When I first opened my eyes to see the purple and pink skies of Hollow Bastion, I couldn't remember much.
I could remember Yuna and Paine.
I could remember that I loved Yunie, and she was amazing, and she was my cousin, and I would do anything for her.
I could remember that I loved Paine, but in a different way, like she was related to me, but she wasn't, but she was still super cool and kind of still scared me.
I could remember that I was Rikku Cidolphus, super awesome thief extraordinaire who loved treasure hunting, and chocolate, and swimming, and the sky, and sand. Especially sand, but I didn't know why.
I could remember that I hated monks, and brussel sprouts, and the cold, and people who acted like they had sticks up their you-know-wheres. And I hated some tick looking icky bug thing with a white mark on its back, but I couldn't remember why, or what it was.
When I sat up that day at Hollow Bastion and saw that Yuna and Paine were doing the same next to me, I told them all that.
Paine kind of grunted, which I remembered she used to do a lot, and then said she remembered Yuna, and me (who could forget me), and that she was a treasure hunter, and she was a lot happier now than she used to be, but she couldn't remember why.
Yuna nodded all pretty and polite like, which I remembered she always did, and said that she remembered Paine, and her cousin Rikku (yay!), and that she used to treasure hunt a lot, but not much anymore because she had stopped, but she couldn't remember why.
All these things, when they said them, seemed to spark little images in my head, and made me remember more, little things, but slow and inky like. Like fiends made of pudding, dragging and slower than molasses. Really hard to drag out of my pretty little head.
Yuna and Paine said that what I said reminded them of small things too, but they were foggy and difficult to get out.
We all agreed we were treasure hunters, and would treasure hunt here, wherever we were, together. And together, we would remember everything.
On a Tuesday, after that whole incident where we realized Maleficent was just a lame-o and we could do sooo much better, we were talking to Yuffie and Aerith was showing us around their little cozy cottage-shack hideout thing, when I saw the computer in there.
And a few images of a stupid sibling and a stubborn father and a beautiful, wonderful airship immediately floated to the tip top of my mind.
When I started zooming around the room excitedly, swinging a confused Yunie around and round, laughing and pointing at the computer where a blonde grump was banging away, wonderfully banging away like my father or brother… Brother!… "Brother!"
Yunie's eyes lit up, and I knew she could see that dufus boy in her memories. Then she swung her head to look at the computer again, and her brow creased as she tried to remember…
All I could remember after Machina was sand. I kept trying and trying, so hard, to remember where I lived, what it was like, but all that came up was sand.
And that was okay. I like sand. I love sand.
Yuna said sand made her think of green, swirly eyes.
That made me think of a different language.
Paine said that made her think of someone named Gippal.
All that made me think of was an eye patch and the word 'pervert,' so I decided that Gippal wasn't worth remembering anything more of.
After that none of us could remember anything else, no matter how hard we concentrated. Some days it was like that, when we took treasure hunting breaks or Hallow Bastion Restoration breaks to try to remember things. We'd think, and think, and think, but… nothing. It really made me mad sometimes.
I think it made Yuna really sad sometimes, but when I asked she said it was nothing. Paine remained stoic, but sometimes when I peeked at her when we were supposed to be concentrating, she seemed to be concentrating the hardest. Like, screw up her face, look like she was about to cry type concentrating. That Paine, she's really emotional and fluffy and like a big marshmallow on the inside, but she hides it because if she didn't her image would be ruined or something. At least, that's what I think, and I'm usually (ALWAYS) right.
Other days, just looking at the sun with my eyes squinted made me remember things. Then I would tell Yunie and Paine, and then they would remember things, and it would go on like that, in a chain.
I told that to the boy once. That Sora kid. It was after he asked us Gullwings what we were, if we were fairies from some place called Neverland (I don't get the name either, it makes no sense. Do they never get what they want? Do they never land? Heh heh heh, I'm so funny… oh, right.)
Anyways. After Yunie explained it all eloquent and awesome-like (with the stupendously-ironed-minded-me filling in the small bits she forgot, of course), Sora called it a chain of memories. That something like what happened, or was happening, to us had happened to him. He said someone else realigned his memories for him, but since we didn't know anyone who could do that, he recommended traveling.
That was good advice to me, but we decided to hang around Hallow Bastion a bit more. We remembered new things all the time there, even if they were small, and sometimes just things like Chocobos or a travel agency. You know what, I think Yunie still felt bad about siding with Maleficent, and felt we hadn't yet repaid the damage the restoration committee didn't know we had done before we went to their side. Yeah, we were not very nice right after we found our selves on this world.
(And I think Paine had a crush on Leon. I mean, they're practically the exact same. Black leather and broody looks and belts and 'I can kill you with a look' and whatever. The same. Just you know… Paine's an innie and Leon's… you know, you know what I'm talking about, I don't need to explain it.)
We told Sora that maybe we would travel around with him some time. He said okay and hung out with us a bit while Yuna sat on his shoulder and braided a bead into his hair and Paine looked at his armor and I stole his elixir right from under his nose. Hey, I was getting out of practice, and stealing Cid's straw wasn't much fun anymore.
He left to find his silver haired friend and Yuna said that he reminded her of someone really important to her. When she tried to remember more, she couldn't.
I told her it was okay.
I don't think she was okay.
On a Tuesday, I remembered my birthday and the Guado.
On a Friday, Paine remembered spheres, but not what we did with them.
On a Wednesday, Yuna remembered Blitz ball.
On a Monday, Paine remembered Shuyin.
On a Thursday, I remembered that we used to be bigger. The same size as all the people around us.
On a Saturday as the sun went down and I pointed out the orange sky, Yuna remembered Wakka. Then she remembered Lulu. Paine could remember them, but I only remembered Wakka and his crazy rooster-tail hair. When I couldn't remember the second one, Yuna tried to explain everything about her to get me to remember.
She was stoic, but kind. She had a cute baby named Vidina. She used dolls to attack and perform amazing feats of black magic. Lulu had black hair, red eyes, and a face more beautiful than Venus herself.
I still couldn't remember.
Then Paine leaned over and stared me down with her red eyes and said, "She had boobs bigger than Wakka's blitzballs."
My eyes grew big, and I remembered.
Well, first I remembered Lulu, and then I remembered that ache I always got when I saw her boobs then looked down at my own un-ample chest.
Heck yeah, I remembered.
We remembered less and less everyday. It was harder to remember too. We were still remembering, but not as much.
Sometimes we talked about it, and sometimes we didn't.
Paine wondered how we became so small. Neither Yuna nor I nor anyone in Hollow Bastion could come up with a definite answer. Aerith said there had to be a reason, and she would think about it. Yuna looked so hopeful at that.
She always looked down those days, even though she tried to hide it.
Paine did too, in her eyes.
Aerith had to think of something.
One day, when I came back from shopping with Tifa and Aerith, I found Paine and Yuna sitting on the floor, Yunie crying. Of course, I dropped the bag of bread and milk I had and rushed over, ignoring Cid's yelling when the milk spilled. Hey, my cousin is much more important than stupid icky milk. Mean old man. He needs to shut up and drink his stupid tea.
She didn't have any boo-boos or anything when I checked her over and Paine wouldn't bully her or poke her like she did to that shop keeper that one time he blamed me for his missing ethers (which I did NOT take… I took his hi-potions), so I just patted her head until she was ready to talk to me. Patience existed rarely with me, but it was always there for my Yunie.
Finally she looked up, and with a sniffle, she gave a small smile. It was a smile I didn't think I had seen in a long time, a painful smile that used to have to do with hopelessness and some inevitable doom that she was saved from.
Yuna said she finally remembered the most important thing to her. A boy.
A boy named Tidus.
It washed over me suddenly, no work or hesitation at all for these memories. Too loud boy, screechy voice, but so much fun, a big heart, like a brother to me, like a twin… me and someone else peeking from behind bushes at Yunie and the boy making out by a lake, such a beautiful lake, so sad because Yunie was going to die…. Yunie on the beach, grasping and hugging at the newly alive boy, the dream boy, her love that she had spent so many sad, long nights crying over… when he had disappeared… but not just he disappeared, it was Tidus and the other man-
Paine, Rikku, Aerith, and Cid were bent over me, all with concerned faces. Well, except Cid. He was probably still mad about the milk. Jerk-puss.
"Hey, how'd you all get up there?" Then I realized I had fallen over. Slightly embarrassed, and pouting at the small smirk that had snuck onto Cid's face. I muttered, "It was a lot of memories…"
Turning to Yunie, I reached up and patted her cheek. "I remember him too."
Her eyes were still wet, but she nodded and smiled that sad, sad smile, this time not of the inevitable, but one of…
We needed to find our people. I needed to. For Yuna.
The next time Sora came by Hallow Bastion to check on the committee, we left with him.
There were all kinds of worlds we went to, a world full of lions and the jungle where Sora turned into a lion too but we stayed ourselves, and a world of dragons and a great strange castle, and so sooo many worlds with princesses.
Those were the worlds I got in trouble in the most. Hey, it's not my fault that castles with princesses are full of unused treasure out the chocobo wazoo. And it's not my fault that it's lonely and calls out 'RIIIIKKU, RIIIIKKU, COME SAVE US FROM THESE STUFFY OLD PEOPLE!'
It's just not my fault.
Then there was the world where our clothes did change so we had our black mage clothes on, and I was creeped out because there was a talking skeleton and other ugly, oozing, or transparent creatures.
The skeleton later sang at us.
And Paine had looked so at home until that point. Yuna laughed her butt off at Paine's facial reaction, and I decided that world wasn't so bad.
We remembered almost nothing on those trips. Well, not nothing, but nothing big. Just teeny tiny bits, like how Mt. Gagazet looked (and I froze my butt there) or how we fought Machina at Macalania Lake for some reason (and I froze my butt there too.) No big keys to our past or anything.
Not until we returned to Hallow Bastion.
Sora brought us there for supplies, and because Paine secretly missed Leon. Fine, it was because all of the Gullwings missed everyone there. Even Cid, Cid with my daddy's name…
One day Yuna and I were talking to that old fart the shopkeeper, who actually isn't so bad if you haven't stolen from him, but I have stolen from him so he always ignores me and just talks to Yunie. They were talking about how a hi-potion works like super-hi-potions since we were so small, and Paine walked up to us.
Not float. Not fly. Not flutter (although she never fluttered when she flew, just Yuna and I.)
Paine walked up to us in her full, human glory, wings gone and height returned.
I fell off the shop counter. Yuna said a curse word, I swear she did.
Paine shook her head and said she didn't know what did it. She had just accepted how she was, that she knew she was fine and complete, and happy.
And then she remembered everything.
And as she remembered everything, she grew.
We pestered her for everything, all of our past, what happened, why we were here and who we were in our entirety.
Paine couldn't say. No, it wasn't that she couldn't say, but saying out loud was just like how we had to remember new things, hard and glooby and stretched out to the point that it took half an hour for her to explain that our world had disappeared because of the heartless.
Then she was really tired, something I had never really seen because Paine always hid it (I know she did.)
Yuna knew that she wasn't happy. I knew she wasn't, and I knew I wasn't. We did know that we had to find her true love again, for us both to be happy, I think.
Paine stayed in Hollow Bastion when we left with Sora again.
Then a miracle happened in that Gummi Ship. Yunie explained to Sora what happened with Paine, and how we think we can return to normal, by finding the person who completes Yunie.
Sora's eyes grew kinda soft then. He has real nice eyes, round and blue, and deceptively shallow until you really look and see that they're deep as the ocean off Bikanel Island. Yeah, I had remembered Bikanel Island after Paine said our world was gone. There were many tears when I realized my island, MY island, was gone.
But Sora's eyes were soft, and he said, "The person who holds your heart."
That boy is so deep.
Yunie nodded her lovely head, and then whispered. "My Tidus."
I swear to Shiva, his eyes bugged out. He is so freaking loud, just like Tidus, only brunette. "TIDUS? TIDUS? REALLY, THAT STICK WIELDING TIDUS WHOSE OBSESSED WITH BLITZBALL AND ALWAYS TALKS TO WAKKA AND HAS SPIKEY BLODE HAIR AND A BIG SMILE!" The whole time he was yelling Yuna and I grabbed his hands and she was just crying out, "You know him, you know him? Tidus, my Tidus?" And we danced in a circle together, swinging and floating and jumping because Sora knew where Tidus was.
And so we went.
It was absolutely beautiful.
They did that whole, running across the beach in slow motion thing, but in the middle of Sora's hometown of Destiny Islands. We landed that Gummi ship, jumped and flew out, and sprinted out little butts (and Sora's big butt) through the town, screaming Tidus's name, the townspeople staring at us funny, but hey, that happens everywhere we go. But finally Yuna spotted him across the town's big square, and she screamed his name.
He looked smaller too, but like a kid.
He twisted around from whatever that stupid boy was staring at, and saw her. He stared at her, and I don't think he knew who she was. Then, as she floated closer, I like to think he saw her eyes.
I like to think he saw those great, big tear filled eyes, and his stupid dumb head remembered his absolute love and devotion for the girl in front of him.
THEN the idiot ran to her, and they collided with a flash of green and blue and pink, and big, tall, amazing Yuna and big, tall, amazing Tidus were together forever once more.
I was screaming and giggling, and flying around everywhere-
Yuna, in all her smiles and glory of being complete once more, looked over, and she saw what I saw when I looked down.
And I smiled to her, reassuring her, making sure that beautiful smile wouldn't fall again. It was fine. I was cute and happy as this little fairy thing.
It was fine really. Keep celebrating, please keep smiling.
It was fine.
I stayed with Yuna and Tidus on Destiny Islands for a little while. The people there were super nice, and a carpenter there even made me my own little furniture set that Yuna set up in a room for me in her and Tidus' new house. Some days I wandered around on my own, and others I would hang out in Yuna's or Tidus' pockets.
Sometimes we would talk about it, sometimes we wouldn't.
She thought that I was missing something.
Obviously, I was missing something. Something I didn't have before.
The talks would go in circles, and it would always end with me saying that there was nothing I was missing. Well, there were plenty of things I was missing, home mostly, but nothing that would 'complete my heart.' Sometimes when I was frustrated, and I would scream that at Tidus, because I could never scream at Yunie, she would get this look in her eye. Like there was something she could think of, but didn't want to say, didn't really believe.
One day she finally said it.
"I think you are missing the person who holds your heart."
But I couldn't remember.
"I think you were in love with someone we knew, but I never asked, because he left, and never came back."
But I couldn't remember.
And I think Yuna cried then, because she couldn't say the person's name, and Tidus couldn't remember the person's name, and she said that person could never come back.
And I cried because she cried and I would always be small and never remember everything.
I left the next day.
We visited many worlds, made many new friends, and ended up saving a lot of useless people with big hearts.
I almost never remembered anything new from the past.
At one point I remembered I always thought sunglasses were super cool, but couldn't remember why.
I rode around in the Big Riku's pockets sometimes. He was really smart, and deep like Sora, only in a different way. He had seen the darkness and gotten through it.
Maybe I thought that by sticking by him some of his awesome silver hair-edness would rub off on me.
Maybe I knew it was hopeless and his pockets were warm and I seemed to sleep more and more on those trips.
Whatever the reason, I stuck by him a lot.
I think I was lonely.
On a Sunday we went to a place called Olympus because Sora said he hadn't seen his buddy Hercaluzz or something in a while.
Sad to say, but at that point I didn't have my fighting spirit in me anymore. Nothing seemed to matter or change. I missed Paine and Yunie and my memories. Maybe I needed to just accept my fate. And date midgets. Nah.
From the dark and warm Big Riku pocket, I heard Sora and Hercaluzz discuss how some guys was hanging around the stadium scaring off all the other fighters because he was amazing but dead but couldn't go back to being dead or something because Hades brought him back for good, so now he was asking everyone if they needed a guardian, and he was scary, blah blah blah.
"Oh Sora, please go talk to him because I'm a big muscled-sissy and you're a friend of his, please please please?"
Okay, maybe Hercaluzz didn't say that exactly, but it was pretty darn close.
I could feel Riku move as they headed to the stadium, and I curled up in a ball, ready for a cat nap. Of course at the moment when I was almost asleep, Sora's voice rang out, loud as ever as they walked. "Heeey!" He was louder than Tidus sometimes, and that's like saying someone is louder than a whale sometimes. Hard to believe, but terrifyingly true. "Hey!" he continued. "Auuuron!"
Iiiis a moooron!
My head lifted slowly as I blinked awake. A memory?
It was hazy, and hard to drag out of the recesses of my mind, but it was there. This name was familiar.
I used to call this person a moron.
Of course, there were a lot of people I used to call morons, I think, but this… this was different. "Auron is a moron…" I tried it out, and it felt kind of right. Then I couldn't stop repeating it. "Auron is a moron, Auron is a moron…" It became my chant as I started to wiggle around and stand up in Riku's pocket.
"Auron is a moron." Riku stopped walking and tried to listen to what I was saying.
"Auron is a moron!" I was almost out of the pocket when Riku scooped me out, holding me in his palm, his turquoise eyes wondering what the hell are you saying?
Then, with all the honesty and fighting spirit in my heart, I yelled bloody murder.
"AURON, YOU FREAKING MORON!"
And I launched myself out of Riku's palm towards the man who was also launching himself across the stadium, no hesitation, red coat flying behind him.
We met in the middle in a flash of green and orange and red and dandelions and sunshine and sand and ocean and memories.
Sweet, forgotten memories.
Memories I was glad I forgot, because if I had them before… I would have been broken.
It began with a stupid, shy crush on the man who knew my secret, my Al Bhed blood.
Following him around, annoying him, making his grumpy butt smile at silly things I did to impress him on those late nights when we would stay up late on patrol. Sunglasses, a red coat, pockets upon pockets full of things to steal and be yelled at for stealing until I wiggled my butt at him and he would get mad and blush under that great big coat and tell me I was a fool. Late night camp fire talks that turned from grunting to talking to deep conversations on my end, my heart's thoughts gushing out, him talking more than he would with anyone else, I liked to think.
A crush turning into love.
A relationship he would always say couldn't work, wouldn't work, no matter how much she wanted it, no matter how much, how much he… wanted it…
A small kiss that felt huge when we were alone in the Zanarkand Dome.
A secret relationship as we spent the rest of our time flying around the world on the airship, searching for how to become strong to finally defeat Sin. Confessing our love for each other before we went to fight the last fight.
Not as much as a glance at me as he walked away, bursting into pyreflies in front of my horror filled eyes.
Crying my eyes out each night after he and Tidus were gone, then getting over it, then again crying my eyes out every night when Tidus came back and he didn't. Crying until the world came apart.
Now I beat his chest with my normal sized fists as he held me to him, speaking quietly in my ear, crouching in that stadium in Olympus, as I called him an idiot and cried, cried because he had been gone, and now he was back, and if he ever left me again I was going to kill him, even if he was already dead…
Then he stopped my talking with a well deserved (on my end) kiss.
I didn't hear the wolf whistle in those moments, those moments when my heart was returned to me and I was complete.
I didn't think how I wouldn't fit into my little furniture in Destiny Islands.
I didn't think how Auron had come back.
I didn't think how we still had to find Lulu for Wakka.
I didn't think at all, just felt.
Just felt the beating of my heart as I held it close.
Of course afterwards I did hear Sora say "Oh my GAWD, isn't he like, FORTY?"
After I beat the living heartless out of Sora and taught him that it was rude to guess people's age, especially incorrectly, he's 35, we left Sora and Riku for a bit so we could catch up, listen, live.
Finally live, complete.
"So it started out when Yunie, our new friend Paine, and I woke up in this place called Hallow Bastion..."