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First Aid

Title: First Aid
Rating: PG
Challenge: big, opposite, eyebrow
Note: Happy Birthday, vegetaspr1ncess!

Gippal’s gaze jerked up from his desk at the sound of his office door slamming closed. “Yes?” he asked smoothly, trying to act as if he hadn’t just been startled.

“Your highroad,” Rikku started as she stood on the opposite side of his desk, her hands on her hips, “is full of fiends.”

“Well, yeah.” As if he hadn’t been aware of the problem before. Workers had started requesting spots on the Bikanel operation more often lately. It wasn’t as if the desert was fiend-free, but the road leading up to the temple and beyond had been plagued with more monsters than usual these days. Production had dropped fifteen percent in the past month alone, and if he didn’t do anything about his problem soon, then he was going to have to think of how he could move his base of operations.

The bad thing was, Cid would probably charge him an arm and a leg for monthly rent if he went anywhere in the leader’s territory. The guy was ruthless when it came to money.

“And you’re just going to sit there all calm-like and take it?” Rikku slumped down in one of his chairs. He gave her an appreciative glance – her position showed off tons of tanned leg and deepened her cleavage. She might be one of his closest female friends – hell, who was he kidding. She was his only female friend – but he had to admit, he wasn’t totally immune to her charms. And if he stopped lying to himself for a second, he’d admit that what he felt for her went way past the boundaries of friendship and that it was game over for him when it came to not noticing anything about Rikku, especially when it came to the smooth expanse of skin between where her boots stopped and the short excuse of a skirt she wore started.

“No, I’m going to sit here all calm-like while I look through this list of bounty hunters who are willing to take care of my problem for me.” Technically, he could have just gone through Nooj or Baralai for help via the Youth League and New Yevon, especially since both groups had merged into one, but he knew that both of his friends would expect a favor out of it. Baralai might not say it out loud, but it would be heavily implied and Nooj would sit on it until an End of the World scenario came up to collect. “Come with me to the Farplane to find Vegnagun and I’ll forget that night you made a drunken ass of yourself in front of Paine” quickly sprang to mind.

Besides, he wanted to do this on his own, even if on his own actually meant hiring people to do the dirty work for him.

Rikku stood up and circled his desk. “What bounty hunters?” Without asking, she plucked the list from his desk. “You don’t want those people; they overcharge any time someone comes out with so much of a scratch on them.” Without looking, she reached down and picked up a pencil, striking out a name.

“Oh, please. You picked these guys? Gippal, sometimes I have to wonder if you really know anything at all about contracts. They’re going to charge you per fiend, not per hour, plus weapons expense and food.”

“I wasn’t gonna pick them,” he muttered, leaning back in his chair, his feet stretched out in front of him. “Give me some credit.”

She perched one of her hips against his desk and crumpled up the paper. “Really, they’re all bad choices.”

“And what am I supposed to do now, kiddo?”

She tapped the end of the pencil on her bottom lip and Gippal was suddenly aware that for the first time, he was jealous of an eraser. “Hire me.”

His eyebrows shot up past his hairline. “Excuse me?”

“You heard me. I’m not going to repeat myself.”

Since when did she get all cocky sounding? And since when did she kill fiends? Okay, so she had fought fiends when she was a Guardian and then later on as a Gullwing, but he distinctly remembered a time when taking care of a single spider had made her scream in fright. “So I’m taking it that those knives aren’t there just to look pretty.”

As if to answer him, the red blades strapped to her sides winked as lamplight reflected off of them. “Nope. Are you going to hire me or not?”

“I can’t let you fight all of them alone, there’s too many of them.”

She rolled her eyes. “Which is why you’re going to come out and help me.”

“Babe,” he couldn’t help but inwardly grin at the way she tried not to bite her lip at the nickname, “if I was going to go out there and do this myself, then I wouldn’t have wasted all this time trying to find someone to do the job for me.”

She cocked her hip and crossed her arms. The move pushed her breasts up even higher and it took a great deal of self-control for him not to stare. Or to not stare for very long. “Oh, is someone getting lazy in their old age?”

“I’m twenty-six. I’m not old.”

“Well, if that’s not the problem, then what is?” She breezily walked behind him and stood up on her tiptoes so that her mouth was level with his ear. Her breath on his neck made him break out in goosebumps. “Maybe that great big gun of yours is just for show, then. All talk and no action?”

His mouth went dry. Where the hell had she learned to say something in that half-purring, breathless way? Swallowing hard, he turned to stare at her. “Fine, you asked for it. Get whatever you need, we’re heading out in five minutes.”

And exactly five minutes later, Rikku was standing at the front bridge and watching Gippal carefully count out pre-loaded cartridges of ammunition. He had one pistol hanging from a leather shoulder holster and another in his hands. After making sure that it was in working order, he put it in the empty holster under his left arm. “That all you taking?” he asked, looking at her outfit.

“I’ve got all I need,” she assured him, patting the leather pouch at her waist. Inside were several vials of potions for any injuries that she was certain would happen, plus a few garment grids already pre-programmed with helpful spheres if things got really tricky. Tugging on the ribbon she had wrapped around her wrist, she pulled out both of her knives. “Good to go, boss.”

“Just remember that. If things get too bad and I tell you to get lost, you do it.”

Rikku casually spun one of her knives around. “Oh, I’ll remember who I’m working for. You’re going to be paying me an obscene amount of gil for this.”

She heard him mutter something as she walked away from him about apples not falling far from trees, but she decided to ignore it.

Several hours later, she was sweaty, tired, and bleeding pretty badly from her shin. The bleeding didn’t have anything to do with a fiend attack, but rather from stumbling back at the end of the day and tripping on the temple’s front steps.

“Owie,” she hissed, sitting back on the steps, too tired to do anything but watch as a thin trail of blood slowly ran down her leg and into her boot.

“Wimp,” Gippal teased, reaching out to take her hands and pull her to her feet. “You can slice a fiend in two, but a little scrape just about kills you.”

“You go scrape your knee and see how bad it feels,” she grumbled, not in the mood to deal with their usual banter. She had thought that by asking him to come with her, that he would take the “I’m a macho man” route and tackle the majority of the monsters that came their way.

She really should have known better. This was Gippal, after all. He let her deal with the majority of them while he tinkered around with some type of machinery that was scattered along the road at even intervals. He later explained that they were anti-fiend fields that emitted a high frequency sound that acted as a deterrent. He’d gotten the idea from Rin, who had several circling his numerous travel agencies. Once all of them were on, then it would create a fiend-proof fence all around the temple, the road leading up to it, and several of the worksites along the beach below. Rikku thought it was a good idea, even if it meant that after he was finished activating each device, then he jumped into the fight. Nine times out of ten, she had already hurt the fiends badly enough that he was only left with the finishing blow.

It wasn’t that she was upset about having to do most of the work herself, but she had hoped he’d take on more. Her knives were going to have to be sharpened and she thought that she had chipped the tip of the blade that came with her warrior dress sphere. Not to mention that she forgot that several elementals roamed around, and the ends of her hair were never going to be the same. She didn’t think deep conditioning would even help the now charred strands.

“I’ll take your word on it,” he told her, wrapping an arm around her waist to help her hobble towards her room. “Hit the showers, kiddo, then we’ll see about that leg.”

Rikku had to admit, after spending a good hour with hot water beating down her back, she felt tons better. Her scrape had long stopped bleeding, but now that it was clean, it looked all ragged and horrible. She left her now dried – and trimmed, she wound up taking scissors to the burnt ends – hair down over her shoulders and wrapped one of the big, fluffy towels she’d found in the bathroom around her body. She was humming quietly to herself while digging in her pack for a clean change of clothing. Really, things were looking up.

“How’s your shin?”

Rikku bit back a scream and whirled around, her hands clutching her towel. “Gippal! Didn’t anyone teach you to knock?”

He grinned back at her from where he was reclining on her bed. “Yeah, but I chose to ignore them.”

“Well, you can get lost while I get dressed.” She loosened the death grip she had on her towel with one hand and gestured towards the room’s main door. “Out.”

“Nope.” He smirked at her and made himself even more comfortable against the pillows.

“Fine. If you won’t leave, then I will.” She picked up her satchel by the straps and marched back into the bathroom.

“Spoilsport,” she heard Gippal say through the door. She rolled her eyes and hurriedly dressed.

“Well, from the way you ran out of here, it looks like your leg is doing okay.” Gippal stood up and walked towards her. “If it hadn’t have been, then I would have left.”

Rikku opened her mouth to say something, but shut it because she couldn’t think of anything to say. “Well, it’s doing fine, so now if you’d like to discuss the terms of payment…” She hoped that going in a professional direction would distract her from how flustered she was starting to become.

He shrugged. “First, I want to take care of this scrape. It looks painful.”

“It kind of hurts.” She followed him back into the bathroom where she watched him rummage through cabinets until he came up with a first aid kit. She boosted herself up onto the counter and swung her uninjured leg.

Gippal knelt and carefully felt around the raw edges with his fingers. “I think you’ll live.” Opening the kit, he took out some ointment and a few cotton balls.

“Oh, you’re not going to use that burning stuff,” Rikku protested, watching as he opened up a dark brown bottle and poured a bit of the clear liquid onto the cotton balls.

“Don’t be such a big baby,” he joked, taking hold of her calf to hold her leg still. “It burns because it works.”

Rikku clamped her lips tightly together to muffle the pained yelp that followed.

“There, I’m finished.” Bending his head so that her shin was at eye level, Gippal gently blew on the scrape. “Everything else is pain-free, I promise.” His fingers made soothing circles behind her knee.

Meanwhile, Rikku was all too aware that the object of her childhood crush – oh who was she kidding, she was still madly in love with him – was very much into her personal space. His hands were oh so warm against her leg and the shorts she had pulled on were really, really short. “Gippal,” she started, stopping when she realized that his name came out sounding breathless and needy.

“Hmm?” He didn’t look up from applying a bit of ointment and then covering the scrape with a plain beige bandage. She would have liked a bright green one, but she didn’t think that he had any in his kit.

“About that payment…” She looked down at him and then had to look away, her cheeks hot.

Still kneeling, he busied himself by putting everything back into the kit. “Oh, yeah. You said you were looking for an obscene amount of money. How obscene are we talking here? Just sort of naughty or really down and dirty?” He pitched his voice an octave lower than usual and gave her a stare that normally had women on the receiving end giggling uncontrollably. Rikku, on the other hand, stared back at him and bit her bottom lip. The gesture made him stare at her mouth and he wondered if he had lost control of the light flirting banter a few exits back.

“Well,” Rikku said, clearing her throat. “I was thinking, since we’re friends and everything,” she took a breath when Gippal’s fingers slid behind her knee again. “It wouldn’t be right to ask for money.”

“So, what do you propose?” he asked, as if they were sitting back in his office and he wasn’t slowly being drawn in by the crisp citrus scent from her soap that wafted off her skin, or that he was still stroking her leg even though there really wasn’t a reason to any more.

“How about a thank-you and a kiss instead?”

His head snapped up and he looked at her face, really looked at it. She was staring down at him in a way that could only be described as hungry and he knew exactly how he felt about her. If he took her up on her offer the way that he really, really wanted to, then he was afraid that she wouldn’t think that he was serious about starting anything between them. And if he read anything into what had just happened in the past five minutes, then she wanted something to start between them as well.

“I think I can handle that,” he told her huskily. “Thank you for getting rid of my fiend problem.” Then he bent his head down and pressed an innocent kiss directly over her bandage. “And I believe that means our agreement has now been paid in full.”

He left her sputtering in the bathroom. When he heard her bare feet hit the stone floor, he quickly navigated his way through the bedroom and out the door. “That wasn’t what I meant!” he heard her yell, followed by a muffled thump that sounded suspiciously like her boot hitting the door he was now leaning against. He grinned to himself. No, that wasn’t what she meant and he knew it. Pushing off the door, he couldn’t help but whistle. Pursuing Rikku was going to be fun.

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