I walk into the cafeteria, purposefully not looking at him though I am of course instantly aware of where he is, who he's sitting by, and what the quickest path is to get there. But I don't charge over there right away, much as I want to. Instead I say something to Shinra who only recently returned, then responded to Brother's snipe about my 'boyfriend' with an equally barbed, yet ultimately affectionate, comment about his lack of girlfriend. Then, deciding that five seconds was a long enough wait, I begin to make my way over to Gippal.
I know his eyes are on me so I add a bit of extra sway to my step. He's up and standing before I'm even halfway there, a gesture of such honest sentiment that I can't help but throw my arms around his neck the moment I reach him. His hands clamp almost compulsively on my hips and I stretch up on tiptoe so I make sure he hears my giggle, and knows that I am perfectly aware of how many people are watching us. Even after some weeks time, we're still a talking point.
Gippal pulls me down onto his lap, saying something about wanting to finish eating when I know he really just wants me close. Of course I can't help teasing him, wiggling around and rubbing against him until he's growling and eventually grabs me in a near-painful grip, whispering a warning in my ear about what kind of punishment I'll receive later if I don't stop. I only laugh in response, because the punishments he threatens me with always involve various things like tickling, slow kisses, and more. . .
And how did Gippal and I end up like this? Well it wasn't easy, I can tell you that much. It wasn't like I defeated Vegnagun then skipped on over to Djose and jumped into his bed or anything. No, it was a lot more complicated than that, and it really all started when I went to work for the Machine Faction. . .
As you may have noticed, I spent quite a large chunk of my time saving the world.
I was real young when I joined up Yuna's party to help destroy Sin and save summoners forever. I was only slightly older when I co-started the Gullwings and went on the help kick Vegnagun's over-machinated ass and liberate Shuyin. I'm slightly older now, too, but the world seems like it's finally gotten over it's damsel-in-distress gig.
So then what was there for me to do? Well, to tell the truth, not a whole hell of a lot.
Don't get me wrong, I wasn't bitter or anything. Spira knows I am not a naturally bitter person. I had just a project to work on those past years, some sort of goal that kept me driving rather than drifting, and then suddenly in what felt like the blink of an eye, I didn't have one anymore.
It didn't help that all my friends had easily moved on and found things to do. They weren't feeling bored and restless like I was. Baralai and Nooj worked on resolving their conflicts with Paine's help, Gippal had his Faction, Kimahri his mountain, Wakka and Lulu their marriage and baby, and Yuna and Tidus ran around being a terrifically happy couple, Yuna as the 'Lady-Summoner-that-everyone-in-Spira-simply-adores' and Tidus with his 'star-blitz-player-adjusting-to-a-new-world' deal. And the Al Bhed starting rebuilding Home.
That it where I threw all my energies. Home. I utterly and completely immersed myself in it's reconstruction. Me, Rikku, Princess of the Al Bhed, 'Cid's Girl' as Gippal used to call me, leading project after project of the rebuilding of Home. For the first time in my life, I was respected, not just for who my father was, but for who I was, what I'd done, and, most importantly, what I was doing.
I had a whole group of people working under me. Can you believe it? Under me. Under flighty, happy-go-lucky Rikku. And they listened to me. Cause I made 'em.
It felt good, too. I guess I was still trying to save the world, in my own way. At least I was making it a much nicer place for many Al Bhed. I got over the wandering urge, found a productive use for my time. I was having fun, making a difference. Then I got my new assignment.
I was to go to Djose. To work with the Machine Faction.
The first time Pops mentioned it to me, I nearly put his eye out. But once he explained it fully, well, I was able to go from furious to simply disgruntled.
It was a sort of trade. Not to brag or anything, but I'm an ace with machina. I can build it, take it apart, reconstruct it, and most importantly, understand it. I love it. And there were some certain types we needed for building of Home. The Machine Faction are always completely willing to let us have whatever we need (they are, after all, Al Bhed, and want it rebuilt same as any of us) as long as we are willing to help build them.
So I, and a few others of my trusty, machina savvy squad including Brother and Buddy and Shinra, were sent off to Djose to help build the machina we needed, while a few of the Machine Faction's best builders were sent to Home.
I know it may seem a bit dodgy, but trust me, this how we operate. I agreed to the plan, and so off I went to Djose.
I've had mixed feelings about that. I'm always happy to do anything to help with Home, and, as I already mentioned, I love working with machina. So what was the problem then? I'll give you a hint. He's tall, blond, Al Bhed, has only one eye and looks fabulous in his form fitting shirt. . . .
Yeah, okay, so that was more than one hint, and you guessed it anyway. Gippal.
If I was confused about my life and projects and all, it was nothing compared to how I felt about Gippal.
We were a couple, once. He had very kindly informed Yuna and Paine of the fact a year ago, when the Gullwings went to Djose for 'an interview'. And he had been right. Sort of.
I was fourteen. He was sixteen. We'd grown up together, been friends (albeit friends with a very antagonistic relationship) forever. It was a warm night, we were out in the desert, we saw a shooting star, and he kissed me.
I was delighted. I thought it was love.
Well, of course, I realized soon enough it wasn't. Gippal and I decided to go our separate ways; he joined the Crimson Squad, I went on salvage expeditions, met Tidus, then helped save the world. I had put my feelings and our past behind me. Or at least, I'd thought I had.
When I saw him again, at Djose with the Gullwings, some of the old feelings resurfaced. He was taller, he was broader, he was. . . he was gorgeous. And he was as stubbornly arrogant and conceited as ever.
I suppressed the feelings then, and acted as I always did around Gippal. Whiny, petulant, and snotty. We left Djose, continued with our journey, and soon it wasn't hard to put Gippal to the back of my mind. Obviously, Vegnagun took center stage.
But then with this new assignment. . . there was no Vegnagun. There was no Sin, no Crimson Squad. There was just me, and Gippal, soon to be together again. Working side by side, like we used to as kids.
Standing in front of Djose Temple, I felt some of those old feelings surface again. Would Gippal still tease me like a five year old? Would he even acknowledge me? Would things be different between us? Did I want them to be?
I didn't know. Like I said, my confusion towards Gippal and my feelings regarding him was absolute. However, I was never one to shy away from anything that confused me. If anything, I only grew more curious.
I didn't know what my time at Djose was going to hold for me, but I was eager to find out.
A/N: If you read
this story before, you may have noticed this has been changed. It
makes the ending make more sense. If you haven't read this
before, thank you for attempting it now. I hope you like it, and I
hope you'll review!
(If the first chapter didn't quite tickle your fancy, please keep reading. I swear it gets better.)