On a Darkling Plain
AN: A very curious beginning. But stick with it til' the end, eh?

Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing.
There is a time for silence. A time to let go... And a time to
prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.

-- Gloria Naylor

Tidus you're a poopyhead.

A big, fat selfish poopyhead and I hope you know that. I hope that there are big gaping potholes there in the farplane the size of big hairy wendigos, and that you stub your toe on one because you deserve it.

And you better not be laughing where you're watching us from, either. Because when I'm old, wrinkly and pruney-faced, I'm going to kick the bucket one day, skedaddle on over to the farplane to badger you with my cane. I'm going to beat the marbles out of you, and your Caladbolg won't help you cause hell hath no fury like a Rikku miffed beyond all ice-cream Sundae-repair.

You're not here, and you don't know what its like to look around and realize that it's over. It's a scary thing, you know?

You left before the curtain call, when the lights were still blaring and the audience was still caught by the seat of their pants- by the edge of their seat- by the fingers- by the heart- in the whirlwind of our funny little play. The play where we all danced in front of a monster except with swords and claws and dolls and blitzballs and told Sin that we wanted to conk him over the head and live like people again. Maybe to just live.

You weren't supposed to leave before the final bow.

If you'd been there, you'd know that the crowds were screaming, the parties were crazy-big and the sky was glowing with pyreflies and fireworks. There was so much yelling and surefire 'real' laughter- something I haven't heard in forever. I think you would have liked it. Wakka thinks so too.

It was so happy, but there were tears too. The tears, the tears- a flood let loose all at once. Everybody was hugging and kissing and trying to squeeze, and squeeze the heck out of each other until there was nothing left of a thousand years of dying and sleeping soundly and dying and then sleeping soundly again and then watching it happen all over again with more summoners being shot down like … like fish in a barrel or something like that.

See, I think maybe that's what this entire dealy was all about. Sleeping good, and dreaming well.

Now we can slip all snug and warm into our beds at night. We can lie down on sandy shores and sleep away right on the spot being watched by the sea. We can sleep forever because Sin is gone, and our kids would die in a rocking chair, not on a bloody shore.

Everyone was crying because … oh it just makes me all chill-down-the-spine kind-of-excited just to say it, but our kids could grow big. You have no idea how… how just completely awesome that sounds, you know? And Tidus! Tidus, here comes the best part: we could watch it happen. There'd be no more Mom, there'd be no more Auntie, there'd be no more Braska, no more Chappu, no more Keyakku. There'd just be us, our kids and the sea looking all pretty and calm like it should be. Our kids would get big. And we could die first, and not last.

In a bazillion years when Sin doesn't come back and everyone's all soaked in the peace, they wont understand just how amazing that is, but I do. We all do.

… Now that I think about it, the whole idea's just so… so scary in itself, you know? It's a lot to take in all at once. Like trying to stuff as many marshmallows in your mouth as you can when you've been cranky in sugar withdrawal.

But you know (here's the juicy part where I come in with this, 'I'm angry at you bit'), it get's… kinda of old. Not the kids getting big part. The part that comes after is… it's quiet. And when you realize what you've gone and clocked out after the journey, it gets kinda cold.

We were so absorbed in the calm that … we didn't even know there was something wrong with us 'til you jumped off and let the clouds swallow you up, 'til you were all air and sky and nothing at once. Sin was gone and we were all so busy watching the sky just explode into a thousand tiny little stars that we didn't realize that somewhere along the journey, we'd all gone and come apart; we were all scattered all over the floor like someone'd taken a pretty little glass thing and heaved it at the floor as hard as they could.

We were in pieces. We watched you fade away like the dream you never told us you were. And to be honest, nothing'd sank in yet. It was all just one giant lump of emotions, washing over me at once so fast I couldn't breathe.

It was all kind of crazy in my noggin: Auron is dead but he didn't die and sin is gone and Tidus is gone and Sin is gone and the calm the calm and gone, they're all gone and-

… I wish I'd said something better.

Now that I look back on my last words to you, I feel like a doof. I mean, if I'd known beforehand, I would have said, "Let's think and save you like we saved Yunie!" or maybe even when we killed off Sin, "Glad we met and I'll miss you lots."

I was too busy trying to suck in the next breath, I was so excited, that I hadn't realized that when you left us you weren't coming back. I wasn't going to turn around and watch you spring out the door scaring the bejeezus out of me, hollering like a nut, "Just Kidding!"

So what could I say but, "We'll see you again?" like I was going to shove your lazy bum awake again in the morning.

After the parties were done, and the screaming was done, and we all walked our separate ways, it all kinda hit me (like a brick) that it was over. Everything was over. All of a sudden, we looked down at ourselves and found that we weren't 'all there', but we were all in little bitty pieces.

You have no idea how hard it is trying to pick up everyone off the dirty floor. Our pieces are sharp, and tiny, and they cut into the skin, you know? And we pick them up like tired zombies, not really knowing whose is whose and we're all so caught up trying to figure it out what happened when it really hits us that some of these pieces are ours. Some of these pieces aren't Yunie's, they're not Wakka's, they're not Lulu's or Kimahri's – They're Rikku.

Sand dunes, cactuars and holy heck, it's Rikku.

The pilgrimage made us all brittle and sad and too easy to break. Just a touch and clatter, clatter, clatter, we all fall down like loud rainy shards.

If you'd stayed, you would have looked down and seen pieces of Tidus in between the Wakkas and Rikku's, but you're not. So you don't know. And you can't. And it isn't fair.

Wakka says Yunie takes long walks. Lulu'll cook something nice and toasty for her, but she'll shadow away like a thief and be off to the dock (Sometimes it's to wait. Sometimes it's to try to let go. Neither works.) whistling 'til she turns blue in the face. I think the fresh air does her good, 'cause she looks a bit more alive and a little less like a zombie. She doesn't say it, but she likes it when I visit her. I keep trying to get her to come down here to say 'hidey-ho!' (even had Kimahri give it a shot), but whenever I ask her about it, the words kinda die in my throat like a big fatty frog. It's hard, but gimme more time okay? Not all of us are as raring to go as you. Sides, not like we can drop everything and storm Guadosalam's rooty-old gates. Just don't worry, okay? I'm sure she's coming. She just… needs to see the dock again. And have a couple more walks.

She laughs more now, and I think she's starting to wake up bit by bit. Yunie doesn't cry much, but then again, she never really did too easy. I think she's getting better, I really do!

She just… scares me a bit sometimes, cause I think I see a little bit of you in her- something that's there, but shouldn't be. Not on Yunie. It's the part of you that makes you at home here in the Farplane, and not in Spira if you know what I mean.

No one down here seems to have any answers. None of the ones I need, anyway. Maybe being whisked off to the farplane gives you the bright ideas to things you need to know to keep on truckin' ahead. Care to share the wisdom? Cause I'd like to borrow a bit of it in the aftermath. What's it like down here? Eh… Well, it's not pretty.

Most people think Lulu's same as ever, all dark, moody and most-high, but we all know better. The people who matter- we all know better. She seems tired- more tired than she's got a right to be. It's like she's only half there, and the rest of her wilted away, even though me an Wakka are hovering like freaky hawks ready to give her big lovey glomps (which she never asks for). When she gets angry, it's half-hearted like it doesn't feel like it's worth it. But it's always worth it to feel something, you know? I try to tell her that, but she snaps shut like a big ol' clam and tells me to shuffle off. Well maybe not in those words, 'cause she likes havin' me around to perk things up.

And Wakka- He can't stop looking for you.

Sometimes he'll reach out like he's gonna slap someone on the back, and then he just kinda stands there all embarrassed like, cause there's not. I came down to visit Lulu and him once, and in the middle, he half turned to an empty seat. He caught himself before he did anything, but I coulda sworn he was trying to tell you something funny. Some kind of joke that woulda had you two reeling so bad. Me and Lulu weren't laughing.

The team's doin' good. But not as good as you hoped. Wakka keeps shuffling different Aurochs in the Right Forward position. Sometimes he plays it himself. Most of the time he just forgets to fill it.

… Ti, I said you were starting to sound like a leader. Now's the time to prove me right and tell me what to do! Heads, tails, the coin- it's all a big muddy pile of slush in my head. And everybody keeps comin' up to me with their hands up in my face wondering the exact same thing I am: Where do we go from here? I mean, what're we supposed to do, you know? You'd think after we got rid of Sin everything'd fall into place like neato puzzle pieces. But it didn't, and now all we're wondering is how do we pick up and go after all's said and done? For being the heroes smart enough to slap 'resurrection-infection' Sin into submission, we're sure lost now.

How do we tell people what happened?

How do we…

… How do we stomp out the shadows we see at corners of our eyes that look like you and Auron?

We hear you sometimes.

You're footsteps, you're whispers, you're laughter -you're everywhere.

Stop it. Okay?

… I'm smiling as hard as I can (cause everyone needs me to, and even I need me to a lot of the time), but it hurts.

This is getting kind of long, huh? Best wrap it up before Cid or Brother storm in here wondering what ate me. So! If a fatty chunk of the swirling farplane sky falls and bonks you on the head, it'll be what you deserved- and you know it… But thanks for listening. I sure can't listen to myself. I can't tell Auron this 'cause he'd probably crop up here in the Farplane like a psycho jack-in-the-box out of nowhere and glare at me for no reason. A big ol' grumpy Cyclops; He wouldn't say a thing, but somehow he'd make me feel like a goof and when everything's falling apart around you, a goof is the last thing you'd wanna feel like.

Don't look at me like that. It's creepy. Can't you look a little more cheery like you used to?

… Pretty please?

… with a cherry on top?

(Oh, come on you used to like those.)

… No?

Fine.

Then I'll say it fast, I'll say it quick cause better late than never, right?

I miss you. I miss you lots. I'm sorry I hit you when we met, I'm sorry I left those powder bombs in your pack, I'm sorry I got into a fight with you about that Panno pie, I'm sorry I called you names after we both fell in the mud, I'm sorry I told you the ending to the sphere movie, I'm sorry I cursed at you in Al Bhed, I'm sorry I said that the psycho Chocobo was your fault (even if Auron didn't believe me), I'm sorry I grabbed your foot in the Thunderplains.

I'm sorry for everything stupid I did, and everything stupid I never got a chance to do after you hurled yourself off the airship like a psycho and were just... gone.

So there. It was a mouthful, but whoo! It feels good to get that off my chest, you know. Yunie says this kind of inner-forgiveness stuff is healing, like a cup of hot chocolate on a chilly day. One where Auron says, 'Bah. I'll not be a fudgemaster and I'll let us rest at the shop for a whole day.' You should try it sometime, right back at me, cause I'm always willing to lend an ear. Always have been. Even if the you that's here hovering there isn't really -

Tidus?

Are you just my memory staring back at me?

I don't even know you're really here. After all, maybe you're just the pyreflies playing the heartstrings. Maybe you're just a piece of me wanting to see the real Tidus, and you're really faded like Yuna cries in her sleep. Maybe you're not here. Maybe you're not anywhere.

'Memories are nice, but that's all they are.'

Not even the real Tidus, and here I am just kinda rattling away like a kid. I'm such a doof.

But then again, if this is real, and you are good ol' Tidus- then I'm glad you let me chatter, even if it took like, forever. See, here's the kicker. Maybe what you got is good in the Farplane. And maybe it's nicer there than on this side. Maybe you even get free scrambled eggs every morning or something. Spira's still reeling after that whole spiral of death dealy, and people are still a mess.

I'm sure you woulda been a mess too, and that you'd have had your own ghosts chasing after you like fiends in the dark. You would have hurt, and you would have hurt a lot.

But you know … if you'd have stayed, I would've helped pick up your pieces too.