Accordingly, here's a Paine/Nooj version. This is on AO3 as well.
Subliminal - They Might Be Giants
"He's looking at you again."
"No he isn't." Paine didn't even glance over her shoulder.
"Sure he is." Rikku nudged Paine in the side. "He's been watching you ever since we arrived."
Paine let out a sigh of exasperation, but she turned around anyway, shading her eyes as she stared up at the Youth League headquarters tent. Nooj was there, anyway, standing on the balcony, looking out over the grounds. But he was scanning the scene, not looking at her. And she would not catch his eye. No, she wouldn't.
Bears - Lyle Lovett
"What does she see in him?" Rikku leaned back in her chair, laced her fingers behind her head. "He's brusque, he's mean, he never tells you what he's really thinking..."
Gippal threw his head back with a laugh. "And tell me, which item on that list is a deal-breaker for Paine?"
Rikku threw a napkin at him, but she didn't say he was wrong. "There's also the fact that he shot her. Yeah, not technically his fault, but..." She shuddered. "I don't know if I could do it. Remember that moment every time I saw his face."
"You get used to it," Gippal said, and then Rikku remembered that Nooj had shot him in the back, too. Literally, even. "And he's a good guy when you get to know him. Paine gave him a chance, and you should too."
Advice for the Young at Heart - Tears for Fears
They met in the small apartment that Nooj kept in Luca for state events and negotiation meetings, and once they had reunited to their satisfaction, they walked out on the balcony, arm in arm.
Paine took a few steps to the ledge, leaning on the rail, taking in the sunset over the railing. Nooj followed her, hand on her back, and she leaned back against his warm touch. How far they had come, together, from that first meeting in the Bikanel Desert. Now the whole of Spira spread out before them -- ships in the harbor, airships in the sky; they could go anywhere, as long as they were together.
Nooj kissed the top of her head, and she snuggled back against him. Here, she decided. Here was good.
Dreams - The Cranberries
They stepped off the airship in Luca: plans made, speeches rehearsed, the ship refueled and ready to return to Besaid. Paine kept her pace measured, a step behind the others, and once on the ground she just watched her friends all together in one place, and she smiled behind her hand. This was the dream she had worked for, the past she had chased and found.
Engrossed in conversation with his comrades, Nooj paused, looked up, met her eyes. His expression was solemn, calm, and he raised his eyebrows at her.
She looked back, and met his questioning gaze with a single nod.
There's Only Me - Rob Dougan
Paine walks in to the office, and Nooj stops breathing -- he should have expected this, she travels with the Gullwings, and the message that the girls would return the stolen sphere had arrived some hours ago. And yet somehow he is unprepared to see her here, arms crossed over her chest, eyes hard as she looks straight at him, unflinching.
He conducts his business with Yuna, telling her what little he is able to share about Vegnagun, but it's all on the surface: underneath, he burns to be alone, away from everyone, to get Paine alone and apologize, explain himself-- how?
How. That's the hard part. What words could possibly make things right between them, after, after he-- After everything he cannot allow himself to remember?
He leaves all the inadequate words unsaid, and when she leaves, she doesn't spare a backwards glance.
Days - Elvis Costello
The Mushroom Rock coast is in sight, Bikanel long behind them, and Paine stands at the railing, palms flat on the cool metal, letting the sea spray batter her cheeks.
The soft, deep voice comes up from behind her. She doesn't turn around but instead leans her back against him, smiles as he nestles his chin into the top of her hair. "Hey."
Nooj's chest rises as he takes a deep breath. "I don't know what will happen next, but--" He kisses the crown of her head. "I'll never forget. The desert, or you. And I don't regret a single moment."
Paine rests her hands on Nooj's and closes her eyes, pressing herself as close as she dares. And they stand there in silence for a long time, letting the swish of waves and whisper of wind say what neither of them is ready to put into words.
When It's Cold I'd Like To Die - Moby
Paine thought she knew cold, but nothing is as cold as a night in the desert, after the sun goes down and the wind whips across the dunes. And then the chill gets in your bones and you think you'll never be warm again.
But now those nights seem like a balmy spring day. The ice sits in the pit of her stomach and courses through her veins as she overlooks the ocean, the Mi'ihen Travel Agency behind her. Her fingers wrap around the bullet they took out of her gut, and she wonders if she'll ever be warm again.
I Know You're Out There Somewhere - Moody Blues
Nooj stood on the dais of the blitzball stadium and watched as the Celsius flew away, a red dot growing progressively smaller until it vanished over the horizon.
"She'll come back." Gippal rested a hand on his shoulder, speaking softly so that the crowd will not hear. "I know she will."
His first instinct was to shake off the hand and the reassurance both, but he resisted -- he would never isolate himself from these friends again. "If she doesn't, I know where to find her."
Gippal laughed and clapped Nooj on the back. "There's the spirit."
" I agree with Gippal," said Baralai, smiling up at him. " You won't need to."
Nooj looked back and forth between his friends and hoped they were right.
Wake Up Dead Man - U2
Nooj opened his eyes and saw the stretch of canvas overhead; he rolled over and reached for Paine before he remember that she wasn't there, and would probably never be there again.
"Dammit," he muttered under his breath. This was not the desert, it was not the Crimson Squad. It was Mushroom Rock Road, and he had just walked out of Bevelle for the last time, taking most of the other Seekers with him. Theirs was a noble cause, a worthy cause, the future of Spira would be safe only in their hands -- so why was he missing a fruitless trek through the desert, one had ended in death and heartbreak?
The deaths of others. The heartbreak was all his own.
He mumbled another curse and threw off his blankets, struggling to his feet for yet another long day of plotting, planning, and wondering why.
Mercy Street - Peter Gabriel
The streets of Luca are choked with fog, a light mist that glazes Paine's skin. She wanders the alleys alone, her mind filled with memories, dreams, images. Where she's been, where she's going, who she wants to take along. The slights she can't forget, the sins she must forgive, if she's ever to live the life she wants.
Without meaning to, her feet point her in the direction of Youth League Headquarters, and she takes the stairs two at a time, her heart lightening as she ascends. She opens the door without knocking; he rises from his desk, and she flies into his arms.
"I'm sorry I took so long," she says.
"I'd have waited far longer." And he kisses her, soft and tender and warm, enveloping her like the fog wraps around the buildings and softens their sharp edges, like tomorrow's rain that will wash them all clean.
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