Title: From Stars to Starlight
Author: Aeryn Alexander (who has never written FF fan fiction before)
Summary: Aurikku, drabble-esque. She has to deal with the legendary guardian being dead.
Genre: Angst/ Romance
From Stars to Starlight
The campfire was beginning to dwindle that night as strange sounds could be heard in the distance in Macalania Forest. Auron sat hunched over, gazing at he embers, and Rikku sat watching him. Somewhere in the woods Kimahri was either sleeping, comfortably outside the firelight, or prowling through the trees like a great cat. Wakka, Lulu, and Yuna were in the Thunder Plains, dodging lightning bolts, while Tidus made a name for himself with the Aurochs. Only a few days earlier they had defeated Lady Yunalesca, setting in motion events that were dragging them steadily toward a confrontation with Sin and Yu Yevon.
Rikku shifted miserably in chilly night air. She could see the glint of Auron's bronze eyes as she did so, interrupting his brooding reverie. They were awaiting the return of their companions to the appointed glen. Rikku's thoughts were never far from the battle ahead. Her nights, therefore, were often sleepless.
"Can I ask you something, Auron?" she questioned, wrapping her arms around her body to keep warm.
"Did it ... Did it hurt ... when you died?"
His face was inscrutable, obscured by both his collar and glasses, as he replied, "Yes."
"Were you ... scared?"
"I was angry ... and there wasn't time."
"I think I would have been, if I had been, you know, alone and everything."
Auron chuckled quietly, the low and yet gentle sound scarcely reaching Rikku's ears. He raised his eyes to look at her.
"Perhaps." he agreed.
Something about his discerning gaze, his single uninjured eye hidden behind panes of morning sky blue, had frightened her in the beginning. Perhaps it was the hidden depths that were revealed there. Rikku could not be certain as she lowered her own aquamarine eyes to the ground. She shivered involuntarily.
"Why couldn't we have camped somewhere warm and cheery, like the beach at Besaid?" she grumbled quietly.
"We all agreed that this was the most convenient place to wait for our comrades." Auron reminded her, glancing toward a faint glow in the trees from where the celestial planet creature lived. "Or would you have preferred the Travel Agency in the Thunder Plains?" he questioned, almost teasing her, but his gruff voice obscuring the intent of the remark.
"No thanks!" Rikku said, laughing.
That was certainly one place in Spira to which she never wished to return. The lightning was terrifying enough, but the bleakness and barrenness of the landscape would have been unbearable, especially considering the task ahead of them. It would have been just too depressing.
"When this matter is finally concluded, will you be returning home to the desert?" he inquired.
"I hope so. My people will be rebuilding. I couldn't let them do it alone, now could I?" she said, brightening somewhat at the thought of work to be done and seeing her all of her family and Al Bhed friends again. "What about you ...?" she started to ask. Then she remembered. "He's dead, Rikku. He isn't making plans for his future. He doesn't have one." she reminded herself, dropping her gaze.
By Auron's estimation Rikku had stopped making him uncomfortable a long time ago. He had adjusted to her jubilant, youthful energy and accepted her innate Al Bhed-ness. She had demonstrated her worth in battle time and again. But that night, it was different. Rikku had managed to make him very uneasy all over again and no amount of stoicism would provide the relief that he yearned for. Her inopportune question brought to mind less desirable thoughts and questions of his own:
"If I only I could do it all again ... I would do things differently. I would not have thrown it all away ... in an instant of rage that changed nothing ... and cost me my life ... and any I hope I might have had with ... her."
"I'm sorry." she whispered softly.
"No, it is ... all right." Auron answered.
For a moment he didn't realize that Rikku was crying softly as she sat there on the other side of the campfire with hunched shoulders, attempting to hide her teary eyes from him. The sound was almost inaudible, but the way her shoulders shook was all too telling. It was no longer the cold night air that caused her to tremble. And Auron wondered at this. Rikku, though hardly a warrior, was tough, like a rose grown in a rocky garden or a rose brought to bloom in a desert. Despite her fear of thunder and lightning, she did not weep without cause. Only two incredulous, closely bound questions danced through his mind. He wanted to know if she were weeping, grieving for him and why.
A tear splashed on the ground at her feet. She hastily scuffed at the dampened turf with the toe of her shoe, hoping to obliterate the evidence before it was noticed. Part of her couldn't believe that she was reduced to tears. Of course, she knew that she had feelings, confusing and conflicting ones, regarding the so-called legendary guardian, and the knowledge that he was dead had robbed her of something. An idle fancy for an older man who wielded a blade and was both a leader and a mystery, Rikku had called it at first. Perhaps something else had been stolen from her: a man whom she could truly have loved. She was robbed, and yet there he sat. It was too unfair! Too cruel for human understanding!
Something drew Auron to his feet, almost reluctantly, and toward the silently weeping Al Bhed girl on the other side of the fire. She seemed to startle as he sat down next to her. He laid his gloved hand upon her shoulder. A muted sob wracked her body, and he wondered if it were worse to comfort her instead of just letting her be. It would certainly have been easier to melt into the shadows, to disappear until the crying was done. But when had Auron chosen the easier of any two paths?
"Rikku, don't cry." he said, almost growling as he tried to formulate the right words. "You shouldn't cry about me. I've been dead ten years, Rikku. If anyone was going to mourn, it should have been then, but all my friends were ... dead too ... and there was Jecht ... and you were ... well, if you were anything like Tidus ... you probably cried for me everyday for a year back then without even knowing. So don't weep now. Please?"
"You make it sound so simple, Auron. I am going to lose you soon, aren't I? Or are you going to hang around Spira when this is over ... and, and someday become a fiend?" she said, blinking away fresh tears.
"She understands all too well." he thought, putting his arm around her
shoulders and holding her still.
"I will be gone ... soon. But, Rikku, you are young and alive. I don't know ... what you may feel for me." And he chuckled lowly, admitting only to himself, "As I know not what it is that I feel for you." "But," he told her firmly, "if Sin is defeated and if you survive the final battle, there will be others whose love and life you may share in. And you will find happiness."
"No." she whispered, resting her head on his shoulder.
"Yes." he said in return, not wanting to release her, not wanting her
to move, wanting time to stand still.
It felt strange to be standing there at last, so close to their goal and so far. Rikku shuddered as she looked at the city they had passed through, the innumerable battles and horrors weighing suddenly upon her. The party stood there at the crossroads, taking a final breath before the plunge. Kimahri was not far away, gazing steadily at the path ahead of them, in his own world as far as anyone could tell. Tidus and Yuna were staring meaningfully into each other's eyes, sharing a moment of peaceful quiet. Lulu and Wakka were standing together as well, looking so calm and so prepared for battle. They had waited so long for the end of the pilgrimage. But her mind only noticed her other comrades in passing. The one that Rikku was truly thinking about stood before her with his tumultuous eyes of burnt sienna fixed upon her.
It seemed so unbelievable to be there at last, caught in the wheels of fate, being ground down by the thought of losing her and being lifted up by the knowledge that it would be over soon, that the spiral of death would claim its last victim and be no more. It would be worth it, no matter the cost to himself or to Rikku, to Tidus or to Yuna. And yet as he stared at her, looking up at him with her silver-swirled eyes of blue-green, he was very conscious of the price of their actions. Though it was foolish, he reminded himself. Sin or no Sin, he was just as dead as he had been since that day ten years earlier. Nothing could change that. For a moment Auron longed to do it all over again.
"Rikku, I wish I could say something." he said in low voice that no one else could hear.
"What is there to say?" she questioned. Her eyes brimmed with tears, but she did not let them fall. She was so brave sometimes.
"I don't want to say it. It ... isn't time. This isn't over yet." Rikku told him as her lower lip trembled.
"Rikku ... there may not be another time ..." Auron began to say to her, but he stopped short. It was no time to lecture her on the endings of stories.
She surprised him as she grasped his ungloved hand that hung from the sleeve of his crimson robe. His hand was cold, but not unfeeling as she drew it to her lips, kissing each knuckle one by one. A hot tear splashed upon the top of his hand. His own eyes moistened with tears, but he could not allow himself to shed them. She wasn't making the end any easier. For a moment Auron merely clutched her hand as he leaned down and kissed her hair softly, gently.
"We can go now." she whispered.
"Are you sure?"
"I don't know."
They had battled Braska's Final Aeon, all that remained of Jecht, and then Yu Yevon. Auron had felt Rikku at his side during part of the confrontation, although it was unusual for him to take more than passing note of his comrades during the heat of battle. He was a warrior monk and hardly a healer, after all, but she had been there in the thick of it. And her presence strengthened him in ways it had never done before.
When everything had fallen to silence and Yuna had begun the final sending, Auron's eyes fell upon her again and all of his being tingled for a moment with wistfulness and regret. Then he heard a gasp from the young summoner as she turned toward where her companions, her guardians stood, and saw him beginning to dissolve into pyreflies. Rikku turned as well and regarded him for an instant with grief and pain in her eyes that quickly turned to solemnity. She was too far away to reach out to him, but her eyes never wavered in their steady gaze.
"Don't stop." Auron told Yuna, walking toward her and preparing to leave Spira behind forever. She looked even more uncertain than Rikku.
As he passed her, Rikku could not help but to tremble as the pyreflies fluttered away into the night. She trembled, but she didn't cry or call out to him. She wanted his last memory of her to be of her as she was, not with red, bleary eyes and a body wracked by sobs. She did not know it, but he was grateful for that.
"This is your world now."
Swinging his mighty blade over his right shoulder, Auron looked at them all one last time and vanished into a flash of pyreflies that briefly lit up the sky and then dissipated into the darkness above.