FINAL CHAPTERRRRR! I had a hard time with this, 'cause I knew how I wanted it to end, but... well, I dunno... it was just hard. It didn't turn out quite the way I'd hoped, but it's all good. It's finished, and that's all that matters! Riiight? Surrrre... ^-^ So, anyways, here ya go! Enjoy.
Paine undid the last of Gippal's restraints, and he shot out of the chair, pushing past her, to kneel in front of Rikku.
"Rikku, babe, wake up," he struggled with the ties binding her wrists, "Come on, kiddo, shake it off."
"I found them!" came Yuna's voice from the corner of the room.
She jogged back and handed Paine her supplies. They readied themselves for the immanent battle they were sure to endure upon their escape. Gippal untied the final harness around Rikku's shoulders and she slumped forward, lifelessly.
He took her face in his hand, "Hey. Hey, kiddo, snap out of it, I know there's still some life in there. Now, show me those beautiful eyes."
"There's no time for this, Gippal!" Paine shouted, impatiently.
"Here, I'll handle this," Yuna came forward, and placed an assuring hand on Gippal's shoulder.
He moved aside and let her work her healing magic. When she was done, Rikku's wounds had closed themselves, but there was still a nasty scar at the top of her abdomen, where Dreka's blade had pierced most deeply. The blonde groaned deeply, and brought her hands to her face to rub her eyes.
"Rikku?" Gippal inquired, returning to his previous position, "You okay, kiddo?"
She raised her head slowly, and looked into his eyes, her's lighting up like a candle at the realization that he was alive and free, "Gippal!"
She lunged forward, throwing her arms around his neck, and knocking them both backwards onto the floor.
The Captain gave a loud chuckle, "Good to see you're back to your old self."
"Oh, Gippal!" she barraged him with a series of light, quick kisses all over his face, "I can't believe we actually saved you!"
"Um... I believe it's us that saved the both of you, actually," Paine cocked her head to the side, haughtily.
All of a sudden they could hear the footfalls of a slew of guards rushing through the halls outside the door.
"Ugh, I told you we needed to get out of here!" the warrior girl growled.
"Oh, come on, we're just now getting to your favorite part," Gippal joked, as he hopped up, and assisted Rikku to her feet.
"You got me," Paine admitted, as the guards burst in.
"They killed Master Dreka!" one guard informed the rest, "Get 'em!"
They were on the guards in half a second. With the combined skills of the four of them, it took no time before their assailants were all haphazardly piled on top of one another in a bruised and bloodied pile. The group dashed out of the room, navigating through corridors and doorways, fighting off whatever guards they came in contact with along the way. They ran and ran until they were sure they were lost.
Suddenly, out from a dark alcove, slipped Timbo, the guard Paine had outwitted earlier. His eyes bulged when he realized what he'd run into.
"You, again! Aww, 'ell!" he cursed, "Yer lost, ain't ya? Well, follow me, then."
"Why should we trust you?" Gippal inquired, suspiciously.
" 'Ell, I ain't ne'er believed in bein' scared straight, 'afore, but yer pretty lil grey haired friend... 'ell, le's jus' say, she knocked some sense into me," he nodded his respect in Paine's direction.
"Paine?" Gippal looked to her for reassurance.
"What choice do we have?" she shrugged, "We'll give it a shot."
They took the chance, and followed close behind Timbo. He lead them quickly down the corridors, avoiding the other guards, until they finally found themselves at the exit.
"Well, this is where we say our g'byes, folks," the guard pushed a button beside the panel and the bright sunshine of Luca permeated the hideout.
"Much appreciated, soldier," Paine gave him a quick salute, as the group exited the building.
"Don' mention it. Once the others realize that the boss's been... er... compromised, they'll be so busy partyin' they'll forget all about ya," Timbo gave a knowing wink, and returned the salute, as he closed the door behind them.
Rikku wouldn't slow her pace until they were safely back aboard the airship, the rest of the group having no choice but to simply keep up. Once there, she stopped, hands on her knees, struggling to catch her breath.
Paine wiped a trickle of sweat from her brow, "You know, that was totally unnecessary. We were out of harm's way once those doors were closed."
"I'd rather not have taken the chance," Rikku stood straight and crossed her arms, "Better to be totally safe, than sorry."
"Well, how very mature of you," Paine smirked, and Rikku's face lit up at the comment.
"Ya think so?"
"I definitely think so," Gippal came forward, stepping close to the blonde girl, "Hey, can we talk for a minute?"
Rikku nodded, trying to hide the smile edging it's way across her face. She followed him as he led her into a nearby room and shut the door behind them. They turned towards each other and he let out a light chuckle. Rikku raised a questioning eyebrow.
"What's so funny?" she asked.
"We've got matching scars," he pulled his tattered shirt aside, exposing the dark scar from the wound Yuna had healed earlier, as well as his nicely toned abs, which Rikku couldn't help but notice.
She felt her face redden. He dropped his shirt and brought his hand down to the spot on her abdomen. He traced the place lightly with his finger, a smaller scar, but similar in shape. Her stomach jumped at the gentle caress, and her blush deepened. He pulled his hand back, suddenly shy.
"Uh... heh... Anyway," he scratched the back of his head nervously, "I guess all I wanted to say was... um..."
Rikku waited quietly for him to continue.
"Wow, you're quiet," he smirked at her and crossed his arms, bringing on foot up beside his knee, balancing there in his signature stance, "Usually you'd have burst into some kind of spill by now about kittens or rainbows or some other adorable nonsense."
She just shrugged, "I guess I've grown up a little bit in the past week."
His face dropped sadly, and he took a step towards her, "Look, Rikku... I'm gonna be honest. And you know, that's something I rarely do..."
She scoffed, "Yea, you don't have to tell me, tough guy."
He grinned, gazing adoringly into her eyes, "I don't want you to change, Rikku. Hell, you're the goofiest, sweetest, most hyper girl in all of Spira. It's what makes you so... uh... heh..." he stammered, searching for the right word.
She started in before he could finish, "You don't have to worry, Gippal. I haven't changed. I don't plan on it. I like who I am, and I think that's really what I meant when I said I'd grown up. It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks, being who I am makes me happy, so why in the world would I change anything? I've accepted myself, finally. Besides, this immature 'kiddo' saved your life, so maybe you'll start giving me a little more credit?"
She gave him a playful jab in the ribs, and he caught her arm, pulling her towards him.
"You're damn right I will," he lowered his face to within inches of hers, "I'll give you more than just credit."
"Oh yea?" she smirked, and crinkled her nose, "Like what?"
He crushed his lips to hers, wrapping his arms around her delicate form, pulling her in as close as possible. She snaked her own arms around his back, running one hand through his silky, golden hair. They stayed like that for only a moment, before Gippal pulled back.
"I was serious, you know. I didn't just say all that stuff because I thought I was a goner," she'd never seen his face look so serious.
"What stuff?" she questioned, knowingly.
"Come on, you know what I mean," he rolled his eyes in mock frustration.
She giggled and continued to tease him, "No, really, I don't think I quite remember."
He scooped her face up in his hands and planted another deep kiss on her waiting lips, then pulled back, his forehead leaned against hers.
"I love you," he kissed her once more, then added, with a smug grin, "kiddo..."
Her face scrunch in annoyance, "Ooooh, you big meanie! You just can't be nice for two minutes, can you? I swear, I don't know why I even like you, you are so mean!"
She had begun to hop up and down in her frustration at him, balling her fists and pounding the floor with her feet. He let out a boisterous laugh, then scooped her up into the air. She struggled and smacked at his shoulders, but when he only continued to chuckle, she stopped, defeated.
"That's the girl I fell for!" He lowered her slightly, so they were face to face, but left her feet dangling a few inches from the ground, "Glad to see you've got your spark back."
She folded her arms, and pouted, "Big meanie..."
"I love you, Rikku," he said, pointedly.
Her pout melted into a wide smile, and she leaned down to touch her forhead to his, "I love you, too, Gippal."
"So, does this mean we get to live happily ever after?" he chuckled again.
"I sure hope so," she sighed dreamily, and assailed him once more with a barrage of kisses.
That's all folks! There might possibly be an epilogue, but I'm not promising anything. Until we meet again, beautiful readers! And, as always, ROCK ON!