Characters: Rikku, Nooj
Spoilers: Not really
Notes: Written for the Out of the Comfort Zone meme to the prompt of "Rikku, Nooj, frogs". This took me a few false starts, but overall I'm pretty content with how it came out (although I'm not convinced about the ending, but what else is new?). Also this is not in any way inspired by Quina's frog hunting game, and I did not have the FFIX soundtrack on repeat the entire time I was writing it. No, not at all. *insert shifty eyes here*
Thoroughly engrossed in the hunt, Rikku didn't realize that she was no longer alone until she heard the low harrumphing sound of a throat being cleared behind her. She started and slipped in the mud; in order to keep from falling face-first into the muck she had to let her prize go, the yellow-tinged frog slipping from her hands with a triumphant croak as it landed in the pond with a splash. She watched it hop away and then, with a sigh, she stood from her crouch, and turned around to yell at the newcomer. Then she almost slipped again in surprise -- of all the people she knew, this was both the last person she expected to see, and the least likely to be able to sneak up on her. Or so she'd assumed, anyway. "Nooj?"
He arched an eyebrow. "What are you doing here?"
Rikku dropped a hand to her hip and glared. "Hey, you're the one who startled me. I didn't even know you were on Besaid. So I get to be first to ask that question."
Nooj shrugged. "Paine and I arrived an hour or so ago, and I was looking for a quiet place to take target practice before dinner." He lifted his right hand, and the sun glinted off the rifle he carried. "Wakka told me that Beclem set up a range here behind the temple. Your turn."
"What does it look like I'm doing?" Rikku reached into the burlap bag at her feet and from the wet, writhing mass pulled out one of her finds. "I'm catching frogs." She lifted up the large green amphibian and thrust it forward, almost into Nooj's face.
"So you are," he replied, contradicting his flat tone by recoiling. "I don't suppose I should ask why, then."
Rikku grinned. "Because it's fun isn't enough of a reason?" Nooj's eyebrows lifted, and she chuckled. "Okay, and also you can extract a really strong poison from their skins. Good for making poisoned weapons and stink bombs. And then, when you're done with that, they make good eating."
At that, Nooj's expression grew even more incredulous, and he took a step backwards. "Remind me to find my own dinner tonight."
"Okay, but you don't know what you're missing." She squeezed the frog; it croaked in protest, and she dropped it back in the bag. "Hey, you wanna help?"
Nooj cocked his head to the side with a small frown. "Even if I were interested, I doubt I'd do you much good." He tapped the side of his left foot with his cane, metal thudding on leather with a dull ring. "Perhaps you've noticed that I'm not particularly well-designed for kneeling in mud?"
"Hmm." Rikku looked the metal leg up and down, paying particular attention to the knee joint, and concluded he was likely right. Now that she thought about it, she couldn't remember having ever seen him even sitting on the ground, much less kneeling. "Maybe not. Still, you owe me. That golden frog you startled me into letting go produces the antidote. They're hard to find, too. So..."
He looked at her for a long second, then sighed. "All right. I suppose that's fair. What would you like me to do?"
Rikku bounded forward a few steps to stand beside him, feet splashing in the pond. "Okay, see those shrubs on the edge of the swampy area? I saw the gold frog run into the one second from the right. Shoot the top of the bush to rattle the leaves, and then when it hops away, I can grab it. I get my frog, you get your target practice. What'dya think?"
"You're the expert." Nooj raised the rifle to his right shoulder, settled it in place, then pulled the trigger. Rikku dropped back into her crouch as the shot rang out; as she had hoped, the bullet shook the plants and the yellow frog leapt out from its hiding place and straight toward her. She lunged forward and was rewarded with splash of muddy water to the face and a wriggling frog in her hands.
"Gotcha!" She opened the bag and slid the frog inside, then swiftly closed the drawstring so none of the others could escape. Craning her head backwards to look at Nooj, she flashed a grin at him. "Nice shooting."
He nodded. "Good catch." She started to stand, but he stilled her with a hand held out parallel to the ground. "Are there more in the other bushes, do you think?"
"Could be. You wanna give it a shot?"
"Why not?" He lifted the rifle again, and Rikku settled back into position.
Six shots and several lunges later, they had five more frogs, including two more of the yellow variety. Rikku stood and stretched, then held out a muddy hand. Nooj paused only a moment before holstering his rifle and reaching out to shake it. "Nice work," he said.
"You too." She dropped his hand. "We make a good team."
"Perhaps so." He rapped a metal finger against the head of his cane. "But maybe we should keep that to ourselves for now."
Rikku rocked back on her heels with another grin. "Try the frog stew at dinner, and we have a deal."
Nooj grimaced, but Rikku thought she saw a glint of humor in his eyes, too. "You drive a hard bargain."
"So they say." Without waiting for any further answer, Rikku swung the squirming bag of frogs over her shoulder. "The firing range is on the other side of the bushes. Enjoy the rest of your shooting session." On his nod of acknowledgement, she turned and left him, ready to move on to her next project.