Fandom: FF X-2
Spoilers: None, really
Notes: I blame cupcakemonster. Totally and completely. See, she wrote this whole series of Rikku/Nooj ficlets the other day, and then mneme_forgets had to go and wonder how Paine would react if she found out. Now tell me, how was I supposed to resist that? So here you are. (Perhaps this goes without saying, but this bears no relationship to any of the other stories I've written about Paine and/or Nooj.)
Paine swung her legs out of the bed and padded over to the closet, reaching for the shirt she typically slept in when she spent these nights with Nooj. As she pulled it out, her fingers brushed a swatch of unfamiliar fabric at the back. Gathering it up in her hands, she pulled out another oversize shirt. She considered it for a moment before turning around.
"Hey," she said. "Where did this come from?" Casually, she tossed the garment onto the bed, then pulled her own shirt over her head.
Nooj stirred, reached for his spectacles, switched on the bedside lamp. He looked at the shirt, then back at Paine, a flash of guilt in his dark eyes. A struggle between saving face and his commitment to honesty commenced, but Paine knew that he would tell her the truth in the end. Finally, he spoke, his voice low. "It's Rikku's."
"Rikku's?" Paine crossed her arms across her chest, incredulous. "You've been sleeping with Rikku?! "
He looked away, staring at their reflection in the window. Then he nodded, reluctantly.
"Huh." She dropped her arms and then sat on the edge of the bed, pressure building up like a bubble in her chest. "Well, I suppose it could be worse. You could've gone back to Leblanc." At the utter look of horror that crossed his face, the bubble broke, taking her with an outburst of mirth. She doubled over, shaking with laughter, her face in her hands, releasing her conflicting emotions. When she recovered enough to sit up, she glanced back at Nooj to see that he was smiling, a small wry grin.
"It does seem rather unlikely, doesn't it," he said. "I'm not always sure I believe it myself."
Paine shrugged. "Maybe. But it explains a few things, too."
"Such as the cookie crumbs I found in the bed the last time I was here." She smiled again, and Nooj looked back down to cover his amusement, picking at the covers with his machina hand. "Also, your mood, which has been oddly cheerful lately. Maybe she's contagious."
Nooj grunted. "She can be, at that." Finally, he was able to meet her eyes. "Are you upset?"
Still seated, she pulled up her legs and crossed them, turning around to face him. "It's not like I have any claim on you. Go to bed with whoever you want. Well, maybe not Leblanc." She quirked an eyebrow to show that she was joking; then she recomposed her face into a more serious expression. "As long as you remember where you belong when you get tired of her."
"Like when you get tired of Baralai?" The undercurrent of bitterness in his voice surprised him a little.
"Exactly like that," she replied calmly. In a single smooth motion, she rolled herself over on top of him, her thin shirt all that separated skin from skin. "Cookies are tasty and gentlemen are pleasant, but one can only take a steady diet of either for so long. In the end, I need someone with an edge, and so do you."
He began to compose a retort, but then she was kissing him, stealing all the words away, one hand gripping his braids, the other running down his right arm, finding his living fingers and tangling with them. The desire they had thought already satisfied earlier in the evening blazed up again, a fire that threatened to consume them both, and they slid down on the bed, twining limbs of flesh and metal in their need to become one, to find home.
When Nooj woke the next morning, he was alone. Blinking the sleep from his eyes, he sat up and looked into the closet, which Paine had left open when she departed. Two shirts hung there, side-by-side, neatly pressed and ready for whoever might come by to wear them. He shook his head with a sigh, then got up to start his day.