Inside my heart is breaking,
My make-up may be flaking,
But my smile, still, stays on.
-- Queen "The Show Must Go On"
~*Fumbling Towards Ecstasy: Chapter 24*~ … 'Til the End…
When Yuna awoke, the curtain-veiled streams of pure sunlight gradually coaxing her eyelids to flutter open, the first thing she noticed was the coldness of the sheets. Unconsciously, her hand reached out toward his side of the bed, wanting, hoping to eventually be obstructed by a warm body. Alas… the fingers searching for him eventually hit the edge and grasped the mattress in disappointment, their owner finally forced to turn her head and witness the emptiness first hand.
Tidus was gone.
Had been for some time she imagined.
Though his absence was in no way surprising (Lulu and/or Wakka would surely be knocking on her door at any second anyway) she couldn't help but feel a pang of stabbing disappointment at his insistence on coping alone. He was taking the news more harshly than she expected. Much more harshly. The remainder of the night following her appalling confession had been tense indeed, filled with sporadic sobs and apologies and desperate embraces, each one of which made the cracks in her heart stretch a little further open.
But now was not the time to fret over the horrid yet necessary lie that was surely torturing her guardian. There was too much work to be done, too many loose ends that needed tying. So with a whispered sigh, Yuna tossed the sheets aside and slowly, experimentally, shifted her legs off the bed and onto the cold, metal floor.
The night's rest, though frequently interrupted, had still proven to be a highly valuable segment of her rejuvenation process. And as her feet gradually accepted the weight of her body and took their first shuffling steps towards the door, a smirk broke out on her cracked lips. She at least had the strength to walk today. And with that strength came the ability to meet with the leaders of Yevon and plead her case!
The very thought of the impending action made her grin widen to a near-painful level as she successfully stepped beyond the threshold and into the main living quarters. Maybe, if she found the will power to force down a few pieces of fruit, after Bevelle they'd be able to head to Luca where the large sphere screen network would allow her to spread the message of Yunalesca's evil cycle. While there, possibly, she could also visit the Zoan hospital and give aid to the healers. And after that, if they had time before nightfall, she could…
Her thoughts were interrupted as a sudden spell of queasiness overwhelmed all other senses, forcing her to stumble forward and accept the support of a strategically positioned stool.
"Dear…Yevon…" she swallowed loudly, fighting off the urge to be sick while desperately trying to regain her bearings. An attempt to get back on her feet without support proved futile, and so she reluctantly slumped into the stool seat, head leaned against the kitchen island counter top in the hopes of lessening the spinning; disappointed and annoyed that her body was still refusing to function on even its most basic level.
Obviously, it would be a while until she could make it up the long stretch of highway to the Bevelle temple. And walking in, with strength and confidence, was an essential part of being taken seriously and of promoting calm among the people.
For now she would have to settle for writing a speech, she decided, the one item on her long list of things to do that required minimal physical activity. A speech for the Luca sphere network that would give hope and spirit to the people. And tomorrow Bevelle. Maybe even tonight if she felt better. Maybe today after another hour or two more of rest.
As long as she stayed still she should be fine. As long as no one shoved any type of meat or dairy or pickled product under her nose. She had simply stood up too abruptly and thought of eating after too long a fast and that's why she was currently nauseated. A normal reaction to a normal circumstance. Any minute now it would stop…any second in fact…
Yevon, why won't it stop!?
Yuna sighed while allowing her eyelids to steadily close, rocking her forehead back and forth across the counter top as if hoping that denying the sensation's existence would make it go away. But there was no ignoring something so prominent and distracting. For several blissful minutes now she had actually been able to overlook that she was, in fact, still six weeks past ruined. And of all the social horrors that came with the situation, she had forgotten to keep in mind the physical ones; the many complaints she had heard the expecting mothers of Besaid screech on and on about. The swollen feet, the back aches, the cravings, the nausea, most of which Yuna expected to never make the acquaintance of.
But for now, after several minutes and no change later, she had to accept the undeniable conclusion that she was one of the unlucky ones; suffering from horrible, gut-wrenching, debilitating morning sickness. Or, her suggested correct term being, all day sickness. It explained everything over these past few weeks of difficult travelling. Rin was right to be surprised that she hadn't noticed what was happening earlier, for it was suddenly and shamefully all so utterly obvious.
Another wave of nausea swept from her stomach up into her throat until, begrudgingly, she had no choice but to force herself to her feet and stagger to the bathroom, mentally cursing her dire circumstances the entire time. Why women went through this by choice she would never understand, especially those brave enough to do it more than once. It was simply too hard and, obviously, way beyond what she as a person, as a human, could handle.
The pilgrimage had been nothing in comparison to the horror and discomfort of her current state: on her knees in a cold, dark room, praying for the end as her trembling body wretched and coughed. On the very dim bright side, at least she was alone with no one anxiously looking over her shoulder for once. No guardians, no Tidus, begging to know what was wrong, where it hurt. For the only answer she'd be able to presently give was 'everywhere'.
It hurt everywhere.
Not one inch of her was spared from the agony of this event, this knowledge.
And she fathomed that it would never stop hurting, that there would be no inkling of relief. At the very least not until Sin was officially and fully eradicated.
After her stomach was apparently satisfied of rejecting its liquid remains, she allowed herself a few moments to fall back onto the floor, one quivering hand pressed against her lips and the other massaging her neck as a lame attempt at self-consolation. This was how it had to be, all day, every day, until the inevitable happened. She either learn to deal with it or give up now, announce her condition to the guardians in a fit of broken sobs and be forced on bed rest until she delivered and died like her mother before her. Regardless of her expected, horrid fate if that were to happen, think of Tidus. Barely eighteen, hated, alone and a father. He wouldn't be able to handle it. Something would snap and he'd become what he always feared most; an even more twisted version of Zanarkand's Jecht.
'But that won't happen,' she reminded herself sullenly. 'I won't let it.'
Yuna let out a deep breath as the nausea tamed itself to a barely tolerable level, reluctantly grasping the edge of the sink to pull herself up. On unsteady feet once more, she turned the faucet to the coldest setting, gratefully splashing her hands and face with the icy water. Its coolness felt wonderful against her sticky, burning skin and the shock to her system functioned as a sort of mental baptism - absolving her of her many troubles. If only temporarily. But she gratefully took what little reprieve she could scrounge in these uncertain times.
What she wouldn't give to turn back the clock, if only a little, to before Rin's diagnosis and simply let nature take its course with her being none the wiser. Maybe then, even as she inevitably became weaker and weaker, every second of consciousness wouldn't be so painful. Maybe then, she wouldn't be dreading seeing him, looking into those too blue eyes, while knowing that she was intentionally and slowly killing a piece of him through trying to save the world.
'This is more important,' she assured herself for what must have been the thousandth time, her white-knuckled fingers anxiously grasping the edges of the sink as she focused on the droplets falling from her wet tendrils of hair. 'You've made the right choice. You've made the only choice. Spire can't afford to let you rest yet. Spira needs you.'
"Spira needs me," she repeated out loud, just for an extra boost to her still fragile confidence. Her voice was dry and raspy, throat still sore for the most recent attack from her condition. "Spira needs me," she said again, more strongly this time, her head nodding in enthusiastic support, swallowing in an attempt to ignore the resurfacing queasiness. "Spira needs…"
She made the mistake of looking up then, meeting for the first time in weeks her clear and magnified reflection. The last time she had looked in a proper mirror had been her wedding night. The night that had, obviously, led to this disaster of a situation. Since then, she knew she had lost some weight and coloring. Not only could she feel it but she saw it on the increasingly concerned expressions of her friends whenever they looked at her. But up until then she had waved away their worry, judging it to be a result of childish coddling and paranoia. Only now could she see that their fears were in fact more than justified.
Her skin was pale despite the weeks in the sun, almost a grey-tinged ash color, and was pulled tightly against her cheekbones, once rounded now blatantly pronounced. Not only that, but her naturally plump, dark pink lips were now closer to beige and thinned, lined with dead skin from dehydration. She looked famished. She looked skeletal. She looked terrifying. But Rin had weighed her last night as part of his checkup, she remembered suddenly. There had been no such significant change to explain this extreme of an appearance shift…
Carefully, with ever-trembling hands, Yuna pulled down the neck of her borrowed gown, noting with revulsion how much her collar bone now stuck out. Also, upon turning this way and that, she couldn't help but notice how her once relatively small and firm breasts were now bafflingly bulky and, for the first time, gravity-effected.
She hadn't actually lost the weight she realized, merely relocated it to areas deemed more important. Yuna's jaw dropped open in shock as she moved forward to observe them properly in the mirror, smoothing the gown taut against her torso to survey the shape. They may not have been close to rivaling Lulu, but they were getting there. Yevon help the woman if she were to ever have a child herself.
This would only get worse before it got better she noted with a start, adding many more unwanted layers of deceit to her still far from stable plan. Her robes would have to be regularly and secretly adjusted. As difficult as hiding the weakness, the sickness, would be from everyone, the changes to her physical appearance had been a subject so far successfully avoided by her overtaxed brain. But they were undeniable now. She was simply lucky that she had so many other excuses for looking and acting strangely. But that luck would not hold out for long. Especially because of the bump: the almost imperceptible little, hard hill she felt above her pelvis even through the fabric. The final proof. As if she needed any more.
"Damn…" she whispered quietly to herself while rearranging the gown so that it hung loose, hiding these all too obvious signs. With a groan of frustration, Yuna began to viciously comb her fingers through her knotted hair. Desperate to get back to work, get back to normal, with not only everyone remaining oblivious but without those glances of distress, of pity, that she was beginning to despise so much.
After her face was washed, her nails cleaned, her hair sorted, her cheeks pinched and some jelly applied to her lips, Yuna dared to face her reflection once more, in order to practice her now infamous trouble-free smile. Her guardians would see right through it of course. There was too much heartbreak, too much pain hidden in her glassy eyes. But it was enough to fool the remaining Maesters and citizens. She could only hope that with time, with practice, she would get better. She had to get better, she had to hide it. What other choice was there?
One last glance in the mirror. One last adjustment of the mask she'd have to wear for the next several weeks. A final flick of the hair and it was as good as it was gonna get.
"It's showtime Yuna."
The Fahrenheit cafeteria was quiet.
And not the usual comfortable quiet of bustling people too busy shoveling foods in their mouths to talk. No. This was just an overlapping, repeated gentle tapping of utensils on ceramic plates, all of which were merely pushing their food around, not actually consuming it.
The tense atmosphere was nearly more than Rikku could bear, but she didn't dare be the first one to break the silence. Nor had she the stomach to be the one to attempt actually eating first. And so she was stuck in limbo, her annoyed glares going ignored by each of the present party members one by one, concentrated as they were on building castles out of their home fries. Except for Kimahri of course. He returned her stare. But a lot of good that did her except to serve as a reminder that the cat-man was notoriously stoic, even on non-emotionally catastrophic days.
So they had failed in summoning the useless Final Aeon. So they had killed Yunalesca. So Yuna was currently too sick to attempt finding an alternate method of ridding the world of Sin. So Tidus was currently… "missing" from the guest dorms. There was no reason to panic. No need shut down completely as Lulu, Wakka and Auron seemed to be doing. They weren't completely screwed for the future. The situation wasn't entirely hopeless.
Heh. Yeah right.
"We're all gonna get killed aren't we?" she couldn't help but blurt out after giving the situation some honest thought, causing Wakka to begin violently coughing and Lulu to fix her with a wide-eye glower. Rikku merely raised her shoulders in response. "What? We Al Bhed aren't exactly known for our political correctness."
"We wait to hear Yuna's decision," Lulu clarified while reaching forward to grasp the sugar shaker for her tea, desperate for an ordinary distraction. "It's her pilgrimage. It's her choice."
"Right. Who knows what she's thinking, ya?" Wakka added in with a voice raspy from coughing, he too reaching for the shaker once Lulu had her share. "I mean, a lot has happened these past few days." Without looking, he measured one heaping tablespoon of the white powder and dumped it into his cup, then another. "Maybe she's changed her mind? Maybe she don't wanna fight no more? Maybe she's working on it right now? Maybe she had a plan?" A third spoonful, a fourth. Rikku was beginning to doubt he was paying attention. "Maybe she-"
He was interrupted by Lulu's gentle hand on his, stopping it from further poisoning his now nearly syrup-based cup of tea. A furrowed-brow glare of confusion was shot her way, before her nod toward the table reminded him that his tirade was doing little to settle nerves.
"Right…we wait. Yuna's decision. Patience, ya?" slowly, as if hoping that no one noticed, Wakka pushed the shaker back the center and raised the cup to his lips upon Lulu's cue of doing the same.
Rikku swallowed a groan with both her elbows now on the table and her head resting in her palms, watching them with annoyed amusement. "That was salt by the way."
Simultaneously, Wakka and Lulu spat out the long sips they had taken, the velocity of which barely avoided Auron sitting across from them. The retired monk barely flinched, just slowly shifted his seat backwards as the mess was mopped up by the mortified couple.
"Now that was classy, guys," Rikku complimented with a giggle.
"You could have warned us."
"But that would have ruined my point!"
"Which is?" Auron asked tersely while wiping the dripping liquid from the bottom of his own cup.
"That there's no point sitting here on our asses, slowly losing our minds as we wait for precious, unique, delicate Yuna to make a decision. We all know she's as lost as we are and we have to stop relying on her to fix all our problems. She can't do it anymore, trust me. Your expectations are crushing her."
"Yuna chose this life. She prepared for its difficulties," Auron couldn't help but remind the Al Bhed, his dark-eyed expression hidden, as always, behind tinted glasses despite the dim light in this central room. "It would be presumptuous of us to rob her of the finale, the victory, she deserves after all this."
"Yeah. Yuna's strong, ya know?" Wakka tossed his saturated napkin into the garbage bin and resumed his glaring at the youngest of their party. "She needs time, we give her time. We don't go over her head. That would kill her."
Rikku shook her head passionately in response, with an angry growl rumbling low in her throat. "Making her fight and work while sick like this will actually kill her! "You saw how she was these last few days. She's falling apart! And you, all of you, are merely sitting on the sidelines and letting her die. She's a human being, not a summoner god! Why don't you do something? Anything!?"
Lulu's lips that were pursed together this entire time, shaking her head animatedly at the young girl's every word, could no longer resist commenting. "You think we like seeing her like this?! You think we wouldn't do anything, anything at all, during this entire pilgrimage, to get her to stop?"
"I would do anything," Rikku reminded them angrily, half out of her seat while leaning on her hands flat on the table. "I was the only one who legitimately tried to stop her."
"By taking away her free will," Auron countered. "Your actions were no less selfish than those of the Seymour, forcing something she didn't want merely for your sake, not hers."
"Yes! What would have happened if you succeeded huh?" the black mage's eyes were flaming now, also half risen out of seat so that the Al Bhed could properly witness her fury. "Yuna would be locked in Home's basement, just as miserable and lost as she is today. And all thanks to your 'dedication'."
"At least nothing! Sit down now you foolish little girl and stop, once and for all, with this desperate heroine fantasy you've somehow conjured. You, obviously, have absolutely no idea what Yuna is capable of! Nor what she needs!"
Though Rikku had many other retaliations, many other specific secrets of her cousin's that could prove otherwise, she wisely choose to hold her tongue and simply slump back into her seat, apparently defeated. Still, her narrowed eyes remained glued on the mage as she smugly smoothed down her corset, thinking justice well served, and arranged her skirts to return to her seat, gratefully accepting a newly poured cup of tea from Wakka.
Everyone, obviously, had their own ideas on what could be considered 'best' for Yuna. But was it really so much to hope and try to avoid her death as being part of the equation? Especially a death caused by exhaustion, dehydration or some equally pathetic condition, simply because they were too scared aka "respectful" to stand up for her? That type of end would undisputedly be considered one of the last things their summoner would want. But it was also inevitably what it would lead to if that tired, skeletal, shell of a woman she had visited the night before dared to attempt any type of heroic gesture in the coming weeks.
They expected it. She could feel the pressure surrounding her group from all sides, even from the Al-Bhed, for something to be done. There was only so long the people of Spira could hang by this thread before it would snap, letting chaos run rampant. Yuna was surely feeling it to, worst of all. What Rikku was most offended by was this unanimous decision of every citizen to simply standby and wait, knowing Yuna will come, thinking, for whatever messed up reason, that only she could save them. Her life was already forfeit, a promised price, the moment she accepted that first Aeon. That's what the people wanted. Not a hero, but a sacrifice. And most definitely not a frail, sick young girl who was unwilling or unable to even try.
It was downright repulsive.
The more she thought about it, the more angry she became, the more she despised them all for just sitting there drinking their damn tea while Yuna was without a doubt racking her brain for a solution, denying the rest her body so sorely needed.
'Do something,' she wanted to insist, her fingers unconsciously squeezing the armrests so hard that she felt the metal begin to bend. 'Do something!' she wanted to scream.
'She'll die! DO SOMETHING OR SHE'S GOING TO DIE! WHY WON'T ANYONE DO SOMETHING?!'
"I…I need some air…"
Rikku jumped out of her chair and headed straight to the stairs, knowing very well that a few more seconds in their presence would have led to yet another inappropriate and fruitless outburst. Not only was she outnumbered, but the strongest proof she had of Yuna desperately desiring a normal life was far from her secret to expose. She could only imagine the look on their faces if she dared to announce that their exemplary, selfless summoner had gone so far as to get married behind their backs, if only for some minute semblance of normalcy during this circus-show of pilgrimage. Proving that none of them knew her half as well as they thought they did.
Rikku smirked in silent victory as she was reminded that she was the only non-directly involved guardian to be kept apprised of the situation. It dulled the pain of Lulu's scolding slightly, almost as much as the violently cool breeze did the moment she finally reached the airship's roof.
A deep breath. In and out. The salt tinged air whistling past her ears like a sort of serene music. Her cares and worries, most notably her anger, suddenly seemed all so pointless. Lulu didn't know anything.
What Yuna wanted, what Yuna needed, was for it all to stop. For it to end, once and for all. And she, as a guardian, could do nothing more but make sure that she received the true finale she deserved; one where she would stand up tall and alive, followed by a world-wide standing ovation for a job well, well done.
"Geez!" Rikku jumped practically ten feet in the air as her perfect peace was oh so randomly interrupted by a nudge to her ankle and the too-casual greeting. She landed with her hands placed over her rapidly beating heart and shot a glare down toward the aluminum flooring.
There sat Tidus, the man the guardians had just spent a good chunk of the morning unsuccessfully searching for. Her expression upon recognizing him then couldn't help but automatically fold into a scowl, cursing the blitzer's wastage of opportunity since it had taken all the tools in her deception box to discourage them from checking in Yuna's room. And yet here he was, not snuggled salaciously with the summoner but strategically slumped behind the roof hatch entrance port, hidden to all those who merely peeked their heads out. Had he not said anything, she may have very well never known he was there and would have continued to freak out every time another of their group recommended visiting their girl. That ungrateful dumbass…
"Jeepers creepers Ti, how long have you been out here?
Tidus scratched at his head, seemingly both disinterested and annoyed. "I dunno Rikku," he let out a long, frustrated sigh. "Like, five hours? Maybe six."
"Oh. Five or six hours huh?" she gave him a none-too-light kick in the thigh, fuming even as his face contorted into an exaggerated wince.
"Ow! What the-"
"You idiot! I just spent the better part of this morning trying to spare the group from walking in on you in several disturbing and compromising positions with my cousin. What gives?"
"I needed to be alone! Since when has that been an offence punishable by beatings?" While giving her an uncharacteristically livid glare, Tidus pushed himself to stand, violently brushing the dirt from his uniform as he did so. Without giving her so much as an apology or even an extended argument, he easily sidestepped around her, moving back towards the airship entrance with a new almost enraged stomp added to his gait.
"Hey! You don't just walk away now. Do you have any idea-"
"NO!" he whipped around to face her them, quickly closing the distance between them in a few steps with a pointed finger in her face, the speed and vehemence of which almost caused her to stumble backwards. "Don't you dare try to make me feel bad for not participating in your secrecy game. I don't care. I never cared. It's all so-soo stupid!"
"I agree! But that doesn't change the fact that they'll kill you the moment-"
"It doesn't matter Rikku!" he interrupted yet again, this time grabbing her by the shoulders. "Nothing matters anymore. We can't stop Sin now. We'll never be able to stop him. So we may as well just sit down, shut up and wait for it to come to its natural dead end."
Though slightly frightened by his physical rage, Rikku abstained from defending her points after recognizing the pure anxiety in his eyes. It was the same way she must have looked when yelling at Lulu those few minutes ago in the cafeteria. He too didn't want Yuna to fight any more. He wanted an ending. He needed one. And the only one available, it seemed, was the gradual degradation of Spira in its entirety.
"I know how you feel Ti," she whispered in an unexpectedly choked-up voice, her hands automatically rising to overlap the ones gripped to her biceps. "We both saw her last night. We both know how tired she is of everything. But that doesn't mean that we can just…give up!"
Tidus scoffed while shaking his head, his hands ripping themselves free of her attempted support. "You have no idea Rikku. You have no idea how…broken she is. How broken I made her." Slowly, he sank down to the floor, plopping himself in the same hidden corner she had found him in with his forehead now resting against his knees. Pensive and quiet once again, two very un-Tidus-like qualities.
Tentatively, the Al-Bhed joined him, remaining respectfully silent despite the burning desire to have him explain and start discussing strategies to deal with the Sin problem. It was an obvious enough deduction that something significant had happened between him and Yuna last night. It must have. For despite their dire circumstances, Tidus had always been the beacon of bubbling optimism within the group. To see him being so…reluctant…it was more than troubling. It was like all the good feelings of happiness and enjoyment had been sucked out of the world, leaving only hopelessness and misery.
Any other time during this entire pilgrimage, she would have loved to kick some sense into him. Maybe, if circumstances were especially dire, she would have put a comforting hand on his shoulder and ensured that everything, somehow, would turn out okay in the end. But she had not one inkling of desire to do either of those things now. They all seemed…too casual, too inappropriate and too meaningless.
And so she sat there across from him, eyes fixed to his lowered head, knowing that the only thing she should do, the only thing she could do, was be there for him the second he needed comfort.
They sat there for a while, maybe five minutes, maybe thirty. He never asked her stay but he was most definitely not asking her to leave. Tidus would always be Tidus, that she knew. No matter how old he became, he would always be masking a sort of insecure little boy that would always desire the comforting presence of others regardless of the circumstances, as was proven soon enough when a long and drawn out sigh finally opened up the channels of communication.
"I'm tired," was the first thing he said, his head rolling sideways on his knees so that the words carried beyond the cave of his lap. "I just want it to stop, ya know? I want to stop hurting. I want to stop hurting her…"
Rikku nodded, pretending to be the involved and supportive friend when really she was just the oblivious accidental witness. She tried to get him to elaborate, more so that she could actually help than to satisfy curiosity. "Yuna's upset," she stated, remembering vividly the glassy and frightened multi-colored eyes that shone from behind that mask of calm when she had left last night. "Not just about the Final Aeon."
"She's had a long and stressful couple of months. And didn't exactly help," Tidus explained, rather unsatisfactorily, while finally raising his head so that their eyes met. Though his were red rimmed and bloodshot, she noticed not one trace of a tear. And yet something in his expression proved that it was probably taking all his willpower to keep an endless fountain of them from erupting. "I just…I hate seeing her like that. So…helpless."
"She's strong." It was the same pretext Lulu had given. The truth, but far from a comforting excuse. "She'll pull through."
"She's human," Tidus countered. "And she's already been through enough to make any normal person go mad. She can't fight anymore. And we'd be wrong to make her."
Another allusion to a circumstance she was unaware of. What was really wrong with Yuna? What horrifying consequence had led to this new palpable despair surrounding Tidus?
She wanted to know, wanted to force it out of him, but it wasn't her place. All that mattered was that they didn't let it break either of them. All that mattered was their still accessible future; happy and Sin-free.
"We'll fight for her then!" Rikku suddenly had to shout, slapping Tidus' knees for support as she jumped back up to her feet. "We'll find a way!"
The blitzer scoffed, still uninspired, his head leaning back on the aluminum wall in order to look up at her with that annoyingly hopeless expression. "We said that last time. We failed."
"Pft. Stop being such as downer Ti. Acting like a rock isn't going to help anyone. Besides," she dared to lean forward, their faces inches apart and he having no space to retreat, green eyes boring into narrowed blue. "Need I remind you that she survived, didn't she? Bask in that glory for a little while won't you? Whatever happened, whatever is happening now, this is our second chance. So get off your ass, grow a pair, and help me figure out a way to make it up to her."
His fist clenched but he said nothing. He was trying to think of a reason to defy her, she saw the cogs turning in his head, looking for a way out, an excuse to continue as is. As his lips opened to finally vocalize his reasons for it being pointless, she reached out and slapped a palm over them. After all, she already knew very well what he was going to say.
Yes, they had failed before. Yes, Yuna was hurting as a result of their perhaps misguided attempts to keep her content. Yes, even wasting the energy trying to think of a solution may be completely futile. Still…
"She deserves an ending." Rikku stated, her voice almost unrecognizable as deep and resonating authority, unable to not capture her friend's full attention. "Help me give her a good one…please."
Slowly she let her fingers trail off his lips, patiently waiting for the message to sink in. After an uncomfortable amount of tireless staring, his eyes began to fall, succumbing to neither her push into action nor his desire to defend. It was the despair that won in the end, taking over all other functions and taming his brain into submissive wallowing. He just wanted to sit there until it was over. Until he disappeared.
After all, what was the point anymore?
From somewhere beyond the wind, her heard Rikku sigh, followed by the clicking steps of her shoes on metal as she headed for the exit. She had given up, he realized with a sort of sadistic chuckle. Welcome to the club.
Life, in whatever definition he had a life, had long since become too much of a hassle, not worth the effort of protecting. And who knows what else he could do to Yuna in an attempt to continue pruning this half-existence? Not that it could get any worse. Not really.
He wondered that if Rikku knew, how would she react? Knowing that Yuna was in this state not because of the emotional stress of the pilgrimage nor the people's crushing expectations, but simply because he had been so reckless, so stupid, having put his personal desires above what she needed in order to consider her life complete.
She had almost died because of him. Technically, a part of her had died because of him. She had said it was because she wasn't eating right, hadn't been sleeping and had traveled too hard. But he knew, somehow, that it was his fault. Regardless of the fact that he should have forced her into taking better care of herself, the heart-wrenching reality remained that he wasn't exactly human. His body was a mere puppet, a mirage of something once real. He probably wouldn't age. He probably couldn't die. He most likely wouldn't be able to…create life. Not real life anyway.
Though trying to decipher the exact biology of it was beyond ridiculous, it was a fair to assume that people required both a body and a soul in order to be born in this world. Yuna's body had, for a while, accepted the physicality of whatever he was. But soon enough, not unexpectedly once consciousness began to develop, her system automatically and violently rejected the notion. For he had no soul. And half a soul was not enough to warrant existence either.
This…horrifying event was the final evidence that as anything he tried to create shouldn't exist, he also shouldn't exist. It was the final nail in the coffin proving that even if he stayed, if they found another way to at least tame Sin so that he could spend the rest of his life trying to make things up to Yuna, they would never have anything close to a normal life. Nature was simply taking its course of taming the unnatural. He couldn't blame it. He also couldn't blame himself completely, for he had had no idea what he was at the time. If he had known, if he had been told just a few weeks earlier…how different things would have been on this very day?
A 'dream' Bahamut had called him.
What a ridiculous title.
If anything, he was more like a nightmare. One that arrived swiftly and suddenly, making its mark by mangling the host's sanity before hopefully, the sooner the better…dissipating. The only thing he could wish for, the only thing he now wanted, was for her to metaphorically wake up and begin to forget.
It was the only way she could ever be truly happy. For him, that was enough.
It had to be enough.
I'm so sorry…
Despite all efforts, in one blink his vision had suddenly become completely obscured by a thick sheen of liquid sorrow.
Hastily, he began wiping the tears away, knowing that if he didn't tame them now they would never stop falling. He wouldn't want them to ever stop. He didn't deserve to see the beauty of the world so clearly, knowing how bleak he had made it for the person he cared most for in all realties.
Jecht was right. He was such a crybaby.
His head popped up to regard Rikku, still hovering near the hatch's threshold, her head pointed to the sky and thankfully oblivious to his blubbering. Or at least pretending to be. He silently thanked her for that, but also cursed her refusal to respect his isolation.
"I thought I made it obvious," he croaked out, no longer caring to hide the audible evidence of the wetness now travelling down both cheeks. "I need to be alone."
"Get over yourself Ti. I'm talking about that," she pointed to the sky which, to him, seemed to be nothing more than an endless stream of puffy white and pink clouds. "Don't you hear it?"
Despite the tumultuous desire he had to stomp off in search of true privacy, he knew that in the cramped quarters of the airship there was not one inch of space that would get any better than this. And so he remained rooted to the spot by sheer lack of options and therefore couldn't help but listen.
Gradually, over the wind and the motor, muffled voices began to surface. It was soft at first, almost indistinguishable from the hum of the engines. But then the pitch changed. Again and again. Until the words poked through the bubble as well. Familiar words.
It was impossible not to recognize the prayer he had been hearing over and over again for the past year. Not to mention the vague memories of his childhood in which he used to hum the very same melody.
"Its the hymn of the Fayth," he clarified, knowing that the song was still muffled enough that an Al Bhed who avoided temples was much less likely to recognize it. "We must be near Bevelle."
"Huh? What makes you say that?"
Tidus shrugged, his head still leaning back on the wall as his eyelids fluttered closed, letting the music wash over him. Somehow, despite the fact that the tears still refused to relent…it was comforting.
"Oh I get it." Again, he heard to clicking of her boots walking forward, this time towards the edge of the roof so that she could get a better acoustical perspective. "The main temple is in Bevelle, right? People are scared, so they gather there. They need hope. Everyone's just…waiting for Yuna."
Tidus nodded, though he wasn't sure if she was even looking at him. The melody was, for whatever reason, having a near narcotic effect on his body. Maybe because it was one of the rare, incorporeal items such as blitzball that linked his world to Spira, reminding him that everything, on even the most molecular level of thought, was still connected.
It was then that it hit him.
The hymn!…Of course…
His eyes shot open.
"GAH!" a hand suddenly appeared on her shoulder from out of nowhere, causing her to whip around with fists raised defensively, tottering on the edge of the airship's un-barricaded terrace. Tidus regarded her with an eyebrows raised smirk as she slowly shifted into a more natural stance while acknowledging that a) it was not an aggressor and b) his gloomy-eyed evil twin seemed to have disappeared. For now at least.
"You do love giving me heart-attacks don'tcha?" she mumbled in an attempt to catch her breath. "Why not just push me off and get it over with?"
Tidus laughed then. Though the reaction was a sharp contrast to his mood not two minutes prior, still, it seemed natural enough. "Would love to, Neggi," she cringed at the name, eyes narrowing maliciously "but then I wouldn't be able to bask in the glory of you bowing down to my brilliance. Ha!"
It was like nothing had changed. Like before he discovered Yuna's fate and was teasing her about her fear of thunder. She acknowledged the transformation with a wide grin, though still punching him in the shoulder to remind him who was boss.
"I take it you have a plan oh bipolar one?"
He nodded, the enthusiastic smile gaining vigor with every passing second. "It's so simple, I can't believe I didn't think of it sooner! This'll fix everything. You get Yuna to the bridge. Carry her if you have to. I'll get the others."
"Wait, wait!" she reached to grab his hand milliseconds before he managed to run off. "Do you know who you're talking to? I'm like eighty pounds with the muscle mass of a flan! You go bring Yuna to the bridge, I'll get the others. Kay?"
Though her request was meant to be an easy one, a simple correction to an oversight, she both felt and saw him tense at the suggestion. It was…unexpected to say the least. Not only because she was so used to him jumping at any chance he had to do as little as fetch a drink for Yuna, but because she had assumed that the plan of his would resolve whatever it was he had been mulling over these past few hours. If it was as "brilliant" as he was implying, if it would ensure the happy ending they both wanted for their summoner, then why didn't he want to share the good news himself, personally?
What did he have to hide…especially from Yuna?
"Ti…?" she asked tentatively, taking a step forward, hand still latched to his wrist. "What's going-"
"I'm fine," he interrupted, violently yanking himself free of her grip and making for the exit. "There's a lot to discuss. We need to get stronger first. Yuna can rest while we train. Just get her there for the planning session, okay?"
"Tidus! Wait! You can't just..."
But he was already gone, her words drowned out by the mechanical whir of the hatch door opening, then slamming shut. She was alone on the airship rooftop, her hand still extended to the place where it had gripped his wrist, feeling once again like every ounce of contentment had been sucked out of the world.
"You're a bad liar…" she whispered to the empty space, not knowing that it was far from the last time those words would follow him.
Beyond the clouds, somewhere in a world that seemed distant and cold, the hymn continued its haunting melody. Enforcing the cruel yet relieving certainty that, one way or another, the end was near.
Author's Note: I am so excited to have nearly completed my first full-fledged fic here on . According to my calculations, there's about three chapters to go (then again, I said that four chapters ago lol).
I know it's a little redundant now since we all already know how it's going to end, but still I hope you're all enjoying the dramatic ride that is my version of the final bits of FFX. I am setting things up for a potential sequel as you can probably tell since many questions about Tidus' "realism" now come into question, especially regarding whether they in fact can have a normal future together after the ending of X2.
Thank you again for all your reviews and support. The more I get, the faster I update of course :D. See you all next chapter!