POV Gippal, light and short fic. Set post-game.
Baralai's got this habit. He thinks no one sees it, but I do, out the corner of my eye. No one expects me to have halfway decent peripheral vision, but it's there, because it's the only thing I can count on sometimes when the world's gone insane. And my friends with it.
Baralai's got this thing he does, which basically comes down to getting his clothes on right. Fastidious enough to be screwed up, until you realize that Bevelle itself's just a bunch of wrappings. Layers of fabric around a tangy center. Makes me think of a Macalanian dessert.
You open the tissue-paper fruit flakes and peel back the surface. Inside, there's jam. All flavors. But dry and bland to begin with, so if you're going to eat, you'd better undo the outside part first.
When Baralai is nervous, he touches his clothes. Makes sure they're in place. I asked him once why he didn't fidget with his hair like most people do, shaking their fingers through their scalp, and he told me he trained himself out of the habit. Can't let anyone know what he's thinking in Bevelle, and Baralai likes to think he can hide it from everyone.
I love messing that up. Can you blame me?
Every time I come to Bevelle, I hide parts of his wardrobe. That's my hello. If I get in without the guards noticing, I give myself two points per set of patrols. If there's business going on that's doubled the watch, I give myself ten. In the event that I score over thirty points total, I figure that gives me all the right in the world to grab Baralai's jacket and go walking around in it, snickering into the high collar.
It smells like Baralai's laughter. Then it smells like me by the end of the day, with whatever I've had for lunch and then I always return it by handing it off to a guard like I belong in the temple and they belong in a laundry room, not waiting for their protest before I'm jaunting away.
Routine's no good for anyone. I understand proper procedure just fine, don't get me wrong. But it's a guideline, like diagrams of machina parts. Cutting corners's effective. You can discover new shortcuts that way. Sometimes it's messy, but that's part of the fun.
Baralai basically likes things in place. Such as his clothes.
I think it's unhealthy.
If I make it all the way up to his quarters unobserved, I give myself a bonus fifteen. Then it's into his room. When Baralai comes back from a shower, he's always in a towel, hair wetted down, and he doesn't think to search his quarters right away. That gives me my chance to get ready.
Getting to watch Baralai put on the first white layers of his folded shirts gets me six points each per section. He never does more than three before he turns around. I get thirty seconds while his back is turned in order to get in position leaning against the wall. If I slip up, if he moves faster, then I have to look casual standing in the middle of the room or with my arms crossed haphazardly and that's just a style loss, I can't live with that.
Getting the look on his face when he whirls and finds me lazing against his wall like I walked straight through it is the best reward of all.
"Fifty points, Baralai. I win."
He scowls at me, wadding up his nightshirt and pitching it towards my head.
I always let him think I've entered through a window. Easier than having him discover I can fit underneath the bed, even though I have to almost dislocate a shoulder to do so. The dust makes me choke down sneezes. I'm going to have to clean that out when he's not looking, maybe elevate the bed itself with a few strategic wooden blocks.
He's started locking the windows from the inside. I don't think he's figured it out yet.
"Paine will be here in two hours for lunch." His announcement comes muffled from the closet. For all his dignity when he's dressed up as Praetor, he certainly looks ridiculous half-swallowed by furniture.
I should shove him in it sometime when he's not expecting. Bar the door.
"I'm coming with you," I decide aloud. The shirt gets tucked up beneath my arm. Soon as I think of something to do with it, I'll take it away. Hide it somewhere appropriate. Maybe someone else's bedroom.
"You know she hates surprises," he warns me, turning around with his jacket in his arms, but now his eyes are glinting amused.
"You do too."
"Perhaps I've had too many of them." Baralai's bare feet move over to the dresser, where the man searches for a pair of socks. "Ever think of coming in through the door like a normal person, Gippal?"
"And leave off breaking your routine? Never."
Baralai's doing that thing of his again, with his hands going up and down his jacket front like a drunk in a brothel. Piano-fingers. I watch this for three repetitions before I speak up. "What's on your mind?"
His fingers still. "What do you mean?"
"You look nervous, s'why."
"I do not," he protests, hands momentarily clamping upon his clothes.
I can't help but grin.
Baralai stoops to pull on his socks, and from there, yank on his boots one by one. "Paine tells me..." There go his fingers again, this time over his laces while he smoothes them down in repetitive degrees. "She says..."
Quirked by the way Baralai's words keep trailing off, I fold my arms and wait. His routine's so predictable. If I'm quiet, he'll speak in less than five minutes.
More points for me.
I'm proven right in three. Baralai's explanation comes as he finishes with his boots and straightens up. "Rikku's pregnant. And she says it's yours."
My mind hits an invisible wall and refuses to go any further. The captive shirt goes tumbling to the ground by my feet, forgotten.
"Of course, you'll have to get married before Cid finds you," the man continues, reasonable as he finishes the last few buttons of his coat, "so how does this afternoon sound? I'm sure I can fit you in between appointments."
I try to sputter, but nothing comes out.
Against my gape-mouthed exclamation of shock, Baralai smiles. He spreads his hands in the air. Fingers wide. Triumphant.
"Sixty points, Gippal. Got you."