Chapter 20: She Will Be Loved
"Where in Spira is she?!" Baralai yells aloud as he slams down his comm. Sphere in frustration. His attempts to contact her are fruitless and so many feelings cruise through him at one time; fear, worry, impatience and anger to name a few. Baralai puts his hands to his kitchen counter and taps the marble surface uneasily. His head is bent and he turns it from side to side in disappointment that he hasn't been able to tell her his good news. He's concerned because he's almost positive they had left off on a good note and can't think of why she could be avoiding him.
Still, standing idly by in his kitchen does him no good and he begins to pace through every room in his house. There has to be something he can do, but what? He did tell her he was coming over so he recedes to his bedroom and throws on a pair of shoes. As far as he was concerned there were two scenarios to be played out at this point. One being she's mad at him for not making love to her, but as much as he wanted her he knew she was just upset from being hurt by Gippal and ultimately she would have probably felt nothing from the experience. Two being her apartment was broken into and a random thief assaulted her, although he quickly recalls she is a thief and can easily fend for herself.
Rikku did help to save Spira twice and he slaps himself for not giving her enough credit. On the other hand, what if the thief snuck up on her as she slept, then he could easily hurt her and she wouldn't have enough time to retaliate. Baralai's thoughts get the better of him and his hands shake uncontrollably as a result of them.
With the speed of a jumbo cactaur he flies out of his house and enters his hover. The smell of cold leather permeates his nose, the seat is freezing and he shivers, starting up the hover and reversing out of his driveway not bothering to wait for the vehicle to warm up. He has no time for such details; she could be in danger and if he stalls it could mean the ultimate consequence. Baralai speeds on toward the docks and drives onto the ferry. It pulls out of the docking area and heads for Luca.
Baralai exits his hover as the ferry sails on and walks to the front. He figures watching the waves pass by will help him to quell his nerves. "Why did I have to think such thoughts?" he thinks to himself as he stands there watching the sea get torn open from the transport vessel and close up behind it as if it was never there. Foams of seaweed and jellyfish make up the wake the boat leaves and the seagulls swoop down and reap the rewards of the boats labor. The mist hits Baralai's concerned face as he holds on to the railing. The ride takes longer than usual because of his need to get to her apartment and he grows impatient.
"Why does it seem like this damn dingy is going slower than usual?" Baralai whines to himself as he stares up at the star filled sky. The constellations twinkle above him oblivious to his situation; he wishes he could just be as mindless as those stars not having a thought in his brain at least until he gets to her apartment. It's pointless he reasons to worry until he actually sees for himself she's fine. "Perhaps her sphere is busted or her ringer is off." Baralai justifies as he tries to ease his distress from the impending uncertainty. "It's probably because she was tired and didn't want to be disturbed, yeah!" he feels better at the pondering of this scenario and he relaxes, his shoulders slump from their tense rank and his breath becomes slacken and calm.
The only other musings he possesses other than the thoughts of worry are the urges he has to hold her in his arms. These feelings make him happy; he wants to kiss her again and give her the love he believes she so greatly deserves. Baralai remembers how she once told him Gippal didn't think she was mature, but he knows otherwise. Rikku was definitely wiser than Gippal had ever given her credit for. It's at this time he comes to the conclusion that he was just looking for an excuse to let her go and he wasn't able to come up with anything concrete.
"Gippal never did come up with good reasons to dump his flames." Baralai recalls as he thinks of the girls that threw themselves at him during the breaks they got from their squad days. He'd had many a one-night stand and the ladies had a hard time accepting the fact that Gippal didn't care because at that time they figured they were going to die anyway. It wasn't until he ran into Rikku during one of their breaks in Bikanel and he fell harder for her than a Doomstone fiend when it was killed. He'd quit his womanizing for good and was totally devoted to her; that is, until Paine started getting cozy with him towards the end of their obligations.
Gippal had come to Baralai on several instances asking for advice. "I love Rikku, but Paine…I can't even describe what I feel for her." Gippal would say. When it came to Paine he had no words. Baralai laughs at that- Gippal being speechless. That boy never shut up and Paine comes along and he's made mute by her presence. Baralai relates to that though because that was the effect Paine had on him as well. He remembers telling Gippal to appreciate what he has, from what he'd heard about Rikku at the time and the moment they'd met he knew Rikku was special and those words to Gippal convinced him to let Paine alone.
Sometimes now that he thinks back on it, Gippal seemed indifferent to him after he got involved with Paine, like he was almost accusing him of steering him away from her for his own lustful desires. Baralai swears to himself that wasn't the case; Paine was the one who initiated everything between them, he couldn't help but fall in love with her. He believes she really did love him as well, she never gave any inclination she was unhappy, but then again, he knows the four of them never spent time together after everything was over. It makes sense to him now why they didn't. Paine and Gippal had developed intense feelings for one another and decided they shouldn't risk feeling any awkwardness that existed between them.
"Sir," A voice informs him from behind and knocks him from his thoughts. Baralai turns around to face the young sailor who smiles awkwardly at him. He continues. "You may want to go back to your hover now, the ferry will be docking in Luca port shortly." Baralai expresses his thanks to the boy and heads back to his ride anxiously. He climbs in and starts it up turning on his lights and heater. Baralai taps on the steering wheel and checks the time. It's almost seven and he figures by at least seven fifteen he'll be at Rikku's place. His heart flutters, he can't wait to see her. He hopes she'll be just as happy to see him as well; it's all he can do to keep himself from thinking those horrible thoughts he had before. The gates open and Baralai speeds down the highroad. He's glad the traffic is minimal; he's not surprised though because it was late and who would ride a chocobo at this time of night anyway? The temple in Djose closes at sundown so other than if someone lived there, Djose wasn't the place to be at night.
The first thing he notices when he arrives in her parking lot is her hover. The cherry red roadster is parked where it was since the last time he was there picking her up for their date. "This is a good sign." He smiles, parking next to her vehicle. "At least she didn't go anywhere today." Baralai shuts off his hover and steps out; the cold air rips through his hair and shirt, making goose bumps form on his arms. He rubs his arms as he approaches the entrance to her building. Baralai presses her buzzer and waits for her voice to sing into the speaker. He's puzzled. "Her hover is there-she should be inside" He reasons and pushes the bell again. Baralai glances up to her window and notices the lights aren't on. A chill shoots through his spine and he feels his heart begin to beat faster.
"I have to get up there." He pulls on the door knowing it won't open but he tries anyway. Its steel surface denies him entry and he turns around facing the parking lot. "What can I do? How can I get in?" Baralai puts a hand to his chin as he ponders his options. He comes up short but eventually an idea makes its way to him and he turns around, facing the buzzers before him. Putting a finger to one, Baralai hopes to get an answer and he does; a woman trills through the speaker.
"Hello? Who's there?" she inquires nervously. Baralai clears his throat. "Here goes nothing." He says inwardly as he speaks to the woman. "Hello. I seem to have left my keys inside when I came out to retrieve something from my hover. Could you buzz me in please?" Baralai prays she believes his story and after a short pause, the sound of the door being opened is music to his ears. "Thank you so much, miss." He breathes relieved. Opening the door he runs to the third floor as fast as his loafers could carry him.
He makes his way to the opposite end of the hall where her door is. Baralai bangs on the wooden plank and is surprised when it just opens from its impact. The apartment is unlit and eerily serene. He peeks his head in cautiously and he waits for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. Looking to his right the first thing he sees on the door is the smatter of blood and he jumps. Baralai reaches to his left and flicks the switch illuminating the apartment. "Rikku?" he questions, retreating from the safety of the hallway and steps into the center of her place where her kitchen and living room connect. The rooms are a mess; pillows are tossed around as are papers strewn all over the floor and the counter. Baralai shudders when he sees drops of crimson on her island and carpet. "Someone's blood." He barely says; his body is frozen in its place as he realizes he's standing in the middle of a potential crime scene. Eventually he convinces himself he's seen worse being in the squad and makes his way to her bedroom calling her name as he proceeds.
"Rikku! Are you in here?" he calls, turning on the bedroom light. Baralai surveys the room. The bed is still messed from the night before and clothes are thrown about the bed and floor. He remembers the room wasn't like that when he was there last night and he suspects the worst. He hurries to her walk in closet and enters the open walkway. Turning a light on Baralai looks inside hoping he doesn't find her body in there. He stares out into her room and a particular piece of clothing catches his eyes. Heading toward the item he snatches it up and looks at it in horror. It is her blue headband and it's covered in blood.
Now, the reality of the situation hits him and he becomes frantic. Baralai isn't sure what to do now and he stares into space helplessly. "She could be anywhere." He says, his voice cracking as he lowers his head. He walks back into the kitchen and tries to find any other type of evidence that could help him. Baralai sighs and trembles against his will. His worst fear seems to have come true. Something was very wrong with this picture and he suddenly becomes overwhelmed with guilt and remorse. "I should have stayed with her." He exclaims, clutching the blood stained hairpiece like a child would his favorite toy. "She'd still be here if I only sat there. I could've startled him and fended him off." Baralai feels his eyes water and his nose begins to run. The grief slowly engulfs him as much as he tries to fight it, he doesn't want to accept this situation yet, there had to be some explanation but the more he squares the room around him the evidence is too real.
Baralai picks up her sphere and calls the first person that comes into his mind. "Yuna?" he stammers into the sphere. "It's Baralai…No, I'm fine…it's just…Rikku, she's…well, I don't know where she is, her apartment…and the blood." Baralai breaks down at this point, and Yuna is screaming for him through the sphere demanding him to tell her what he means by the scatters of words he just said. In his anger he yanks the sphere out of the wall and throws it across the room. He makes his way into the living room and collapses on the couch, still holding her headband. In the mess he sits there as the despair he feels totally takes him over and he succumbs to the sadness; tears of regret and loss flow out like streams from his amber eyes.------------------------------------------------------------------
Rikku arrives at her complex finally and heads for her building. She opens the lobby door and treks up the stairs to her floor. Looking ahead of her she sees a light coming from her apartment. The door is open as well. She recalls she didn't just leave her door like that when she left and she becomes nervous. "Who's in my house?" she wonders to herself and she approaches with caution. Rikku leans against the wall and hears the sound of someone inside. They appear to be crying. She listens for just a few moments; the only other thing she hears is her heart as it thumps in her chest rapidly. The voice she hears startles her. It was Baralai.
"I'm so sorry Rikku." He sobs quietly. Rikku wonders why he's apologizing to her and sticks her head in trying not to be seen. She notices him sitting on her couch with her hairpiece in his hands; his face is not visible because his hands are blocking it from view. "If only I was here, we would be together and you wouldn't be missing…or dead. I'll never forgive myself for not telling you right away last night that I loved you. How could I have been so stupid…so dense?"
The words shocked her. Rikku was totally confused now. What of what she saw this morning? Surely her eyes weren't playing tricks on her. She knows she saw him and Paine hugging. Still, she realizes the mess she made earlier in the evening has made him think something terrible happened to her and she didn't want him to agonize over it any longer. Rikku enters the apartment and stands in the middle of the mess. "Baralai. Is it true? You really love me?" She barely whispers as her words stick in her throat and tears surface on the corner of her eyes. Baralai looks up and doesn't believe what he's seeing. She stands there like a statue, her body is shaking and her fists are clenched to her sides. He runs up to her and crushes her into his arms, squeezing her as tight as he could.
"I thought you were…or…I'm so glad you're ok." He chokes, burying his head in her long golden locks.
Rikku is a heap in his arms but eventually she wraps her arms around him as well trying to assure him she's fine. "Baralai I'm sorry I scared you like that." She lifts her right arm up and caresses his tear stained cheek with her hand.
He stares at her like he hasn't seen her in ages and smiles weakly. "Where were you? I called you all day. I was so worried."
She couldn't help but return the smile at the familiar sound of his ramblies. She admits to herself she missed that and hugs him tighter.
"I'm sorry." she begins as he rocks her back and forth. She told him how Gippal came over and apologized to her for the night before and that he admitted Baralai loved her. Rikku also mentioned the cut on her finger and why the apartment was in such shambles. "I came over to tell you that I felt the same way, but when I arrived I saw you and Paine in your living room…you were hugging." Baralai strokes the back of her head gently as she continues. "I mistook the whole situation and when you said you were coming over I was in such a rush to leave I cut myself see?" Rikku shows him the finger and he sighs, relieved that was all that was wrong with her. Baralai then tells her why Paine was at his house and why they were hugging.
"She came to tell me she was sorry for last night as well. We made up. She wants us to be happy." Baralai reveals, pointing to the two of them; Rikku suddenly feels really stupid for the way she behaved. She smacks her head in disgust at herself, turning bright red from embarrassment.
"I'm such an idiot." Rikku says, shaking her head. He pushes her away slightly to look into her eyes. Rikku wrinkles her lip and arches her brows as a little smile curls the one side of her mouth. He takes in her beauty and leans forward crushing his lips to hers. Baralai tightens his embrace and practically lifts Rikku off her feet. She grabs at the threads of his shirt and exhales deeply when they separate.
"You're not an idiot." Baralai assures her, as he places his hands on her hips and his facial features grow soft. "I just wish you would have answered your sphere to let me explain. It is true, I really do love you. I tried to fight it as per our 'pact', but when I saw Gippal treating you so horribly at the club I couldn't anymore. I was afraid you wouldn't feel the same way. That's why I didn't say anything last night." She looks at him puzzled and cocks her head to the side.
"Why did you stop kissing me then?" she inquires, trailing her fingers up his chest, the cotton feels soft to her fingertips. He bites his lower lip and looks at her regretfully.
"I was afraid if anything happened between us it wouldn't have meant anything to you." He admits, looking off into space. "I wanted to make sure it wasn't because of Gippal that you reacted the way you did." He kisses her forehead and runs his hands up and down her arms. Rikku turns her head away from him and blushes.
" No, it wasn't because of Gippal. I felt something the first time we kissed but I too fought it, telling myself it was rebound. Then, when you were comforting me in the rain I realized it wasn't. I knew for certain that it was you I wanted; I love you too Baralai. I can't fight it anymore either." They gaze into each other's eyes for what seems like an eternity before Baralai speaks again.
"I know!" He proclaims as he grabs her hands and leads her over to the couch. "Let's make a new pact." Baralai sits down and pulls her into him. She's sitting sideways on his lap and he puts his arms around her; he plants kisses along the side of her neck just below her ear and she giggles.
"What do you have in mind?" Rikku asks as she tilts her head back and rolls her eyes towards the ceiling in delight. Baralai stops and with his hand he brings her face to his, whispering something softly to her.
"Let's promise to always love each other. I want to spend every waking minute with you for as long as you'll let me." His words are like magic to her ears and she wraps her hands around his head, fingering the short stray hairs from his neck between her fingers. She pulls him in and kisses him gently.
"Oh yes!" she replies dreamily as they sit nose to nose. " I'll make you regret saying that to me. I don't ever plan on leaving you alone." They kiss again and he smiles at her.
"Good. It's settled then." He declares and she laughs as he lifts her off of his lap so he could stand up. Then, in one sweeping motion he scoops her into his arms and carries her off to her bedroom, shutting the door behind them. Before he sets her on the bed, he looks at Rikku with sudden surprise and she asks him what's wrong to which he replies:
"I think before we start anything we should call your cousin." He states, confusing Rikku further.
"Why in the world would we do that? Do we need her permission or something?" She giggles awkwardly while still in his arms as she tries to understand his cryptic message.
"Believe me, she'll be happy to hear from you."
A/N: I'm so sad this has ended. I had so much fun writing this and I certainly hope it was worth your while. Thank you to all that read and reviewed this, I'm so grateful to all of you really. Your input and kind words helped me to make this story the best it could be. I surely hope I didn't disappoint. I'm extremely thankful to those of you who are die-hard Rikku/Gippal and Paine/Baralai fans for reading this. I know it took a lot for you to do so.