Title: Of Bad Gil Pieces and Airships (12/12)
Note: To quote the first lines of this chapter, well, I'd have to say she's finished. This started out as a very short one-shot that morphed into something almost but not quite 50,000 words and took a little over a year to complete. I wanted to see if I could do something with these two that was more of a day-in-the-life slice of their lives instead of saving the world from some big bad guy while still exploring their relationship. I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read this and I especially wanted to thank everyone at quitethecouple over on LJ for voting this as the story with the most potential. And thank you 1frickengirl for your helpful critiques, you really made editing this thing a lot easier.
And now that the longest note I've ever written is finished, on with the story.
"Well," Rikku said, leaning back as they looked at their work. "I'd have to say, she's finished."
"Not quite." Gippal held up a decorative piece of metalwork in his hand. "You want to do the honors?"
Rayne shook his head. "She's your ship now; you go ahead." He stuck his hands in his back pockets, his expression wistful. He had completed what he had set out to do; now he was ready to go. "You know, I never asked. What are you going to name her?"
Gippal looked at Rikku, who looked blankly back at him. "I never really thought about it. Any ideas?"
"I've got nothing." She turned to Rayne. "What did you name your ship?"
Rayne shrugged. "What every guy names his ship when they're in a good relationship: after their girlfriend. I know its clichéd sounding, but it worked." He ran his hand over the side of the metal. "She was trustworthy and took good care of me wherever I was going. It fit."
Gippal made a hrm noise and rubbed the back of his neck. "I'll think about it." He stuck his fists on his hips. "What say we get you to Zanarkand then?"
Rayne's face split into a beaming grin. "I'd really like that."
But before they could get onboard, Rikku stopped them. "Look," she said, pointing towards a hover coming down the road. The lone driver spotted them and slowed down.
"Hey Rin," Gippal said as Rin stopped beside them. "Mom's in the temple, if you're looking for her."
Rin nodded. Gippal noticed that he looked much better than he had been the last time he had seen him; his hair was back in its familiar style and his face was once again clean shaven. If there were dark circles under his eyes, it wasn't because of lack of sleep due to worrying about Lina, it was because the two of them had been spending the last week staying up until the small hours of the morning talking via the commsphere network. Gippal might not have eavesdropped much, but Rikku had informed him after standing with her ear at his office door that it sounded as if the two of them were getting back to where they had once been and then some. Spending all this time apart had made them realize that they might have known the other very well, but that there were still some things that Rin hadn't known about Lina and vice versa.
Rin tugged at the sleeve of his coat and smoothed a hand over his hair. "You look great," Rikku assured him, giggling at the sight of someone that was normally the most together person she knew taken down several notches by nerves.
"Let's just hope that she thinks the same," he said, killing the engine and stepping off the hover. He didn't have to wait long, because the temple door opened and Lina started walking down the steps. Rikku felt Gippal put his arm around her shoulder as they watched Rin go up to Lina. They watched as Lina stared up at him, her hands clasped together in front of her. The two of them stared at the other for a long while without saying anything, then Rin reached out and enveloped Lina in a passionate kiss.
"Wow. Go Rin," Gippal said, whistling low as Lina wrapped her arms around Rin's shoulders and laughed as Rin picked her up and spun her around. Rikku could see that Lina was saying something to him in between kisses, but she couldn't make anything out. Rin was shaking his head, his body language saying that it didn't matter, that he was just happy to be there with her again. He took her hand and led her down the road and towards where Gippal and Rikku stood.
"Well," Lina said somewhat breathlessly as they reached the hover, "thank you for letting me stay here, son, but I think it's time that I got back home."
"It was good having you here, but I'm kinda glad you're leaving." He gave her a crooked smile. "Now I can get back to work messing my office up."
She hugged him. "Brat."
"I try my best. See you later, Sudran." Gippal let her go and clasped Rin's forearm. "Take good care of her."
Rin nodded. "You don't have anything to worry about there."
"Nope, I never did." The three of them waved goodbye as Rin turned the hover around, Lina sitting behind him with her arms around his waist.
"So," Gippal said to Rayne, watching as the hover became a small speck in the distance. "What do you say about taking that flight?"
Rayne's face broke out into a huge smile. "I'd say that it sounds like a great idea." Reflexively, he caught the keys that Gippal tossed his way.
"Kind of fitting," Gippal said, walking up the boarding ramp after Rikku. "Thought you'd like to take her for one last spin."
Rayne settled into the pilot's seat and looked out the windshield. A few practiced flicks of his wrists had the engines roaring to life and the ship off the ground. "You guys did a great job getting this bird back to her original shape, but I bet you never really thought to open her up."
Gippal grabbed the back of Rikku's chair as the ship went into a smooth roll, the sky blurring before them. "I thought you flew merchant ships," Rikku squeaked, her knuckles white on her armrests.
Rayne smirked, his hand throwing another gear. "Only in my spare time. The rest of the time I was a stunt pilot."
"I've got to warn you," Rikku said as they came towards the borders of Zanarkand. "It doesn't look the same way that you remember."
Rayne nodded. "I know. I kind of figured that if there had been a devastating attack like you said there had been that hardly any of the original buildings would still be standing." They flew over the first few ruins and he sucked in a sharp breath. "But no matter how many times I told myself that, it sure didn't prepare me. Damn."
"Aya said that she'd be waiting for us near the old Blitz dome up ahead," Gippal told him. There should be a decent landing spot right before we reach it."
Rayne seemed to melt into the pilot chair, his back sinking into the material. "See that ruin right there?" he asked, pointing to a spot. The only recognizable thing still sticking out of the water was a slab of stone. "That used to be the office to the shipping company I worked for. The first thing I'd have to do once I got finished with a job would be to report there. The secretary that worked days was a stickler for getting mileage reports and fuel receipts on time." He made a slow circle over the place before moving on.
"I know it doesn't look like much now," he whispered, staring out at the pyreflies that were zooming around everywhere. "But this city used to be one of the greatest places in Spira. You should have seen it at night, when it was all lit up and everything. The crowds never really stopped."
"I saw it once, a long time ago," Rikku said, remembering how she had briefly glimpsed the flurry of activity in Guadosalam during Yuna's pilgrimage. "It really was great."
"That's where Aya's shop used to be," Rayne pointed out, a smile settling on his face. "She made the best chocolate cream pie anywhere, and she always had a pot of fresh coffee waiting for all the pilots that came in after their runs were done."
They finally came to the Blitz stadium and found a decent landing spot. For once the place wasn't covered with monkeys. Rayne pulled up on a lever and the three of them heard the landing gears smoothly shift into place. "Well," Rayne said, looking at Gippal and Rikku. "This is it."
"I'm glad that we were able to do this for you," Rikku told him, her throat suddenly tightening up. She hated goodbyes, especially since in the short time that she had known him, Rayne had become a friend. She reached out and hugged him hard before stepping away.
"And I'm grateful to you, to you both." He stood and went towards the loading bay doors. "It was nice working with you, Gippal. You've got one hell of an operation going."
"Shame that I'm going to lose a fine mechanic," Gippal said gruffly, clasping Rayne's offered hand.
"Too bad you weren't around a couple of hundred years ago or so. You'd have had an empire of mechanics around."
Gippal shrugged. "I'm getting there. Just give me some time."
Rayne walked down the rocky path leading to the dome entrance. Pyreflies seemed to notice his presence and swarmed around him, wreathing him in multicolored light with every step. "There she is," he said, turning his head to look back at the two of them a few steps behind. "Isn't my girl beautiful?"
Aya materialized next to a great pile of rubble, her hands pressed together at her chest. "Hey there stranger," she said softly. "I was starting to worry that you'd never show up." Her tone was teasing, contrasting to the relieved look on her face.
Rayne gave her an apologetic glance. "Sorry it took me a few centuries to get back home after my last trip." He framed her face with his hands, his forehead touching hers. "Can you forgive me?"
She wrapped her arms around his waist. "Oh, I think so."
"So, does that mean we're still on for that date I promised you once I got back?"
Aya rocked up to her tiptoes and kissed him. "You'd better believe it." They both turned towards Rikku and Gippal and waved. Rikku waved back as Gippal slung an arm around her shoulders. The two of them watched as Rayne and Aya walked hand in hand towards the dome, vanishing together in a swirl of color.
"You think that they're still there?" Gippal asked.
Rikku shook her head. "No, I think they moved on. After all, the only thing they were waiting for was to be together again." She sniffled a little and wiped the side of her face with her palm. She always had been a sucker for romance.
Gippal took her hand in his. "Then why don't we follow their example? Come on, let's go home."
The roar of the surf made a pleasant background noise for the ceremony taking place along the southern tip of the Djose shore. Seated in the front row, Yuna dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief while Tidus held a snoozing Jecht. Next to them, Paine tried to act indifferent, but a small smile curved her lips. Baralai caught her look and playfully elbowed her, which made her scowl before elbowing him right back. Nooj hid his laugh at his friend's discomfort behind a cough; obviously Paine had put a little more force into her blow than Baralai had in his.
A row back, little Vidina was tugging at his clothes, clearly uncomfortable in more formal wear. His father put a reassuring hand on his shoulder, but Wakka wasn't any better off. Every few seconds he would run a finger around the collar of his shirt as if it would give him any more breathing room. Vidina was about to voice his complaints at being forced to wear something so scratchy, but a scathing look from Lulu was enough warning to get both father and son to sit still until the ceremony was over. In front of the spectators, Cid took the hands of the couple and solemnly spoke a few words in Al Bhed. Dressed up officially for once, he looked every part the leader of his people. Raising his hands, he addressed the crowd.
"Well, that's it. They're hitched."
The rowdy party afterwards was in sharp contrast to the formal ceremony and lasted long into the night. Rikku walked around one of the large bonfires that partygoers had lit; a drink in her hands.
"Hey," she halfheartedly protested when someone reached out from behind her and swiped the bottle out of her fingers.
"Thanks," Gippal said, tipping the bottle to his lips. "Great turn-out, huh?"
"I'll say. I bet half of Bikanel showed up."
"More than half, not to mention a bunch of people from Luca and around here."
Rikku took his hand, watching as the light from the bonfire made shadows lick over them. "They look really happy, don't they?"
Gippal grinned and looked over to where the bride and groom stood. His mother's hair was covered in little white flowers and she looked much younger than Gippal had ever seen her look. Rin was laughing at something one of the guests was saying to them, one of his arms loosely wrapped about Lina's waist. "They do." He sat down and gently tugged on Rikku's hand to get her to do the same. "Your dad did a good job officiating. I've never seen him look so serious."
Rikku laughed. "He moans and groans about having to do stuff like this, but I think he secretly likes doing all the important official things he's expected to do. The grump is just for show."
He set his stolen drink down in the sand next to him. "I'm all for tradition, but what do you say about skipping all the fancy stuff and eloping instead?" he asked nonchalantly.
Rikku's eyebrows rose up to her hairline. Turning so she was looking at him, she tilted her head. "Is that a proposal?"
He echoed her smile. "Maybe."
She tapped her chin with her index finger. "Well, then I might say…"
He cupped her cheek with his hand. "You might say what?"
The smirk she gave him was downright mischievous. "Maybe."
He brushed his lips against hers. "You're impossible to live with, you know."
"But you love me anyway."
"Wouldn't have it any other way, babe." They stayed there by the water for a long while, just watching as the party started to break up. Somewhere along the way, Rikku had fallen asleep on his shoulder, her breath stirring his hair at his neck. He wrapped his arms around her tighter and pressed a kiss to the crown of her head. The movement caused her to stir and yawn.
"Hey," he whispered, watching as the caterers from Luca packed up the last of their gear and waved to him on their way out.
"Hey." She yawned again and snuggled closer to him. "What time is it?"
Gippal looked up at the sky. "Somewhere around three, I guess. You wanna get out of here?"
Rikku stood up and held out her hands to help him up. "The temple's pretty crowded, what with everybody staying over. And you were the one that let Nooj and Paine take your drafting room." That had been news to her; apparently Rikku had been out of the gossip loop long enough to miss that LeBlanc and Nooj had a nasty break-up. How he had quietly avoided the press about the new relationship he had taken up with Paine was beyond Rikku. She was determined to corner Paine sometime soon and find out, no matter how many respect points it cost her.
The jingle of metal sounded as he twirled a key ring around his finger. "We have an airship, remember?" He grinned wickedly at her. "And I have it on good authority that there's a bed built for two on board." He wiggled his eyebrows suggestively.
Rikku reached out and snatched the keys out of his hand. "So what are we waiting for?"
He made a move to get the keys back from her, but she danced out of his reach. "For you to give those back; I'm driving."
She shook her head. "No way. I thought we had a deal – I'm the navigator and you're the engineer."
"That happens to also be the captain. Gimme."
"I don't remember voting you captain, and I'm flying. Besides, you named it after me, I figure that gives me reason enough to pilot." Okay, so their ship wasn't The Rikku, or anything, but Lady Luck and the decorative metal club next to the name was enough of a connection for her.She giggled as she walked backwards, the keys dangling in front of him. Unfortunately, she didn't take into account that there were logs still out on the sand that partygoers had used as impromptu seats. Rikku let out a squeak as she felt herself falling backwards, but Gippal caught her before she landed on her behind.
"I tell you what," he said in his best diplomatic voice, his lips a breath away from hers. "Why don't we put it on auto-pilot and make better use of our time?"
"Then I'd have to say," she told him, running her fingers through his hair, "that you've got yourself a deal." Her eyes fluttered closed as she sealed their bargain with a kiss.
She didn't even mind it when she felt his hands take the keys from her slack fingers.