"Rikku! Perfect timing!" Gippal yelled as the door opened. "I'm this close to climbing into the ceiling to fix these lights —" Rikku hadn't actually said anything though, so he leaned back as far as he could without falling off his step ladder. "Rikku?"
"Coming! I just need to – whoa – one second!" And Rikku staggered into view, balancing a stack of boxes almost as tall as she was as she came into their warehouse. Gippal skidded down the ladder at speed – fixing the lights could wait – and grabbed the top of the stack before Rikku crashed into the wall. She peeked out from behind the boxes, a sheepish grin spreading across her face. "Hi Gippal!"
Gippal took the top half of the stack — and it was heavy, Rikku'd always been stronger than she looked — and between them they lugged all of them of them over to one of the workbenches. "So, what is all this?"
Rikku beamed at him, pulling out one of her spinning knives to start prying the lids off. "I went to talk to the manager of the theatre, and now they're donating some of their old spheres to us!"
Gippal wasn't surprised, he'd heard stories about Rikku's talks. "They can do that?"
"A lot of this stuff's old enough that the original owners don't have family left, or they can't find a next of kin..." They didn't mention Sin. They didn't have to. "I mean, we know everyone, so we've got a better chance of finding the owners, and anything that doesn't get claimed is all ours!" She patted the lid fondly, right before she slid her knife under it. "Some of this stuff goes back centuries. This is going to give the museum one heck of an edge!"
From the labels, she wasn't wrong about the age, which probably meant that they were perfect for Rikku's little empire. It used to be a warehouse next to the theatre before the Gullwings staked a claim to it, and it seemed like they were converting it into a sphere archive, somewhere neutral for Spira to come and actually have a look at their history. (He was pretty sure Yuna and Paine's reaction had been "Well, we might as well do something with the spheres we collected, right?" and "That's what sphere hunters were originally about, right?" Brother and Rikku had skipped straight over the wisdom of the idea to arguing about what they should name it.) Shelinda was sending recordings of every broadcast she did, letting them archive history as they made it. New Yevon and the Youth League had promised to donate spheres — or maybe make their own museums for the stuff they'd finished studying, it seemed to change by the week — but that had never been the Machine Faction's style. What they could do was get the building fit for purpose, even if that meant knocking tables and shelves together, or spending three days trying to rewire the place so that turning on the lights didn't burn the place down. And he had his own offering, kinda, but he was waiting for the right time to make it.
"There's just one problem," Gippal said.
"What? No there isn't."
"Sure there is. Who's gonna sit and sort all of these?"
RIkku sighed extravagantly, letting her arms flop around like he'd cut the strings. "I guess there is a problem then. I mean, we all watched enough spheres when we were still sphere hunting all the time and couldn't get away from spheres of you, so..."
Gippal took a deep breath, feeling like something tense and ghostlike was squeezing around his heart, then plastered a smile onto his face. "Speaking of spheres of me..."
Rikku's pantomime of disappointment vanished immediately into sharp-eyed suspicion. Gippal folded his arms behind his head and shifted his weight onto one leg. "I was thinking of making a donation. Well, more of a group donation, really."
"We were thinking of donating the records of the Crimson Squad to your museum."
Rikku stared at him. The Gullwings had officially given the Crimson Spheres over to Paine for safekeeping — they were her work, after all — and hadn't seemed to mind the loss. But it didn't look like Rikku had ever expected to see them again.
Her voice was unexpectedly quiet when she asked "Are you sure?"
Gippal blew out his breath and looked up at the ceiling. "We all talked it over, and giving them to you is the best way to get the story out without it looking like a power play. It — we can't exactly sweep it under the rug, right? We're moving past all that. And it'll be easier to show people than tell them." They'd agreed on that, but it was still weird to think that in the future, one of their darkest secrets was going to be common knowledge. Baralai and Nooj had spent weeks hashing out plans for what happened when the public found out about Shuyin and the rest of it; Gippal didn't need to worry about the political fallout so much, but something tense had settled in his chest when the idea came up, like the ghost of the Den of Woe was ready to reach up and choke him again, even though they'd put it to rest. "So yeah, we're as sure as we're gonna be. You want them?"
Rikku shoved him so he had to flail around to keep his balance, then flung her arms around him in time to stop him falling. "Of course we do! Shelinda'll love it, and me and Yunie'll vouch for you all if anyone says anything and — thank you!"
"Don't thank me. Paine was fine with just leaving them in a box somewhere for you to find, but I told her you might need a hint so you knew what you were looking for."
Rikku laughed and shoved him again. "I wouldn't mind! All of these donations are nice. All of the spheres, no hunting necessary." She propped her chin in her hands, her elbows on the lid of the box. "Maybe we could go hunting in the theatre, just for old time's sake."
"Hey, call Paine! I'm sure she'll set up a few traps for you when you go to collect them." And somehow this — letting Rikku chase him back up his step ladder into the rafters to the wires, knowing that there was a plan this time, knowing that there were more people who were going to carry this story with him this time — he could feel the tension seeping away.