For: Moogle #5
Request(s): FFX-2, Gippal/Baralai, Alternate Universe in a big city. Prompt: drinking coffee elsewhere.
Rating/Warnings: PG, AU
Feedback: Of course
Word Count: 1193
Summary: Baralai goes to some lengths to be alone.
Notes: I had been thinking about writing to this prompt anyway, throwing the basic premise around in my head. Then justira posted her awesome doodle, and I went from idle thoughts to full-blown inspiration. I hope you enjoy it!
I went all the way to Paris
To forget your face...
-- Indigo Girls, "History of Us"
A gust of wind blew off the Seine, kicking up papers and leaves to swirl in the street, ruffling the coats of passers-by, inspiring at least one man to clamp his hand on top of his head to keep his hat from making a break for it. Baralai looked up from his paper -- yesterday's New York Times, purchased at the newsstand just outside his hotel, the single remnant of home he allowed himself -- and tightened his grip on the pages while wrapping his other hand around the coffee cup, as much to steal its warmth as to keep it secure on the table. The wind and the heavy clouds looming overhead had driven most everyone else inside the café, and most days Baralai would have joined them. But today he found that wind and gray skies suited his mood, so he merely tightened his scarf against the chill before taking another sip of coffee. Just barely not-too-hot to drink, one sugar cube, a touch of milk; the pretty girl behind the counter had learned how to prepare it just to his tastes after only three visits. A far cry from the lackadaisical baristas at the Starbucks in the lobby, who after months of seeing him every day--
Baralai set down the cup, ignoring its loud clink against the saucer, and shook his head to clear the thought. He had come to Paris to get away from things like Starbucks and the memories of hours spent there, with a cup of coffee and a New York Times. Everything here was different, and better: real coffee roasted to perfection; competent waitstaff who cared more about preparing him a decent beverage than wishing him a nice day; sitting in a café as the cathedral bells rang out the morning hours rather than being chained to his cubicle; the pleasures of solitude. Even the New York Times seemed better here, the distance giving the news a day to age and mellow. It felt less urgent to him. All that was thousands of miles away, where he didn't have to worry about it.
Picking up the Times again, he buried himself in a report about the latest ugly arguments in Congress, drank his coffee, didn't think about anything other than the larger world, didn't notice the sound of brisk footsteps approaching his table or the figure looming over him until a gloved hand abruptly folded down his newspaper. Baralai lurched back in his seat and his head snapped up, fear and surprise melting into resignation as he registered a single green eye and a cocky smirk. "Gotcha."
Baralai composed his face into the mask of the diplomat. "So it would seem."
Gippal grabbed an empty chair and dragged it over the pavement to Baralai's table, metal legs scraping against the sidewalk. He didn't bother to turn it around but settled down backwards, crossing his arms over the back. "What made you think I wouldn't find you? Even if it did take me two weeks to figure it out."
Baralai closed up the paper but didn't put it away. "You mean it took you two weeks to wheedle Paine into telling you. I knew I shouldn't have let anyone know where I was going."
"Actually, Paine resisted my charms disturbingly well." Gippal's answering grin did not spread to the rest of his face. "The receptionist at your office, however..."
Baralai cursed under his breath. "Of course. We should never have hired that half-witted high-school dropout, regardless of whose son he is."
"At least he's cute. Which made flirting with him a lot easier." Gippal leaned forward, smile completely gone now. "But we're getting off the subject. Which is: what the hell are you doing in Paris?"
"Drinking coffee." Baralai raised the cup to his lips for another sip.
Gippal sat up straight and glared at him. "Oh, come on. You did not fly all the way to Europe just to drink coffee. If you were that tired of Starbucks, we could've just-- Oh." He braced his palms against his thighs and tipped his head to the left. "Of course. It's not the coffee that's the problem, it's the company."
Baralai swallowed his drink, then lifted his chin to stare coolly back. "And if it was?"
"Dammit, 'Lai!" Gippal jumped to his feet, knocking the chair aside; it clattered on the pavement, and couple walking by stopped and turned to stare at them. Baralai forced himself not to blush. Gippal leaned over the small table, slamming his hands flat onto the metal surface. "When will you stop playing these games with me? When will you stop running away?"
Baralai folded his paper and stood, coffee cup in his other hand. "I'm not running, Gippal."
"Then why did you take off for Paris?" Gippal was at his side now, eye lit with anger and frustration. "Why are you sitting in a café in Paris in the middle of winter, wearing the scarf I gave you for Christmas?" He grabbed the deep blue scarf with his right hand, pulling Baralai in with such force that he almost spilled the last of the coffee. "Tell. Me."
Baralai narrowed his eyes, controlled his breathing. "What if I told you that it's none of your business?"
"I'd say you were lying." Gippal's free hand gripped Baralai's wrist, once again putting the coffee cup in a precarious position. Their faces were so close together now, their foreheads almost touching. "Just stop, 'Lai. Stop running. Stop lying. If you lie to me again--"
And then the gap was closed and they were locked in a fierce kiss, mouths hard together, Gippal's knuckles pressing against his chest. Baralai let the newspaper fall from his fingers, brought his hand around Gippal's neck, pushed even closer into him. Then he pulled his head back, breathing hard. Gippal stepped away as well; Baralai could see his chest rise with a deep breath, noted the slight swelling of his bruised lips. "Was that the truth?" he asked.
Baralai set the cup back on the table -- by some miracle, it remained perfectly intact, not a drop spilled -- and then nodded. "Always."
Gippal smiled, a real smile this time, and stepped in closer. "Well, in that case--"
"No." Baralai halted him with a hand to the shoulder to keep him back. "Not yet. You know as well as I do that I left for a reason. Now, leaving without talking to you first was a mistake. So you're here, and I'm glad." He smiled, fingering a buckle on his jacket. "And perhaps the change of scene will do us both good. But we should have that talk."
"Yeah." Gippal lowered his eyes. "I guess you're right."
"All right." Baralai ran his hand down Gippal's arm, landed on his hand, gave his fingers a quick squeeze. "Come, I know a place that makes good coffee. I suspect you'll appreciate the one who serves it, too." Dropping Gippal's hand, he motioned toward the interior of the café, leading them both to light and warmth.