Silver Wings 2: 1000 Confessions

By: AJay James

 

DISCLAIMER: I do not own FFX, FFX-2 or any of the characters and locations affiliated with it.  I do, however, own the story “Silver Wings” and all references to dialogue not originated by Square-Enix. Only my Cousin does.

 DO NOT COPY MY STORIES!!

If anyone wants to post this story or “Silver Wings” anywhere else, please just ASK and then give me credit for writing it.  Email yugiohyamimarik@yahoo.com with any requests.

Author’s Notes: For those of you who have not read my story “Silver Wings”, I suggest that you do before reading “Silver Wings 2: 1000 Confessions”.  Although “Silver Wings 2: 1000 Confessions” is a separate entity from “Silver Wings” there will be references to dialogue and characters from “Silver Wings” that someone who hasn’t read it will be unable to understand.  Also, translations for any Al Bhed that I use in this story can be found at the end of the chapter.  This chapter is basically a rehash of the ending to both FFX and FFX-2 so therefore this entire chapter is a SPOILER for those who haven’t beaten either game.  You have been warned. 

 

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Chapter One: Not Until the End…Always

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

 

As she walked through the flower fields of the Farplane, Yuna listened for a whistle.  Her heart ached to hear a whistle and to see him again, if only for a moment.  Seeing Shuyin and defeating him had caused Yuna to realize how much she truly needed Tidus near her.  Shuyin had spent 1000 years without the woman he loved and it had driven him insane. 

 

Yuna feared the same thing would happen to her.

 

Rikku and Paine had run on ahead and Yuna paused for just a moment to look around.  This was the first place she had seen Shuyin and when, for a moment, she had thought Tidus had returned to her. 

 

That’s when she heard it.  A piercing whistle broke the silence and Yuna spun around expecting to see Tidus, but instead she saw the Bevelle fayth child.  Her disappointed look must have been noticed by the fayth because his aura seemed to take on that of pity.  Still dressed all in purple, the fayth said, “Thank you.”

 

Yuna nodded.  It was her job, after all, to save the world.  She was the high summoner – well, ex-summoner – and the people still depended on her.  Besides, she couldn’t let someone with the face of the person she loved most in the world destroy her life.  Although it would give her the opportunity to be with Tidus again on the Farplane, she would once again save the world so that she could live another lonely day without him. 

 

The fayth smiled at her, “You wish to walk with him again?”

 

Yuna wasn’t sure if she’d heard him right.  The fayth was offering her another chance with Tidus?  Was that even possible?  He was a dream.  He hadn’t truly existed.  Her answer came faster than her brain realized and before she knew it she was nodding her head yes.  Yes, she wanted him back.  Yes, she didn’t want to go another day without him. 

 

“I can’t make any promises,” the fayth said, “but I’ll see what I can do.”

 

----------------

 

She didn’t need to turn to know that he was behind her.  She could sense his presence easily.  Her heart always skipped a beat when he was near.  She stared out at the water surrounding her, “I always thought that this would be easier somehow.  I thought that everyone would help me...with all my new friends together beside me,” she sighed, "I've been trying so hard."

"Maybe you're trying too hard." He replied as he waded into the water with her.  The ripples tickled her skin as he neared, "They told me...everything."

She turned to look at him, “Everything?"  His nod realized her worst fears.  He knew what she must do.  He knew what her future held.  Would he leave?  Oh how she hoped not, "Well, so then... you know." She said after a moment.

"Yeah" he stepped behind her in the water, “I'm sorry." He whispered.  She turned to face him and stared into his aqua eyes.  That wasn’t what she was expecting.  An angry demand as to why he was the last to know was what she expected.  She didn’t expect him to be sorry.  Her eyes seemed to convey her confusion and he continued, “It's just, you know... all those things I said.  Like "Let's go get Sin!" Or about Zanarkand...I didn't know what would happen to you, Yuna." He heaved a deep breath, "I guess... I hope it didn't make you sad.  Forgive me."

She smiled, “I wasn't sad." She replied, “I was happy."

He dove underwater in front of her and then surfaced again, surfaced again, "Yuna, just don't do it."
 
"The pilgrimage?"
 
"That's right." He nodded, "Forget all about Sin, about being a summoner. Forget all that.  You know, live a normal life. Come on now, Yuna, what do you say?"

She thought about it for a moment.  A normal life…  She could be with him.  She could throw it all away and go after the one feeling that she wanted to hang on to.  She locked eyes with him, "Maybe I will. Wouldn't everyone be surprised?"

He nodded, "Yeah.  Except Rikku. She'd be with you." He paused thoughtfully and then said, "Lulu and Wakka wouldn't hold out long."

She grinned, "Kimahri would say yes, too, I know.” She paused, “But Sir Auron..."

He shook his head as if trying to shake away the doubt that was forming in her head, "I'll make him understand, Yuna. It's the least I can do for you."
 
"No, I should tell him. He deserves it." Stretching out her full length, she allowed herself to float on her back and stare at the sky.  As she stared at the beautiful stars, the inevitable question came to her mind and before she could stop herself, she formed words, "What'll I do if I give up my pilgrimage?"

He seemed lost in thought for a moment before standing in the water again and facing her, “Hey! Zanarkand! Let's go to Zanarkand!  Not the one in Spira, the one I'm from."  His smile widened on his handsome features and his eyes lit, "Yeah, we can all fly there. Everyone can go!  Then we'll have a big party at my place!"

She allowed herself to get caught up in the happy portrait he was painting.  She stood in front of him and grinned, "And then we could see Blitzball!"
 
"Yeah!"
 
"Your Zanarkand Abes would play!" she cried, "We could all watch you play, in the stadium all lit up at night!  I'd cheer and cheer till I couldn't cheer anymore!
 
"Right on!"
 
She wrinkled her nose in wonder, "Well, what about after the game?"

"We'd go out and have fun!" he replied as if it was the simplest answer in the world.
 
"In the middle of the night?"
 
He laughed, "No problem! Zanarkand never sleeps!"  He lay back in the water and focused on the sky again.  She watched him, barely disguising the love she felt, as he began to talk again, "Let's go to the sea, before the sunrise.  The city lights go out one by one. The stars fade...Then the horizon glows, almost like it's on fire." He smiled as he remembered his home town.  She wished she had fond memories of her hometown, but Bevelle wasn’t the type of place one remembered fondly, "It's kinda rose-colored, right?” he continued, “First in the sea, then it spreads to the sky, then to the whole city. It gets brighter and brighter, till everything glows.  It's really...pretty.  I know you'd like it."
 
"I'd like to see it, someday." She whispered.
 
He stood again excitedly, "Well you can, Yuna. We can both go!" 

 

Her tears started flowing faster then she could stop them.  She didn’t want him to see her crying, but she just couldn’t stop.  It just wasn’t fair.  She wanted to be with him, but she had to journey.  Why couldn’t life be simple?  Her shoulders started rocking with her sobs and she sensed him approach her, "Yu..?"
 
"I can't. I just can't!" she shouted, "I can't go!"

He walked up to her and touched her shoulder tenderly, "Yuna”.  She lifted her face at the sound of her name and looked into his deep blue eyes.  For a moment they seemed filled with confusion, and as quickly as that the emotion changed to one that she had been hoping to see in his eyes for so long. 

 

The initial pressure of his lips was foreign, but his kiss was so much more passionate and loving than Seymour’s and she gradually let herself get lost in it. 

 

And how lost she became….

Afterward on the beach, they sat staring out on the water.   She could tell that he was waiting for her to speak.  She knew that he was waiting for her to tell him her plans regarding the pilgrimage.  She glanced at him before whispering, "I'll continue. I must.  If I give up now...I could do anything I wanted to, and yet..." she looked at him, “Even if I was with you, I could never forget."


He nodded and connected eyes with her, "I'll go with you.  I'm your guardian.  Unless I'm...fired?"

She laughed when he made a throat slitting motion with his hand and she shook her head, “Stay with me until the end. Please."

He shook his head, "Not until the end..." he replied, "Always."

She smiled and felt a swell of love for this star blitzball player, "Always, then."

 

But always had come too soon.  Always wasn’t supposed to come so soon.  There were so many things they were supposed to do together.  So many promises that they’d made to each other. 

 

She almost cried out at the sight.  The pyreflies were forming around his body.  She could see through his hands; through his entire body.  Her breath caught in her throat and she could feel tears forming, “No!” she shouted in a hoarse whisper.

 

He looked at her with sadness in his eyes, "Yuna, I have to go.  I'm sorry I couldn't show you Zanarkand.” He turned to leave, “ Goodbye!"
 
"Hey!" cried Wakka.  He looked like a wounded child. 
 
Rikku jumped forward, "We're gonna see you again...?"
 
She couldn’t take it.  She had to hold him.  She had to feel his arms around her the way they had been in Macalania.  If only she had chosen not to go on.  If only she had done the selfish thing for once.  If only…

 

"Yuna!"

 

She heard Kimahri shout to her, but she didn’t stop.  She jumped forward to hold him but found herself passing through him.  She sailed through his body and landed hard on the deck of the ship, her face down. 

 

He was going…she couldn’t stop it. 

 

A pyrefly floated past her eyes as she lay defeated on the ship.  She watched it as she slowly climbed back to her feet.  She couldn’t turn to look at him.  She couldn’t watch him vanish, knowing it was her fault. 

 

If only…

 
"I love you." She whispered into the air.  She sensed him approaching although she could no longer feel the heat radiating from his body.  She knew he was behind her.  His arms wrapped around her gently and she stifled a cry when she couldn’t feel him. 

 

The embrace lasted only a moment.  Yuna shivered when she felt him pass through her.  The coldness was a shock to her system.  It was so different then when he’d held her or touched her before.  It was the touch of the Farplane that he gave her now. 

 

Dead for 1000 years…

 

He’d been dead for 1000 years. 

 

She made no move to stop him as he dove off of the front of the ship.  The only move she made was to fall to her knees when there was no splash in the water below.

-------------

 

“Yunie!  Wake up!” hissed Rikku, shaking Yuna violently, “We’re almost at Besaid.”

 

Yuna opened her eyes sleepily and looked about the room.  After cruising along on the deck of the Celsius for several hours after the immediate defeat of Vegnagun, she’d wandered into the cabin to rest.  Barkeep had turned the lights off and left her alone.  She felt more rested than she normally did after dreams of Tidus.  Their time together had been so short.  All she wanted was one more chance. 

 

The fayth had said he’d try, but that he couldn’t promise anything.  Yuna was used to heartbreak and didn’t want to get her hopes up.  Why would the fayth start dreaming again, just so that she could hold her only love?

 

The answer was simple…

 

It wouldn’t.

 

She stretched her lithe form and wandered (actually, was pushed by Rikku) down the stairs and to the elevator that whisked the cousins to the bridge. 

 

“We’re going to land on the beach.” Buddy said as the girls entered.  Yuna nodded and smiled at Paine who was brooding in a corner.  She stifled a laugh.  Paine was so much like Lulu.  A journey didn’t seem complete without a brooding friend along. 

 

It also didn’t seem complete without Tidus to make her laugh…

 

Yuna sighed heavily and then gasped when Brother was by her side in a flash, “Yna oui celg?"

 

“What?” questioned Yuna.  Although she was half Al Bhed, the beautiful former summoner had never learned the language which forced Brother – Rikku’s brother, Yuna’s cousin – to speak in broken English. 

 

Brother didn’t mind too much, though.  He had a crush on Yuna which disgusted Rikku more than it did Yuna.  She thought it was sweet and humorous.  Besides, Brother knew there was no chance for them.  The Al Bhed cleared his throat and questioned again in English, “Are you sick?”

 

Yuna shook her head, “No.  I’m fine.”

 

Brother nodded and went back to his seat at the helm of the Celsius.  It wasn’t the ship that she had ridden on with Tidus, but the airship still reminded her of him. 

 

Everything reminded her of him.

 

Yuna leaned casually against a nearby wall and focused her attentions on her knee-high black boots.  She knew she was brooding like Paine, but she didn’t particularly care at the moment. 

 

"Fryd dra ramm ec dryd?" Brother suddenly cursed.

 

“What is what?” asked Rikku as she pushed her way passed Buddy and up towards Brother to look out the window.  Pushing a blond strand out of her hair, Rikku gasped, "Ed lyh'd pa."

 

Paine stepped forward at that, “What can’t be, Rikku?” she asked.  Her knowledge of Al Bhed had come from her travels with Gippal, the leader of the Machine Faction who had ties to Rikku – those of which the perky blond didn’t want to discuss.  Paine’s gasp at the sight of whatever was below them caused Yuna to wander closer to the window and peer down into the water.

 

Her eyes focused and she gasped.

 

Seeing him from the bridge of the Celsius filled her heart with such joy.  There he was, standing waist high in the water just outside of Besaid.  His blond hair reflecting the sun and his bronzed chest heaving with every breath he took. 

 

She could hardly contain herself as she fled to the deck of the ship.  Retaining her balance as Brother lurched the ship closer to the ground was almost impossible and she stumbled slightly before jumping off of the ship.  She heard shouts from her friends behind her but she didn’t care.  Her feet hit solid ground with a thud but she didn’t stop.  Her arms; her entire body was longing to hold him.  It had been longing to hold him for 2 years, so badly that she felt as though physical pain was inevitable.  Finally her chance to do so was there and she wasn’t going to stop for anyone or anything.

 

He turned to her and smiled.  Extending his arms to welcome her, she leapt the last few steps and wrapped her arms tightly around his toned torso.  She looked up at him with tears in her eyes, “You’re here.”

 

Her eyes searched his face and body as if looking for some sign that he would vanish at any moment.  She was so scared that she was imagining this amazing miracle.  His blue eyes fixed on hers, “Do I pass?”

 

She nodded happily and held him close to her.  She could feel his breath against her neck and shivered happily.  He was back.  He was with her.  Nothing was going to change that.

 

“Hey you two!  Get a room!” shouted Wakka from the beach.  Yuna looked at the beach and laughed.  Practically all of Besaid was standing there watching her reunion with the love of her life.  She didn’t know why they were there.  Was it because the airship was about to land and they wanted to greet her?  Was it because they saw him too? 

 

Did it even matter?

 

Tidus waved at Wakka, “Who told you to watch, Wakka?” he shouted back before placing a hand around her waist.  She grinned and grabbed his hand.  She felt flesh and bone beneath his glove.  He really was back.  She wasn’t sailing through him this time.  She was touching him. 

 

He was back.

 

The two started running toward the beach with Tidus in the lead but Yuna didn’t like the speed and advanced, pulling him harder to keep up.  He struggled to maintain her speed while laughing and shouting, “You know, you sure have changed.”

 

“Well, you missed a few things.” She responded as their feet exited the water and landed on the sand.

 

“I want to hear all about it.”  He replied.  The Besaid Aurochs surrounded them, hugging and shaking Tidus’s hand.

 

She nudged him gently and whispered, “Well, it all started when I found this sphere of you.”

--------------------------------

AL BHED TRANSLATION

 

Yna oui celg? – Are you sick?

 

Fryd dra ramm ec dryd? – What the hell is that?

 

Ed lyh'd pa. – It can’t be.

Author’s Notes: The italicized lines in this chapter are flashes of memories that Tidus doesn’t understand.  For right now, the lines are from the game but in subsequent chapters the lines might be from ‘Silver Wings’ so again, if you  haven’t read it, I suggest you do.  This story is meant to [i]mostly[/i] stand on its own, but it does refer to dialog and characters from ‘Silver Wings’ and it won’t be completely explained until the end of the story.  Also, Tidus calls someone by a different name in this chapter.  This WILL NOT be addressed further.  It is up to you to decide whether this was a “mistake” or whether this person really used to be who Tidus briefly thinks.  I can’t even say for sure whether I know.  All I know is that I hadn’t thought about this possible connection when I created my character in Silver Wings but now looking back I suppose these two characters are similar to each other.  

 

SPOILER WARNING: Yuna tells Tidus about her journey in FFX-2 in this chapter.  Therefore there are spoilers in this chapter.  She doesn’t get specific but she does discuss what happens after the defeat of the final boss. 

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Chapter Two: Memories

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It was truly amazing how many people had turned up in Besaid to welcome Tidus back.  He hadn’t gotten a chance to breath without someone else grabbing his hand and wishing him well.  Once she finally got him alone, it was only to introduce him to a few new friends he hadn’t met yet.  With his gloved hand gripping hers tightly, Yuna led him toward the Gullwings.  She pointed at Paine and said, “This is Paine.  She’s a member of the Gullwings like I am.” She grinned at him, “The Gullwings is a sphere hunting group and I joined up when Kimahri found this sphere on Gagazet that looked like you in it.”

 

Tidus smiled at Paine, “Nice to meet you.” He said as he extended his free hand.

 

Paine stared at him without a smile.  Her eyes roamed up and down his body before she nodded curtly and said, “I suppose you were worth all the trouble.”

 

“Um…thanks?” Tidus asked with a question in his look to Yuna.  His blue eyes focused back on Paine and he asked, “Are you related to Lulu?”

 

“No.” came the curt reply as Paine turned and walked away.

 

Yuna’s bicolored eyes danced as she laughed and said to Tidus, “Paine’s always like that, but she’s one of my closest friends.”

 

“Second only to me, right?!” a shrill shriek came from across the way.  It was Rikku and Tidus’s eyes widened as the half-naked, completely drunk Al Bhed girl made her way toward them.  Yuna had to stifle a giggle at the way Tidus was staring at Rikku.  It wasn’t in a lustful gaze that would make her jealous.  In fact, he was staring at her as if wondering if the circus had come to town. 

 

And she thought he’d been shocked by her outfit. 

 

“Rikku?” Tidus asked as if half expecting her to say no.

 

The blond nodded and lurched toward him before bracing herself against his chest to keep from landing face first in the sand, “Yeppers…”she said.  She poked his stomach and said, “You’d better get back into shape if you’re going to be ready for the game tomorrow.”

 

“What game?” Tidus asked.

 

“The Aurochs got a game tomorrow, ya.” Wakka’s jovial voice came from behind him. 

 

Tidus spun around and smiled at his best friend and Lulu who was holding tiny Vidina in her arms.  He ran a hand through his matted blond hair and said, “I still can’t believe you two got married…”

 

“Well, believe it, ya!” Wakka said laughingly, “I got the papers to prove it!”

 

Tidus laughed and wrapped an arm around Yuna’s waist, “So where are you guys playing tomorrow?”

 

“Luca.”

 

Tidus’ eyes gleamed and he looked at Yuna with an excited look, “That means we’d have to take the airship.” He winked, “I really want to ride that thing…”

 

Yuna laughed, “Of course you do.” She replied, “So we will.”

 

---------------

 

After the party, Yuna and Tidus had retired to the crew quarters on the Celsius.  The other members of the Gullwings had decided to stay in Besaid for the night to give them some time alone.  As she watched Tidus strip down to his boxers, Yuna’s hand started trembling a little.  She felt stupid for being so afraid of asking him to make love to her.  What if he didn’t want to??  That was a question that plagued her and forced her to keep her mouth shut as he climbed under the sheets with her and wrapped an arm around her waist, “I want to hear all about your journey.” He said.

 

Yuna had partially been dreading this too.  She was afraid that he’d be upset when she told him she thought Shuyin was him.  In retrospect, he and Shuyin didn’t look very much alike to her.  They carried themselves differently and Shuyin’s hair was long and hung into his eyes, their clothes were different too, but back then it had seemed like they did really resemble each other and Tidus might be upset that she couldn’t tell the difference between them. 

 

She took a breath.  She had to take the chance.  He asked and she said she’d tell him all about it, so she will, “Well, like I said it all started with this sphere of you.  At least, I thought it was you.  Kimahri found it near Gagazet and it is what caused me to join the Gullwings and what ultimately led me to you.”

 

“What was the sphere of?”

 

“It looked like you, in a cage, being held prisoner.  It turned out that it wasn’t you, though.  It was someone named…Shuyin.”

 

“Shuyin…in a cage?” Tidus repeated as if trying to place where he’d heard that name before.

 

“If you’d stop attacking, there wouldn’t be a war!”

 

Tidus spun around and looked frantically around the room.  Where did that voice come from?  Yuna placed a worried hand on his shoulder, “Are you okay?”

 

The blonde blitzer nodded as he returned his attention to the beautiful former summoner, “I’m fine, just thought I heard something.” He smiled at her, “Go on.”

 

“After I joined the Gullwings, we went on journeys all over Spira to find more spheres with who we thought was you in them.  We found several more and one was with Shuyin standing before the colossus, Vegnagun.”

 

“You know you’re all I can count on to save Lenne.”

 

Tidus let out a startled cry and jumped to his feet, “I know I heard something this time.” He said as he dropped to his knees and crawled halfway under the bed in search of the mysterious voice.  His torso was completely under the bed when he realized he couldn’t get any further.  The bed was too low to the ground. 

 

“Tidus?” Yuna called as she leaned over the bed and pulled on his legs, “Come out from under there.”

 

The blitzer complied and slowly climbed back onto the bed next to Yuna, “I’m really sorry.  I just keep hearing someone.”

 

“I don’t hear anything.” Yuna whispered, “Do you want me to stop?”

 

Tidus shook his head, “No, I said I wanted to hear all about it and I meant it.”  He kissed her cheek, “Keep going.”

 

“Anyway,” Yuna continued, still with a worried look in her eye, “It turned out that years before, Shuyin’s soul had possessed Nooj – you’ll meet him tomorrow – and now was possessing Baralai – and you’ll meet him tomorrow too.” Yuna squirmed on the bed and laid her head on Tidus’ shoulder, “Anyway, we finally realized that Shuyin wasn’t you and in fact he had lived in Zanarkand – the real one – 1000 years ago and had been killed by Bevelle soldiers along with his girlfriend, Lenne.”

 

“You must stop!  That’s enough!”

 

Tidus jumped a little but forced himself to remain calm.  He was hearing voices, sure, but that was no reason to upset Yuna.  It was probably just an after effect of being brought back to life by the fayth.  He smiled at her concerned look, “I just got a chill.  Go on.”

 

“Shuyin was determined to destroy Spira because he blamed all of Spira for the death of himself and Lenne.  For some reason he thought I was Lenne but when he realized I wasn’t and we had destroyed Vegnagun, he attacked us.  That’s when we defeated him.”

 

“What happened to him after that?”

 

Yuna shrugged, “He’s in the Farplane, I guess.  Lenne’s essence was in my songstress dressphere so whenever I put it on I could feel her emotions and had her memories.  I suppose I became her briefly.  After we stopped Shuyin, she walked out of my dressphere and disappeared with him.” She smiled, “I’m glad they’re together.”

 

Tidus brought his lips down upon Yuna’s in a soft kiss.  His tongue played at her mouth until it opened to allow him access.  He pulled the girl down on top of him and caressed her face with his eyes closed.  He slowly opened his eyes and gazed into her deep brown orbs…

 

Brown??

 

The girl on top of him resembled Yuna but it wasn’t her.  Her hair was too long, her eyes were brown.  She even smelled differently.  Yuna smelled like vanilla.  This girl smelled like lavender.  Tidus slammed his lids shut and then opened them to find Yuna in her place above him with a concerned look on her face.  Her scent was vanilla again, her eyes were blue and green, her hair was short.  Tidus could feel his hands beginning to shake, “I’m pretty tired,” he said, “So I think I’m going to go to sleep now.” And with a quick movement, he rolled Yuna off of him and then quickly turned so that his back faced her. 

 

Within minutes Yuna could hear his steady breathing and frowned.  When he had begun kissing her, she had hoped that they wouldn’t have been going immediately to sleep.  Something had stopped him, though.  He had looked at her like he’d never seen her before.  Didn’t he love her?  Didn’t he want her? 

 

Did she make a mistake in wanting him back? 

 

---------------

 

Luca was just as big and glamorous as Tidus remembered and he squeezed Yuna’s hand in excitement as they got off of the Celsius near the boating dock the following day.  It reminded him of the time during her pilgrimage that they’d docked in Luca, only this time neither of them was going toward their deaths. 

 

The last time in Luca had been an exciting time for Tidus.  He had been part of the Aurochs and looking forward to helping them bring the crystal cup back to Besaid.  It was also the first time the group had met their nemesis, Seymour Guado.  Tidus hated Seymour from the first moment he laid eyes on the half human, half guado.  Maybe it was the way Seymour seemed just a little too nice.  Maybe it was they way everyone was bowing down to him like he was a god.  Then again, it was probably just the way he looked at Yuna.

 

“I just love Luca.  Don’t you Tidus?” Rikku asked him as the permanently perky blonde bounced head of the group.  Tidus couldn’t understand why Rikku’s head wasn’t pounding from a hangover.  The Al Bhed had downed almost an entire keg of beer on her own and with her tiny frame, she should have been unconscious on the floor. 

 

“It is a beautiful city.” Tidus agreed as his eyes played about the city.  Even after the defeat of Sin, it didn’t come close to comparing to Zanarkand in size and grandeur, but Tidus couldn’t help but really love the city. 

 

Rikku nodded and her blonde braids bounced in her eyes, “Oh yes, so beautiful and…” she stopped and made a face, “Fryd tu oui fyhd.” She said to a blonde man with an eye patch and a swagger that was making his way toward them.  He was with another blonde man, a blonde woman, and a man with a robotic arm. 

 

“Du lraan dra Aurochs du jelduno.” The man replied to Rikku’s cold stare.  He turned to Tidus and said, “The name’s Gippal.  It’s nice to finally meet the guy Lady Yuna’s been nuts over.”

 

Tidus smiled.  He decided right then and there that he liked this Gippal person.  He reminded him of someone, but he wasn’t sure who, “It’s nice to meet you too, Gippal.”

 

Pointing to each as he spoke, Gippal said, “I used to lead the Machine Faction.  This is Baralai, former leader of New Yevon.  This is Nooj, former leader of the Youth League.” 

 

Tidus’ eyes locked with the woman next to Nooj.  If Gippal reminded him of someone, then this girl definitely did.  It was the way she was standing.  She carried herself with a self important air about her.  He knew her…

 

Gippal continued, “And this is Nooj’s ladylove…”

 

“Allyn?” Tidus whispered half to himself.  Who the hell was Allyn?? 

 

The woman laughed haughtily and waved her fan in front of her face, “Sorry love.  The name’s LeBlanc.” She leaned closer to Nooj and asked, “So who’s Allyn?  Fancying someone more than Yuna already?!”

 

Tidus shook his head and tightened his grip on Yuna’s hand, “No, I don’t know where that name came from.  Sorry about that.”

 

LeBlanc shook her hand in the air, “Not to worry, love.  No harm done.”

 

Tidus tried to ignore Yuna’s concerned look and focused on the buildings that lined the streets as he followed the four new people toward the stadium.  The Aurochs – including Wakka – had already made their way to the locker room.  Tidus was disappointed that he wasn’t playing with them, but had already discussed with Wakka the possibility of rejoining for the next season.  Since this season had already started, Tidus needed to sit out, but he was welcoming it.  It gave him a chance to spend time with Yuna without blitzball practices getting in the way.

 

Yuna nudged him softly and pulled his head down to hers to kiss his lips gently, “I love you.”

 

“I love you too.” Tidus replied as he rubbed his nose against hers, “Always and forever…”

 

A noise caused the duo to break apart and Tidus burst out laughing as Gippal and Rikku began to gag themselves.  Rikku elbowed Gippal and pointed to Tidus and Yuna, “Kind of gets you right here,” she said as she smacked herself in the stomach, “doesn’t it?”

 

Gippal nodded, “Yeah, you two.  This isn’t a soap opera!”

 

Yuna felt her cheeks blush crimson and she said, “Stop teasing me!” Grabbing Tidus’ hand, the group started to walk up the steps that led to the blitzball stadium grandstand.  It had been a long time since Tidus had been here.  The last time was two years before, when Tidus was a scared little boy who didn’t understand the world that he had suddenly been thrust into.  He had been scared and alone, but this was the place that Auron rejoined him.  This was the true beginning of his journey.  Before Luca, Tidus had just been following along behind a group of people he didn’t understand just so that he could feel as though he belonged, but Luca was the place that made him realize that he really did belong.  This was the place Tidus was told that his father, Jecht, had been turned into Sin.  This was where he knew that fighting alongside Yuna was his destiny.

 

“Sir Tidus!!!” a shrill shriek came from behind him and Tidus spun around and unconsciously put his hand on the butt of his sword before he realized that the shriek came from Shelinda, the Yevonite that they had run into several times during Yuna’s pilgrimage.

 

The woman was still dressed in her signature green dress but this time was armed with a microphone and a cameraman, “What’s going on, Shelinda?” he asked, eyeing the cameraman suspiciously.

 

“I’m a reporter now, Tidus.  I was so happy to hear about your return!” the redhead said, “I was wondering if you’d grant me an interview.”

 

Tidus scratched his head and looked at Yuna who gave him a grin and took a step back, “He’s all yours, Shelinda.” Yuna said as she shot Tidus a teasing look and stood next to Paine, well away from the cameraman.

 

“Great!” Shelinda cried as she ran next to Tidus and signaled for the camera to start rolling before Tidus could say anything, “This is Shelinda and I’m here with Sir Tidus, High Summoner Yuna’s former guardian and current boyfriend who has just returned to the public eye after being out of sight for almost two years.”  She smiled at Tidus and asked, “So where were you, Sir Tidus?  The public is dying to know.”

 

“Dying…” Tidus said with a laugh, “that’s what I was doing, actually.”

 

Shelinda’s smile faded and she cocked an eyebrow, “Why, whatever do you mean?”

 

Tidus shrugged.  He looked at Yuna briefly and then said, “I was a dream of the fayth who had recreated Zanarkand in a dream state.  I was one of the residents but was sucked into Sin and sent to the real world.  After Sin was defeated, I vanished since the fayth stopped dreaming, but when Yuna stopped the destruction of the world for a second time the fayth made me real as a reward.”

 

Shelinda looked as though someone had hit her with an airship.  Her face held abject confusion in every muscle and it took her several minutes before she spoke again.  She looked at the camera and spoke, “Well, apparently those rumors in the Spira Inquirer are true.” She said, “And this reporter doesn’t know what to say.  Therefore, this is Shelinda, signing off.”

 

“How’d I do?” Tidus asked with a half grin.

 

“Well, I suppose you did…fine,” Shelinda replied, “I mean, I wasn’t expecting such candor.  I also wasn’t expecting the truth to be so completely insane either.”

 

Yuna took her place next to Tidus again and smiled at Shelinda, “It is a crazy story, but it’s also fascinating and I think it’s going to cause the ratings to skyrocket.”

 

“Oh I hope so!” Shelinda replied, “I desperately want to be a good reporter.  Then maybe I can get promoted to a nice desk job.  That’d be wonderful.” She smiled at the group before turning to the cameraman, “Paublo, let’s go.” She demanded, “It was wonderful to see you all again” she called over her shoulder as she and her cameraman vanished from sight.

 

------------------

 

The score was 2-1, in favor of the Kilika Beasts.  When the whistle blew for intermission, Tidus felt Yuna’s hand caressing his hair and he turned to her, “They’d be winning if you were out there.” She said with a smile.

 

Tidus kissed her gently and replied, “Hey, at least they scored a goal.”

 

“That’s true.” Yuna agreed with a laugh.  The Aurochs hadn’t improved much in the two years since Tidus faded.  They were still the worst time in history but their fan base had grown quite a bit.  It was probably because one of High Summoner Yuna’s former guardians was the captain and Yuna herself was a big fan.  Whatever it was, Tidus was happy that the Aurochs were finally getting the cheers they deserved. 

 

“Excuse me…pardon me…let me through.” Came Gippal’s voice from down the aisle a bit.  The Al Bhed was climbing over Nooj, Baralai, LeBlanc, and Rikku to reach his seat next to Tidus which he had vacated a few minutes before.  Plopping himself down, Gippal said to Tidus, “It’s like a war zone in here!”

 

“It is pretty crowded.” Tidus agreed, placing a hand on Yuna’s thigh.

 

“Since its intermission,” Gippal began, “I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk to you about something you might be interested in.”

 

Tidus cocked an eyebrow, “What is it?”

 

Gippal grinned like a Cheshire cat and said, “This idea hit me when I found out how upset Yuna was that Cid turned Zanarkand into a theme park.”

 

“A theme park?” Tidus asked as he looked at Yuna and said, “That doesn’t sound so bad.  I like rollercoasters.”

 

Yuna laughed and put her head on his shoulder, “Not that kind of theme park, baby.” She whispered, “Cid turned it into a tourist attraction.  People just walk around and don’t treat it with the respect it deserves.”

 

“So I came up with a way to fix that,” Gippal replied, “Since the world has been saved twice and Tidus is back here with you, Yuna, there’s really no reason for Zanarkand to remain a ‘holy place’ per say.”

 

Yuna lifted her head and looked at him skeptically, “Just what do you want to do, Gippal?”

 

“Using Tidus for the details,” he replied, “I want to rebuild Zanarkand the way it was 1000 years ago.”

 

Tidus felt suddenly excited.  He desperately missed Zanarkand and everything about the ‘city that never slept’.  The opportunity to bring it back to life was something that Tidus had never thought he’d get.  He opened his mouth to tell Gippal what a great idea he thought it was when Yuna spoke first.

 

“No.” she said, “Absolutely not.”

------------------

AL BHED TRANSLATION

 

Fryd tu oui fyhd: what do you want? 

Du lraan dra Abes du jelduno:  To cheer the Aurochs to victory.

--------------

 

NOTE:  In Chapter 20 of Silver Wings, the Fayth told Lenne that she would be reincarnated as Yuna.  I know that this chapter makes it sound like that isn’t true, but it is true.  You’ll see where I’m going with this in subsequent chapters. 

Author’s Notes: This chapter will set up a Gippal/Rikku/Baralai love triangle as well as start the conflict of the story. 

 

SPOILER: There are FFX and FFX-2 spoilers in this chapter including the dialog to the perfect ending of FFX-2. 

 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Three: The Big Bang

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

 

“Why not?” Tidus asked as he followed Yuna back into the Celsius after the game.  Yuna’s abrupt ‘No’ to Gippal’s idea upset the blitzer.  Rebuilding his home was the closest he could come to having it back.  Yuna just didn’t seem to understand that, but he was determined to make her understand.

 

Yuna sighed and threw her hands in the air, “Because I just don’t want to!” she cried.  Her eyes connected with the group that had followed them onto the ship.  She groaned.  She couldn’t even have an argument with Tidus without everyone watching.  Connecting with Tidus’ eyes, she asked, “Can we talk about this alone?”

 

“Yeah,” Tidus agreed, “Let’s go into the crew quarters.”

 

Yuna smiled at her friends, “We’ll be back out later.” She said as she followed her boyfriend back into the crew quarters and dismissed Barkeep who locked the door behind him.  Yuna sat down on the edge of her bed and stared at Tidus who was leaning against the rail that hung over the item shop below, “I don’t want to rebuild because it would be sacrilege to the summoners who died defeating Sin.”

 

“How do you figure that?” Tidus asked as he sat down on the bed opposite Yuna and looked deeply into her eyes.  He just didn’t understand her anymore.  Before he left, he understood everything about her and what she stood for.  Now, she was so completely different that he wasn’t sure if she was even the same girl he’d fallen in love with.

 

Yuna sighed and stood up.  Placing her hands on her hips, Yuna paced back and forth between the two beds, “I just don’t think it’s appropriate.  We should leave it the way it is as a reminder.”

 

“A reminder of what?!” Tidus asked, practically shrieking, “A reminder of how the Yevon faith made idiots out of practically all of Spira with their lies?”

 

Yuna stopped her pacing and stared at him, “Do you really think I’m an idiot?” she asked in all sincerity.  He didn’t answer right away and Yuna narrowed her eyes at him, “End of discussion.” She hissed.

 

“No, not ‘end of discussion’.  This is crazy!  Doing your job doesn’t mean sacrificing yourself for people who aren’t even going to remember your name!”

 

“So now you think I’m crazy?”

 

“No, but I think that going to war is stupid.  Especially when you don’t have to.”

 

“Oh!  So I’m stupid and crazy now!”

 

A chill went up Tidus’ spine and he spun around.  He was certain he was hearing voices now.  Maybe he was going insane.  He felt Yuna’s hand on his shoulder and he looked into her eyes with panic, “I know I heard something.  I know it!”

 

“I didn’t hear anything, Tidus.” She replied.

 

Tidus sighed and sat back down on the bed with Yuna joining him, “Well, forget about that,” he said, “Let’s go back to our discussion about Zanarkand.”

 

“Tidus!” Yuna cried as she fell back onto the bed defeated, “I don’t think we should.”

 

Tidus lay down next to her and stroked her stomach gently.  She turned her head to look at him as he whispered, “I promised you once that I’d take you to my Zanarkand.  You know I can’t do that literally, but by rebuilding it I can fulfill that promise to the best of my abilities.”

 

“Tidus…”

 

“Let me finish,” he said as he placed a loving finger over her lips, “I want this, Yuna.  I want my home back.  Think about it.  We can rebuild Zanarkand and my house with it.  Then when we get married, we can live there.”

 

Yuna’s eyes lit up, “When….”

 

Tidus smiled at her, “When…” The former summoner was on her feet faster then Tidus could imagine and she motioned for him to stand.  Following her orders like an obedient guardian, Tidus asked jokingly, “What can I do for you m’lady summoner?”

 

Yuna was suddenly filled with the courage to do this.  It was thanks to Tidus saying ‘when’ they would get married.  She didn’t have to wonder whether he wanted her or loved her anymore.  She pointed to him and said, “Take your clothes off.”

 

----------------

 

“Well, this could take a while,” Gippal said as he reached into the closet and onto the upper shelf to grab the box he was seeking.  It was the board game ‘Spirapoly’ and he thought it would be a good way to pass the time.  He sat the box down onto the card table the group had set up and said, “So, who’s in?”

 

Rikku sat down across from him and looked sour, “Why do you think it’s going to take a while?” she asked in all innocence, “All he’s got to do is change her mind about rebuilding.  What’s so hard about that?”

 

Gippal let a smirk escape as he looked at the group and then back at Rikku, “Well, I’m sure something is going to be…hard.”

 

“I’ll play.” Baralai said as he snickered and sat down next to Rikku.  Paine joined in, taking a seat next to Gippal.  Buddy and Wakka shared one edge of the table with Lulu – holding Vidina - and Brother at the opposing end.  The Aurochs had decided to take in the view from the top of the Celsius.  Nooj and LeBlanc had decided to take a boat back to the former Youth League Headquarters.

 

Rikku wrinkled her nose in confusion as she looked at Gippal, “What’s going to be hard about it?”

 

Wakka let out a snort as he waved his hand in the air, “Never you mind, ya.”

 

Rikku’s blonde braids hung in her eyes and she pushed them out of the way, annoyed, as she looked into Baralai’s brown orbs, “Am I missing something?” she asked.

 

Baralai grinned at her.  Rikku was beautiful and her innocence was charming.  After being a priest for so long, the sudden realization that he’s not anymore was a shock to his system and he couldn’t help but let his eyes wander down toward Rikku’s bustline for just a moment before reconnecting with her eyes, “It’s not important, Rikku.” He replied as he tried to calm his pounding heart due to her nearness, “Gippal is just being uncouth.”

 

Gippal laughed and threw Baralai’s starting money at him, “Speak for yourself!”

 

“You’re always uncouth, Gippal!” Rikku sneered as she took the starting money he handed her.  Grabbing the dice from the table she said, “I’m going first so you can’t cheat!”

 

Gippal feigned an injured look, “I never cheat!” he hissed as he grabbed the dice from her hand, rolled, and moved his pawn to the first Blitzball Stadium which he promptly bought.

 

“Cheater!!” Rikku squealed as she leaned over the table and put her face inches from his own.

 

As Rikku went to lower herself back onto her seat, Gippal impulsively grabbed the cloth on her arms and pulled her toward him, attacking her lips with his own for a mere fraction of eternity before letting her go.  The shocked look on Rikku’s face was enough to relax the shock that was coursing through his system at his action and he placed a smug smirk on his lips, “Your turn.”

 

“You always manage to buy all the Blitzball Stadiums and then you wipe the floor with me!”

 

Gippal laughed, “Well, right now I only have one.”

 

She looked at Baralai and frowned, “Only my dad can beat him at this.  It’s no fun playing with a cheater.”

 

Gippal held his hand out, “You owe me $25 gil.” He grinned, “Pay up.”

 

Rikku glared at him and handed over the fake paper gil.  She pushed a strand of blonde out of her eyes and hissed, “You’re going to land on Zanarkand or Gagazet soon and then you’ll be crying!”

 

“Nobody ever lands on Zanarkand or Gagazet.” Gippal replied, “That’s why I never buy them.”

 

Her short pink tongue protruded from her mouth before she said, “You just suck, you know that?!”  She crossed her arms over her chest and was content to sit and pout like that for quite sometime until a cry came from the crew quarters.  Jumping up, Rikku yelped, “That sounded like Yunie.  I hope she didn’t hurt herself.”  The Al Bhed made a move to head back toward the quarters when Baralai jumped up and grabbed her from behind.  Rikku had to stop the sudden giddiness she felt when his muscular arm wrapped itself around her waist.  Baralai wasn’t the type of guy she was normally attracted to, but there was definitely something about the former priest that intrigued her.  However, this wasn’t the time to ponder such things.  Yuna might have hurt herself.  Rikku struggled from Baralai’s grip as she said, “Yunie might have hurt herself.  I want to go and check on her.”

 

“Trust me,” Baralai insisted, “she’s fine!”

 

Rikku ceased her struggles and twisted until she faced Baralai.  Their bodies were pressed tightly against each other and Gippal’s face soured until he saw that Baralai was releasing his grip on her.  Rikku asked, “How do you know that?”

 

“Just trust him, ya.” Wakka insisted, “She’s fine.”

 

Lulu nodded as she stood with the baby, “That wasn’t a cry of pain, Rikku,” she clarified.  Lulu looked at Wakka and said, “I’m going to put Vidina down for his nap.”

 

“Okay, Lu.”

 

Rikku wrinkled her nose again and looked at Gippal who had formed a smirk, “What is so damned funny all the time?!” she shrieked.

 

“You.” He replied simply.

 

“And what’s so funny about me?”

 

Gippal smiled at the beauty in front of him.  He’d known Rikku since they were both children.  Having mothers who were best friends meant that the children would be forced to hang out whether they liked it or not.  Gippal and Rikku had enjoyed each others’ company until just before he’d went to the Crimson Squad tryouts.  It was a strange moment between them when everything changed and neither was sure whether it was for the better or not.  Considering how things turned out, it was obviously NOT for the better.  Making out with ones best female friend for 45 minutes under a bridge wasn’t the most romantic thing in the world.  Gippal had to learn that one the hard way. 

 

Releasing himself from his reverie, Gippal replied, “Your innocence is very charming.”

 

“Bah!” Rikku said with a wave of her hand.  It was as if she was trying to forget him and she was, in a sense.  When he had kissed her, it brought back memories and feelings from the last time he had kissed her.  Gippal had a hold on her and probably always will, but it was definitely something Rikku was going to fight.  She wouldn’t let that cocky Al Bhed know she had feelings for him.  She sighed, “Well, I need to check on Yunie.  I’m worried about her.”

 

“Rikku!” Baralai cried again as he grabbed her arm and pulled her gently back toward him, “Just leave them alone.”

 

“Why?!” she asked, “What are they doing in there that’s so damn important anyway?”  Baralai leaned in and whispered the answer to her question into her ear and Rikku gasped, “No way!  Yunie would have told me if she and Tidus were…close…”

 

“I hate to break it to you,” Gippal replied smugly, “but I think there are certain things that Yuna won’t discuss with you.”

 

“Cridib oui yccruma!” she screamed at him.  She really hated it when Gippal got smug and acted like he knew everything. 

 

----------------

 

“You know, this is a heck of a lot more comfortable then Macalania.” Tidus said with a smile as he wrapped his arms around Yuna. 

 

Yuna laughed and tried to fight the blush she knew was forming on her features.  After their kiss at the forest, the duo had gone back to camp for the night - or, at least that had been the plan.  Instead they hadn’t been able to sleep and, by using hand signals to not wake anyone else, had ventured back to the sight of their first kiss.  His lips were as seductive then as they were now and Yuna had let all sense of propriety fly.  It didn’t matter that she was a summoner and he was a guardian and that things like that just weren’t done on a pilgrimage.  It didn’t matter that she was technically married, although her husband was the walking dead.  None of it mattered.  All that mattered was that she loved him, and he loved her. 

 

Lulu and Sir Auron had figured it out through the body language the two had been sending out after their lovemaking and confronted Yuna about it while stopped at the travel agency in the Calm Lands.  After getting a lecture from both of them, they had not promised not to render Tidus incapable of ever doing it again. 

 

“The only person who doesn’t realize what really happened that night is Rikku,” Yuna said.

 

Tidus said with his goofy half-grin, “Does she still think you’re a virgin?”

 

“Yeah,” Yuna replied, “and she’ll be really upset when she finds out that I’m not.  She was horrified when it came up that Paine wasn’t.”

 

Tidus made a face, “I can’t imagine anybody doing…that with Paine.”

 

“Oh, you’re so mean!” Yuna teased, as she squirmed in the bed to turn and face him. 

 

Tidus laughed with her for a moment before his eyes took on a more serious look, “Are you still against rebuilding Zanarkand?” he asked.

 

Yuna sighed.  There was a part of her that desperately wanted to give Tidus this wish that he wanted so terribly, but the rest of her had a horrible feeling about what rebuilding might bring.  She looked into his blue eyes and said, “What if Zanarkand ends up just as it was 1000 years ago.  What if Sin reappears?”

 

“We’ll just beat it again,” Tidus replied, “Besides, we defeated Yu Yevon.  It won’t come back.”

 

“But how can you be so sure?”

 

Tidus rubbed his nose affectionately against hers and replied, “I love you.  That’s how I can be sure.”

 

Tidus always knew how to say the right things to make her feel better.  He’s the reason she didn’t completely lose her mind during her pilgrimage when everything she had ever known turned out to be a lie.  She loved Tidus and wanted him to be happy.  Smiling at him, she said, “Okay, then.  Let’s rebuild it.”

 

“Really?” Tidus asked, with a barely concealed glee forming on his features.

 

“Really.” Yuna said with a firm nod, “Let’s tell everyone that we head out tomorrow.”

 

--------------------

 

The sun was setting on Zanarkand the following evening when the Celsius landed on the outskirts of the ruined city.  A skeleton crew consisting of Gippal, Baralai, Rikku, Paine, Tidus, and Yuna had decided to travel to Zanarkand and survey the land to decide where to start and how many men would be required.  The six walked carefully over rocks and boulders down the path that led to the main street of Zanarkand. 

 

“I just thought of something,” Gippal said.

 

Rikku replied, “Gee, I thought I smelled smoke.”

 

“Vmendehk femm kad oui hu frana.” Gippal sneered, yanking softly on Rikku’s braids before he said to the group, “Why don’t we split up and then all meet back at the blitzball stadium in about 30 minutes.  That way we can see most of the city without spending all day at it.”

 

Yuna nodded, “I like that idea.”

 

“Me too,” Tidus agreed as he wrapped an arm around Yuna, “We’ll start over by the ocean.”

 

Rikku grabbed Paine’s arm and shouted, “We’ll start in the park near the stadium.”

 

“Guess that leaves me and Baralai to work the housing area.” Gippal said, “Let’s get to it.  We’ll all meet at the stadium in about 30 minutes.”

 

Yuna waved goodbye to her fellow Gullwings and then allowed herself to be pulled by Tidus toward a hill that overlooked the ocean.  It was a breathtaking sight with the sun setting slowly over the ruins of Zanarkand.  Yuna looked in awe of the beauty around her and felt another flicker of doubt forming.  Would rebuilding this place ruin the beauty or enhance it?

 

“Being here makes me think about the pilgrimage…” Tidus whispered, “but mostly about the end of it.”

 

Yuna nodded solemnly as she turned so that they were back to back.  She thought about the end of her pilgrimage a lot too.  She dreamed about it every night, even after he came back.  She hated this fear of him disappearing.  She didn’t even know if he was real.

 

As if sensing her thoughts, Tidus looked out toward the ocean again and said, “I got a theory. I think the fayth gathered up my thoughts and put 'em together to bring me back. Maybe. Something like that."  Yuna turned to him and watched with concern in his eyes.  Tidus focused down on his hands and waited a moment as if expecting pyreflies to fly from them the way they had two years ago, “Or maybe…I’m still a dream.” He finally whispered.

 

Yuna gasped and her alarm was evident on her lovely face.  She didn’t want to face the thought of losing him again.  She couldn’t live without him.  She wouldn’t live without him, “Wait!  So you’ll disappear?”

 

Tidus paused and looked at his hands again before turning to look at Yuna, “Cherish me, Yuna.  And I’ll cherish you.  All right?” he smiled at her, “We gotta stay together.  That’s what we have to do.”  His eyes filled with hope at that thought before turning to look back out onto the breathtaking sunset. 

 

Yuna ran to him and wrapped her arms around him from behind, gently running her fingers along his muscular chest, “Is that what the Fayth told you?”

 

Tidus shook his head, “Nah,” he said with a laugh, “but I like it.”

 

Yuna laughed heartily as she slowly pulled her arms back toward her.  Suddenly an idea came to her and she shoved him hard from behind and watched from above as he fell into the water below.  The handsome blitzer surfaced with a laugh as he wiped water from his eyes and shouted, “That’s not cherishing!”

 

Yuna shrugged and said with a laugh, “You didn’t disappear.”

 

------------------

 

Thirty minutes later, Paine, Rikku, Baralai, and Gippal waited for Yuna and Tidus.  Some waited more patiently then others. 

 

“Where are they?!” Rikku whined as she plopped down on the ground between Baralai and Paine, “What’s taking them so long.”

 

Gippal sneered at her from across the cement walkway, “They’re probably having sex.”

 

Slamming her hands over her ears, Rikku shouted, “I’m not hearing that!  I’m not hearing that!  I’m not hearing that!”

 

“E's zugehk.  Namyq!” Gippal said with a heavy sigh.  Rikku was definitely beautiful, but she was also incredibly annoying.  The whole Yuna thing bothered him most.  Rikku placed her cousin on some sort of a pedestal and the ex-summoner couldn’t even do a normal human thing without Rikku freaking out.  Rikku was almost as bad as Brother when it came to Yuna.

 

“Sorry we’re late.” Yuna cried. She and Tidus were running down the street and Gippal noted that both were dripping wet.

 

“What were you two doing?” he asked.

 

Tidus pointed to Yuna, “It was all her fault,” he declared, “She shoved me into the water and then slipped in herself!”

 

“Whatever.” Gippal replied as he pointed to the stadium, “That is what’s important.”

 

Tidus’ eyes caressed what remained of the blitzball stadium.  He hadn’t seen it since Yuna’s pilgrimage but it hadn’t changed.  It still stood partly with huge holes in the roof and crumbled stone all over the place.  He remembered playing in that stadium when Sin attacked and destroyed it and Zanarkand. 

 

Did Sin really do it….?

 

That sudden thought confused Tidus.  Of course Sin had destroyed the stadium.  Everyone knew that.  Sin destroyed Zanarkand and that included the stadium.

 

Right….?

 

“So, care to describe what it used to look like?” Gippal asked, “Baralai will record what you said so that we can give the builders a better gauge.”

 

Tidus shook off the strange thought and nodded, “Not a problem.” He said as Baralai clicked the record button on the sphere he held.  Tidus moved his hand as if painting a picture as he spoke, “There was a huge glass ceiling that let the sunlight in.  Along the rafters were lights if there was a night game.” He pointed to a sharp object jutting out of the ruined roof, “That was an antenna and it reached all the way up to the sky…” His eyes went back down to the stadium and he gasped.  It wasn’t in ruins.  It was perfect down to the very last detail.  The sun seemed higher then it should have been at dusk and for a moment he thought he was alone.  None of the group was near him as he looked around frantically. 

 

What was going on?

 

He looked to his right and saw Yuna.  He reached for her but when she looked at him he gasped.  It wasn’t Yuna.  It was that girl that he’d seen before.  The one that smelled like lavender.

 

“I love you.  That’s why I’m like this, you know.”

 

It was that strange voice again.  He kept hearing that man’s voice in his head and he didn’t know why.  He stared at the girl who smelled like lavender.  She looked like Yuna, and yet she looked completely different.  No matter what, though, he had the sense that he’d seen her before. 

 

“I know that, Shuyin.  I lo…” Before Tidus could ask her why she was calling him Shuyin or even who she was, an object in the sky caught his attention.  It was a bomb.  Tidus made to scream out but it felt as though his voice was caught in his throat and he was helpless.  He could do nothing but watch as the bomb hit with full force and knocked himself and the girl off of their feet.  He could feel the smoke in his lungs and the heat of the flames. 

 

He stared at the blitzball stadium again.  It was back to normal.  It was the rubble it had been during Yuna’s pilgrimage.  His friends were kneeling beside him with looks of concern on their faces.  Yuna leaned close to him, “Are you okay, honey?”

 

Tidus stared at her and breathed deeply the smell of vanilla.  He smiled weakly at her and then he passed out.

 

-------------

 

“You must stop!  That’s enough!”

 

His blue eyes fixed on her as he spun to the sound of her voice, “What are you doing here?” he hissed as he angrily jumped down from the collapses and approached her, “I told you to stay at home!”

 

“This is crazy!” she cried, “Let’s just….”

 

Footsteps echoed behind her and his gasp caused her to spin around.  A barrage of Bevelle soldiers with Machina guns were approaching them.  He felt panic take over and he grabbed her arm and began pulling her toward a side exit.  The soldiers followed suit.

 

He and she ran and ran, turning this way and that in a futile attempt to lose the soldiers in their own base.  Before they knew it, the couple was back where they started.  They were standing in front of Vegnagun’s eye – a piercing blood red eye that almost foretold certain doom.

 

The soldiers cocked their rifles and aimed them at the young couple.  She looked at him with an unfortellable look in her eyes before she gave him a weak smile.  All he could think about what how he’d failed her.  He’d failed her…

 

The sound of the guns firing seemed to come from far away.  Her fingers tightened around his arms and he increased his grip on her but it was all for naught.  The bullets pierced their skin, the force broke them apart…

 

Tidus woke up screaming and clutching his chest.  His heart was beating fast and he was afraid he’d never catch his breath.  Yuna was by his side in a second, wrapping her arms tightly around him like a blanket, “Are you okay?  What happened to you?”  The blitzer looked around.  He didn’t know where he was, but somehow it seemed very familiar.  Yuna noticed his confusion and said, “It started to rain so we took shelter in this house.  Sin didn’t completely destroy it and it’s pretty much intact.  Most of A-East is in relatively good shape considering.”

 

“Oh.” Tidus whispered as he continued to look around the tiny living room he was in.  There was something about this place that seemed so familiar to him.  It was almost like he’d been there before…

 

“He’s awake!” Rikku squealed with delight as she, Baralai, Paine, and Gippal came from down the hallway.  The perky blonde bounced toward him, “Welcome back, sleepy head.” She teased, rubbing his head affectionately.  Rikku’s eyes brightened as she looked at Yuna, “You’ll never guess what we found!”

 

“What?” Yuna asked.

 

Paine tilted her head, “The bathroom has porcelain fixtures.”

 

“Oooo!!  I wanted to say it!” Rikku whined.  Although announcing that was taken from her, it didn’t ruin Rikku’s perk and spunk as she grabbed Yuna’s hand and dragged her down the hall to look at the fixtures. 

 

He was alone again and Tidus slowly stood up and took a long look around the room.  It was dusty and dirty.  There was dirt inches thick on the floor and he was filthy from lying on a dirty sofa.  However, something about this place was incredibly familiar.

 

“This place looks much better than when Yuna lived here.  Less pink…” Tidus suddenly whispered to himself.  He froze.  Where had that come from?  What was going on with him lately?  Was he going insane? 

 

Tidus knew that Yuna would ask him again what happened when he passed out, but he was too afraid to tell her the truth.  He didn’t know why he was seeing some gorgeous brunette and she was calling him Shuyin.  He didn’t know why he was imagining a bomb being dropped on the blitzball stadium, and he didn’t know why he dreamt he was being shot at by Bevelle soldiers.  He didn’t want to worry Yuna unnecessarily.  It had to be a side effect of being brought back by the Fayth.

 

Right….?

 

Right. 

 

Suddenly feeling the need to be near Yuna, Tidus followed the voices down the hall to the bathroom with the porcelain fixtures.  He was greeted by the excited squeals of Rikku.  Tidus hadn’t realized how exciting porcelain was until he entered the bathroom and saw the entire group taking pictures of a 1000 year old toilet.  It was a truly strange sight.

 

Sighing, he turned from the bathroom and looked into the bedroom.  He had a clear view thanks to the moonlight that echoed through the window.  Thinking he saw movement, Tidus took a step closer and then immediately wished he hadn’t. 

 

It was the girl that smelled like lavender and had called him Shuyin.  She was sitting on the bed with only a sheet covering her bare form.  She seemed to look at him and yet through him at the same time. 

 

“I thought you had left.” She whispered.

 

Tidus took another tentative step toward her and he heard a response in his head.

 

“Why would I leave?”

 

“Yunalesca told me that you tend to do that.  She called it ‘love ‘em and leave ‘em’.” The girl replied. 

 

With Tidus’ next step, she vanished.  The bed was untouched and it looked as though she’d never been there.  Tidus felt a flash of terror go through him.  Was he seeing ghosts or just losing his mind?  He spun on his heels to tell Yuna what he’d just seen but his foot caught on a rug that was hidden under the dirt.  Losing his balance, Tidus’ head hit against the doorframe with a sickening crack and the world went dark.

 

 

-----------------------

 

AL BHED TRANSLATION

 

Cridib oui yccruma!: Shutup you asshole!

Vmendehk femm kad oui hu frana: Flirting will get you no where.

E's zugehk.  Namyq!: I’m joking.  Relax!

I am truly sorry that I have to do this, but given the recent turn of events, I feel that I must. 

Author's Notes:  Now, please remember that Tidus slammed his head against the doorframe at the end of the last chapter and went unconscious.  It is very important in order to understand the first section of the story.  Something happens to Tidus twice in this chapter.  Also, I wasn't going to initially dive deeper into when Tidus thought LeBlanc was Allyn, but I decided to, so there is going to be a little more of that in this chapter as well. 

SPOILER:  This chapter discusses some things from sidequests in FFX-2 and also from the Crimson Spheres. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Four: Concern for the Fallen

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

He awoke a moment later, rubbed his head and stretched his limbs, using his eyes to see as if for the first time.  Yuna was kneeling beside him with concern in her eyes, "Are you okay?"

He let out a small smile and replied simply, "I'm fine."

"You're fine?" repeated Baralai incredulously, "You just hit your head against a doorframe and knocked yourself out.  How can you be fine?!"

"I have a hard head," replied the Abes blitzer.  Standing and dusting off his clothes, he said to Yuna, "I'm going outside now."

"But it's raining." She said, but that didn't stop him.  He was already halfway out the door by the time her voice reached his ears. 

He knew they were following him, but that didn't matter.  It felt good to have control again, although he knew it wouldn't be a permanent thing for a while.  He was pleased to see that most of A-East was intact.  It would make the rebuilding that much easier.  Now all he needed to do was figure out how to make the ghosts of the past into something real and lasting. 

"My house." he whispered.  There it was.  It wasn't in perfect shape, but it was still there and that filled him with joy.  His car was gone, but he could easily buy another one.  That didn't bother him. 

He heard her footsteps behind him as she whispered, "Really?!"  Her excitement was evident in her voice.  He nodded as he ran into the front door and stood in the living room.  The group followed him and she took her place next to him as she said, "Is this really your house?"

He scoffed, "Lennie, you know this is my house."

Yuna thought that her heart stopped beating for a moment.  He hadn't even flinched when he called her that name.  Nobody said anything.  All eyes watched him as he continued to pace around the room and survey his surroundings.  She was scared of the answer, but had to ask the question, "What is my name, Tidus?"

At the sound of that name, his head began to pound as the blood pumped in his ears.  He reached up and rubbed his temples in an attempt to fight the pain that was forming, but it was no use.  He couldn't hold out.  He'd have to visit again later, when he was stronger. 

"What is my name, Tidus?" Yuna asked again as she took a step closer to him. 

Tidus looked at her confused.  He didn't know where he was for the second time that day.  He looked at her in abject confusion, "Your name is Yuna." He replied, "And.uh.where are we?" he asked before dizziness overtook him and he passed out again.

--------------------

Yuna stared at his handsome face as he slept soundly in the crew quarters of the Celsius.  The sound of his head connecting with the doorframe still sounded in her ears as it had the entire time Baralai and Gippal struggled to carry him back to the ship in the rain.  Everyone had decided it would be better to have Tidus awaken in a location he was familiar with rather then have him wake up in an unfamiliar place and practically kill himself again.

He had called her. Lenne.

He stirred a little and she moved the ice pack on the bump forming above his left eyebrow, "Shhh." she whispered to him as he opened his eyes slightly but shut them just as quickly and returned to his world of dreams. 

"How's he doing?" came Rikku's hushed voice as she climbed the stairs toward the beds.

Yuna shrugged and whispered, "He's still out, but that's a good thing I suppose."

"Come on," Rikku said, "We're going to have a meeting about what happened."  Yuna nodded and placed the ice pack down on the table beside Tidus and then followed her cousin down the stairs and out into the elevator that took them to the bridge.  The card table set out again and Gippal, Baralai, and Paine were already seated. 

"He called me. Lenne." Yuna whispered as she sat next to Paine, "I still can't believe it."

Rikku nudged her cousin as she took a seat next to her, "Actually, he called you Lennie.  There's a subtle difference."

Yuna laughed at the sheer insanity of that 'subtle difference' but was grateful for her cousin's sense of humor anyway.  She wished she knew why he had called her that.  She wished she knew what was wrong with him!

"First off," Gippal began, "Has he been acting oddly before today?"

Yuna shrugged, "Not really," she replied, "Just a little jumpy.  He also said he's hearing voices."

"And you don't think hearing voices is odd?" Paine asked sarcastically.

"I just thought it was a side effect of the Farplane." Yuna said.

Baralai nodded, "It might be.  He's only just been brought back.  Part of him still could be connected to the Farplane."

"Did he say who the voices belonged to?" Gippal asked. 

Yuna shook her head.  Tidus hadn't told her anything about the voices except that he was hearing them.  They were scaring him obviously, but he hadn't told her any details about them.  He didn't even know what they said to him.  She frowned, "Also, two times he's looked at me like he's never seen me before."

"Yuna," Paine said, "I think that is relatively strange behavior.  What about it doesn't seem strange to you?"

"None of it, I guess," Yuna replied with a blush.  She supposed that the main reason she said that it didn't seem strange was the fact that she wished it wasn't.  She really wished that his behavior could be explained away easily.  Dealing with something serious was something she didn't think she could deal with.

Gippal cracked his back against the chair and said nonchalantly, "Well, since he came back after Shuyin was defeated, he's probably just possessed."

"Oh, is that all?!" Baralai said sarcastically, his eyes flashing in the dim light.

"Yeah," Gippal replied, "No big deal.  We just call the Gullwing exorcists and we'll be all set."

Baralai's brown orbs were cast downward as he said, "You really think it's that easy?" he frowned, "You're an idiot, Gippal." He hissed as he stood and left the room before Gippal could form a reply.

---------------------

Gippal just didn't understand and that realization infuriated Baralai.  Gippal didn't get that possession wasn't just this simple little thing that was easily curable.  Nooj had done things he regretted with his entire being while under Shuyin's control - like shooting Gippal, Baralai, and Paine after getting out of the Cave of Woe during their trial for the Crimson Squad.  Possession was the complete loss of control.  You knew what you were doing but were helpless to stop it.  Baralai had done some horrible things under Shuyin's control and it was only with the help of his psychiatrist that he was able to start putting these things behind him.

"Gippal is a moron, but he didn't mean to hurt your feelings."

Baralai smiled to himself with his back to the lovely Al Bhed that had joined him at his perch on the roof of the Celsius.  Rikku took a place beside him and Baralai turned his smile toward her, "I know that.  He just doesn't understand."

"Gippal doesn't want to understand." Rikku clarified, "I've known him my whole life and when he's scared of something, he tries to make a joke."  She nudged Baralai playfully, "It's a dorky way to handle things, but that's just Gippal.  A big dork."

Baralai cast a sideways glance at his beautiful counterpart whose eyes had focused back on the horizon.  After Tidus hit his head, the group had retired back to the Celsius but was still at their landing site near Zanarkand.  The stars always seemed brighter near Zanarkand for some reason and even brighter to Baralai now since Rikku was there.  There was something about the girl that he really liked, but he didn't know what.  Normally girls like her - with their constant cheerfulness - drove him insane, but in her case he found it oddly comforting.  Maybe it was because he knew her perky nature hid a very talented fighter.  Then again, maybe he had just reached a point in his life when perky was preferred to solid and stoic.  He'd moved from his desire for stoic - Paine - and onto his desire for cheerful - Rikku.

Thinking about Paine made him blush a little under his tanned skin.  She never knew how he had felt about her, and if he had it his way she never would.  Looking at her now, he didn't understand the attraction, but back then she had him completely flustered.  It was the way she had looked at Nooj that had made Baralai more determined then ever to win her attention, but in the end he had failed.  It sickened him, but he was partly happy that Nooj had shot her too.  It had effectively ended her infatuation with their long-haired leader.

Baralai let his eyes slowly caress Rikku as she continued to stare ahead of her.  He still couldn't quite place what it was that made him want to be around her.  He supposed it started when they had first met.  Yuna had assumed for a moment that he was the Praetor's son and that she had turned down his marriage proposal.  Once that was cleared up, Baralai had noticed Rikku covertly for the first time.  His astonishment at her beauty was short lived when he saw Paine struggling to hide from his line of vision. 

Rikku's red lips moved a little as she sighed and Baralai was overwhelmed with a desire to kiss her, but he quickly squelched that desire as Rikku said to him, "I don't think its possession anyway."

"Why's that?" Baralai asked. 

Rikku shrugged, "There aren't any pyreflies." She replied simply, "When you were possessed there were pyreflies that floated out of your arms and legs.  That's how we knew.  Tidus doesn't have any pyreflies."

"That's very true," Baralai replied, "What do you think it is then?"

Rikku grinned at him and spun to face him.  Jumping in place like an excited child on their birthday, Rikku grabbed Baralai's hand to turn him toward her and squealed, "I was hoping somebody would ask me that, because I have a really good theory!"

"So what is it?" Baralai asked with a laugh as he squeezed Rikku's fingers tenderly.  Neither removed their hand from the other and neither seemed overly concerned with it either.

"Well, I had been thinking about why Tidus looks like Shuyin and it hit me," Rikku began, "Tidus is Dream Zanarkand's version of Shuyin.  He's not exactly like him, but he's close just like Dream Zanarkand is close to the real Zanarkand."

Baralai nodded, "Makes sense."

"So I think that after Tidus faded and was in the Farplane, everything was cool until we defeated Shuyin and sent him there too.  This was the first time both had been near each other," Rikku smiled, "It screwed Tidus up in the head since he was near the real star of the Zanarkand Abes and he's just confused right now, but he'll be better soon."

Baralai squeezed the small hand he still held, "That is brilliant, Rikku.  It makes perfect sense."

Blushing, Rikku grabbed Baralai's other hand with her free one and said, "Gippal would have just thought I was stupid."

"Well, we have determined that Gippal's an idiot." Baralai joked.

Rikku laughed and impulsively stretched out on her toes to kiss Baralai on the cheek when Gippal's voice came from behind them, "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."  The Al Bhed's voice came out harsher then he had intended, but he hadn't expected to see Baralai making a play for Rikku.  He noted how quickly the former priest dropped Rikku's hands once he realized that Gippal was standing there and Gippal relaxed a little.  He didn't appreciate the way Baralai was looking at Rikku as of late.  Gippal had always considered Rikku his girl even though they had never had a real date and now knowing he had competition for her affections brought out his natural Al Bhed competitiveness. 

If Baralai wanted her, he'd have to fight for her.

Baralai stepped away from Rikku a bit, embarrassed about being caught but not entirely sure why, and he said to Gippal, "Rikku was just telling me about her theory on Tidus' strange behavior."

"I want to hear it!" Yuna cried as she and Paine joined the trio on the roof.  She looked at Rikku, "What do you think is wrong with him?"

So Rikku explained her theory and waited as they mulled it over in their minds.  Gippal was actually impressed with her theory.  Rikku had never seemed like the sharpest pencil in the box, but maybe he just hadn't given her enough credit, "I like that idea, Rikku." He said, "Now we just need to see if it has as much validity as I think it does."

Yuna looked at Gippal with confusion in her eyes, "How do we do that?"

"LeBlanc," Baralai replied, knowing exactly where Gippal was headed, "She likes stuff concerning the Farplane.  It's a hobby of hers."

"What a depressing hobby." Rikku muttered to herself and then giggled at Paine's nod of agreement.

"Who has a depressing hobby?" Tidus asked.  After awakening, he went in search of his friends and figured that if they weren't in the ship, they must be on the ship.  He was surprised at their looks when he came toward them.  All of them looked like they'd just been caught doing something terrible.  Tidus cocked an eyebrow and asked them, "Did I say something funny?"

Yuna shook her head, "No.  We were just talking about going to see Nooj and LeBlanc today."

"Oh." Tidus said with a smile, "Sounds like fun.  Let's go."

------------

"Noojie, I'm bored."

Nooj looked up at his girlfriend, LeBlanc, who was sitting cross-legged on his desk directly next to his pen.  He pushed a strand of brown hair from his eyes and gave her a half smile, "Why don't you read that book about the Farplane that you insisted I spend my Gil on?"

LeBlanc smiled and leaned down toward him, letting her loose fitting robe hang low, "I already read it." She whispered seductively in his ear, "And I was hoping we'd do something a little more.physical."

"As much as I'd love to," Nooj replied, running his thumb along her exposed skin, "I really have to finish up this report for the next meeting in Luca."

LeBlanc pouted, "But Noojie-Woojie!"

"No buts, LeBlanc." Nooj said more firmly this time, "This is important.  I'm sorry."

LeBlanc heaved an aggravated sigh and pushed herself off of Nooj's desk.  Sauntering out the door, she bumped firmly into Ormi and shoved the short and chubby little man out of the way, "Move you idiot!  I'm not in a good mood!"

"Yes, boss." Ormi said obediently as he and Logos stepped out of LeBlanc's way.  They didn't want to face her wrath.

There was a knock at the door and LeBlanc screamed furiously, "Logos!  Get that!"  She could hear Logos' feet pattering across the marble floor of the former Youth League Headquarters that she now called home.  Although she still owned Chateau LeBlanc, she rarely spent time there.  LeBlanc collapsed on the chair situated in the room she and Nooj shared and let out a huge sigh.  Nooj was always obsessed with his work and now that he, Baralai, and Gippal had taken to running Spira he was busier then usual.  Mainly because that damned Al Bhed and that former priest were out with Yuna trying to rebuild Zanarkand.  LeBlanc thought the entire thing was a fool's errand.  Yuna should be focusing her attentions on that boyfriend of hers. 

LeBlanc became thoughtful for a moment.  There was something about that Tidus person that didn't sit right with her.  She got a bad vibe from him when they'd first met and she really hoped that she never would have to see him again.  Just seeing him made her feel like someone was walking over her grave.

"Boss?" came Ormi's timid voice through the crack in her ajared door.

"What is it?!" LeBlanc answered sharply.  She hated it when she was interrupted.

Ormi opened the door a bit more and said, "You have guests, boss.  Lady Yuna and her friends say that they need to speak with you."

LeBlanc stood and straightened her robe and hair.  Although Baralai and Gippal were losers when it came to running a country, they were nice to look at.  She hissed at Ormi, "Well, take me to them!!"

The tall blonde female followed her short servant to the foyer where he'd left their unexpected guests.  She smiled at them all and said, "Yuna, love.  To what do Noojie and I owe the pleasure?"

Tidus stared at the woman again.  It was that same feeling that he knew her but it seemed stronger than before.  She gave him an odd half smile and said, "Can I ask you something…before you leave?" The girl in front of Tidus was no longer LeBlanc.  It was another woman who looked similar and yet completely different.  This girl's hair was long, almost down to her hips.  Though the same color as LeBlanc's, this girl's hair was shinier and had a wave in it.  Tidus couldn't hear the end of LeBlanc's question to him.  All he could hear was the conversation this woman was having with the man inside of his head.

"What is it?"

 

"This may not be the most appropriate time to ask this, but I'm curious anyway.  If Lenne wasn't in the picture, would you come back to me eventually?  I'm not hoping she'll die, mind you.  This is strictly hypothetical.  Like, if she left tomorrow and I was still around."

 

"Probably."

And as quickly as it happened, the girl was gone and LeBlanc was left standing there with an odd expression on her face, "Are you going to answer me, love, or are you going to keep staring at me like that?"

Tidus stammered, "I.uh.I'm sorry.  What was the question?"

"What did you do to your head?"

"Oh, this?" Tidus asked as he touched the black and blue bump on his head, "I hit my head on a doorframe." 

A sudden sleepiness overcame Tidus at that moment and he let out a huge yawn and stumbled a little where he was standing.  Yuna was by his side in a moment, "Are you okay?"

"I'm just really sleepy all of the sudden," Tidus said, yawning again.  He looked at LeBlanc, "Is there a place I can lay down?"

LeBlanc cast a worried look at Yuna before she said to Tidus, "Sure there is." Craning her neck to see around him, she shrieked, "Ormi!  Logos!  Take Tidus to the guest room to let him sleep."

"Yes boss." The duo said in unison as each took one of Tidus' arms and led him down the hallway. 

Once they were gone, LeBlanc ushered them all into Nooj's office.  Nooj looked up, annoyed, when his door was flung open but quickly quieted his comment when LeBlanc motioned for Yuna and her friends to follow.  Placing his papers into a folder on his desk, Nooj reached for his cane and slowly rose from behind the desk to greet his friends, "Hello everyone.  What can I do for you?"

"There's something wrong with Yuna's boyfriend, love.  They came to ask us some questions."

Nooj's eyes took on a note of concern, "What's wrong with Tidus, Yuna?"

Yuna didn't know where to begin.  The more she thought about his behavior, the more she realized that something really was wrong.  She just didn't know what it was.  Tidus didn't even seem to know and that's what scared her most.  Sighing, Yuna went into the long and sordid story starting from the day she first met Tidus up until the present and when it was finished, LeBlanc said, "Well that is one complicated tale."

"Tell me about it." Rikku said, "I was there during all of it and I still don't believe it."

Baralai smiled at the pretty Al Bhed who was seated between himself and Gippal.  Nudging her playfully, he said, "Why don't you tell LeBlanc your theory."

Rikku grinned, "Okay." She said, "I think that the reason Tidus is acting so weird is because he's dream Zanarkand's version of Shuyin and when Tidus and Shuyin came in contact in the Farplane, it confused Tidus." 

"That makes sense," LeBlanc replied, "since it was the first time the two souls came in contact with each other."

Yuna tried to listen to the conversation that was revolving around her, but her mind kept wandering to Tidus.  She was very worried about him and stood to excuse herself from the group when she saw a shadow go past the door and out toward the foyer.  Rikku had seen it too, as did Paine who said, "Was that Tidus?"

Everyone at the table looked at each other, each seeming to know what the other was thinking.  He wasn't looking for them.  He'd walked right past their room without a second look.  He was up to something.

With Yuna in the lead, the group followed several yards behind him.  He followed the stone walkways down to Mushroom Rock Road and it seemed to Yuna that he was heading toward Djose but a sudden turn stopped that thought in its tracks. 

"Why is he going down there?" Baralai asked, his voice tight with fear.  All eyes watched as the blonde they tracked slowly climbed down into the gulley below Mushroom Rock Road.  There was only one thing down there and Yuna couldn't imagine why he would go there.  All she knew was that she was bound and determined to find out. 

He was at the entrance to the Cave of Woe for several minutes before his followers reached it.  Hiding behind several boulders so as to stay out of view, they watched him. 

He stared hard at the door in front of him as if thinking that the power of his stare would cause it to open.  Putting a frustrated hand on his hip, he cursed, "Well this is just fucking lovely.  How the hell am I supposed to get in there with this damned door in the way?"

Yuna felt a tremble forming in her spine that traveled the length of her back as she watched the man wearing Tidus' form struggle with the door.  Whoever that was, wasn't Tidus.  Tidus didn't talk like that.  She couldn't remember a time when he cursed at all. 

The blonde took the sword he had hung in his belt loop and stuck it in between the two doors.  Tilting it back and forth several times, the door was pulled open far enough for him to be able to push it the rest of the way by hand.  With fresh air being able to circulate the cave, he smiled to himself and slung the sword back into his belt, "Stupid thing comes in handy for something."

With his move into the cave, the group snuck out from their hiding place and crept in quietly behind him.  It was dark in the cave so they hugged the walls in order to remain relatively invisible to him.  Once he reached the back of the cave, he dropped to his hands and knees and started digging around in the dirt, "Where the hell is it?" he cursed to himself as he threw rocks out of the way since they were baring his search, "I can't believe I lost the damn thing.  It's big!  It's not like it should be that hard to find!"

He looked out the cavern door at the sun which was rapidly beginning to rise and he swore, "Shit." Climbing to his feet, he brushed the dirt from his legs and shorts, "I'll just have to come back later.  If they find him missing, there will be hell to pay."

The group dared not even breathe as the blonde man made his way out of the cavern, deciding to leave the door open so he didn't have to struggle with it later.  Once they were sure he was out of earshot, Gippal dared to speak, "So now he refers to himself in the third person.  This is more serious then I thought."

"That wasn't Tidus." Yuna said, almost to herself, "Tidus doesn't curse like that."

"I was thinking the same thing, Yunie." Rikku agreed.  She elbowed Gippal in the side, "What do you think he was looking for?"

Baralai took a step toward Yuna, "Are you sure he doesn't curse like that?  Maybe he just doesn't around you."

"I suppose that's a possibility," Yuna admitted, "but he even looked at that sword like he'd never seen it.  Wakka gave him that!  It belonged to Chappu!  Tidus loves that sword."  Yuna noticed Paine staring at something strangely and followed her line of vision.  The sight was so crazy she had to laugh.  Gippal and Rikku were crawling around on the ground near where Tidus had been, while digging through the dirt and trying to find whatever it was that he had been looking for.

Gippal's hand brushed something and he recoiled quickly, "I found something, and I hope it wasn't what Tidus was looking for or else we got more problems on our hands."

"What is it?" Rikku asked as she climbed to her feet and dusted herself off. 

Gippal made a face as he reached for the object again and brought it into the light.  Rikku shrieked and spun around only to bury her face in Baralai's chest.  Gippal frowned but still rose to his feet. 

In his hand, was a human skull.

Author’s Notes:  No, I don’t own the song although I wish I did since I just love it.  This chapter basically just dives more into character relationships. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Five:  In The Still of the Night

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

After the initial shock of finding a human skull, Yuna was sickened to realize that there were two more within close proximity.  One of the skulls had a bullet hole through the forehead.  It was obvious at least one of them had been murdered.  Had the rest of them suffered the same fate?  It had been too dark to search for the remainder of the body parts and none of the crew particularly wanted to continue that feat.  Rikku insisted that they all leave before Tidus realized they were gone and everyone agreed.  It would be for the best.  Besides, they could find a way to get a DNA match on the skulls.  The rest of the skeletons were not needed.

Tidus was safely tucked under the covers sound asleep when the group returned to the former Youth League headquarters tired and dirty, while carrying three human skulls.  It was almost as if he had never left, had it not been for the dirt that trimmed the lower cuff of his shorts.  The blitzer was lost in his dreams as Yuna padded around the guest room to his shorts which were flung haphazardly over the bed frame.  She thumbed her finger over the dirt and frowned.  Just what was going on with him?

“Did you want to stay for the night, love?” LeBlanc whispered from the doorway.  Yuna walked toward her and the two closed the guestroom door quietly behind them as they made their way into the foyer, “All of you can if you want.  It’s been a rough day, love.”

Yuna laughed a little, “You can say that again.” LeBlanc smiled at Yuna and for the first time the former summoner felt like she had found a friend in LeBlanc rather then a competitor.  Although the two women were as different as night and day, it was during this time of worry that Yuna saw a compassionate side of LeBlanc that she never knew existed.  It was really comforting.  Smiling at the tall blonde before her, Yuna said, “Staying would be great.  I’m actually really tired.”

“I thought you would be,” LeBlanc admitted with a grin, “Everybody else was so they are all getting settled in their rooms.” She cast a glance toward the door to Tidus’s guestroom and asked, “Did you want to stay in there with him or did you want another room?”

Yuna shrugged, “I probably should stay with him.  I don’t want him to get suspicious just in case he is up to something.” She frowned and cast her glance downward, “I just hope that my fears aren’t realized.”

“What fears would that be, love?”

Yuna shook her head, “It’s nothing.” She replied, “I’ll be going to sleep now.”  Turning and reentering the room, Yuna shut the door behind her before she had to explain herself to LeBlanc.  She had been having an uneasy feeling about Tidus since he had said he was hearing voices, but now…

She didn’t want to put words to her fears.  She would rather just pretend that nothing was wrong until there was concrete proof that there was.

Stripping to her underwear, Yuna crawled under the sheets next to Tidus and lay on her left side watching his chest rise and fall with every breath.  He was in such a deep slumber that she had a hard time believing that less than an hour ago he’d been in the Cave of Woe looking for, of all things, a skull.  The dirt on his pants, however, didn’t lie.  He had been there.  The question now, was why.  A blue eye opened, followed by the other and Tidus slowly came into consciousness.  He squirmed beneath the sheets until he rolled over to face her, “Hello, beautiful.” He said.

“Sleep well?” Yuna asked.  Part of her silently prayed that he’d tell her the truth, but the rest of her knew that was a crazy wish and one that would never come true.

Tidus nodded, “Actually I did.  I feel pretty good.” His eyes trailed down to the floor where he noted her clothes in their piles.  With a grin, he said, “Am I to assume that you might be half-naked under those sheets?”

Yuna giggled and pulled the sheets closer to her.  This was the Tidus she fell in love with.  He was playful and fun.  He was romantic and passionate.  The man that was cursing at the door to the Cave of Woe was so drastically different.  He seemed angry.  He seemed like…

Shuyin. 

Yuna pushed that horrid thought away quickly and focused back on Tidus who had managed to slip a hand behind her while she was thinking and was making fast work unclasping her bra, “And just what do you think you’re doing?” Yuna teased as she felt his hands on the elastic of her panties.

“I am seducing you.  Got a problem with that?” he asked just as he moved his lips softly against her neck and down further and further.

Yuna sighed heavily and let her eyes close, “No, not at all.” She whispered.

--------------------

A knock at Rikku’s door startled the blonde Al Bhed as she struggled into the t-shirt she was going to sleep in.  Straightening her braids, Rikku skipped to the door and opened it.  Her heart jumped into her throat for a moment and Rikku couldn’t form words. 

It was Gippal.

Clad in just his low-slung slacks, the handsome Al Bhed’s muscular chest was clearly visible.  Rikku stood staring at him for much longer then she wanted to and was only shaken back to reality at the realization that he was grinning his cocky grin.  She frowned, “What do you want?”

“You.” Gippal replied, “But we’ll discuss that later.” Rikku stammered a flustered reply as Gippal forced his way past her and into the room.  He turned back to her and his eyes wandered the full length of her as he noted the t-shirt she was sleeping in which exposed quite a bit of leg.  Although she was more covered then she normally was in her daily clothes, there was something about her in an oversized men’s shirt that aroused him.  Then he frowned.  He knew that shirt, “Isn’t that Baralai’s shirt?”

Rikku nodded, “Yeah, he said I could sleep in it since he was wearing another one underneath it.”

“What?  You two are sharing clothes now?!” Gippal bit off.  Groaning and throwing his hands in the air, he spat, “Are you interested in him or something?”

“What’s it to you if I am?” Rikku demanded, “You’re the one that never tried to get in touch with me when you went off to save the world!”

Gippal groaned.  He knew Rikku was right.  He hadn’t tried to speak with her or to keep in touch.  He had screwed up and he knew that, but he wasn’t about to admit that to her.  He shook his head, “Never mind about that for now.” He said, “I just wanted to see if you knew where Shinra was.  He’s a smartie and I thought he might be able to do the DNA analysis we need.”

“He’s probably with Pop at the new location of Home.  They started the rebuilding about a week ago.”

Gippal nodded, “I had forgotten about that,” he crossed the room toward Rikku.  With the dim light in the room, she looked even more beautiful and the two stared into each others eyes for several moments before Gippal whispered, “You’re really beautiful.”

“Thanks.” Rikku said with a blush.  Gippal never complimented her and now he had done so twice in the last 24 hours.  It had to be a new record or something.  Rikku vaguely wondered if this was a trend that would continue but all thought left her head when his lips came upon hers in a kiss that set her whole being on fire. 

It seemed like forever before his lips left her own.  Rikku could form coherent words before he lifted her in his strong arms and crossed over to the bed.  His green eyes seemed to bore holes right through her, and she barely realized he had set her down upon the bed, before he turned to leave.  Her feelings ranged from relief to disappointment in those moments.  She didn't want him to go, but she didn’t want him to stay either.  In a moment he was to the door, and, just as quickly as he’d shown up, he was gone with just Rikku’s pounding heart to signify that he’d been there at all.

--------------

The dim light from the refrigerator gave the entire kitchen a light glow as Paine stared into the chilly abyss trying to figure out if she did indeed want something to eat.  The stoic female couldn’t sleep so she had wandered out of the guest room she was to stay in and out into the kitchen hoping to find sustenance. 

It was strange for her to be in the same building with the three men she’d tried so desperately to avoid after the Crimson Squad massacre.  It was infinitely stranger to be in the home of the leader of the aforementioned squad.  Things between herself and Nooj have been uncomfortable since her 16th birthday that the crew had celebrated on a ship bound for Luca.  It was after that night that Paine swore never to drink again.  Beer and a ‘friendly’ atmosphere caused people to do things they wouldn’t be proud of in the morning.  Nooj and Paine had done those things…`twice.

“Can’t sleep?”

Paine spun around, dropping the water bottle she had gripped in her hand.  Water splashed all over the floor and Nooj was beside her in a moment to help her clean the soaking mess.  Their hands touched briefly as they wiped up the mess and their eyes connected.  Paine felt her heart skip a beat.  Although he was practically engaged to LeBlanc and had been even back during their tryst, she still loved him.  She would always love him. 

His eyes seemed to expect some sort of response from her and she nodded, “I’m not tired.”

“Neither am I.” he replied with a weak smile.  Tense was the mildest of terms that could be used to describe the feelings between them now.  It was odd to have her under his roof, so close and yet so far away.  He loved LeBlanc and had since he had met her almost 10 years before, but part of him longed for Paine in a way that he’d never longed for anyone.  He didn’t understand it.  He didn’t think he ever would. 

“Noojie!!” came LeBlanc’s voice down the hall, “Noojie!!”

Nooj and Paine climbed to their feet and separated on the linoleum floor.  Paine nodded curtly to him, “I should be going.”

“Yeah.” Nooj agreed, “I think that’d be best.”

“Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”

Nooj watched with a heavy heart as Paine walked out of the back kitchen entrance just as LeBlanc came in from the front.  He felt her hands snake around his waist as she whispered, “And what are you doing out here, love?”

“Just getting a drink.” He replied.

LeBlanc rose on her toes and placed a soft kiss on the nape of his neck, “Well, why don’t you come to bed.  I’m lonely, love.”

“Okay, LeBlanc.” Nooj said as he began to follow her out of the kitchen.  Casting one last glance over his shoulder to the door Paine had used, Nooj let out a silent sigh and continued behind LeBlanc.

------------------

Baralai barely slept a wink at all the entire night.  He couldn’t stop his racing mind from thinking about Rikku.  It wasn’t like him to become so focused on one thing that everything else took a backseat.  Rising from his bed a little after seven, Baralai pulled his pants and shirt on and padded silently to Rikku’s bedroom.  He hoped that the Al Bhed was awake and when he saw dim light coming from under her door he knew she was.  Knocking softly, he waited for some response from the female in the room.  It came moments later, “Who is it?”

“It’s Baralai,” he replied, “Can I come in for a minute?”

“Sure.”

At her okay, Baralai silently slid the door open and stepped into her bedroom.  Rikku was sitting cross legged on her bed with her back to him.  The shirt he’d lent her was covering her long legs like a blanket as she watched the sunrise from her window.  Sitting down next to her, Baralai asked, “So how are you this morning?”

Rikku shrugged.  She had been unable to sleep thanks to the shocking kiss Gippal had given her.  All she could think about was his lips and how much she wanted to taste more of his mouth.  Her heart started to pound just thinking about where last night could have led had he not left.  Falling backward onto the bed, she looked up at Baralai, “Have you ever been with a girl?”

Baralai’s surprise at the question was obvious when his brown eyes widened and he choked on the air he’d breathed in, “Wh…what?!”

“Have you ever had sex?” Rikku repeated, sitting up again to face him, “I know you were a priest and that was, you know, forbidden.  But, did you do it before?”

Baralai, after getting over his immediate shock, fell backward on the bed with Rikku following suit, “First of all,” he said, “it wasn’t exactly forbidden.  You could as long as you were married, but that’s beside the point.”

“Yes it is.” Rikku said with a giggle, “Now are you going to answer my question or not?”

“Yes.”

Rikku’s smirk vanished after a few seconds of holding it.  Cocking an eyebrow, the blonde female rolled over onto her side, “Yes what?”

“Yes, I have.” Baralai replied.

Rikku frowned and allowed herself to fall back again, “I was afraid you were going to say that.” She admitted with a sigh, “I really hoped you were going to say no, though.”

“Why?”

“So that I wouldn’t be the only virgin on the entire airship,” she replied.  Rikku forced herself to rise from the bed as she walked over to the window and gazed out.  Without thinking, Rikku lifted the nightshirt she had borrowed from Baralai over her head.  Baralai took in his breath quickly as he realized with shock that Rikku was only wearing panties under that oversized t-shirt.  With her back to him, he could make out ever curve in her body as she let the shirt drop to the floor.  He found himself wondering what it would be like to trace his lips over that soft skin before Rikku’s leaning to reach her bikini from the floor caught his attention.  She put it on with ease before turning back to face Baralai, “Thanks for letting me borrow your shirt.” She said with a smile as she handed it back to him. 

Baralai fought the blush that was forming on his features due to his tightening pants and he quickly bunched the shirt up and placed it on his lap, “Sure thing.” He replied.

Rikku sat down next to him to put on her skirt and arm bands before saying to him, “Is there something wrong with me?  I mean, I’ve saved the world twice but I’ve never had sex.  What does that mean?!”

“It means you’ve saved the world twice but you’ve never had sex.” Baralai replied simply, “There’s nothing wrong with you, Rikku.”

She grinned at him and kissed his cheek, “Thanks.” She said as she stood and slipped her shoes on, “We should go and see if everybody else is up yet.”

Baralai nodded and followed the – once again – perky female out of her room, trying with all his might to keep his eyes ahead of him instead of on her backside.

------------------

Tidus slowly crawled out of the bed but as soon as his feet hit the floor he felt Yuna’s hand on his back, “Where are you going?” she asked sleepily.

“I was going to take a shower.” Tidus said, “It’s early.  Go back to sleep.”

Yuna rose from the bed after him, letting the blankets fall from her naked form.  He smiled at her, pulling her body close to him in a warm and passionate embrace.  Separating reluctantly, Tidus reached for his shorts which were still hanging on the bedframe.  He frowned a little because he couldn’t remember having put them there, but he didn’t worry about it too much when he saw Yuna laying back down on the bed and replacing the blankets over herself, “Going back to sleep?” he asked.

“Yep.” She replied, rolling onto her side with a sigh. 

Tidus grinned like an idiot and gripped his shorts in his left hand and his shirt in his right.  Sleeping over hadn’t been the original plan so Tidus hadn’t brought any extra clothes with him when the group had set out, not that that had ever bothered him before.  Tidus was the kind of guy who only changed clothes when there were holes in them. 

Pulling the bathroom door closed behind him, he threw the clothes on the floor and turned the shower on hot before stepping under the spray.  Being given a second chance at life was something Tidus was never going to take for granted.  Even the littlest pleasures – like showering – had a whole new feeling to them.  He let the soap lather over his muscular body before rinsing and stepping gingerly out of the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist. 

“Hi.”

Tidus laughed and ran his hands through his soaking hair, “I thought you were going back to sleep.” He said to Yuna who had joined him in the bathroom.

“I changed my mind.” The ex-summoner replied as she handed him his clothes. 

Tidus let the towel drop from his waist and stood in all his glory while Yuna silently appraised him.  With her grin of approval, Tidus slipped his shirt over his head then his boxers over his feet.  As he went to slip his shorts on, he noticed some dirt staining the cuff and he frowned.  Where had that come from?  He thumbed the stain for a moment before looking at Yuna, “Where did this dirt come from?”

She felt herself go pale.  He hadn’t really asked her that, right?  It was just like before when he led them to that house and then didn’t know where he was.  What was going on?! 

“Yuna?” Tidus asked again, “Do you know where I got this dirt on my pants from?”

Author’s Notes:  This chapter reintroduces Shinra, the Al Bhed whiz kid, (hence the title of “I Know Everything”).  This chapter will also introduce the main conflict in the story involving the person controlling Tidus (and I’m sure most of you realize who that is.)  The Gippal/Rikku/Baralai love triangle will have a twist occur late chapter 8 and conclude in chapter 9 which will change this entire sub-plot.  I’m informing you readers of this now because the next two chapters will have some important pieces of information and dialog that will come into play when this twist occurs.  Also, there are conversations between Tidus and the “man inside his head”.  The man’s dialog is in italics. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Six:  I Know Everything

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

She had sworn it was from when he had passed out in Zanarkand, but somehow Tidus knew that wasn’t true.  There was something Yuna wasn’t telling him, but he couldn’t figure out what it was.  He had followed behind his friends as they boarded the Celsius after bidding farewell to Nooj and LeBlanc who had decided to stay behind. 

Their next destination was the Al Bhed sanctuary, Home, which had been destroyed during Yuna’s pilgrimage.  Gippal had told him they were going there for supplies and men to help rebuild Zanarkand, but Tidus didn’t believe that either.  Home needed their men to rebuild it.  There was another reason they were going there and it had to do with the strange bag that Paine refused to let go of. 

Ever since that morning, none of his friends – including Yuna – had been able to look him straight in the eyes for more than a moment or two.  It was almost as if they were…afraid of him.  Even if they weren’t, it was obvious that something had changed within the last 24 hours.  There was huddled whispering during their ride to Home that he wasn’t included in.  If he came too near, they split apart like condemned prisoners that were guiltily plotting an escape.  That was the main reason Tidus had decided to take in the air on the top of the ship which was where he was standing when the remnants of Home first came into view.

Home had been situated in the middle of Bikanel Desert but was destroyed a little over two years before by the Guado after Tidus and his friends had killed Lord Seymour Guado who subsequently became an unsent.  Just thinking about his confusing past with Yuna gave Tidus a headache as the ship lowered.  His head hammered and Tidus felt suddenly dizzy as Brother practically crashed the ship into the sand. 

“Find the dressphere…” a menacing – but not a totally unfamiliar – voice whispered.

Tidus spun around as the headache suddenly disappeared a quickly as it had come on.  It wasn’t like the previous times he had heard that voice ringing in his ears.  This time it was like the voice was speaking to him and not around him. 

Find the dressphere?  What the hell was a dressphere?

“Tidus…ask the one called Buddy…I must know more about her dressphere…”

Now he was definitely losing his mind.  Tidus smacked himself hard across the face as if that would help remove the crazy voice from his head.  Whoever this voice belonged to, the person knew his name. 

Ask Buddy, huh?  Tidus thought for a moment and then decided to do it.  What was the harm?  Besides, maybe it would get the deranged voice to leave him alone.

---------------------

Yuna was grateful that Tidus hadn’t joined them.  She saw him standing on the Celsius’ roof as she, Rikku, Paine, Gippal, and Baralai made their way toward the building Cid had set up to house the Al Bhed during the reconstruction.  Gippal figured that Shinra would probably be in there and so Yuna followed him, keeping a wary eye on the bag Paine clutched which contained the skulls.  Her fear of learning who those skulls belonged to was overshadowed only by her fervent desire to help Tidus.  Something was wrong with him, and Yuna was determined to figure out what it was, no matter the cost.    

The short, stout Al Bhed child was wearing his usual tan uniform with face guard.  Shinra was sitting cross legged on the floor as soon as they entered the tiny building.  Where most children his age would be playing with dolls, Shinra was instead fixing a broken comsphere. 

“Hi Shinra.” Yuna said to the child.

Shinra spun around and Yuna could see his excitement although his mask covered his features.  The child jumped to his feet and ran to her, wrapping his tiny arms around her waist in a tight hug that Yuna returned.  This little boy had earned a special place in her heart during her journey to get Tidus back.  He had helped her so many times then and she hoped so much that he could help her now. 

“How are you, Shinra?” she asked.

The child replied, “I’m great, Yuna.  So why are all of you here?”

Paine lifted the bag slightly and then motioned with her head to a side room, “Can we go in there to talk.  It’s a private matter.”

Nodding his agreement, the Al Bhed child led the group into the side room which was apparently one where Cid held his meetings with his crew.  There was a large wooden table in the middle lined with 10 identical chairs and a screen which spheres could be played upon.  Rikku entered the room last and closed the door behind herself before taking a seat between Baralai and Gippal with Yuna on Gippal’s left and Paine on Baralai’s right.  Shinra sat across from all five and crossed his hands on the table in front of him, “So what is in the bag, Paine?”

The stoic warrior lifted the bag onto the table and carefully dumped the contents in front of Shinra, “We found them in the Cave of Woe.”

The child gripped one in his hands and gazed at it slowly, taking in every feature upon it.  His eyes then caressed the others, paying close attention to the bullet hole in the skull to his right.  He looked at Yuna, “What do you need to know about them?”

“Anything.” Yuna replied, “Who they were, what happened to them.  Whatever you can tell us.”

Shinra scratched his tiny chin thoughtfully.  He pointed to skull in the middle, “That is a female.  I can tell you that much right now.” He said.  His finger then went to the bullet hole in the skull to the left, “That was made by a machina weapon.  Most likely Bevelle brand since it has been only within the last several years that machina weapons – known more commonly as guns – were manufactured by any other place.”

“What about that skull?” Gippal asked, pointing to the one that had been most plaguing to the group since they had discovered it.  It was the one Tidus was crawling extremely close to. 

Shinra tilted his head sideways to get a better look at the human cranium, “I’m not sure about that one.  That’ll take some research if you want to know what happened to him.”

“But it is a man?” Yuna asked.

“Most probably,” replied Shinra, “I can’t be 100% positive without running a DNA scan, but I’m pretty certain it belonged to a man.”

Rikku scratched her head through her long blonde braids as she said, “Could you run the scan for all of them and let us know everything you can about these people.  Maybe then we can figure out how they got in the cave in the first place.”

“I can do that,” Shinra said.  Looking at Baralai he replied, “I’m going to need your help to get into Bevelle’s classified files.  They have they so well protected that it’s impossible without the right override codes.”

Baralai nodded, “I’ll give you a hand,” he agreed, “but why Bevelle’s files?  Why not look in others as well?”

“The Cave of Woe was under Bevelle jurisdiction until about 10 years ago.  These skulls are much older then 10 years so I’d bet my comspheres that these people were either from Bevelle or had a connection somehow.” He lifted the skulls one by one off of the table and placed them back into the bag that Paine had handed him, “Besides, Bevelle’s records would also have some records from Zanarkand since they were allied.  I could kill two fiends that way.”

Yuna’s breath caught in her throat.  Zanarkand meant…Shuyin.  Running a trembling hand through her brown hair, Yuna asked, “Do you think that one of these skulls might belong to a former Zanarkand resident?”

Shinra shrugged, “I won’t know until I do some research, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  I figure these skulls are probably from back during the war.”

“Then…” Rikku’s eyes connected with the female skull as Shinra placed it in the bag, “Then that girl skull could be Lenne’s?”

Shinra laughed a little and shook his head, “No.  There’s no way its Lenne’s.”

“How do you know that?” asked Gippal skeptically.

“According to my research on Lenne, her body was sent back to her comrades on the front.  She was buried at the base of Gagazet on the Nagi side.  Relatively near the gorge where Yojimbo was housed.”

Yuna shivered.  They had probably walked right over Lenne’s body during her pilgrimage and hadn’t even realized it.  She frowned more, “What about Shuyin’s body?”

The silence that ensued told Yuna her answer, but even still when Shinra voiced it she wasn’t prepared, “His body was never found.”

-----------------------

It was quiet on the bridge by the time Tidus had left the roof of the Celsius and made his way down there.  Although he had wanted to join Yuna, something – maybe the voice in his head – made him think that speaking to Buddy about the dressphere was more important. 

It was only himself and Buddy in the room when Tidus walked through the door.  Brother was in the engine room recalibrating something or another.  Tidus hadn’t paid much attention when Brother had told him in his broken English.  He had been too distracted by the voice in his head.

The tanned Al Bhed was standing to the far right of the Celsius in what Yuna had called ‘Shinra’s Spot’.  The gadgets and gizmos that the Al Bhed child had left behind were obviously causing Buddy some problems as he cursed in his native language at a large, round object he held in his hands.

“That’s it.  Ask him!”

“Hey there, Buddy.” Tidus said, trying to act as normal as possible. 

“Hi Tidus.” Buddy replied, “They’re all at Home if you’re looking for Yuna.”

Tidus shook his head, “Actually, I was looking for you.” He said.  Somehow that line felt like a lie to Tidus.  He hadn’t really wanted to look for Buddy but had somehow felt compelled to do so. 

Buddy seemed surprised at Tidus’ admission and placed the object on the chair next to him, “What about?”

“I wanted to ask you about…dresspheres.”

“Dresspheres?” Buddy repeated, confused, “What about them?”

“Ask him how they work.”

Tidus grimaced slightly.  Who was this guy?  Why did he want to know about the dresspheres?  What the hell was wrong with him?!

“Tidus?  What about the dresspheres?”

“Oh.” Tidus said as he snapped back to reality, “I was just wondering how they work.”

Buddy lifted the object from the chair, “Well, this is Yuna’s songstress sphere.  I’ll use it to explain.”

“That’s it…”

Buddy didn’t seem to notice Tidus’ discomfort as he continued, “It holds the essence of the person the sphere is based on.  It usually contains their abilities which the person using the sphere can gain when they use it.  That’s how Yuna became such a fantastic singer when she used this.”

Tidus couldn’t understand what the man in his head wanted to know this information for.  It was downright boring.

“Yuna’s use of this particular sphere is actually what gave us a glimpse into the lives of Lenne and Shuyin and how we ended up ultimately getting you back.”

“How did that happen?” Tidus asked, not at the voice’s urging but at his own.  He was a bit interested in understanding how that ball helped him get his life back.

Buddy shrugged, “We’re not completely sure why, but Lenne’s memories took Yuna over.  She sorta became Lenne for a while.”

“Ask him how it works…”

Tidus wished that he could shut the voice up or tell him where to go, but for some reason he felt compelled to listen to the instructions, “How does it work?”

“Well,” Buddy began, pointing to a tiny, glowing object inside of the sphere, “That little diamond is actually the sphere itself.  That is what powers this object.  Shinra is the one that took to putting the protective plastic shell over it.  If someone just used that diamond piece, we’re not sure what the result could ultimately be.  We do know, however, that it would be a heck of a lot more powerful then it is with the cover.”

“Interesting…” the voice whispered, “This will be very helpful.  Say goodbye to him, Tidus, and go back to the roof.”

Doing just as the voice instructed, Tidus excused himself and went back to the roof still not understanding just why.

--------------------

Although Shinra hadn’t been able to answer many questions, he had agreed to keep the skulls and do research on them.  With more questions then when they had arrived, the group wandered out of the side house and into the heat of the midday sun on Bikanel Island.

“We should probably get the supplies or else Tidus will wonder what the hell we were up to.” Gippal said as he hooked his fingers into his belt buckle and gave Rikku a lopsided grin.

The blonde laughed, “You still have that thing?!” she asked incredulously as her eyes focused on the black leather belt that was wrapped around Gippal’s lean waist.  She had given that belt to him for his 16th birthday, almost 6 months before he had gone to join the Crimson Squad.  She was certain he would have gotten rid of it, but he hadn’t and she wasn’t quite sure what to think.

“I like the belt.  Besides, it keeps my pants from falling down.” Gippal said with a smirk.  Winking at Rikku, he turned to Yuna, “I’m going to round up some help to get the supplies and men we’ll need.”

“I’ll come with you.” Yuna said, “I need to keep busy.”

“Sounds good.  Paine, you wanna come?” Gippal asked.  The stoic female nodded curtly and fell in line beside Gippal.  The handsome Al Bhed saw Baralai standing a bit too close to Rikku for his liking but stifled his frown of distain.  Baralai didn’t stand a chance with Rikku.  She would never want to be with someone so…boring.  He gave them a tense smile, “I guess we’ll see you guys back at the ship.”

“I guess so.” Baralai replied.

Part of Rikku wanted to run after Gippal as he and her two friends vanished into the sun-drenched sand of Bikanel, but she forced herself to stay in place until he was no longer visible.  She felt the power of Baralai’s gaze on her but she momentarily ignored it as she started the mile long trek back to the Celsius.  Brother had been unable to land any closer due to the huge sand dunes that the Al Bhed had constructed to act as a barrier to invaders. 

The sand crunched under her sandled feet and for several feet neither blonde said a word to the other until Baralai’s deep voice broke the silence, “Are you okay?” he asked her.

Rikku nodded, “Sure, why wouldn’t I be?”

“You’ve just been unusually quiet.  I thought you were angry at me.”

She stopped and turned to look at him.  He had slowed and was a few feet behind her.  With her eyes squinting toward him, she asked, “Why would I be mad at you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Trust me,” she said, “I’m not mad at you.  I’m more mad at myself then anything.”

“Why are you mad at yourself?”

Rikku wished she could have taken the words back.  She didn’t want to get into how Gippal’s kiss had made her feel.  She didn’t want to explain to Baralai what she felt for the handsome Al Bhed, but then she thought differently.  Baralai was her friend.  He was Gippal’s friend.  He’d understand.  Sighing, Rikku said, “I just hate that I can’t get over this stupid Gippal thing.”

“Gippal thing?” Baralai asked tentatively, afraid of the answer.

“I loved him so much when we were younger.  It broke my heart when he left and didn’t even try to contact me.” She said, “We weren’t even really together, but it felt like we were in my heart.  Every time he looked at me, my heartbeat got faster.  You know what that’s like?”

Baralai nodded.  He knew exactly what that was like.

“I’m mad at myself because I still love him.” She said and Baralai was certain that she had plunged her weapons into his skin.  He knew that she had feelings for Gippal, but he hadn’t realized just how deeply they ran.  For the first time, Baralai realized the hopeless situation he was in.  Once again – as it had been with Paine and Nooj – Baralai was the odd man out.  The girl he wanted didn’t even notice him and instead spent her entire time with him lamenting about her affections for the other man. 

His hands clenched and unclenched at his sides as Baralai struggled to remain composed.  He didn’t want Rikku to see how upset and angry he was.  If he hoped to stand even the tiniest of chances, he had to remain calm. With a forced smile, Baralai said, “I’m surprised to hear you say that.  You two fight all the time.”

“We’ve always been like that.” Rikku said with a grin, “That’s the source of our passion, I guess.  We’re both incredibly stubborn and incredibly strong-willed.  We’re willing to do anything to get what we want.  That’s why we butt heads all the time.”

“Well that’s not a very good thing to base a relationship on.  It wouldn’t be very stable.” Baralai stated.

Rikku smiled at him and playfully punched his shoulder, “Well duh!” she said with a laugh.  She tugged softly on Baralai’s soft, blonde hair and said, “You’re such a good friend, Baralai.  Thanks.”

Friend…

Once again, Baralai was the friend. 

As he watched the female ahead of him saunter up the bridge into the airship, he dug his fingers into the palm of his hands until they drew tiny droplets of blood. 

----------------------

Tidus watched as Rikku and Baralai climbed back onto the Celsius and he made a move to go down and greet them, but found himself unable to control his limbs.  He was frozen in place on the roof of the Celsius.

“Thanks for finding out about the dressphere, Tidus.” The voice whispered again.

“Who are you?!” Tidus shrieked.  His voice being the only aspect of his body that he could control. His mind willed his arms and legs to move but it didn’t work.  Something was wrong and Tidus was terrified.

“Uh…uh…uh.” the voice hissed, “I’m in charge now and I don’t want you to go anywhere.”

“Who are you?  What do you want with me?”

The voice replied, “You know who I am, Tidus.  You’ve glimpsed enough of my life to realize who I am.”

Tidus could barely think straight.  His mind was moving a mile a minute as he tried to figure out who this voice belonged to and – more importantly – where it was coming from.  He knew who this person was?  How was that even possible?  He had seen his person’s life?  The light dawned brightly on Tidus as he uttered, “Shuyin…?”

“Good.” Shuyin replied, “I was beginning to think the Fayth had made you into a moron.”

“Where are you?  What do you want with me?”

Shuyin laughed haughtily, “Maybe they did make you a moron after all.  Honestly, Tidus.  You’re asking me where I am?  My voice is ringing in your ears and you still think that I’m standing somewhere nearby.”

“So you’re inside of my body?” Tidus suddenly realized, “You’re possessing me like you did Baralai!”

“If I was possessing you, then you would have realized it by now.” Shuyin replied, “No, Tidus, I’m not possessing you.”

Tidus didn’t know what was going.  If Shuyin wasn’t possessing him, then just what the hell was going on.  Why was he so helpless here in his own body?  Tidus tried again with all his strength to move but couldn’t, “What do you want with me?” he begged, trying not to let the fear show in his voice.

“My life was stolen from me, Tidus.  I’m here to steal it back.”

“But…but…you’re supposed to be in the Farplane with your girlfriend.  Yuna saw you!!”

Shuyin scoffed, “Never buy into ‘supposed to’, Tidus.  I was also ‘supposed to’ live happily ever after with Lenne 1000 years ago but that didn’t happen.”

“But Yuna saw you and Lenne go off together!”

“I thought I was with Lenne too.” Shuyin replied, “I wouldn’t have left if I had known that she was still on Spira and the one I was with was just a mirage.”  Shuyin laughed louder and the sound rung in Tidus’ ears, “But Yuna’s wish to have you back gave me the perfect opportunity to come back and have another chance with her.”

“What?!” Tidus’ ears perked at the mere thought that Yuna might be in some sort of danger.  Summoning his strength, Tidus managed to take a step toward the door that led back to the ship.  He’d die again before he let Shuyin hurt Yuna.

“My, my, my.  Impressive.” Shuyin remarked, “You’re stronger then I thought, but I’m always going to be stronger then you Tidus.  That’s what happens when a dream fights against the real form.” With a laugh ringing out loud and clear, Shuyin hissed, “It’s all over Tidus.  It’s only a matter of time until you don’t even exist anymore, but until then I’ll be taking full control.  Sleep tight, dream of the Fayth.”

Even with his eyes open, darkness began to cover over Tidus and, try as he might, he couldn’t find the light.  He thought he vaguely heard Shuyin’s evil laugh as darkness closed around him.

Author’s Notes:  Just note that I do not own the chapter title of “One More Last Chance”.  That is actually the title of a Vince Gill song.  Anyway, as all of you probably realize, Shuyin has completely taken over Tidus now.  Shuyin is going to pretend to be Tidus for most of the story and, although the others notice his strange behavior, they don’t think it’s any stranger then the way he had been acting.  This chapter will follow Shuyin and his plans as well as Baralai. 

SPOILER:  Also, I was asked if it was called the Cave of Woe or the Den of Woe.  To be honest, I’m not sure.  I’ll be calling it the Cave of Woe.  For future reference, I am referring to the location of the Crimson Squad massacre in the Crimson Spheres as well as the place that you can enter to find out more about Shuyin and Lenne’s last moments together. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Seven: One More Last Chance

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In the week that followed, no one had noticed that Shuyin was not in complete control of Tidus’ body.  In fact, they were all so busy focusing on getting supplies and men that it was far too easy for Shuyin to formulate his plans without interruption.  That particular morning, Shuyin lay on his side as the sun came in from the large bay windows behind the bed on which he slept.  Sunshine on his skin was a simple pleasure he would never take for granted again.  He felt a hand running softly over his back and for a moment he thought it was Lenne until he rolled over and saw Yuna’s eyes gazing lovingly at him. 

Correction, she was staring at Tidus.

Shuyin was greatly relieved she had assumed he was asleep when she had joined him in the bed the night before – as had been custom for the entire week.  The sleeping arrangements were something that he hadn’t considered when he decided to completely take over Tidus’ body in order to complete his plans.  He hadn’t even considered how long he might have to pretend to be the man she was in love with before his plans were finalized.  However, he would have to think about these things now.  He couldn’t give Tidus control again because now the dream of the Fayth knew too much.  He couldn’t risk letting Tidus spill the beans to Yuna.

“Good morning,” Yuna whispered as she snuggled closer to Shuyin’s bare chest.  He felt himself tense and forced himself to calm.  It had been 1000 years since a woman had pressed her body against his like this and he wasn’t used to it.  However, as Yuna snaked her arms around him, Shuyin let himself smile a little.  She felt just like Lenne in his arms and if he didn’t know better, he could have closed his eyes and let himself believe that his beautiful Lenne was in his arms again. 

He ran a hand lazily through her hair and whispered, “Good morning.” 

Technically Lenne was in his arms again.  Shuyin was shocked when he reached the Farplane to discover that the female he believed was Lenne was actually an apparition that had come from the songstress dressphere.  His Lennie was still in Spira.  His Lennie was Yuna, the same little bitch that had destroyed his attempt to annihilate Spira.  However, Shuyin was now grateful for that.  He had no idea at that time that Yuna was Lenne and by annihilating Spira, he would have murdered Lenne.  He was grateful to Yuna for stopping him. 

The songstress dressphere that was the main focus of his new plan held Lenne’s memories and feelings so when Yuna used it; she was given a glimpse into her life with Shuyin 1000 years before.  However, she didn’t realize what she was seeing.  This was a good thing for Shuyin.  This meant that Yuna wouldn’t be onto his plan until it had already been carried out.

Yuna slowly extracted herself from Shuyin’s arms and stood up, strolling slowly toward the chair where she had deposited her clothes the night before.  Shuyin grinned to himself as he noted her black panties and bra which was all she had worn to bed.  He could definitely get used to this view.  As she slipped her hot pants on, she turned to him, “I’ve got to go with Gippal, Baralai, Paine and Rikku this morning to finish rounding up the supplies and men we’ll need.  Did you want to come with us?”

Shuyin shook his head, “I’ve got my own errand to run.” He replied with a wink.  He had decided the night before that it would be best for him to make Yuna think he was working on a surprise for her.  Well, technically it was a surprise, just not one that she would particularly like.

“What kind of errand?” Yuna asked with a smile as she hooked her side skirt over the shorts. 

“It’s a secret.” Shuyin replied in a hushed tone.  When Yuna’s eyes shone with excitement, she really reminded him of Lenne and as the former summoner crawled closer to him on the bed, Shuyin gently kissed her lips.  Everything about her – even her kiss – was so different from Lenne and yet so similar at the same time.  Shuyin didn’t know what to think or say as he distanced himself from her.  She seemed disappointed that it ended with a perfunctory kiss, but that was all Shuyin could bring himself to do.  She didn’t love him and he didn’t love her.  He was pretending to be her boyfriend for the time being and she was reminding him of his girlfriend.  The sudden desire he had to flip her beneath him was based solely on that. 

Yuna smiled at him as she slid across the bed and let her feet slam against the floor in her knee-high boots, “I’ve got to get going.” She said, “You sure you don’t want to come along?”

“I’m sure.” Shuyin replied.

“Okay,” Yuna said with a shrug, “I’ll see you later.”

“See you later.”

With the beautiful brunette casting one more look over her shoulder at him, Shuyin counted to twenty before climbing out of the bed and pulling Tidus’ clothes on.  Tiptoeing silently down the stairs, he managed to sneak past Barkeep without the blue alien noticing.  His next move was to make sure that YRP and their two blonde companions had actually left already. 

The bridge was silent when Shuyin arrived and he saw out the front window that all five of his companions as well as Brother and Buddy were making their way toward Home’s main building. 

Excellent…

Making his way to ‘Shinra’s Spot’, Shuyin was thrilled to see that Buddy hadn’t moved Yuna’s songstress dressphere from its spot on the chair.  Lifting the plastic ball, Shuyin gently broke the two halves apart and gazed down at the diamond.  It was the perfect size for Shuyin’s plans.  Removing the diamond from its perch, Shuyin slipped it into his pocket and closed the sphere again, replacing it on the chair. 

Next stop…Home’s marketplace.

------------------

“I’ve finished researching those skulls for you.” Shinra said.  Baralai was really surprised that the Al Bhed child had finished so quickly, but he noted that no one else seemed shocked and he realized that quick work must have been this child’s trademark. 

“What have you discovered?” Yuna asked.

Shinra placed a finger over the sieve like opening to his mask and made a “shh” noise, “Let’s discuss it in the conference room.” He said.

Suddenly Baralai got a very bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.  Just the way Shinra said “Let’s discuss it in the conference room.” made him think that the little child had discovered something that they weren’t going to be too thrilled about.  Following behind Rikku and the others, Baralai noted the way Rikku held close to Gippal’s side as they walked into the conference room and he frowned.  There had to be something he could do to make her forget about Gippal. 

The conference room looked pretty much the same as it had a week before except for the fact that there were several spheres sitting on the table ready to be played against the screen.  Shinra had also lined the skulls up facing the direction that Baralai and his friends would be sitting. 

The child had definitely found something.

“Have a seat,” Shinra said, “and we’ll begin.”

Rikku sat with Yuna on her right but when Baralai made to sit in the chair on her left, Gippal snuck in and plopped himself down next to the perky blonde with a confident smirk directed at Baralai.  Rikku didn’t seem to notice and went about asking Gippal why he wasn’t wearing his belt.  With a frown, Baralai sat down next to Paine, farthest away from Gippal, and decided to sit and stew.  There had to be a way to get Rikku to forget about Gippal.  There just had to be.

Shinra walked to the other side of the table directly opposite the group and lifted the first skull.  His finger went over the bullet hole and he said, “I will start by introducing you all to President Reiber Ackmard of Bevelle.”

“The president of Bevelle??” Yuna repeated, confused.

“Yes,” Shinra replied, “Official records state that he and his daughter left Bevelle during the war with Zanarkand, but…” his fingers played at the bullet hole again, “I suppose he didn’t make it too far.”

Rikku shuddered, “He was murdered...” she scooted a little closer to Gippal and asked, “Well who killed him?”

“Well, no one even knew he was murdered until just now.” Shinra replied, “However my money is on a man named Benedict Cyton.  He was Ackmard’s general and he became president after Ackmard and his daughter vanished.”

Yuna’s eyes focused on the female skull that was next in the line that Shinra had set up.  Pointing to it, she asked, “Is that his daughter?”

Nodding, Shinra lifted the skull in his hands, “Yes.  Let me now introduce to you, President Ackmard’s daughter, Allyn.”

A silence went through the room and Baralai was sure that the world had stopped.  The look on Yuna’s face was one of a stunned person.  Rikku was the only one that moved and it was to put a hand on Yuna’s shoulder.  With a tremble in her voice, Yuna whispered, “Did you say…Allyn?”

“Yes.” Shinra said simply, “Do you know that name?”

“You could say that.” Yuna answered and at Shinra’s inquisitive look, she explained about Tidus calling LeBlanc by that name.  Her shaking hands couldn’t be stilled even as Rikku and Paine each grabbed one to hold them down.  With tears forming in her duel colored eyes, she asked, “What does it mean?”

Shinra sighed as he pointed to the final skull, “I think it connects to this skull somehow, although I’m still not who this skull belongs to.”

“But I thought you said you were finished researching.” Said Gippal.

“I’ve done as much as I can with this skull.” Shinra replied, “He’s not in any of Bevelle’s files and the Zanarkand files are incomplete at best.  I do, however, have a good idea of who he is.”

Yuna’s voice squeaked as she spoke, “Who is he?”

Climbing down from the chair on which he was perched, Shinra pulled the screen behind him down to the floor and then climbed back onto the chair to reach for the middle sphere, “I found this while I was searching old newspaper records.  Bevelle had a very interesting article and picture that I think tells us who this man was.”  He stopped short of starting the sphere to look at Yuna, “Are you sure you want to see this.  It might upset you.”

Yuna nodded, “I want to see it.”

Shinra pressed the button and an old newspaper article flashed on the screen.  Quickly shifting the sphere, only the headline was visible as he read it aloud, “Allyn Ackmard and boyfriend celebrate Zanarkand Abes blitzball victory over the Zanarkand Duggles.”

Baralai felt a tightening in his stomach.  Somehow he knew what would happen when Shinra raised the screen so that the picture would be visible, but when it actually happened he wasn’t ready.

Allyn Ackmard was a beautiful girl who looked to be about 16 in the picture.  Although her blonde hair was longer, there was a definite resemblance to LeBlanc.  Her eyes dance in the picture as she smiled with her head leaning affectionately upon her boyfriend, Zanarkand Abes star…Shuyin.

Shinra sighed and read the photo’s byline, “Allyn Ackmard and boyfriend Shuyin Bacohl celebrate at Irvine’s Tavern after he led his team to victory over the Duggles.”

“NO!” Yuna shouted suddenly, ripping her hands away from Paine and Rikku to pound them repeatedly against the wooden table, “NO!  NO!  NO!”

“Yunie!  Stop!” shrieked Rikku as she grabbed her cousin and forced her to sit down.  Yuna’s breath came out in ragged sobs as Rikku gingerly rubbed her back.  Baralai could understand Yuna’s upset and anger.  Everyone knew that Tidus was acting strangely, but to suddenly realize that their greatest fear as to the reason was true….

Baralai let his mind wander to the strange behavior Tidus had been emitting since his return to life.  One minute he seemed fine and the next he seemed completely crazy.  However, Baralai believed Rikku when she said she didn’t think he was possessed.  His behavior would have been much different if that had been the case and as Baralai’s eyes caressed the skull now identified as Shuyin’s, Baralai formed the question that had been bothering him since they had followed Tidus, “Why would Tidus go to the Cave of Woe looking for a skull?  It doesn’t make sense.”

“The same reason,” Gippal said with a smirk, “that you suddenly think you’re a lady’s man.”

Baralai was suddenly on his feet and storming over to Gippal who also rose to his feet, “Do you have something to say to me?”

“Yeah, actually I do.”

“Then say it!”

Gippal leaned closer to Baralai until his breath was hot on his face, “I find the way you pant around her disgusting.  You’re pathetic.”

I’m pathetic!” Baralai said, incredulously, “What about you and you’re little ‘look at my belt’ action.  That was truly pathetic.”

“Well at least I don’t pant after something that I don’t stand a chance with.”

Baralai narrowed his eyes at Gippal and the blonde Al Bhed did the same with his good eye.  Neither said a word to the other as both let their barbs sink in.  Finally, Baralai hissed, “I don’t pant, my friend.  Panting is for dogs and that is exactly what you are…a dog.”

The fist came out of nowhere and Baralai couldn’t duck in time before Gippal’s fist came crashing into his cheek, spinning him around with the force of the blow.  Although the embarrassment of being knocked off his feet in front of Rikku wasn’t something Baralai particularly wanted, the sudden realization that she was by his side on the floor to see if he was okay made it perfect.

“Gippal!” shrieked Rikku as she tentatively ran a finger over Baralai’s cheek, “You’re such an idiot!”

“He had it coming, Rikku!” hissed Gippal back at her. 

Rikku shot Gippal an angry glare, “You’re just lucky that I’m too nice to give you a well deserved ass kicking.”

Gippal threw his hands in the air in an exasperated move, “I’m so sick of this, Rikku.  Are you interested in him or not?”

“What’s it to you if I am?!” she shrieked back.

Gippal glared first at Rikku and then at Baralai before he leaned closer to the blonde man and hissed, “Stay away from her or you’ll regret it.”

------------------

“How’s this setting, sir?” the jeweler asked Shuyin as he lifted the diamond which was now mounted upon a solid gold ring.

Shuyin grinned and accepted the ring the jeweler handed him, “This is perfect.” He stated as he looked at the glittering jewel.  Buddy had said that without the plastic covering the power of the jewel was unknown and Shuyin hoped that it would do exactly what he needed it to do.

“Well Sir Tidus, I’m confident that Yuna will say yes.” The jeweler said, “Good luck.”

Shuyin shot the jeweler a tense smile and quickly turned to walk away.  He kept forgetting that he appeared as Tidus to everyone.  He also frowned at the thought that the portly man thought he was going to propose to Yuna.  The only person Shuyin wanted to propose to was Lenne, and this ring was his only way.

It was a mile walk back to the ship and it was one that Shuyin was very deliberate in executing.  He didn’t want anyone to know that he was back at the ship.  He needed to get into the ship without others noticing for fear they’d find the ring upon his person.  No one could know about the ring until he was ready. 

Luck was with him that day and when he reentered the ship everyone was gone.  Buddy had left a note saying that he and Brother had gone to Home and wouldn’t be back until late.  Shuyin also knew that Yuna and her crew wouldn’t be back until that evening which gave Shuyin plenty of time to plan his next move.

Casually strolling into the crew quarters, Shuyin was pleasantly surprised to find that Barkeep had also left the premises which meant that he was completely alone.  He climbed the stairs two at a time and then sat down on the nearest bed to gaze at the ring again.  It would fit Lenne’s …. correction,  Yuna’s finger perfectly.  Everything was going according to plan. 

-------------------

Baralai couldn’t believe that he was on an Al Bhed airship flying to the Cave of Woe when he should have been spending time with Rikku, milking the punch for all it was worth.  He just couldn’t fight the feeling that Tidus hadn’t been looking for skulls and needed to find out what he really had been looking for.  He had lied to the three females, saying he was going to look for Gippal.  They had believed it and gone off to finish hunting for supplies.

The ride was bumpy, but short, and before Baralai knew it he was back at Mushroom Rock Road looking down the precipice that contained the cave.  He sighed.  He needed to do this, not only for Rikku but for Spira as well.  Finding out what Tidus was up to was the most important thing right now. 

The door to the cave was still ajar from their last visit which was a mere two weeks before, although it seemed so much longer.  Baralai shoved the door open a few more feet with his shoulder and stepped into the cave.  The stagnant air filled his throat first and he almost turned to leave, but forced himself to stay.  This was important.  He couldn’t back out.  Traveling slowly to the back of the cave where Tidus had crawled about looking for “it”, Baralai dropped to his knees as well and felt around in the dark secretly praying not to discover any more skulls.  Memories of the massacre of the Crimson Squad flashed through his mind and he forced himself to breath steadily.  Being in the Cave of Woe wasn’t exactly his idea of a nice way to spend the afternoon.  He knew he had to hurry since the Al Bhed pilot was impatiently waiting in the airship, but he also knew that if he rushed he could miss what he was looking for…

He gasped.  His hand brushed something cold in the dark.  Steadying himself, Baralai brushed his hand casually in the opposite direction and brushed the cold object again.  He gripped it in his hand.  There was a large object and it had a chain connected to it.  Unsteadily standing, Baralai ran into the light that shone from a hole in the roof of the cave and held the object beneath it. 

It was a locket in the shape of the Zanarkand Abes’ symbol.  Tentatively opening the locket, he frowned and realized that his worst fears – everyone’s worst fears – were true.  Inside was a picture, yellowed with age.  It showed a beautiful girl sitting with a smile on her face while her boyfriend had his arm over her shoulder protectively. 

The boyfriend was Shuyin.

Filled with a new kind of urgency, Baralai slipped the locket into his pocket and rushed from the cave and back toward the airship.  He needed to get back.  He had been right.  Tidus…no, Shuyin hadn’t been looking for skulls.  He had been looking for the locket.  The only question that remained now was, if Shuyin was the one in the cave then…where was Tidus?

The landing back at Home was bumpy and Baralai didn’t even thank the pilot as he rushed from the ship and fairly flew back to the Celsius.  Due to the setting sun, Baralai could see Tidus’ outline in the crew quarters as the blonde paced back and forth seemingly talking to himself.  He then noted that the trio of females were coming over one of the sand dunes carrying three separate bags.  Gauging their progress and the lack of Gippal nearby, he assumed that they still thought he was with Gippal and were taking their time.  Baralai’s eyes went back up to the Celsius’ window and he gripped the locket in his hand.  Making sure that the girls didn’t see him as he climbed onboard the airship, Baralai entered and made his way back toward the crew quarters. 

This was Shuyin’s last chance to destroy Spira and it was Baralai’s last chance to make Rikku notice him.  Gripping the necklace harder, Baralai smiled to himself as he came upon the door. 

He knew just whose chance ended here. 

AUTHOR’S NOTES PLEASE READ:  After much consideration, I have decided that this twist in the chapter is necessary in order to send the story in the direction I want it to go.  I’ve thought of other possible directions, but none seem to be as good as this one.  It might upset people because I’m almost positive that something like this hasn’t happened in a FF fanfiction before although I could be wrong.  Now that I’ve got you sufficiently interested (I hope), below is chapter 8.

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Chapter Eight: End of the Line

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

The sound of footsteps on the stairs caused Shuyin to quickly put the ring in his pocket and turn his back on the approaching person.  He gazed out the window and noted that the trio of females were climbing the sand dunes so he realized that chances are his unwelcomed guest was either Baralai or Gippal.

It was the former.  He could sense Baralai’s presence as soon as the former priest stepped onto the landing.  He supposed it had to do with the fact that he had possessed Baralai but never Gippal.  Straightening himself, he prepared to do his best Tidus impression when the sudden drop of the open locket in front of his eyes caused him to stop in mid-breath.  He hadn’t seen Lenne’s beautiful face in so long that he had almost forgotten how truly breathtaking she was.  All he had were memories of their time together, but seeing her filled his heart with a joy he thought had died right along with her.  However, his joy was short-lived when Baralai hissed, “Look familiar, Shuyin?”

Shuyin was impressed with Baralai’s intelligence and he turned slowly to him with a wide grin, “I’m impressed, Baralai.  I didn’t think you’d get it so quickly.”

“You underestimated me, Shuyin.” Baralai replied as he pulled the necklace away from Shuyin’s unwavering gaze, “Now where is Tidus?”

“He’s sleeping.”

Baralai, in a quick move, shoved Shuyin against the wall, “Where is he?” he asked again, each word measured and laden with meaning.

Shuyin started laughing at the sheer absurdity of Baralai’s actions.  Who did this former priest think he was?  With his free hand, Shuyin shoved Baralai easily off of him and went back to his perch at the window. 

“Fine,” Baralai said, “I guess I’ll just have to let Yuna decide what to do about you.”

Shuyin heard Baralai’s footsteps going toward the stairs and he panicked.  He couldn’t let that damned priest tell Yuna or anyone else about his plans.  Baralai had barely taken two steps when Shuyin noticed a black belt lying partially visible under a nearby bed.  In a quick move, he grabbed the belt and lassoed Baralai, tightening it around his neck until Baralai’s breath was coming out in small gasps, “I don’t think so, Baralai.” Shuyin whispered into Baralai’s face as he pulled on the belt and forced the former priest to his knees. 

Baralai struggled to loosen the belt from around his neck as panic set in.  He hadn’t thought about what would happen after confronting Shuyin.  He hadn’t thought that far in advance.  Now all he could think about was how stupid he had been to lie to the girls and to not tell them his plans.  He slid his fingers between his neck and the belt and managed to murmur, “Why…”

“Why?” Shuyin asked, incredulous, as if the mere thought of this question was beyond his comprehension.  In fact, it was.  Shuyin couldn’t understand why Baralai didn’t understand Shuyin’s desperation.  Kneeling before the wheezing man, Shuyin replied, “I was left in a cave to starve to death.  I starvedto death.  I lived on dirt for weeks!  By the end I weighed about 70 pounds and all I could think about was being with Lenne again.  You’re asking me why!!”

Baralai’s mind was reeling.  He starved in a cave?  How was that even possible?  Everyone knew that he and Lenne had been shot and killed by the Bevelle soldiers after he had tried to activate Vegnagun the first time.  His confusion filled brown eyes connected with the blue ones that, to his surprise, were brimming with tears.  Shuyin chocked out, “I didn’t die with her if that’s what you’re wondering.  I survived.  I survived and she died and I’ve had to live with that for 1000 years!”

Baralai pulled back and felt the belt loosen a little more, “Please….” He gasped, “…don’t…”

“Don’t what?!” shrieked Shuyin, “Don’t fight to have my life back?!  Don’t fight to be with the woman I love more than anything?!”  He gripped the belt tightly and pulled, cutting off the little oxygen that Baralai was receiving.  Tears started flowing freely from his eyes and he strained to remain calm as Baralai clawed at the belt, trying to gain a breath of air, “Sucks, doesn’t it?” Shuyin hissed harshly, “I didn’t live long enough to know what it felt like to suffocate.”

He loosened the belt again and Baralai greedily sucked oxygen into his lungs.  He prayed that someone – anyone – would come in and see what was going on but with each tick of the clock, that seemed like less and less of a possibility.  Shuyin wiped tears from his face with the back of his hand, “I was killed by people like you.” he said sharply, “People who have their heads up their asses and follow other idiots around without ever questioning anything!”

Taking the moment that Shuyin loosened his grip on the belt to blink away tears, Baralai leapt to his feet and made a break for the stairs, taking them two at a time while trying to undo the belt from around his neck, but Shuyin was faster then he had expected and Baralai didn’t make it to the door before he was pulled backward onto his rear by Shuyin’s grip on the belt.  Shuyin spun Baralai around to face him and the terrified ex-priest stammered, “I…I won’t tell her…I swear….No...nobody will ever know.”

“I wish I could believe you.” Replied Shuyin as he tightened the belt around Baralai’s neck, cutting off the man’s oxygen again.  Shuyin started to cry as Baralai clawed helplessly at the belt and then at his arms, “I’m not a killer, Baralai.” He wailed, “I hate this!  I hate this!”  Baralai’s face took on a shade of blue that Shuyin never knew existed and the priest started losing feeling in his arms and legs which slowly stopped their struggle.  His eyes stared pleadingly at Shuyin who whispered, “You leave me no choice.  I can’t let you tell anyone what you know.” Tenderly patting Baralai on the head, Shuyin said, “Enjoy the Farplane, Baralai.  Give Zaon and Yunalesca my regards.” And with a quick snap of his wrists, he twisted the belt and broke Baralai’s neck.

As Baralai’s body slumped to the floor lifeless, Shuyin dropped next to him and let his breath come out in ragged sobs.  He had never taken a life before, not even 1000 years ago, and he couldn’t believe what he’d just done.  How would Lenne forgive him?  How would he forgive himself?

“Where is everybody today?” came Rikku’s voice from just down the hall.

“Maybe Gippal and Baralai are in the crew quarters?” suggested Yuna.

Shuyin felt his panic rise.  He hadn’t thought about the aftermath of murdering Baralai.  He had killed him in the heat of the moment when he felt that he had no other alternative.  However, if anyone found him standing over the corpse, his cover would be blow and Baralai would have died in vain. Quickly throwing Baralai over his shoulder and trying to ignore the odd angle his head hung in, Shuyin jogged up the stairs and dropped Baralai to the side of the farthest bed on the right.  His escape was the large bay window on the side of the ship.  If he could climb down and then come back to the ship no one would think he had anything to do with the death. 

Shuyin took a step toward the window, hearing the voices closing in, when he realized that he hadn’t retrieved the locket from Baralai.  Spinning and quickly digging into the pockets, he grabbed the golden necklace and put it around his neck and escaped out the window just as the door to the crew’s quarters opened.

“Baralai?!” called Rikku, “Gippal?!”

Paine frowned, “Do you think Baralai’s still looking for him?”

“I guess that’s a possibility.” Yuna replied as she started up the stairs, followed by Rikku and Paine. 

Shuyin ducked just beyond their view as they reached the landing.  Baralai was well hidden except for his hand which stuck out from under the bed, but none of the girls noticed yet.  Clutching the necklace that hung around his neck, Shuyin began to tentatively slide down the hull of the Celsius.  He couldn’t hang around and wait for the discovery.  He had to appear like he was just coming back. 

His feet hit the ground and he climbed up the gangplank back to the Celsius just as Gippal came up from the engine room entrance.  Shuyin momentarily felt himself panic when he realized that Gippal might have been in the ship the entire time, but he calmed when the eye-patch wearing man smiled at him.  YRP’s screams invaded their comfortable silence and the two men broke out into a run.  Following Gippal to the landing of the crew’s quarters, Shuyin took in the scene.  The girls had apparently found and then moved Baralai’s body out from its hiding place.  His head was at an even stranger angle then it had been when Shuyin had dropped him there.  No one had made a move to remove the belt that was wrapped around his neck and Paine had just sat the phone back on its cradle, “Cid will be here with the Al Bhed police in a minute.” She said. 

Time seemed to stand still for the group as they waited for the authorities to trek through the sand to their ship.  As his crystalline eyes gazed at Baralai’s body, Shuyin felt as though he’d be sick.  He’d just committed a cold blooded crime.  He was a murderer.

“Okay, where is he?” came Cid’s voice.  Rikku’s father was a portly bald man with a tendency to shout and tell it like it was.  He was followed by two incredibly muscular Al Bhed men whom Shuyin assumed were the police officers.  Cid stopped in the space that a sobbing Rikku and Yuna had formed in the half circle around Baralai and he shook his head, “Poor bastard.”

Rikku backed up to let the officer’s through and smacked into Gippal’s hard chest.  She let him wrap his arms around her and she turned to embrace him.  The both of them had lost a friend that day and Rikku didn’t understand why.  As she ran her hands down his sides, her fingers hitched in his belt loops and her breath caught in her throat.  The last words she heard Gippal say to Baralai echoed in her head.

“Stay away from her or you’ll regret it.”

“Stay away from her or you’ll regret it.”

“Stay away from her or you’ll regret it.”

Rikku felt her hands; her whole body starting to shake and she forcibly pried Gippal’s arms from her body.  She knew the color had drained from her face from the look in his eyes but she didn’t care.  Once she was at a safe distance, she let her eyes graze his waist and realized that he indeed wasn’t wearing his belt.  Out of the corner of her eye, she saw why. 

His belt was wrapped firmly around Baralai’s neck. 

“Rikku, what is it?” Gippal asked as he took a step toward her.

Shrieking in a high pitched wail, Rikku held her hands out in front of her, “Don’t get near me!  Stay away from me!”

“Rikku?” whispered Yuna, “What is wrong with you?”

Rikku’s entire body continued its uncontrollable trembling as she pointed to Gippal’s waist, “Where’s your belt, Gippal?” she asked for the second time that day.

It was at that moment that Shuyin realized what he had done.  The belt he had grabbed belonged to…Gippal.  It was also at that moment that Gippal’s face lost all color as he realized what Rikku was insinuating, “Ri…Rikku,” he managed, “You don’t seriously think that I…”

He made to reach out to her, but Cid was faster and smacked his hand away, “Don’t touch my daughter.” He hissed.  Cid motioned for his officers to move in and faster then Gippal could react, the men each held one of his arms behind his back.  Ignoring Gippal’s shouts and struggles, Cid turned back to Rikku, “What makes you think Gippal did this?”

The tears streamed down Rikku’s pretty face and she could barely form coherent sentences, but Paine had followed her line of thought.  She, in fact, had thought the same thing briefly herself.  With a frown, she said, “Gippal threatened Baralai this afternoon.  He went missing and Baralai went to look for him.  That’s also Gippal’s belt.”

“Paine!” Gippal shrieked, “You know I wouldn’t do this!  Baralai was like my brother!!”

“Yeah, a brother you threatened!” Rikku shouted back, finally regaining her voice.  Her upset was diminished only by her anger as she stormed up and slapped Gippal hard across the face, “Did you honestly think we’d be too stupid to figure it out!!”

“Rikku,” said Cid, “are you accusing Gippal of this?  You know what will happen if you do.”

Rikku had to hide a shudder.  Al Bhed prisoners got no justice.  It wasn’t like being tried in a court of Yevon.  In a court of Yevon you were innocent until proven guilty.  In an Al Bhed prison, you were guilty.  There was no innocence.  Gippal’s fate most probably included the death chamber.  The fact that Cid was asking for his daughter’s final say was quite a gesture.  Rikku had this one final chance to take back her suspicions and let the man who had probably brutally murdered Baralai walk free.  This was on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t form the words.  As much as she loved Gippal, she couldn’t let him walk free if he had murdered Baralai.  She knew that her father adored Gippal and would do everything he could to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was guilty before he was condemned and that was the thought she clung to.  Ignoring his pleading eyes, she whispered, “Take him away, Pop.”

“Rikku!!!!” screamed Gippal as the muscular men started to pull him backward down the stairs.  The Al Bhed struggled with them, “Rikku!!!  E fuimth'd tu drec!  Oui ghuf sa!  Rikku!!!”

His voice echoed through the corridors as the men struggled to drag him from the Celsius and when his voice could no longer be heard, Rikku burst into tears.

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

AL BHED TRANSLATION:

E fuimth'd tu drec!  Oui ghuf sa!: I wouldn’t do this!  You know me!

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Notes:  I really hope that nobody was turned away by this chapter.  Killing him wasn’t what I wanted to do initially with this story.  I wanted to ultimately have the triangle end with a Rikku/Gippal, but I just couldn’t seem to figure out a really fantastic way to end the triangle.  Everything I thought of seemed so trite and overdone.  This idea came to me and I thought it was a really good idea.  I had wanted Baralai to figure out that Tidus was Shuyin and I was initially going to only have Shuyin hurt Baralai, maybe by pushing him down stairs or something, but that didn’t seem to work.  Shuyin couldn’t let Baralai live knowing his secret.  I wanted Baralai to figure it out and by doing so, Baralai had to die.  I hope that you all bear with me because I’ve got some good stuff coming up.

Thanks for reading!

AJay

Author’s Notes:  I’m really glad that everybody seems to like the twist that happened in chapter 8.  I was pretty nervous about it not being well received, but it looks like it has been and I’m glad.  Anyway, this chapter is going to focus mainly on Shuyin and Yuna with, quite possibly, another twist no one is expecting.  We’ll get more into Gippal in the chapters that follow but for now just assume that dear Gippal is locked away in an Al Bhed holding cell. *sniff*.

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Nine: Would You Do It Again?

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

The following day was dark and dreary – the perfect day to hold Baralai’s sending.  Shuyin had never witnessed a sending before, but he knew Tidus had so he needed to act as unimpressed as possible.  Since the Celsius was off limits during the investigation, the group had taken to staying in the main building at Home which was divided into several bedrooms.  Yuna hadn’t gotten any sleep the night before, having spent the entire night with Paine trying to comfort Rikku.  Shuyin hadn’t slept either and the reason wasn’t completely different from Rikku’s. 

Shuyin had accidentally framed an innocent man and he didn’t know what to do about it. 

He had sat up all night thinking about different ways to save Gippal from a terrible fate – thinking about if he even wanted to save him.  Baralai had been smart enough to figure out Shuyin’s secret.  What if Gippal followed in his footsteps?  Having him locked up in an Al Bhed prison was the perfect place to keep him from figuring things out, but could Shuyin go about acting like nothing was wrong?  He had blood on his hands and nothing he could do was wiping them clean.

Yuna was wearing a long blue skirt and a white blouse with a yellow bow on the back to the service.  She mentioned something about not having worn it since her pilgrimage, and Shuyin assumed that this outfit was something summoners these days wore.  Her eyes were bloodshot as she smiled half-heartedly at him before going back out to the bridge leaving him alone with his thoughts.  He stood in only boxers staring at the dark blue slacks and dress shirt that Yuna had laid out for him.  Nooj and LeBlanc had flown in and would join the crew of the Celsius for the sending.  Shuyin knew he should be getting dressed, but he couldn’t stop his hands from shaking.  He could still hear the crack of Baralai’s neck when it snapped beneath the strength of his hands.  He slowly pulled the leather gloves off of his hands and put them onto the table next to him.  Part of him was grateful for having not taken the gloves off that day and part of him was furious with himself.  With those gloves on, the only person forensics would discover had touched the belt were Baralai – while begging for his life -, and Gippal… 

Shuyin felt a tear trickle down his cheek.  Would the guilt ever go away?

He had placed the locket safely into a lockbox in the closet and the diamond ring in the pocket of his shorts.  He didn’t want to think about Lenne for the moment.  He didn’t want to think about how angry she would be at him.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Shuyin pulled the clothes onto his shaking body and ran a brush through his hair several times before gazing at himself in a nearby mirror.  It was the first time he had ever taken the time to look at himself in Tidus’ skin and he was surprised at the few differences he could see.  Tidus’ hair was shorter and didn’t hang as often in his eyes.  His skin was a bit more tan and he was probably about a half inch shorter, but Tidus had the same bright blue eyes that Shuyin was accustomed to seeing in his reflection and those eyes right now looked at him accusingly. 

Murderer…

Shuyin jumped a little when he felt a hand on his shoulder.  It was Yuna.  He hadn’t even seen her return through the mirrored reflection.  Her eyes weren’t the deep brown of Lenne’s but they held the same kindness.  She gave him a half smile, “We’re ready to start.  Are you coming?”

For the first time since becoming Tidus, Shuyin really looked at Yuna.  She wasn’t as different from Lenne has he had originally thought.  If anything, she was more.  Lenne was strong, but Yuna was stronger.  Lenne was smart, but Yuna was smarter.  Lenne was funny, but Yuna was funnier.  Lenne was beautiful, but Yuna was…

“Yeah, I’m coming.” He said quickly, trying to head off the direction his thoughts were heading.  Allowing Yuna to gently take his hand in hers, the duo joined the rest of the mourners by the Oasis in Bikanel which was where everyone had decided to have the sending performed.  Yuna was relatively sure that Baralai wouldn’t have needed a sending to go to the Farplane, but she didn’t want to risk him becoming a fiend just in case she was wrong.

Shuyin tried to hide the wonder he was sure was reflecting in his eyes as Yuna began the sending.  He had never witnessed anyone walking on water the way Yuna did, while swinging her scepter in the air.  He tried to ignore the tears of those around him and focus on the fluidity of Yuna’s motions 

“People die, and Yuna dances…”

Shuyin tensed.  He knew that voice.  Taking a casual step back from the group, he hissed under his breath, “Shut-up, Tidus.”

“When will she stop dancing...?”

“Shut-up!” repeated Shuyin, his hiss becoming slightly higher pitched.

“When will it stop...?”

Shuyin took a deep breath and strained, focusing all of his energies into forcing Tidus back into his world of darkness.  The merger wasn’t happening as fast as Shuyin would have thought.  Tidus still had a mind and will of his own.  He frowned when he heard Tidus laugh and Shuyin whispered, “You’re supposed to be asleep.”

“Well, when someone murders someone else using your body, it tends to wake you up.” Tidus replied sarcastically, laughing again as Shuyin attempted to send him back to sleep.

“I did what I had to do.” Shuyin replied.

Tidus whispered, “Yuna will figure it out.  You know she will.”

“Well, you’d just better hope that doesn’t happen,” threatened Shuyin, “because there will be no one to perform the sending.”

Tidus’ laugh caused Shuyin’s blood to run cold.  It was a confident laugh and Shuyin realized that part of the merger had begun.  Tidus was fully aware of Shuyin’s plans.  With the end of his laughter, came Tidus’ response, “We both know you won’t hurt her.”

“Go back to sleep!” he hissed, louder then he had wanted to.  He closed his eyes and strained until Tidus’ laughter was no longer echoing in his ears. 

“Are you okay?” Yuna asked as Shuyin opened his eyes.  All of the mourners were staring at him and Shuyin felt a blush form on his features. 

“I’m fine.” He replied.

Paine gave him an inquisitive look, “Are you sure?” she asked, “It looks like you’re constipated.”

“I’m fine.” Shuyin replied again.  Tidus’ words were still echoing in his head.  He looked at Yuna and swallowed hard.  What would he do if she figured it out?

-----------------------

Rikku was sitting outside.  She had refused to come in.  Baralai was dead and it was probably Gippal’s fault.  Yet, she couldn’t fight the gut feeling that he wasn’t to blame. 

“Hey, Rikku.”

Rikku spun around and smiled half-heartedly at her father.  Cid joined her on the small pile of sand she had created as a chair and put a comforting hand on her shoulder, “Are you okay?”

“No, Pop.” She replied, “I’m not okay.  I won’t be okay until you tell me that all the tests you ran on Baralai and the belt prove that Gippal is 100% innocent.”

Cid’s frown told Rikku that her father wasn’t going to be able to do that.  The female turned to look out on the Oasis.  She and Gippal had come there many times as children to play.  He had taught her how to swim in that very water. 

“What do you know, Pop?” she asked.

Cid sighed, “Forensics got the info back.” He paused and tilted Rikku’s head to look at him, “The only prints on the belt were Baralai’s and Gippal’s.”

---------------------

Yuna hadn’t said much since the sending ended and after saying goodnight to everyone, Shuyin had followed her into their room.  He let his clothes drop as he walked until he was clad in only a t-shirt and boxers.  Yuna was standing with her back to him, gazing blankly into the mirror as he crawled beneath the sheets and lay on his side to look at her.  She sighed heavily, “I have to tell you something.”

Shuyin didn’t like the sound of that and sat up in the bed, “What is it?”

She turned to him and for the first time Shuyin noticed just how much she resembled Lenne physically as well as emotionally.  He hadn’t noticed it before, but it was there.  It was subtle, but there.  She smiled weakly at him, “We followed you.” She whispered, “When we were at the Youth League headquarters.  We all followed you to the cave.”

He wasn’t prepared for this.  Did she know about the necklace?  Did she know that he killed Baralai?  He gripped the end of the pillow until his knuckles turned white.  He didn’t want to hurt her, but he didn’t know what other alternative he would have.

She reached into a large box that was sitting next to a large potted plant.  Shuyin hadn’t noticed it before.  Lifting it, she placed it on the corner of the bed, “I think we found what you were looking for.”

Now Shuyin was completely confused.  He released his grip on the pillow and stared at the box.  What could they have found if it wasn’t the locket?  He watched as Yuna gingerly removed the top and placed it next to the box.  Reaching inside, Shuyin paled when she gently placed a skull on the bed in front of him.

His skull…

“There were two others.” She said, “One belonging to Reiber Ackmard, the president of Bevelle, and the other belonging to his daughter, Allyn.  Shinra ran the DNA tests on them.  He still has those two.”

Shuyin barely heard what she had said.  He couldn’t take his eyes off of the skull in front of him.  Where was the rest of his body?  Was it gone?  Didn’t they look for it?  He had hundreds of questions, but he couldn’t risk asking them.  He had to play this cool.  He didn’t think Yuna knew too much.  He couldn’t give her any more reason to be suspicious.

“Tidus,” she whispered, “You called LeBlanc by the name Allyn.  You’ve been acting very strangely.  You called me Lenne.” She wiped a tear from her eye, “Shinra discovered that Shuyin dated Allyn.  What do you know about that?  What do you know about Shuyin and why were you looking for his skull in the cave?”

Shuyin’s mouth opened and closed like a fish several times.  Yuna knew more then he had thought initially.  He’d have to think quickly.  Drawing upon what little he knew about the circumstances involving Tidus’ return, he quickly formulated a reply. 

“When I was in the Farplane, I briefly met Shuyin.” This lie seemed to shock Yuna and he went on the momentum of her surprise, “It wasn’t for very long.  Just long enough for him and me to set eyes on each other.”

“So Rikku was right…?” Yuna whispered.

“What do you mean?”

“Rikku thought that you and Shuyin might have met and that’s what was causing the confusion.”

Shuyin smiled.  He had hit gold with this excuse.  Now all that was left was to put on the finishing touches, “That’s exactly what it was.  I met the real version of myself and it caused me to be a little confused about what my reality was and what was his.  The whole thing with the cave is an example of that.  I just kept thinking that I needed to go to the cave.  I don’t even know why.”

The smile on Yuna’s face appeared and then vanished just as quickly.  Focusing her duel colored eyes into his, she asked, “Why were you cursing like that outside of the cave?  I’ve never heard you curse before.”

All Shuyin could think about was the fact that Tidus apparently never swore.  Somehow he had difficulty believing that, but if that was what Yuna thought then he had to play it that way.  He tilted his head a little and whispered, “I don’t curse around you, but when I’m really angry I do have a mouth on me.”

Yuna seemed appeased by his response and gently placed the skull back into the box and the box back next to the plant.  Shuyin was greatly relieved that it was out of sight.  He didn’t want to ever see it again.  She returned to him and knelt down on the bed, “I love you, Tidus.” She whispered.

Shuyin smiled, “I love you too.” He replied, in his best Tidus impersonation so far.  Even Yuna seemed convinced as she climbed on all fours toward him on the large bed.  Her soft lips pressed against his and at first he didn’t dare move.  It was a tender kiss and he simply waited until she pulled away, but at the urging of her lips and tongue he realized her plan wasn’t to back off.  As her lips traveled a path across his cheek and to his ear and neck, Shuyin let out a small moan.  He wasn’t used to Tidus’ hotspots, but Yuna apparently was and she set each one afire with her kisses.  Forcing himself to swim to the surface of his arousal, Shuyin gently pushed her away, “We shouldn’t do this.” He said, trying to steady his breathing.  It had been 1000 years since he’d been turned on and it was taking some getting used to, “You’re upset and this isn’t the right time to be doing this.”

Yuna frowned and sat back on her heels, “I know exactly what I’m doing, Tidus.” She replied, “I love you and you love me.  I want to make love with you.  What’s wrong with that?”

“Well, Baralai just died.  Isn’t it sort of…” he paused, searching for the right word when it hit him, “disrespectful?”

Yuna shrugged, reaching behind her to undo the yellow bow that helped hold her blouse on, “I don’t think so.” She replied as she threw the shirt onto the floor and went about removing the skirt and boots, “Think about it as comfort sex.”

At the reveal of her lacy black bra and panties, Shuyin felt his determination to turn her down waver.  He hadn’t had to deal with her throwing herself at him before so he hadn’t considered how to handle it.  If he turned her down, she’d suspect something was wrong.  If he accepted her offer, would she notice any difference between them?

Thinking as he acted, Shuyin suggested he give Yuna a massage to which the former summoner was surprised, but interested.  As she lay on her stomach, Shuyin gently worked his hands on her back, rubbing her tense muscles with his strong hands.  Her skin was softer then he had expected and as he straddled her back to get more leverage, he realized he was enjoying the situation much more then he should.  He needed something to distract him. 

“What are you thinking?” she asked him suddenly and Shuyin realized he’d been unnaturally quiet since the massage began. 

He cleared his throat, “Just about your…pilgrimage.” He lied.  He couldn’t think of anything else to mention and he was curious about it.  He’d only heard bits and pieces of the journey on which she’d fallen in love with Tidus.  That time was supposed to have been his time and he was interested in learning about it.

“What about it?” she asked, sighing happily as he pressed deeply.

“Tell me about it…” he whispered, before realizing that the particular wording he used could send off warning flags.  Quickly retracing, he said, “I want to hear about it from your perspective.”

She laughed, “What do you want to know about it?”

“What made you want to be a summoner?” he asked suddenly.  He had wondered the same thing about Lenne and back then summoners weren’t sent to die.  Yuna choosing to become one during times of summoner sacrifices was something he simply couldn’t understand.  Did Lenne’s soul have some sort of death wish?

Yuna turned her head slightly on the pillow, “Well,” she began, “I don’t know for sure.  I always knew that my destiny was to face Sin.  I don’t really know why.” She smiled, “Maybe I was destined to become a summoner so that I would meet you…”

Shuyin couldn’t formulate a response to that.  He knew that Lenne had asked for him back, but the fayth had sent Tidus instead.  Was Lenne destined to be with Tidus or was he truly destined to be with her again? 

“Would you do it again?” Shuyin asked without thinking.  Lenne’s determination to return to the frontlines of war still echoed in his ears and he wondered if Yuna was the same way.  They were almost the same person.

Yuna rolled out from under him and knelt before him on the bed.  She tenderly ran a finger along the lines of his face as if memorizing every curve and whispered, “The first time almost cost me you forever.” She said, “I will never risk that again.”

She gripped both of his hands in hers and pulled them around her back, placing them firmly on the hook of her bra.  She looked at him expectantly as his hands grew a mind of their own, hypnotized in her eyes, and carefully separated the two hooks, letting garment fall from her body. 

Shocked back to reality, he didn’t want to look at her so he hugged her close to him, trying to ignore the feeling of her half naked body pressed against his.  Her fingers traveled across the broad expanse of his back before quickly switching gears and hooking into the elastic of his boxers.  Shuyin jumped away from her with a start and the two stared at each other.  His look was more one of wonder then confusion. 

There, on Yuna’s left hip almost concealed by her panties was a birthmark shaped like a diamond.  Lenne had possessed the same mark on the same hip and Shuyin had spent many nights running his fingers gently over it while she slept.

“Tidus…?” Yuna whispered, but her question was quickly cut off by the gentle touch of Shuyin’s lips to hers.  He didn’t know why she had that birthmark, but the fact was that she had it.  Gently laying her down upon the bed, Shuyin decided to give her what she had asked him for and hoped with all his heart that she wouldn’t notice a difference. 

Author’s Notes:  This chapter will begin to lead into the conclusion of this story.  I’m still not sure how many more chapters there will be, but I have an outline in my head of the rest. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Ten: Diamond in the Wash

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Shuyin realized it was morning by the sunlight streaming in from the window behind him.  He blinked several times and sat up slowly.  Yuna wasn’t around and he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.  Having momentarily lost his senses last night, he hoped that she hadn’t realized it wasn’t Tidus making love to her.  That would completely ruin his plans.

He rubbed the sleep from his eyes and sighed.  He was angry with himself for having zero self control the night before.  How could he have risked his entire plan just because Yuna had practically stripped to nothing in front of him?  What would Lenne think? 

He sighed again.  In the end Lenne was Yuna, so it wasn’t like he had cheated.  It wasn’t even like he’d done something wrong in regards to Yuna either.  She was more than willing.

The sound of the door opening and closing caught his attention.  Yuna was fully dressed in her usual attire and coming toward him with a grin on her face, “Good morning.” She said, leaning over to kiss him.

She must not have noticed a difference…

“Good morning.” He replied with a smile.  There was definitely something about her.

Yuna crawled onto the bed, straddling him over the sheets, “Can I ask you something?”

“Sure.”

With a grin, Yuna whispered in his ear, “Where have you been hiding that amazing performance last night?”

Shuyin had to stifle a huge belly laugh.  Apparently she had noticed a difference, but it was one she really liked.  He had figured she enjoyed herself, judging from her various reactions, but he hadn’t realized that it was far too different from her experience with Tidus.  Apparently he was wrong…

Turning to whisper back in her ear, “I thought I’d try something different.” Shuyin felt Yuna’s tongue tracing slow, lazy lines across his earlobe to which he replied, “Find something interesting?”

In a quick move, Shuyin flipped Yuna beneath him and attacked her throat with his lips in slow languid movements while his hands traveled her body, rising from her hips to the crevice between her breasts to loosen the fasteners. 

“Yuna, are you coming?”

Shuyin laughed and rolled off of Yuna who quickly hooked her shirt again, “I’m coming, Paine!” she called.  She looked at Shuyin who was laying on his side staring at her, “I’m going with Paine, Nooj, and LeBlanc to see Gippal today.”

“Why?!” Shuyin asked, a little more forcefully then he had wanted to.  Did they know something?

Yuna pushed herself off of the bed and walked to the mirror where she ran a brush quickly through her tangled knots, “Cid said the belt used on Baralai only had two sets of prints – Baralai’s and Gippal’s.” she sighed and their eyes connected in the reflection, “We’re hoping to get him to confess.  Cid said he’d consider a plea bargain if he confesses.”

“What sort of plea bargain?”

“Life in prison instead of the death sentence.” Yuna turned to him, “It’s better than nothing.”  Taking three quick steps to him, Yuna pressed her lips to his tenderly, “I love you, Tidus.  I’ll be back later.”

“Hey!” Shuyin called as she started for the door.  As she spun back around he smiled, “How about you and me do something together tonight, just the two of us?”

Yuna’s smile lit up her face and Shuyin joined her smile and felt really happy for the first time in a long time, “I’d love that.” She replied, “I’ll see you tonight then.”

“Tonight.”

“Oh!” she said with a start, “I almost forgot.  I threw your shorts in the washer to get rid of that dirt stain.  You’ll have to wear something else in the meantime.”

“Okay, Yuna.”

Shuyin lay back on the bed with a self satisfied smirk on his face for several minutes after she left.  He wasn’t sure what it was he was feeling for Yuna, but he liked it.  She was the best parts of Lenne minus Lenne’s annoying tendencies, like sacrificing herself over and over and over again.  He hoped that when he used the diamond on Yuna, Lenne’s personality would remain much like Yuna’s. 

The diamond!

Shuyin jumped up from the bed and quickly pulled boxers on, breaking out in a run out the door and down toward the washing area.  He had left the ring in his pants pocket, and Yuna had put the pants in the wash! 

Luckily during his streaking, Shuyin didn’t pass anyone and upon reaching the washing room, it was empty.  Although there were several washers, only one was working and Shuyin stopped it, pulling his damp pants from the pile of other damp clothes.  The diamond had become dislodged from the base of the ring, but luckily it was still in his pocket.  He breathed a sigh of relief for that, but then wondered if the diamond had been damaged.

“I hope it has been, you son of a bitch.”

Shuyin groaned, “What are you doing awake again?”

“First you kill Baralai,” Tidus hissed, “Then you sleep with my girlfriend.  I could kill you for this.”

Shuyin threw the shorts back into the wash and turned the cycle on again before whispering, “You can’t do anything to me, Tidus.  I’m the more powerful of the two of us.  I’m in charge.”

“You won’t get away with this.”

Shuyin laughed, “I think I already have.” He replied, “The only difference Yuna has noticed was the fact that my sex was better then yours.”

“Lenne is going to hate you for what you’ve done.” Tidus answered, “She won’t be able to get over this as easily as she got over your affair with Allyn.”

“Go back to sleep, Tidus.” Said Shuyin, suddenly furious.  He hated that Tidus was getting into his memories but it hadn’t started working in the opposite yet.  The merger was taking forever to work.  He had been told by the fayth that the merger would join the two souls together, allowing the true one to have all the memories.  So far, it was taking forever.  At least Shuyin still had his strength.  Closing his eyes, Shuyin strained and focused until he felt Tidus going back into his world of darkness. 

With a sigh, Shuyin looked down at the broken ring in his hand.  A little glue, some time to dry, and then he could test it to see if the thing still worked.

--------------------.

Gippal was grateful to have a cell to himself, but he still didn’t like the catcalls he had received from the inmates upon being taken into the Al Bhed maximum security prison.  He hadn’t been allowed to shave since thoughts of suicide were common among prisoners and giving them razors just ended in a bloody mess so he had blond stubble lining his face.  Bags were firmly planted under his eyes since fear for his life had prevented any thoughts of sleep.

Gippal’s mind had been racing since his arrest about who could have killed Baralai and then managed to escape, but he couldn’t think of anyone who would have wanted his best friend dead.  When he had been told that Paine, Nooj, LeBlanc, and Yuna were coming to see him, hoped it was to tell him that they knew he was innocent. 

If only Rikku would come.

“Oui kud jecedunc.” Said a portly Al Bhed guard just outside of Gippal’s cell.  Gippal stood and walked toward the cell bars which were about two feet from the cot they gave him to sleep on.  Next to that was a toilet with a crust on it that made Gippal glad he could pee standing up. 

Yuna was visible first, followed by Paine, LeBlanc, and Nooj.  Nooj came up to the bars and gripped his hands through them, “Are you okay?” he asked.

“I suppose.” Gippal replied.

LeBlanc kissed his forehead, “We know you didn’t do it, love.  We’re going t prove it.”

Gippal noticed that Paine and Yuna hung back during this time and he frowned.  Looking directly into Paine’s crimson eyes, he asked, “What do you think?”

“Trust me, Gippal.” She replied, “You don’t want to know.”

Yuna gave him a half-hearted smile, “We’re not here for pleasantries, Gippal.” She said, rather harshly for Yuna, “I’m here to tell you that the only prints on the belt were yours and Baralai’s.  Cid said if you confess now, he’ll give you a plea bargain.”

“You’re all here to get my confession?!”

LeBlanc shook her head, “No, love.  Noojie and I are here to give you our support.”

Gippal’s green eyes bored holes into Paine as he hissed, “Well at least someone knows I wouldn’t harm Baralai.”

“Gippal,” Yuna began, “I want to believe it too, but everything points otherwise.  Will you confess or not?”

“Confess to something I didn’t do?!” Gippal shrieked, “I’d rather die.”

“Fine.” Said Yuna, her voice suddenly becoming cold and distant, “I tried.” Spinning on her heels, Yuna left.

Gippal sat cross-legged on the hard cement of his cell floor and started to think over what Yuna had said.  Only his prints and Baralai’s were on the belt.  How was that even possible?  He scratched his head and looked at Nooj, “Did anybody figure out where Baralai went yet?”

“Not yet,” Nooj replied, “The pilots that flew him wherever it was he went aren’t back from another run yet.  Cid said they’ll be back by the end of the week.”

“What does it matter where he went?” hissed Paine suddenly, a rare display of anger coming from the usually stoic female, “All that matters is that he’s dead and that someone killed him!”  Her face scrunched up a little and Gippal was shocked to realize that, upon turning her back to him, Paine had started to cry. 

Nooj’s heart went out to Paine as he stepped behind her and placed two comforting hands on her shoulders, much to LeBlanc’s chagrin.  Pressing his forehead against the back of her head, Nooj whispered, “But we both know that Gippal didn’t do it.”

Paine spun around suddenly, her eyes afire, “Don’t tell me what I know!” she screamed, “I know what I saw the last time I saw Baralai alive!  I saw Gippal threaten him and then three hours later Baralai was dead!  His prints being the only ones on the belt besides Baralai and we sure as hell know Baralai didn’t break his own neck!”

“The prints mean nothing!” shouted Gippal, silencing Paine and gaining all attention back to him.  He stared at Paine with desperation in his eyes, “Don’t you see that someone is trying to frame me?!  Why would I use my own belt to kill Baralai and then leave it there?!  It just doesn’t make sense!”

“Then what do you think happened?” asked Paine, sarcastically.

“Maybe Baralai’s killer wiped his prints off of the belt!”

LeBlanc shrugged and shook her head, “Sorry, love, but that wouldn’t work.  All the prints would have been damaged then.”

“Exactly!” said Paine, motioning wildly with her hands.

Gippal sighed and fell backward onto the cement, defeated.  All the evidence did point to him and the only person who would believe his alibi wasn’t there.  Oh if only Rikku had come!!

Thoughts and possibilities flashed through Gippal’s head.  How could the killer have used his belt without leaving prints or messing up any others?  Was it even possible?  The only way would have been if the killer had worn gloves and…

“Gloves!” he suddenly shouted, sitting up suddenly, “The killer was wearing gloves!”

“I was thinking the same thing.” Nooj replied, “but we still don’t know who it could have been.”

Gippal’s sudden happiness was deflated just as quickly.  Nooj was right.  Just because he had a hunch, didn’t change anything.  The prosecution would still bury him with their ‘evidence’.  He had to come up with a suspect or even a motive that would help his case, but he couldn’t think of anyone who was crazy enough to murder Baralai and who wore gloves or even had a pair. 

Suddenly a face flashed before Gippal’s eyes and he thought his heart stopped.  Was it possible?  He stared at Nooj, “Tidus…”

Paine was in front of him in a moment, slapping him hard on the cheek, “How dare you start accusing other people!”

Rubbing his face gently, Gippal protested, “But Paine!  Think about it!  He’s been acting weird, he was MIA, and he wears gloves!”

“He was also coming into the ship at the same time you claim you were!” Paine reminded him, “You said that yourself.”

“Oh…yeah.” Gippal said with a frown.  Tidus had been coming up the front plank to the Celsius at the same time Gippal had entered from the engine room entrance. 

There really was no hope…

Nooj and LeBlanc said their goodbyes and left.  Gippal was surprised that Paine was still there but he didn’t voice it.  Even without her saying a word, just knowing that someone – anyone­ – was there made him feel better. 

“Gippal…” Paine whispered suddenly, breaking the silence that had permeated the room.

“What is it?”

“Did you notice how the window was open just a crack that day?”

Gippal did remember it.  It had been odd since Brother insisted on keeping all the windows closed so that they weren’t left open during flight.  He stared at Paine, trying to figure out her line of thought when she said, “The side of the ship is like a big sliding board.  The three of us liked to slide down, especially if we were on the roof.”

He suddenly realized where she was going.  If someone – namely Tidus – had slid down the side of the ship after killing Baralai, they would have had plenty of time to get back to the front of the ship and inside before his body was discovered.  Gippal stared at her in wonder as she whispered, “I believe you.”

--------------------.

Yuna’s return was well timed.  Shuyin had just finished making sure the diamond wouldn’t fall off of the ring when she walked back into their room.  Quickly slipping the object into his pocket, he turned and smiled at her but was greeted by a frown in return, “What’s the matter?”

“He wouldn’t confess.” Yuna replied, “He’s going to die because he’s so damn stubborn!”

Shuyin pulled Yuna toward him in a gentle embrace, “It’ll be okay.” He whispered.

“Do you think he did it?” she asked.

Shuyin hadn’t expected that question.  He thought for a moment and then said the only answer that he felt would aid him in his plans, “Yes, I do.” He whispered, taking advantage of this opportunity to slip the ring onto her finger.  He felt Yuna slump in his arms and a momentary panic took over.  Had he killed her?  He laid her down gently on the bed and was relieved to find she was still breathing.   

Time passed slowly as the minutes went by and Yuna didn’t wake up.  After five minutes, Shuyin made a move to take the ring from her finger when she groaned softly and opened her eyes.  She stared from him, to the room, and then back to him before she whispered, “Shuyin, where are we?”

It was Lenne.  She was back, however brief the interlude might be.  His plan would work.  Shuyin smiled at her and started in on his well rehearsed explanation, “The guards chased us, but I managed to get us shelter here.”

He had decided it was best to let Lenne think it was still 1000 years before.  She’d ask less questions that way. 

Lenne, in Yuna’s form, sat up slowly, as if testing her limbs, “I had the weirdest dream.” She said, “I dreamt that the guards shot us and that I died.  The fayth told me I needed to be reincarnated in order to stop this monster that was destroying Zanarkand, but I said I’d only do it if you were reincarnated with me.  Then I was allowed to visit you one last time and these guards were locking you in a cave to let you starve and…”

“Stop it!” shrieked Shuyin and at Lenne’s shocked look, he said, much more calmly, “It was just a dream.”

Lenne stared at him as if seeing him for the first time.  She gripped strands of his hair gently and asked, “Why did you cut your hair?”

“Like I said, the guards are looking for us so we had to adopt disguises.  I cut yours too.” He said, motioning toward Yuna’s hair. 

Lenne ran her fingers through the short strands and frowned, “Yes you did.”  Then she let her eyes search the rest of her body and stared in disgust at the clothes, “Shuyin, just where are we?”

“A safe place.”

“Is this place a whorehouse?!” she asked, motioning toward the clothes, “What is this outfit?  It looks like something Allyn would wear!”

“Oh, Lennie, stop it.”

She sat up farther and smacked her hands next to her on the bed, “No, you stop it Shuyin.  I want to know exactly where we are.”

“It’s not important.” He replied, “What is important is that you and I are safe and together.”

Lenne nodded, “I guess you’re right,” she said, making a move to rise that was quickly rebuffed by Shuyin’s hard and fast grip on her waist, “What is the deal?!” she shouted, “I just want to look at what you did to my hair!”

“No.”

Her eyes immediately showed their skepticism and she glared at him, “Did you just tell me no?” she squirmed out of his arms and rolled onto her side to stare at him, “I don’t know what your problem is, Shuyin, but the bottom line is that I’m going back to the front tomorrow.  I won’t let you keep me prisoner here.”

Shuyin couldn’t believe his ears.  Even after 1000 years she still wanted to go to the frontlines!  He felt a flicker of fury forming in his gut.  Nothing had changed!  Didn’t she ever learn?!  Yuna learned.  Yuna said that she wouldn’t have risked her life again if she had it to do all over and yet there was Lenne, ready to let herself die!

With a furious sweep of his hand, Shuyin ripped the ring from her finger and threw it across the room.  He was sick of trying to save her life!  He was sick of her always putting the war ahead of them!  He was sick of Lenne!

With a sigh, Shuyin leaned back to wait the five minutes for Yuna to return to consciousness.

------------------.

AL BHED TRANSLATION

 

Oui kud jecedunc: You got visitors

Author’s Notes:  Sorry this update took a little longer then most.  My job has been killing me lately! And when I tried to upload on Saturday night the website wasn’t working.  Oh well, it’s here now :)  Anyway, Gippal gets out of jail in this chapter, but it isn’t through the courts dropping the charges.  He also gains one more supporter who ends up believing he didn’t kill Baralai. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Eleven: Jailbreak

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Rikku stared out at the crystal blue waters of the Oasis and sighed.  She hadn’t been able to pull herself from her depression for days and rarely moved from her spot except to shower and eat. 

Baralai had been murdered by Gippal.

One of her best friends had been murdered by the man she loved.

Good gracious, her life sucked.

As she stretched her long limbs on the sand, Rikku let herself fall backward and stare at the sun as it slowly made its way across the sky.  She couldn’t stop herself from wondering ‘what if’.  What if she had just told Gippal how she felt about him?  What if they hadn’t split up from Baralai?  What if…

She groaned and stretched.  The bottom line was that Baralai was a talented fighter.  He had been difficult to beat when the female trio had fought him during his possession.  He would have been able to defend himself from a full on assault which led to only one logical conclusion.  Baralai had been caught off guard. 

However, though Rikku knew this, try as she might she could not get herself to believe completely that Gippal had snuck up behind Baralai and wrapped the belt around his neck.  Although all evidence pointed to him, Rikku knew Gippal just like he had said she did.  Gippal might have killed Baralai in anger, but never in a preconceived plan.

“I thought I’d find you here.”

Rikku turned her head and smiled up at Paine who was walking over the final sand dune to take a seat next to Rikku.  The Al Bhed had to stifle a laugh at the fact that her friend was still wearing black leather in the desert.  She nodded, “You thought right.”

“We saw Gippal today.”

Rikku frowned.  She didn’t want to think about Gippal in that horrible place and about the part – the huge part – she played in having him sent there. 

“I don’t think he did it, Rikku”

Her eyes connected with the crimson spheres of her friends and she asked, shocked, “Why?  You went there this morning so sure that he had done it.  What happened?”

Paine shrugged and dusted some sand off of her boot, “Well, he pointed out how stupid it would be for him to use his own belt to kill Baralai.  Plus, by not wiping the prints off he would have just been asking to be arrested.”

“I suppose you’re right,” Rikku admitted, “but who killed Baralai if Gippal didn’t?”

Paine gave Rikku a half-grin, “That’s where Gippal and I disagree.  The person he immediately suspected, I don’t think could have done it.  However, his theory on how the killer might have gotten in, then out, makes sense.”

“Who did he think it was?”

“Tidus.”

Rikku practically flew to her feet, throwing her hands onto her hips, “What?!  Now he’s going to accuse innocent people!!”

Paine stood and put a calming hand on Rikku’s shoulder, “I told him he was nuts.” She said, “But his theory on the killer’s escape might have merit.”

Rikku sighed and sat again.  She wasn’t sure if she wanted to hear Gippal’s theory.  Just knowing that he thought Tidus was capable of hurting someone made her furious.  She had known Tidus for almost a year during Yuna’s pilgrimage and he had never – would never – hurt another living soul unless provoked.  However, curiosity got the better of her, “What’s his idea?”

“Did you notice the window open when we found Baralai?” Paine asked.

Rikku thought for a moment.  She had felt a slight breeze coming from the direction of the windows and at quick glance it had looked like one was open a little which she thought was strange since Brother insisted those windows be kept shut.  She had made a move to shut it when Yuna had found Baralai and everyone had gotten distracted. 

“Yes.” She replied.

Paine nodded, “When Gippal mentioned it, I immediately realized where he was going with it.” She used her hand to draw a small picture in the sand, “Now, suppose that the killer killed Baralai with Gippal’s belt intent on framing him.  That is why the prints were there.”

“But what about the killer’s prints?”

“That’s what made him think of Tidus.” Paine revealed, “The killer had to have been wearing gloves…”

“And Tidus wears them…” Rikku finished before she shook her head and rolled her eyes, “So he thinks that nobody else could have gotten their hands on gloves?”

Paine laughed, “That’s Gippal for you.  He’s a little slow.”

The girls laughed hard at that one for several minutes before Rikku calmed, “Finish the explanation.”

“Well, he was thinking that after the killer offed Baralai, he opened the window and slid down the side into the sand.  That’s also where he goes back into his Tidus thought, because Tidus would have then been able to get back in the front and make it look like he was just coming back.”

“But Gippal was in the ship!”

Paine shook her head, “No, he said he was coming up the engine room entrance.”

“There’s an engine room entrance?” Rikku asked, scrunching her nose in confusion.

At Paine’s nod, the Al Bhed grew quiet and thoughtful.  This theory made just as much sense as the thought that Gippal would have murdered his best friend over her.  Actually, this theory made a lot more sense.  Gippal would have been an idiot to use his own belt and then just leave the prints on it.  Gippal was an idiot, but not that much of an idiot.  However, the one thought that continued to plague her was Gippal’s alibi.  He hadn’t given one.  She voiced this now, “What about Gippal’s alibi?  Where was he before the engine room?”

“That part is what’s weird.” Paine said, reaching into her pocket, “He told me that this was his alibi and that you’d know what it was.” And she firmly planted a bright red rock in Rikku’s hand.

Rikku stared at the rock for a moment, utterly confused, until a memory flew back into her mind from a faraway place.  She was 14, Gippal was 16.  It was the party before he joined the Crimson Squad.  The two of them had walked 10 miles west of Home to a bridge that jutted out from a sand dune.  It had been there for years and no one knew if water used to be there or not.  Nobody really cared, anyway.  Under the bridge was a group of bright, red stones unlike anything ever seen on Spira.  Rikku loved them and Gippal told her he would bring her one day when she least expected it.

Gippal had been at the bridge – 10 miles from the Celsius.  She quickly figured times and distances in her head and realized that, unless Gippal possessed the ability to travel at the speed of light, there was no way he could have done 20 miles round trip in time to kill Baralai and escape again without being caught.  More than likely, when he was coming up from the engine room he was actually just returning to the ship.

Climbing to her feet she said to Paine, “Do not tell anyone about this conversation.”

“Where are you going?”

Rikku broke into a run, shouting the lie over her shoulder, “The Moonflow!”

-------------------.

Drumming his fingers on the cement floor had become Gippal’s favorite pastime since his incarceration had started.  There wasn’t much else the imprisoned Al Bhed could do to pass the time. 

Cid had finally taken pity on him and allowed Gippal to shave the thick stubble that had been forming on his angular jaw and Gippal was most grateful for that, however he had wished he could have done that before Nooj, LeBlanc, Paine, and Yuna had seen looking like a homeless dog.

A shadow on the wall caught Gippal’s attention, followed immediately after by Rikku’s tiptoeing figure with her finger firmly planted on her mouth indicating silence.  Gippal shot her a confused look as she dangled the key to his cell in front of him, “I swiped it from the sleeping guard outside,” she whispered, “Be really quiet.”

His cell opened silently and he wanted desperately to ask Rikku what she was doing but he simply followed her silently as she replaced the keys back in the guard’s lap and snuck him out the back door and into the fresh air of dusk on Bikanel. 

“Now I need to get you to Guadosalam.” She said with a grin, “I talked to LeBlanc and she said you could stay at Chateau LeBlanc for the time being.  Nobody would look for you there.”

“Rikku…” Gippal said, staring into her eyes.

She shook her head and waved her hands in front of his face to ward off any of his questions, “I spoke to Paine.  Enough said.”

Their journey to Guadosalam on a stolen boat was a silent one.  Neither knew what to say to the other.  Words just didn’t seem enough to express their feelings so they sat silently as the moonlight bathed their bodies and the water lapped gently at the side of the boat.  It was almost dawn by the time they landed at the shores of the Moonflow and quickly made their way to the entrance of Guadosalam.

It had been a long time since Gippal had been to Guadosalam and was excited to be given the opportunity to have free run of it.  However, from the look on Rikku’s face, he could tell she just wanted to leave.  He was aware that this house used to belong to Lord Seymour Guado and just that name brought shivers down the spine of his companion.  However, like the tough woman she was, Rikku marched up to the doors and entered the mansion first. 

“This is it.” She said as she motioned around the green tinted entranceway.  With a smile, she turned to face him, “Home sweet home, at least for now.”

Gippal looked into her bright eyes with a serious expression, “Why are you doing this for me?  You’re father will flip when he finds out.”

“Pop doesn’t believe you did it either,” she replied, “He’d probably thank me.”

“I don’t know about that.” Said Gippal with a smile that quickly faded in shock as Rikku lifted herself on her toes and kissed him gently.  He let his hands wrap around her waist, pulling her closer to him and relishing in the fact that she was the one initiating this melding of the lips.  However, reality brought him back to his senses.  He was a condemned man who had just escaped from jail.  She was an accomplice in a jailbreak. 

This was no time to be getting romantic. 

Gently pushing her away he tried to ignore the look of disappointment that was visible on her face, “What?”

“This isn’t the time.” He replied.

She frowned, “This is a perfect time.  Nobody knows where we are.  We’re alone.  What more do you want?”

Gippal stood firm to his decision.  She was upset and running on adrenaline.   He didn’t want to take advantage of her only to have her hate him in the morning and he voiced this to her. 

“So you don’t want me?”

“Not tonight,” Gippal said, kissing her hand softly, “If you still want me when this is over, then it’ll be a different story.”

“Fine!” shrieked Rikku in a display of angry frustration that Gippal didn’t expect.  Storming toward the door, she flung it open with all her strength and said, “I’ve got to get back before people start suspecting me.  I told Paine I was at the Moonflow, so…”

“Rikku,” Gippal interrupted, placing a gentle hand on her shoulder, “Rikku, I love you.”

She looked at him with absolutely no readable expression on her face and Gippal didn’t know what to make of it until she let out a loud laugh.  Shaking her head and trying to catch her breath, Rikku said, “Gippal, you don’t have to tell me that just to get in my pants.  You already have a free pass.”

“Rikku, I wasn’t…”

“Don’t worry about it.” Interrupted Rikku, stopping Gippal before he could tell her that he wasn’t lying, “I’ve gotta go.  Stay out of sight.  I’ll be by occasionally to bring food and check on you.  LeBlanc said there should be plenty of food to last you a month at least.”

With one last glance over her shoulder, she was gone and Gippal whispered into the night, “I love you, Rikku.”

------------------------.

Yuna broke to the surface of consciousness and sat up quickly.  She had never passed out before and she wasn’t sure why she had suddenly done so.  Tidus’ handsome face was staring at her and she relaxed against his chest, “What happened to me?” she asked.

“You passed out.” He replied, kissing her ear gently.

“But I never pass out.” She frowned and ran a hand across her stomach thoughtfully, “You don’t think I’m pregnant, do you?”

“Absolutely not.” Came Tidus’ reply.  His certainty brought with it a feeing Yuna hadn’t expected to feel.  Skepticism.  There was something in his positive response that made her wonder just how much he knew about her fainting spell. 

Quickly pushing that feeling away, she climbed to her feet, “What did you want to do today?  You said something about doing something alone.”

He smiled at her, “We can do whatever you want to do.”

She walked over to the mirror and ran a brush through her tangled knots, “I really wish we had something to celebrate.” She sighed, “But with everything going on with Gippal, I don’t think we’ll be able to celebrate for quite a while.”

“There’s always something to celebrate,” Tidus replied, coming up behind her and wrapping his arms around her waist, “Even when things suck the most.”

“Like what?”

“Anniversaries, birthdays, births, holidays…”

Yuna smiled and turned to kiss his nose, “Speaking of birthdays…” she said as she twisted completely around and wrapped her arms around his neck, “I’ve known you all this time and yet you never told me when you’re birthday is.”

She thought she caught a glimpse of a frown but it was quickly gone and she thought she just imagined it.  Tidus thought for a moment before letting out a small grin, “It’s today.  I had completely forgotten.”

Yuna practically squealed with glee, “You’re 20 today!”

“1020…” Tidus whispered under his breath before quickly correcting himself and subtracting 1000 from the age.  Yuna didn’t say anything about his slip up.  She knew how confusing it must be to be only 20 and yet born over 1000 years before.

She smiled at him, “Let’s go out and celebrate!”  Excitedly, she twisted out of his arms and focused back on fixing her hair.  Tidus had wandered back to the bed to put his shoes on and she smiled.  Reaching down to replace the brush, something shiny caught her attention.  It was in a darkened corner next to the table, almost as if it had fallen off.  She reached down to grasp it and her breath caught.  It was a diamond ring. 

“What are you looking at?” Tidus asked.

Yuna spun around with the ring in her hand, “What’s this?”

The quickness that Tidus ripped the ring from her finger and muttered, “Nothing” told Yuna that the ring wasn’t nothing. 

It was a diamond ring and Tidus had bought it.  Was that his ‘errand’ on the day that Baralai was killed?  Did he buy her an engagement ring?  If so, why was it on the floor?  Did it fall?  Yuna had so many questions but she didn’t want to pressure Tidus about them and spoil any surprise he might be working on for her.  Accepting his answer with a smile, she acted like she had already forgotten about the ring as they made their way to the door, but in reality the ring was the only thing on her mind.  She needed to tell the girls about it. 

Was he going to propose?!

---------------------.

NOTE:  The sequel fairy paid me another visit this morning and brought to life a silly little idea that I had been playing around with ever since I noticed the similarities between FF8’s Esthar and FFX’s Zanarkand.  Basically, I’m thinking of making a Silver Wings 3 (hopefully the last in the series, but with me you never know…lol) in which I combine characters from FF8 and FFX,X-2 into one story tentatively called “Silver Wings 3: Back Into My Arms”.   I don’t want to give too much of the plot away since it would ruin the ending I’m thinking about for Silver Wings 2, but if anyone is interested in another sequel, let me know. 

Author’s Notes:  Okay folks, Yuna grows a brain in this chapter.  I know many of you have been wondering when that was going to happen.  Unfortunately, she only grows a brain after Paine grows one first.  Oh well, it’s better then nothing I suppose.  However, just because she grows a brain doesn’t mean that it won’t vanish in subsequent chapters.  You’ll just have to wait and see :)

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Twelve: The Gloved Hand

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

“A diamond?!” Rikku squeaked after hearing Yuna’s quick tale about finding the diamond on the floor.  The Al Bhed had arrived back at Home just in time to have a quiet conversation with Paine and Yuna about the diamond ring before Yuna and Tidus went off on a romantic birthday celebration. 

“Do you think it means what I think it means?” questioned Yuna, barely able to keep her voice down.  Tidus could enter the room at any minute, after finishing the shower he had wanted to take at the last minute.

“It definitely means something,” said Paine, “Whether that something is good or not has yet to be determined.”

Yuna frowned at her stoic friend, “What does that mean?”

“It means that I don’t think you should be alone with Tidus tonight.”

“Paine!” Rikku hissed, “We both agreed that was ridiculous!”

Yuna was confused.  Obviously both of her friends knew something they didn’t want her to know.  It was also pretty obvious that Rikku was hiding something from both herself and Paine, but she wasn’t about to delve into that at the moment.  The pressing matter was why Paine didn’t want her alone with Tidus, “Why don’t you want me alone with him?  He’s my boyfriend.”

Paine frowned at Rikku, ignoring Yuna momentarily, “I know I said it was ridiculous, but now I’m not so sure.  I mean, what if Gippal is onto something…”

“Gippal…onto something?” Yuna asked with a suspicious look in her eyes, “Just what did Gippal say?”

Rikku pushed a braid from her eyes, “He said that the killer set him up using the belt and a pair of gloves so that Gippal and Baralai’s prints were safe, but the killer’s weren’t on the belt.  He also said that since the window was a little open the killer could have easily slid down the side of the ship and gotten back outside.”

Yuna was almost afraid of the answer to the question that was on the tip of her tongue, but somehow she just had to know what Paine was thinking.  Staring deep into Paine’s crimson orbs, she asked, “What does this have to do with Tidus?”

“Gippal…and now me, to a degree, thinks he might have killed Baralai.”

“What?!” Yuna shrieked, before quickly silencing herself to a harsh whisper, “Where do you get that from?!  Tidus had never hurt a soul in his life!  He’s harmless...!  He’s sweet…!  He’s innocent…!  He’s….”

“Been acting strangely.” Paine supplied.

“Oh,” hissed Yuna sarcastically, “Well in that case let’s just have him arrested and thrown in jail.  I mean, everybody knows if you have an off day or two then you’re a murderer!”

“He was hearing voices!” insisted Paine, “He was MIA during the time!  He wears gloves!  You said yourself he’s been acting like Shuyin!”

Yuna stood up and pointed a furious finger in Paine’s face, “Don’t ever say that again.  I don’t ever want hear this ridiculous theory of yours ever again.  Gippal is right where he belongs for killing Baralai and I hope he rots there!” she shouted before storming out of the room and down the hall toward the bathroom where Tidus was showering. 

The faster they got to Macalania, the better, and Yuna wanted to get there fast.

--------------------.

Shuyin hadn’t been at Macalania since his date with Lenne over 1000 years before.  It was strange for him to think in terms like that, but it was the truth.  That was how long it had been.  He was shocked to see how much the woods had deteriorated since then. 

“These woods are dying.” Yuna explained, “When the fayth disappeared, the forest began to do the same.  Soon it’ll be gone, but I thought we’d spend the day here anyway.”

Shuyin wasn’t thrilled about the thought.  Since his argument with Lenne, the thought of spending time in any place that reminded him of her didn’t make him happy.  For some reason, though, Yuna seemed to really like the spot by the lake.  It was almost as if it held the same memories for her as it did for Shuyin.

“It does…”

Shit.  Tidus was awake again and this wasn’t the place for Shuyin to be having a long conversation with him so he remained silent and tried to force Tidus to sleep again.

“Not so fast, Shuyin,” Tidus said, laughingly, “Don’t you want to spend some quality time with me?”

Shuyin continued to ignore Tidus as he took a seat on the blanket that Yuna had laid out for the two of them.  It was similar to the picnic he’d had with Lenne, except that there wasn’t any food.  He was grateful for that tiny dissimilarity.

“Better hope she doesn’t ask you about our memories at this place,” Tidus taunted, “Cause I’m not gonna help you answer them right and you don’t have any clue what the answers might be.”

“I love this place,” whispered Yuna as she laid her head against his chest, “I used to come here as often as I could during those two years.  It always made me feel close to you.” She smiled up at him and her eyes gleamed, “I still can’t believe we did that.”

Shuyin smiled stupidly, “Yeah, me neither.” He said, though he had no idea what she was talking about.

“Can you describe the Zanarkand sunrise to me again?” Yuna asked as she gazed out at the water lapping gently at the bark on the tree in the middle.

“Busted…” Tidus said, jokingly, but Shuyin just grinned.  Tidus obviously didn’t have all of his memories yet, or he’d know that Shuyin knew that sunset like the back of his hand.

Taking a breath and gently placing a kiss on Yuna’s head, he whispered softly, “The city lights go out one by one. The stars fade...then the horizon glows, almost like it's on fire.  It's kinda rose-colored, right? First in the sea, then it spreads to the sky, then to the whole city. It gets brighter and brighter, till everything glows."

“How the hell did you know that?  How did you know exactly what I told her?!”

“Wow, that’s exactly how you described it to me back then.” Yuna said with a smile, turning around to kneel in front of him, “It makes me feel like we’ve gone back in time, except that I haven’t just married an unsent and neither of us is going to die.”

Shuyin laughed at the angry groan that Tidus emitted in his head as well as at the absurdity of the sentence Yuna had just uttered.  He didn’t really know what she was talking about, but he was enjoying the sparkle in her eyes as she said it.

“I love you, Tidus.”

“I love you too…” Tidus whispered at the same time Shuyin said it and he felt a small flicker of guilt.  He was keeping Tidus from the girl he loved just like fate had kept Shuyin from Lenne.  However, when Shuyin looked into Yuna’s loving eyes, he felt something instead of just anger and hopelessness.  He didn’t want to give that feeling up.  He wanted to hang onto it with all of his power and see where it took him…and if Yuna was in that picture.

Yuna pressed her lips to his first and Shuyin let himself get swept up in it.  He knew Tidus was still fully aware of what was going on, but Shuyin quickly gave up caring about that as Yuna’s hands traveled lower on his body in an ever present quest for his belt. 

“How can you do this?  What about Lenne?”

What about Lenne?  Shuyin frowned a little at the thought of her and the argument they had at the ship.  He had started this plan to get her back but now she wasn’t the main focus of his plans anymore.  He wasn’t even sure what his plans were, but at the realization that Yuna’s hands were now inside of his pants, he forgot about that issue. 

Her ministrations brought deep moans from Shuyin and a furious shout from Tidus, “You’re using her and she’s going to figure it out!  She’s not stupid, Shuyin!  You can’t fool her forever!”

“Shut-up, Tidus.” He muttered before sucking in his breath in a shocked gasp.  Yuna’s hands stopped and she pulled them back.  Shuyin propped himself up on his arms, trying to remain as calm as possible under Yuna’s probing stare, “What’s the matter, babe?” he asked, nonchalantly.

Her duel-colored eyes stared deeply into his and Shuyin felt a chill go down his spine at the lack of emotion he saw there.  Wait…there was emotion in those cerulean depths. 

Fear.

“Why are you referring to yourself in the third person?” she asked, a quiver in her voice.

Shuyin didn’t know what to say.  One wrong answer could clue her in and then he might have to…

He didn’t want to think about it. 

Giving her a smile, he replied, “I was just thinking about stuff and told myself to shut-up and enjoy what you were doing to me.  That’s all.”

Yuna tried to relax but something was keeping her from doing that.  Maybe it was the way that he answered her with such ease.  Maybe it was fact that something had seemed a little off about him for a while now but she just couldn’t figure out what.  He sat up farther and gently ran a hand over her cheek, an act that normally made her skin tingle with desire but tonight made it tingle with fear.

He was wearing leather gloves…

“He was hearing voices!  He was MIA during the time!  He wears gloves!  You said yourself he’s been acting like Shuyin!”

Paine’s words echoed in her ears over and over and over again like a mantra.  He was missing that day with no explanation then or now as to where he had been.  His suspicious behavior with the ring only heightened her concerns.  Was that really an engagement ring, or was it something else? 

No, now she was just being silly.  This was Tidus she was thinking about.  Her Tidus.  He wouldn’t hurt anybody, let alone her.  He loved her and he liked Baralai.  Why would he kill him and hurt her like that?  Hurt everyone?  He wouldn’t.  Tidus had never killed anyone except Seymour and that was only after Seymour had attacked first.  Tidus didn’t intend on killing him.

“Lemme go!  I’m gonna kill that Seymour!”

Or did he…?

“Are you okay?” Shuyin asked her, fear tingeing his voice.  He hoped that she hadn’t figured anything out.  He didn’t want to hurt her.

Forcing herself to calm, Yuna shook her head and tried to clear the thoughts from her brain, “No, I’m fine.  Just tired.” She replied as she let him wrap his arms around her and for the first time it felt like a stranger was holding her.

Author’s Notes:  Lately I have been having the same review emailed to me.  I think it has something to do with the software glitch that ff.net has been having lately.  I’ve gotten it 109 times so far.  I just thought I’d share that with everybody.  Haha!  Anyway, BARALAI’S BACK!  BARALAI’S BACK!  BARALAI’S BACK!  Okay, maybe not back back, but he has dialog in this chapter which is pretty good for a dead guy :)

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Thirteen: Cryptic Hints from Beyond

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

“Tell me why we’re here again!” Rikku begged, trying unsuccessfully to pull her hand from Gippal’s grip as he led her up the stairs that led to the Farplane entrance.  It was unnatural for an Al Bhed to willingly enter the Farplane and Rikku was no exception to that.  When she had stopped by to drop off food for Gippal, she hadn’t expected to have him flip her over his shoulder and carry her to the Farplane entrance. 

At least he had put her down…

“Gippal!” Rikku whined as he pulled her closer and closer to the entrance, “Al Bhed don’t go into the Farplane!  What’s wrong with you?!”

“I need you to see this.” Her male counterpart insisted, pulling harder on her arm, causing the small girl to tumble into him and force the both into the Farplane entrance.  Rikku frowned, but pushed herself closer to Gippal’s back.  She didn’t want to admit it to him, but she was scared.  The Farplane and what it represented always frightened her and that was part of the reason she never wanted to enter.  The other reason was that she firmly believed in the Al Bhed motto.

“Memories are nice, but that’s all they are.”

“Oh stop that.” Gippal said with a smirk over his shoulder, “This isn’t going to kill you, ya know.”

Rikku frowned, “Please don’t talk about death in the Farplane!” she hissed, “It might be bad luck or something.”

Ignoring Gippal’s laughter as it echoed along the walls of the hallway that led to the Farplane’s main room, Rikku tried to focus on anything but the fact that she was in the one place she had sworn she would never enter.  Her final attempt to pull her hand away from Gippal failed and she found herself roughly pulled into the main room.

Baralai’s visage appeared almost instantly and she realized that Gippal had been mentally prepared.  She felt his grip loosen and Rikku thought about running, but she felt herself inexplicably drawn to Baralai’s figure.  Gippal followed close behind her as she came to stop a few feet back from him, “Why are we here, Gippal?”

“I wanted him to tell you what he told me.”

Rikku cocked an eyebrow at Gippal, “Are you feeling okay?” she asked, “Farplane ghosts can’t talk.  They are just reactions to the memories.  Pyreflies make them.”

“Well that’s not very nice, Rikku.”

Rikku let out a terrified scream and jumped back, bumping firmly into Gippal’s chest as she pointed a trembling finger at the visage of Baralai, “He t…ta…talked!”

“I know I did.” Baralai said, a small smile forming on his features, “It’s good to see you again.”

Rikku couldn’t stop her body from shaking as she pushed harder up against Gippal and whispered to Baralai, “You’re not real.  Farplane ghosts aren’t real…”

“That’s very true,” Baralai replied, “Farplane ghosts aren’t real, but I am. I’m not a Farplane ghost.  The true spirit can visit the Farplane, although most of the time they don’t.  They can even have conversations with loved ones although, as far as I know, I’m the first one to do this.”

“Tell her what you told me, Bar.” Gippal said to him.

Baralai nodded, “The locket holds the key to the killer.”

------------------------

“This had better be important, Nooj.” Paine said as she entered Nooj’s library at the Youth League headquarters in a huff, “Yuna didn’t come home last night and I’m worried.”

Nooj gave his female counterpart a grim look, “Well, if my gut instinct is right then you have a reason to be worried.  We all do…”

It was in that moment that Paine realized LeBlanc was standing in the corner of the room with a short, bald man…

Cid!

“What’s going on?” she asked, narrowing her eyes at Nooj.

“Well, two things,” replied the tall man, “First of all, Gippal broke out of jail yesterday and we don’t think he did it alone.”

“It was that damn headstrong daughter of mine!  I know it!” Cid shouted, suddenly starting forward and pounding his hand on Nooj’s desk, “I don’t know what goes through her head sometimes!”

Crimson eyes locked with brown, “What’s the other thing?”

“We found out where Baralai went before he died.”

Paine wasn’t prepared for this, yet somehow she felt in her gut that she already knew the answer. 

“He went to the Cave of Woe.” Cid interrupted with a characteristic shout, “A couple of Al Bhed flew him there.”

LeBlanc sauntered closer to the action and lifted three pictures off of Nooj’s desk, handing them to Paine.  The female looked at them closely.  It was snapshots of the three skulls that they found in the cave.  LeBlanc motioned to them, “The more I think about it, love.  I don’t think Tidus was looking for them.”

Nooj nodded, “I agree with LeBlanc.  Whatever he was looking for was still in the cave when he left and…”

“Baralai found it…” Paine finished the sentence, yet never took her eyes off of the pictures.  A chill went up her spine and she looked at Cid, “Why hasn’t there been a huge announcement about Gippal’s escape?”

Cid was uncharacteristically quiet in his response and Paine had to strain to hear him, “We arrested the wrong person,” he replied, “and we all know it now.  I just didn’t want word to get out to the real killer just yet.  I’ve got my little niece to worry about.”

Those were words that Paine never truly thought she’d hear.  Cid adored Tidus almost as much as he adored Gippal.  If Cid believed that Tidus was the killer…

“Gippal is staying at Chateau LeBlanc,” LeBlanc suddenly said, “Rikku is probably there.  I suggest we go in full strength before we confront Tidus about this.”

Paine felt her hands tremble and thought for the first time that even the most stoic couldn’t hold in emotions this strong.  She stared into Nooj’s eyes and he into hers, “We do this for Baralai.”

“For Baralai,” the former leader repeated as he, LeBlanc, and Paine said goodbyes to Cid and headed off for Guadosalam.

----------------

She almost cried out at the sight.  The pyreflies were forming around his body.  She could see through his hands; through his entire body.  Her breath caught in her throat and she could feel tears forming, “No!” she shouted in a hoarse whisper.

He looked at her with sadness in his eyes, "Yuna, I have to go.  I'm sorry I couldn't show you Zanarkand.” He turned to leave, “ Goodbye!"
 
"Hey!" cried Wakka.  He looked like a wounded child. 
 
Rikku jumped forward, "We're gonna see you again...?"
 
She couldn’t take it.  She had to hold him.  She had to feel his arms around her the way they had been in Macalania.  If only she had chosen not to go on.  If only she had done the selfish thing for once.  If only…

"Yuna!"

She heard Kimahri shout to her, but she didn’t stop.  She jumped forward to hold him but found herself passing through him.  She sailed through his body and landed hard on the deck of the ship, her face down. 

He was going…she couldn’t stop it. 

A pyrefly floated past her eyes as she lay defeated on the ship.  She watched it as she slowly climbed back to her feet.  She couldn’t turn to look at him.  She couldn’t watch him vanish, knowing it was her fault. 

If only…

 
"I love you." She whispered into the air.  She sensed him approaching although she could no longer feel the heat radiating from his body.  She knew he was behind her.  His arms wrapped around her gently and she stifled a cry when she couldn’t feel him. 

The embrace lasted only a moment.  Yuna shivered when she felt him pass through her.  The coldness was a shock to her system.  It was so different then when he’d held her or touched her before.  It was the touch of the Farplane that he gave her now. 

Dead for 1000 years…

He’d been dead for 1000 years. 

She made no move to stop him as he dove off of the front of the ship.  The only move she made was to fall to her knees when there was no splash in the water below.

Yuna’s let out a scream as she broke to conciousness.  It took her a moment to realize where she was.  She was still at Macalania and she was with…Tidus.

His concerned eyes searched hers as he touched her shoulder softly, “Are you okay?”

Yuna nodded.  She wanted nothing more then to wrap her arms around him and let him hug away the fear, but the realization that his leather gloves were caressing her bare shoulders brought back her fears from earlier.  She looked around, “Did we fall asleep?”

“Well, you fell first,” Tidus clarified, “and I fell after that.”

The leather on her skin as drawing goosebumps up and down her body and Yuna had to do something to get him to take those gloves off.  She just couldn’t stand it.  She couldn’t stand it anymore!  Suddenly, she remembered that she had brought his blitzball.  She had wanted to show him how good she had gotten since he had faded and now seemed as good a time as any.  It would at least get him to take those damned gloves off.

She rose quickly and grabbed the ball, motioning with it toward the water, “You wanna play?”

Sparkling blue eyes and a broad grin were her response and, to her great relief, he pulled the gloves from his hands and dropped them onto the blanket as he pulled his shirt over his head and waded into the water.  Yuna let her eyes wander his toned torso before removing the half-skirt she wore and joined him. 

“Can you do something for me?” she asked with a cautious smile.  She was almost afraid to ask him to do this, but needed to see it with her own eyes.

“What is it?”

“Can you do the Jecht Shot for me?”

“That was the Jecht Shot, wasn’t it?”

“How do you know that?”

“Sir Jecht showed it to me when I was a child.  He called it the ‘Sublimely Magnificent Jecht Shot Mark III.’”

Her fears could be thrown out the window if Tidus successfully performed that shot.  She wouldn’t have to worry anymore.  Her worries and sudden suspicions could be forgotten.  She waited for Tidus to suddenly smile with the confidence she was used to seeing, but instead he got a confused look on his face. 

It was almost as if he didn’t know what she was talking about…

“Jecht Shot?”

Yuna thought for sure her heart stopped.  She had died right there, she was sure of it.  The man treding water in front of her wasn’t Tidus.  She was sure of it now.  He wasn’t Tidus…

But…no.  He had to be Tidus.  Who else would he be?  He had Tidus’ pear shaped birthmark on his hip.  He had Tidus’ goofy smile.  Tidus was just having an off day.  That’s why he didn’t know what she was talking about.

Right???

“Nevermind.” Yuna said, “It’s not important.

---------------------

“The locket holds the what now?” Rikku asked, scrunching her face in confusion. 

Baralai laughed a little, “Same old Rikku, I see.” He said with a smirk before continuing, “Unfortunately I can’t tell you who killed me.  That’s against the rules.  I can only give you a hint and my hint is this.  Find the locket and find my killer.”

“Who makes up such stupid rules?!” Rikku shrieked before pointing a finger at him, “Seymour’s father told us who killed him!”

“No he didn’t.” Baralai clarified, “Jyscal gave you a sphere he recorded before his death.  That was his ‘hint’, although his is more overt then mine.  He was unable to say that Seymour killed him after death.”

“Where is the locket?” Gippal asked, “Can you tell us that?”

Baralai shook his head, “No.  I’m sorry.  I can tell you one other thing.” He said, “If you speak with Paine, she will shed light on the situation.”  Baralai’s visage turned and looked behind him as if there was something there.  Rikku couldn’t see anything but assumed that perhaps Baralai could see something.  He turned his eyes back to his friends and gave them a smile, “I must be going back.” He said, “It really was wonderful to see you again.  And don’t worry about me, I’m fine.  And I have faith that you will find my killer and see him brought to justice.”

“We will, Bar,” Gippal said, “I promise.”

For a few moments after Baralai vanished, Rikku and Gippal stood next to each other in silence until Rikku looked into his eyes, “What made you come here?”

“I wanted to apologize to him,” replied Gippal, motioning with his hands toward the exit, “I wanted to tell him how sorry I was about how I acted the last time we’d seen each other.”

“I understand that,” Rikku said as the duo reached the exit, “I mean, I probably would have done the same…”

“Wait!”

Rikku and Gippal spun around and saw that Baralai had reappeared.  He smiled, “I’m glad I caught you both.” He said, “I almost forgot to tell you something important.”

“What is it?” Rikku asked.

“Take what you know and go to the fayth.  He will take your clues and form answers for you.  He knows the entire story.  He is the reason this is happening.”

Rikku frowned, “Is Shuyin possessing Tidus?” she asked.

A smile formed on Baralai’s lips, “Do you remember our conversation on the Celsius, Rikku?  When Tidus was acting so strangely?”

Rikku nodded, “I said that he couldn’t be possessed since there weren’t any pyreflies.”

The deceased blonde nodded, “You just thought of both of them.” He said, “but neither have appeared.  There is a reason for that, Rikku.  Think more on your thoughts behind Tidus’ strange behavior.  Take that theory to the fayth.  He’ll explain it more.”

The visage started to fade and Rikku felt a tear slide down her cheek, “Goodbye, Baralai.”

“Goodbye, Rikku.” He said, “Goodbye, Gippal.  And dry those tears, Rikku.  I’m happy here, really!  Jecht is teaching me blitzball!”

----------------------------

NOTE:  Okay, I’ve decided to do the final installment of Silver Wings, to be called “Silver Wings 3: Back Into My Arms”.  I do intend on making this the last in the Silver Wings saga.  I think a trilogy is a good idea.  It will have FF8 crossover although I’m still plotting if I want to have the FF8 characters just as backdrop people or if I want to give some of them a major part.  I’d love to explain the storyline I’m working on, but it’ll kind of spoil the ending to 1000 Confessions, so you all are just going to have to wait and see what happens!  Haha!  Again, thanks for the reviews.  They are the reason I keep writing.

Love,

AJay

 

Author’s Notes:  There is still a lot to this story, so don’t go thinking that it’ll be over soon.  I’ve got a whole other twist planned out that will lead into the final installment of the trilogy. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Fourteen: The Whistle Blown

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Gippal knew that Rikku was thrilled to be leaving the Farplane as she practically pushed Gippal the remaining few steps that it took to be clear of the place.  Although he was aware that she was happy to know that Baralai was content and happy, simply being around all that death was obviously making her skin crawl.  However, both of them were now more determined then ever to make sure Baralai’s killer was brought down. 

Whoever it might be…

“Rikku,” Gippal said from behind her, putting a hand on her shoulder gently, “I need to tell you something.”

The perky blonde turned to him and smiled, “What is it?”

Gippal had decided on the silent trek to the entrance that this would be his one and only chance to tell her that he wasn’t lying about loving her.  However, with her bright eyes staring up at him, Gippal found himself unable to form words.  His mouth opened and closed like a fish and he felt ridiculous.  He was always so confident, especially around Rikku.  Why was he acting like a moron now? 

“There you are!  I can’t believe you did this, Rikku!” came a shout from a few yards ahead.  Gippal looked up and was happy as well as slightly annoyed to see Paine, Nooj, and LeBlanc coming toward them.  Although he was happy that his friends were there, he felt slightly annoyed at the realization that he wasn’t going to get the chance to tell Rikku anything right at that moment.  However, considering that those words had remained unspoken – with the exception of the one time she didn’t believe him – for almost 19 years, he figured waiting a little longer wouldn’t hurt anybody.

“Did what?” Rikku asked, stupidly, before giggling at her realization, “Oh, you mean busting Gippal out.  Well, I had good reason for that.  See, he’s not guilty.  Baralai just told us.”

Nooj stepped forward with a powerful glide, “You spoke with Baralai?  In the Farplane?”

“No, Nooj, at the café up the street.” Gippal replied sarcastically, “Of course in the Farplane!”

“Well I see that jail hasn’t softened that wit of yours,” hissed Paine glumly.

Gippal laughed, “Did you think it would?”

“Not bloody likely,” returned Paine.

Nooj sighed, “Can you two stop it?  We’ve got more important things to do.”  It was just like being back at the Crimson Squad trials with the exception of the two blonde female and the absence of one blonde male, and Gippal easily fell back into place amongst the ranks.  He listened with extreme interest while Nooj explained Baralai’s whereabouts just before his murder and realized with a sudden chill that he had been right all along.

Tidus had murdered Baralai…

LeBlanc chimed in after Nooj had finished, “I think that whatever Tidus was really looking for in the cave is what Baralai found.  That’s what got Baralai killed.”

“Yeah,” Nooj said with a nod, “but we don’t have any idea what that object might be.”

It was like lightening struck Gippal’s brain.  Baralai’s cryptic message that had made no sense to him until now, suddenly became crystal clear.  He gasped and grabbed Rikku’s wrist, “That’s what Baralai was talking about!” he turned to Nooj with a wide grin on his face, “Baralai told us that if we found the locket we’d find the killer.  That had to have been what Baralai got from the cave!”

“A locket?” Paine questioned, “Well, if that’s the case then Tidus must have it on him.  Wouldn’t Yuna have noticed?”

Rikku scrunched her nose and frowned, “Speaking of Yunie, where is she?”

“That’s the problem,” Paine replied, her voice grimmer then usual, “She’s still out with Tidus.”

“Well that’s just…well…” Rikku searched the eyes of those around her, grasping for the right word before she blurted, “stupid!”

“We need to tell her what we know.” Nooj announced, taking a few steps and motioning with his hands, “Come, let’s tell her.”

Gippal held his hands in the air and shook his head, stray strands of blonde falling in his eyes, “Now wait just a sec, Nooj.  We don’t have any proof yet.  We have speculation.  Besides, I’m thinking she’ll be more then a little pissed that I’m not in jail.”

“Then what do you suggest we do?” Nooj asked.

“Baralai said we should talk to the fayth – the little purple one from Bevelle, I think.  I think we should do that.”

Paine sighed, “That’s all well and good, Gippal, but how do you expect us to sneak you into Bevelle?  You’re public enemy number one to all Yevonites.”

“Well who says we need to go to Bevelle?” Gippal asked, a stroke of genius suddenly coming to him, “Fayth are the souls of the dead.  Let’s just call him at the Farplane.”

----------------------

It was strange to Yuna to be back onboard the Celsius.  The Al Bhed had told her that it was okayed by Cid to allow the crew back onboard, but the former summoner wished that he’d just burned the place to the ground.  There was nothing but death that seemed to follow her every step.  Not to mention the fact that every time Tidus touched her, she had to stifle a tremble. 

The entire trip back to the Celsius was frought with worry.  How could he not know the Jecht shot?  That was his father’s shot?  He had done it several times during her pilgrimage.  How could he not know it?

There was only one way he couldn’t have known it, and that reason began with an S and ended with an N.  There was a ‘huyi” in the middle.  However, no matter what Yuna did, she couldn’t force herself to say the entire word, even if she was alone.  The thought terrified her.

She felt herself inexplicably drawn to the crews quarters.  The scene of the crime that had taken Baralai’s life.  She sensed Tidus stop at the doorway as if unsure of whether to enter, but Yuna continued.  She needed to force herself to enter this room and look around.  It was as if she needed to make sure there were no dead bodies lying under the other beds. 

There weren’t, and Yuna let herself relax.  She strolled over to the nearby table, noticing that Tidus was hanging out almost guiltily at Barkeep’s bar, not daring to venture toward the stairs.  She frowned, wondering why.  Leaning her weight against the table, it rocked slightly, causing the plant on the table to tilt and slide from the table along with something golden that caught her eye.  Bending to reach for it, to her surprise it was a necklace with the Zanarkand Abes symbol on it. 

She almost called to Tidus to tell him she’d found his necklace when something forced her to stop.  She had never seen this necklace before.  This wasn’t the one that she had seen Tidus wear during her pilgrimage whose chain had subsequently broken a few hours after he had come back.  No, Wakka still had that one.  He had been entrusted with fixing the chain and returning it to Tidus on their next trip to Besaid.  This one was different.  It seemed heavier then Tidus’ necklace. 

Then her mind flashed to a memory she had suppressed due to its seeming lack of importance.  Mere seconds after Tidus and Gippal had run into the room after Baralai’s death, she had seen Tidus lifting this golden chain from around his neck, placing it gently on the table behind the plant that sat there as if trying to make it appear as though it had always been there.  She had thought it seemed out of place to concern yourself with a necklace after someone had just been killed and she had quickly pushed the act from her mind, but it suddenly came back in full force. 

Glancing quickly down to make sure Tidus was still by the bar which he was, Yuna focused back on the necklace.  There was something about it that seemed out of the ordinary and when her eyes fixed on a tiny opening, she realized why. 

This was a locket.

Prying gently with her fingernail, she forced the necklace to open and show its contents to her.  The picture inside was whithered with age, but Yuna realized immediately who it was and thought that her heart had stopped for the second time that day. 

Lenne…and Shuyin.

She looked down at Tidus as she closed the locket, a grim face forming upon her features.  Why did Tidus have a necklace with Shuyin and Lenne’s pictures inside?  Was it even Tidus that was standing down below her? 

There was only one way to find out, and she was determined to do so.

--------------------------------

To everyone’s surprise, Gippal’s hairbrained scheme to call the fayth in the Farplane actually worked.  The fayth child hadn’t changed much since Rikku had seen him last.  His features were still impossible to see and he was still the size of a child but with the wisdom of an adult.  He fascinated Rikku.

“Hello everyone.” The fayth said, nodding at each person as he spoke, “I wondered when I would be called to speak with you.”

“So you were expecting us?” Paine asked.

The fayth nodded, “Any friend of Lenne’s is bound to be a smart person.”

Rikku tilted her head in confusion.  Lenne?  Just what was the fayth talking about?  Rikku dropped to a cross legged seat in front of the fayth, “We’ve never met Lenne.”

“Yes you have.” The fayth replied, a hint of a grin in his voice, “I know it is confusing, but let me explain.  Lenne is Yuna and Yuna is Lenne.  After her death, Lenne was given the opportunity to be reborn.  The future needed her to defeat Sin, and she wanted another chance for a future with Shuyin.  I was able to grant her that wish.”

Gippal sat down next to Rikku, immediately intrigued by the fayth’s story, “So Yuna is Lenne…reincarnated?”

“Precisely,” responded the fayth.

“But, she didn’t get Shuyin.  She got Tidus.  How did that happen?” asked Paine.

The fayth’s voice got sad, “That was my fault.  I didn’t realize how unstable Shuyin would become in the aftermath of Lenne’s death and his own impending demise.”

“Impending demise?” questioned Nooj, “Didn’t he die with Lenne?”

“No, he survived and was let to die in the Cave of Woe.  That is the reason his spirit haunted that location and preyed on the souls of the Crimson Squad.” The fayth explained, “I didn’t realize he wouldn’t be able to deal with the results of his decisions.  I had already promised to Lenne the return of the man she loved, but he was so far gone that there was no way I could return Shuyin to Lenne in the condition he was in.  Therefore when dream Zanarkand was created, I included Tidus, created exactly the way I remembered Shuyin being.  There were other characters and other stories.  Tidus hated his father, but Shuyin adored his.  Shuyin had his past with Allyn, but Tidus didn’t have a past with any woman.  Shuyin was mostly alone after the death of his parents, but Tidus had a support system of caring neighbors.  However, no matter the differences, Tidus’ personality was just like the way Shuyin’s was before his instability kicked in.

“The way you remember Shuyin being??” LeBlanc tilted onto one hip and blinked slowly, “Why, love, whatever do you mean by that?”

The fayth said, “I wasn’t always like this.  I used to be a blitzball player for the Zanarkand Abes.  My name was Bruttam Sabal.  One day during the war with Bevelle a bomb was dropped on the stadium while I was practicing with my teammates.  Shuyin was late as usual, although I found out later – after becoming a fayth – that he was outside with Lenne on their way in.  I was the only survivor of the incident, but was in a coma and wasn’t expected to live.  When Yu Yevon turned the residents into fayth, I was one of those people.”

Rikku smiled, “Bruttam…I like that name.”

“Thank you.” The fayth – Bruttam – responded with a smile, “I’m not sure why I ended up with the body of a child, but I suppose there is no use complaining about it.”

“Well…Bruttam,” Gippal began, “What is going on with Tidus?”

The purple cloaked fayth replied, “The person you see is wearing Tidus’ skin, but is not Tidus.  The person you are seeing is Shuyin.” After the shocked faces faded on his audience, he continued, “I didn’t think through the creation of Tidus too carefully.  I didn’t think what would happen should the two souls meet.  I just wanted to fulfill my promise to Lenne.  Now that they have met, the merger has begun.”

“The merger?” Nooj asked.

“There cannot be two of the same soul wandering the world – even if one of the souls is a dream of the fayth.  When Shuyin and Tidus connected in the Farplane briefly, that contact interrupted Tidus’ ability to function normally.  He was constantly barraged with memories of a life he never lived.  This made his mind weak enough to receive Shuyin’s soul.” The fayth paused, “Shuyin is not possessing Tidus.  He cannot possess that which he already is.  Tidus and Shuyin are the same person.  The only difference is that I created Tidus from my memories of Shuyin.”

“So what exactly is happening?” Nooj pushed.

“When a merger begins, the real soul receives all of the memories as it absorbs the fake soul.  At the end of the merger, the fake soul no longer exists as a separate entity.  In theory, Shuyin should receive the memories and erase Tidus’ existence because Shuyin should be the real soul, however that is not what is happening.”

Rikku sat up straight, “What do you mean?”

“I created Tidus as an exact duplicate to Shuyin’s original personality.  I knew that a half-hearted attempt wouldn’t pass muster.  I had promised Lenne that I’d give her Shuyin and I needed to do the best I could.  Apparantly when I created this Shuyin duplicate and sent him to the real world, I canceled out the real Shuyin’s existence.  The real Shuyin changed so drastically from what he had been, that he became the fake soul and Tidus became the real soul.”

“So what are you saying, love?”

The fayth tilted his head to the side and a hint of a smile could be seen, “I’m saying that the merger is working in Tidus’ favor.  Shuyin was stronger initially.  He was able to take over Tidus’ body and keep Tidus at bay.  He had complete control.  However, I’m sure that recently Shuyin has been having more and more trouble keeping Tidus under control.  Tidus is getting stronger and gaining more and more memories from Shuyin.  The more memories he gains and the stronger Tidus becomes, the weaker Shuyin is getting.  Shuyin thinks that the merger will work for him, but in reality it will make him disappear.”

Rikku giggled, “What sweet justice!  He starts the merger and it ends up destroying him!”

Paine hit her on the head, “It’s not funny, Rikku.  Yuna’s still with him!” her crimson eyes locked with the fayth, “Will Shuyin hurt Yuna?”

The fayth shrugged, “I’m not sure.  He has developed feelings for her, which was something else I didn’t account for.  I didn’t realize his feelings for Lenne would trickle over and effect his feelings for Yuna.  If I had to guess, I’d say that he’d do anything not to hurt her.  He knows that she is Lenne and he’d never hurt Lenne, no matter how disturbed he becomes.  However, there’s no telling what he’ll do if he’s trapped.  Baralai trapped him and…”

“…he died for it.” Paine whispered. 

“Precisely.”

“Where are they?”

The fayth was silent for a moment and sighed before speaking, “At the scene of the crime.  She has just found his locket.  Pray she doesn’t show it to Shuyin the way that Baralai did.  It could prove deadly if she does.”

------------------------

Shuyin didn’t like being in this room.  He could still hear Baralai begging for his life through gasping breaths and tears.  He could still feel the belt in his hands as it slowly squeezed the life from his victim.  He could hear the snap of Baralai’s neck as his body went limp with death.

“Tidus!  Come on up here!”

Shuyin frowned a little.  He didn’t want to get close to where he’d left the body, but he couldn’t refuse Yuna’s request.  He just wished that she had called him by his real name.  Somewhere along the line he had started to care what Yuna thought of him, and what  Yuna thought in general.  He wasn’t sure what it was he felt for her.  She was like a Lenne replacement and he wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.  All he knew was that she had indefinitely put his plans on hold so that he could explore these new and confusing feelings he had for her. 

As he climbed the stairs, he felt a breeze on his face and realized that Yuna had opened the window – the one that was always to remain closed – and was standing in front of it with her arms spread as if she was going to fly away.

“What are you doing?” he asked her with a smile.

“I just wanted to feel the breeze on my skin,” she replied, with a sigh.  He followed her line of sight and realized she was staring off at the Oasis which could be seen in the distance, “Seeing that water makes me think of the times when you were gone.  I used to stand at the beach in Besaid and whistle for you constantly, hoping you’d hear me.”

“I did.”

Shit.  Tidus was awake again.  This was becoming a regular occurance and Shuyin didn’t understand why.  It was just starting to piss him off.

Yuna didn’t hear the sudden intruders reply and she turned to Shuyin, “Let’s whistle together.”  She said as she placed her fingers in her mouth and blew, a high pitched whistle forming and being carried into the distance by the wind. 

She looked at Shuyin with an expectant look, “Oh come on!  You can do it!” she said with a laugh as she whistled again.

Shuyin ran a hand tenderly through her hair before turning to stare out the window again, “Actually,” he replied, “I’ve never been able to do that.”

A rustling caught his attention and he turned to face Yuna only to find himself staring down the barrels of two guns that had been in Yuna’s holster just moments before.  Her hands were trembling as she took two quick steps away from him, “Who the hell are you and where is Tidus?”

Author’s Notes:  I’ve had this chapter planned out since I initially thought of this story.  By the end of this, everybody knows everything and Shuyin’s in desperation mode which is never a good thing.  Enjoy!

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Fifteen: Confessions of a Desperate Man

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Shuyin felt like his stomach had dropped into his feet.  What had he said?  What had he done?  What could possibly have clued her in?  She hadn’t been acting as though anything was wrong.  Everything seemed to be fine.  What was going on?!

“Where is he?!” Yuna shrieked, her shrill voice cracking with hysteria.

“What are you talking about, Yuna?” Shuyin asked, deciding at the last minute to play dumb.  Maybe he could convince her that nothing was out of place and she was acting crazy, “What’s the matter?”

“What’s the matter?!” she cried, shoving the gun barrels closer to his face as if to threaten him, “You aren’t Tidus!  Tidus would know the Jecht Shot!  His father did that!  Tidus would know how to whistle!  Tidus taught me how to whistle like that!!  Who are you?!”

Shuyin gulped and felt as though the walls were closing in on him.  He hadn’t expected this.  The way Yuna had said ‘you can do it’ made him think that she believed Tidus could whistle but wasn’t sure.  That was the only reason he had told her he couldn’t

“I told you she’d figure it out.” Taunted Tidus, “Now what, Shuyin?  Looks like you’re busted.”

“Shutup Tidus!” shouted Shuyin, smacking himself in the head as if the taunting voice would vanish with that maneuver.

Yuna took another step back, “Where is he?  What did you do to him…Shuyin?”

So she knew who he was.  Shuyin hadn’t expected that so soon.  He didn’t know what to do. He was staring down the barrels of her guns, knowing full well that he couldn’t kill her even if he had wanted to.  Everyone knew they were together.  Everyone would now that he had done it and would probably realize he had killed Baralai too.  He had to try and convince her that he wasn’t Shuyin.  That was the only way, “Shuyin?  Yuna, what’s gotten into you?”

The sound of a cocking trigger sent chills up Shuyin’s spine.  She wasn’t buying it.  Her eyes narrowed and her look hardened, “Don’t give me that shit.  Where is Tidus?”

“You’d better tell her the truth, or we’re both dead.” Tidus whispered, sounding almost afraid, “I’ve seen that look before.  She means business.”

Tidus knew Yuna better then anyone.  If Tidus was nervous, then Shuyin had better take heed.  He put his hands up in a motion of defeat, “If you shoot me, you’ll kill Tidus too.” He said.

The look on Yuna’s face showed Shuyin that she desperately hoped she had been wrong.  She took another step away from him, tears forming in her duel colored orbs, “Where is he?”

Shuyin pointed to his chest, “He’s in here somewhere.  I’m not possessing him, if that’s what you’re thinking.  I’m correcting a mistake that was made.”

“Sh…Sh…Shuyin?” her stammering was a sign that she was terrified, but the guns pointed at his head prevented him from feeling comfortable in that, “How…how long have you been…pretending?”

The truth could get him shot, but a lie could do the same thing if she figured it out.  He figured the truth was the best way to go, “About a month.”

The color drained from Yuna’s beautiful face and Shuyin knew instantly that she had done the math.  Her hands lowered involuntarily and Shuyin stepped toward her only to have her furiously throw the guns back up, “Don’t get near me!” her eyes were almost on fire with her rage, “How could you?!  How could you…do….do that?!  How could you let me…do that?!”

“I’d like to know the answer to that one, myself.”

“Shutup Tidus!” shouted Shuyin to himself. 

“Where is he?!” Yuna asked, her voice had almost a begging quality to it, “Where is he?  Please, let me talk to him.  I have to apologize!”

“Tell her that it’s not her fault.”

Shuyin wanted to let Yuna talk to Tidus, but he couldn’t.  He couldn’t let Tidus have control for even a second.  He was getting more and more difficult to control and Shuyin wasn’t sure why.  He shook his head, “I can’t let you talk to him, Yuna, but…he’s not angry at you.  It’s not your fault.”

“Why are you doing this?”

“You know what it’s like to be away from the person you love.  Imagine knowing that if it weren’t for you, that person would still be alive!” Shuyin ran a hand through his frazzled hair, “Then imagine if you found out that the person you loved requested a second life with you.  A second chance!  But it was taken from you and given to someone else!”

Yuna trembled visibly, “What are you talking about?”

“Damnit Lenne!  You know what I’m talking about!!”

Yuna’s eyes narrowed and her trigger fingers tightened slightly.  Every word she said was deliberate and angry, “I’M….NOT….LENNE!!!!!!!!!”

“Yes you are!” Shuyin shouted back, desperation tingeing his voice, “You were Lenne 1000 years ago!  When you died, the fayth turned you into Yuna.”

“Wha…”

Shuyin saw an opportunity to convince her of the truthfulness of his words and ran with it, “You asked the fayth for another chance with me, but for some reason he created Tidus instead.  Tidus wasn’t even made as a good copy of me!  I mean, what the hell is a Jecht Shot anyway?  The only shot my father ever taught me was a bicycle kick!  And Tidus can whistle while I can’t!  I mean, what the hell is that all about?!  I didn’t even know you had wanted to be with me again until recently.  That’s why I’m here, Lennie.  I’m trying to fix this.”

“St…stop calling me Lenne!” she shrieked, “I’m not Lenne!  I’m not!  I don’t care what you say!”

Yuna’s face was scrunched up as the tears started to flow from her already bloodshot eyes.  Shuyin wanted to step closer to her and wipe the tears away but he didn’t dare.  She was a confused and upset woman with two loaded guns pointed at his face.  The odds weren’t in his favor. 

“I want him back…now.” Yuna said after a few minutes, her tears drying and leaving a crusty line down her cheeks. 

“The merger has already begun,” replied Shuyin, “Even if I wanted to, I can’t.”

“What are you talking about?  What merger?”

Shuyin took a breath, “I’m the original soul.  Tidus is the copy.  We both can’t exist, so we’re merging together.  Eventually Tidus won’t even exist anymore.”

Yuna’s eyes narrowed and for the first time, Shuyin saw in her eyes an emotion he’d never witnessed before.  Sheer unadulterated fury.  She motioned with the guns, “Move it.  Come on.”  Shuyin took a cautious step, unsure of what she wanted, until he saw her duck around behind him.  Feeling the cold sting of the gun at the small of his back, he felt her push him forward slightly with it, “I said MOVE!” she shouted, forcing Shuyin to take a few steps forward. 


”Yuna….” He whispered, taking a few more tentative steps toward the stairs.  Was she going to shove him down them?

“I said move, don’t talk!” she replied, harshly. 

Shuyin clamped his mouth shut.  As he started down the stairs with Yuna’s guns at his back, his mind was racing.  How the hell was he going to get himself out of this mess?  Trying to convince her that he wasn’t himself didn’t work.  Telling her the truth had only made her angrier.  What the hell was he going to do?!

“You’re going to lose.” Tidus answered him, “That’s what you’re going to do.”

Shit.  Tidus was right.  For the first time, Shuyin realized that his plans weren’t going to work.  He was going to lose.  He briefly thought for moment about the ring.  If he turned Yuna into Lenne then the two could run off together!  That thought was quickly deflated, though.  Lenne was angry at him.  Lenne wouldn’t run off with him without then wanting to go to the frontlines of a war that was 1000 years over.

As the duo entered the elevator down the hallway, Shuyin watched as Yuna chose to go to the bridge.  She leaned against the wall with her guns never wavering from Shuyin.  She wasn’t crying anymore.  Her face held no emotion.  It was almost as if she felt nothing. 

“Yuna…”

“I said Shutup!” she hissed at him, the ding of the elevator coinciding with the opening of the doors to the bridge. 

Shuyin frowned as she forced him out of the elevator and down the short hallway that led to the bridge.  He was grateful that no one was on the ship yet.  He just wished he knew what Yuna was planning.

“So do I.”

Shuyin stopped at the small balcony that overlooked the bridge, “Put the guns down Yuna.  We both know you won’t shoot me.”

“Don’t be so sure, Shuyin.” She replied, “Now move it.”

She shoved him hard in the side with the butt of one of her guns, forcing him to trip slightly and fall down the five stairs that led to the bridge floor, “Ow!” he whined, “Damnit Yuna!”

“Don’t make me shoot you next time.” She warned, “Now get up and move.”

Shuyin rose to his feet, the familiar feeling of sheer fury seeping through his veins.  He glared at her, wondering just what it was that he had liked, “You won’t shoot me and we both know it.”

“Oh really?  And why is that?”

Giving her a triumphant smile, he replied, “Because if you kill me, you kill Tidus too.”  He waited for a look of terror or a realization that what he was saying was truth, but there was nothing.  Yuna stood there, her guns pointed directly at his head with a small, half-smirk on her features.  He waited several minutes as the silence passed between them until his curiosity got the better of him, “Say something…”

“You really must think I’m stupid, Shuyin,” said Yuna finally, shaking her head as if to scold him, “You just said that you’re merging with Tidus and eventually he won’t exist anymore.  So what exactly is stopping me from putting a bullet into your head to stop you?”

This had to have been some sort of sick nightmare that Shuyin was having.  He couldn’t imagine a more cruel twist of fate.  He had put the final nail in his own coffin.  Panic set in then and he felt as though he was going to hyperventilate, “You don’t mean that!”

Yuna shrugged, “Maybe I do.  Maybe I don’t.”  she waved a gun, “Get over there.” She insisted, motioning toward Shinra’s section of the bridge.  Shuyin did as he was told without putting up a fight.  The sudden realization that there really wasn’t anything stopping Yuna was seeping into him and filling him with fear.  She stopped him short of the chair, “Did you kill Baralai?”

“Just tell her the truth.  Don’t bother lying.  She’ll see right through a lie.”

Shuyin knew Tidus was right so he nodded his ascension, “Yes I did, but I didn’t want to.  He cornered me.  He knew my plans and I had to stop him from telling you.”

“What plans?”

Shuyin thought for a moment.  If he told her the truth, she might let him live.  If he lied, she’d shoot him.  However, telling her the truth would ruin any chances he had of fulfilling his plans.  He noted that her hands weren’t shaking anymore and held steady aim on his head.  He decided to go with the truth, “I stole the diamond from the inside of your songstress dressphere.  I mounted it onto a ring and used it to turn you back into Lenne. That was when you blacked out.  I wanted to have Lenne back and when I found out that you all were going to rebuild Zanarkand, I thought it was like the fates were telling me to go ahead with my plans.  However, Lenne hadn’t changed.  She still wanted to sacrifice herself and we got into a big fight.  Then the plans sort of changed…”

“Changed how?”

Shuyin stared into her cold eyes, searching for any hint of warmth.  With a frown, he said, “You’re so much like Lenne and yet so different.  I was meant to be with you in this life and to love you in this life and – although it’s later then the fayth had planned – our fate has been completed.”

“What are you talking about?!”

“I’m saying that…I love you, Yuna.”

“Oh please!” Tidus spat, “You actually expect her to believe that crap?”

Yuna didn’t respond right away and Shuyin felt the sweet taste of triumph forming.  She believed him.  Who cares if it wasn’t completely true?  The important fact was that she believed him, and she just might feel the same way.  Wouldn’t Tidus be pissed?

Taking a step closer to him, Yuna gave him a smile, “Really?” she asked, “That’s what I’ve always wanted.”

That wasn’t something Shuyin was expecting.  Yuna had wanted him for a while?  He had underestimated his manly charms.  Even as a ghost, he still had it!

Yuna’s eyes took on a lustful look, “What girl wouldn’t want you?” she asked, her tongue trailing over her lower lip, “You’re handsome, you’re sexy, you’re smart…” she paused and Shuyin smiled a little, letting his eyes start to close as Yuna brought her lips closer to his.  He could feel her warm breath on his face as she whispered, “You’re also dead.”

His eyes flew open as Yuna created a distance between them again, the guns pointed at his chest, “You’re dead!  You’re a murderer!  You’re a pervert!  You’re crazy!” she shouted, “Do you actually think that I’m going to believe that you’ve miraculously fallen in love with me?!  If you loved me, you’d let Tidus go!  You’d forget this damned merger and let me be happy with the man that I love instead of going on this selfish mission!”

“But!”

“There are no buts!” she shouted, taking a step closer to him with fire in her duel colored eyes, “There is no excuse for what you’ve done.  You don’t think I’m being serious, but I’m going to show you just how serious I am.”

A flash of light and the sound of a gun firing was accompanied by a sharp pain on his arm and a hiss of electrical equipment behind him.  It took Shuyin a moment to realize that Yuna had shot him, letting the bullet skim easily off of his left forearm and smack into the computer equipment behind him. 

“Shit!  Yuna, you shot me!” he shouted, trying to dab the blood away with his shirt sleeve. 

“I told you I was serious.” She said simply, “I won’t play your games anymore, Shuyin.  I may seem stupid and easily manipulated, but let me assure you that I am not.”

Shuyin’s mind went back to the ring again.  It was firmly planted in his pocket where he had placed it after Yuna had discovered its existence.  He wished he could use it, but knew that he didn’t have enough time to get it on her finger before she shot with a better aim. 

“Listen, Yuna…”

“No!” shrieked the brunette, “you listen!  I’m sick of being lied to and manipulated by people who think they are better then me!  Seymour did it; Mika did it, now you’re doing it.  But I won against both of them, Shuyin.  I’m 2 for 2.  Do you want to make me 3 for 3?”

“Yunie!!” came Rikku’s shrill cry from the entrance of the Celsius.  Shuyin didn’t have time to ponder why Gippal was with her.  He didn’t care that she came complete with four friends.  She didn’t care that all of them had weapons and he had none.  He didn’t care that he was hopelessly outnumbered.  He saw an opportunity and he took it.

As Yuna’s attention was momentarily taken away from her prey, Shuyin lunged forward, grabbing the brunette from behind.  Grabbing both of her wrists, he bent one toward her face, pushing her own gun into her chin and pointed her other gun toward her friends, his finger on the trigger.  Shuyin was once again in control. 

“Get down, all of you!” he shouted, pulling Yuna’s body closer to him, “Get down or she gets it.”

Luck was with Shuyin that day.  Yuna’s friends were afraid of something happening to her, so they did as they were told, dropping to the ground and huddling together in a shaking, frightened mass. 

“Shuyin, let her go.”

Shuyin’s panic had risen to the highest heights in the recent events, but now he wasn’t afraid.  He laughed, “Get over it, Tidus.  I’m in control now.”

“Tidus help me!” Yuna screamed, trying in vain to struggle from Shuyin’s grasp, but the stronger man tightened his grip and forced the gun harder into her chin.

“Don’t make me hurt you, Yuna.” He whispered to her, “I don’t want to hurt you.  I’m not a killer.”

“Gee, is that what you told Baralai?” came Rikku’s sarcastic question from where she was huddled.

Shuyin had never liked Rikku.  She was an insult to his senses and now was no different.  He narrowed his eyes at the perky blonde, “All you do is bitch.  Bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch, bitch!” he hissed, “I’ll give you something to really bitch about.” And in a quick move, Shuyin aimed the gun and shot, getting Rikku in the thigh with stunning accuracy. 

Rikku wailed loudly and Shuyin instantly regretted shooting her.  Now she’d be completely unbearable.  He momentarily entertained the thought of shooting her in the head to put him out of his own misery, but decided against it.  He didn’t want two murders on his conscious if he could manage it.  Gippal crawled closer to Rikku, trying to help Paine bandage up the Al Bhed’s wound, “Shuyin, you’re unbelievable.”

He smirked, “So you know who I am.  Impressive.” He said, glaring at Yuna as she tried again to struggle away, “Sorry about the whole ‘framing’ thing, Gippal.  I didn’t do that on purpose.  Just the luck of the draw, I suppose.”

“Let me go!” begged Yuna, hysterical sobs threatening to form, “Please, let me go!”

“Yeah, Shuyin.  Please let her go.  Don’t do this anymore.  Lenne wouldn’t want you to do this anymore.”

The thought of Lenne made Shuyin smile a little.  His beloved Lenne.  She was so close to him.  He grinned widely as he wrapped his entire arm around Yuna’s waist to reach into his pocket and remove the tiny diamond. 

“Don’t do it Shuyin!”

Yuna saw the diamond and her eyes widened.  He knew she remembered what he had said to her.  With a wink, he whispered, “Yuna, let’s get married.” Before he slipped the ring onto her finger.

Yuna dropped quickly into a heap on the floor as soon as Shuyin released his grip on her.  With both arms free, he pointed the guns at the group, “Alright folks.  Let’s move it.” He said, motioning toward a corner on the opposite side of the entrance, “We’ve got five minutes.”

Everyone except Gippal moved – or in Rikku’s case, was dragged – across the floor.  Gippal stood and stared down at Shuyin.  Neither blonde male spoke or moved until Gippal said, “Not until you give us Yuna.”

Shuyin laughed, “You see, Gippal.  I’m the one in charge here.  You don’t have any options other then the ones I give you.  Now MOVE!”

“Actually, Shuyin.  I’m the one in charge here.” Tidus replied, “And I am going to be giving them some options that you may not like.”

Shuyin raised a questioning eyebrow and opened his mouth to say something when a blinding pain formed in his head.  He lost his grip on the guns and their clanking on the ground only caused his sudden migraine to worsen as he lost his balance and fell onto the floor next to Yuna, clawing at his head as if to make the terrible hurt go away.  The world was darkening around him and he didn’t know why.  Tidus shouldn’t have that kind of power, and yet he did.  How could he have that kind of power?! 

“Run!” he heard Tidus shout at his friends.  The world was a dim outline and Shuyin vaguely saw Gippal pull the ring off of Yuna’s finger and pocket it, dragging the unconscious female into his arms and over his shoulder as the rest of the group dealt with transporting Rikku. 

“Go!  Don’t worry about me!  Save Yuna!”

Shuyin wasn’t able to move as the group scurried down the plank and out into the desert, but as he realized his plans had once again been foiled, Shuyin felt anger grow hot and deep in his stomach.  Focusing all of his energies, Shuyin closed his eyes and strained, forcing Tidus back into his sleeping world where he belonged.  Finally able to move again, Shuyin thought about going after them until he realized that they’d taken Yuna’s guns with them.  He was alone and weaponless.  What was he going to do now? 

As if answering his own question, Shuyin noticed for the first time that Brother had left the ignition code to the Celsius in plain view.  Shuyin didn’t know how long it would take for the do-gooders to get the entire Al Bhed army after him, so he punched the code in.  Hearing the blissful sound of the engine starting was music to Shuyin’s ears as he guided the Celsius into the air and watched as Yuna and her friends became tiny spots below him.

Author’s Notes:  This chapter contains direct dialog from FFX, so there will be some spoilers although nothing major. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Sixteen: Back To The Beginning

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Yuna came slowly back to consciousness after feeling as though she’d slept for years.  The feeling of the grainy sand on her back brought her to reality as she opened her eyes and blinked out the sunlight that threatened to blind her. 

The Celsius was gone.  That was the first thing she realized. 

Shuyin was gone too.  That was the second thing she realized.

“What happened?” she asked, surprising herself with the groggy feeling that she was trying to shake from her limbs. 

The tiny diamond glittered in the sunlight as Gippal pulled it from his pocket, “He put this on your finger and you collapsed.  Do you know what it is?”

“I stole the diamond from the inside of your songstress dressphere.  I mounted it onto a ring and used it to turn you back into Lenne. That was when you blacked out….”

“That’s the diamond from the songstress dressphere.” She whispered, “He said that he could turn me back into Lenne using that.” She looked at her fingers, which were clasped together in her lap, “Am I really Lenne?”

Yuna didn’t wait to hear the answer from her friends as she quickly climbed to her feet and began the long walk toward Home.  Deep inside of herself she already knew that the answer was yes.  Maybe she had always known.  Maybe it had only started to seep in after the initial meeting with Shuyin.  She wasn’t sure.  However, when he had held her on the Farplane that first time, it wasn’t a completely unfamiliar feeling that circulated in her veins.  She knew, if only for an instant, that she had felt that way before.

“Well, not to be rude or anything Yunie, but we’ve got bigger problems then whether you’re Lenne or not.” called Rikku from behind her.  Her cousin turned and gasped a little at the large cloth tied tightly around Rikku’s thigh as the Al Bhed was being carried by Gippal. 

“What happened to you?!”

Rikku rolled her eyes, “That damned asshole shot me.  Remember?”

“Oh…yeah.” Yuna replied in a whisper.  She wasn’t completely herself yet and was worried sick about Tidus.  If Shuyin was gone, then so was Tidus.  Where were they?”

“We’ve gotta figure out where Shuyin went,” Rikku continued, “and I think we should ask the source.”

Yuna didn’t want to ask who the source might be.  She didn’t want to think about any of this anymore.  She wished she had the power to turn back the hands of time.  She wanted nothing more then to have the last two years back.  She would have done things so much differently.  She knew it would curl the hair of her friends if they knew how many times she had thought about killing herself after Tidus faded. 

If she lost him again, she wouldn’t just think about it anymore.

The cold air inside Home was a nice surprise compared to the sweltering conditions in the desert just outside.  Yuna didn’t know where she was going or what they were going to do.  She couldn’t think straight.  Her mind was focused on finding Tidus and getting rid of Shuyin.  Damn what the fayth had wanted.  They sent her Tidus and that was who she loved.  Shuyin be damned!

The next few hours passed in a blur as Cid and Shinra shuffled them into the conference room to share information.  Yuna barely listened to all of it.  Her mind was moving a mile a minute and every thought was of Tidus.  Their time together had been so short and fleeting and yet it filled her entire being with a love that could never be rivaled.

“I’m Yuna.  Thank you so much for your help earlier.”

“I’m sorry about that. Wasn’t that…Wasn’t I not supposed to…Guess I…kind of overreacted.”

“Oh, no.  I was…overconfident.”

“Um, I saw that aeon thing.  That’s amazing!”

“Really?  Do you think can become high summoner?”
 

Rikku and Gippal discussed their conversations in the Farplane and the realization that Shuyin killed Baralai and let Gippal take the fall for it.  They discussed how the fayth was actually a friend of Shuyin’s and how he had created Tidus in order to fulfill a promise he had made to Lenne. 

“In Zanarkand, we do this to cheer on blitz players.  You try it too.  Put your fingers in your mouth like this.”

“Like…this?”

“Uh-uh, not like that, like this.  Then, you just blow.”

“It’s not working.”

“Practice!”

“Okay.”


”Hey, use that if we get separated.  Then I’ll come running, okay?”

Gippal explained to Cid and Shinra about Shuyin’s use for the diamond from the dressphere.  She heard them all trying to figure Shuyin’s ultimate plan.  There were whispered theories on where he was and why he was back. 

“Leave now!  Please!”

“You’re coming with us!”

“Don’t worry!  Go!”

“This is foolish.  If you fall, you’ll die.”

 
”Don’t worry.  I can fly.  Believe.”

 
"Yuna!"

They were trying to figure out just how long he’d been pretending.  They wanted to know if he really had feeling for Yuna like the fayth believed or if he was just acting like he did.  They were even speculating on whether the fayth was involved in this somehow.

"That's right! We're all guardians!  Yeah, and you know what that means?  Yuna... Anywhere you go, I'll follow!"

"Anywhere I go?"


"Yeah, anywhere!"
 
"Well, then!"

“Let’s go!”

Yuna could have answered any of those questions for them.  She knew most of the answers.  Shuyin had spilled his guts to her when he feared for his life.  However, she was too busy in her own world to worry about answering their questions.  She couldn’t stop thinking about Tidus and the promise they had made at the lake in Macalania that night.


"Stay with me until the end. Please."

"Not until the end...Always."
 

"Always, then."

Tidus had promised her always and always had been taken from her once.  They had a second chance to have that always and Shuyin threatened to take it away forever.  Yuna scowled.  She’d fry in the depths of Hell before she let Shuyin ruin her chance at happiness.  Standing suddenly, Yuna held her hand out to Gippal, “Give me the ring.”

The Al Bhed was surprised, but did as he was ordered, carefully placing the tiny ring into her palm, “What do you want it for?”

“Tell Lenne what’s going on.  Maybe she’ll know where Shuyin might be.  We’ll let her deal with him.” Yuna replied as she slipped the ring onto her finger and felt the world go black.

-----------------------.

It was the people from her dream staring back at her when Lenne opened her eyes what felt like mere moments later.  She looked around, confused and lost.  She didn’t know where she was and she couldn’t see Shuyin.  She was, however, wearing the same clothes as before so at least one thing hadn’t changed.

“Where am I now?” she asked the blonde girl in front of her.

The girl squirmed a little closer to Lenne, trying not to bend her leg which had a large cloth wrapped tightly around it, “Lenne?”

“Yeah,” replied the songstress, “And you are…?”

“I’m Rikku,” replied the girl, “That’s Paine, Gippal, Nooj, LeBlanc, Cid, and Shinra.”

Lenne stared at her company, suspicion forming cold and deep in her gut.  Something was going on and in her heart she knew it had to do with Shuyin.  The lack of his presence made her extremely concerned for his safety as she noted that each and every person in front of her, with the exception of the child, had some sort of a weapon within easy reach.  She sat up a little straighter, self-consciously pulling the skimpy material of the shirt taut against her breasts, “Where am I?  Where’s Shuyin?”

“That’s what we needed to talk to you about.” The one called Rikku replied as the handsome blonde man helped her to her feet and then assisted her into sitting in a nearby chair.  Lenne wondered vaguely what happened to her thigh and must have been staring at it because Rikku answered her unspoken question, “He shot me.”

“Who’s ‘he’?” Lenne asked, something in her gut telling her she wouldn’t like the answer.

“Shuyin.”

Lenne climbed to her feet quickly, fury rising in her like a tidal wave.  She didn’t know who this girl was or what she was trying to do, but Lenne would never believe that Shuyin was capable of hurting anyone unless she saw it for herself.  She glared down at the blonde girl and then passed that glare onto every other person in the room, “I don’t know what kind of sick game you all are playing,” she cried, “but Shuyin wouldn’t hurt a fiend.  He’s the most gentle, wonderful person I’ve ever met.  Now where is he?”

“We were hoping you could help us figure that out.” The stoic girl called Paine replied, “You see, after he shot Rikku – and he did shoot Rikku, mind you – he stole our airship and took off.”

Lenne shook her head, “He wouldn’t leave me here.”

The man with the robotic limbs stepped forward away from a tall female who Lenne instantly thought seemed familiar.  Nooj frowned, “You really don’t know what’s going on, do you Lenne?” with a perplexed look, he glanced at Gippal, “I really thought Shuyin would have told her something.”

Lenne laughed a little, “Shuyin wouldn’t tell me something if he didn’t think I’d approve.” She admitted, “Besides, we were too busy fighting over whether or not I’d go back to the front.  By the way, how is the war going?”

“Goodness, love.  He didn’t tell you anything, did he?”

Lenne frowned at the familiar girl, “What do you mean by that?”

Nooj sighed and pointed at a mirror on the opposite end of the room, “Maybe if you look in that mirror, you’ll be more receptive to what we have to say.”

Raising a speculative eyebrow, Lenne walked cautiously over to the mirror and stared into the face that reflected back at her in the glass. 

It wasn’t her face…

Lenne let out a horrified shriek and reached a hand up to touch the stranger’s face.  But, it wasn’t a complete stranger staring at her.  It was the girl she’d seen in her dreams; the one that was with Rikku and Paine after they had stopped Shuyin from reactivating Vegnagun. 

But…

How was this possible?  Shuyin had told her it was a dream.  She had told him about everything and he had said it was a dream!  Had he lied?  But, why would he lie?  What would he gain from lying?  And if he had lied…

Lenne stared into the face of High Summoner Yuna and felt tears forming in her eyes.  Her lower lip started to tremble and Lenne clutched the table in front of her to regain her balance as she felt her legs lose their feeling.

She hadn’t been dreaming.  The piercing pain as the bullets shattered inside of her had been real.  The empty feeling after her spirit had left her body was real.  Her conversation and subsequent deal with the fayth had been real.  Shuyin being left for dead in the cave had been real.

She was dead…

Taking a deep breath and forcing herself to calm, Lenne turned back to the group behind her, “Tell me what’s going on.”

And they did.

---------------------------.

Shuyin felt like an idiot.  Not only had he lost Yuna and Lenne, but the ring as well.  The only thing he had managed to gain was the Celsius and the damned thing had run out of gas as soon as he had gotten back to Zanarkand.  At least it had gotten him to his destination, though. 

The rebuilding had barely begun when he had killed Baralai which meant that Zanarkand was still as much of a wreck as it had been the last time he was there. 

Taking a breath, Shuyin sat down on the pier from which he would watch his favorite sunrises during his life in Zanarkand.  It was the same location he had his first conversation with Lenne.  Slipping his shoes off, he let his feet dangle in the water as he tried to plot out his next move. 

He needed to talk to the fayth.  Imagine his shock when he’d discovered upon his entrance into the Farplane that Bruttam was the fayth that had created Tidus and this complete mess in the first place.  He and Bruttam needed to have a talk.  However, how was he going to do that with the Celsius out of commission and Gippal surely to have sent the entire Al Bhed army out looking for him.  He could tell that Al Bhed was thirsty for blood and if he knew Gippal at all, he knew that he wouldn’t rest until he got what he wanted.

Shuyin had been at Zanarkand most of the day and hadn’t decided upon a place to stay, although either his house or Lenne’s seemed like as good a place as any.  Both homes just needed a little dusting.  He hadn’t bothered to check Zaon and Yunalesca’s place although he imagined that it looked pretty similar to the rest of A-East.

What sounded like an engine caught his attention, and Shuyin rose quickly gripping the sword that Wakka had given Tidus.  Shuyin never saw much of a need for a weapon until recently.  After his interaction with Yuna and her pistols, he decided that something sharp might just come in handy. 

It was an engine and it belonged to a small motor boat that was circling around the inlet and coming toward the pier.  Shuyin squinted his eyes to get a closer look of the person inside and gasped.

It was Yuna…

He froze.  How had she found him?  Why was she coming alone?  Or was she alone?  He quickly scanned the nearby areas and found that no one seemed to be following her.  What was going on?  Had she decided to join him?

The boat pulled up next to the pier and she extended her hand to him, “Are you going to help me out or not?”

Shuyin’s hand grew a mind of its own as it extended to grab hold of Yuna’s left hand.  Something cold connected with this skin at the contact and his eyes were drawn downward where his breath came out in a shocked gasp.  She was wearing the ring.  He lifted blue eyes up to her, “Lenne?”

“Hi there, handsome.” She replied with a smile, “Happy to see me?”

Author’s Notes: Nothing much on what to put here....

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Seventeen: Lies, Deceit, and a Headache in the Morning

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

“So, are you happy to see me?” Lenne asked again, a flirtatious grin forming on her face.  Shuyin didn’t know how to respond.  He hadn’t expected this.  He thought that she’d be furious with him after the do-gooders told her of his plan.  He figured she’d come to stop him, not join him!

Shuyin saw in her eyes the love that he’d missed for 1000 years and he grinned broadly, “Absolutely.” He replied, wrapping his arms tightly around her waist, bringing her to him for a tight hug.  For a moment Shuyin thought he felt resistance in her small body, but Lenne quickly wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed his lips tenderly. 

“I love you.” She whispered into his ear, trailing her tongue tenderly over the lobe. 

“I love you too.” He replied, still holding on tightly to her.  He didn’t want to ever let her go again and the couple stood together, wrapped in each others arms for several minutes before Lenne broke the connection.

“So, what can I do to help with this plan of yours?” she asked, sitting down on the dock where Shuyin had just been.  She lowered the zipper on her boots and removed them, letting her bare feet play in the clear waters that surrounded Zanarkand.

Shuyin joined her, putting an arm over her shoulders to pull her closer to him, “The plan doesn’t even matter now.  You’re here and that’s what I wanted.” He glanced at her and gave her a half-smile, “I’m just surprised that you’re not angry at me.”

Lenne laughed, “I was, trust me.” she responded, “but I’m not anymore.”

“How did you manage to get away from them?”

She seemed to struggle for an answer to that question.  It was almost as if she had rehearsed what she was going to say to him, and this question hadn’t been practiced, “Um…well, that was the easy part.” She said, “See…uh…I just told them that I was gonna…uh…find you and stop you.  They believed me.”

He raised a suspicious eyebrow at her.  Something didn’t sound right about that.  Those do-gooders wouldn’t have let her just wander off by herself – especially not in Yuna’s body, “Are you sure they aren’t going to come looking for you?”

“How?” asked Lenne, “They don’t know where I am.”

Shuyin rose and walked quickly over to the boat she had arrived in.  Something in his gut was telling him that everything wasn’t as it seemed.  Nobody – especially that Nooj person – would have let Lenne leave without making sure they knew where she was going.

“What are you looking for?” she asked.  Her voice sounded almost panicked to Shuyin’s ears.  Was she hiding something or was she just concerned that he’d hurt himself by falling out of the boat? 

“I’m not sure yet.” He replied, and he wasn’t lying.  He didn’t know what he was looking for.  Maybe it was a tracking device, maybe it was just Gippal hiding under a blanket.  He just knew that somehow she was being tracked.  The sun glittered on a small object partially hidden under a small board and he reached down to grasp it.  It looked like one of that whiz kid’s commspheres and Shuyin saw a small tracking device on top of it.  He lifted it in the air for Lenne to see, “They were tracking you.” He called to her, “I knew they wouldn’t let you go so easily.”

“What are you going to do with it?” she called back, taking a step toward him on the pier.

Shuyin thought for a moment before winding up and throwing the sphere into the farthest reaches of the water, “Let them track you down with the fish.” He said with a smile, “I won’t let them find us.”

-----------------------------

“I’ve lost the signal to Lenne.” Shinra announced to the room as he punched into the computer software that was set up in the conference room, “It looks like the comsphere was dropped into the water.”

“Or thrown…” whispered Gippal, placing a tender hand on Rikku’s shoulder, “I told you we shouldn’t have let her go by herself.  What if she decided to join him?”

Rikku glared at him and shrugged his hand off, “Yunie…er…Lennie wouldn’t do that.” She replied smugly, “Besides, she has that radio on her.  She’ll call in when she can.”

“And what if she doesn’t, Rikku?  We’ve got to think ahead!” Gippal retorted, following Rikku as the thin female stormed out of the room and down the hallway.  Opening the third door on the right, Rikku entered and slammed it back into Gippal’s face.  Not to be put off, Gippal opened the door, “We’re not finished!”

Her shriek practically rendered him deaf, “Get out Gippal!  This is the Ladies’ Room!”

Gippal blushed a little at the realization that it was indeed the Ladies’ Room.  Luckily there were no other females inside.  Gaining all of his courage, Gippal stood up straight and cleared his throat, “We’re going to finish this discussion now.”

She glared at him again, “Suit yourself.” She replied, shuffling quickly into a stall and slamming it shut.  The sound reverberated  along the walls, “I’m not coming out until you leave.”

He laughed, “Do you always hide from people on a toilet?”

Her green eyes peeked out from the crack between the door and the wall, “Maybe…what’s it to you?”

“Come out of there, Rikku.” Gippal ordered but when the female adamantely refused, he forced the door open and walked brazenly into the stall with her.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?!” she cried, pounding her hands on his chest until he grabbed her wrists and forced them down to her sides.  Without a word, Gippal pressed his lips against hers in a kiss that was gentle in its intensity.  He felt her relax almost instantly in his arms as he deepened the kiss, turning his head so that he had more access to her long neck.

“Gippal…” he heard her moan, but he was too focused on nipping at her collarbone to listen until she said it more firmly and accompanied it by her hands pushing him away, “Stop, Gippal.”

He frowned and backed off, “Okay.” He said, biting his lower lip in the annoying habit he’d had since childhood, “I guess you don’t want me anymore like you did the other day.”

Rikku laughed and wiggled past him and walked toward the exit of the ladies’ room, “Gippal, when I was interested last time, were we in a bathroom?”

“No.” replied Gippal with a little smile.

“Exactly.” She answered with a wink as she let the door slam shut behind her.

-------------------------

Lying with her in his arms again was a dream come true for Shuyin.  He and Lenne had taken shelter in the remnants of his house after a brief rainstorm had struck Zanarkand.  It was amazing how it felt as though nothing had changed when in reality, everything had changed.  Even the her steady breathing felt different coming out of Yuna’s body, b ut he knew in his heart it was Lenne.  He’d know her anywhere.

“What are you thinking about, Lennie?” he whispers to her as he watches a few stray raindrops fall onto the windowsill. 

“Just about the last time we were here together.”

“I’m going back to the frontlines tomorrow, Shu, and you can’t stop me!”

“I’ll just end up going after you again!”

“You just don’t understand.”

“You’re right.  I don’t understand!  I don’t understand why you’ll put your life at risk again!”

“I’m leaving in the morning.  Nothing you can say or do is going to stop me.  I bought this for you a few weeks ago.  It’s the Zanarkand Abes symbol but it’s also a locket.  I put a picture of us inside.  That way you’ll have me with you even when I’m far away.”

“Lenne…I could activate the machina that Bevelle has and…”

“Stop it!  I don’t want to hear it anymore, Shuyin!  I understand that you don’t want me to go, but the fact is I am going!  Get used to it!”

Shuyin frowned, “Don’t think about that now.  We’re together again and that’s all that matters.”

“If I hadn’t been so stubborn…”

“If I hadn’t been so stupid…”

Lenne turned slightly to face him, running a finger along his jawline, “I love you.  No matter what happens, never forget that.”

Shuyin didn’t want this intense conversation to ruin their time together.  Unhooking his arms from around her, Shuyin rose from the bed and wandered toward the door.

“Where are you going?” she asked. 

“I was going to see if I could find us something to eat.  I haven’t checked the kitchen on the Celsius yet and if that fails then I’ll just have to try my hand at fishing.”

Lenne laughed, “Oh that should be interesting.”

He stuck his tongue out in a playful manner, “Well then maybe I’ll just find myself some food…”

She jumped up and ran to him, wrapping her arms around his neck, “I’m sorry.  I’ll be a good girl.” She said with a seductive wink before wandering back to the bed.

“I’ll be back soon.” Shuyin said with a laugh.  It was strange holding Yuna’s body but knowing that Lenne was the one that was feeling his touch.  It was also strange how quiet Tidus had been.  Shuyin figured he must have done one hell of a job of sending him back to sleep. 

As he made his way down Zanarkand’s main street toward the Celsius, he tried to decide whether he wanted Lenne to join him when he talked to the fayth or not.  He knew that Bruttam would be happy to talk to Lenne, but he also thought that Bruttam might be less than pleased with what Shuyin was doing and by waving his near success in the fayth’s face it might affect Bruttam’s interest in helping him complete his plan.

Luck was on his side when he entered the Celsius kitchen.  Food was readily available so Shuyin grabbed a nearby box and threw various types and quantities of food into it, figuring that he and Lenne could decide what they wanted and then build a campfire outside to cook it.  He’d never been much into eating outside, but with Lenne by his side Shuyin felt like he could do anything.

It had begun to rain a little by the time he made it back to the road and Shuyin took off in a gallop toward his house and his Lenne.  As he opened the door, he almost called out to her but a sound from the bedroom stopped him.  Placing the box of food down, he closed the door quietly and crept to the room.

“He doesn’t suspect anything.”

“Well where is he now?”

Shuyin felt his heart harden as he recognized the voices.  His Lennie was talking to…Rikku.  He gripped his sword as he crept closer to the door which was opened just enough to let him see inside. 

“He’s out getting food.”

There was no one in the room with her and Shuyin thought for a moment he was losing his mind until he saw the radio that she held in her hand.  Anger boiled up inside of his stomach. 

“Gippal’s anxious to end this, Lennie.  Should we send in the troops now?”

Lenne shook her head at her invisible partner, “No, not yet.  I still haven’t found out what his exact plan is yet.  We need to know just in case he escapes.”

“When do you think you’ll know?”

“Soon, I hope.” She replied, “But…I just hate doing this to him Rikku.  No matter how much he deserves it.”

“I understand.”

Shuyin didn’t know what he was going to do.  He didn’t want to hurt her.  The thought of hurting her made his gut ache, but what else was he going to do?  She was out to destroy him.  She had to be stopped.  His plan was to live happily ever after with Lenne, but his main goal was another chance at his life.  He wanted Lenne with him, but if that didn’t work out there was nothing he could do about it. 

“I’ll call back in later.  He’ll be back soon.”

“Okay.  We’ll be waiting for your next call.”

Shuyin knew he had to do something and quickly as he watched Lenne take the tiny radio and hide it in a dresser drawer.  He quietly pulled the sword out of its holster by his side and grip the handle, trying to think of the fastest way to kill her so that she’d feel little pain. 

But…

This was his Lennie.  He couldn’t kill her.  He loved her too much.

Getting a sudden idea, Shuyin flipped the sword around so that he gripped the blade, letting it dig into his palms until it drew blood.  He carefully opened the door with his foot until Lenne turned around and smiled, “Hi there…” she began until she saw the blood dripping from his palms and the teary and painful look in his eyes, “Shu…what…”

“I heard you…” was all he said but it was enough because Lenne’s eyes opened in sudden shock and fear, “I trusted you.   How could you do this to me?”

“Shu…I can explain.” Lenne said, holding her hands up as it to ward off the impending attack.

“I love you Lennie.” He said, “Really, I do, but I don’t want to hear your excuses.” And with a flick of his wrists, Shuyin slammed the handle of the sword against her skull.  Lenne’s eyes rolled back into her head as she collapsed, unconscious, on the floor. 

Reaching for the bedsheets, Shuyin tied her wrists to the headboard tightly to prevent her escaping and then made his way out to the dock where her boat was resting quietly.  He needed to talk to Bruttam and get his plan completed before things became even more out of whack.

Author’s Notes: This chapter is going to set up the ending.  The stuff Shuyin finds out will affect his actions toward the end of the story.  I think there will be another 2 or 3 chapters to this and then I’ll start Silver Wings 3 which will wrap up the entire story. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Eighteen: Corruption of the Fayth

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

The last time Shuyin had been to the Farplane he had been on the inside looking out.  He liked his current vantage point from the land of the living much better and if he had his way, things were going to stay like that for a long time. 

The trip in Lenne’s boat to the Farplane in Guadosalam had been much longer then he had anticipated and he worried that she might have awakened already.  He was also worried that the do-gooders might have been waiting for him near the entrance, but he was fortunate that the only person to recognize him was someone named Tromell and he had called him ‘Sir Tidus’. 

He’d learned from his brief time in the Farplane that to speak to the dead, one only had to think of the dead.  Walking into the abandoned Farplane, Shuyin took a deep breath and focused all his energies into calling forth Bruttam – the fayth. 

“I was wondering when you’d show up.”

Shuyin opened his eyes and grinned at his friend.  Although Bruttam appeared completely different physically, Shuyin recognized him almost immediately.  It was strange how the fayth looked just like children.  Shuyin didn’t understand why that was and he wasn’t about to worry about it now. 

“Miss me?” Shuyin asked.

“I wouldn’t go that far.” Bruttam replied, “Why are you doing this, Shuyin?”

“Straight to the point, I see.” Shuyin said with a sneer.

Bruttam shrugged, “There’s no point in beating around the bush, is there?  You’re here to see if I’ll help you complete your plans and the answer is no.”

Shuyin narrowed his eyes at his friend.  How dare he say no to him?!  Bruttam is the reason Shuyin was in this mess to begin with.  If he would have just reincarnated him like he was supposed to instead of creating Tidus then this situation would never have happened.  The least Bruttam could do was remedy his mistake.

“Why not?” Shuyin finally asked.

“Because no matter what I do, it won’t save you.”

“Now this I’ve got to hear…”

Shuyin cursed silently.  He had hoped that after the last interaction with Tidus, he’d never bother him again.  Unfortunately, that damned phony soul didn’t want to give up. 

“Ask him what he means.”

“I’m going to!  Don’t rush me!” Shuyin shouted suddenly and he saw Bruttam smile slightly, “What?”

“Tidus is awake again, I assume.”

Shuyin grunted, “When did you start talking so fucking proper?” he cursed, “And yeah, he’s awake.  He’s like the fucking migraine from hell.  How do I make him go away?”

“You can’t.  You’re in his body and sooner or later he will regain control of it.”

That wasn’t the news Shuyin wanted to hear and Tidus’ cheering and laughing was only making him more irritated.  He growled low in his throat and forced his unwanted visitor back to sleep before he stared at Bruttam, “What are you talking about?  I’m the dominant soul and when the merger is complete Tidus won’t exist.”

Shuyin’s heart sunk into his shoes during the long pause that ensued before Bruttam spoke again.  Shuyin had been concerned with the lack of memories he was receiving, but he hadn’t thought that there might be something really wrong with the merger until this very moment.  Bruttam seemed to chose his words very carefully as he spoke, “Shuyin…when Tidus was created, he was modeled after my memories of you.  A fun-loving, generally great guy.  I took a few creative licenses with him.  I changed his name, I changed his relationship with his father, I changed his neighbors and friends and he had no Lenne in Zanarkand.”  Bruttam paused and let that information sink in before he continued, “When I sent his father, Jecht, to the real Zanarkand it was to test and see how a dream would fare in the real world.  Jecht did so well that he ended up being that which we feared most – Sin.  If I had any doubts about sending Tidus, they disappeared after his father defeated Sin next to Braska.  I needed Tidus now.  Yuna needed him.”

“Get to the point, Bruttam…”

“I didn’t consider the implications of sending a clone of you into a world where you still existed – even in the form of a soul.  I hadn’t thought about it.  I just knew that Jecht hadn’t caused any unalterable changes, so I figured Tidus wouldn’t either.”

“But…”

“I was wrong, my friend.  I was very wrong.”

Shuyin swallowed in a gulp as he felt the bad part of the story was coming up, “Go on.”

“You are the original soul.  You are the legitimate soul.  However, you became…twisted after your death.  You became desperate for revenge and ceased to be the fun-loving guy I grew up with.  Tidus was still that person.  He hadn’t changed.  When I sent him to Spira, he canceled you out.”

Shuyin scratched his head in confusion, “What do you mean, ‘canceled me out’?”

“You became the dream and Tidus became the reality.” Clarified Bruttam, “What I’m saying is, Shuyin…the merger will wipe you off of Spira, not Tidus.  It’s only a matter of time until Tidus has the power to take his life back.  He might already have that power and be waiting for the right time to use it.”

Shuyin felt sick to his stomach.  He felt dizzy.  He felt like he was going to die again, right then and there. 

No…

Death was the cowards way out.  He wanted to have a life with Lenne again, but she had joined the do-gooders.  He had thought for a while that a life with Yuna might be nice, but she was never going to consider him.  That didn’t mean, however, that he was going to give up his second chance at life so easily.

“You have to fix this then, Bruttam.”

“I can’t do that, Shuyin.  What’s done is done.”

Shuyin fixed his eyes on his friend, “You owe me.  You ruined my chances for a life with Lenne.  You owe me another chance at my own life at least.”

“Shuyin, I can’t…”

“I don’t want to hear you can’t!” Shuyin shrieked, sudden anger boiling upward until he felt suffocated by it, “I want to hear you say you will!  I want to hear you ask me what I want you to do!”

“Shuyin…”

The normally strong blitzball player’s lower lip started to quiver involuntarily and he knew it would be only a moment before the tears started to flow.  It had been so long since he’d cried that Shuyin was almost convinced that he’d forgotten how, but it was only a moment later that he recalled, “My life was stolen from me, Bruttam!” he cried through his tears, wiping them away as soon as they reached his cheeks, “Don’t steal it from me again!  I know you can help me.  I know you can!”

Bruttam frowned, “There is nothing I can do to reverse this, Shuyin.  Tidus will inevitably take you over.”

“And then what?!” shrieked Shuyin, “Then he’ll live happily ever after with Yuna and to hell with me?!”

“Shuyin…”

“I won’t have it!” he shrieked, pulling his sword out of his holster and holding the blade to his neck, “I’ll kill myself and him before I let that happen!”

“Don’t do this, Shuyin.  Don’t take another’s life again.  Your death was regrettable, but it was all part of Spira’s destiny.  Fate had other plans for Lenne and, unfortunately, you weren’t in the picture.”

“Fate!  Don’t give me this fate shit!” Shuyin shouted, waving the sword around like a child’s play toy, “Fate had nothing to do with it.  The damned Bevelle soldiers took it upon themselves to kill Lenne, me, Allyn, and Reiber!”

Bruttam shook his head, “No, my friend.  The army were following orders to keep intruders away from Vegnagun.  That is why you and Lenne were shot.  As for Allyn and Reiber…it was a plan gone awry.”

“A…plan…” Shuyin scratched his head with his free hand and let the sword wielding one relax slightly, “What are you talking about?”

“I shouldn’t have said anything…”

“Well, you did!  So spill it!” shouted Shuyin.

“I remember like it was yesterday when Lenne was attacked in her home.  We all wondered who would have done such a thing and you immediately suspected Allyn of having committed the act.” Bruttam sighed, “You weren’t completely wrong.  Allyn paid Benedict Cyton – the Bevelle commander – to beat Lenne up in the hopes of getting her to leave Zanarkand.  She didn’t want her killed, just roughed up.  However, Benedict had other plans.  He’s the one that used the knife and almost killed Lenne.”

Shuyin felt his arms start to shake and a low growl formed in his throat.  He had been right all along and as Bruttam opened his mouth to finish the story, Shuyin suddenly realized what happened that night 1000 years ago…

“Allyn paid Benedict to have Lenne taken as a POW.  She didn’t want her harmed, just kept out of the way so she’d have time to win you back.  However, Benedict wanted Allyn to himself and saw a golden opportunity to get rid of you by having you shot in front of Vegnagun.  Benedict then killed Reiber and Allyn after realizing that Allyn wouldn’t be with him willingly and that Reiber was standing in his way of ruling Bevelle.”

Shuyin felt that all too familiar flicker of anger forming in his stomach.  1000 years ago people were conspiring against him and even now they were still conspiring.  Even Lenne had joined their ranks and were trying to stop him. 

Allyn was the reason he was dead.  Shuyin wanted nothing more then to rip her apart for what she had done, but he knew it was impossible. 

Or was it…

That tall blonde that followed Nooj around like an idiot – LeBlanc.  He had immediately thought she was Allyn from the moment he saw her through Tidus’ eyes that day at Luca. 

“Allyn is LeBlanc…isn’t she?” he asked.

Bruttam nodded, “Yes, she is.”

Growling low in his throat, Shuyin replied, “So she gets to be happy in her new life and I get to be miserable, is that it?  And Tidus gets to be happy with MY girlfriend and I get forgotten!!”

“Don’t look at it like that, Shuyin.”

“Well how the hell else am I supposed to look at it?!” he shrieked, stomping his feet like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum, “You fucked me over!  You fucked over everything and you’re telling me not to be pissed about it?!”

“Shuyin, you had your ch…”

“I had my chance.  I get that, Bruttam.” He frowned, “And you ruined my second chance which is precisely why you’re going to help me now.”

Bruttam shook his head, “There’s nothing I can do to reverse the merger, Shuyin.  It is inevitable.”

He shrugged, “I know that.  My second chance at a life with Lenne is over.  Even if the merger could be reversed, she’s already joined the do-gooders.”

“So…you’re content with the results?”

Shuyin laughed, “I wouldn’t go that far, Bruttam.”

“Then what do you mean?”

“An eye for an eye.  That’s a good motto, don’t you think?” he asked, a smirk forming on his lips, “I can’t be happy with Lenne so Tidus shouldn’t get to be happy with Yuna.  I’m sick of fucking fairy tale endings.  This story is going to have an ending of my own design and you’re going to help me do it.”

“Why do you think I’ll help you?”

Shuyin’s smirk grew into a wide grin that spread from ear to ear as he whispered, “Because if you don’t, I’ll kill Yuna.”

The long silence that passed between the two was enough for Shuyin to realize that Bruttam was realizing he had no other alternative.  It was bad enough that he’d screwed up with the Tidus/Shuyin situation, but to cause the death of High Summoner Yuna due to that foul up wasn’t an option for him.  Shuyin knew that Bruttam couldn’t read his mind, but knew what had already happened and what was already said. 

Bruttam knew he had Yuna captive. 

He could almost hear Bruttam’s quaking limbs as he replied, “What do you want me to do?”

“Go to the other fayth,” Shuyin ordered, “and ask them what it would take to recreate dream Zanarkand and for how long they’d be willing to keep it going.  Let me know what they say, and then I’ll have one other little thing for you to do.”

“Shuyin…what are you planning?”

Turning his back on his friend and making his way toward the exit, Shuyin called over his shoulder, “That’s classified information, my friend.  You don’t need to know what I’m planning, you just need to do what I tell you to do unless you want Yuna’s death on your head.”

He knew instinctively that Bruttam had vanished without having to turn around.  As Shuyin made his way out of Guadosalam, new ideas formed in his head.  First he needed to make sure Lenne hadn’t woken up and gotten away.  Then he needed to talk to Yuna and find out certain bits of important information.  Finally, he needed to deal with some unfinished business with a certain blonde bitch who had gotten away with too much.

Allyn…

Author’s Notes: Man, almost a week since an update!  Sorry for the wait.  Work has been crazy lately.  Right now I have one more chapter planned for Silver Wings 2 and then I’ll begin Silver Wings 3 which will wrap everything up. 

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Nineteen: Unfinished Business

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Lenne’s eyes opened and she tried to figure out where she was.  The last thing she remembered was Shuyin’s sword coming toward her head.  She recognized the bedroom she had been standing in and made a move to stand when she realized that her hands were tied to the headboard with a sheet. 

She pulled as hard as she could against her confines, but he had tied her tightly enough to prevent escape.  Just what was he planning?  Where was he?  Questions shot through Lenne’s mind as she listened for his footsteps.  The radio was completely out of reach for her in the drawer where she had placed it.  If only she could reach it, then she could call for help. 

She hadn’t wanted to fool Shuyin, but he had given her no other choice.  After Rikku and the others had told her what he had done, she knew she had to stop him.  This was ultimately her fault and she needed to fix it.  If she hadn’t asked the Fayth for another chance with her beloved Shuyin, then none of this would have happened.  She needed to make him understand that their time is over but nothing would ever change her love for him. 

But would he even listen to her now…?

“Honey, I’m home!” came his sing-song voice from the entranceway.  His footsteps echoed on the barren walls as he came down the hallway toward the bedroom where he had her captive.  She noted the cuts on his hands as he walked toward her and knelt down, “How’s your head?”

Lenne didn’t reply, instead she turned her face away from him in disgust.  This wasn’t the man she had fallen in love with.  Her Shuyin would never have done the things that he did.  This Shuyin was twisted and sick.  This Shuyin was evil.

“Fine, don’t answer me.” Shuyin replied with a shrug as he stood and stretched his legs, “I don’t really want to talk to you either.”

“Then why are you here?” she asked.

Shuyin grinned, “So you can talk!  I was beginning to think that the clunk on the head had erased your ability to speak.”

“Don’t flatter yourself.  You handle that thing really clumsily.”

He laughed and patted her head affectionately, “Funny, Lenne.  You always were really funny.”

“What do you want from me, Shuyin?” she asked, fear creeping into her voice.

He shrugged, “I don’t want anything from you.  I’m here to talk to Yuna.” He grabbed her hand and placed his fingers firmly around the ring, “Sweet dreams, Lennie.”

And the world went dark around her….

--------------------------------

Blue and green eyes opened and stared into the crystalline eyes that glared back at her with a hatred she didn’t even comprehend.  It took her a moment to realize she was not with her friends. 

She was with Shuyin…

“Good morning, sunshine.” He hissed, sarcastically, “Did you have pleasant dreams?”

Her spine stiffened at his gentle caress on her cheek and she turned her head away in disgust, “What do you want with me?”

He growled low in his throat and dropped cross legged in front of her, “Okay, we’ll get straight to the point then.” He said, leaning in to hiss in her face, “Why did you send Lenne here to trick me?  Did you honestly think you’d get away with it Yuna?  You must really think I’m an idiot.”

“I didn’t send Lenne anywhere.” Replied Yuna, turning to stare directly into his eyes, “I simply suggested we see if Lenne knew where you might be.  Anything that happened after I put the ring on isn’t my fault.”

He frowned and became pensive for a moment.  She knew that he realized she was telling the truth.  She had no control over what happened after Lenne was in control.  He paused before speaking, “I suppose that’s true.” He laughed, “That’s not even the main reason I wanted to talk to you anyway.”

“What is the main reason then?”

“How long have you known the merger wasn’t working the way I wanted it to?”

So he knew.  Yuna felt a tremble start in her feet and travel up her body.  She was alone with a crazy dead person inside her boyfriend’s body who just found out that no matter what he did, he was going to vanish. 

This wasn’t good…

“Not long.” She replied in a hushed voice, “Only after our interaction on the Celsius.”

“So you didn’t know back then?” he clarified, “One of your friends told you then?”

Yuna nodded, “They had gone to see the Fayth and he told them what was going on.  That’s when they told me.”

Shuyin scratched his chin and leaned closer into her face, “You wouldn’t lie to me, would you Yuna?”

She tried to choke down the audible tremble in her voice, “N...no.” she whispered.

“Good.” He said with a grin, “Very good.”  Standing and stretching his legs, Shuyin patted Yuna on the head and ruffled her hair a little.  She felt completely helpless and wondered what he planned to do next, but then decided she didn’t particularly want to know. 

A flash of light caught her attention and Yuna looked up and around Shuyin’s legs to see the little Fayth child standing near the edge of the bed.  Her eyes lit up and she thought for a moment that her savior was here when the child nodded curtly, “Hello Shuyin.”

The Fayth…to see Shuyin?!  Yuna’s faith in Yevon had been shaken two years before after finding out that everything she believed in and was willing to die for had been a lie, but she hadn’t believed that the Fayth would have turned on her too…

“I have your answer.” The child said, looking blankly at Yuna for a moment before walking – without touching the ground – toward the front room, “Shall we discuss it in the other room?”

Shuyin grunted, “Stop talking so fucking proper, Bruttam!” before he followed and closed the door behind him.  Yuna struggled to hear what the two were talking about, but all she managed to hear were muffled voices.  She needed to know what they were planning and she needed to get out before Shuyin decided to hurt her.  She knew Tidus wouldn’t hurt her, but she knew Shuyin didn’t feel the same way.

Forcing herself has high as she could with her feet, Yuna gnawed at the bed sheets Shuyin had used as makeshift handcuffs.  They were dirty and disgusting, but Yuna was desperate enough to look past that and she finally heard the sweet sound of fabric ripping.  Pulling hard with all her strength, she ripped the sheets all the way and freed herself from her precarious position on the floor. 

Now the trick was to escape…

The door was off limits since Shuyin could still be heard in his mumbled conversation with the Fayth so her only other option was the window.  Creeping as slowly as possible, Yuna opened the window silently and climbed, one foot at a time out until she was safely on solid ground.  She rounded the house and came out in the front yard, practically crawling so as not to be seen out the window and was about to escape when voices caught her attention.  She could hear their conversation much clearer from her current vantage point from beneath the open window. 

“You only have a short time frame for the window to Zanarkand to be open.” The Fayth was saying, “It’ll be in the exact place that it was left.”

Shuyin seemed intrigued, “After Sin attacked you mean?”

“After the Cry began…”

Shuyin seemed to be confused, but brushed away his confusion with the question, “What will happen after it closes?”

“Time stops for them again.”

“Well, what the hell do I care?” Shuyin asked with a laugh, “The important thing is, how long they are willing to do it?”

“Three months.  We will open the portal where you requested and will keep it open there tomorrow.  After that, the portal will be moved to another location that is difficult to get to.  If I were you, I’d get it done tomorrow.”

Shuyin giggled maniacally, “That’s more than enough time.  Thanks so much, Bruttam.”

“I’m not doing this for you,” the Fayth replied as a light filled the room, “I’m doing this for Spira.”

Realizing that, chances are, the Fayth had disappeared; Yuna rose to her feet and took off in a mad dash for the water that surrounded Zanarkand and the little boat she saw floating in the water.  She didn’t know what Shuyin and the Fayth were plotting and she didn’t have time to figure it out.  She needed to get back to her friends first.  Together, they could stop him.

----------------------

“Oh Yuna!  I’m ba…” Shuyin stopped in mid sentence and stared at the ripped cords of fabric that marked Yuna’s last location.  His eyes flashed to the window that was slightly open, letting a warm breeze in and he cursed.  The damned girl had escaped, but he had to give her credit where credit was due.  He had underestimated her.  Fortunately, her escape came after his agreement with the Fayth.  His plan was going to happen whether Yuna was his captive or not.  Fayth do not break promises, even to psychos.

He grinned happily and made quick work of removing the torn shards of cloth and throwing them onto the nearby bed before flopping down on his back upon it and stretching gleefully.  Maybe his plans of being with Lenne again weren’t going to happen.  Maybe his brief thoughts of being with Yuna weren’t going to happen, but Shuyin could rest assured that Tidus wasn’t going to be with his girl either. 

Tidus was going home, whether he wanted to or not.

Shuyin sighed and sat up straight on the bed, running a hand through his frazzled blonde hair.  He had spoken to Lenne, checked on Yuna, made arrangements with the Fayth…

What was left to do until the portal was opened again?

“Leaving so soon?”

A memory formed in Shuyin’s head as a vision of a young, shapely blonde formed in front of him.

“Yes.” He replied, unsure of why he was speaking to the empty room.

“We just had the best sex we’ve ever had and you’re just going to leave?  Don’t you want an encore?” 

“Don’t read too much into this, Allyn.” He said, huskily.

“Too late…”

“This was a mistake.  It won’t be happening again.”

“This wasn’t a mistake, Shu.  This was fate.”

So much fate had occurred in Shuyin’s short life – a life cut short by a group of angry soldiers and a large and empty cavern.  Fate had sent killed his parents.  Fate had sent Lenne to him.  Fate had started the war.  Fate had killed them all…

But, had fate truly killed Lenne and himself?  Had fate truly destroyed their chance for happiness?

Another memory formed in the farthest reaches of his mind as he sat alone in the dark.  The shapely, blonde woman vanished and was replaced with a scene he had almost forgotten.

“Wha…” Shuyin put a finger to Lenne’s lips to silence her question and motioned to the window.  Lenne nodded her understanding and Shuyin slowly crawled out of the bed and silently approached the open window and the peeper beneath. 

Reaching down quickly, he grabbed the person by the hair and pulled up.  His shock at the fact that they were being watched was doubled when he recognized the cry of pain from the person he held. 

Allyn…

Yanking harder, he pulled Allyn by the hair through the open window and dropped her on the floor.  His blue eyes flashed and the clouds seemed to react to Shuyin’s bad temper as rain suddenly started falling from the sky, “What the hell are you doing here, Allyn?!”

Lenne reached for her nightgown and pulled it over her head before rising from the bed to join Shuyin, “I’d certainly like to know that too.”

Allyn rubbed her sore scalp and scowled at Lenne before rising to her knees and turning her attention to Shuyin, “I was going for a walk…”

“You never were a good liar, Allyn.” Shuyin said, “Why were you watching us?”

Allyn narrowed her eyes, “It wasn’t for fun, that’s for sure.” The woman replied as she glared at Lenne, “It’s important to know one’s enemies…”

Faster than Allyn could react, Shuyin had her flipped over his shoulder and was carrying her toward the front door with Lenne following in toe.  Allyn kicked and screamed but Shuyin wouldn’t let her down as he opened the front door and walked into the yard where he promptly dumped her in the mud.  Allyn let out a furious scream and pounded her fists next to her which only succeeded in making the mud splash and land on her face and hair.  As the rain pelted hard from a diagonal position, Shuyin leaned over toward her – still clad in only his boxers – and hissed, “Don’t ever come near me or Lenne again.”

“Are you threatening me, Shuyin?” the muddy woman asked.

Shuyin stood up straight and shook his head, “You’re not important enough to threaten, Allyn.  Just count your blessings that I don’t have you arrested for stalking, peeping, breaking and entering…”

“You’re the one that dragged me into the house!” Allyn shouted.

Shuyin smirked, “It’d be mine and Lenne’s word against yours, sweetheart…”

“You wouldn’t!”

“Go ahead and test me, Allyn.” Shuyin replied, “I’m sick of dealing with you.  Leave me alone!!”

Allyn rose her furious figure from the mud and attempted to fix her hair but gave up and instead wiped rain from her eyes.  She stared at Shuyin for a moment before whispering, “You belong with me.  I promise you, you will be mine again.” Allyn glared at Lenne who was just a few feet behind Shuyin, “This isn’t over, bitch.”

This isn’t over, bitch.

He had underestimated Allyn and her desperation to get him back.  He hadn’t thought she’d do the things that she did, but when he saw Lenne lying in a pool of her own blood that day he had known it was her.  Yet he had let her convince him that it wasn’t. 

How could he have done that?  Did he really want to see the best in her, even though that quality was lacking? 

No…

He was just stupid.

He’d let her get away with everything and that everything included murder.  He wasn’t going to let her get away with it anymore.  He’d kill two birds with one stone.  He’d get rid of both Allyn and Tidus together.  It was perfect.

Rising to his feet, Shuyin made a dash for the boat that Lenne had arrived in, only to realize that Yuna had taken it.  Cursing the little twit, he crossed to the Celsius only to remember it was out of gas. 

“Damn it!” he shouted to no one in particular.  Nonetheless, he climbed on board.  The do-gooders had to have kept a stash of extra fuel somewhere on board just in case and, as luck would have it, he was correct.  Quickly filling up, Shuyin started the ship and chose the auto pilot to Youth League headquarters, parking just outside of their sight range. 

He couldn’t risk loosing his element of surprise.

Dusk had arrived at the home of Nooj and LeBlanc as Shuyin crept silently passed the guards and into the house that was dimly lit with candles down the main corridor.  The door to the study was slightly ajar and he saw Nooj slumped over his books, furiously scribbling something into one of them. 

Continuing down the hall, Shuyin glanced into another room – the bedroom – and saw his prey.  She was brushing her short, blonde hair into submission as she admired her reflection in the glass.  No sound signified his entry but LeBlanc stopped her movements as a shadow passed the reflection in the mirror.  She turned as Shuyin ducked behind the bed, “Is someone there?”

No answer.

“Ormi?  Logos?  Nooj, love?”

No answer.

She shrugged and turned her attention back to her reflection in the mirror.  He waited a few more moments before crawling silently toward her back as she sat unsuspecting in the chair.  He clutched the handle to Tidus’ sword tightly, quietly pulling it from the holster at his hip before he stood quickly.  He allowed her no time to scream as he quickly put the cold blade at her neck, “Don’t say a word, Allyn.” He hissed in her ear, “Just come with me quietly and I won’t hurt you.”

She whimpered a little as the blade cut a mark into her neck, but she complied and rose from the chair, allowing him to push her along.  He didn’t want to go back the way he had come and whispered harshly, “Is there a back door?”

She nodded and pointed toward the back exit which Shuyin readily took, trusting that she wouldn’t lie to him when she was in such a precarious position. 

“P…p…please, d…don’t hurt me.” She stammered as the two of them entered the fresh air of the back of Youth League headquarters and toward the Celsius. 

“If you’re a good girl, Allyn,” Shuyin replied, “Then I won’t.”

He wasn’t lying either.  What he had planned for her, was much, much worse.

Author’s Notes: Okay, this chapter is going to explain just a little bit about my idea for Silver Wings 3 and its connection to FFVIII.  Please don’t flame me!  Haha!  This is a silly idea with the connection between X/X-2 and VIII, but I think it’s an interesting one.    

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

Chapter Twenty: Portal to Esthar

~~~~~*~~~~~*~~~~~

“LeBlanc?” Nooj called down the hall.  She had told him she’d be right back and that was almost thirty minutes earlier.  For a reason he didn’t understand, Nooj clutched his handgun close to his hip as he crept down the hall toward the bedroom he and LeBlanc shared.

“LeBlanc?” he called again as he pushed the door open with his foot, ready to fire his weapon if he needed to, but the room was empty.  He lowered his weapon and frowned.  This was where she said she was going to be, “LeBlanc!  Where are you?” he called again, a deeper frown forming on his features. 

Silence answered him.

“Come in, Nooj!  Come in LeBlanc.”

Following the sound, Nooj found LeBlanc’s radio under a blanket on the bed and put it to his mouth, “Yeah, Rikku.  What’s up?”

“Yunie’s back.  Shuyin’s up to something.  We’re gonna have an emergency meeting.”

Nooj sighed, “LeBlanc’s gone.”

“What do you mean, gone?” came Paine’s voice over the intercom.  Nooj smiled a little at her voice.  It was strange to love two women who were so completely different from each other.  However, now was not the time to be thinking about that.  LeBlanc was missing and with a crazy ghost on the loose thinking she is his ex-girlfriend, things didn’t look good.

“I mean, she said she was going to brush her hair and come right back and that was almost 45 minutes ago.”

He could almost hear Paine’s thought processes.  She was probably thinking about all the hundreds of ways LeBlanc was flighty and could have just left without even realizing she’d said she’d be back.  He waited for a sarcastic remark when he heard Gippal’s voice, “Just get your ass over here, Nooj.  We’ve got serious problems.  The Fayth is working with Shuyin.”

“The Fayth?!” he cried, “Why?  How?  For what purpose?”

“We don’t know that yet.” Gippal replied, “But we’re at Home and need your help to go over the info Yuna has.”

Nooj paused.  A glittering light caught his attention and he knelt to the ground beneath LeBlanc’s dressing table. 

“Nooj?” called Gippal but his friend didn’t answer.  He was too shocked to answer.

Rikku asked exasperatedly, “Nooj, are you coming or not?!”

He turned the object over and over in his fingers, staring at it, trying to make sense of it.  How could he have gotten in without the guards seeing him?  How could he have gotten out without them seeing him?  How could he have taken LeBlanc without him knowing it?! 

“Nooj!” shouted Gippal.

Nooj knew his voice hitched in his throat as he said the words, but he was past caring at the moment, “H…He’s got LeBlanc.”

--------------------------

She had spent the night on the cold floor of the blitzball stadium in Zanarkand.  The dim light echoed in from the cavern entrance as she rubbed her sore head.  Memories flew back at her quickly of her night of terror with Shuyin. 

He’d thrown her head over heels onto the deck of the Celsius before roughly tying her arms to a bar and launching the ship into the air.  While it was on auto-pilot toward Zanarkand, he’d stalked over to her and kicked her hard in the side, “Sucks to be on the receiving end of revenge, doesn’t it Allyn?”

She still didn’t know who Allyn was or why he was calling her that.  Every time she had asked him, she’d received a smack in the face for her trouble.  Her jaw was still sore, and probably bruised, from the night before. 

She could see his back as he stood staring out at the sunrise with Tidus’ sword slung at his side.  She knew in her heart that Nooj and her friends were looking for her.  She knew that they’d find her and she would be saved, but she didn’t know how long it would take or what she’d have to contend with in the mean time. 

Her breath hitched in her throat as Shuyin turned toward her and stalked in her direction, an angry scowl on his face.  He seemed ten feet tall as he towered over her form as she lay helpless on the ground.

“Let me guess,” He said gruffly, “You’re wondering what I’m going to do to you?”

LeBlanc nodded and pulled her legs closely to her chest as if in self defense.  The wild look in his eyes was scaring her.  The sword glistening in the light was scaring her.  LeBlanc didn’t like not being in control.  She wasn’t used to it. 

He patted her cheek condescendingly, “Don’t you worry about that, Allyn.” He replied with a smile, “I’m letting you go home.  Granted, it’s not exactly your home, but it’ll just have to do.”

She opened her mouth to ask him who Allyn was again but instantly thought better of it.  Her jaw was screaming for some respite to his attacks and she didn’t want to give him the excuse to smack her again. 

A light appeared behind Shuyin and in that light was a beautiful brunette wearing a blue and green dress.  She appeared to be in her early twenties and gave him a guarded smile, “So you’re Shuyin…”

He stared at her, “And who are you?”

“I am the Zanarkand Fayth that is going to help you succeed in your plans.  Bruttam sent me.”

He grunted at her, “Aren’t Fayth supposed to be kids?  You look a little old to be a Fayth.”

The girl shook her head, “The Fayth that dreamed up Zanarkand are in the form of children.  I am a Fayth that lives in Zanarkand so I have to fit in.”

Shuyin looked at LeBlanc over his shoulder and snorted to the Fayth girl, “We’d better discuss this elsewhere.  Don’t want her to hear about this until the special unveiling.”

-----------------------

Shuyin and the Fayth girl met outside of the stadium well out of LeBlanc’s hearing range and he stared at her for a few minutes before grinning, “I know who you are.”

She cocked an eyebrow at him, “And how do you know that?”

“The merger is working in my direction now.  I’ve got some of Tidus’ memories, and you’re in some of them.”

The girl stared at him, “Well, if that’s the case then you’d better hurry.  When the fake soul gets the memories, then the merger is almost complete.”

“How long do you think I have?”

She thought for a moment, staring at him with intense eyes, “If I were you, I’d get your evil plan complete tonight because I don’t think you have a tomorrow.”

Shuyin growled low and dug his hands into his pockets, “I was planning on getting this done tonight, El….”

“Don’t use my name.” she said sharply, “I don’t want to hear my name coming off of your lips.”

“Fine,” he said, grumpily, “So, when is the portal going to open?”

“They will open it at sunset.”

He glared at her, “That’d doesn’t give me a lot of time.”

The Fayth girl shrugged and grinned at him, “Well, that’s not really our concern, is it?  We’re helping you; we didn’t say it would be easy.”

Blue eyes pierced her, “How did you die?” he asked, suddenly. 

She seemed surprised by his question and was quiet for a moment.  She averted her brown eyes and sighed, “The Sin spawn killed me.”

“And how did you become a Fayth?”

She stared at him, “Are you looking for a job?” she asked sarcastically.

Shuyin shook his head, “No.” he replied, “I’m just interested.”

The girl frowned, “In life, my mother had died without my step-father by her side.  I wanted to change that.  I tried so hard to change it in dream Zanarkand.” She sighed, “I just wanted them to be happy with my brother and me, but it didn’t work.  Some things are fated, I guess, and my mother died again in dream Zanarkand.”

“Then you know how I feel.” Said Shuyin, “I just wanted to change what happened to Lenne and I and get another chance.”

The girl smiled, “I know where you’re coming from Shuyin, but that doesn’t make it right.” The light bathed her and she pointed toward the remnants of the blitzball stadium, “The portal will be opened in the chamber of the Fayth at sunset.  He will fall back into dream Zanarkand exactly where he left it, just outside of the stadium in the capital Esthar.”

Shuyin grinned, “Excellent.” He whispered, more to himself then to her as she vanished.

-------------------

Nooj rushed into Home like a man being chased.  The journey to Bikanel Island had been long, seemingly longer because of his worry for LeBlanc.  He hoped with all his soul that Shuyin hadn’t hurt her. 

“Where is he?!” he shouted as he threw the door open and barged into the meeting room, “I’m going to kill the bastard!”

Gippal shook his head and put a firm hand on Nooj’s chest, “No you’re not.  We’re going to calmly go to Zanarkand and get LeBlanc.  Shuyin won’t be in control much longer, and then this entire thing will be over.”

Nooj’s chest heaved with each furious breath he took.  The thought of Shuyin hurting LeBlanc, or killing her like he killed Baralai was making a hot flame of anger grow into a bonfire in his stomach.  He balled his fists at his sides, “Then let’s get going.”

Yuna rose from her seat a few feet away from Nooj.  He had barely noticed her there as she sat playing with her fingers like a frightened child.  The wide, blood-shot eyes that stared into his told him that she was a frightened child who had seen pure evil and was truly terrified of its return.  She took a few steps toward him, “The Fayth is working with Shuyin.  I’m not sure why.  I don’t know what they’re doing.” She whispered, grasping her guns tightly in each hand, “but I won’t lose Tidus again.  If you attempt to hurt him, I will kill you.”

Her threat was quiet but more deadly then any threat Nooj had ever received.  He saw in her eyes the determination to follow through on her words if she was crossed. 

“Hell hath no fury…” he murmured under his breath.  He nodded his agreement, “I’ll leave him to you, Yuna.  I just want LeBlanc returned safely.”

She gave him a half smile, “Then let’s go.”

A light bathed the room suddenly and the Fayth child, Bruttam appeared to them.  Weapons were drawn quickly even as the Fayth smiled, “I know you think I have betrayed you, but I am here to say that isn’t true.”

Yuna glared at him, “Then what are you here for.”

“To help you find Shuyin.”

Yuna stared at the Fayth with skepticism in her eyes, “Where is he then?”

“I can’t tell you exactly for I have made a pact with him and Fayth cannot break their promises,” he said, “But I can give you a hint.”

“A hint?” Rikku squealed, “What’s that going to do?!”

The Fayth smiled and stared into Yuna’s eyes, “This is my story.  It’ll go the way I want it, or I’ll end it here.” Her eyes widened and the Fayth’s grin widened with it, “That is my hint to you.  Use it well.”

The light bathed him again as he disappeared and Yuna clutched her heart in anxiety.  Gippal groaned, “What the hell was that?  How is that a hint?”

“I know where they are.” Yuna said, breathless.

Rikku nodded, “Me too!”

The cousins looked at each other with broad grins, “The Chamber of the Fayth!”

---------------------------

Shuyin stalked back into the stadium and threw LeBlanc over his shoulder, carrying her back into the Chamber of the Fayth with him.  She didn’t struggle much with him as he strode passed mating monkeys and up a flight of stairs that led into a large chamber with a platform. 

“Where do I go now?” Shuyin wondered out loud.  Back when he was alive, his blitzball stadium didn’t have elevators and wild puzzles to solve and it most especially didn’t have a “Chamber of the Fayth” hidden in its depth somewhere. 

"Yuna... We're here."

"The hall of the Final Summoning."

"Go."

"Yes."

Shuyin watched in confusion as a vision of Yuna walked through him and stood on the small platform.  Several other visions appeared by him, standing and watching as Yuna descended on the platform.

“So that’s where I go…” he muttered to himself as the visions vanished and he found himself still standing in the same location with LeBlanc slung over his shoulder.  Taking a few tentative steps, Shuyin stood on the platform as it came to life and lowered him to the level below.  The door was behind him as he turned and walked into a tiny room.  His eyes were drawn downward inexplicably and he cried out, almost dropping LeBlanc in the process. 

"This isn't a Fayth. It's just an empty statue."

"That statue lost its power as a Fayth long ago.  It is Lord Zaon, the first Fayth of the Final Summoning.  What you see before you is all that remains of him.  Lord Zaon is... his soul is gone."

“Za…” Shuyin started, letting LeBlanc slide carefully to the floor so that he could run his hands gently over the glass that enclosed the body of his best friend, “Za…on…”

Shuyin’s eyes flashed and he stared at LeBlanc who was cowering like a scared girl.  He hit her until she was unconscious and then grabbed her ankle and pulled her toward him without saying a word.  He didn’t bother to lift her this time – dragging worked just as well.  Through the mystical wall curtain he and LeBlanc went until he found himself in what appeared to be the end of the world.  It looked much like the Farplane except with a lack of spirits haunting its walls. 

“Is it true?  Is she really the High Summoner?”

Shuyin spun around and stared at the female behind him.  She hadn’t changed at all.  Her blonde hair still hung so long that it nearly touched the ground and her eyes still seemed as haunted as they had been the last time he had seen her.  He smiled, “Hello Yunalesca.”

“Is it true?” she asked again, stepping closer to him.  He could see light from above shining through her on the ground.

She was a ghost.

He nodded, “Yes, it’s true.”

Yunalesca looked down at the ground and sighed, “I thought there was something familiar about him when she had defeated me two years ago.” She admitted, “But I was more interested in the boy with her that looks oddly like you do now.”

“It’s a long story.” Shuyin said with a shrug.

“I know all about it.” She said to him, “Bruttam told me what you’re doing.  That’s why I’m here.”

His eyes flashed, “So you’re going to try and stop me too, huh?”

Yunalesca shook her head, “I’m here to help you Shuyin.  They took away my purpose and I’ve been wandering around without a reason since.  I’ve committed some atrocities since my death and I can’t be with Zaon because of it.  My only way of atoning was taken from me when they decided to throw away the Yevon teachings.”

She pointed to the ground behind him and just as his eyes connected with it, the earth began to rumble.  He heard LeBlanc scream as she covered her head from the falling debris and he did the same thing.  The ground began to open until a perfectly formed circular hole appeared behind him that appeared bottomless, “What the hell?” he asked Yunalesca.

“Behold the portal to Esthar, capital of Zanarkand.” She said, lowering her hands to her sides, “The time has come, Shuyin.  It is sunset and they approach rapidly.  When you are ready, have him stand directly in front of this hole which will not be visible to anyone but you and I.” she grinned, “I’ll handle the rest.”

As she disappeared, Shuyin suddenly began to have second thoughts about his plan.  He didn’t want to have anyone else die and with Yunalesca ‘handling’ the rest, he was relatively sure that death was a pretty valid option for the do-gooders that were charging his way. 

“Oh…my head…” muttered LeBlanc as she slowly came to.  Shuyin instantly forgot all about his doubts.  He could hear the footsteps of Yuna and her friends gaining on him and he knew he had to act quickly. 

Just as they ran through the door, Shuyin grabbed LeBlanc by the throat and held her in a vice like grip a few inches off the ground. 

“Shuyin!” Yuna cried, “Let her go!”

Shuyin shook his head, “I won’t let our murderer get away with it, Lenne.” And with a grin he stared at the rest of the group one at a time, “I want all weapons on the ground where I can see them or I snap her neck.”

LeBlanc wheezed in the little oxygen Shuyin was allowing her to gain.  He didn’t want to kill her, but if he was pushed, he’d do what he had to. 

“Shuyin…”

“Shut up, Tidus!  It’s not your turn yet!  I’m not done here.” He shouted, slamming LeBlanc up against a nearby wall, forcing tears out of her eyes due to the pain. 

“Shuyin…”

He turned his head and saw that Yuna had advanced on them slowly.  With her guns on the ground behind her, she was completely unarmed but didn’t seem afraid. 

“Get away from me, Yuna!” he shouted, tightening his grip on LeBlanc’s neck. 

Yuna continued her slow assault, taking tentative steps forward, “Shuyin,” she whispered, “LeBlanc didn’t do anything wrong.”

Shuyin had never hyperventilated before, but he was pretty sure he was at that moment.  He could barely breathe; the tears seemed to be choking him as much as his hands were choking LeBlanc.  He wheezed, “I know…I know that!  But…but she’s Allyn and she killed us!”

“And that was 1000 years ago.” Yuna said gently, “I’ve forgiven her.  I think you should to.”

He slammed LeBlanc against the wall again, loosening his grip on her neck and tightening it on her shoulders as he slammed her once again, her head connecting with a sickening crack. 

“Shuyin stop it!” cried Yuna, trying desperately to peel his arms from LeBlanc but with a swipe of his hand Yuna found herself sprawled on her back. 

“You stupid bitch!” he shouted at LeBlanc, “You just couldn’t leave me alone, could you?!  You just had to fuck up my life!”

“I…I don’t….know…what…you’re talking…about…” LeBlanc sobbed, struggling weakly to get away from him. 

None of the others dared to move, afraid of what he’d do to LeBlanc of they all went after him.  For now she appeared to be as safe as possible and Yuna rose to her feet again and tried to gently talk to Shuyin, “She doesn’t remember being Allyn.” She explained, “LeBlanc isn’t evil.”

Shuyin didn’t listen to her.  His mind was focused on LeBlanc and his ability to get revenge for the torture that was heaped upon him for 1000 years.  He barely remembered why he was there.  He didn’t remember the portal or Yunalesca.  All he remembered was the piercing pain of the bullets, the agony of starvation, and the desperation to just touch Lenne’s soft skin again. 

“Why could you just leave me alone?!” he shouted, slamming his fist into the wall next to LeBlanc, “You kept saying you loved me, but you didn’t!  You left me!  I didn’t leave you!”

“Shuyin…” began Yuna.

“SHUTUP!!!!” he shrieked so loudly that it echoed against the walls.  Turning his attention back to LeBlanc he stared coldly into her eyes, “You didn’t love me.  You never loved me!  If you had loved me, you would have let me be happy with Lenne instead of going on that selfish crusade!  You would have….”

He stopped, frozen in the realization of what he had said.  His hands started to tremble and he unwittingly released his captive but he didn’t care, even as he watched her run from him into the waiting arms of Nooj.  His breathing quickened and he thought his heart was going to beat out of his chest.

“If you loved me, you’d let Tidus go!  You’d forget this damned merger and let me be happy with the man that I love instead of going on this selfish mission!”

He turned and stared at Yuna and she back at him for the longest time until he finally spoke in a hushed whisper, “You were right.  I am being selfish.”

Tears formed in her eyes and he brushed them away gently, marveling at the fact that she didn’t recoil at his touch.  She smiled slightly at him, “I understand why you did what you did.”

“Thank you for that, Yuna.” He said with a smile, “That means a lot to me.”

“Now what?” Tidus asked.

“Now, I let you have your life back.” Shuyin replied to his question as he took a step back from Yuna and said, “I meant what I told you, Yuna, on the ship.  Now I’m going to prove it.”

Blue eyes rolled up into the handsome blitzballer’s head and he stumbled backward, positioning him directly in front of the hole that none YRP and their friends knew was there.

Yuna lurched forward, “Shuyin?”

The blonde didn’t respond as he seemed to regain his control and motor functions.  He stared at his feet, then his hands, and then his eyes connected with hers, “That was a rush.”

“T…Tidus?” Yuna stammered, hope forming in her heart that burst into sheer glee when he placed his fingers in his mouth and a loud piercing whistle echoed against the walls.

Yuna made to run for him when the earth started to shake and she was thrown to the ground.  Her duel colored eyes shot upward to see Tidus struggling to remain standing even as the ground started cracking beneath their feet.  Flames shot up from between the cracks and she felt Gippal’s hands on her shoulders, pulling her back, “Back up Yuna!”

She struggled away from him, “No!  Not without Tidus!” she shouted, crawling forward until she could climb to her feet.  She saw him then, struggling against the flames to make his way toward her.

“Yuna!” he screamed, reaching out for her.  He was a mere two yards away and yet it seemed like miles as Yuna tried desperately to avoid falling rocks and debris to reach her love.  The flames shot up unexpectedly as shouts from her friends begged her back but her heart called her forward.

It seemed to happen in slow motion.  Their fingers grazed each other as the earth cracked between them and flames shot up around him, forcing her backward to tumble head over heels.  She could hear his cry get fainter and fainter until it died out and, just as quickly as it happened, the earth stopped moving and the flames vanished leaving silence in their wake. 

She scrambled to her feet and made her way over the remaining rocks and boulders that had fallen to where Tidus was last standing.  Panic rose in her chest as she scrambled on all fours around the area, searching desperately for the blue eyes she could get lost in, for the smile that made her feel giddy, for the hands that were so tender.  Searching for the man she couldn’t live without…

“Tidus!” she shrieked as she saw sword lying under a pile of rocks and boulders that had formed behind where she’d last seen him.  She pulled and tugged at the rocks and boulders, oblivious to the pain as each ripped at the delicate skin on her hands. 

“Hold on, Tidus!” Rikku cried as she in turn joined Yuna, followed by the others – except Gippal, all digging frantically through the rubble to reach him. 

Gippal wandered over to the only fire still burning, a small bonfire ignited at the center of the chamber.  His eyes caught on something fanning those crisp, clean flames and he felt vomit forming in the pit of his stomach, “He’s not over there.” He managed to mutter.

Yuna turned and stared at Gippal, “What are you talking about?  How do you know that?”

He pointed a shaking finger at what had caught his attention; a pair of sneakers – Tidus’s sneakers, some cloth from his clothes, and his Zanarkand Abe’s necklace that he never went without.  Each glowed brightly in the flames as Yuna stared, her hands shaking at her sides.  She took a cautious step closer to the flames and as she did an explosion rocked the chamber again and the flames burned higher and brighter then before, practically destroying the shoes and cloth before Yuna truly had a chance to realize that they were, indeed, Tidus’. 

“Yunie…” Rikku began but Yuna violently threw her cousin’s tender hand off of her shoulder and made a mad dash toward the flames.

“TIDUS!!!!!!!!!!!” she shrieked, the name ripping from her throat and her heart like a demon.  A terrible pain formed around her heart and she dimly thought she was having a heart attack, but she quickly realized that this pain was familiar.  It was the feeling she’d had two years before when she had lost Tidus.  It was the feeling of her heart breaking.

Her knees felt weak beneath her and she stumbled slightly, catching herself almost barely just before she hit the ground.

"Stay with me until the end.  Please."

“Not till the end.  Always.”

She dimly thought she heard his whistle, but before she could be sure Yuna fainted.

--------------------------------

AUTHOR’S NOTE:  The first chapter of Silver Wings 3: Back Into My Arms is posted.  It will be the last in the Silver Wings trilogy and I hope that everyone likes it.  It’s a little bit of a stretch with the FFX/FFVIII connection and I know that so please don’t flame me.