Setting: Crimson Squad training
Theme + Number: #22 (With) benefits, #47 Slow and steady
Friendship: Baralai, Gippal, Nooj and Paine
Summary: Gippal draws them all together.
It doesn't affect anything, the way Gippal flirts and teases and flirts a little more. Paine goes on being a little aloof, a little apart, with that damn sphere recorder always in her hand, an extra member they have to watch out for and protect. Baralai continues being stuffy and straight edge and very much a Yevonite, and Nooj doesn't give a damn about anything but going out in the way he chooses, afraid of dying useless or alone or old.
Or they'd like to think it doesn't mean anything, anyway. But Gippal draws them all out -- draws himself out to meet them, open and Al Bhed and unashamed of everything he's done and everything he is. He's the walking talking advertisement and catalyst for the realisation that there's nothing wrong with the Al Bhed, that the Al Bhed are just humans too. Baralai talks more to him as time goes on, though he was never that cold to him, and starts to think about things a true Yevonite shouldn't think.
And Paine talks more, smiles more, lives more, comes out from behind the camera to join them, sometimes.
Only Nooj doesn't seem to change. And yet on the inside he's touched, nearer and dearer to this group than to any other he's ever had the pleasure or displeasure of fighting alongside. And sometimes it's both, with all Gippal's flirting and Baralai's institutionalised naïvety and Paine's detached I'll-do-my-job-and-that's-all moods.
In some ways, Gippal is the keystone, bringing them together and holding them. They can all get along with him and through him and for a time it looks as if things could be perfect forever, like a strong bridge built between people and races and geography.