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Written for [livejournal.com profile] owlmoose, for the [livejournal.com profile] ff_press birthday celebratory ficbit meme.


To Fix; To Patch; To Mend (715 words)
Nooj, Paine - G/worksafe
Paine has had it up to here with matchmakers.

"You're going."

"I'm not."

"You're so going."

"Rikku—"

Rikku stomped her foot, and Paine winced against the echo in the hallway. "Don't start with the respect point thing again! You're going and that's final."

Paine crossed her arms. "You had no right to volunteer me without asking."

Rikku shrugged, and Paine thought she looked too smug for her own good. "Well, I've gotta help Buddy with repairs and there's no way I'm sending Brother to meet with them for funding! We'd end up paying them money." She pouted. "Come on, Paine. Just this once."

Paine rolled her eyes; if she didn't do it she'd be whined at for a week. "Okay, fine. But next time, ask."

Rikku grinned and jumped. "That's awesome! Nooj is waiting in the engine room to walk you to the meeting! Good luck!"

Paine only had time to blink at trailing streaks of a scarf as she processed what Rikku had said and—what a brat, she thought. Paine gave the bulkhead door a hesitant look, and decided it would be better to get it over with.

Nooj was right where Rikku said he would be, staring down the lowered ramp to the outside. He greeted Paine with a nod as she headed down to him, and Paine returned it. For what felt like the hundredth time, Paine regretted that Yuna was off on vacation with Tidus. She was the politician, not Paine.

"You look well," Nooj said as they exited the airship. "I trust sphere hunting is still successful."

"As well as it can be." Awkward, awkward, awkward was all it was, and she really hated polite conversation. Of course Baralai and Nooj would organize the meeting on the other side of Luca. "We—We're hoping the combined governments will help us fund more searches." It felt like something Yuna might say, but she was no Yuna.

They circled around the walkway slowly, avoiding a group of children as they continued on. How much older Nooj looked struck Paine—it had only been three months since their last meeting. She supposed for a man who thought about dying all the time it was normal to look so haggard.

"Perhaps they will. Baralai left this morning for Besaid to meet with Yuna about it."

Paine stopped walking. "Excuse me?"

Nooj faltered in his steps and turned to look at her. "Yes, Rikku said that Yuna was vacationing, but she asked Baralai if he couldn't visit for the discussions. Perhaps there was hints about Baralai treating it as a business vacation from Gippal and I—he has been working very hard."

Paine was going to strangle Rikku, or maybe toss her off the airship. "Then where are we going?"

Nooj only stared at her. "Rikku said you wished to see me. I came as soon as I heard you were in town for airship repairs."

"Oh, did she."

Paine tried not to see how Nooj's face fell, but it was hard to ignore. "Ah, I see. Maneuvered, were we?"

"It seems so." She shifted on her feet. "I—I'm sorry she wasted your time."

Nooj frowned. "Must it be a waste? Luca isn't busy. We could have lunch."

Paine was at once tempted and scared. They had done this already, and she didn't want to go through it again. "I'm not sure it's a good idea."

Nooj didn't get closer, but his voice lowered. "Paine, I regret many of the things I said about my future the last we spoke. I assure you I'm—working on them." He stared off into the distance. "If anything, I had hoped we could be friends again."

She had spent so much time angry over Nooj's depression; it was hard to know what to say to him. She watched him for a moment, and then said, "Lunch, then. Just for an hour."

Nooj nodded, and smiled. "You can choose the vendor." He picked up their path again, and Paine followed a few seconds behind. Lunch wouldn't hurt, she guessed. It was just lunch. Not a date. And maybe it would go okay.

But she was still going to make Rikku miserable when she got back.
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renay: Pink pony with brown hair and wings on a yellow background bucking hind legs in the air. (Default)
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