Spring 2009. Just wanna offer a little warning to anyone who happens to come from reading Old Habits to this, that it really SUCKS. I'm not kidding around, or using reverse psychology, or slyly fishing for compliments. This thing really isn't any good. I've made some minor changes to this story over the years, and while I do think they've been for the better, it's kind of like putting garnish on a pile of dog doo, you know? Because a sprig of parsley is exactly what every steaming pile is missing. XD
I'd delete this thing if not for the wonderful reviews it received, with some coming from people I consider to be among the best this fandom has to offer. I'm grateful to everyone who found something to like about this.
Warnings: Um, besides the warning not to read this? XD Hints at future GippalxBaralai, but this one's pretty tame. Gippal's kind of a pervert, though.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything from the Final Fantasy X-2 world and make no money off of writing about it.
The silver-haired Praetor looked inquisitively at his friend. "What?"
Gippal scratched at his head. A seemingly harmless gesture, but Baralai knew better. Scratching at his head - that was something Gippal did A) when confused, usually as a result of thinking too hard. Or B) when about to say or do something he knew he probably shouldn't, but would anyway. Not that Gippal was stupid - far from it. He was smart. Too smart for his own good most of the time. And Baralai knew that. That was what made the gesture that much more troubling.
What was Gippal thinking this time?
"What'd it feel like?"
"What'd what feel like?"
"Did it hurt?"
"Gippal, what are you talking about?" Baralai asked, shooting Gippal a suspicious glance.
He vaguely remembered a pick-up line that began something like that, and he was pretty sure it was none other than Gippal he'd heard it from. Surely Gippal wasn't about to hit on him? He'd never done that sober. Not that the advance would be entirely unwelcome. Though they seemed to be complete opposites, the outspoken Al Bhed and the reserved temple boy had always had this special bond. The fact that they seemed to know each other inside and out almost instantly was the subject of a certain amount of torment at the hands of the other two members of their quartet. Paine and Nooj often made remarks about them carrying on like an old married couple when they fought, or asking when the wedding was when they were getting along.
"When he got inside of you. What was it like?"
Baralai shrugged his shoulders, not wanting to offer a verbal reply. Or any reply, for that matter.
Sure, he was a quiet guy most of the time, but this was different. Gippal knew it, and Baralai knew that Gippal knew it. Baralai wasn't just being introspective. He wasn't just taking his time with this one. He wasn't just searching for the perfect words. He had a reason for not answering the question- he didn't want to. And it wasn't that he didn't have an answer. He had one. He just didn't want to share it.
This, of course, made Gippal that much more determined to weasel it out of him.
"Well?" he asked.
"Well what?" Baralai asked, in a cold tone that didn't suit him.
"Well, what was it like? All those pyreflies getting inside of you and all that. Where'd they all," Gippal cleared his throat, "enter? If you know what I mean."
At this, Baralai laughed. The remark was crude and uncalled for and so typically Gippal that he momentarily let his guard down, nearly forgetting what had started it all.
"Not there, thanks."
"Just wondering," Gippal said casually, with a shoulder shrug.
The two sat in silence for a moment, and it was almost like old times. When they could just sit next to each other and not speak, just reflect, just think, just be. Then, two seconds later, when Gippal had had enough of the silence, done enough reflecting, he'd perform that telltale head-scratch and say something completely off-the-wall.
"So... now that I know the pyreflies didn't..."
"For the love of all that's good and holy."
"Yeah... you're right. Let's just move on."
"Please," Baralai said, sounding exhausted.
"Could you see us? Was it like a really bad dream? Could you feel him, you know, physically? Or was it just in your head?" Gippal asked, sounding almost excited. He posed his questions with child-like innocence.
That innocence was lost on Baralai. Friend or not, undeniable connection to Gippal or not, he was getting sick of his constant prodding. Why the hell did he care what it was like to be possessed by Shuyin? Didn't he know? He was there, inside that horrible cave - the place where it all started. He'd seen, heard, and felt the same things. Well, maybe not seen and heard, but felt. Definitely felt.
Why was Gippal...? Why these questions? Why now?
"Was it like before?"
"Or... not like before?" Gippal paused. "Different than before, you know."
"Thanks for clearing that up," muttered the increasingly agitated Praetor.
"Right back at ya. See, the way you were avoiding answering me, I figured maybe you didn't understand the question, so I thought I'd make good and sure you knew what I was asking." Gippal grinned.
"Gippal, I'm seriously considering punching you."
The Al Bhed sort of did a double-take, clearly thrown for a loop by his friend's statement. "Whoa. Really? Geez. Hey-hang on a minute. You're channeling him right now, aren't you?"
He paused briefly, and very suspiciously. He closed his eye, took a deep breath and turned both his palms upward. "Shu... What's his name again? Shuyin?" Gippal cleared his throat, very loudly. In a deep voice, he bellowed, "Shuuuuyin... are you here with us now, Shuyin?"
Gippal opened his eye and gave Baralai a look, expecting him to laugh again, or at least smirk. Because, come on - he laughed at the implication that a swarm of pyreflies had used the back door on their way into possessing him. Why wouldn't he find the fake-medium bit just as amusing?
Instead of laughter, Gippal was met with a disgusted glare. "What do you think it was like?"
"Well," Gippal actually looked unsettled - uncomfortable - over having made his friend so angry. Baralai was probably the only person who could make him squirm. For various reasons. "I bet it sucked."
"Obviously," Baralai said, sharply.
"Easy there, Praetorzilla. I was just looking for a little more insight."
"Why? Why do you need insight? It's over and done with. Unless you plan on being possessed yourself and were looking for some pointers."
"Okay, say I am looking to get myself good n' possessed by some psycho dead guy - full-out, time-to-end-the-world possessed. Enlighten me," Gippal said, defiantly, never one to give up on a cause, especially if that cause was in any way related to Baralai.
"Gippal, just drop it."
"Why does it even matter? Do you even care anymore? Or are you only pushing it because you can't stand not having your way?"
"I was just curious. I know how close I... we came to losing you."
"I was just curious if you knew it too. Look, I'm sorry. You win. I don't always have to have my way. I'll drop it. I didn't mean anything by it. I was just asking."
"But why would you ask something like that? That's like... I don't know."
"No, come on," Gippal prodded. "It's like what?"
"I don't know. It's like asking you what it's like to only have one eye. Or asking Paine why she likes to wear black. Or asking Nooj why he wants to die."
"Yeah. Only I already know what it's like to only have one eye, and why Paine likes black, and why Nooj is a broody, suicidal bastard. I mean that respectfully, of course. I know all that."
"My point exactly."
"But I don't know what it was like for you to get possessed, or whatever you wanna call it, by that guy."
"You know better than you think."
"You knew to ask if it hurt, if it was different from before. You knew to ask if I could see you guys. If it was like a really bad dream. You already knew."
"Hmm. I already knew, huh?"
The two found themselves sitting in silence once again. And unlike the last one, it was a comfortable, reflective silence.
As if knowing Gippal was about to say something, and knowing exactly what that something was, Baralai turned to him and said, "Not the pyreflies, Gippal. You were dead wrong about them."
Gippal laughed, and soon Baralai was laughing too. They both looked upward, their gazes meeting just as their laughter died down. They stared at each other for a moment, neither seeming quite sure how to respond. Then Gippal's hand almost involuntarily made its way up to his spiky blonde hair and he scratched his head. And this meant one of two things: either A) he was confused, as a result of thinking too hard. Or B) he was about to say or do something he knew he probably shouldn't, but would anyway.
And now you're wishing you'd listened to my warning... ;)