A/N: Yes, yes, I know it's been a long time. But I'm back with a new chapter! Many, many thanks to Parron, author of Of Sun, another great Yunalai fic (plug plug), for beta-reading :) I apologize for any spacing errors, it seems the FF(dot)net editor still has a few bugs.
Everything You Want
Later that night, the six friends sat around the bonfire in the center of the village, their stomachs full from the huge banquet the village had held in their honor. The villagers had slowly trickled off into their homes, the elderly and families with small children first, followed by the older teenagers and children-less adults. Wakka and Lulu had sat with them for a while as well. But as the night waned little Vidina became more and more cranky until he finally nodded off in his father's lap, the family then deciding to turn in for the night. Gippal and Rikku were sitting together, Rikku leaning against Gippal's chest, his arms hanging lazily over her shoulders. Paine and Nooj sat next to them, Paine leaning into Nooj's shoulder, the long-haired man's good arm around her shoulder. Baralai sat on the other side of Paine and Nooj, quietly taking in the conversation and laughing occasionally at one of Gippal's jokes or Rikku's retorts. Every once in a while he would take a sideways glance at Yuna, but it always seemed to be when she was doing the same to him. Then they would both glance away quickly, leaving a little awkwardness in the air between them.
Yuna began to feel a little uncomfortable with the way everyone was "paired" but her and Baralai, and it made her think of him and how she wished he could be here for her to cuddle with. As the other two couples began to get cozier with each other, Yuna quietly excused herself, deciding that she needed a little walk to clear her head.
She made her way up the steep incline away from the village, ending up near the small old ruin that, back in the days of Yevon, travelers would pray to for a safe journey. Yuna sat on the ground near the ruins where she had a good view of the village and the starry night above. Her friends looked like ants from her vantage point, the huge bonfire nothing more than a matchstick among tiny "anthills." Occasionally she could hear Gippal's loud laughter or a dog's bark pierce the silence of the night. She breathed in deeply, tipping her head back to look at the sky. Not quite as beautiful as the Zanarkand sky, but calming nonetheless. It was then she heard footsteps behind her, and noticed that there was one less "ant" around the fire.
She looked up to see Baralai standing about ten feet away, his eyebrows furrowed slightly with worry. "Is everything well, Lady Yuna?"
Yuna let herself smile a little at his concern. "I'm fine, Baralai. And please, you're among friends. Call me Yuna."
Baralai laughed softly. "I apologize. Sometimes it's hard to let go of formalities, especially in my line of work." There was an awkward pause. Baralai cleared his throat softly.
"Mind if I join you? Things were getting a little…uncomfortable in the village..."
Yuna patted the ground next to her, which Baralai took as a yes. He eased his way down to the ground, a few feet away from Yuna as not to invade her personal space, although he'd very much like to sit closer to her. Being raised by monks had instilled a strong code of chivalry in him, which most of the time was a good thing. It wasn't working so much to his advantage now, though.
They sat there in silence for a few minutes, taking in the scenery. Yuna took a deep breath. "Don't you ever get tired of everything? Being so young, but having the world on your shoulders?"
Baralai raised his eyebrow, somewhat taken aback by the bluntness of her question. "What do you mean?"
"I mean, I know what it's like, having everyone depend on you. Everyone's hopes and futures resting on your every decision. I've been in the same position, and sometimes, I felt like I'd just had enough. But yet, I couldn't quit. I couldn't take off my mask and just be myself."
Baralai now understood what she was getting at. "Yes, it can be very demanding. But you have to learn to take off your mask in front of the people who care." Baralai laughed in spite of himself. "I feel like a hypocrite, saying that, because I wear a mask too."
"And because everyone depends on me, it's harder to take off that mask," Yuna continued, taking on a frustrated tone."I'm Spira's 'rock,' I'm supposed to be the strong one. I...I just feel like I can't show weakness, or pain. Or...mourn losing someone close."
"No one would blame you for showing emotion, Lady Yuna," Baralai tried to comfort her, although having known her for a relatively short time, he felt like he didn't know the whole scope of her suffering. It was like walking on eggshells. But he could also relate to her feelings of mourning. "I…also hide the pain of losing loved ones."
At the sound of those words, Yuna's head snapped in Baralai's direction, her eyes widened. "Are you serious?" Yuna had always imagined Baralai growing up sheltered and sequestered in the temples of Bevelle, never experiencing much of the real world.
All Baralai did was nod.
"I'm so sorry…you don't have to talk about it if you don't want to."
Baralai shifted slightly to face Yuna. "Strangely, I feel like I can talk about it to you. A feeling I never had with any of them." He said, motioning towards the village.
"I guess I can take that as a compliment," Yuna replied, somewhat perplexed that he would share such an emotional memory with a relative stranger.
"That was the intent." Baralai's eyes sparkled in the starlight. Seeing Yuna's confused expression, he decided to elaborate further. "Nooj and Paine can be a bit...cold at times. Gippal, yes, he was my best friend back then, but he was a little too brash and self-absorbed to be a confidant. And I don't know Rikku well enough." Baralai sighed. "I suppose what it boils down to is that I never had a reason to bring it up with any of them. But I want you to know you have someone who understands, Lady Yuna."He had been smiling, but his expression soon changed as he began to tell his story.
clear water, as far as the eye could see. The young, white-haired boy
squealed with delight and started running towards the beach, a man,
presumable the boy's father, chasing after him. A woman carrying a blanket and basket followed
farther behind, slowing her pace to accommodate the smaller child
next to her toddling carefully through the warm sand. She set the
beach gear on the sandy shore, setting up a shady spot for her
family. "What a lovely day to go to the beach," she thought to
herself as she spread out a large blanket and started
laying out the carefully-packed lunches, keeping a watchful eye on
her younger son who was now examining shells he found buried in the sand. The woman glanced over at her husband and older child, jumping over small ocean waves, and smiled at the blessings Yevon had bestowed upon her.
Suddenly, the older boy stopped splashing in the water, pointing to something in the distance. "Dad, what's that?"
A huge wave was heading towards them. No, more of an enormous mountain of water. Suddenly something gray surfaced from the water. The man froze in fright for a moment, before yelling "Sin!" He grabbed his son and ran towards the rest of his family, yelling at them to run as far away from the beach as possible. The woman snatched up the younger boy, who started crying because he'd dropped his seashell. Other beach-goers tore past them, trying in vain to escape their deaths. But the monstrous fiend was too fast for them. The waves hit them, ripping the family apart.
Yuna gasped. It had seemed like Baralai was talking about a completely different child, one without cares or worries, one without the need to be so upright and formal all the time. Just a normal boy spending a carefree day at the beach with his family until it went horribly wrong. Once again, an image that Yuna never would have associated with Baralai's upbringing. That event must have changed him so much, suppressing that child-like persona, making him grow up so fast.
Baralai paused, seeming to still be fixated on the memory; he had focused his gaze on some far-off object. "They found me the next day, close to death. I was only seven years old at the time. My mother, my father, and my three-year-old brother had all died, along with the other people at the beach that day. I was the only survivor. After I left the hospital I went to live with the monks at St. Bevelle. I suffered from Sin's toxin for months afterwards, not remembering anything from that day, and the monks weren't exactly forthcoming with the details. But then, Shuyin…"
Yuna felt herself instinctively reaching out to Baralai, placing her hand over his. Her touch surprised him somewhat, remembering that it was only earlier that day that she had shied away from him. But he returned the gesture gratefully. Yuna realized that she had had it easy when it came to being possessed; Lenne was a more gentle presence, but Yuna couldn't imagine what it must have been like sharing a consciousness with a vengeful, hating presence such as Shuyin. It had obviously brought to light some memories that Baralai would have rather left suppressed.
"I apologize for having burdened you with my story, Lady Yuna."
"No, it's fine. It's kind of nice, in a sad way, that someone knows what I'm going through. No one else seems to understand, they tell me to get over it." Yuna shook her head. "That's not true -- I mean I know people understand. Both Wakka and Lulu lost Chappu. My uncle Cid lost his wife, and my mother, his sister. But Wakka and Lulu have each other now. Cid's got other things to focus on, like Al Bhed interests and possibly rebuilding Home. Rikku and Paine have their respective work and relationships. I don't feel like I have anything to fall back on like they do."
Baralai turned to face her, their eyes locking. Yuna suddenly felt butterflies in her chest as she gazed back into his eyes. Surely this feeling couldn't be…? No, she refused to even think it.
"Lady Yuna, no one can tell you that you're ready to move on but yourself." His free hand now came to rest on her arm, and it seemed he was leaning in a little closer than before. Her subconscious was telling her that he was just trying to comfort her, but the rest of her mind was racing with thoughts. She tried to stay focused on the conversation at hand.
"I…I know, but I suppose sometimes I do feel like I'm hanging onto something that…that…" Yuna felt like she was at a breaking point. Should she run away? Keep talking about it? Let Baralai comfort her…hug her…
Yuna got up suddenly. "I'm sorry, I have to go home."
Baralai scrambled to his feet. "Did I say something wrong?"
Yuna shook her head. "No, no…please believe me when I say it's not you. I just still have a lot to think through." She turned to start back towards the village.
"At least allow me to walk you back," Baralai called to her. Yuna stopped and turned around, nodding at him, genuinly appreciating the gesture. They walked down the hill silently, a couple of feet between them. When the two reentered the village, they saw that Gippal and Rikku had stood up, stretching, while Nooj and Paine were working to put out the remains of the bonfire. Yuna quickly said goodnight to her friends and ducked inside her hut, while Baralai was silent, unconsciously kicking at the dirt.
Rikku raised an eyebrow, smiling coyly. "What was that all about?" She asked Baralai.
Baralai looked up at her. He should have expected there would be some sort of inquiry upon their return, but he wasn't quite sure how he'd handle it once it occurred.
"You try to cop a feel or something?" Gippal piped in. Behind him, Nooj and Paine collectively rolled their eyes.
Baralai sighed loudly, exasperated. He quickly decided that any attempt at an explanation would be futile with their minds already in the gutter. "I'm going to bed, too." He turned towards the inn, hearing Gippal snicker behind him.