Baralai and Isaaru spend one night together.
As soon as I reach Isaaru's room, I immediately regret joining the Crimson Squad for about three minutes. His room is lavishly decorated with furniture made with dark Macalanian Wood. His bed is covered with white Guado satin, and the open window lifts drapes made of the same material. He's earned this. I do not doubt this for a single moment, but this luxury comes from everyone knowing that he will die. Of course people will pamper him when they know that his death will ensure their lives. I do not blame them for a single moment, but do they grieve for him? I somehow doubt it.
He is standing in front of the window now, the wind once again caressing him as the light curtains envelop him like another layer of his robes. I wish the moon would hurry up and bring its light there. There's a glow lamp that lights the room, but I'd like to put it out, so the moon could illuminate the Summoner.
"It will be a beautiful night," he says, his voice as soft as the cool air.
"It usually is around here." I approach him the same way one approaches a deity. "I love this area."
"Hmph. I can see why."
I am now standing right next to him. All I have to do is reach out, and I can untie his robes. "Are you sure you want to leave the window open? I've heard about Summoners going missing."
Isaaru shakes his head. "I don't worry about that. My brothers are nearby and I am more than capable of taking care of myself." He turns to me and smiles. "Besides, I have you with me. I have nothing to fear. Be assured of that."
I am assured as I look into his blue eyes. I don't know what he could be thinking, but I do know that it's time to finally do more than just talk and share a kiss. This is my only chance and we both know it. I only hope that he is willing.
"Isaaru..." I whisper as I place my hands on his shoulders and let them trail down his chest to the series of loops that keep his robes together. So far, he only has a mysterious smile on his lips, but he does nothing to stop me.
Now every question that I had of him will be answered. I know what he looks like, I know what he sounds like, I know the warmth of his body covered in robes, and I know the taste of his lips. All that remains is his very body--his naked body and mine. His robes are a puzzle I find easy to solve as I watch the cord unravel under my fingertips. Isaaru's smile has faded, but his lips part while he shuts his eyes.
"Is this your first time?" I suddenly ask while my hands are more than prepared to remove the first layer of his robes.
"No." He whispers as though it should be common knowledge that Summoners engage in this.
I am surprised, just like I was with the Yazu, only alcohol and something like this are two different things. I know they often intertwine, but I don't believe Isaaru would mix the two.
"Don't tell me you're surprised again." He is amused, the look in his blue eyes cause me to chuckle.
"Is this your first?" He asks.
Despite the cool air breezing into the room, I feel quite warm. "No." I remember the desert nights spent with Gippal, the awkward laughter we shared, and our unorthodox friendship. With Isaaru, it's different and not just because this will be our first and last time together.
"Ah." Isaaru lifts his chin, amusement written all over his handsome face. "Color me surprised."
"Did you think I was pure?" I ask, unable to stifle my giggling. I feel like a child.
"Quite honestly, yes. At least I thought that you would be more pure than I am. I mean, you had water instead of a stronger drink. I figured that would be telling, but it's not the first time I've been wrong." He shrugs. "It may not the be the last."
I desperately want him to be wrong about Operation Mi'ihen, but I don't say it. I just can't do it. The dark blue sleeveless robe finally finds itself folded over a chair. I part the ties that hold the second, sea colored layer of the robe. "No, I don't think it will be." At least I have the courage to utter those words.
Isaaru presses his lips together. I know he wants to say something, but it's clear that he opts out of it because his gaze follows the flowing curtains. "I hope I'm wrong about your mission."
I freeze before I begin removing the second layer of his robes. "I think you will be." I have to keep believing that because the alternative would eat my heart away. I untie the knots, finding them far simpler than I thought. Maybe it's because I focus on them instead of waiting for his inevitable answer.
He sighs, his eyes lower, and I can see the sadness on his face. "Unfortunately, I am seldom wrong."
"Seldom doesn't mean always." I am almost pleading as I remove the final layer of his robes. It is a simple white robe that covers a simple white outfit. His black belt and knee high boots are the only color that remains. With his robes gone, he looks different now. I can see how he could very easily be a Warrior Monk. He's not like the legendary Auron, but it's clear he has muscle. He works out, even a blind person could see that. I suppose he would have to if he wants to make it to Zanarkand, but I can see that he is no average Summoner. "I wonder what you would do if you are wrong? What if Sin is defeated tomorrow. What then?"
"I honestly do not know." Isaaru folds his arms. He is looking at me now, a helpless smile on his face. Just how I like it. I don't want him to feel any sort of sorrow. I don't doubt he'll feel it all on his Pilgrimage. "I would probably just rebuild my life with my brothers. I kept my things in storage, and when I die, others will keep them."
When? The way he says that just nauseates me. How can he be so sure? But, I never say this. I simply lack the courage. "And when you don't?"
"When I don't?" He chuckles as if I am joking. I'm not joking. "Should I not die, then I'll simply take them back, and live in Bevelle. Probably go back to being a mixture of a scholar, warrior monk, and magic user. I'll continue taking care of my younger brothers and just live." He shrugs. "But, Baralai, don't dream like that. I know that it's not reality."
"There are Summoners other than yourself." I state, however, it doesn't sway Isaaru.
"I know, but I am sure to win."
I think that arguing with Isaaru is like fighting a wall. I guess that's why I like him so much. I'd give anything to have his confidence. I reach up and try to undo his topknot. It's tight, so it doesn't come off as easily. We touch foreheads before Isaaru finally reaches up and undoes the ponytail himself. I take a step back to watch his auburn hair fall past his shoulders. He looks better with his hair down.
"How can you be sure?" I ask as I run my hands through his soft hair.
"I have to be. You don't get to be a Summoner by being unsure of yourself. You know that as well as I do." He looks right into my eyes. "Every Summoner must be certain of victory, or they fail before they even begin. The ones that quit usually have lost their confidence. The ones that die before Zanarkand..." He closes his eyes.
You will die alone...your body so overcome with cold that you collapse... your hair red as snow... eyes wide shut as they glisten with frozen tears...
"Isaaru, forgive me." I gently grab fistfuls of his hair. "I shouldn't have said those things. I couldn't help it."
"It's quite alright." Now his hands run through my hair. "You are a kind soul. Kinder than I could ever be." He begins to undo the red cord that ties the collar of my green jacket.
"I wish I were more like you. I wouldn't want a bunch of people constantly hitting on me."
"I never said you were weak." Isaaru pulls open my coat, enabling me to simply shrug out of it. "Remember, if you were weak, I would not have allowed you near me."
I smile helplessly as I fold my coat neatly and hang it on the nearby coat stand. I don't want him to see my machina weapon. I hear the wind rustle the grass outside, and Isaaru looks back out the window while the curtains try to embrace him in their silken light. When I stand beside him, I can see the full moon that illuminates everything from the stars to the very ground. A part of me wonders what it would have been like if we stayed outside. The moon would have given Isaaru a glow that would have elevated him to godhood. I wish I could see that, but the cold prevents that. However, it doesn't prevent Isaaru from keeping the window open.
"You don't intend to close the window, do you?" I ask.
He shakes his head.. "No. I always sleep with the windows open. It's important to have cool, fresh air upon you while in your room." A sudden breeze grabs his red hair. He smiles. "I told you it would be a beautiful night."
I agree. "I can't begin to imagine what the sea would look like now." We smile in unison.
"Like white Guado silk thrown into the waves. I wish this room had such a view, but alas, it doesn't. No room has it. We'd have to go back outside, but I don't believe that's a feasible option."
Of course not. I'd rather stay in here. Yes, the room is quite cool from the open window, but it's much more bearable than the chill outside. I put my arms around him, my head resting against his shoulder. He answers with an embrace of his own. I love how his auburn hair tickles the nape of my neck. I am saddening in knowing that this will only happen once in my life. I can never forget that.
"Don't be sad, Baralai." Isaaru says as if reading my mind. He turns to me. "Just remember every moment we spent together. If you ever find yourself far from your friends or lonely in any way, just close your eyes and think of me. That way, I will always be with you."
The way he says it makes me want to burst into crying fits, but I don't. He's looking right me. How I can allow any tears when he stares into my eyes? I manage to smile. "Thank you."
"Believe me, Baralai, it's my pleasure." He is also smiling, but I can a certain sadness in his ocean eyes. Isaaru inches closer before leaning forward and suddenly claiming my lips. He is quite forceful this time. Reminds me of Gippal in a way, only I am certain that Isaaru is far more experienced than even my best friend. I wrap my arms around him while I find myself unable to keep up. I don't necessarily mind. Still, I'd like to think I'm a match for him. The yazu hasn't faded from his mouth, and I don't mind that either. I manage to unbutton his shirt before he could undo mine and I seriously doubt he minded. When we finally held each other at arm's length, we breathed in the night air laced with the ocean and fresh grass.
"Isaaru..." I whisper. Anything else I was going to say simply dies on my lips.
He doesn't answer. He doesn't have to. Isaaru slowly walks over to his bed and sits, leaving me no choice but to follow. He suddenly undoes my shirt and gasps. Judging from his eyes, he can't seem to help it. I smile. If he ever had any questions of me, they will be answered soon enough. I neither know nor care where my shirt is because he is massaging my bare shoulders. He has experience in that too? Goodness. Why couldn't he have worked for the Crimson Squad? He's truly be useful there. Mainly to me, of course. Still, he has other options. He has other choices, but there's no use arguing now because his fingers suddenly tweak my nipples.
Whoever had him previously should count their blessings tenfold while cursing the fact that they've lost him. I know I'm doing the former now and am certain that the latter is inevitable. I try not to think of this as I remove his shirt, and find him as radiant as I imagined him to be under all those robes. His hands move across my body like a masseuse, which makes me wonder if he is one. I can't ask because my own hands are busy attempting to keep up with his. Quite naturally, I fail. I don't care because I feel wonderful. Soon our mouths follow, and I love the taste of his pale skin, the feel of his lips on me, our hands making us both naked in the cool air.
We don't complain. It seems that neither one of us do that too often. Even if we did, our warm bodies so close together do a wonderful job counteracting any breeze that flows through the window. It's not long before we are under the bed sheets, but not until Isaaru is holding a small jar of oil.
"It's for any massages I give." He says.
I am not surprised. What I am, however, is someone who knows that his heart would fly away if it weren't trapped in his chest. Not so much because this is my first time; it isn't, but because it's Isaaru. What I mess up? What if he is displeased? What if I hurt him? What if? He pulls me close, consoling me with his tongue.
"I worry too much, don't I?" I ask after I am inches away from his face, drowning in his blue eyes. My hands caress his shoulders before they travel down to his chest. I love his hair as it spills across the white silk pillow.
Hair red as snow.
He smiles. "It's obvious." His eyes almost glow.
Eyes wide shut as they glisten with frozen tears.
"Don't be nervous." His hands knead my back, and I find myself relaxing again. "I won't hurt you, and no, you won't make me unhappy."
Now it's my turn to claim his lips without any hesitation or "pleases". I run my fingers through his hair while my other hand travels down his body. His hearts beats quickly now; I can feel it against me as my fingertips brush around his nipples. I just love his skin, so unlike my own. I feel more privileged than I ever have in my entire life. Isaaru is an honor, his body is indeed a temple; one I am now worshiping with everything I have. His hips move against mine and we become a series of gasps and sighs. Neither of us cry out, and even our moans are suppressed within our throats. We barely make a sound, not even when the oil is massaged over his member and onto my backside.
If it's gotten windier, neither of us notice because I am too busy straddling him and he is too busy penetrating me. Even as I hold my head high, I can still see him under me. His eyes are shut, but his dark red hair is spread across the pillow. I helplessly remember how I pictured his hair in Gagazet. Red as Snow. I can't think of that now. These moments are near perfect and I can't let anything ruin it. His hands move down from my chest to my genitals. He knows exactly what he's doing, where to move inside me, and where to touch the right spot between my legs.
I'm not just the "Son of Heaven", or a child of the sea. I am in the light. I am in heaven. I pray that Isaaru feels the same, but I can't see him now because I am too busy feeling him all over me. Time doesn't seem to have much meaning now, and because of this, I find myself hoping that it stops entirely, so this night could last forever. Isaaru is the first to come. He knows that I have yet to do so because he continues moving within me, his hands firmly on my penis, and he does not stop until I find myself leaning back, my cries suppressed in my throat as I spill myself on Isaaru's belly.
"I'm sorry," I whisper, looking down at the little mess I made on the esteemed Summoner. He merely smiles as the wind from the open window takes it turn caressing the both of us.
"No need to be sorry." He opens his blue eyes and I can swear that I see the stars shining in them. Isaaru wipes himself off with a nearby cloth before allowing me to rest my head on his shoulder.
I see the night outside; it's as quiet as we are. All I hear, and ever want to hear, is his heart beating. The crisp, ocean laced air is shielded by the warmth of his arms around me. We say nothing. What can either of us say now? I am too busy falling asleep to think of anything, and Isaaru? He's too busy kissing the top of my head, no doubt thinking of something. I wish to find out what, but I guess I will never know.
When I open my eyes again, I see the early morning sunlight spilling past the white silk curtains as the dew scented morning air fills the room. My eyes widen when I find myself alone in the bed with nothing more than a vague feeling that Isaaru was once here. He couldn't have left me like this. No! I almost jump from the bed when I feel someone grab my shoulder. Isaaru. I sigh, helplessly smiling.
He is fully dressed in all of his robes, his hair once again tied up in a topknot. "Baralai, I must go now."
As soon as I hear that, reality sets in like a swarm of fiends. He is going to leave and he is going to die. I want to beg him to stay with me, but I know better. Isaaru will never yield, quit, or give up. His death is a certainty if operation Mi'ihen fails, and the thought kills me.
Hair red as snow. Eyes wide shut. If Gagazat doesn't kill you, then Zanarkand surely will. I will never have a chance. I will never see him again.
Isaaru senses my feelings because he sits beside me, cupping my chin his gloved hand. "Remember what I told you."
"I will," I manage before collapsing into his arms. I feel like falling to pieces with tears, but I don't. It won't do any good; I know it won't. He holds me at arms length, and I stare up at him to make sure that every aspect of him is etched in my mind. How we met, how we stood before the sunset, how I had him for one beautiful night, and how we will both go out separate ways fulfilling different duties. I wish I could say that my mission will succeed, but it's no use. "I will..."
All he does is smile. "Good." He looks towards the door before standing and looking back at me. "I accept my fate, take comfort in that, and please be careful. It is my duty to die, but not yours. Do you understand?"
I nod like a chastened child, but I never take my eyes off him.
"There is still some time left. Why don't you go back to sleep? You'll need your rest."
I can't believe he's asking me to go back to sleep, but I know he's right. Operation Mi'ihen and the Crimson Sqaud's own mission is today, and no one can afford to be tired. "I am honored to have been with you..." I manage before I fall silent so I don't melt into tears.
"The honor is mine. Farewell, Baralai."
"But, not good-bye." I say as I remember what Gippal would say when we would part ways.
Isaaru's face falls. "I wish semantics mattered now." He smiles once more before finally leaving me. I bury myself in the pillow where he once rested his head. When I smell the scent his hair buried in the pillowcase, I silently cry myself to sleep.
It's midmorning before I see my friends. We are sitting at the same table as the day before, only fewer people are here because most of the Crimson Squad is outside practicing for the mission. I look over to the bar where Isaaru sat just yesterday, but the stool is empty. I eat some eggs with toast while we go over what we are supposed to do during Operation Mi'ihen. Nooj and Paine never once mention Isaaru; they understand everything even as I tell them nothing. Gippal wants desperately to ask "how was he?" I know because I see it in his good eye, but he seems to understand too, because he never does question me. It's not long before we leave the Inn, passing by the same place Isaaru and I once stood. I feel a pang in my chest.
Isaaru. I don't know how far ahead he is, not that it matters because we'll never catch up to him now. I will never see him again. I lag behind, barely keeping up as we enter Mushroom Rock Road. Gippal falls back with me.
"Are you okay, Baralai?" He asks without a hint of mischief in his voice.
"Um, yes." I lie through my teeth.
"It was more than a one night stand, wasn't it?" Gippal isn't accusing me. He just knows, like he always tends to.
"Yes." I can't lie, but I can't say much either.
"Everything will be okay, trust me."
I wish I had Gippal's constant optimism. Maybe he should have argued with Isaaru before the Mi'ihen sunset. "I can only hope." Indeed. I just wish it were enough. I can see the ocean beyond the jagged cliffs. The color reminds me of Isaaru's eyes.
No one says anything as we rest at a big rock, each one of us uncertain about our fate. Isaaru, however, is absolutely certain of his. I don't want to think about his future. All I want to do is remember the short time we spent together, so I close my eyes and think of him. That way, he would always be with me.