Gippal's first impression is that the Yevonite they've paired him up with is FAST. [5x100 word drabbles, for Bottle_of_Shine's prompt "Five times Baralai Cornered Gippal."]
Gippal gets some good hits in, but that's no good when his opponent's fast, always there, shoving him back and back until there's nowhere else for him to go.
Still, Gippal's Al Bhed. He's had practice at fighting when his back's against the wall.
Baralai always thinks he's being sneaky, and Gippal hasn't heart to tell him that just because Nooj and Paine can't tell the difference between fiend-on-sand and Gippal-on-sand doesn't mean an Al Bhed can't.
Still, it's good practice for the kid, so Gippal lets him try to sneak up on him as much as he likes - until the day that he looks up from a machina he was fixing and finds Baralai there, crouched opposite him with a thoughtful look on his face.
Gippal doesn't realise how sneaky Baralai is until he goes for his gun, and it's not there.
They follow Vegnagun's trail, dodging the fiends that don't get trampled. There's a pretty good chance that this time the stand-off's gonna end up with someone dead, but it won't end like that if Gippal can help it.
Gippal can almost see Shuyin's shape around Baralai's now, in the brief glimpse they get of him before he dives down to another level. But he thinks (he knows) Baralai's still in there somewhere. Lai's been keeping them back with gunfire, pinning them in one place while he follows Vegnagun, but he's been aiming to miss.
Nooj doesn't get his wish today.
Baralai grabs his arm at the end of their speech, after the Gullwings' ship is just a dot of light on the horizon. He's sneaky enough to be an Al Bhed - he knows that Gippal can't afford to start a fuss here, in front of the people they've just preached hope and unity to.
"You know I'm not Shuyin." Baralai isn't smiling, not even for the crowd; he is deadly serious, and the hand on Gippal's arm is shaking. "You know that."
Gippal laughs, bright and casual, slinging an arm around Baralai's shoulders. "Of course I do."
If it was the other way round, if Gippal was lurking in Baralai's office to scare the hell out of him when he showed up, he'd have his feet on the desk and the most interesting-looking report in his hands. Baralai's supposed to have manners though, so his feet are on the floor, and what he's flicking through is Gippal's sketchbook, the one with ideas for machina and sketches of his friends that he'll deny ever drawing.
"Are you done avoiding me, Gippal?"
There was a sharp click behind him - like a certain sneak-thief locking the door.