"Here comes trouble," Paine smirked as she spotted Rikku and Gippal walking towards them. She was sitting with Tidus and Yuna at an outdoor restaurant enjoying happy hour before their other two friends arrived. Yuna had picked the spot earlier in the day and told everyone to meet up there.
"You don't even know the half of it," Tidus rolled his eyes.
"Hey!" Yuna smiled cheerily and waved. Gippal and Rikku were still filthy from their day of work. Between cleaning up all the tools and putting the last of the engine back together, they didn't have any time before they were supposed to meet for dinner. The group watched as the pair approached, seemingly talking and laughing. At one point, Rikku let out an exaggerated gasp and playfully swatted Gippal across the cheek, leaving a small greasy handprint. He shoved her back, and pretty hard, making her stumbled to the side bursting into giggles all the while.
"What. The Hell." Paine looked at Tidus.
"Weirdos," was all Tidus got out, shaking his head and grabbing a swig of his drink. The trio had ordered a round waiting for the mechanics to show up.
"Hi! Sorry we're late!" Rikku's laughter died down as she took a seat.
"Rikku! You're filthy!" Yuna hissed.
"So what? I was ALMOST on time!" Rikku chided. "Anyway, who cares? It's our day off! What'd you girls do?" Rikku leaned back and flagged down a waiter as she spoke.
"It was terrible," Yuna said, more honestly than she intended. "Buddy practically put me to sleep with all his business chatter!" Yuna sighed. Everyone else laughed. "Why do you think I insisted on a work free dinner? I refused to tell him where we were going! I don't want to THINK about numbers or anything until tomorrow," Yuna laughed.
"Wiser than I thought she was," Gippal elbowed Rikku and she jabbed him in the ribs with hers.
"He's just taking this a little too seriously for me," Yuna held up a hand.
"I managed to avoid the Celsius today and picked up one of THESE while I was in town!" Paine jumped in, waving one of Shelinda's weekly tabloids above her head out of everyone's reach. Since Shelinda started the weekly publications, the Gullwings made it mandatory that once a week they sit down and read about themselves with one another over dinner in order to make sure all of the 'facts' were indeed true. They also liked to see how Spira was perceiving them, and whatever Rikku was getting herself into that week. More often than not, Yuna and Paine didn't want to know if the stories about Rikku were fact or fiction.
"Oooooh!" Rikku clapped her hands and jumped out of her chair involuntarily. She loved the weekly tabloid read and couldn't wait to see what she was up to.
"Do the honors, Paine," Yuna gestured at Paine who sarcastically cleared her throat and held the magazine up so the rest of them could see the cover. It was a picture from Besiad with the headline 'Gullwings Soar on a World Tour'.
"We don't usually do this with an audience," Paine flicked her eyes over the pages at Tidus and Gippal.
"Who cares? Our entire lives are public! They can pick one of these up and read it themselves? Bring it on!" Rikku cried, taking the two bottles she had ordered from the waiter. One was Gippal's. She hadn't even asked what he wanted because she already knew the answer. She knew what kind of beer he liked and that he would want one. This was how they used to operate, just getting each other drinks to make it easier
"Thanks Rik," he said, taking a swig with one hand and draping the other over the back of her chair casually. She leaned back in her chair, crossing one arm over her chest and drinking with the other. She could feel his forearm on the back of her neck and it felt good. Yuna's jaw dropped.
"I told you!" Tidus growled under his breath.
"That's right! You heard it here! The Gullwings are off on a world tour! Tickets are completely sold out all over Spira to see the rocking trio spread their wings on stage!" Paine read in a falsely upbeat voice. "She is so lame," she tacked on in her usual tone before diving back in. "We've all heard them sing, we've all seen them dance, but who are these generous and genuine ladies when they're not on stage?" Paine carried on.
"Uh oh!" Rikku joked. "An expose piece? Shelinda! You've gone hard on us!"
"Spira's favorite Al Bhed Bad Girl-"
"Bad girl?!" Rikku squawked. "Since when am I a bad girl?! I'm the HOT girl! Paine's the bad girl!"
"Which one am I?" Yuna asked innocently.
"The wholesome, sweet one," Paine and Rikku answered flatly in unison.
"Really?" Yuna leaned back a bit, not sure if she was disappointed or not.
"Go on," Rikku sighed, half joking as she pounded a sharp sip of beer. "Tell me why I'm the bad girl this week."
"...Stopped to chat with me outside an inn in Luca early one morning last week. She was dressed for nightlife at breakfast, but still paused to greet a few fans before attending a morning meeting with the rest of the band," Paine kept reading.
"What were you doing in a hotel in Luca when you have an apartment right across-"
"SLEEPING! JEEZ! Read the article!" Rikku interrupted Tidus as best she could. Gippal tried not to turn red as he drank hard from his bottle to numb the thoughts of her with others.
"And it's easy to see why Rikku is such a busy girl. Recent reports state that she is by leaps and bounds the richest woman in Spira," Paine read slowly before looking up at Rikku somewhat confused. They were all staring.
"I am?" Rikku wrinkled her nose.
"Earnings from Lady Yuna's pilgrimage and spherehunting with the Gullwings, and ultimately bringing down the Colossus Vegnagun put the trio in the top alone, but the Al Bhed Heiress's fortune doesn't stop there. Royalties from the Gullwings music career coupled with profits from New Home logged in her name and her family's recent addition of the multimillion gil Machine Faction... You know? Maybe we should do this later," Paine finished quickly, slapping the magazine closed and looking away.
"Let's get a drink, Tidus," Gippal stood up, nodding towards the bar inside the restaurant.
"We already have drinks," Tidus shook his head with confusion as he pointed at the bottles in front of Gippal and himself.
"Let's go get stronger ones. Rikku's buying. She's a billionaire," Gippal tried to smile at her but it just didn't happen.
"Keep reading it," Rikku grumbled once the men were gone. Paine took a deep breath and continued.
"...Multimillion Gil Machine Faction have sent her soaring over her bandmates." Paine turned the page, skipping over the pictures of them all about Luca and Besaid. There were a few of Rikku signing some inappropriate parts of the Besaid Aurochs that the apparently-rich, sulking heiress didn't need to know about right now.
"I should probably hire an accountant. The entire world knows more about my financial status than I do," Rikku muttered.
"There appears to be no bad blood between Rikku and childhood best friend, three-time-ex-boyfriend, Gippal, former head of the Machine Faction. He is now working for her in more ways than one, running the sound equipment on the Gullwings Tour," Paine paused to take a sip of her drink.
"She's making me sound terrible!" Rikku cried.
"Yuna, Spira's savior and leader of the pack, was seen complimenting his success in Kilika just this past week. Spira's Sweetheart-"
"Told you!" Rikku interrupted.
"And Boy Toy Tidus-"
"Boy Toy?!" Yuna cried.
"Are still publicly affectionate, yet there are no reports of wedding bells or a ring on the former-summoner's finger," Paine went on.
"Why is that any of her business?" Yuna huffed.
"That is TAME! Did you MISS the part where I'm the biggest asshole on the planet?!" Rikku shouted.
"He's a bigger asshole than you," Yuna said firmly, pointing at Rikku.
"Did you just say asshole?" Paine asked flatly.
"Yes. And he IS an asshole," Yuna said, her protective family role showing through.
"He's not an asshole," Rikku said quickly. Yuna froze. Paine dropped her bottle to the table in shock with a thunk. Yuna grabbed Paine's arm.
"Oh good Christ, she's sick! Do you have a garment grid with you? Tell me it's got a whitemage dressphere, or the alchemist, SOMETHING. We're going to need some healing! She's ILL there might not be a lot of TIME!" Yuna joked.
"Vilg uvv, Yunie, I'm fine," (fuck off) Rikku scowled.
"I know what she said, Paine!" Yuna snapped at the warrior.
"Well," Paine tried not to smile while the two cousins scowled. "Doesn't anyone want to know what it says about ME?" she tried.
"Ev ed rehdc yd oui tydehk sa ykyeh, E tuh'd lyna," (If it hints at you dating me again, I don't care) Rikku sighed, taking a swig from her bottle.
"Nothing!" Paine pretended to be surprised. "Paine, The Gullwings' bassist, continues to serve up bottomless portions of attitude on and off stage."
"No one cares about your personal life because there's no chance you're going to run theirs. Yunie recently saved the world TWICE and I have to inherit an entire race of people I don't want. They want her in charge of things, not the slutty princess," Rikku grumbled.
"You're not a REAL princess," Paine reminded her.
"Same thing!" Rikku threw her hands up.
"Can't wait until Shelinda and her goons get a load of you and Gippal's new romance," Paine raised a brow.
"WHAT!" Rikku cried. "WHAT romance? What is he telling you? It's lies. He's such an ASSHOLE!" Rikku pounded a fist on the table.
"I just told you he was an asshole!" Yuna protested.
"He hasn't said a word, it's written all over your face," Paine said slowly, making a point to drag one of her fingers through the grease on Rikku's cheek, then wiped it on the Al Bhed's skirt.
"Why I could just-"
"Are you girls done?" Tidus asked. He and Gippal returned to the table with a new round of drinks for everyone.
"YES." Rikku snapped reaching for her refill.
"Public doesn't love you this week?" Tidus winced. The last time he saw her use that tone after tabloid dinner was after her horrendously public break up with Gippal. After which she locked herself in her room and cried for a few days. Paine was the only person she spoke to, and barely.
"They love making me into a Jackass. You know, those hold-over Yevonite cuhc-uv-pedlrac need to just get the vilg over my race already! I'm SORRY that I'm rich and famous and important and too sexy for their temples but three out of four of those are NOT on purpose!"(sons-of-bitches) (fuck) Rikku's voice escalated. She let out a heated sigh.
"I'm gonna go ahead and rule out rich and important, but I can't decide between the other two," Tidus scratched his chin.
"Sexy, dipshit. She means sexy," Gippal snapped. No one said anything. "So it was famous? Shit. You think you know a girl," Gippal joked, pulling her headband down over her eyes.
"No, it was totally sexy," Rikku sighed, pushing her headband up. He had draped his hand on the back of her chair again and she unconsciously leaned towards him as she moped. "I just liked being a Gullwing because it was fun. I liked how much everyone enjoyed it! Now we can't even go out to eat without someone yelling-"
"Gullwings! Over here!" a photographer shouted.
"SEE?! Do you see what I'm saying?" Rikku snapped.
"Why don't you give him a million gil to shut up?" Gippal joked. No one thought it was funny.
"I told you he was an asshole," Yuna muttered.
"The worst," Gippal grinned at her. He shot the high summoner a wink then got up out of his chair, heading for the photographer.
"What is he doing?" Yuna hissed.
"Who knows?" Rikku shrugged.
"Hey Pal," Gippal smiled politely. "If we give you a few photos, will you get lost?"
"I'll think about it," the photographer looked sidelong at Gippal.
"Then get over here and take your pictures so the girls can get back to dinner, okay?" Gippal tried to remain polite. Gippal escorted the photographer to the table. "Our friend here is going to take a few pictures and then leave us alone," Gippal announced.
"Gippal!" Rikku hissed. "I look awful!"
"You look fine, this will get him off your back," Gippal kept his voice hushed. They all forced smiles for photos. The photographer thanked them and was kindly shoved away by Gippal.
"Thanks," Yuna grumbled.
"Don't mention it," Gippal sighed.
"You were pretty good with that Photographer," Paine tacked on thoughtfully.
"Well I was famous for a Hot Minute," Gippal joked, then affectionately messed up Rikku's hair. "Glad that's over with." He tacked on a playful eye roll, then picked up his dinner menu. Rikku couldn't take her eyes off him. She just couldn't believe how different he was.