Author's Note: A -very- quick fic written from POV of Paine, FFX-2, shortly before game. This fic is a gift for a certain Paine, who has done the most amazing job in years.


Did I first see you walking on water?

I must have because you were a figment at first, some sharp serrated memory that involved running and then panting and then asking again and again to the air because I didn't know who else would answer, where are you, guys, where did you go? It was hard to run against the beach sand, I remember that, when your feet are sinking into ground giving way beneath you and your thoughts are all about how you're falling but you can't afford to because you need to keep moving. I remember your ghost in white amidst the pyreflies.

My eyes were cast down. Not because you weren't something that would rend them, burn them on sight, but because I was so afraid that I would see their bodies with the others. Mi'ihen. Did they know it, did they time it? To have the final selection due just before that desolation was enacted just like clockwork. In case any survivors made it staggering out of the Den of Woe--the Womb of Woe, the birthing place of so much pregnant ruin where the mother's hipbones were cracked open by metal jaws and still the child was blue-faced upon arrival--and just in case they made it stumbling past the guns, there would be just enough time for them to arrive on the beach for Sin to bear them away. It would be like strangling the babe in its own umbilical cord, which was precisely the style I figured Kinoc to prefer with his wife. Sin was at least tidier to say.

So fitting for Yevon to use that beast to tidy up yet another mess.

But to have that thing claim you three too was a sacrifice I couldn't stomach. My cheek was burning from where Kinoc had lashed out a hand when I'd cried out; he'd split the skin over the bone with all his pudgy monk's fury, and I had only spared myself more by getting up to run. To have Kinoc be your executioner was a pathetic end. Sin was only marginally better, just another form of Bevelle's roundabout bureaucracy phrased in the form of their nemesis.

And then there was you.

You moved in slow motion to eyes stinging from calling out, guys, where are you, come on, you can't be here dammit you can't be dead and the comet spinning in place like a fool's sun was the sweep of your sleeves when you turned. I didn't realize you were even real at first. Pyreflies were your escort and there I was staggering hard enough to go to one knee and worse, down against the sands before I knew it. Grit grinding against my face and tainting my mouth when I opened it to cry.

No, no, no, be alive, be alive damn you please.

You were filling my eyes and I didn't realize I should have turned away before the brilliance of you burned into the retinas.

Jaw slipped open enough with exertion that the edge of your upper teeth were visible, the view skewed from the slant of me pressed against the dirt; your fingers gripped your staff like they were willing to let it slide at any moment but for the bend of your littlest finger. Your hair was the fringe of a mourner's vest, cut for finery in the midst of death.

I'd have said you were crying then, but it would have only revealed more about myself in the bargain.

Then it turned out that Sin was an agent of the temples all along. So the rumors said, spread mouth to ear to mouth again just like the Hymn that one Summoner had urged us to sing years ago. And that Summoner had been you and we'd all followed automatically because it hadn't been in any of our minds to refuse, not when you'd worn white on your chest for purity and violet on your legs to cover any bloodstains from travel. From your Pilgrimage.

You never stopped walking on water. Not since the first time I saw you. Not even afterwards when you shed your Summoner's skirt in the hope your docility would go with it, discarding yourself on the altar of Yevon's ashes just as you said you had done with your former faith.

None of us were fooled. Certainly not the crew of the Gullwings, the ones lucky enough to offer you a ship to travel on and know in the end it was you giving us the favor. We went with you anyway because it was you and when it came down to it, we were still watching the aurora of you etched into memory of beaches and shores, opening our mouths to chant prayers even the best of us could doubt.

A woman who helped change the fate of the world itself could know how to fix something so small as three people lost to another riddle of Yevon's making.

A woman who could have pyreflies ripple around her feet when she moved and tame souls desperately still trying to fight against Sin's judgement could do anything.

I swear sometimes you can walk on air.

And I would have followed if you'd done it any number of those times I'd caught you standing on the deck of the Celsius, that hair-tail of yours whipping out behind you like the length of your memories you still refused to relinquish when we all knew better. I would have taken the path behind you. Slow at first and then jogging to catch up because I was carrying your staff where you'd dropped it. You'd need it for the first downsweep that would summon the pyreflies to lift you from the waves in your own private ascension, or maybe you could do it while holding absolutely nothing right now, I'd believe that too.

But I would have it. Just in case.

Just in case someone who can do anything happens to get her feet wet while she's up there. Dancing.