Disclaimer: FFX, FFX-2 – neither of them belong to me, I'm just a poor, starving fan : )
A/N: I can hardly believe it, but the end is finally here. This is officially the final part of what started off as a two page prologue and blossomed into a vast story that spans 132 pages and which has the dubious honour of being the first fully finished story that I have ever written.
I have to admit that I doubt I would have ever achieved such a thing without the continuing support of each and every person who has reviewed and/or read my work and offered their constructive advice, or just let me know that they were enjoying what I was writing. The number of reviews I have received continues to blow me away. So I just want to say a HUGE THANKYOU to everyone who has reviewed this story over the last year - I wanted to list all of your names butit took up too much space! Anyway, this chapter is dedicated to each of you for all the great advice, feedback and constructive criticsm you have provided me with ; )
Hope you enjoy it!
Timeframe: Set a month or so after the 'perfect' ending of FFX-2
Of all the endings I could have chosen when I started out on this, the third episode of my life, what actually happened couldn't have been further from my imagination.
It was anti-climatic in a strange, twisted way. There were no trumpets, no fanfares, no crowds of adoring fans cheering for the saviours of Spira.
No celebration parties.
No, Lreav had done his work well. The distrust and dislike he had inadvertently spread throughout Spira was blossoming and it was taking all the diplomacy that Yunie, Nooj and Baralai possessed to prevent an all out war from breaking out. The populace were not happy to hear that the enemy who had caused such destruction was an Al Bhed; the relationship between my race and the rest of Spira had degraded until it was little better than it had been back when Yunie had just been starting out on her pilgrimage. The integration and acceptance of the Al Bhed, which had been going so well since mine and Gippal's part in taking down Vegnagun, had come to a grinding halt. A stalemate of sorts had been reached; the Al Bhed were refusing to back down and become the 'hated' race again but the other races of Spira were becoming reacquainted with old prejudices long thought forgotten, such as those that I had suffered at the hands of Wakka during Yuna's pilgrimage. The word 'Yevon' was springing far too easily to people's lips and it amazed me how short or selective memory could be. Did no one recall that the worship of Yevon had been a big fat twisted lie? Could no one remember that the oh-so-holy Maester Mika had actually just been a decrepit dead guy? Not to mention the delectable Maester Seymour and all his fun exploits …
It was like we had come full circle and I couldn't help wondering if Lreav had intended to cause such damage or whether the well-being of Spira had simply been something that he had tossed aside in his pursuit of Gippal.
Bloody Lreav. Sure, he'd been angry at Gippal, but had he had to take it out on the whole damn world? What had we ever done to him? How had the people he'd killed in Kilika had anything to do with the death of his mother?
Spira, just thinking about it made me so angry. I wanted to scream and shout the injustices to the world – or better yet, I wanted to pummel Lreav, bring him up on charges of high treason against the people of Spira, preside over his very public trial, and then pummel him again.
Unfortunately, my wishes went unanswered now that Lreav had taken the situation into his own hands.
The one shining light in this whole awful mess was that not only had Gippal been officially cleared of all charges, but I had him back with me again and there were no longer any threats hanging over him. In some ways it was daunting; neither of us seemed able to broach the thought that we might be heading towards 'couple-status'. In fact, we'd hardly spoken about our relationship since the authorities had descended on Kilika in the wake of Lreav's suicide – we'd simply been too busy. I was surprised to find that this was a blessing because it gave me the time I needed to get my head around Gippal's presence in my life and just what he had come to mean to me.
I also used my time to come to terms with everything that Lreav had done, from the way he had manipulated me, to the bombings he had meticulously planned, and finally … his death.
I didn't really know how I felt about Lreav's suicide. It was difficult to put my finger on one general emotion that was swimming through my being, instead I found myself oscillating between misery, regret, fury, despair and a myriad of other motions. On the one hand I was in shock; after all, I'd never seen another person kill themselves before. I felt numb, disbelieving and the urge to block it out of mind was overwhelming. Yet on the other hand, I was furiously angry that Lreav had escaped the justice that he so richly deserved. He would never be made to answer for the crimes he had commited and the biggest injustice of all: the people he had hurt and killed had been robbed of their retribution.
Perhaps the most confusing emotion I was experiencing was the sorrow I felt over Lreav's demise. I found myself grieving for the man that he could have become, before anger and jealously had twisted him into the monster he'd been in his last days. Such a reaction seemed completely ridiculous and yet, I knew I wasn't the only one who felt that way. Elhandra had been in a silent state of mourning since Lreav's passing and Gippal too had been showing the signs of grief. Lreav, no matter how far he had fallen, had touched our lives and we would lament his absence, whether we really wanted to or not.
Lreav would go down in history; he'd finally achieved the recognition that he'd been searching for all of his life. Did this mean that once again, Lreav had won?
He certainly seemed to have in other ways, or so Gippal seemed to think anyway. He'd mentioned something about winning in one of our brief conversations – when I'd commented that I was finding it hard to understand why Lreav had thrown himself from the plateau.
"It was the final stage of his revenge," Gippal had explained distantly. "He knew that by … by taking his own life he prevented me from doing so. So despite what he said me, in a way … he won after all."
And in a strange, twisted way, the conclusion that Gippal had drawn actually made perfect sense. In taking things into his own hands and ending his life, Lreav had denied Gippal a sense of completion. And he'd achieved the revenge that he'd sought for so long, because as long as Gippal lived, this episode of his life was going to haunt him and it was certainly something he was never going to be able to forget.
I wondered whether this had been Lreav's plan from the start, or whether he'd just seen the opportunity as it had presented itself.
I guess that was one question that I was never going to have the answer for.
It was five days after Lreav's death when I pushed open the heavy temple door and stepped outside into the cool night air. Pausing for a few moments to allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness, I padded across the quiet atrium and down the steps.
As I had expected, my quarry was standing where I had left him earlier in the day, his back to me. I felt an irrational urge to rush forward and jank him back from the edge of the plateau where Lreav had fallen, but instead, I walked across to join him, keeping my movements and voice as calm as I could.
"I thought I'd find you out here."
Gippal jumped slightly and when he turned around and I saw that his face wore the tired, defeated look that had been in residence since Lreav's death.
"I was just …" he trailed off and shrugged, his shoulders slumping. Then without another word, he turned back to the jungle.
I stepped up alongside him, following his gaze out into the darkness. "Thinking about Lreav," I provided.
"Yeah," he admitted after a pause.
We stared out into the night, with only the faint cries of the monsters in the jungle interrupting our thoughts. I slowly walked my fingers along the stone wall, mentally trying to phrase a question that I desperately needed an answer for. It seemed so callous to just blurt it all out.
"I guess you wanna know the whole story."
How did he know me so well? He could tell what I was thinking without me even having to open my mouth … it was slightly spooky.
In this instance, he was completely right and I saw no reason to deny his words. "Yeah … I think – I think I need to know it. To understand … you know?"
He was silent for so long that I feared he wasn't going to answer me. Finally he sighed and ran one weary hand over his face.
"Lreav's parents' relationship … for what I can remember, it ended badly." His voice was barely above a whisper but I clearly heard every word. "Lhan once said her father found it difficult to cope with the prejudices a number of our people held against him for having a child with a human … but whatever the reason, their relationship didn't last and his ma left."
"To be with your father," I murmured, remembering.
Gippal nodded. "I was nine when Lreav's ma married my dad. Lreav … Lreav was slightly older – ten or eleven I think."
You know, I'd never realised Lreav had been older than Gippal.
"My own mother'd been dead for years – Lreav's ma was a nice enough lady, even if she was human. And hey, they seemed happy enough so I just left 'em to it." He paused and stared off into the distance for a moment, as if he was gathering his thoughts.
"Lreav never took to my dad," he confessed eventually. "Nor me. His ma left Lreav with his dad, you see. She thought it would be better for him to be raised in the Al Bhed family he knew than be dragged to live with strangers. I only met him a few times as a kid. He seemed … he seemed so angry." The look in Gippal's eye tugged at my heart – he looked so hurt and lost that I wanted to throw my arms around him and promise him that everything was going to be alright. Instead I remained as motionless as him, content for the moment to let him tell me the story in his own time.
"I guess … I guess Lreav resented my dad – and me – for taking his mother away, or somethin'. For the fact that their relationship worked where his parents' had failed."
A thought struck me then. "Why did it work? I mean, didn't your dad face the same prejudices as Elhandra and Lreav's had?" As much as I hated to admit it, us Al Bhed could be as discriminatory as the rest of the population of Spira.
"I …" Gippal frowned, "I'm not sure – don't really remember. I guess my dad was always kinda unconventional. And besides, they weren't together long before … before the accident."
I remained silent, although inwardly I was willing him to tell me. I think Gippal needed to talk about what had happened as much as I needed to hear it.
"The accident … d'you know, I haven't thought about that day in the longest time? Blocked it outta my memory – it's not exactly somethin' I wanna dwell on, you know?"
I walked my fingers closer to where his were resting atop the wall. "What happened?" I asked gently.
His body tensed and his fingernails scrapped against the ancient stone of the wall. "I was out playin' in the desert on Bikanel. A few days before, my friends and I had discovered an old abandoned machina factory half buried beneath the sands. I thought it would be excitin' to go explorin' down there. And it was, for a while. But then I got lost and it stopped bein' so fun.
"I'd been down there for several days when my dad found me. Lreav's ma was with him – I think she'd followed him down or somethin'. Anyway, they led me back to the exit." A faraway look dawned over Gippal's face as he got lost in the memory. "I could see the sunlight up ahead of us. It wasn't that far away. I could almost reach out and …" Gippal's hand convulsed as he became lost in memory. Alarmed, I reached out and wrapped my own hands around his, stilling his movement. Despite the contact, he didn't appear to notice me.
"Part of the structure collapsed," he continued, eye fixed on some far distant spot that only existed in his mind. "We were all trapped beneath it. I was knocked unconscious." His hands moved again and I tightened my grip. "I woke up to find that I'd lost my eye … and that my dad and step-ma were dead."
Even though I had known that this was the ending that the story would reach, it was still horrific to hear it first hand. In that instant Gippal's angry words to Lreav fell into context and I tried to imagine how he had felt that day, having lost everything and everyone he'd ever loved.
"Oh Spira, Gippal," I breathed. "I'm so sorry."
It seemed such an inadequate thing to say but he seemed to appreciate the sentiment. He freed his hands but when I was about to protest, he reached out and pulled me to him, like a child seeking comfort. I didn't resist and pressed tightly against his chest so that my head was tucked under his chin, wrapping my arms around his waist as I did so. His came to rest against the small of my back, the palms warm against my bare skin. We remained like that for some minutes, comfortable in the silence and the familiarity we were providing for one another.
And so we come to the end of my story.
I must admit, when I started out on this journey, this was hardly the end I was expecting. It was just so … disappointing, you know? I mean, even at the end of Tidus's story, we'd saved the world from Sin and finally put an end to the endless sacrifice of the Summoners. And heck, Yuna's story was just one triumph after another. But me … well what exactly had I achieved?
Lreav hadn't been caught, we hadn't saved the world from any great threat and there were no celebrations. Just a group of grim faced, depressed people who somehow felt that, if only they had done things differently, then the outcome of my story could have been completely different.
And yet, despite all of that … I personally think my story was something of a success. The sense of purpose that I had been searching for, the feeling that something was missing in my life … I didn't feel it any longer. Well, maybe a little, but it was certainly growing weaker and weaker the more time I spent with a particular someone.
If anyone had told me at the beginning of this journey that I was going to fall in love with Gippal, I would have laughed myself sick. The pre-story Rikku had found Gippal to be irritating, superior, frustratingly arrogant and completely indifferent to her presence. The post-story Rikku still found him irritating, superior and frustratingly arrogant but was discovering that spending time alone with him was something she was actually interested in doing.
It was funny how events could change a person. Now I couldn't imagine a time when I hadn't found Gippal attractive when once that thought would have been as repulsive to me as kissing a Cactuar.
I don't know what's going to happen next; I don't know whose turn it is to have their story told. And I don't know whether what's growing between me and Gippal is going to last.
But do you know what? I don't think I care. I mean, where's the fun in being able to predict the future?
I say just let it come.
Well it's finally over - I hope I've answered all your questions butif not, feel free to email me ortell me in a review and I'll try to clear things up for you! Hope to see you all when I start posting the sequel!
As always, read, review and enjoy ; )