There was water here: the cool sweet kind that bubbled out from the rocks, which was
good to drink, and the rippled surface surrounding the land, which parched his throat but
felt nice to lie in.

He sat on the shore or under the trees when the sun stung his skin. When his stomach was
empty, he ate the berries that grew on the bushes. When his eyelids were heavy, he would
close them.

He did not like those times. They brought the fire and the knives and the screaming, and
the eyes that cried. He preferred the waking times, with a sky that was blue and a sea that
was bluer, both rolling with white gentle motion. The dark times were comforting and silky
against his skin, and that was good too.

During both times he would sit and watch the waves until his body felt dull and sluggish
and his mind would go to the place where everything hurt and bled. When it came back,
he would be curled up in the sand, his throat sore and aching with old screams.


Rikku was at heart a good, old-fashioned Al Bhed girl, which meant she spent a lot of her
time buried in the guts of a machina and covered with motor oil. Today was no exception -
the schooner kept puttering to a halt and would only start again after several minutes of
alternately pleading and kicking the control panel. So here Rikku was, balanced
precariously on a propellor, up to her knees in cold sea water, prying open the engine
hatchet with a screwdriver.

"Piece of junk," she muttered reproachfully, wedging the tool into the crack of the hood,
which was practically fused closed from rust, and yanking up. "Don't know why we're
using you on a salvaging mission. Last week you probably /were/ salvage."

The schooner didn't answer, but the momentum from the final tug that pried the hood open
threw her backwards into the water. Rikku came up coughing. "That wasn't very funny!"

The machina just rocked back and forth, rather smugly, Rikku thought. It probably knew it
was the only way she had to get back to the main vessel, and she had no choice but to be
nice to it. She hoisted herself back up on the propellor and examined the engine.

The schooner was one of ancient Zanarkand's older models, which meant less streamlined,
more odd parts, more things that could break. Rikku found herself wondering what it had
been used for back then. She had a rough sketch of the layout of the city in her head;
maybe it had taken the blitzball players from the main city to the stadium. No, probably not.
It could only carry one or two people including the captain at a time. That would have
meant a lot of trips back and forth unless there was a whole fleet of them. It would have
been more practical to use something bigger with more passenger room. The schooner had
probably been a private yacht or something like that.

She wondered if she was spending too much time around the Psyches lately, if the first
thing she thought of was its usefulness in relation to blitzball.

The engine was in pretty sorry shape, missing a few screws and the fanbelt was nearly
worn through. Rikku was going to have a talk with whoever decided not to replace it
before deeming the schooner seaworthy. She wouldn't have thought the thing could have
lasted this long, but machina could surprise you like that. Vehicles and weapons and tools
sometimes ran on little more than expectations, working long after they should have fallen
apart, as if they themselves were determined to beat the odds and do you proud. These
days most people were putting their faith in machina and, despite the glitches that were
bound to happen when people tinkered with things not knowing exactly how they worked,
machina hadn't disappointed them yet.

In the time of the Eternal Calm, machina had become just another part of life on Spira.
Slowly and timidly at first, but then new instruments had fallen more and more seamlessly
into use as Spirans realized they were not sinning by simplifying their lives.

That had made Cid laugh, albeit ruefully, that once people found out machina gave them an
excuse to be lazy using it was just peachy. Rikku's brother had said that being a pilot
certainly didn't make /his/ life easier, and Cid had told him to shut up, he knew what he
meant. Rikku had alternately giggled and rolled her eyes at the ensuing argument.

The memory of it made her smile as she tightened a few screws. She wasn't exactly the
voice of reason in her family, but she had a measure of composure, an ability to see a
situation with unclouded eyes, that her headstrong brother and father did not. Rikku
didn't think of herself as anything special, but she had lived more than a lifetime's worth of
experience in a few months and she understood now, sometimes almost resentfully, how
that changed a person.

Not that she wanted special treatment or to be anything other than an Al Bhed; and the Al
Bhed, true to their nature, cherished her as they did all their children but didn't bow down
or give her a title the way the Spirans had. The Lady Rikku divided her time between
helping build the new Home and teaching the Spirans about machina. And, when her idiot
brother and his friends pleaded and begged her to take over for them, her old job of

"I'm gonna kill him," she said, slamming the hood shut like she was decapitating someone.
"And I'm gonna kill /me/ for being so stupid." There was no way she could make it all the
way back to the ship with the schooner in this shape, and she hadn't thought to bring any
long-range communicators with her. This was a simple scouting mission, but she still was
cocky and sloppy, going off alone. The best she could do now was hope there was land
somewhere nearby, ground the thing and work on it properly.

She dove back into the water, used to the cold of it now, and swam around the side to the
cockpit. The engine started up after only three tries, which was at least something, Rikku
reflected as she punched in her coordinates.

The schooner's scanner made up for its engine. Rikku was limp with relief when it picked up
a small landmass. She set her course, and the schooner sputtered into motion, leaving behind
a wake of smoke and sea-crests.

The island, when it came within sight after a few more hours and many starts and stops,
was too tiny to settle on, too tiny to name. It was more a big rock than an island, shaped
like a cone or a dome, but it had a little stretch of sand that was almost a beach and a few
wispy but determined trees, their roots buried deep into crevices in the rock. According to
the scanner there was also moving fresh water here - probably a spring or something.

And a blip on the screen that indicated something alive but barely moving. Rikku frowned
at it. It could possibly be a fiend that found refuge from the slaughter a few years ago. If it
was, she could handle it and if it wasn't, she didn't necessarily have to care. Besides, the
scanner could still prove to be as buggy as the rest of the ship.

Salt was still clinging to her teeth when she finished dragging the schooner on shore, and
her feet and arms were gritty with sand. "Might as well go sightseeing," she said with a
cheerfulness she might have felt if her body didn't feel like it had just been pounded flat,
fishing her canteen out of the hull and starting the hike up the gentle crest of the island.

Spirans didn't quite understand the nature of machina just yet. They were always asking if
there were machines that could make you stronger or smarter, that could produce water or
food out of thin air, as if it were a magic more wonderful than wonder itself. Rikku was
always shaking her head and telling them no, no, machina can help you live your life but it
couldn't live it /for/ you.

She heard something that was either the gurgle of a stream or the rustling of leaves and
headed towards it. She found instead an echo of the dead, a song she had thought was
forever lost to the wind.

He was just a shape at first, colorful and squat. But the colors were familiar and the shape
became that of a man sitting down with his knees pulled to his chest and his head bowed.
Rikku waited for the figure to become clearer, more focused, but it didn't. She realized
that her legs had stopped moving.

"No way," she breathed. "No /way/." This was too perfect to be true, too much like what
would happen if the world were a fairer place than it was. But it /could/ be him. He was
thinner sure, dirtier, but so would anyone be if they were abandoned here. The hair was
the same blond symphony of fly-aways, the clothes were the same strange collection,
almost Al Bhed but not. And the face, while more sharply defined from hunger, was
exactly the same as she remembered.

Rikku ran, her legs and arms pinwheeling like she was fifteen again, with a cry in her throat
that was six years in the making. "Tidus!"



He looked up because he had never heard that sort of noise before. It had the same sharp
strength of the sounds the sea birds made, but it tried to convey things the sea birds never
even thought. It was running up to him, and he knew it was a she, although he wasn't
certain what a she was.

She stopped right in front of him and bent over, making little stuttering noises. "Tidus," she
said again between them. "Tidus! What are you doing here? How did you get here? I
can't believe it! This is incredible! The others are going to go /nuts/! Yuna...Yuna
will...I'm so glad you're all right!" She put her arms around him and tightened them until his
own breath hitched.

After a while, she withdrew and looked at him for a long time again, biting her lip. "Tidus?"
The sound was less like the sea birds now, or maybe like them during the dark when their
noises were softer, more peaceful. But her voice was not peaceful; it was as if the sea
birds' calls had been blended with the uncertainty of the dark itself. "Are you okay?"

He realized he was expected to respond and nodded jerkily.

Her eyes flicked back and forth but still on him. "'s /Rikku/." A heavy drop on the
last part, and he thought maybe it was important.

So he said it himself, tasted it. "Rikku."

She nodded up and down vigorously, but her face was still drawn together when she
stopped. "Tidus." She touched his knee softly, the way he had said her name. "Do
you...know who I am?"


She made a high little sound. "Yeah, I seem familiar at all? You... know me,
right, Tidus?"

And because he didn't even know what that meant, he said, "no."


Disappointment and confusion coated her mouth, thick and bitter. Rikku could see no
obvious signs of concussion or sunstroke, just Tidus staring at her with blank eyes and a
bland mouth. In lieu of anything better to do, she put a hand on his forehead. He blinked
reflexively but otherwise didn't move, and the skin under her hand felt cool and dry.

It wasn't a sudden burst of insight that made her ask whether he recognized her. Rikku
wasn't that intuitive. It was his eyes. It took a little while for an Al Bhed to get used to
Spiran eyes, let alone understand their silent communication, but the lack of /anything/ in
Tidus's, as obvious and guileless and uninterested as his expression itself, chilled her and
twisted her stomach.

Rikku sat back on her heels, looking out at the ocean, and wondered what to do next.

"Not at all?" she asked in a pathetic little voice.

"No," Tidus said simply, as if he didn't even know he should sound apologetic about it.

She swallowed hard a few times, and stood up, holding out her hand. " me
where the spring is, okay?"


The pen was an extension of her hand and moved in long smooth strokes tuned to her
heartbeat, ink flowing as smoothly and evenly as one breathed during sleep. She had
always enjoyed calligraphy, even in her writing lessons as a child, but she was still more
startled than dismayed when a redheaded missile crashed into her leg and shook the table
so hard ink sloshed over the side of the pot.

"Aunt Yuna!" the projectile said, clinging to her knee. "Whatcha doing?"

"Good morning, Setta," Yuna said mildly, picking the girl up and settling her in her lap.
"I'm writing a letter to Bevelle's Minister of Defense. Where are your brothers?"

Setta scowled, her jaw jutting out and looking nothing so much as like her father. "Ghadi's
with Mom. Chapri said I couldn't play blitzball 'cos I was just a stupid girl. He said that I
couldn't kick far enough and I would cry. But I'm gonna tell Mom and he'll be sorry!"

Yuna, mopping up the spilled ink with a handkerchief, privately agreed he probably would

Setta poked the letter to see if it would do anything interesting, but it just skittered a little
to the side. "What're you writing to the min'ster about?"

Years ago Yuna would have glossed over her answer and made it pleasant, been so vague
as to almost be lying, but she knew from experience that Setta was too stubborn to accept
an explanations without facts. Besides, Yuna doubted the value of keeping anything from
anyone for their own good. "Bevelle still hasn't recovered from the riots. They need a lot of
help, and I'm writing the minister to tell him that I've talked to the Crusaders and they'll
send some of the recruits to help rebuild the houses."

Setta nodded thoughtfully, swinging her legs. She watched the movement of Yuna's hand
as it wrote, her eyes darting back and forth like a feral thing.

One thing Yuna had always disliked about the headquarters in Luca was the great marble
emptiness of it, how every sound was magnified. Now the shuffling of running footsteps
grew louder and louder until they turned into Shelinda in the doorway, her hands on her
hips and huffing indignantly.

"There you are!" she said, glaring at Setta, who didn't even bother to try and look
innocent. "I told you that Lady Yuna is not to be disturbed!"

Setta sniffed.

"It's all right, Shelinda." Yuna smiled, brushing hair out of her eyes with her free hand. "I
don't mind."

Shelinda got that pinched look on her face, like she thought she /should/ agree with what
was just said but couldn't quite bring herself to. "Surely you have more important things to
do with your time than look after children, Lady Yuna."

"Aunt Yuna isn't looking after me, stupid," Setta said, deliberately malicious the way
children can be with adults they know don't have power over them. "I'm keeping her

"Setta, don't be rude," Yuna told her. "Apologize to Shelinda."

Setta crossed her arms and looked at the floor to hide her pout. "...'m sorry."

"Very well," Shelinda said with grudging, harried grace. "But Lady Yuna, the envoy from
Killika is arriving within the hour and I don't think /he/ will appreciate her there during the

Yuna blinked. "He is, isn't he? I almost forgot." She ruffled Setta's wiry hair. "I'm going to
busy for a little while. Would you mind finding something else to do? You could always
ask your mother if you could play out by the docks."

"She won't let me since the last time."

"Then maybe you shouldn't try to stowaway on a trading barge this time!" Shelinda said.
"Poor Lady Lulu, Lady Yuna and Sir Wakka were worried sick! Lady Yuna, would
you like me to get the papers?"

Yuna nodded. "That would be wonderful. Thank you, Shelinda."

Shelinda smiled and ducked her head, a gesture more childish than anything Setta had ever
done. The scrape of her slippers echoed off the walls again as she went into the file
chamber. Yuna set Setta down on the floor with another pat, picking up her pen again.

"Miss Shelinda is weird," Setta remarked, scrubbing at her freckles.

"She's just very different from you, Setta," Yuna said, not looking up. "And...the change
was very hard for her."

Setta, realizing that there was no longer any entertainment to be found here shook her
head like she was drying herself off and ran out of the room with a backwards wave.
"Bye, Aunt Yunie!"

Yuna smiled to herself. Each of the twins was a handful in their own right, but Setta was
pure, unbridled energy, whirling from one point to another and not minding as long as the
trip was colorful and interesting. She was almost practical about the havoc she wreaked,
considering it a natural and barely upsetting consequence. Chapri was the one who would
watch carefully, gather information and evidence, and /then/ cause more trouble than a four
year old had the right to get into. They were such a perfect blend of their parents, though,
each shining with different intermingled facets of Wakka and Lulu, that it was almost
impossible for Yuna to ever stay mad at them.

She was aware, however, that this was not the general opinion of half of Luca.

She turned back to her letters. If she could finish the next four before Deneti came it would
clear up her afternoon to speak to Lyuik. The Crusader was always more malleable to her
suggestions if she made them in person.

Yuna re-inked her pen, and the world slipped out of her grasp.

She could hear herself gasp but couldn't feel herself make the sound. She could see, but it
wasn't her seeing, it was images coming from a thousand years away that might once
have been her desk, the floor, the chair. She groped for something and her hand found the
drawer, the brass handle, which should have been cool and smooth, separated from her
palm by something intangible but still stiff and stern no matter how tightly she tried to
clutch it. Her chest was tight and her cheeks were hot, but she was too far away from her
skin for it to hurt. Her body was remote and foreign, and she had no idea where the rest of
her could possibly be.

"Shelinda," she whispered, and her voice came from the ocean floor. "Shelinda! Please!

Shelinda came running, her slippers skidding on the marble floor and a train of papers
trailing behind her from the folder she held in her hand. "My Lady! What..."

And Yuna was sitting at her desk, cradling her forehead in her hand next to the inkpot,
which had spilled for the second time that morning. "I..." She blinked, shaking her head
slowly, as redistributing the weight in her skull. "I...felt dizzy for a moment, I think. Maybe
I should have eaten this morning."

"Can I get you something to eat now, Lady Yuna?"

Yuna looked around her, at the room that was really there and had always been, and
turned a smile towards her assistant. "I'm sorry to have worried you. I'm fine. You can go
back to what you were doing."

Shelinda squinted and cocked her head, as if a new angle would give her fresh inspiration,
but nodded and turned to go.

Shelinda?" Yuna called after her with a self-deprecating little laugh. "Could you get me
another piece of paper, please? I seemed to have ruined this one."


"There's nothing physically wrong with him." Trella was the closest thing the ship had to a
medic, all seriousness now as she read the printout from the tests Rikku had asked her to
take on the stranger she had brought back. "At least that I can see. No brain damage, no
internal bleeding. He's a little malnourished and dehydrated, but nothing unexpected. All in
all he's lucky to be as healthy as he is. How long do you think he was on that rock,

"Beats me." Rikku chewed her lip. She had gently sent Tidus out of the room to discuss
his condition with Trella, and she could see him in the corridor, sitting on the corrugated
metal floor and staring - as much as he was staring /at/ anything - at the wall. "I asked him,
but I don't think /he/ knows."

It hadn't taken a lot of coaxing to get Tidus to come back with her once she had fixed the
schooner. She had simply asked, and Tidus had climbed into the passenger's seat like it
hadn't or couldn't occur to him to refuse. The past two days on the ship he hadn't said a
word unless asked a direct question, hadn't gone anywhere unless specifically instructed.
He just followed Rikku around with eyes that barely even blinked, like the world's most
trusting and docile three year old.

But that wasn't right. Toddlers at least showed some sign of emerging individuality, of the
person they would grow to become. Tidus (and she had to think of him as Tidus because
who else could he be, even though now it sometimes took effort on her part) didn't seem
to want anything enough to be childish. If anything, he was like a machina, stopping and
starting when he was told, eating the meal Rikku had put in front of him after they had
boarded the ship and she had shimmyed out of her wetsuit, and calmly extending his arm
for the shots Trella administered, without complaint or question. He was like an
automation made flesh; there was none of the restless, good-willed enthusiasm Rikku
associated with her friend.

The Tidus she had known was as volatile as the sea he had come from. The longer she
was with this incarnation, the more he seemed like a doll stitched out of someone else's
skin. No wonder he couldn't remember her, Tidus couldn't even remember /himself/.

"Sure is a weird kid," Trella said, following Rikku's gaze. In Al Bhed her words sounded
harsher than they might have otherwise. "I can see why you wanted me to do more
extensive testing on him. /Something/ happened to him on that island, that's for sure."

"Yeah," Rikku mumbled. "Yeah maybe." She turned to squint at Trella. "What do you
mean calling him a kid, anyway?"

Trella looked up from gathering her instruments. "What do /you/ mean? He's a kid. Can't
be more than what, sixteen, seventeen?"

Rikku looked back out at the corridor and tried to see him without the imprint of memory
seared in her mind. At twenty-one she wasn't exactly the mature and collected figure that
as a teenager she had hoped she would transform into, but at least she was noticeably
older, no longer as gangly and eager as she used to be.

If Tidus had been on that island for the past six years, he hadn't aged a /day/.

"Yeah," Rikku said again, trying to collect her thoughts. She walked out of the room with a
backwards wave. "Thanks, Trella. Hope the salvage this afternoon goes well."

"As luck and wit command it," Trella called after her.

Rikku was glad she didn't know the crew here well enough for them to consider her
surrogate family above and beyond the general assumption that all Al Bhed were related.
They had greeted her back in vague terms of 'glad you're not dead brought back anything
good?' and accepted her explanation of her companion (she found him on an island and
didn't know how he got there, which was more or less the truth) with mild interest and no
questions. If they noticed that she seemed agitated, they kept it to themselves.

Rikku stopped in front of Tidus. She saw him register her knees in his line of sight and how
it took him a moment to look up to her face.

"Come on," she said, offering him a hand. "Let's go back to your room." He didn't take it
immediately, and Rikku put his hand in hers and pulled, to show him what she meant. She
heard the clank of his feet following hers through the passageways leading to the section of
the cargo hold they had set up for him.

Tidus stood in the middle of the room until Rikku sat on the bed, when he followed her
example by sitting next to her. Rikku cupped her head in one hand, absently chewing on
the nail of her pinky. If only he'd swing his legs or look around him or just act like he was
really /there/ and not like some wispy phantom copy of himself superimposed onto her life.

"What am I going to do with you?" Rikku sighed. Tidus turned to look at her or perhaps
just at the sound.

But Rikku already knew what she had to do, could see what was coming with the certainty
of rereading an old book. She had to take Tidus to Luca. Machina so far hadn't been able
to find out what was wrong with him; perhaps magic would. Lulu and Yuna had to be two
of the most powerful mages on Spira. Maybe they could divine something she couldn't.
Besides, and this was the part that echoed through her conscience, what right did she have
to keep this from them?

That sort of concerned self-righteousness could carry her far, but not passed all of her
worry. Rikku's memories of that final night were etched in lightning: Yuna lying crumpled
and broken on the bow of the airship, Tidus still standing, facing the rest of them, staring at
hands that were as translucent and wavering as the surrounding pyreflies. His attempts at
brusque resolve had been dissolving too, into the misery clearly lining his face. Rikku
remembered how she had waved and waved, jumping up and down, to keep herself from
screaming No! Come back! Aren't we enough to make you stay? Isn't Yunie...

But they hadn't been, and Yuna hadn't been, and enough time had passed for Rikku to
almost forget how much that hurt.

After so many years, how could she bring this thing that should be Tidus but wasn't back
to her cousin? Those first few days after the battle had been won Yuna had been nearly as
limp and vacant as Tidus was now, no matter how well she had hidden it. But that had been
literally an era ago, and Yuna was always busy now and smiling smiles that were real as far
as Rikku could tell. And really, if Rikku couldn't show Yuna Tidus as he was now, she also
knew she couldn't hide him from Yuna either.

"I'm going to take care of some things in the cockpit, Tidus." He seemed to be responding
to his name, or at least he had learned that was what she called him."Why don't you take a
nap while I'm gone?" She mimed resting her head on top of her hands and closing her
eyes. He didn't seem tired; it would just creep Rikku out to know that he would sit as
silent and unmoving as if he were uncharged until she came back, unless she told him to do

Tidus nodded but the corner of his mouth tightened, as if he didn't like the suggestion.
Rikku remembered then, and felt like an idiot. He had woken up the whole ship the first
night with his screaming. The second night he had only woken Rikku up because she had
slept in a cot next to his and soothed him until he could fall back to sleep. Neither time had
he been able to tell her what he had been dreaming about. "Why don't you just lie down
and rest, then? This might take me a little while, but I'll be back."

"Okay," Tidus said, and curled up on his side in a curve, propping his head on his hands
like Rikku had just showed him. The Tidus she had known has sprawled indulgently on
any available surface, arms and legs flung out from his body like a starfish.

Rikku covered him with a spare blanket and dialed the combination code to close the door
behind her. Her brother owed her a favor or two. The least he could do was swoop down
in his airship and take her and an old friend to Luca.


Lulu woke up slowly to the sounds of the sea. After living nearly a lifetime accustomed the
peace of Besaid mornings, the bustle of Luca had at first snapped both her and Wakka up
nearly at dawn, fumbling for their weapons and then giving each other sheepish little smiles
once more wakefulness trickled in and they realized weapons weren't needed. They had
built their house on the far side of the city, away from the docks. It took longer to reach
Yuna's lodgings in the middle of town and the blitzball stadium, but husband and wife were
able to wake up to the rustling of palms, the indrawn murmuring of the waves and the
greetings of the gulls and seals.

Her husband, however, was not beside her in bed this morning, and the house was alive
with clanging pans. Lulu sighed and stretched down to her toes, rolling her neck in lazy
circles, determined to get up before Wakka could serve her breakfast in bed.

It was hard to adjust to a new center of gravity - Lulu had watched her three children learn
how to stand and had been genuinely amazed and delighted each time one succeeded - and
Lulu's seemed to be shifting every day. But she was resolved to stop Wakka from spoiling
her and the clattering from the kitchen had been joined by the hiss of something frying, so
Lulu swung her legs off the bed and swayed to her feet, clutching her lower back.

He had been the worst with the twins. It was the first time for both of them, and they had
both been discreetly horrified to discover that the human body could expand that much.
Wakka had been almost pathetically doting, refusing to leave Lulu be until she would snap
that carrying his children would in no way prevent her from casting a firaga on him. Then
the twins had come, and they had been a blessing and a joy. Ghadi came, and he was as
well. This coming one would doubtlessly make their hearts flow over, but Lulu was still
steadily and patiently training Wakka that being pregnant didn't necessarily make her more

The smell of breaded sweetfruit greeted her in the kitchen. Wakka was standing over the
new machina stove, balancing Ghadi on one hip and explaining to him sotto-voiced the
intricacies of frying, the delicate balance between oil and flour and when the sizzle will tell
you it's done just right. Light streamed in through the window across from them, fresh and
soft, bringing out the fire in Wakka's hair and her son's still soft and undefined cheeks.
There were times Lulu thought she should be deeply, profoundly grateful to some power
greater than herself, but now that Yevon was gone, she never knew what it could be.

"Good morning, darlings," she said, kissing both of them on the cheek.

"Mornin', Lu," Wakka said. He turned to Ghadi. "Hey look! Mom's up!" Ghadi reached
out both arms to be held, and Lulu gathered him to her chest.

"We made you breakfast," Ghadi said into her shoulder, wrapping his legs around what
was left of her waist.

"Oh, thank you," she said, bouncing him up and down a little. "It looks wonderful. Where
are Chapri and Setta?"

"Pickin' up their toys," Wakka told her, flipping the fruit over in the pan. "I promised 'em if
they did their chores before lunch we'd take 'em to see Rikku when she gets in."

Lulu settled herself carefully on a stool, lowering Ghadi to the floor since she no longer had
a lap for him to sit on. She poured herself water from the pitcher on the table. "What time
is that again?"

"Pretty late. After practice." Wakka scowled, shaking his head. "If practice don't run late
again, that is."

Moving to Luca had been hardest for Wakka. Even when they considered it home, Lulu
and Yuna had always been essentially outsiders on Besaid. Wakka was so much the native
son he could have grown from the soil. He didn't like the crowds in Luca, didn't like the
noise. He certainly had never become quite comfortable with playing for the Goers, even
though he had been made captain his first year and most of the Aurochs had followed him
to Luca.

Yuna surely hadn't expected him to leave his home. When she had told them she was
moving and they joined her at the docks the next morning luggage in hand, she had nearly
cried, trembling and damp as a newly made butterfly with gratitude and relief. Yuna might
have needed to move to Luca, but she also needed them. And in a part of Lulu and Wakka
that was buried the way an anchor is buried in bedrock they were always going to be first
and foremost her guardians. Lulu knew one component of Yuna's overhanging guilt was
Wakka's discontent, but Wakka would never even think of holding her responsible. They
followed Yuna; Yuna followed her duty, and her duty now was in Luca, where she could
be in the thick of things.

In the days after Sin the temples still tried to maintain power, and the people, who now had
the strength and conviction of the truth, rebelled. Waves of violence flooded Spira until
nearly every priest was disposed if not killed, almost every temple converted if not
destroyed. In a world without Yevon there was no blanket of lies, no spiral of despair, but
there was also no fundamental order. The cities and towns of Spira were slowly trying to
knit themselves back together, create some sort of rule out of nothing.

There were only two things connecting the many city-states of Spira these days: the polyps
of staunch Yevonite orders across the continent and the reverence and respect Yuna

Yuna moderated meetings between adversarial islands, negotiated agreements between
political groups dividing a city, gently guided Spira into a new form of stability. Lulu and
Wakka were, as they had always been, her advisors, her friends and her confidants. Life in
Luca was too busy to be peaceful, but it was, for all of them, Lulu wanted to think,

"Been a while since Rikku came around," Wakka remarked conversationally.

Lulu took a sip of water. "Well, can you blame her? It must be awkward at the least."

Wakka shrugged uncomfortably. "It'll just be good to see what she's up to, ya?"

Lulu nodded. "So I'll meet you with the children by the airdocks when practice is over?"

"You sure that such a good idea?" Wakka said, giving her stomach a significant look.
"Maybe you should stay home and I'll come by an' collect the kids. You should be
keepin' off your fe-"

"Wakka," Lulu said, his name a warning.

Wakka rolled his eyes with a good-natured sputter. "All right, fine. Meet ya after practice,

Lulu leaned back as far as momentum would allow, taking another long drink. It was these
little victories you had to savor.


"But if Killika pays its debts to Luca and the Djose Al Bhed, yes we could conceivably
make up the deficit of the economy in a few years, but that's only if the fishing will be
extremely fruitful, which is immeasurable at this point in time. It's much safer...Lady

"Mm?" Yuna looked up, realizing guiltily she had been devoting most of her attention to
toying with her hair wrap and only peripherally listening to Deneti. "Oh, I'm so sorry!
Please continue."

Deneti frowned. "We have been negotiating for a long time, Lady Yuna. If you would like
to take a short recess I would be more than happy to oblige."

Yuna shook off the muzziness of the daydream with a smile. "Oh no, not at all. I wouldn't
call this negotiating anyway, Deneti. We're just friends talking politics. Unless, of course, if
you want to stop for the moment?"

Deneti looked down abruptly, smoothing his sideburns. "No. No, I would like to

She wasn't sure why she was so distracted lately. Perhaps it was the news that Rikku was
coming to visit from her expedition south of Besaid, which was quite unexpected and,
these days, unfortunately rare. Rikku mostly came now on matters of business, although
she always tried to stay as long as she could.

If that was the reason it was very unfair not to grant her full attention to Deneti, whom she
quite liked. The second in command of Killika was in his hazy early thirty years. A
fisherman with tired eyes and strong hands, skin turned leathery from too much sun and sea
salt, he became a politician because no one else on Killika seemed to know how it was
done. Yuna always considered him decent and dedicated. He didn't speak in puzzles or
metaphors, neither of which she considered herself very good at deciphering.

The dizzy spell (as she had named it in the privacy of her mind) hadn't come again, but she
had been feeling tired lately, listless.. Yuna was being more careful to eat full meals and
sleep well at nights, and would have simply dismissed the episode except it refused to
be banished. The memory of it had taken up residence in the back of her head, subtle as a
dagger and nudging her when it had no right to.

It shouldn't mean anything, and Yuna decided that it wasn't going to either. Yuna shuffled
through her notes, concentrating on what could be weighed and measured and evaluated,
what was important here and now.

"You know, I've heard of a few people who are using machina to chart the patterns and
breeding habits of local schools of fish..."


"Aunt Rikku!" Setta and Chapri cried, and pounced.

Rikku would never outgrow her thinness, but she had the willowy strength of someone
who became a fighter by choice and wasn't one by nature. Still, her constitution was no
match for the combined weight of three determined toddlers. Rikku liked kids well enough,
loved her friends' children as the properly devoted aunt, but they could be a little...
enthusiastic sometimes. A few people on the dock turned to stare at the Al Bhed with
children hanging off of her like ornaments. "Ewf! ...Hey, guys....Nice to see you too."

"Hey, Rikku." Wakka grinned. Her hair had grown out since the last time they had met,
and she wore almost all of it in small beaded braids pinned up in a messy swirl on the back
of her head. Wakka was amusing himself by twirling one on his finger. "This is new.
What'd you do, decide to become a shell?"

"Oh, quit it," Rikku said, batting his hand away. "You big meanie. Look at you!" she said,
turning her attention to Lulu. "You're as big as a house!"

"It's nice to see you too," Lulu said with dry chuckle as Rikku hugged her. "I'm sorry
Yuna couldn't be here. She had a meeting she couldn't get out of. She said she'd try to cut
it short and come see you though."

"That's okay," Rikku said, smoothing the hair that Wakka had rumpled. She wanted to
delay this, have at least a few more minutes of her friends simple pleasure in seeing her, but
it was better to do this right away. The sting always hurt less than the dread, and she
already felt like she was hiding something. "Maybe...maybe it's better that she's not here
right now."

Lulu raised an eyebrow.

"Hey, kids!" Rikku said with a clap of her hands. "Want to go play with my brother? He's
got some cool new machina to show you."

Chapri, who was fascinated by anything mechanical, was already running up the ramp.
Ghadi tugged on his mother's skirt imploringly.

"It's okay, sweetheart. You and Setta can go and play." Lulu tweaked her childrens' chins
and called, "Be polite!" after them.

"So what's this all about?" Wakka asked.

"I've got...someone I want to show you."

Wakka gave a friendly little snort, grinning. "You got a new boyfriend now, Rikku?"

That she didn't blush and hotly deny it and elbow Wakka in the stomach should have been
all the warning they needed. "No," Rikku said, picking at her nail-polish with an intensity
the act didn't warrant. "No one like that. I guess...I'll get him for you."

She blended into the shadows of the yawning metal mouth of the ship's bay and a few
minutes later met them again with Tidus a little ways behind her, holding her hand.

Wakka's jaw didn't drop so much as it sagged open, as if he forgot how he was
supposed to keep his mouth closed. Even Lulu took a small involuntary step forward.

Tidus stood on the ramp, blinking at the light, his eyes not drawing to anything in

After a few minutes of the four of them standing there, a petrified tableau in the middle of
the docking bay, Wakka crossed his arms, looking almost angry. "This some kinda joke?"

Rikku shook her head. "No. No joke but it's kinda...complicated. I think we need to talk."

"I'll say," Lulu's default sarcasm was more watery than usual as they followed Rikku into
the ship.


"So he got amnesia or somethin'?"

Rikku was still playing with her nails. They were going to get bloody before long if she
kept it up. She peered out further down towards the hatch, but Tidus was out of eyeshot
and it was easier to talk about him behind his back than when he was in the room and not
acknowledging what was being said about him.

"I guess. ...something like that anyway. But it's more than that too. He doesn't remember
/anything/ yeah, but he's not...acting like himself either, you know? You'd think that even if
somehow all his memories got wiped out or something he'd still at least be the same
person he was, anyway. But...he can walk and speak and stuff, but it's like he's not

"Do you think it's really him?" Lulu asked.

Rikku looked sad and guilty. "I...I don't know. That's what I was hoping you guys could
help me find out."

"Of course it's him!" Wakka still looked vaguely angry. "Who else could it be? I'm gonna
go talk to him. See what's what."

"Keep your head," Lulu told him as he marched out of the hull. Wakka didn't answer.

"So when's the baby due?" Rikku asked, after a while.

"A month and a half."

"Oh." Rikku paused and then blurted out, "I just didn't know what else to do with him,
you know? I couldn't just leave him there."

"I...suppose," Lulu said, and then kept speaking when she saw Rikku's face fall. "It was
good to bring him here. We /did/ need to know about this, whatever it is. Only... you saw
Wakka just now. And Yuna..."

Rikku sighed. "I know. But Tidus is our friend too. And he needs our help."

Lulu put a hand on the firm swell of her stomach like it was the only thing she was sure of.

After a minute Wakka poked his head in again. "Uh, Rikku? He ain't there."

Rikku blinked. "But I told him to stay by the door." She could feel the panic hovering
overhead but not quite descended yet.

Wakka scratched the side of his forehead, looking sheepish. "I know. But he still ain't

Rikku just avoided shoving him out of the way as she sprinted out of the airship, eyes
darting to the shadows and odd corners of the hull. Her shoulders sagged as she looked
out from the safety of what was machina and Al Bhed and familiar and into the mass of
people that was Luca harbor. "Oh no," she said, the panic crashing to the pit of her
stomach. "Why did he have to go and get curious /now/?"


Days like this when the air was clear and crystalline and the deep colors of the buildings
and the ocean shone in all their cheerful grandeur, Luca seemed to be showing off. Even
the part of Yuna that still a small island girl and thought loveliness was only due to what
was natural and quiet had to admit that Luca, in all of its frenetic energy, was really quite

She could have moved to Bevelle, back to Bevelle after all those years, but Yuna thought
she had made the right choice. She had grown too accustomed to Besaid not to need to
live somewhere filled with sunlight and near warm water. She couldn't stay in the icy
ethereal perfection of Bevelle. Certainly nothing sweet and welcoming had ever thrived

Besides, Bevelle had been the old center of Spira. This new Spira that was juicy with
possibilities deserved a new capital, a warmer heart.

Yuna loved walking along the docks, even when she was just on her way to meet
someone. Of course, that wasn't a chore when she was going to meet one of her dearest
friends, but she still enjoyed the walk itself. She loved the sun on her face, the noise of the
sea and the vessels and the merchants and the airships overhead. She spent days on end of
sitting at long stone tables talking to the same men about politics and state, and the ideas
became more and more abstract the longer she stayed. Going outside, watching people
unload ships or sit at cafes and talk - just living their lives - reminded her what it was all for
and that she was a strand in this web, even if people tended to stand back and whisper
respectfully among themselves when she passed.

So Yuna strolled to the airship docks with her hands linked behind her back, a little smile
on her face as she hummed tunelessly.

And then she saw him, standing at the end of one of the longer, thinner, airdocks.

And it was the end and the beginning of everything as a claw reached into her chest and
squeezed, while the world around them turned wondrous and golden.

She blinked, expecting him to be a trick of the light that would turn back into a stranger.
But it was still him, staring at the sea. She couldn't do anything at all for a moment and
then she could only call his name, weakly at first and then louder, Tidus Tidus Tidus. And
he turned and it was /him/, the same face and hands and eyes imprinted on her mind with
the sweet stretching ache of a cure spell.

She hitched up her skirt and ran, the heels of her boots echoing hard as they landed on the
wood, and she didn't stop until she reached him, the force of her momentum nearly
knocking him over. Because she had dreamed and she had wished for so long she forgot
that she was wishing at all, but she had never dared for a moment before let herself /hope/.

"Tidus!" She wasn't hugging him, just clutching his arms out of some sudden, absurd
shyness, but they were firm and real under her hands. Not dream arms at all. "Tidus! Thank...thank /someone/. You're here. You're really /here/." She felt herself
choke up, and threw her arms around him, and he was still unquestionably in her grasp. She
could feel the smile on her face, small and saturated with joy.

"Am I supposed to know you too?" Tidus asked.

She didn't let go of him because she wasn't sure if she'd be able to stand steady and
straight if she did. If the dizziness a few days ago had disconnected her from the rest of the
world, this was too much of reality at once, and it burned. "...what?"

"Rikku did this too. I'm supposed to know her. Am I supposed to know you?"

Yuna disengaged herself carefully, still holding on to his upper arms, feeling like a china
plate that someone had broken and mended but still showed all the cracks. "...Rikku?
What...? ...Tidus?"

Tidus looked down at her, his mouth a straight line when everything else was disoriented
and sharp.

Her ears couldn't quite pick out the sound of running feet but she did hear a close, familiar
voice moan in hopeless horror, "oh /no/."

Rikku was by her side, tugging at her hands, which for some ridiculous reason of their own
were clutching Tidus's sleeves even tighter. "Oh, Yunie, I'm so sorry! I didn't know it
would happen like this. Come back to the ship, let me explain. Lulu, could you take him?
Thanks. Yunie, you have to believe me I didn't mean for you to meet him like this, I
promise. I'll tell you everything in a minute, I swear."

Yuna let herself be taken gently and led to Rikku's ship and into a world that didn't make
sense anymore.


Author's Notes
Such shame I feel. Such deep, deep shame. Final Fantasy X doesn't need a continuation, and
it certainly doesn't need one now that there's an actual Squaresoft-produced sequel. But
Tidus kept giving me puppy-dog eyes and Yuna kept sighing wistfully, and you know how it

This is shaping up to be another long one. Joy.