The window square
Whitens and swallows its dull stars. And now you try
Your handful of notes;
The clear vowels rise like balloons.
She is sixteen and alive.
She's happy for the most part, laughing and singing and so incredibly amazed at life that it's easy to breathe – her optimism doesn't let her stay down for long, and what do those rainy days matter, anyway?
If Rikku is honest with herself, it's a little more than true that they do matter, in their own little ways, and it's always the little things – but that's okay, in the end. Sometimes things have a funny way of turning out alright: even if there's rain, the sun always comes out eventually. And even if it doesn't (like in the Thunder Plains, pitter-patter-crash-boom-crying of the Thunder Plains), she knows how to go find it and snatch it up, delighted as a child, and keep hold of it until it's time to let it go and wait for it to come back or go find it again.
So maybe rainy days do matter a little or a lot, but they're pretty in their own way because Rikku likes rain just as much as sunshine and as long as she's happy, the weather is too. It's simple but easy to understand, and it makes her feel better. So what do those rainy days matter, anyway?
When she goes shopping in the gigantic mass of bodies and language and culture and merchandise in the heart of Luca, with sticky fingers and big pockets made to hold lots of stolen goods, maybe it's a question Rikku asks herself more than usual when her spiral green eyes catch a shade of vivid blue from the edge of her vision. Rikku whips her head around and whiplash rockets up her neck like thunder, but there's nothing there except for more shops.
She decides she doesn't need Holy Water for mixing that badly anyway and walks back to her room at the inn. Later, when she is comfortable, warm, happy, she sleeps and dreams of oceans and dark earth.
Rikku's having her own adventures right now.
It's with good reason. After everything went down (and that's how she labels it and stores it away, neat and trim in a box with a lock, only to be looked at during the quiet, during the night, while she's alone and only vulnerable to the memories, to herself), she kept herself as an unannounced self-proclaimed Yuna-guardian. She played the clown and the attention seeker, constantly trying to make the girl-woman smile, constantly trying to keep her spirits up, crawling into her room at night and holding her hand while she cried. But Rikku needs some time for herself, too. She'd do it a million nights in a row anyway, because her love for her cousin is outstripped only by her love for her people, but a familiar voice creeps into her head when she thinks of going back. It reminds her that some personal demons need to be dealt with on their own, and she can understand that. She wishes she could pat Auron on the back for once having such a commanding voice.
She sort of misses him, and she sort of misses Tidus, too, because friends don't always last long and it hurts anyway. She tries to shake it off, and Rikku is traveling to get this restlessness out of her blood so that she can run back to help her people rebuild their lives.
Despite flying solo, a singular songbird always on the go, she contacts her friends often to make sure they know she's fine and dandy – sometimes they all get worried if she's alone too much, but she laughs it off, and that's that.
The plain truth is that she's alone, but she isn't lonely right now. It feels like this need for movement is all the company in the world, be it in the masses of people she doesn't know in the blitzball arena or on the good-natured dirt and green of the empty Mi'ihen Highroad. She suspects she'll grow out of it eventually, but Rikku knows what to do when something like an honest thirst for adventure comes around, and that's to ride it high and higher still until it falls, ram it straight down to the ground and jump off before impact, just like any good thing that comes along her way.
So Rikku is just being Rikku and treasure hunting for fun while she can, sleeping where and when she wants to and having to answer to nobody, going around the world just to be able to make new memories to shadow the old ones - new life, no more death, no more SinSinSin to haunt her like a bad nightmare.
The only place Rikku isn't keen on barreling into is one Guadosalam, knit up of damp earth and moist hush, fairies hiding in the wood. It doesn't have a reason and isn't because of any memories, in the city or in the Farplane or lack thereof, so she shrugs it off with the cool air of late-afternoon Moonflow, where she's spending the night. She sets up her camp as twilight approaches and the sky turns pink.
The pyreflies floating from the Moonlilies soothe her like the Hymn of the Fayth and she watches them, eyes lazy and warm. They whirl into a formation from the corner of her eye - her head snaps around, eyes wide, but nothing is there except the hush of the water, the calm of the air, the swirl of the pyreflies and their song. It cools her head, but when she turns away, a quiet unease branches through her limbs and spears her brain.
When night hits and the moon hangs in the sky like a sleeping portrait, Rikku turns her back to the river but still feels pyrefly eyes pinning into her back like finger-claws, vying for her attention.
She ignores it. After a tense night, she rises with the dawn and throws her few belongings together to move on - she turns to leave with only one look to the river, and finds a hazy, half-formed and utterly relaxed vision of Seymour Guado watching her from above the water, head tilted and blueblue eyes right on her. Rikku blinks and finds only scattered pyreflies to meet her gaze in the early morning sun and starlight.
She runs away.
Rikku is forever in love with the desert that bore her - the sand and sun and warmth created an inherent piece of Rikku, but despite her love for her homeland, Macalania whispers, beckoning, and she follows. The frozen forests and crystals and pools welcome her, and she arrives to breathe deeply and continue walking.
"Hello," Rikku greets, and the butterfly that almost lands on her nose winks at her flitter-flutter. She switches directions to follow it without a thought, the blue wings flashing like hazy memories and clean, fresh water. As she walks along the path of trees, she comes to an almost ethereal figure and slowly stops, butterfly forgotten, with a heart beating in a double-timed rhythm like a little steel drum, bum bum bum tip tap pitter pat.
He leans against a frozen tree, this time with visible feet, one stationed on the ground, the other braced against the bark. His skin is mild blue like the refraction of light from crystals, and his hands dangle loose like water.
She watches him blankly and doesn't know what to think – when Seymour opens his eyes and watches her plainly, Rikku returns the gaze for a long time, and then backs away before turning and walking off, her head screaming runrunrun, her legs unable to understand.
Later, in the safety of her all-too-flimsy tent, Rikku nurses a hot thermos of cocoa when she finds him through the open door flap.
He's quiet, he's unreal. Seymour watches her and his eyes aren't as angry as memory recalls, but that's just memory, and he looks tired - which is funny, because he can't be here. But he opens his hand like a flower and there is only an ordinary palm crossed with honest lines.
When Rikku hesitantly raises her own hand and reaches forward - when her fingers almost brush his palm, so close - he is gone again.
She finishes her drink and zips the tent closed before wrapping herself in a cocoon of blankets with her back to the sky.
Mushroom Rock Road summers are mild in comparison to the dying and breathing red autumn-fall. She prefers it, and falls asleep in the warmth of an open sky under the stars, her tent forgotten and her weapon propped against the pack she uses as a pillow.
In the early morning, the sky still sweetly dark with only traces of light turning the horizon to gold and fire, Rikku stirs a little and looks out through half-lidded eyes at a still silhouette nearby, his face tilted to the sky.
Her throat feels like cotton, like dryness and rusted metal. She tries to speak, fumbled and bleary, because she's suddenly not so afraid of this person anymore.
"What do you want?"
It is whispered and short and sandpaper. He is made of stone until eventually, Seymour looks down with maybe pain on his face, or maybe amusement, or maybe both. The thin, strong sun-rays come closer and closer and he disappears just as the light would have illuminated him fully, and he didn't answer.
Rikku swallows the lump in her throat back down and rolls over to fall asleep again.
The open hotel window has pretty white curtains that Rikku rests next to, breathing in the cool air. Djose cicadas shriek and the wind howls through the rocks, and it's been a restless night. She dreams through the noise, lulled by the sounds, and her bare feet meet damp earth as hazy white pyrefly lanterns light the way.
Guadosalam is as she remembers it, and the steps to the Farplane are the same, too. She walks up them, past the posts and past the point she remembers sitting at a long time ago, across from a man with an apple in her hand and juice dribbling down her face. She realizes in muted horror how close the Farplane is and getting closer, how big it is - she ascends slowly, a dirge, something pulling her in by thick imaginary ropes-
And the presence sitting in the chair beside her makes the hairs on the back of her neck prickle and her arms tingle, and for a moment her heart stills.
Rikku cracks open her eyes.
"What do you want?"
He's leaning forward with his elbows resting on his thighs, hands clasped in front of his chin. His face is tired and his eyes are blue and he is nine, he is ninety. He is nearly transparent, but the yellow glow from the lights outside of the agency's window turn him vibrant, a fairytale woodland elf.
He slowly unlatches his hands and holds one up again with nothing but an open palm and quiet eyes. No danger, because he isn't real, because his hand is only lines and pale skin.
Rikku leans forward and lifts her hand, but she hesitates. He tilts his head to the side dispassionately. He says nothing, but she feels like he's full of something, like he's screaming it out with everything except his voice. There's something there that she can't place, and it makes her swallow thickly and her hand feels dirty and weak as she lifts it.
He disappears instead, and the Farplane invades her vision again. As she reaches to step inside, her vision goes black and the sudden sunshine in her eyes is real, warm, safe.
Rikku stays in the light for a time and finds that her skin is warm, but her insides still curl as a wicked chill eats into her when her eyes close for too long.
Visiting the island of Besaid is a great change of pace. She's surprised to find that she sorely misses her friends.
Rikku hitches a ride on a ship, hiding in the cargo to avoid payment because she's a cheapskate, and she lands on the beach to find them. It doesn't take very long: Yuna squeezes her tightly, kissing her cheeks, and pulls her along to greet Lulu, Wakka and Kimahri. Wakka pulls her into a brotherly headlock as Lulu smiles, lips pretty and violet, and Kimahri rumbles with laughter in his chest. Rikku decides to stay for a week because they are them and Besaid is quiet and unchanging, and she cannot help but love it all.
Besaid is so small that sometimes, Rikku feels like she could just pick it up and cradle the warmth of the island in her hands. The whole place has this sort of glowing happiness that flows its way through her skin to rest next to the pieces of her friends she keeps close to herself.
Later, sprawled messily across the ground, soft sand sifting in between her toes in grimy goodness and Yuna next to her, Rikku asks if people can leave the Farplane.
Yuna is genuinely surprised by the question, and dammit, Rikku knows that it's too soon, too soon, because her cousin's boy is either dead or not existing at all and they're both equally terrifying ideas. Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet, but the Al Bhed is proud when Yuna masters herself and handles it well.
After a few moments of quiet and smiling and frowning and toe wiggling, the girl says that it would be very, very hard for anyone to leave the Farplane.
"Those with unfinished business, with business that… isn't very pleasant," Yuna says softly, "such as Maester Jyscal, who wanted revenge on his son, those sorts of people can't make it very far away at all after entering the Farplane. Do you remember how much he staggered, how hard it was for just a few steps?"
Rikku nods, eyes on the rolling waves.
"But… for other reasons, pleasant reasons… I don't know," Yuna admits. "If it were anything like that, they probably wouldn't leave the Farplane in the first place. Unless… they were very good at manipulating things like pyreflies," she pauses, searching her head, searching the sea. "If it were important enough, perhaps they could find a way out."
Yuna asks why Rikku would want to know. Rikku opens her mouth because if anyone would understand, it's Yuna, but a chilled ocean breeze swipes past her arms and sends a shock of goosebumps all across her, everywhere, pyrefly eyes and claws on her skin.
She shrugs and murmurs something along the lines of curiosity. Rikku jumps up and dances the chill off, declaring her decision to spend time with Kimahri before he leaves for Mount Gagazet again to help his own few people rebuild their lives. He stays in Besaid now because he loves Yuna and it's his unspoken job to make sure she's safe, always. Rikku has always been charmed by Kimahri's loyalty to both a man he never really knew and a girl he knows so well.
Ronso are loyal as Al Bhed are radical or Guado are mysterious and natural, like a people of wood and hidden, smiling secrets and this brings her back full circle – days later, Rikku sits on a little cot between Yuna and Lulu's bed in their empty tent-house, fiddling with her claw. The two women in question are off on an errand. She breathes in the silence with her tools spread around her, concentrating until blue flashes through her mind, and then across her vision and she yelps, startled.
Kimahri says nothing as Rikku apologizes, she just didn't see him. He waits patiently.
"Rikku seem distracted," he finally offers once she closes her mouth.
Yeah. She kind of knows what he means. "I guess," she says, and then, "hey, have you… you remember Seymour?"
He nods after a moment, waiting for an elaboration.
She opens her mouth but sees wild blue hair and tattooed flesh from the corner of her eye and falters, never daring to move her gaze to find what she suspects is waiting behind her friend.
"Just wondering." Kimahri is neither satisfied nor dissatisfied, but nods and reminds her that Rikku is Rikku in a much appreciated dose of sanity she finds herself clinging to.
He brushes past an empty space of nothing on his way out.
The honest ticket that allows her to board the ship from Besaid crinkles in her hands, and the wooden boards creak under her feet. Rikku almost feels like she's leaving something behind, but blueblueblue is still everywhere and she clutches the paper tighter.
Luzzu is on the same boat. There he is, red-haired Luzzu, Luzzu who once had an eager friend, his naïve young friend following him back - way back then - but Gatta didn't make it and Luzzu is alone against the horizon and the water, everything blueblueblue. She smiles and waves, and he nods at her, nothing to be said. He is haunted by the ghosts of his past and the familiarity makes her uncomfortable, so she slips into her tiny rented room.
She sits on the cabin bed with legs criss-cross applesauce like days of childhood gone long ago, and tinkers with an old bracer she found in her pack a while ago. Rikku enjoys playing around with an armor that will never be used again. It's a depressing thought, nevertheless, because armor is meant to be used, not forgotten, sort of like memories are meant to be kept close in the same way.
Afternoon turns to twilight turns to evening and there is nothing else in the world except for Rikku, her tools, the bracer, and the presence in front of her. She knows because her skin prickles, and after a moment she slides the tools and bracer from her lap and looks up.
Bright blues eyes watch her intently, up close and right in front of her, and her heart jolts as her body freezes. Rikku relaxes again, but her heart beats fast and his knees are a hair away from touching hers, criss-cross applesauce, childhood long gone. His back is straight with his hands resting on his kneecaps, with his head held high and his lashes long and his eyes looking down. this, He looks poised, graceful, elegant, like porcelain on the top shelf that will never, ever crack or maybe is already broken to little bits here and there—
Calmly, neutrally, stilling her mildly trembling hand, Rikku takes a small sip of breath and meets his gaze with her own head high.
He holds up his hand. Once again there are only honest lines, and this time she doesn't hesitate to reach out. Her fingertips brush his palm and he is there, tangible and soft. Rikku can't decide if she expected it or not. She's learned not to ask, and only offers,
His large hand closes around hers like wool. He watches her hand, his hand, their hands, transfixed, as if he's never felt it before - or maybe it's the sensation of feeling again - she can't tell, and doesn't think on it very hard because her head has turned to water, blueblueblue everywhere, all over her and him like life is a bubble.
"You should be resting," she finally tells him. She watches him enjoy the feel of skin on skin, which sends a burn across her chest and stomach which has nothing to do with touch, makes her feel sorry even if there shouldn't be a reason to be sorry but there is, and maybe that's what's worst of any of it. His face is quiet and hair wild and hands icy, and his eyes are glass as they turn to her.
In response, he leans forward and presses his cold lips to hers.
And then she wakes up to a cold room on frozen blankets, to icy fingers and icier lips that she's sure are turning blue, to an empty indentation across from her on the bed.
Rikku misses the Hymn of the Fayth sometimes.
She remembers the first time she heard it, sticky and ten years old. She remembers hearing it flow through her and make her feel like something new – like something other than her, something infinitely better than her, but never anything different than Rikku. The hymn is a wonder of life she misses.
And it isn't a dead melody. She's heard children singing it, she's heard men humming it or women crooning it to their toddlers, and Rikku finds it in her throat more times than she can count. But the Fayth singing it is different – it's what makes the hymn different. The fact that the Fayth are free to sleep dreamlessly is bittersweet.
When she finds the Farplane stretching out before her eyes, an invisible string pulling her towards it, she is surprised and almost elated to find the voice of a Fayth.
Yet it does not warm her.
The cold stone seeps from the floor into her body and numbs her instead. As she draws closer to the entrance, Rikku knows what to expect and is not disappointed as the world falls apart around her and she wakes.
His eyes remind her of Macalania's frozen pools, Baaj's thundering waves. Seymour kneels beside her with his hands pressed to the earth on either side of her as the dawn rises, the little bits of sunlight being frozen by him because he's blueblueblue, and her hands and lips are always cold now.
"What do you want?"
Rikku understands now that he is different than who he was, but she does not understand what he wants, and Rikku has never been one to sit in the dark without kicking at walls and screaming.
His hands curl into fists beside her. He wrenches the beads of his necklace out from where they are tucked into his sash, and they fall on her belly. He straightens and his hands reach for the end of the long string of cylinder beads, where a small golden orb rests. He twists it off with a snarl that makes her heart start pounding in doubletime thump thump thump, because this is him from her memories again and it's frightening to watch.
He stops and softens, and she wonders if he's ashamed. Long, pale fingers dance to her hand to open it up, drop the bead down, close her fingers with rough, unsmooth hands of his own and he holds hers for a long time before she moves to sit up, and he is gone.
Rikku dreams and dreams for weeks, every night, anticipating and afraid, and knowing where he wants her but not wanting to go. The stone floors and the damp air and the chill inside and out make her tired, though, and she decides to suck it up one day and walks to Guadosalam. Her shoulders are set firm, and a drop of gold rests in her pocket.
She hears the beat in her head and her toes, pulsing through her body like numbness and chill and fire, all at the same time. The woman's voice pulls her along.
It feels tribal. Low, for a woman's voice, strong. It's nearly a guttural sound, jarring and beautiful and frightening and sad, a lightning bolt to her brain – it is unsettling and shakes her to the core.
And this time, as she ascends the steps to the Farplane, the world doesn't fade away. It becomes painfully clearer as the singing continues, and she's sure that it's just in her head even if it seems to reverberate around everything and anything, the gates coming closer and closer as the weight in her pocket becomes lighter or heavier, she can't tell—
And there she is.
The Farplane, she breathes, but nothing comes out with the song pulsing through her blood, boiling.
She has never been here before, and she understands why she heard Lulu once say it is beautiful and terrible. There are waterfalls and orange-tinted cotton clouds, pyreflies drifting everywhere like dandelion fluff with golden skies and there – there in the distance, hanging silently like a sentinel in the blackened upwards smoke, there is the moon.
She walks towards the edge of the platform made of brown earth and sturdy rock. Rikku feels something reach out from her chest that crawls up her throat, and she raises her hand to show an open palm.
There is only the breeze, the whistle of the calm air and the rush of the waters below and the drift of the clouds and her, her with her open palm and her other hand fingering a little golden bead.
Rikku is new to this. She's heard that if you think of someone, however, they appear, and this makes her refuses to let herself think of (fiends – Sin – sickness – machina malfunctions, too many to count – operation Mi'ihen, oh, sweet machina, operation Mi'ihen) - think - because that is almost like disgracing them to make fake ones here, spitting on memories and dropping them in the sand - so she thinks of blue instead and her mouth opens to form the words blueblueblue, over and over, Rikku the mockingbird.
And the hymn is on her tongue up her throat out her lips and she sees a woman—
She looks so real but she half-flickers, not all there with earth colored hair raked back from her forehead, pale lovely forehead, and dark brown eyes matching a pretty purple dress. Her feet aren't visible because her torso fades down to nothing past her thighs, half-flickering and not all there with a necklace of golden drops and so beautiful.
Rikku fingers the gold drop in her sweaty palm, and the woman is singing.
Rikku trembles and shakes and shivers. She steps forward blindly with her hand open with the golden drop in her other one and then the woman flickers one last time and vanishes and he is there instead, he is there, with blue blue eyes and veins on his forehead and vivid hair and half-flickering, too, almost violently and even worse than the woman as if he is barely there at all, and he is knitted up with pyreflies and she steps off the edge as he leans forward—
And air is everywhere air is nowhere air is around her and pyreflies, lots of them and a broad veined forehead resting against hers and water pools staring into her green swirls and cold is everywhere on her because he needs to feel because he's flickering and isn't dead yet and her lips and face are cold again as he passes through her
and when Rikku opens her eyes she is standing outside of Guadosalam
and what's funny is that she doesn't even think she closed them in the first place. She staggers and gropes for the ground, vision spotty, and feels like she might vomit until she finds a bench and pulls herself up.
The silent city sleeps at midnight and she clings to the silence, brain throbbing. Something ghosts along her hand, leaving ice, and she watches him watch her with tide pool eyes.
He is not a gentle man, and maybe that's alright. He's made of ice and metal and nails overlapping each other and criss-crossing like a jumbled mess of hurt, and he's tougher than steel and fragile, too, and she has no idea what she's supposed to do now, because days have bled into weeks have bled into months, less than two, but he's tough and fragile and not gentle at all.
And she can only weep without tears and sit with him.
It's the contact.
It's the skin against skin that he craves, the feeling that somebody is there, she knows.
He likes it best when she is still and warm. His hands hold hers and he touches her to feel skin – his is cold, but she's getting used to it.
Sometimes he lies down next to her and delicately places his head over her heart to listen to the pulse, cold water flooding her veins. His watery form rests against her all-too tangible one like a child, like a man, each cool breath dancing like breezy mist onto her skin and retreating, his long pale fingers running against her cheeks and stringing through her hair as if he's never felt anything before.
Sometimes he watches her but doesn't touch. Rikku can't count how often she turns around to see him following her like a lost little boy or she wakes to see him close but never touching, never touching – and then she blinks and he is gone. It's disconcerting and unsettling. Rikku notices that her skin is paler, that her eyes are circled, that her weight is dropping, but she feels at ease and she can't help it.
It rains in Luca.
Rikku curls up like a cat in a chair beside a hotel window, leaning against the cool glass with her eyes closed. When she opens them he is sitting on her bed, looking past her at the rain silently. She nods towards him and his gaze doesn't move until after he closes his eyes. When he opens them, Rikku feels his eyes. She stays focused on the window.
"I wonder what you want from me," she whispers. There is the telltale rustle of not-there cloth and she still doesn't move her eyes. Rikku feels an airy weight against her knobby and unbeautiful knees where Seymour rests his head, antlers mildly scraping her thighs, and he closes his eyes as one claw lightly traces a childish circle on her calve.
The rain patters tip tap tip tap against the window and he says nothing.
Rikku shifts and pulls the golden drop from her pocket. It is bright, it is dark, and she wants to swallow it up like ice, like a pyrefly, like a butterfly with red wings, wants to throw it into the ocean, off a cliff into the sky, wants to run away and never, ever turn back.
"Seymour." He jerks a little as she holds it in her open palm. He settles once more, lightly touching her hand to close it back up, resting his head back on her skinny knees.
His voice climbs out of his throat.
It's strange to hear. It feels like all of the anger and strength and malice has been pulled out, sapped away like maple from a tree to pour on blueberry pancakes her mother used to make, and he breathes heavily like each is his last. His hand tightens on hers and he presses his veined forehead to her legs, and she can only awkwardly rest her hands on his head like a blind healer in the sea that he's reaching up from.
And he says it again, and again. And he repeats it over and over, and sometimes it's very long, sometimes it's very short and he says it again and again and again, I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry - like a chant that means more than or is more important than breathing - again and again and again soft and loud and angry and unhappy and quiet and gasping and shuddering and heaving, as if he is allowed only one tantrum in the world and he has saved up for this to let everything out like smashing a bottle, his fingernails piercing into the flesh of her leg, and she doesn't know what to think and only waits.
The hurricane dwindles. He says nothing afterwards, with his head pressed to her, one hand lying limply beside him with the other loosely holding hers. He presses himself against her and hides from the world, and she can only try to understand.
It makes her lonely.
Rikku isn't a lonely person by nature. She loves people, she loves talking to them and watching them and interacting with them. Still, she can handle her own by herself, she's fine on her own - but days fade into dreams fade into mornings fade into visions turn to nothing and it's lonely, and Rikku feels colder lately.
When Rikku stops by a travel agency and sees Rin, she almost trips in her rush to hug him. Bewildered, he returns it, patting her back, and he asks if she wants a lift to where Cid is, or perhaps Besaid. He knows something is different, and she sees it in his eyes so much like hers, but she shakes her head and rents a room instead.
Plainly, she's still in the dark and kicking at those walls and screaming. Rikku knows exactly why Seymour should be sorry but doesn't know why he is, and to shake it off she jumps out the agency door and runs and runs and runs, with her pack jangling on her back and her legs incredibly sore – Rikku runs until she rockets into the heart of the Calm Lands, into the afternoon with the sun shooting through her skin to warm her bones. She runs until she soars onto the grassy plains forever green, straight up to a traveling stop where she only pauses to swing her leg over the side of a vacant skimmer, breathing hard and fast and jamming a bright turquoise hairpin into the ignition to go.
The air whips her face and the freshness of the grass, the neverending sky, everything makes her feel again. It makes her feel good, and she breathes in as deep as her lungs will hold until it's painful, but it feels good, and she is alive.
And she always has been. After riding the machine at a breakneck speed for what feels like hours, this is the thought that breaks her euphoria. Contemplation slows the machine down to a stop and she pushes out air and sucks it back in again, leaning down to rest her head lightly against her hands that grip the handlebars.
Another set of hands grip her loosely around the waist and they've either just appeared or have been there for a time. Rikku relaxes as her skin cools, as her breathing evens out, as she feels his head from behind nestle between down her neck and shoulderblades to breathe in deeply.
And he says it again. His cool breath flushes past her skin like spearmint, and this time it's much less like his dying breath and much more like his first as his clawed fingers hold her tighter.
One of her hands finds itself clutching to his around her stomach, so tiny in comparison, like baby's breath against a sunflower, and Seymour's other hand quietly clasps around hers, so large. Everything stops.
They still breathe as grass moves, the wind swirls, the cicadas hum one steady lull in the distance, but everything has stopped moving as something pours out of both of them like sickly sweet honey and blood, and the dying afternoon sun does not touch them. They breathe together and nothing moves, nothing sounds, and there is no nothing at the moment and she finds that indescribably beautiful.
It's an understanding. Life starts again, slow and easy as if it never stopped, and they both straigthen out. Seymour's breath tickles the back of her neck and he guides her hand to her pocket; Rikku slips the little golden bead out and he opens her hand and tells her, "I think I'm ready now." He clutches her a little tighter as if he's trying to melt into her or melt her into him, because she knows he's incredibly lonely and always has been, and she can only hold his hands with her own – still small, still a little like a child's – and try to understand.
And maybe she understands a little better than she thinks she would, because she knows a little something about losing mothers, but at least she had her pieces of broken family to pick her up again. She wonders if he ever really got up.
He lifts up a hand to pass over her eyes. As warmth coils back to the spot he moved from, Rikku sees sun-dried red illuminated by light on the water of the ocean in the lines of his hand. Rikku sees with something reaching out from her chest and she can feel it, and then his hand returns to her waist and the ocean is gone.
He cradles her hand with both of his, and she watches the little light in their hands until a quilt of stars replaces the twilight sunrays.
She feels better.
"I think I'm ready now," he repeats. She hears him breathe in deeply, and the arms around her waist aren't quite as cold as they once were.
She slips the bead into her pocket. "Yeah."
The skimmer springs to life as she revs the engine and whips around, setting another fast-paced speed that makes her grin wide and loud, letting loose a delighted shout that echoes to the sky - and she hears real, honest laughter erupt behind her that might've just been the wind, because she is alone when she pulls into the agency. She kills the motor and flops onto the ground exhausted, but warmer.
Rikku sits on the moon and splashes the stars as she stands in the shallow water of the ocean. It's still water, and there is one lone ripple to meet hers that disrupts the water-sky. She knows what he wants now and braces herself.
"You owe me," she says suddenly, and cold hands hold her face. They're so cold and so large against her cheeks, with claws that could rake her skin red in a second. But he won't, and she can see that. He has vibrant blueblueblue eyes the color of sky and water. His blue veined forehead, pale and icy, brushes against hers, and she feels his strained smile.
Rikku thinks of the woman with the pale lovely forehead with a violet dress and a necklace of golden drops just like the one in her pocket, and he needs rest and the woman needs rest, and Rikku understands.
Not fully, and she supposes that's okay. And she knows that she probably never will, and that's okay, too. She stands in the ocean, and the water moves like a lullaby for little girls and little boys, like a lullaby for big girls and big boys who really aren't so big on the inside.
Seymour holds Rikku tightly for a moment, and he's trying to feel so hard with every single pyrefly knitting him up, she knows. He relaxes, his thumb carefully brushing her cheek carefully, so carefully (and he is healing, she thinks, she knows, she might possibly understand).
"You ready?" she finally asks, and she isn't completely sure if she's asking him or her, or maybe both, and she doesn't really know what exactly she feels about these whole few months (and she guesses that that's okay, too).
His hands fall until he is only grasping one of her hands. Rikku plucks out that little drop of gold as the world around them is still and golden and red mixed into watercolor blues on one gigantic, open canvas of pastel sky, and they walk forward together.
The building has fallen apart, even worse than the last time she hazily remembers visiting. But it's also nicer in a way, because there is no roof and the sun is on her on him on everything and everywhere, sun-dried clay seeping through her feet to warm her core. The pyreflies start pulling together towards the middle of the room and RIkku suddenly realizes that the woman - the fayth - Anima - has been singing in her head all along and sings now, too. She has the saddest smile Rikku has ever seen, and it strikes her with an intense longing for her own mother that dries her mouth, prickles her eyes, thumps her heart and stills it when their eyes meet. Her eyes are the color of the sky.
Seymour walks to his mother and they face each other.
She's still smiling.
And then he does, too, a very small one, but it is the most beautiful and genuine thing Rikku thinks she's ever seen. The fayth seems so content as her lips curve up even more and she exhales deeply as if she had been holding all the breath in the world, and then something clinks onto the hard ground and there are pyreflies, only pyreflies and Seymour as his head raises and he breathes that big breath in, turning to Rikku after another long moment as the pyreflies swirl around their heads.
He watches something on the ground with a tilted head and dark, lowered lashes as Rikku quietly approaches, and she turns to look and sees one lone golden little bead sitting on the sun-baked stone in front of them. Seymour looks at her and Rikku understands what to do, even if she doesn't understand why at all, and that's okay, so she scoops it up and holds both in her palm of honest lines just like him.
Seymour takes her empty hand and leads her to the sea as the pyreflies float above them like a dream, everywhere and anywhere and soft like snowfall as the sunlight illuminating the sea and the broken buildings reflect off of them, too.
Rikku crouches in front of the water with Seymour behind her and sets both little lights to drift. They swirl around each other, feeling like something so infinitely good in the sun and the warmth and the sea, and they never sink and never fall off course but they just continue, farther and farther until Rikku cannot see them anymore in the glint of the sunlight on the water.
And then something picks her up and twirls her around, and Seymour pulls her close one last time to feel, because he seems so taken with the sensation and her arms wrap around him and their foreheads and noses brush and his eyelashes catch hers and she sees the most vivid, vibrant and most amazing blue Rikku thinks she ever has and ever will see until he begins to fade. And he does fade this time, never gone in only a moment but breaking off as lights and smiling, swirling up to the pyreflies overhead, and they all disappear together to go home.
And then Rikku wakes up lying neatly on the beach in the shade of a building.
It is midday, and the most content, warm feeling in the world has settled over her. She hears something in the distance, and eases herself up to find her father and brother coming to her, her brother laughing as her father shouts something that she can't quite hear. She idly thinks that it probably has something to do with the stolen skimmer, but she still smiles as the sun beats down on the earth and reminds her that she is alive.
She knows that he'll be fine. He is fine.
Rikku stands and walks into the sunlight.
This was an interesting one to write - years later, I'm still wondering what it means.