"That's what Tanu says, and she has it from Lorriha who knows a weaver-girl who lives there," confirmed Hakki. "She's visiting her cousin and those old Guardian friends of her's I'd imagine."
It was hard to be heard over the din and clangor of an average day and Djose temple, but the Al Bhed who lived there managed fine. Their people had been gossiping about one another over the foror of engine and machina noises for centuries, and with the New Home Project well under way could apparently look forward to many more centuries of doing the same.
"Do you think she knows what her old man's up to in Bikanel?" he wondered aloud as he manually tightened the bolts on the right side.
"Hard to say," Korrik said. "I know that Brother is one wrench shy of a set, but those two have been thick as theives since they were little. Anything he knows about, Rikku will know about too before long."
"Which begs the question," chimed in Challa. "Of whether or not Brother knows about it."
"I haven't heard of the Celsius pulling into dock out there In bikanel Island," Korrik said.
"And you know how well our esteemed fearless leader and his crazy son get along... which is to say not at all. No, I think it's pretty safe to say that Bikanel is one place that the Celsius and its crew are not," Challa agreed. "And speaking of airships, have you seen Rikku's? It's finally finished!"
"No kiddin'" Gippal said, off-handedly. "Took her long enough."
"Now now," Challa chided. "You know that it was just her working on it."
"She could have taken me up on my generous offer to help her," Gippal argued, grinning at an in joke.
"I would hardly call demanding controlling rights on half of the profits made from her and her airship for the first year a generous offer of assistance."
"It was generous," Gippal maintained. "Not only would she have gotten her little airship built in half the time but I promised to go half in on the cost of any repairs made in the time she'd be payin' me back."
"Hmmm, fifty-one percent of the profits made by a former Guardian and professional adventuress over the course of the year. Lessee, how much did she make in a year as a Gullwing? Over one million gil I think it was, even after deductions for maintenence..." Korrik, said with feighned casuality.
"So basically... you'd still profit," Challa said, reprovingly to Gippal. "Geeze, no wonder she dropped you like mouldy bread."
"Urhhk," Gippal gasped before he was able to stop himself. She'd hit the nail on the head and it stabbed through him like only a painful truth spoken with off-handed plainness could.
"I wouldn't say so much dropped--" he started.
"Oh, I would," Korrik quickly concured with his lifemate, Challa.
"And really can you blame her?" Challa said, with a sly wink at her husband. "Working so hard day and night to build a machina with her own hands, only to be pestered every other hour by the importunings of someone she clearly has no interest in but who cannot seem to take a hint."
"Oh, yes indeed," Korrik said, nodding in apparent sympathy. "Our poor sweet Rikku, left to bear with fortitude the fawning advances of a rough-handed profiteer."
"I am not a profiteer!" Gippal protested. Challa went on as if she hadn't heard him.
"And forced to watch everyday as a parade, no, a veritable festival of women walk by all chosen by him while she gets left alone and lonely in the dark to work on her ship. The only friend she has..."
Gippal was frowning, knowing full well that the young lifemated pair were teasing him. Well what would they know? They already had each other.
"I've heard that the women here at Djose have considered installing a revolving door on your quarters for convenience," Challa said.
"That's going a little far now," Gippal said lightly, a slight warning edge in his tone. Sure Challa and Korrin were his friends but he was only willing to take so much teasing from his employees.
"That's alright," Challa said with her sickly-sweet mocking smile that really held a sword in it. "I'm sure she never noticed anyway."
This time Gippal managed to restrain the gasp as she hit another nail on the head. Carelees, flighty, fun-loving Rikku never seemed to give an old rusty bolt for anything he had to say to her... especially when it concerned her status as a single, lonely young woman.
"Why would I care what that skinny twerp thinks anyway?" he said, shrugging and assuming one of his lady killer poses, the one that never failed to make a woman melt. "After all, I have women lined up around the block."
"That's funny you should say that," Korrik said, fully intending to burst his bubble. "So does she. The last estimates from Bikanel for Leader Cid's little pet project said that there were at least fifty who had expressed an interest in taking a crack at it."
"Wow! Fifty you say?" Challa said, poking Gippal on the arm. "Sounds like quite the competiton."
"Hand me that cord there," was all Gippal said.
"Here you go," Challa said, as she and her husband rose to leave.
"We're for breaks Gippal, you gonna stay here?"
"Yeah, I'll finish; you two lovebirds can go back to your nest," he said waving absently, by all appearences absorbed in his work. He heard the door slam shut behind them with a sigh of relief. Alone at last. He slid out from under the mounted engine block and wiped the grease off his hands then stretched out muscled cramped up from spending hours on a rolling board under a machina.
He liked his friends, but they had a bit too much of a propensity for locking on to his weak points and giving him a hard time about them. His status as Leader of the Machine Faction had given him a lot of recognition and renown among thier people; this had resulted in him being in high demand as a potential lafemate... so far none of them had taken. Rikku was the only one who'd rejected him and the manner in which she had done so still made his ego wince every time he thught about it.
"Be my girl," he said, casually slinging an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close to him as they walked over the bridges spanning the Moonflow. Rikku was on her way out to the cleared area where her partially-constructed airship lay in peices, waiting to be put together. He flashed one of his best lady-killer smiles at her, the one that always made women melt.
"Oh, no thank-you," she said with absent-minded vagueness, her thoughts clearly elsewhere. Gippal blinked, a little taken aback. That had been a fast answer, she hadn't even paused to consider it. It was like she'd been turning down a polite offer for a drink or something.
"Why not?" he asked trying to sound curious rather than offended. He did after all have a large number of women flinging themselves at him, he didn't see why Rikku would turn down his offer for her... was it just because she was famous?
"Why not what?" she asked, sounding a little irritated at having her train of thought interrupted.
"That was a serious offer from me," he pointed out.
"You? Serious? Pffft! That's funny Gippal!" she said cheerfully, smiling her happy-Rikku smile at him. "Tell me another one!"
"I was serious," he maintained. "I want you to be my lover."
"Naaahhh," she said, batting a hand disarmingly at him. "I'm busy right now."
With that she'd turned down the path to her airship, and by all appearances completely forgotten Gippal and his offer. The Leader of the Machine Faction however, was a little more stubborn than that, and he was not willing to take not interested for an answer. Of course she was interested in him, all she needed was a little softening up first.
So he tried later that night, after hours when the temple was deserted and it was just Him, Rikku's little airship, and Rikku.
Rikku hung upside down from one of the struts holding a massive component of the left-side thruster in place working on the wiring, the surface pnels discarded on the floor nearby. Her long blonde hair the exact shade of the sandunes of Bikanel when the sun kissed them fell in a long beaded curtain from the nape of her neck, flicking this way and that with every slight movement of her head. All was quiet in the workroom, the workers had all left for thier homes hours ago. It was just the two of them.
Gippal leaned casually against an exposed panel next to her, deliberately invading her space and crossing his arms in front of him knowing that he showed to best advantage like this.
"Up late are we?" he asked, pitching his tone loud enough to spook her (he'd made certain to come in silently). It was easiest to gain an advantage if the girl was already caught off-guard. Rikku gave no sign of surprise, just turned her head (upside down) to look at him.
"I just wanted to finish this," she said cheerfully, turning back to her work.
"I could help," he offered.
"No strings attached?" she countered.
"All I'd need in return is a little thank-you kiss," he said, pouring on the charm. It was hard to look debonair from this angle but he felt he managed admirably. Rikku abruptly flipped onto her feet and poked him on the forehead with her finger, smearing engine grease on him.
"No thanks," she sing-songed, dancing out of his reach to fetch a wrench from the nearby crescent set laid out. He wiped off the grease.
"It's okay if you're shy, I understand," he said, easily keeping pace with her. He leaned forward and whispered "I'll be gentle."
She looked up at him in surprise, obviously catching the double entendre. When she blushed in embarrasment, he knew he had her. Her eyes were wide and doe-like, radiating her innoscence as she backed up against the toolchest, trying to put more distance between them.
"C-c'mon Gippal, cut it out," she said, smiling nervously and very obviously trying to regain her composure. He wasn't willing to let her right then. Gippal leaned forward putting an arm on either side of her, ostensibly to lean against the toolchest but really trapping her in place close to him. She grew even more unnerved... this told him that Rikku was an innoscent. It was kind of a turn-on.
"Cut what out?" he asked innocently, toying with her a little before going for the kill.
"The romeo act," she said disparagingly at him. "You should know I'm immune to it. I'm Rikku." This before turning around abruptly and flicking her long blode tail into his face. He got an impression of silk and sting before she spun easily out of his reach. He'd forgotten how very quick she was.
"I don't know what you're talking about," he claimed, pulling out the wrench she'd been looking for. "I was just helping you find this."
"Thank-you," she said, carefully taking the wrench from him while warily watching him with suspicious eyes. She turned away to go back to her engine and he followed her.
He didn't do anything, not just yet. He watched her, unnerving her. She really did have a trim little figure, he liked how her little theif dress-dodad exposed so much of her flat, toned tummy. She definately had a figure worth admiring. She wasn't a scrawney, skinney little brat anymore and he very much appreciated the change. In the year of the Final Pilgrimage, Rikku ad just been another scrawney Al Bhed kid. True, she was the leaders daughter, but her only mark of distinction in his mind at the time had been the fact that she was Brother's little sister, and Brother was his best friend. Still, she was a year and a half younger than him, so despite this tie they really didn't travel in the same circles. Gippal was already apprenticed to his father, working with the Crusaders to develop weapons for opperation Mi'ihen.
"What?" she demanded in exasperation after a minute or two of him just standing there staring at her.
"What what?" he replied, all innoscence. Truth to tell, part of him had been lost in reverie. At that moment on that night he thought he'd never seen anything so beautiful. She was free, truly free, like a wild thing was free. She was wild and beautiful and indomitable... and forever out of his reach.
"You're just standing there staring at me," she said. "You're starting to creep me out."
"You're imagining things," he claimed. "I'm just standing here."
"Well go stand someplace else," she said, growing irritated as a sheild to hide how nervous Gippal knew he was making her.
"Alright," he said agreeably. He very deliberately walked over to where she was standing wrestling with a nut rusted onto the the shaft of a screw so that she could loosten the panelling of the next section and got right behind her, his skin just inches from hers. He traced a finger tip lightly up her back, making her shiver as goosepimples puckered her flesh.
"Ahhg, don't do that!" she exclaimed, batting his hand away and trying to shoo him off.
"You had a smear of grease," he said. She gave him a suspicious look but let it slide.
"I can wash it off myself thank-you," she said, her voice sounding a little strained. "In fact, I'm mostly done here so I'll just go back to my quarters, wash up and go to bed. So if you don't m--"
She'd been speaking fast, to the point of babbling and she'd abruptly turned around, intending to break for the door when she found herself walking straight into his chest. Gippal wasn't actually caught off guard when she ran into him, but he fell back anyway, taking her with him. They wound up sprawled out on the floor, precisely as he'd intended, with Rikku staddling his hips and looking like a deer caught in on-coming hover-lights.
"Baby, if all you wanted was to be on top..." he said, grinning lazily up at her while he slid a hand slowly up her smooth tanned thigh over her very firm buttocks to rest casually at the small of her back.
"Eeep!" She actually squeaked. How cute. And it made him feel like such a predator. He liked it.
"Um, look," she said plucking his hand from where it rested at the small of her back. "I don't know where you got the idea that I... um, well, that is... er... don't you have anything else better to do?"
"Nope. I'm all yours," he promised her. He let his tone and face speak the true meaning of his words.
Rikku seemed to suddenly catch hold of her floundring composure for where there had been a girl, uncertain and panicking, there was suddenly a woman, come-hither and sexy as hell. Could there be two Rikku's? Gippal didn't think that the world could handle two Rikku's. One was more than enough.
"Hmmm..." she said, looking him up and down with the air of an appraiser looking for some used machina to buy. She smiled, slowly and sensually at him and he felt a rush of heat wast right through him like a wave crashing. She brought her hands up from and smoothed them over his torso. Deliberate and seductive.
Heh, success! All she'd needed was a little nudge from him, and she was putty in his hands.
"Nope," she said, in her usual innoscent and cheerful tones pushing off his chest then ducking and rolling off from him faster than he could even blink.
"Sorry, not interested," she added casually. "Now hand me that wrench over there so I can get started here."
With that, Rikku turned back to her precious project, all thoughts of him and his attempted seduction of her apparently forgotten.
He sighed a little, perhaps with regret. Gippal knew better than to attempt any seduction ploy more forceful than that; first off she was Cid's little girl, Cid's ONLY little girl, and he'd heard the rumors about the man's gun collection. Second, Rikku herself was a former Guardian, one that had faced and helped to defeat Sin, not to mention all of the other feinds and monsters they'd had to face along the way to get to Sin. If he did anything she'd find objectionable she'd probably have more than enough strength the serve his genitals to him on a platter. No if she didn't respond to coaxing he wasn't going to risk her possibly formidable wrath with anything less gentle than that.
I didn't even get a lousy kiss before she left, he grumbled to himself.