Characters: Paine, Rikku
Spoilers: Mild and vague, for Paine's backstory.
Notes: Requested by heyheyrenay. Prompt: Paine and Rikku, post-game, good things won't let you wait. Set in her "airship 'verse" (a series of P/N ficlets, starting with Into the Rising Sun, which was itself a metafic of my story Darkness, Dawn, thereby proving that fandom is actually a snake eating its own tail.)
Paine's heels clicked against the metal floor of the Celsius as she approached the cabin, the sound loud in her ears over the rumble of the engine. Just before the spot where the automatic door would sense her presence and open, she paused. She'd already had this conversation with Yuna, and she hadn't dreaded it nearly this much, but then she'd known that Yuna would understand. She feared that Rikku might be less sympathetic. But there wasn't much to be done about it -- she was leaving in the morning, and she owed Rikku this.
Deep breaths, she told herself. Then she started walking again, passing through the door with a confidant stride so as not to betray her nerves. Barkeep stood behind the counter, washing dishes, and he looked up as she approached.
"Yesh, Mish Paine?"
Paine laid her hand on the bar. "Rikku around?"
The hypello waved his arm in the direction of the loft. "She'sh upstairsh."
She nodded her thanks, then headed up the short staircase. As promised, Rikku was there, flopped across her bunk with a book. "Hey."
Rikku held up her hand in a silent greeting and continued to read. Paine sat down on Yuna's bed and waited until the other girl reached a stopping point. Then she snapped the book shut, sat up, and swiveled around. "Hey. What's up?"
"There's something I need to tell you," Paine said. "I guess you know about the airship that Gippal found?"
"Know about it?" Rikku rolled her eyes. "Gippal made sure of that. Is there anyone on Spira whose ear he hasn't bragged off?"
Paine smiled. "Probably not. So. He called me yesterday morning. He finished all the repairs and it's ready to fly. Launch is tomorrow."
"Really?" Rikku bounced to the edge of the bed. "Wow! That's a big job to finish in just a couple of months; he must be really happy. So why-- oh." She stilled, and an uncharacteristically sober look came over her face. "You're going with them."
"Yeah." Paine looked down at her hands, only now realizing that she'd twisted them together in her lap. "I know it's kind of sudden. But they only asked me a few days ago, and I had to think about it. It'll be hard to leave you guys. But I just couldn't pass this up. It's not the kind of opportunity that will wait." She held her breath and glanced back up, braced for Rikku's reaction.
Rikku launched herself forward and threw her arms around Paine in a fierce hug. "Oh Paine! I'll miss you tons, but I understand. They're your team. And he's your captain. You have to go."
Paine squeezed her back and let out a quiet sigh of relief. "I'm glad you understand. I thought, with everything you said when I talked about leaving before..."
"Don't be silly." Rikku leaned away and raised her eyebrows. "I mean, wasn’t that the whole reason you ran all over Spira?"
"Yeah. Well, at first," Paine admitted. "But it became about more than that, you know. I really will miss the Gullwings."
Rikku hugged Paine again, then stepped away, settling back down on her own bed. "When do you leave?"
"First thing in the morning. We're flying over that way tonight; I've already made the arrangements with Brother." Rikku's face fell, and Paine hurried on with the rest. "I know. But the guys don't have much of a window -- they all had to rearrange their schedules to get away, and this was their only chance. It's not forever; I should be back in a couple of months."
Rikku nodded and sniffled. "You'd better." She smiled through her impending tears, and Paine found a lump rising in her own throat as she smiled back. "Okay. Almost dinnertime, right? We'd better get on that -- your stupendous send-off meal won't make itself!" She hopped off the bed and grabbed Paine by the hand, giving Paine no choice but to follow, laughing in spite of herself. She needed to travel with the guys; she'd dreamed about it for so long. But she was still happy to know that something else good would be waiting when she got back.