TITLE. Tilting The Hourglass.
Paine, Gippal, Rikku, Yuna, Baralai, Nooj.
Paine attempts to survive Rikku and Gippal over the years. Attempts.
I am so, so sorry.
I don't own FFX-2, tragically.

Bikanel Desert is too hot for leather and shoulder pads, but Paine trudges through the sand anyways. It scratches where her joints bend, elbows and knees clumped with fine grains. A bead of sweat runs down the back of her neck and makes her shirt stick to her even more. In front of the camera, Nooj is limping, Baralai is subtly trying to fan himself with his staff, and Gippal—

Gippal is stripping, but what else is new.

"My eyes," Baralai says flatly, and turns away. Gippal parading around half-naked is routine by now, but they still twitch a bit when the hem of his shirt starts to rise. Paine thinks it might just be an Al Bhed thing. Nooj says it's because he's an idiot.

Gippal tells them he was a stripper before he joined the Crusaders, and all of them blink at him very long and hard. It's only after Baralai starts asking for a fork to gouge his eyes out with that he cracks a grin. Paine throws a roll of film at his head and is deeply satisfied when it leaves a bruise.

"Why are all the women in my life so violent?" He says out loud. Paine shoots him a withering look. He blinks. "And unsexy."

The first sphere for that day cuts off abruptly when the camera suddenly starts approaching Gippal's face with alarming speed. The last shot is his nose, then it's all sound. Crunch, thunk, whack. "Ow!"

Paine very calmly polishes the camera lens and wipes off the bottom. She puts in the next sphere and presses 'record'.

"I hate you," he says, but through mouthfuls of blood and him plugging his broken nose, it comes out more, "I hay bew."

"Excellent," Baralai deadpans. He sneers at her. "Now he'll never shut up."

"You could always break his jaw," Nooj points out. Baralai gives this great thought.

"... I wouldn't want to damage my staff," he finally murmurs, and walks faster. Paine can practically hear Nooj roll his eyes. Gippal whimpers next to her pathetically and keeps talking.

"You're like this girl I know." He's more coherent now, having stemmed the flow of blood with one of Nooj's hair ties. He wipes his bloody hands off on Baralai's spare headband. Paine doesn't want to know where he's getting these things from. "Back Home. She's the reason I lost an eye, actually."

"What a catch," Nooj drawls ahead of them. Gippal narrows his good eye at the back of his head. The tip of one of his braids catches fire. Baralai snorts into his too big sleeves. Nooj doesn't notice.

"She's a good kid, I guess," he grumbles. Paine watches the flame crawl slowly up Nooj's hair. "Kind of annoying, always moving. But she's... she's a fast swimmer and she's blonder than any other Al Bhed, and when she stretches, it's all tan and lean and I just want to—"

"Spare me," Paine begs, sounding pained. Gippal pauses, rubs the back of his head and laughs awkwardly. Baralai is plugging his ears and humming loudly at the front. Nooj finally realizes he's on fire and starts to flail on his one good leg. Paine considers helping him, remembers a comment he made the night before about her chest, and doesn't.

"Sorry." He chews the inside of his cheek pensively. He isn't laughing at Nooj, so it has to be serious. "I think she's still waiting for me."

"She's an idiot." Baralai and Paine share a look, surprised at the tandem in which they spoke. Baralai recovers first. "You'll probably die out here."

"Or in your tent," Paine adds. "If Nooj realizes just who exactly set him ablaze."

Gippal scowls. "I'm not gonna die, retards. I'm invincible."

Of course, a trap chooses this exact moment to go off at their immediate left, blowing shrapnel into Gippal's side. They all slam into the sand hard, and Paine, for reasons even she doesn't quite understand, spends the night pulling each piece of metal out of him with precise care, all the while thinking of a little girl waiting out in the sand somewhere with bleached hair and eyes brighter than the sun.

Paine meets Rikku, doesn't know she's The Girl Who Waited, and thinks, she's the female version of Gippal, Spira help me.

Then they go to Djose, and everything... makes even less sense.

"You meanie!" She sticks her tongue out at the back of his head and stomps away to the ship. "Let's go! Gippal's being a turd."

Gippal whirls. Paine snickers quietly at his baffled expression. Rikku keeps storming away, so he yells, "A WHAT."





Yuna looks slightly beyond terrified. The two of them are at opposite ends of the bridge, screaming at each other. Paine follows the conversation with vague disinterest until she realizes that Rikku is The One and Gippal is clearly blinder than she thought because RIKKU?


"THIS," Gippal gestures viciously to his eye patch, "IS YOUR FAULT, REMEMBER?"

Rikku blows a raspberry at him and flounces away with her tiny skirt and feathered hair. Paine and Yuna follow her warily. Yuna bites her lip in worry. Paine's ears are splitting. Gippal makes a loud, frustrated noise behind them; the temple doors slam.

"Um, Rikku," Yuna begins tentatively when they reach the deck. The blonde's shoulders are shaking. "Are you okay?"

"Did you see his face!" Rikku giggles madly and spins, eyes bright, cheeks flushed. She bounces from foot to foot. "He so totally missed me!"

"...I'm going to bed," Paine says, slightly desperate, and thinks love is for morons, fools, and Al Bhed teenagers.

When the machina goes crazy, the first words out of Rikku's mouth are, "Gippal, were you dropped as a child?"

Paine, somehow, thinks she probably should've seen that coming. They seem to be all the other focuses on. It'd be nauseating if the fights weren't amusing. Gippal despairs in his seat in his office. Rikku sits on his lap and leers.

"This is where you go, 'Rikku, my sweet, perfect, gorgeous girlfriend, will you please go and slay the beast I have oh so mistakenly brought to life?' Or something."

Gippal makes a face and unceremoniously dumps her on the floor. "You're too heavy to be my girlfriend."

"YOU BASTARD," Rikku screams from below, and kicks his legs out from under him. He lands on his face behind the desk. Neither one of them get up for a few seconds.



Paine coughs. Yuna turns a lovely shade of pink. Rikku's head appears over the edge of a pile of paperwork, hair dishevelled, lips raw and dark. She blinks. "Oh! Right. Hi."

Gippal sits up behind her, smirking. "Care to go kill that machina for me now, Cid's girl?"

Rikku squeaks. Paine really, really doesn't want to know where his hands are. Rikku twists and punches him in his good eye rather suddenly. "Bad Sin Spawn!"

Gippal clutches his head. "What."

"We're gonna go kill that icky thing in the back now." She smoothes out her skirt, snaps the straps of her thong unnecessarily. Probably for the look on Gippal's face, which is, admittedly, priceless. Yuna nearly goes comatose at Paine's side. "See y – HANDS OFF THE MERCHANDISE, BUDDY."

Gippal's hands fall away from her. He sulks. Rikku kisses his eyebrow sweetly and skips towards them. "Let's go, Team Rikku!"

"I quit," Paine announces, and tries to go for the window.