Spoilers: For the Crimson Spheres, kinda. Also indirectly for FFX.
Notes: Written for the Alphabet Fic Meme, for wildejoy's prompt of "Baralai/Gippal, Adventure". I'm afraid it might not really be what was intended; on the other hand, it gave me the inspiration to completely re-work a WIP that had been dead in the water for years (seriously), so for that, I owe wildejoy my thanks. :) Also to renay for the initial idea, way back when.
The stars shine brighter and harder in the desert, glittering against the black canopy of night. Their cold brilliance provided the only light as Baralai stood atop a sand dune, arms akimbo, scanning the sky in an attempt to unlock its secrets. All acolytes of Yevon learn the basics of celestial navigation, and Baralai was trying to prove his theory that the warrior monks who captained the Crimson Squad were leading them around in circles.
Baralai turned to see Gippal walking toward him. "Not yet."
Gippal stood next to Baralai and looked into the sky. "Nooj says we haven't traveled enough distance for you to learn anything that way."
"Perhaps he's right." Baralai tipped his head back again, squinting up into infinity. Had the stars returned to the same positions they had held a few days ago, or was it just the nightly rotation of the sky playing tricks on him? "I wish they would allow us to make maps."
"They wouldn't do you much good anyway. Maps of Bikanel go out of date real fast -- the winds move the dunes around too much."
Baralai turned to look at him, narrowing his eyes into a glare. "Must you and Nooj have an objection to answer every suggestion I raise?"
Gippal grinned back, starlight catching the glimmer in his eye. "Only when you're wrong. Besides, why do you care so much where we are? The mystery is part of the fun."
"Hmph." Baralai tipped his head back, shifting his gaze back to the skies. "If being lost is so much fun, why do I see you making notes about our progress every night, and climbing up every dune to scan the horizon with those goggles of yours?"
"Can't tell you." Gippal cocked his head sideways, looking thoughtful. "But maybe by now I can show you. Follow me!" He grabbed Baralai's hand and pulled him into the darkness.
Baralai almost lost his footing, sand sliding under his feet as he slipped down the side of the dune. Arms swinging, he had to let go of Gippal's hand to keep balance; by the time he was set to rights, he had to run to catch up with Gippal, who was already halfway over the next hill. For ten minutes, at least, they jogged through the desert, until Gippal stopped and turned around.
Baralai shook his head to clear the hair that had fallen into his eyes. "Where--"
Gippal pointed in a direction that Baralai thought might be north. "Just over the next hill. I think. C'mon, we don't want anyone to wonder where we went and come after us."
"All right, all right," Baralai grumbled. He pulled off his and followed Gippal up the wall of sand. After clambering to the top, he took a place by Gippal's side and turned to follow his gaze to a pillar of light on the horizon, reaching up to the sky and surrounded by a half-open flower made of glass and rusting steel. Small vehicles skimmed the sands around it, and armed guards stood by something that looked like a giant door. He swiveled his head to look at Gippal, open-mouthed. "Is that--"
"Home," Gippal answered, his tone hushed, low enough that Baralai had to lean close to catch his words. "The Al Bhed capital city. My home, and ours, and also its name. Home." He met Baralai's eyes, longing and pride writ clear on his face. "What do you think?"
Baralai smiled at him, then looked back at the machina city. "It's a wonder. Bevelle is never this busy at night."
"Artificial light." Gippal grinned, his expression of reverence already fading. "Try it once, and you'll never go back to candles and torches again."
"I imagine not." Baralai tried not to think too hard about the advantages embracing that particular blasphemy would provide. "I had no idea this was here."
Gippal nodded. "Our leader, Cid, is pretty paranoid about keeping this place secret from Yevon. We aren't supposed to let outsiders know it exists. That's why I've been keeping track of our position: to make sure that we don't get too close. I could get in trouble just for showing it to you."
"Then I am honored that you have done so." Baralai looked at the city, then turned, lifting his hands to Gippal's shoulders. "Thank you."
"Sure." Gippal met Baralai's eyes with a half smile. "You may be from Yevon, but you aren't like the others I've known. You've had my back enough times over the last month; I know I can trust you."
"If you trust me, then tell me one thing." Baralai raised an eyebrow. "Why did you really follow me out of camp?"
Gippal stepped closer, close enough that Baralai could feel the heat radiating off his skin -- a beacon of warmth in the cold desert air "The mystery is part of the fun, remember?" They were almost nose to nose now. "You can't expect me to give up all my secrets."
Baralai slid his hands down Gippal's arms before closing the gap between them with a kiss, swift and hard against his mouth. Then he backed away. "You gave this one up quite a while ago."
"Damn." Gippal grimaced, but the twinkle in his eye belied that expression. "I knew I should've been more subtle about trying to get you alone."
"Well. You didn't need to try too hard." Baralai squeezed Gippal's biceps, then let them go. "But you can trust me. In this as in other things." He nodded toward the city. "And I will endeavor to remain worthy of that trust." Turning his back on the city, he looked up once again, losing himself in the enormous canopy of the starry night, only the weight of Gippal's hand on his back anchoring him to the world. He did not move again until he realized that the wind had picked up and he was shivering.
Gippal noticed at the same time. "Hey, it's freezing out here. We should get back." He took a swift glance over his shoulder, then peered into the darkness. "Camp is that way. I think."
"You think?" Baralai looked at Gippal with alarm. "You led me into the middle of nowhere without being sure of the way back?"
"Hey, you're the one using the stars to navigate." Gippal chuckled. "Between us, I'm sure we can figure it out." Linking their hands once again, he led Baralai down the dune, and this time Baralai did not let go.