Baralai watched Yuna approach. He knew that he was about to go give his speech, and he had to be ready – but he'd heard that Yuna wanted to speak with him, and how could he refuse her?
She approached, hips swaying and hands clasped before her, and Baralai felt something stir in his chest. She was so beautiful; he remembered the way her body felt against his in their embrace in the Farplane Glen. Her hair had been so soft against his cheek, her form fitting perfectly against his shoulder, the gentle curve of her back—
"Baralai," Yuna was saying, bringing Baralai back from his daydreams of her. "I'm happy to see you doing well."
"Yes," he replied, trying to smile. "You were right. I just needed some sleep." He didn't tell her about the nightmares that he was left with after Shuyin's possession of his mind, nor the fact that he had woken up multiple times in the night thinking about and searching for Yuna herself.
"I know," Yuna said, putting her hand on Baralai's arm. Before he could ask what she was referring to, she continued, "I know you were there in the Farplane Glen. I just wanted to say… that… I'm sorry for not seeing that it was you, and getting caught up in—"
"Yuna, it's not your fault," Baralai said, putting his hand over Yuna's. "I was caught in the moment too. It was my fault for letting Shuyin get to me."
"Well, he's gone now," Yuna said, taking her hand away from Baralai's. "And we won't have to deal with him anymore."
Baralai wished that was true. He wished that Shuyin hadn't infected his heart and mind, that he couldn't still feel the remnants of the tingling in his fingers – fingers that Shuyin had controlled, made him use to touch Yuna in ways that Baralai never would have.
Baralai wished that he didn't feel for Yuna the same feelings that Shuyin felt for Lenne.
"You look troubled," Yuna said. "Is something the matter?"
Baralai sighed and looked down. "I am just not certain that we are truly free of him – or at least, I'm not."
Yuna looked up at him. "What do you mean?" She folded her hands. "I thought we had-"
"No," Baralai sighed, shaking his head. "He is gone, but he left his mark on me, so to speak."
"Oh." Yuna's eyes fell. "Is there anything I can do?"
Baralai feigned a smile again. "I'll get past it." He tried to stop himself, but he found the words coming out before he could stop them. "Perhaps even my attraction to you."
He wished he hadn't said anything as he watched her face flush. "Praetor Baralai," she said, embarrassing him by using his title. She was also looking at the floor rather than him. "You know I… I can't."
"I know," Baralai replied. "You're still looking for him."
"Yes." Yuna looked up at him then. "But those feelings, Baralai, they're not your own. Don't listen to them!"
Baralai smiled, but it was a mask for his own sadness. "Feelings are feelings, Yuna," he said, and hearing himself say her name reminded him that it was her that he felt for, and not the thousand-year-dead Lenne. "Regardless of how they got here," he put his hand over his heart, "they are mine, and they are real."
"Baralai," Yuna said, intoning his name like a prayer to his ears.
She opened her mouth like she was going to say something else, but the moment passed too quickly and Rikku appeared by her side.
"Ready to go, Yunie?" Rikku asked, bouncing up and down a bit.
Baralai couldn't take his eyes off Yuna, who was looking back and forth between him and her cousin. "Yes," she finally said, nodding to Rikku. "Where's Paine?"
"Over here," said another voice, this one belonging to Paine herself. Baralai still could not bring himself to look away from Yuna, and he felt her slipping away from him moment by moment. "I'm ready when you are," she was saying.
"Okay," said Yuna, nodding to Paine.
She looked back over at Baralai, and his heart skipped a beat. She was looking at him! His blood raced and he started to speak, "Yuna, please—"
"You're not going to stay for the ceremony?"
Baralai looked over at the sound of Nooj's voice, and was surprised to find that both he and Gippal had appeared next to him. He knew that his precious moment was gone, that Yuna was lost to him – for now.
There was always later. Yuna would have to come to Bevelle eventually, and Baralai would be waiting there.
Yuna looked back at Rikku and Paine, and then turned to face the three men. Baralai crossed his arms, feeling awkward. Yuna, too, looked very uncomfortable for a moment, but then she clasped her hands in front of her and said – seemingly to Baralai alone – "It's time for me to go home!"
For Baralai, the location of 'home' was uncertain now. Before, it had been his bed in the temple in Bevelle, but now, without Yuna there, he would be all alone with just the specter of a forgotten ghost haunting his dreams.
"Come on," said Gippal, clapping Baralai on the back. "Time to go be superstars."
Baralai sighed and reluctantly followed his colleagues – he could hardly call them friends, since he deserved no such thing at this point – back to the entrance to the stadium.
The last thing he wanted was to be a superstar. The only thing he wanted was Yuna.