A/N: I've had the idea for this fic literally for years, and am just now finishing it. Could be seen as a prequel to Everything You Want, but works as a standalone fic as well. Musical inspiration comes from Metallica, A Perfect Circle, Avenged Sevenfold, Breaking Benjamin, and more.
I also owe a huge apology to Danko Kaji, who graciously beta-read this for me months ago, and I am just now getting around to posting the finished product. I dropped the ball, and I am sorry!
Warnings for non-con implications, violence, and general mind-fuckery, just to be safe.
Cross-posted from LJ.
The Farplane Abyss is majestic in an eerie sense; peaceful yet brimming with the ethereal echoes of Spira's fallen. Bizarre rock formations pose against a bright cerulean backdrop, as pyreflies surf on the mysterious breeze that plays in the air, fueled perhaps by the souls of the long dead. The low sound of rushing air is ever-present, like static. A monstrous steel form blights this serenity; Vegnagun, horrible creation of man, the ultimate Doomsday device. Gleaming black and silver reflects the aquamarine ambiance, it's mechanical eyes are dimmed for the moment; face stoic, as if awaiting orders.
Time exists undefined in this place. It could have been hours, days, or even weeks since he'd descended from the Glen into the Abyss. With Shuyin in control, what is left of Baralai's awareness has merely been shoved to the back of his own brain, discarded as insignificant but granted the status of involuntary spectator. Being under Shuyin's influence for a few short minutes two years ago had been bad enough; now, the ever-present control taunts Baralai's sanity, with only a vengeful shadow as company in this beautiful yet desolate place.
When his mind isn't filled with Shuyin's crushing despair or plans for the world's annihilation, Baralai strives to keep a small flicker of hope alive by assuring himself that somewhere, someone must be trying to get him out of this predicament; his old friends - Gippal, Nooj, Paine - perhaps even the rest of the Gullwings as well: the short, perky Al-Bhed whose name escapes him, and the High Summoner...
"You like this one, don't you?"
Sensing a foreign yet familiar presence prickle inside his psyche, Baralai lifts his head from his knees and turns towards the sound of the voice. Shuyin sits there, mimicking his compacted pose, scrutinizing him with a shrewd stare. Baralai glances away, wary of Shuyin's sudden appearance, picking himself up from the ground and pacing towards the center of the platform in a futile attempt to escape the other man's glare.
"It's none of your concern," he answers coldly, speaking over his shoulder.
Shuyin merely chuckles. "Your resistance is admirable, Praetor - but in the end, hopeless. You know you can't hide your thoughts from me, your feelings..."
Baralai's head starts to swim; he winces as garbled images flit across his mind for what seems like the hundredth time - a line of ancient Bevellian guards aim their rifles towards him - Nooj pointing a standard-issue weapon at his forehead in the Den of Woe - the click of multiple triggers as bullets race towards him - standing in front of a huge, fearsome machina, but then transported to the Mi'ihen Highroad, falling to the grass as a round rips through his back - he hits the cold metallic walkway underneath Bevelle, staring across at a woman, his lover, with long dark-brown hair and beaded earrings - her face warps to resemble another familiar face: mismatched eyes lock with his, a tear snakes down her cheek and disappears into her short light-brown hair -
He is suddenly released from Shuyin's grip, gasping and shivering as mocking laughter echoes through his head. Shuyin regards the man across from him, shaking his head as his eyes glint with malice.
"You have proven useful, but rest assured that this all will end soon; you, and all your friends will be dead, freed from this suffering you call life, and I will be reunited with my Lenne."
Baralai shakes his head, chasing away the latest series of apparitions. He staggers a little on his feet, suddenly dizzy and exhausted; unaware of exactly how long he's been subject to Shuyin's control, or how long it's been since he's eaten, or slept, as Shuyin needs neither food nor rest to sustain himself. Succeeding in steadying himself, he casts Shuyin the most malevolent glare he can muster, from which Shuyin senses his intent.
"You mean to stop me, in your state? With no weapons?" Shuyin sniggers. "As if you'd have the guts to do anything even if you could." He delights at seeing the mixture of surprise and indignation on the young Praetor's features, stealing the opportunity to intimidate him once again.
"You're never had the nerve to act on anything, have you? When you had the chance to confront Nooj in Bevelle, all you did was talk. You drew your weapon on him, but even then all you could do was beg for answers. You never would have dreamed of acting on your impulses if it hadn't been for me. If we hadn't been interrupted, you would have indeed gotten the revenge you so sorely sought, and you would have had me to thank for it."
Baralai grits his teeth, unable to deny the truth in Shuyin's words. Yes, he has once considered Nooj his enemy, yet he'd realized the horrifying truth in the brief moment before he'd lost himself to Shuyin's will in a swarm of pyreflies beneath Bevelle. It had been Shuyin acting the entire time, using Nooj as a conduit for his ends. It had been Shuyin that had attacked them on the Highroad, not Nooj.
Shut up. The declaration echoes into recognition, as Baralai's hands ball up into tight fists.
"Even now, you wish to strike me down, but you lack the will and the means to do so. Even when I make you relive such painful things, you cannot find it in yourself to lash out at me."
Baralai merely stands there, resenting his inability to act while his hatred for Shuyin threatens to boil over. Shuyin, however, casts his gaze skyward, a knowing smile spreading across his face.
"They are coming for us."
Baralai starts, looking up as well, though he can't see or hear anything out of the ordinary.
The Gullwings? Surely it has to be them.
Shuyin picks up on Baralai's burst of hope, scoffing at the notion that he still has a positive thought in his mind even under his influence.
"As if they had a chance of defeating us. In the end, Vegnagun will be your salvation, as well as your punishment."
Baralai holds fast to the realization, regardless; his allies are on the way. Friendly faces flash through his mind: the Crimson Squad, the Gullwings, finally resting once again on Yuna's visage, his mind's eye lingered over her features...
The shock of hearing that voice runs through him like an electrical current. He spins around, not daring to trust the sight before his eyes: none other than High Summoner Yuna stands mere feet from him, gazing at him almost quizzically.
"Lady Yuna?" He approaches her, bewildered and more than a little skeptical. Glancing around, he asks, "Where are the others?"
Yuna shakes her head, continuing to stare at him, her expression unreadable. "Not here. It's only me."
Baralai finds it strange that she would come alone, but is both grateful for, as well as oddly comforted by, her presence all the same. The distance between them grows smaller; he's close enough now to reach out a hand and stroke her face. Part of him expects her to flinch or fade away, yet his hand makes contact; he tentatively runs his fingers through her soft hair. Looking up at him with those unique eyes, one blue, one green, he remembers when he first met Yuna, and how captivated he had been by her mere presence on that occasion, and every occasion since. Daring to act on his feelings, he pulls her into his arms; her head settles against his neck as her hands come to rest on his chest.
"Yevon, you are a sight for sore eyes," he speaks softly, taking in the scent of her hair. Tilting her face up towards his, Baralai notices that her stare is now icier than Shiva's diamond dust. His heart skips a beat in surprise; the look is quite unbecoming of her.
Suddenly her fingernails dig into him, and Baralai stumbles as he is shoved roughly across the platform away from her, his half-formed statement cut off. He tries to speak, but the words die in his throat as Yuna approaches him, her eyes fixed on him in a uncharacteristic, deadly stare.
"You desire me for yourself."
It is a mere statement, but her tone is now as cold as her glare. Taken aback by her bluntness, he struggles for an appropriate response.
"It is the truth, but who would not desire-" but he is rebuffed by her continued glower, and her slow, almost predatory stalk. Transfixed by this bizarre turn of events, Baralai takes a few steps back, as if a physical wall is now separating him from the woman across from him. Yuna continues to speak, the spitefulness in her voice rising.
"Why would I be with you when I still harbor feelings for another man?"
"Why would I want you when your affiliations remind me of the lies and deception that have terrorized my past?"
"How could I love you, after you've come so close to ending the Spira I fought so hard to save?"
And before he can react, her hand swings at full force, the resulting slap echoing through the air. An involuntary gasp escapes Baralai's lips as Yuna strikes him, his head thrown to the side by the force of the blow. Why is this happening? he thinks frantically. This is all wrong...it's as if she's reading my own thoughts, my own insecurities...
Realization dawns; he snaps his head upwards, but the platform is now empty. Baralai stares at the spot where, so recently, the image of Lady Yuna had stood regarding him with such hatred, the side of his face still smarting. Malicious laughter echoes not just behind him, but from above, below, from everywhere, threatening to suffocate him. Mortified, he feels his face grow hot with rage; Shuyin has succeeded in manipulating him yet again.
"Talking to yourself is often considered a sign of madness, especially when it comes to living out fantasies inside your own head," Shuyin jeers softly.
Finally snapping, Baralai charges at him, furious, wanting nothing more than to strike the blond man down despite his unarmed and vulnerable state, yet Shuyin proves to be too strong for him. In an instant Shuyin yanks his sword from its sheath and swipes the air; even though the blade doesn't make physical contact, the shockwave sent forth with the arc propels Baralai off his feet - he lands with a crash on his back, sliding several feet. He quickly rises, drawing himself up to his full height in defiance. Shuyin grins, impressed by his resilience in spite of himself.
"So you're serious. Very well." To Baralai's astonishment, his double-bladed quarterstaff materializes in his hands; he grasps it gratefully, dropping into stance, drawing what little strength remains in him for the impending battle. Shuyin raises his weapon as well, a dangerous smile playing on his lips. "A battle of wills. This should be interesting."
Baralai knows full well he is outmatched; practically delirious from hunger and lack of sleep, he is in no condition to fight. Yet a fire had been lit inside him after Shuyin dared to use Yuna's image against him, a tactic that none of his previous taunts had managed to do. Steeling himself, Baralai rushes forward again to strike, however Shuyin steps aside almost lazily, catching Baralai in the back of the head with the hilt of his sword. Baralai stumbles, grunting in pain, rubbing the spot for a second before starting at him again. Again Shuyin parries him easily, swiping at him and grazing his arm with the tip of his blade. The wound stings but it's a shallow cut; Shuyin is merely toying with him.
"That's it, you're getting angry, aren't you? I feed off of it; the more enraged you become, the stronger I get!" Shuyin's outline suddenly becomes sharper as he taunts Baralai, his declaration emphasized as his features become more discernible; he seemed almost mortal now.
Had Baralai been in a more reasonable state of mind, he would have recognized Shuyin's words as truth and refused to feed his anger. However, he charges at the other man yet again, an almost primal scream of rage building in his throat as he raises his weapon. This time, doubt flickers across Shuyin's face for a split second as he dodges Baralai, the edge of one of the razor-sharp rings on Baralai's staff missing him by mere inches, nearly severing the mental link between them with his momentarily dominating show of strength.
Shuyin shoots Baralai an ugly glare, his expression no longer mocking but deadly, dangerous. Fine, if that's the way he wants it, I won't hold back any longer.
Lunging across the platform, Shuyin closes in on Baralai in a single bound; caught by surprise, Baralai curses but fails to evade quickly enough. He tries to block, to strike back, but Shuyin's blows connect again and again, until Baralai is thrown to the ground, doubled over on his hands and knees with the taste of blood on his lips, defenseless. Shuyin strides over to him, shoving him over with a kick to his side. Baralai cries out in pain, feeling himself teeter off the edge of the platform. He grabs hold, trying desperately to pull himself up with his elbows, to tear Shuyin into a million pieces. But he has been weakened too far, even his own righteous fury can barely fuel him; it now requires most of his strength to prevent himself from falling into the endless depths below.
Shuyin towers over him, scoffing down at Baralai's broken body. Even now as he lay there defeated, scrabbling at the floor and struggling to hold onto the precipice, there is still a defiant look in his eyes.
"See where that got you? Look at yourself now. It would have been so much easier if you'd just obeyed me..."
Shuyin kneels down, brutally grabbing Baralai by the back of the head, lifting him up a few inches by his hair, ignoring his renewed hiss of pain. Before Baralai can process what is happening, Shuyin's lips are pressed roughly against his. Devoid of any romantic intent, it is a display of power, control and complete dominance, raping him of his willpower. He hears Shuyin's voice echo through his mind:
Give it up. You're mine.
Baralai feels what little control he has slip away, as if Shuyin had pushed him off the platform instead. He loses his grip; he is falling, falling... with this final degrading act, he has been broken at last.
Shuyin stands, triumphant, a new look of determination in his eyes as he exclusively controls the Praetor's body once again. Sounds of battle echo through the Farplane from above; they had wasted too much time on idle chit-chat, the Gullwings are on the way. Shuyin looks up at Vegnagun through Baralai's brown eyes, the beast letting out a low growl as the sound of hissing, awakening hydraulics fills the air. He sneers as he strides up to the enormous machina.
"We have work to do."