Author's Note: Multi-chapter fic, FFX/FFX-2 spoilers, focusing around the Crimson Squad just after formation and following them through their training. A look at the way different people grow together into a team. POV Baralai.
"What d'you mean, we've got to march in six hours?" This is Gippal, sounding unconvinced in the common tongue. "I just got used to being here, now they want us to pack up and get to the docks just like that?" He switches to Al Bhed only so that he can swear in it, swear creatively enough by the sound of it that Paine is forced to narrow her eyes while she glares at him, and yet is too proud to demand a translation.
Paine's hair is always swept back in fern-spikes, stiffened by a liniment sold near Luca judging by the salt-smell; the hawkers promise that application keeps your bangs from your eyes during blitzball games. Unsurprisingly, it's meant to be for sporting use. Some of the Crusaders resorted to it. Most, like me, used headbands.
I know Paine claims that it's to keep from having to push her hair back every time she sets the machina lens to her eye that she takes to such fashion, but I've come to suspect she simply enjoys flicking at the strands with a snort when Gippal's being particularly obtuse.
I say nothing as I study the right angle formed by the folder when I hold it with fingers extended. I can do this because I have been watching our recorder for the last three and a quarter days, ever since I caught sight of her eyes when she looked at the sunset during rank maneuvers. I am expecting something buried beneath that woman's surface. If it is there, I would like to know.
If there is not, I will have to wonder where Bevelle is hiding the trick question instead.
Nooj's secret had been easier to pick out than I would have liked, but I held out against believing in it. People you put your trust in at last weren't allowed to die, which explains everything about why I do not give one whit of care for Bevelle's governing priests but am inwardly rankled by the Deathseeker's fixations.
The folder I am playing with and Nooj is attempting to steal during a ploy of disinterest is the folder containing our test instructions. I retain possession only because it is a cover for how I am continuing to stare at Paine over the edge, my eyes inscrutable at the antics of Yevon recorder and Al Bhed wastrel. I already skimmed the contents.
"They can't keep us here forever doing training exercises. Give me that," Nooj orders openly, tail-ending his commentary by a stiff grab for our paperwork.
I sacrifice it this time. Now I cannot hide behind it, so I hang my arm off the back of my chair and resort to looking expectant at the other three.
The setting sun sneaking in past the window mesh paints herringbone patterns across Gippal's face. He doesn't know he should squint against it because it's on his blind side. Nooj is pacing, restless. Or as much as he can, periodic limp drag limp across the floor, the elderly wolf trying to circle the fussing bird and force it to silence through intimidation.
He will be an excellent leader for our team, if only out of stubbornness.
Paine is not the only one who keeps an eye on turning the present into the past through a form of history. Recorders are supposed to be more detached than she is, which is why I am curious about her. If we are to fail in our tests, then our recorder would have to dutifully mark down our losses rather than extending a helping hand. That is the Yevon way; it always has been, teaching people how to watch even the closest atrocities with unmoved eyes.
This is not to say that there is anything wrong with such a method. Just, I'm wondering why there's a deviance in it now.
Behind my eyes there is no sphere to remove and replay later at whim. That does not mean they aren't always running. I think Paine has realized this over the last two evenings because she has taken to avoiding looking at me directly when we are alone. Maybe I am wrong. She could have been caught up in wondering when the other two would return with dinner.
Now she pretends that no one else exists, one leg crossed sharp over the other as she swipes the cleaning cloth over the machina in her lap. The supper of one week ago had been prepared in a similar manner. She'd plucked the bird naked and clean while sneering, because the rest of us had botched it so badly we'd been ready to make soup out of rocks instead of roast.
Gippal has come up behind me while I was too busy paying attention to the small scars on Paine's knuckles. I start to jump and mask it when he drapes an arm over my shoulders. He says something; I don't remember it, can't comprehend the world except in terms of flesh and light and heron's bones, and so he has to repeat the jest of how he thinks I should be the one wearing the eyepatch.