Author's Note: I hand-wrote this back in January in one of my notebooks. It's set after the normal ending of FFX-2, after Macalania Forest has begun disappearing.

buttercups


The ice has melted away and she walks down the path, glancing about. It's strange, she thinks, to see brown and green here where the land was once all white.

She stops where the path opens up to road. The agency seems smaller now without the large snowdrifts to hug it on either side. There are no icicles hanging from the roof and she realizes how dirty the walls really were under the frosted outer coating. They've turned a muddy color in patches, almost grime- or rust-colored. She tries the door cautiously but finds it locked. Oh well. Just one more thing closed from her now, not like it used to be.

She turns. The lake is just that now, no heavy sheet of ice and snow to hide it. The path to the temple has melted too. The building still floats in place, held by the last remnants of faythling magic. She wonders briefly if the airship could fly her over there for a look around - but no. She shouldn't drag up those memories, and anyhow, she'd rather not find what's left of the monks who decided to stay.

Rikku and Paine are talking quietly behind her. She pays no attention, tuning in to the muted sound of waves on the lake. The wind is picking up.

She walks over to the edge of the cliff and peers into the waters below. She sees the faint outlines of the ruins she walked through years ago and the memory burns her. Sin came. She still remembers the abrupt end of the fayth's singing, how quiet settled in and smothered them before they looked up and realized Sin had appeared. Again, the memory burns her.

Rikku puts a hand on her shoulder and says something she doesn't hear. Wakka comes and stands on her other side, hands on his hips, mouth set in a firm line. They stand there together, looking down and remembering the day they all committed murder. It surprises her that the more she thinks about it, the less she feels. Her soul turns to steel. The memory no longer burns her but repeats itself in her mind over and over again, a battered old movie she can't stop watching. She thinks maybe that was the day they all began to really question Yevon and the pilgrimage. That day was one of the first religious let-downs of the journey, one of the first times Wakka questioned his god and Yuna questioned her judgment and Tidus questioned love and she questioned the morality of it all. She questioned if she should keep going anymore - one summoner dead, another strayed from his duty, and the third, a naïve and beautiful murderess. Wouldn't it all have been easier from that point if they'd all given up?

But no. There would have been no trip to see Yunalesca, no discovery of Yevon's secret, no defeat of Sin and no rise of Vegnagun and no Vidina or Shuyin or anything at all that had mattered; there would be a whole different world.

She feels Wakka's arm on her shoulders, his fingers playing absently with a braid. Rikku has wandered off somewhere. Paine has decided to sit, feet dangling over the cliff's edge, winding her finger round and round a blade of grass. She doesn't see any significance in the lake or temple or any of it; she was never part of the journey and so she sits and waits patiently to head back.

Wakka removes his arm. Rikku approaches from behind and places a crown on top of the braids, settling it so it rests on her forehead.

"What is this?" she asks. Her voice sounds so far away.

"It's a crown of buttercups," Rikku says cheerfully. "I found them behind the old traveling agency."

And the four of them walk over and sure enough, there is a group of buttercups blooming. Patches are missing in the middle; assumedly, those flowers are the ones resting atop her head. She looks sideways at the lighthearted blonde and smiles, nodding her thanks for the crown.

But she looks away from the patch of buttercups and the smile disappears; the brown, muddy landscape stretches all around, absent of bright colors. There is brown mud and dark green weeds and not much else. She dares to call it ugly.

Wakka picks a buttercup and hands it to Paine. The warrior stares briefly at it and tucks it behind her ear.

Lulu reaches for Wakka's hand and holds it tight. Those flowers will spread, she hopes. Maybe in the future the whole area will be yellow and beautiful. Maybe she'll forget someday that this used to be a land of fiends and ice and snow. Maybe it will be as if the forest had never existed.

They head back along the path, some smiling, some straight-faced. She and Wakka and Paine wait quietly at the intersection leading to the Calm Lands while Rikku goes to fetch the High Summoner. She goes bearing a flower and returns with a tear-stained Yuna, flower tucked behind one ear.

"The spring is gone," Yuna says quietly. Her voice is steady. Lulu embraces her but doesn't know any comforting words. The trees are gone and the spring has dried up. There is nothing she can do, whether she likes it or not. The landmarks Yuna held on to as proof of his existence are disappearing. Spira's memory of him is disappearing.

Yuna cries a minute more, reliving the moment she told the fayth it was better this way. Rikku is twirling one more buttercup between her fingers, lost in thought. Paine stands away from it all with Wakka, both looking away from each other but enjoying a silent companionship. Lulu pulls Yuna tighter.

And the five of them leave together, slowly, weighted down by memory, silence, and freshly-picked buttercups.