Baralai, Praetor of New Yevon. It sounds so good -- comes so smooth off the tongue. Baralai, the love of my life? It used to sound right. We used to fit together perfectly, my body curving around his in the tent, at night, for warmth and for closeness. He used to act as if he wanted to know me, wanted to be one with me, one of the Al Bhed, or make the Al Bhed one with the rest of Spira.

Of course not. How could I be so foolish?

But still, I remember. The look on his face when he took off my eyepatch -- intent as he fumbled, the smile as he pulled it away, the sympathy and tenderness as he brushed his fingers over what had once been an eye. Normally, whenever it was bared to the air, whenever it was touched, I remembered the horrible pain I'd felt when I lost it, attacked by a monster and too little, too weak to defend myself. I'd been lucky to lose just one eye, really, hadn't I?

Yeah, I'd believed that Baralai loved me, even. I loved him. Every part of him. His skin, the hair that was too light for one of his skin colour. I'd touched him, every part of him, my hands sand roughened, his skin as smooth as an Al Bhed child's. He'd touched me, with that expression on his face -- half wonder, half fear, awed at what we were doing, awed at what he dared to do. He'd dared to touch an Al Bhed...

And was that only a sham?

At Djose, in the desert, since I heard the news about Lai, I've been restless. I'm always restless, but now there's an itch in my feet and in my mind, wanting to walk all the way to Bevelle, to find out what he intended for the Al Bhed, if he'd ever bring that perfect Spira we'd once dreamed about, talked about idly as something we'd do if we ever had the power. We both have the power now -- I've used it, because now it's not just Al Bhed digging in the desert, and it's not just followers of Yevon in Djose temple.

We used to fit together. Can we still?

So I do it, I walk to Djose. To the road that few Al Bhed have ever walked, right up to the temple doors. They turn their faces against me, the priests and even the children, but I don't care. I'm here for Baralai, not for Yevon.

"What are you doing here?"

I look up at the challenge of the guard, and hold out my hands. "I'm unarmed," I say, softly, "Please lower your weapon."

"What are you doing here, Al Bhed filth?"


I step back as I hear his voice, Baralai's voice, the voice that used to call my name in the dark of night and get us in trouble with Paine and Nooj in the morning. It sounds... right, perfect, just now, commanding that guard back. He makes a perfect Praetor, perhaps a better Praetor than a lover. I look up to see him, looking no different, except maybe for the look on his face, a little harassed. He steps out of the temple and waves a hand at the guard to make him fall back, and then steps slowly towards me.



He bites his lip a little at the shortening of his name, as if he can't decide whether I should still say it like that, whether he still likes that shortening. "What are you doing here? This is the very heart of the old Yevon faith."

"Yevon was just a bunch of lies," I say, frowning slightly, and he nods, even as the guard behind him bristles.

"But a bunch of lies that sustained a whole world."

"Not the Al Bhed." I'm not bitter, really, but it's true. Yevon had nothing for us, nothing but prejudice and hatred, that is.

"There's no place for the Al Bhed here!" the guard interrupts.

Baralai sighs softly, and I wonder what he's thinking. Sometimes I used to wish I could read his mind. His thoughts... were always beyond me when he tried to voice them, and never mind that, he never could voice them properly. I wonder now if that would hurt more than it would help.

"I'm sorry," he says, softly, "but I can't let you agitate these people."


He leans towards me and whispers something softly, something barely audible, his lips curving in a faint smile. "I'll meet you in Macalania Woods."

And then he hit me, an Al Bhed trick, his fist straight into my stomach, winding me and knocking me unconscious.

I woke in Macalania Woods, a little while later. The guard who had, apparently, carried me there had thrown his water over my face, cold and a sharp awakening. I wiped the water away and sat up, about to speak, but he had already turned away, running back towards Bevelle.

Such fine treatment for the head of the Machine Faction.

Baralai comes quietly. His hand is on my shoulder before I even hear him. "I'm sorry," he whispers in my ear, and I shiver a little, looking up at him.


"I can't... people aren't ready for change," he says, with some regret. He sits down beside me, nearly close enough to touch with an absent movement, and looks down at his hands. Slim, slender hands. I love his hands, slim and quick and clever, almost womanly, but so strong.

"When will they be ready?"

"I don't know. Soon, I hope," he says. He casts a sideways glance at me and, almost nervously, shifts closer to me, like he used to. Like he used to when we trained; at night, we would light a fire and sit around it, and slowly, as we got tired and the fire died down, he'd creep closer, fitting perfectly against my side to keep us both warm. He settles against me now, in the same perfect fit, and I wrap an arm around his waist as if nothing has changed.

"Why not now?"

"Rapid change makes people... impetuous. Angry. Look at the Youth League."


"I still love you," he says, quietly.

I smile, in the dark. We still fit together perfectly, like two pieces of a jigsaw, like a hand slipping into a glove. It's easy, it's natural, it's perfect. In the dark, I turn and kiss him, and he kisses back, clinging to me.

"Slowly," he whispers, and I nod.

Slowly, we'll change things. Together, but at a distance from one another.

And slowly, I made love to him in Macalania Woods, that night.