Yuna peered glumly into the garden of the crowded Café in Luca, a slight frown on her pale face. She stirred a teaspoon of sugar into her foam cup of coffee, gratefully inhaling the scented steam. Placing her spoon onto a napkin, the young woman sighed and dropped her face into her hands, elbows resting on the table. She had barely been there for five minutes and already the overloud voices of the press were becoming audible from the street. Surely, could she just have peace for one day?

For Fayth's sake…

Yuna promptly rolled her eyes for even thinking such a thing, whilst hoping she hadn't cussed out loud. Peace was a realistic wish in Besaid, but thinking she could expect the same anonymity in Luca – Spira's Entertainment Capital - was foolish…

That's what I get for picking a window seat… she thought, sardonically.

The most persistent of the reporters was a young woman, with very aquiline features and a harried expression. She clutched a microphone in one hand, a coffee in the other and was conveniently flanked by two burly camera men who struggled with heavy spherecorders. Behind her, another three recorders loomed and a horde of excited fans was beginning to amass further down the street. Despite quick and concentrated action by the Café personnel, hook face managed to bustle her way over to the table. Now, over the past couple of years, Yuna had learnt to take a lot less shit then she had previously accepted. Despite this, she simply could not help herself from being largely intimidated by hook face's mannish features for a couple of moments.

"Good morning, High Summoner. I was just, uh, wondering if…"

I don't have time for this…

In a somewhat uncharacteristic action, Yuna rose to her feet and scowled.

"No. You may NOT have a word."
She grabbed her coffee and stormed out into the cold streets, forgetting her coat and remembering only to leave a tip on the counter. Good manners were important to her, after all.

It was wintertime in Luca. The usually sunny town was cold, foggy and downright windy. The clouds that sat like sodden pillows in the sky were so heavy that they barely managed to lumber along overhead. Yuna shivered in her scanty Gunner clothing. She took a long swig of coffee and held it in both hands for warmth. Today certainly was exhibiting a Class One case of 'Spira's Law'. Whatever could go wrong, most certainly would… She wished she had thought to remember her coat, or at least to break in the pair of pants she had bought the other day instead of her damn shorts… Strangely enough, the cold was the last thing on her mind. She was happy to be cold, if she could have quiet. Well, relatively speaking…

The former Summoner was a more than a little surprised when she looked up, to find that her booted feet had walked her off to the Blitzball stadium instead of her hotel room. Thankfully, it was empty – Off Season be praised – so Yuna decided that it would be worth picking a nice little corner to sit in. A nice, quiet, EMPTY corner would suit her just fine. Right down to the ground, even. Putting the coffee down, she rubbed her arms vigorously in an attempt to raise her comfort factor. It only took a few moments for her to realize the futility of her actions. Giving up, she sat, shivered and stared off into space.

It's no wonder I came here, really. Everywhere I go, there are memories of my journey, our journey. You. I used to think I'd hear your whistle. I thought that you were coming back for me. But now, I guess I know that you're not… You're never coming back, are you?

Yuna's eyes began to burn. She forced them shut, squeezing her lids as tightly closed as she could, even though it hurt. She wouldn't cry. She couldn't cry. Not now...

As she lowered her eyes to stare at her knees, which were largely covered in mooglebumps, small movements on the edge of her vision made her look up. Across the stadium, a familiar figure waved and began to pick their way over, being obviously careful to avoid slipping on puddles that had been left by earlier rainfall. A half smile crossed her face. The Praetor Baralai If she was eternally doomed to company, and it certainly seemed that way, then this was company she would be happy to keep. After a brief wave, she began to cross the stadium to meet him.

It took longer than Yuna had expected, for the two of them to meet near the centre of the rows. She'd forgotten just how large the stadium was and how hard it was to climb stairs when you were out of practice. Finally they stood close together, clothes and hair streaming in the wind.

"Lady Yuna! What are you doing here?" Baralai asked her solicitously, after climbing the last couple of steps to meet her.
"Oh. I've been doing a bit of publicity for Tobli..." She said quietly, linking her hands behind her back. She was distinctly uncomfortable in the presence of this somewhat august man, especially since they had only met on a few occasions. Not only were they few, but most of them were excruciatingly awkward. Yuna honestly hoped that the few joyous experiences they had could pull them through any painful moments and memories that could surface.

Baralai shook his head, a gentle frown creasing his forehead. He seemed unaware of her timidity.
"No, no. I meant to enquire as to what are you doing in the middle of a stadium, in the freezing cold. You could get very sick, Lady Yuna."

I'm going to sound like such a dolt…

"I-I left my coat in a Café, but there was a bit of a scene with the press. I can't go back there yet..." Yuna whispered, and blushed furiously.
The silver haired man nodded thoughtfully, as though pondering something.
"My boat is in the docks. If we hurry, I think we can get there without attracting too much attention."
Before she could protest or even agree, the Praetor had unfastened the first layer of his heavy arrangement of clothes, and wrapped it round her shoulders.
Yuna held the heavy garment together at her neck, sighing gratefully, and followed Baralai out of the windy stadium.

Soon after leaving the arena, it began to pour with a vengeance. Thankfully, they were safely on the boat by the time that the sleet began. Lucan weather was so unpredictable, that it was beyond a laughing matter. Baralai assisted his men in hauling up the boarding ramp, but not before he had ensured that Yuna was securely seated and attended to in the main hall.

The Former Summoner shivered in the cloak that was five or so times heavier, since it had gotten positively soaked. Once the servants had gone to the bridge and Baralai had returned downstairs to shelter, Yuna bit her lip gently. She wasn't sure exactly what she wanted to say.
"Why are you doing this?" she blurted out, rather bluntly.
When she noticed the hurt and confusion becoming evident in his face, she blushed and quickly continued.
"I'm truly grateful to you," she blabbered, not wanting to give any more offence, "But we don't really know each other all that well, do we?"
The young man laughed softly and averted his gaze whilst somehow maintaining a perfectly polite sense about his being.
"You saved... Bevelle…" He coughed and flushed, a little of the formality dripping away. "I am eternally in your debt, my Lady."
Despite being convinced that Baralai was not being entirely honest with her, she smiled warmly and spoke honestly.

"It was my pleasure."

There was a brief - although perfectly comfortable - silence. During this time, Baralai seemed to regain his composure, if ever he lost it in the first place. In any case, he turned to look at his guest with a calm face.

"These doors go to the kitchen and conference room." He gestured to the left. "The first on the right leads to the spare rooms. There are two or three of them, I believe. The other is to the lounge." He pointed finally to the big ornate staircase at the far end of the room. "My rooms are up there."

Yuna nodded.

"Okay."

The Praetor paced the room briefly before turning to her, pleased he had remembered what he had meant to say earlier.

"I've had Minna stop by the hotel to fetch your things." He smiled. "If you need anything, please don't hesitate to ask."
"Thank you Baralai." She said, genuinely. "I think I'll be alright."
As Baralai bowed elegantly, before making his way to his rooms, Yuna realized just how cold and tired she was. She handed her coat to a passing maid and turned to choose a room. Yevon, how desperately she wanted a bath at that moment!

All three of the spare rooms aboard Baralai's boat were beautifully furnished and decorated, but that was only natural, she supposed. It was a hard choice, but she eventually selected the room at the very end of the small hallway. It seemed cosier and further out of the way. Those were perfect traits for her room to have, with all things considered. She couldn't help but smile as she closed the door behind her, a lamp filling her room with a soft golden glow.

"Quiet." She noted, making her way to the bath. After locking the bathroom door, she gratefully removed her dampish clothes and stood in her underwear, feeling the warmth of the ship surround her. As she turned on the taps and poured in a generous amount of bubble bath, she fished out her mini-comm from her belt and set it on the counter top. Taking a seat on the edge of the bath, she dialled Rikku's number.

The air above the mini-comm flickered with light, and a small holographic screen appeared. Surely enough, her bubbly Al Bhed cousin was staring back at her.
"Hi, Yuna!" She said, adjusting her bikini top. "How have you been?"

"Pooped..." Yuna replied, smiling back. "I'm in Luca at the moment. Tobli likes to run me ragged."
Rikku frowned slowly, somewhat confused. "Luca, huh? Have they done renovations at the Hotel or something?"
Yuna shook her head vigorously. "No, I'm on a ship!"
Her cousin nodded with understanding, and then smiled coyly.
"Whose ship are you on, Yunie?"
Yuna felt her throat tighten up and her face flush.
Rikku frowned slightly and leaned forward to adjust the camera. "Yunie? Yunie, are you
there?"
After another few horrible moments of silence, Yuna finally managed to say something
unrelated and quite untrue.
" I think the line is breaking up Rikku. I'll be home in a few days. Bye."
Yuna reached out with trembling fingers and turned the Comm Sphere off.

Removing her underwear, she slid into the huge bath, sighing with contentment. Slipping under the surface and back up again, she leaned back and absently ran her hands through the water in a search for the sponge, whilst pondering her strange behaviour.

What was wrong with me back there? Maybe I was just feeling cold?

Finally giving up the search for the sponge, she relaxed and enjoyed the steaming water wafting delicately across her body. She closed her eyes and sank a little lower into the bubbles.
It rather reminded her of Besaid, on the warmest summer days when she would go to the beach for a swim and then sun bake for an hour or so... She missed it. She missed Wakka, Lulu and Vidina.

Damn Tobli and his schedule! She thought, rather viciously. If he really wanted the central expanse for a dance party, he could damn well organize it himself. Nothing would stop her from going home this time.

After an hour or so luxuriating in the warm water, Yuna wrapped herself in exquisitely soft towels to dry herself, before searching the room for her bags. Minna was an efficient person. The bags were right outside her door. After quickly dragging them inside, Yuna donned a delicate silken, rose-colored nightdress and followed suit with a matching robe. She needed to find Baralai...

The main cabin of the ship was dark, so she headed to the lounge. A dim light peeked out from under the door, telling her that the room wasn't empty. Surely enough, the Praetor was sitting in one corner of the inviting room, just as she had hoped. He sat in a large armchair by the far window, staring out at the stormy night sky and choppy seas. His hands were folded demurely in his lap, but he was toying with the tie on his robe. It seemed that he wasn't even aware he was doing it. Yuna took an uncertain step.
"Praetor?"
Baralai's head snapped to face her and he jumped slightly as if coming out of deepest thought.
"Lady Yuna! What can I do for you?" He enquired quietly, dropping the fastening and focusing on her, his eyes still slightly wild.
Yuna thought for a moment before, striding over and taking a seat in the chair
beside his.
"I was just wondering if I could ask you a teeny favour." She smiled, tilting her head to the side, her lips in a small pout.
Baralai stretched languidly and leaned back in his chair.

"Certainly. I am your servant, my Lady."

The tie on his black robe loosened considerably to reveal a section of his smooth, tanned chest. Yuna blushed furiously for the umpteenth time that day, feeling like a gaudy schoolgirl.
"I, uh, I'd like to go back to Besaid! I haven't been home in months and I think if I called the airship then I'd cause another scene, but then if I took a ferry I'd get attention anyway and I don't think I could deal with all that pressure right now and..."

Yuna looked up, realizing with a start that she was rambling like an idiot. Never to mind. The Praetor was staring out the window again.
"I understand your situation entirely. We'll leave tomorrow morning, weather
permitting it..." He said in a monotonous voice, a kind of hopelessness in his eyes.
"T-Thank you Praetor."
Before she could say anything else, he rose, bowed gracefully and left the room.

Yuna dragged herself into bed shortly afterwards. She had to think, and the comfortably soft bed seemed the place to do it. She didn't even know why she was so curious about him, but this quietly spoken man puzzled her greatly. He was very polite and hospitable even though they barely knew each other, but he didn't seem to be a sociable kind of person. Why was he taking an extra special exception with her? And why was she getting this critical over him? She didn't even find him remotely attractive! Well, maybe she did, but in one of those strange, reserved ways…

The Former Summoner scrunched up her pillow and snuggled down into it.
"Stop it, Yuna! You love TIDUS." She insisted to herself, the hot tears rushing to her eyes.
She felt a wave of shame wash over her. She should not have been so happy with Baralai today… That was how she used to act with Tidus… She could not betray his memory like that. He just didn't deserve it.

Yuna tossed uncomfortably. Her eyes began to burn with the effort of holding the tears back.

A memory… Was that all you ever were?

The next morning Yuna awoke to the sounds of heavily falling rain. She stumbled from the bed, puffy eyed, and wrapped her robe about herself before tidying the bathroom and making her bed. She quickly ran a brush through her hair and exited the room. Swaying slightly in time with the ship she yawned and walked slowly towards the lounge room. It was empty, so she cuddled up in a squishy chair. She was somewhat out of sorts. Last night she had cried herself to sleep only to dream, and it was a dream that had thoroughly confused and excited her. She was now twenty and still a virgin. No sexual experiences, except for when she had kissed Tidus, and that horrible Seymour… Well, Seymour didn't really count. Goodness, how guilty she felt! She wasn't used to those actions, those feelings… She was ashamed of how excited she had felt as she slept, and she was even ashamed of the strange feeling in the pit of her stomach as she remembered her dream. The worst part about it was that deep down she knew that Tidus would never be reunited with her in the way that she wanted…