Chapter 23:

Five years later...

"This is my favorite day of the year!" Rikku squealed as she checked off items from a list on the clipboard in her hands. "Flowers...check! Streamers...check two! disposable spheres...check three!"

"Lovely wife...check four!" A voice from behind her said softly as Baralai gave her a quick peck on her cheek, making her blush. Rikku tapped him on the head playfully with her clipboard, sticking her tongue out at him.

"C'mon, Lai! we need to make sure we've got everything we need here, so focus!" All of her attempts to be serious were lost when Baralai put down the bags he held, wrapped his arms around his wife, and firmly planted a kiss on her lips that made her knees almost give out. Rikku enjoyed the moment for a second before realizing he was distracting her and wriggled out of his arms. "Ah ah ah!" Her finger pointed in his face. "You're not gonna get me with that maneuver this time!"

"Oh please..." Baralai retorted with a grin. "I get you with that maneuver every time! AND you like it!"

"Okay okay...so I love it" Rikku rolled her eyes, "but we really gotta get going! Everyone's expecting us! Did you get everything done on your end?"

"Of course I did, as I always do every year, my love." He reclaimed the bags at his feet and threw them into the hover along with the other supplies Rikku had just checked off. " I just have to get one more thing and we can leave" Baralai announced, heading back into their home. Shortly after, the young man emerged ushering a little boy with blonde hair and tanned skin in front of him. "We can't leave the most important thing in the world behind, can we?"

"Of course not!" Rikku smiled, bending down with her arms open. "C'mere, Desaru! come to momma!"

The four year olds brown and green eyes lit up when he saw his mother and ran over to her as fast as he could, crashing into her arms. Rikku rose from the ground with her son to her hip.

"Are you ready to go to the festival now?" She asked him, turning around to place Desaru in his hover seat. He nodded, allowing her to click him in securely. "Well then let's get shaky shaking! Tell papa to get his butt in the hover already!"

"Get your butt in tha hover oreddy!" He called out to Baralai from his seat, and with a laugh the man did as he was told, closing the door behind him. The three of them then sped off to the ferries anchored at the Kilika dock that travelled to Bevelle.

~X~

Shortly after things calmed down with Trema's uprising and the sendings for Petrik and Caleha, Baralai stepped down from his post as Praetor, giving the title solely to his good friend (and fellow Praetor) Isaaru. Now that he was pursuing his relationship with Rikku, Baralai wanted more time to spend with her, opting to go to Home and help with its rebuilding. Isaaru was reluctant to see his confidant go, but knew he would not be able to convince the man to stay otherwise. He could see just how happy Baralai was to have Rikku by his side and that nothing but wonderful things were going to happen for them from that moment on.

They ended up waiting a year before getting married on the Calm Lands in front of their friends and all races of Spira, and decided to have homes in both Kilika and Home to make doing the rebuilding easier for them. In no time, people of all races were converging on Home lending their skills and time to help the once frowned upon race get their Homes and lives back together just as Baralai had hoped only years previous.

The day that Caleha and Petrik had passed away was made into a holiday which they named "Love for All" day in Bevelle to commemorate the relationship the Al-Bhed and Bevelian had, and to recognize all other mixed race and gendered couples as well. Many married on that day, and a festival was had complete with a parade that showcased couples that were together and married.

Baralai and Rikku were among the riders since the beginning; even after their son Desaru Petrik was born, he was taken along and they never missed a beat or a chance to celebrate their love story with everyone as Petrik and Caleha wanted.

This year was no exception. The parade went underway as the three of them loaded into their float. Baralai held Desaru in his lap and Rikku threw flowers at the crowds of people gathered to celebrate with them. Desaru waved and giggled trying to throw streamers as well.

Baralai gazed at his wife of five years and mother of his child, smiling softly at how little the woman had changed despite the years that passed. Eventually Rikku felt the weight of his stare and stuck her tongue out at him again.

"Why don'tcha take a picture, it'll last longer!" She teased, but found herself being pulled into Baralai's chest with his free arm. "You all right?" Rikku asked, noticing his expression had not changed.

"Is today really your absolute favorite day?"

"Well...it's one of my favorites." She threw more flowers out into the crowd. "There are so many days that are my favorite, and you're the reason behind most of them, especially our wedding day and when Desaru was born. How about you?"

Baralai contemplated for a moment, staring off into the sunny sky before answering. "I'd have to say the day I came to help you rebuild Home with Nooj is my favorite, because that's really when our story began..." He paused and sighed, kissing the top of Desaru's head tenderly. "...I didn't think I could have been any happier than I was forging ahead with a new Spira, but then you came along and proved me wrong. I love you, Rikku. Thanks for making me so happy."

The Al-Bhed's eyes had begun to tear up and a huge smile spread out across Rikku's face as she pulled his face to hers for a kiss. Separating, the woman snuggled into Baralai's chest and threw the last of her flowers into the sea of people. "Do you think Petrik and Caleha are proud of us?"

In that instant Desaru surprised the two by throwing streamers over their heads and giggled. Baralai turned to Rikku and smiled, tousling the young boy's hair.

"I'd say they are, definitely."

~X~

A/N: OMG. I can't believe this is finally over. It was so hard to figure out what to do with the ending as I am not very good at them, and I dragged my feet like a mofo because I didn't want the story to end yet. Then I got to read an angsty B/R fic that mandyiam wrote and this popped into my head. I can't help it- every time I read something heartbreaking involving our favorite praetor I need to read or write something sappy so here we are. In that case proper thanks are in order to Mandy for the inspiration. I hope it did not disappoint.