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[personal profile] velvetfiction
Title: Distant Rumble of Thunder
Fandom: FFX
Rating: G
Characters: Rikku, Auron
Summary: Rikku breaks. Auron puts her back together.
Warnings: Spoilers for post-Yunalesca; mildly Aurikku, if you're inclined to read things that way, but it's not really meant to be romantic


A distant rumble of thunder and the sound of rain on the tent woke me from a restless sleep. Bleary eyed, I looked over at my fellow guardian sleeping in the other bed in the small room. Lulu was fast asleep, as usual. I swear, the mage could sleep through a heard of rampaging shoopufs. It's a good thing, too - Wakka's snores could wake the dead.

With a sigh, I resigned myself to getting no more sleep that night. I grabbed couple daggers, my belt pouch, and Godhand, strapped a targe to my wrist and silently made my way out the door. Impulsive and hyperactive I might be, but stupid I ain't. I wasn't planning on venturing away from the Agency, but neither was I going to take the risk of coming upon fiends unprepared.

I nodded to the man at the counter - Rin keeps his Travel Agencies well staffed at all hours, knowing that summoners and fiends keep no regular schedule - and I made my way outside. I avoided the restoration sphere, out of habit. Wonderful things, they are - full healing for all that ails you, able to bring anyone back from the brink of death; but while they might revitalize you, they were no substitute for a good night's sleep. I didn't particularly want the jolt of adrenaline that it would provide me.

I silently crept around the tent - hey, I'm a thief, sneaking is second nature to me - and found a secluded spot, sheltered on three sides by supply crates and covered enough by the overhang of the tent that I wouldn't get soaked. The lights that shown on the outside of the Agency were muted by the soft rain that was falling over the Calm Lands, providing three or four feet of hazy visibility before being swallowed by the darkness.

I plunked myself down on the soft grass and leaned up against a stack of crates, staring out into the darkness. There was another rumble of thunder and then the flash of distant lightning illuminated the endless plains to where they fell off suddenly into a gorge. It was funny, as terrified as I am of lightning, this storm didn't seem to bother me. Perhaps the journey through the Thunder Plains had finally cured me of the debilitating fear. Or perhaps facing and defeating the unsent form of Lady Yunalesca was enough to trump such mundane terrors as a force of nature. Whatever the reason, I was able to listen to the rain and watch the darkness without being reduced to a quivering mass.

I do not know how long I sat there watching the darkness and lightning, but eventually I caught a sense of movement out of the corner of my eye. Cursing to myself for my inattentiveness, I jumped into a crouch and readied my Godhand to strike at whatever fiend had snuck up on me. I only hoped it wasn't a Malboro; most other fiends in the Calm Lands I could handle myself at this point, but one of those might give me problems.

The dark shape came closer and in the weak light resolved itself into a familiar red-clad figure.

"Tyssed, Auron" I swore, sinking back down to the ground. "Don't scare me like that!"

Unsurprisingly, my fellow guardian said nothing, merely leaning up against a stack of crates, in his typical casual-but-alert posture. I didn't expect anything else, really. Auron is a man of few words on the best of days, and not one to waste them responding to the complaints of a silly little Al Bhed girl. Since he did not seem inclined to say anything, I returned to my thoughts.

Sometime later, the silence was broken again, and for once, it wasn't by me.

"How are you?" he asked, his low voice just barely audible over the thunder. The unexpected gentleness and sincerity of the question surprised me into an honest answer.

"I'm - I'm - holding on by a thread," I replied with a lopsided smile. My voice was pitched slightly higher than usual and even I could heard the brittleness in it. He frowned at me for a moment and then put down that hideous monstrosity he calls a sword, leaning it up against the crates.

"Come here." His voice was laced with command, transforming the request into an order. And after so many months traveling together, I responded automatically. We all did, really; when Auron used that tone of voice, even Lulu obeyed without question.

He held his arms out slightly to me and suddenly I found myself wrapped in a strong embrace. This act of kindness and comfort, so unexpected, took my breath away. That final thread I had been hanging onto for dear life snapped, and I broke down crying for the first time since my mother died.

Now let me get something straight - I am my father's daughter. Pops and I both only have one way of responding to things that frustrated or upset us. We get mad. Fit throwing, machina smashing, screaming so everyone in Spira can here you, M-A-D.

But there in that oh so unexpected, oh so comfortable embrace, my anger drained away and I cried. I cried for my mother, taken from me too soon. I cried for Aunt Corrine and Lord-Uncle Braska, both taken by Sin. I cried for Keyakku and for Home. I cried for Yunie, even though we had rejected the Final Aeon and the summoner's sacrifice. And finally, I cried for the man who held me, solid and unmoving as Mt. Gagazet, who had denied himself the peace of the Farplane in order to fulfill a promise. I cried until I had no more tears, my eyes were swollen and I could hardly breathe.

Eventually my breathing slowed and my death grip on the fabric in my hands relaxed, but still I did not move. I could feel the warmth of his breath in my hair and I nearly fainted from shock when I felt him drop a kiss on the top of my head. He shifted slightly and a handkerchief suddenly materialized in front of me.

I wiped my face and toyed with the small piece of fabric in my hands, trying to work up the courage to look Auron in the face. I was completely off balance and had no idea what had just happened nor what would happen next.

"I'm-I'm s-sorry," I started as I handed him back the slightly damp cloth. He cut me off with a look, but in my head I finished the sentence. I'm sorry I'm so weak, I'm sorry I broke, I'm sorry I'm no good as a guardian, I'm sorry I want nothing more than to hide in your arms and be held.

I started to speak again, eyes downcast, when he stopped me by the simple expedient of cupping my cheek in his hand and tilting my head up, just like he had done on the banks of the Moonflow so many - was it weeks? months? it felt like lifetimes ago. I closed my eyes and leaned into his touch, only half aware of what I was doing.

"Open your eyes," he said. This time, however, it was not command that laced the rough voice, but a trace of irony, maybe even humor. He remembered too. I complied once again, though with even more hesitancy this time than I had the first time. On the banks of the Moonflow, I was preparing myself for rejection because I'm an Al Bhed - something I've had a lifetime to get used to. Now, now I wasn't sure what kind of rejection I was facing and I knew it would be all the more painful.

But when I did, I did not find rejection. Instead, the normally stony visage had softened and Auron looked almost human, rather than the embodiment of the Legendary Guardian. There was compassion in his face and perhaps even understanding.

"Rikku," he began and my eyes widened. How many other people, I wondered, had been privileged to hear these soft tones. These were not the harsh, commanding sounds of the warrior, of the guardian. This was the voice of the monk, muted and reverent, that chanted the prayers and sung the hymn; for a moment - just a moment - I understood the kind of piety that drove summoners and their guardians. And I understood, too, the kind of pain he must have been in when he confronted Yunalesca, brash and full of anger, an act more impulsive than anything I've ever been accused of.

"Rikku, do not belittle yourself so. 'Tis not cowardice to weep," he said, slipping into an older cadence of Spiran. It was an intimate dialect, used only in personal prayers by the monks. "Bravery does not mean never being afraid. 'Tis facing it, looking it in th'eye and knowing you wilt not stand down. Thou art brave and strong, so bnehlacc, perhaps stronger than any of us. Do not seek to be other than thou art, Rikku."

He looked me in the eyes for a long moment and then continued in a more normal tone. "And sometimes, being strong and brave means falling apart and trusting someone catch you and help put you back together again."

I took several slow, deep breaths, and turned my head slightly to kiss his palm. "Dryhg oui," I whispered into it. He nodded once and slowly lowered his hand and turned back to pick up his sword. By the time he turned back to me, the Legendary Guardian countenance was back in place. But it wasn't really, not to me any longer. Now that I knew what I was looking for, I could see the concern, the compassion, the humanity in every look, every movement.

"Get some rest," he said. "Tomorrow we have plans to make." With that, he melted back into the darkness, as silently as he had appeared.

I sank back down to the ground, exhausted from the emotional outburst. Idly, I played with the divots in the ground that Auron's sword had made, the only tangible proof of what had taken place. I leaned my head back on the crates and stared out into the darkness once again. This time, though, it did not feel so oppressive. Somehow the storm had become cleaning and slowly I felt the broken pieces inside of me start to knit back together. That thread I had been hanging on to was back, only now it was a full, thick rope.

I was still hanging on for dear life, but this time I knew there was at least one person on the other end, anchoring me. And maybe, just maybe, I would make it after all.


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