Disclaimer: I don't own FFX-2. Darn you Squaresoft!


Chapter One: Leave Me Bleeding

            The music in Luca stadium had started soon after the speeches from Spira's three leading political figures had concluded. Beneath dazzling lights that were a mixture of both machina and incantations—a blending of two sides of Spira that had been separate for far too long—the massive crowds moved to the beat in one massive throng, united once again by a melody. And for once, it was without the somber quality that had been the undertone of the past.

            Baralai heard the celebration from the quiet spot he sat at on the dock. Vegnagun was destroyed, Shuyin was gone, and Spira was saved once more from utter decimation…but he was having trouble mustering the happy feelings that everyone around him seemed to be expressing. He sighed and tried to focus on the sound of the waves sloshing beneath where he dangled his feet.

            A stray ocean breeze tousled a lock of his platinum-white hair, pulling it loose from beneath the constraints of his headband. His face remained still, however, focused on some distant spot at the horizon. There was a furrow between his eyebrows, the same as any other time when he was plagued by troubling thoughts.

            If his troubles had been merely limited to his domination by Shuyin, his own emotional and mental weakness that he would have a reckoning with someday, they would have been easier to push from his mind momentarily and just enjoy the festivities. No, it was a very different memory that he continued to revisit in his head.

            In the end, when it had come down to it, she didn't trust him enough.

            As his bright amber eyes began to shimmer with the recollection of the frustration he'd felt, Baralai closed them, shutting out the mild sting of the salt spray that was occasionally blown into his face.

            Even back with the Crimson squad, it had been the same way.

            Nooj was always the authority on everything, the one whose opinion was accepted without question. Gippal was the spontaneous and creative one, and any insight he might give would always be taken under consideration.

            As for Baralai…he supposed it's what he got for always trying to be logical and reasonable during such chaotic times, trying desperately to preserve the sense of normality in his life that his mother had worked so hard to maintain during his childhood before her life was claimed by Sin. He was the stick in the mud. He was the stuffed shirt. His ideas were too boring and cautious, too predictable. His views had been too staunchly rooted in the teachings of Yevon when their friendship began. He was treated as the nice but narrow-minded friend, though he supposed that with his background taken into account, he was just as flexible as the rest of the quartet. The other three had also started with their own biases, especially against Yevon—not that he could blame them, all things considered—but his constant mild ways and quiet manner eventually earned him their respect and friendship.

            And still…

            "Believe me. If it could be destroyed so easily, I would have done so long ago. Neither you nor Nooj seems to understand…Vegnagun must not be touched! Please leave." He could see the expression in those crimson eyes and knew immediately that there was nothing else he could say to convince them, not even to someone he had known for so long. Someone he cared about so deeply.

            The high summoner fixed him with her two-toned gaze. "What if we don't leave? What will you do?"

            Baralai turned his staff to grab it with both hands as he took a defensive stance. "Then you leave me with no choice. I will protect Vegnagun and stop those who seek to harm it. Please." He was begging them now. "Please go."

            He felt something break inside when he saw her step forward, face set in determination. Why couldn't she see that he was just trying to protect them? She turned to her comrades first. "Yuna. Rikku. I'm sorry." She then gave him one of the coldest looks he'd ever seen and readied her sword. "I'm going."

            Her meaning tore through him, and he could say nothing other than crying out her name before they began to fight.

            Afterwards, when he had collapsed on the floor, his battered body unable to withstand any more, he saw her give him one last glance. He could almost see regret before she steeled her gaze and ran off with her companions. But it couldn't be. Forever the agreeable and complacent one, he'd never received any apologies. He'd also never needed them before.

            His last thought as he slipped into unconsciousness was of her eyes, and how the warmth and compassion with which she used to look at him were gone.

            Baralai opened his eyes one more to gaze at the sea, glimmering softly with the moonlight reflecting off of its gentle swells. He swallowed the lump that was steadily growing in his throat. He wouldn't cry now—it had been many years since the last time he'd shed any tears, and although he felt an urgent need to let them go…he would hold them back. He would keep his calm façade.

            And drown in the feelings that overwhelmed him.

Some say love

It is a river

That drowns the tender reed

Some say love

It is a razor

That leaves your soul to bleed

                        ~Janis Joplin, The Rose

Author's note: Here's my first attempt at a fic…at least one that seemed halfway decent enough to post. Oooh…reason for this story. When I got to the mission beneath Bevelle, I felt so bad that Paine didn't trust Baralai even though he was just trying to keep anyone from setting off a weapon he thought to be indestructible onto a rampage across Spira. If the three girls had listened, they might have all worked together to get to Vegnagun before it could be released…but that wouldn't be as conducive to continuing the game's plotline, so…just ignore my rambling, huh?  I'll be following Janis Joplin's song, so by the time I get to the end of the lyrics, the story's going to be done…Doesn't mean I couldn't just write another one, though! More Paine and other characters in upcoming chapters. Sorry for the shortness…just think of it as an extended songfic! ^o^

Anyway, please drop me a review let me know what ya think!

3~3~3 Paine & Baralai forever! 3~3~3

Hehehe, been hooked on that couple even before I finished the first chapter of the game. Don't like calling it baraine though…It means "barren" in Old French, and superstitious lil me doesn't want to jinx the couple. ~_~0