eager agreement to stay with the ship while they did interviews. The only things he had asked of her was that she return the Celsius where she found it and that his baby had better not have any scratches on her by the time they got back.

The crisp sound of paper flipping as Rikku turned a page in her magazine brought his attention away from the steering mechanism in front of him. “Why are you even reading that garbage?” He flipped a few buttons and had them smoothly landing back in the same spot Rikku had taken off from an hour ago. Hopping off the main steering console, he leaned over Rikku’s chair and plucked the magazine out of her fingers. “It’s nothing but gossip. Worried that you’d find yourself on one of the pages?”

She snatched the magazine back at him, screwing her face up in a frown when Gippal wrinkled a couple of pages. “It’s actually quite interesting,” she told him, smoothing the offended pages. “You’ve been in a couple of main articles, mister Spira’s Sexiest Bachelor.”

Gippal groaned. “I do one publicity demonstration to help Rin out and I’m marked for life.”

She shrugged. “You really should have thought about participating in Sphere Break tournament commercials beforehand, especially when the prize to the winner was a day with you.” She didn’t say it out loud, but she had been horribly tempted to enter, even if the registration fee had been a bit daunting.

“I just figured that it would be some guy winning. We’d hang out at Djose, talk about machina over a few beers, that sort of thing. I wasn’t expecting a blind date.” And he definitely hadn’t expected the surge in new recruits over at the dig sites either, most of them women. Nhadala was still angry with him at getting a bunch of girls that complained about the heat and wondered just when Gippal was going to come by to do some routine inspections. “I can’t help it if I’m pretty.”

Rikku rolled her eyes. “Yeah, pretty annoying.” She shuffled the magazine and propped her feet higher on Buddy’s chair. She hated to admit it, even to herself, but she’d been insanely jealous when Gippal had been the hottest topic of conversation. Sure, it had been fun to see Brother sulk for a while, but then she got to thinking about all the girls that would probably go after him and how Rikku hadn’t exactly given Gippal a reason not to refuse their advances. They’d never officially been a couple; hell, they’d never even officially kissed, but they had flirted around with the idea of being together for some time. To think of some other girl kissing Gippal put Rikku’s stomach in knots.

“So, why did you ask me out here anyway?” He leaned against the chair even more than what he was doing until he was looking her in the eye, his face inches from hers. “Not that I don’t appreciate the escape from the office.”

“I know how much you’ve been dying to fly this thing,” she said, looking up. She didn’t have a large area of personal space, but Gippal was definitely in what she considered her bubble. From the smirk on his face, he knew it and didn’t give a damn. “Plus, it’d be kind of stupid to not come up and say hi when I’m in the area.”

“And you feel kind of left out of the interview process, right?”

As usual, Gippal hit what was wrong on the first try. “It isn’t fair!” Rikku said, jumping up out of her seat. Gippal moved back just in time to avoid getting hit in the head. As it was, he almost wound up with a mouthful of ponytail and did get smacked in the cheek with one of her braids. “I mean, I’m the one that’s going to be going out in the field with these bimbos; by the time that Buddy and Brother get their butts in gear to save the day like they keep on going on about, I’m the one that’s going to be doing all the rescuing.” She crossed her arms under her breasts and frowned. “How come nobody ever offers to do any saving for me, huh?”

Gippal put his hands in his back pockets and leaned back on his heels. “Maybe that’s because you’re so tough that you don’t need anybody to rescue you.” He had meant to say it in a teasing manner, but the words wound up coming out of his mouth soft and tinged with something that sounded almost like regret. They made Rikku glance up and really look at him.

“Not all the time,” she said, just as quiet. Her fingers clutched her elbows as Gippal walked towards her. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch when he cupped her shoulders with both hands. Swallowing hard, she wondered when their previous teasing banter had decided to turn serious.

“Well, maybe someone thought that you’d get offended if they did show up to help you out.” There had been many times in the past where he had wanted to show Rikku just how much he cared for her, but stood back for fear of crowding her. She was always so independent and he admired that trait in her.


He gave her a little lopsided smile and tilted his head. “Yeah, someone.” His thumbs circled over her shoulders absently. “And maybe someone didn’t want to say how they felt because they were afraid you didn’t feel the same way about them.”

Rikku felt like the ship was tilted on the side again. It was a very rare sight indeed to see Gippal without the protective outer layer of overconfidence around him and he looked unsure of how she’d react. Quickly, her mind flashed back over all the little teases, the small shoves and playful looks he’d sent her way through the years.

Then she wanted to slap herself on the forehead. Good grief, girl. You can really be dense sometimes. Gathering her courage, she hooked her fingers into his belt loops and tugged him closer. “Well, maybe someone should get the nerve to do something about that.”

He stared down at her incredulously. Here, he’d been trying to be the good guy and Rikku was practically egging him on. “Screw it,” Gippal muttered against her lips as he finally kissed her. He felt her hands slide up his chest, her fingers holding onto the material of his shirt. He tunneled his hands in the mess of her hair and tilted her head to get a better angle, his thumbs brushing against the skin at her hairline.

“You know, as much as I’m for public demonstrations of affection,” Buddy said loudly, hiding a grin behind one hand while he held a murderous looking Brother away with the other, “get a room, folks.”

Rikku looked up from Gippal, her fingers still holding tightly onto his shirt. “We were, but then you two barged in.” She turned away from him, sighing when she felt Gippal’s arms go around her from behind. “How did the interviews go?”

“Total wash. Nobody knew anything about sphere hunting.”

Rikku blinked. “Well, wasn’t that the whole point? I mean, didn’t you and Brother want pretty girls to teach everything to?”

“Never mind that, what are you doing on my ship?” Brother demanded, crossing his arms and glaring at Gippal.

He didn’t miss a beat. “I was here for the boyfriend interview.”

Rikku craned her neck until she was looking at him. “Oh really? I didn’t know that there were any scheduled.”

Gippal smiled down at her. “Well, I have good qualifications. I’ve known you long enough to gage your moods, I know your favorite color, when your birthday is, and,” his smile turned into a leer. “I’m good with my hands.”

Rikku laughed. “And just how many resumes did you send out? I’m kind of afraid to ask who you might put as references.”

He hugged her tighter. “I’m a smart guy; I left the reference portion blank. And I only sent out the one resume, so I’m hoping that it doesn’t get turned down.” The teasing tone was completely gone and he looked at her seriously. “What do you say? Make an honest guy out of me?”

Rikku turned so that she was facing him again. “Oh, I say you got the job.” She went up on tiptoes and kissed him, the world narrowing in focus until it was just the two of them.

Very dimly, Rikku heard Brother complain that Gippal could damn well walk back to Djose before he stormed off the bridge.

Buddy shook his head. “Seriously, I wasn’t kidding about the room.” He sighed and realized that if they were going to get anywhere soon, he was going to have to be the one to do everything. Sometimes, he wondered just why he hung out with a temperamental grouch and a girl so hung up on one guy. Then he shrugged, knowing it was because the grouch was his best friend and the girl was pretty resourceful and actually one of the best assets the team had.

His opinion was quickly changing though, as he looked at his chair. “Hey! Who put mud on my control panel?”

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