Challenge: Story challenge, opening set 3
Summary: A look into the Crimson Squad quartet by way of a forgotten sphere. Rikku/Gippal, slight Paine/Nooj
“There’s a certain thrill to spending money that isn’t technically yours.” The young man in purple said. The sun reflected off the gil piece he flicked into the air before catching it again in his hand.
“So says the thief in our party,” a woman’s voice said sarcastically in the background. The camera moved and zoomed in on the man’s face.
“Hey, I stole it fair and square. That coeurl never knew what hit it. Lighten up, Dr. P.” His tone was light. The picture fuzzed out momentarily, but his smirk was still visible.
“Gippal, you know she hates that nickname,” another man admonished, his profile coming into the camera’s view. He leaned heavily on a cane and favored one of his legs as he walked.
Gippal’s smirk turned into a full blown grin. “What nickname, Noojmeister?”
The camera wobbled slightly and the woman could be heard quietly chuckling. “Don’t kill him Nooj, Baralai would never forgive us.”
The man shook his head and then looked directly into the camera. “We could make it look like an accident.” The sun glinted off his glasses, making his expression unreadable. “What do you say, Paine?”
“Hm, it’s tempting.” Gippal turned and gave them both a mock-wounded look. It only made the camera shake harder as Paine laughed. Gippal said something to them, but it was lost as the view became static filled and then eventually blacked out.
When the camera focused again, it was much later and the trio had set up camp for the night. A fourth person had joined the group, his clothing at home in Bevelle.
“We could have bought more supplies with that money,” he grumbled. “We’re running low on food.”
“My money, my choice.” Gippal could be seen running a long piece of multicolored material through his hands. “You want supplies; you steal from the next fiend.”
“He has a point, Baralai,” Nooj was heard saying, off-camera.
“I can’t steal anything,” Baralai replied, poking at the fire with a stick. “I don’t know how to.”
“It’s really easy,” Gippal said. “A girl I know back home taught me how.”
“Here, take this.” A thin finger briefly obscured the camera lens as the recorder was transferred from person to person. Paine walked over to where Gippal was sitting. She looked a lot younger than her voice made her out to be, pale skin peeking out from between black leather and red straps. She inclined her head to ask permission to hold the material in Gippal’s hands. He ran his fingers over it again before passing it to her.
“It really isn’t your color,” she commented, letting the material fall over her arm. “Why do you need a scarf out here?”
Gippal shrugged. “I heard we might be shipped out to Gagazet pretty soon. It pays to be prepared.”
“Uh huh.” She folded the scarf up and passed it back to him. “Kinda feminine, don’t you think?”
He grinned at her. “Maybe I bought it for you, Gorgeous.” He easily blocked her fist with his arm when she took a swing at him.
“I’m thinking it’s for cusauha cbaleym.”
He gave her an enigmatic smile. “Maybe.” He folded the scarf up even smaller and tucked it inside his armor, near his skin. “I’ll never tell.” Nooj was heard laughing at them, and then the screen went black.
When the recorder came into focus again, the four were back on the road. Several women passed them on their way, all of them giggling. The camera swiveled; Paine was back at the helm if the silvery hair that accidentally got into frame for a second was anything to go by, and the girls were seen looking over their shoulders at Gippal.
“You’re popular,” Paine noted dryly.
Gippal folded his hands behind his head and continued to walk. “What can you say? I’m one fine specimen of Al Bhed sexiness. The ladies love me.”
“Can your ego get any bigger?” Nooj asked, rolling his eyes.
Baralai laughed. “I think it’s all an act.”
Gippal dropped his hands, but continued walking. “Huh?”
“I’m thinking that deep down; Gippal’s just a one woman kind of guy.”
The camera zoomed in on Gippal’s face, which sported a very faint shade of red high on his cheekbones. “I’ll have you know, several girls cried when I left Home.”
He spread his arms out wide. “Tons. Millions. A whole harem of Gippal worshippers.”
Paine gave a delicate snort of disbelief.
“Okay, so you got me. There was only the one.” Gippal rubbed the back of his head with one hand and sighed. “And I’m not even sure she was really crying.”
“This the same girl that taught you how to steal?” Baralai asked.
Gippal’s mouth twisted into a wistful smile. “Yeah.”
“I do believe our Gippal is in love,” Nooj teased.
Gippal stopped dead in his tracks. “Am not!” He reached out for the camera. “Turn that thing off for a minute…”
Paine dodged, but not in time. “Hey!” The angle of the shot abruptly went sideways and blacked out.
“You’re supposed to be asleep,” Gippal whispered, his back against the stone wall they had camped next to for the night. He’d taken out the scarf again and let it sift through his fingers.
“Decided to keep you company,” Paine replied. The camera dipped as she sat next to him. She took a panoramic view of their campsite; Nooj and Baralai were asleep close to the fire. “About earlier, you know they were just playing around.”
He nodded. “Yeah, I know.”
“What’s her name?”
His hands tightened on the material. “Rikku.”
He smiled softly, for once not smirking. “Pretty girl.” He let out a deep breath and looked up at the star filled sky.
"You don't just like her, do you? It's something a bit more than that."
Gippal straightened up and stared at her, his fingers tangling up in the yarn. "How do you know?" he asked warily, not confirming or denying Paine's statement.
“I kind of figured it out myself. Does she know?”
He rubbed the back of his head with his free hand. “I think she gets the idea,” he said, tucking his chin close to his chest.
“Then what are you doing out here? You should be back at Bikanel.”
He rubbed the scarf against his cheek. “I’m doing this for her. If I can help keep Sin away from Bikanel, away from her, then it’s all worth it.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Why risk getting yourself killed when you could be with the one you love?”
He leveled a glance at her. “I could ask you the same thing.”
The camera flickered from Gippal to a sleeping Nooj before quickly focusing back on Gippal again. “Maybe I don’t mind risking my life if I’m with…” she trailed off.
“And maybe I don’t mind risking mine if it means Rikku can stay safe.” He stood up and stretched. Yawning, he walked over and crouched next to Nooj. “Hey, your watch is up.” He gave Paine one last look before flopping down on the ground and turning his back on the camera.
“Paine?” Nooj asked, sitting down next to her. “Shouldn’t you be asleep? Once we reach Mushroom Rock Road tomorrow, we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
“I’ve never heard of the Den of Woe before. It doesn’t sound very pleasant." The camera shifted, almost as if she was uncomfortable being so close to him when they were practically alone. "Do you think that the test they have planned is going to be hard?”
He shook his head. “Probably. I’m going to be counting on you.”
He smiled at her. “Who else is going to be watching my back?”
“You have the guys…” she stammered.
Something flickered behind his eyes. “You’re right,” he said, moving slightly away from her.
Paine reached out, her hand touching his right arm. “Good night.”
Nooj looked down at her hand for a long time before covering it with his own. “Sleep well.”
“What are you looking at?” Yuna asked, sitting on the bed next to her cousin. She had found Rikku lying on her stomach, her feet hanging off the side of her bed.
Rikku yelped, hiding the sphere underneath her. “Nothing!” she said.
Yuna shook her finger at her. “No fair hiding spheres from your fellow Gullwings!”
“I’m not hiding anything, promise. It’s just an old junk one we found a month ago.” The explanation seemed to go over; Yuna stood up and went to look out the window at the scenery they were currently cruising past.
“I can’t believe someone stole my garment grid,” Yuna lamented.
“Don’t worry,” Rikku told her. “We’ll get it back.”
“We’re heading towards Luca. Brother said he had a disguise for me to wear. I wonder what it is.”
Rikku snickered. “Oh, you’ll find out soon enough.” She slipped the sphere into a compartment of her belt. It was the one and only sphere she had ever kept from her friends. She had stumbled across it while they were following another set of sphere waves; she had recognized Gippal at once and had decided to keep it for herself. He had looked like she remembered him at sixteen, so this placed all the events recorded there during the time he had been away from her. She didn’t know who these Nooj and Baralai people were, but she recognized her fellow teammate with the shady past. It seemed like she might have some material to blackmail Paine with too, not that she’d ever use it. Rikku valued her life more than people sometimes gave her credit for.
Her fingers drifted over the heavy knit at her throat. It really didn’t match anything that she had in her wardrobe when she was fifteen, but Gippal had given it to her, which meant that she would have worn it even if it had been the ugliest thing in existence. It just so happened to look quite sharp with her new outfit, if she could say so herself. “He thinks I got the idea,” she muttered to herself, shaking her head. Of course she loved him. Really, sometimes she felt as if she had to hit him over the head before anything really sunk in. “And I did too cry when you left, you big dummy.”
“What did you say?” Yuna asked, turning around.
Rikku shook her head. “Nothing. Come on; let’s see if Brother has your disguise ready.”
cusauha cbaleym: someone special