"I know, it makes you home sick, but it's the same there as well," Noodles said leaning against a wall of the cell. "Only not just one race is in control and we're doomed to what they are. Though, that's probably why we're here, to free them of that."
Josh sighed softly, holding his knees to his chest, "...Why is.. everything so centered on people dying...?" It was depressing to think about. Spira seemed like such a place that was full of life despite having a giant killer whale tearing everything up. There was such personality everywhere. But underneath the bright colors and different atmospheres, there was something much darker.
"It's been that way for over a thousand years, there's no changing their minds unless we change the world," Noodles said. Everytime that Josh went to do a sending, he felt sick to his stomach, nervousness and excitement all at once. He wouldn't be able to hide much longer, not with the end coming so quickly.
"If it's been that way for over a thousand years, why hasn't anyone tried to think of anything!?" Josh stared up at him.
"Because when you have people so devote in a belief they get scared if it changes and it's wrong. This thing that supposedly has been protecting them is suddenly a lie. They try to cling to something, a false hope, that will make them sleep better at night," Noodles explained. "That's why they won't think of anything, that and add in the politics of the matter and it's a vice grip that almost no one can break."
Josh shivered and went silent, looking back over the bars and the edge of the cell. "...We have to break it... These people cant just keep living like this..." He sighed deeply and shut his eyes.
"...I hope Lindsey's okay... ..She looked... off when we last saw her... What do you think it could mean...?" he asked.
"He's using her for something, something big and I don't think it will be easy to deal with," Noodles said. Moments like these, quiet, contemplative ones that made his soul ache. It would only be a little bit longer, just push a little bit harder. He and Dexter would be home then, not the same home that the others hoped for, but it would be home. Staring off at the bars, he fell quiet and cold for a moment. How was he going to tell the others? What about Demi?
"She didn't even flinch... It was almost as if.. she were dead..." Josh rasped.
Amidst the quiet came foot prints over the metal bridge that passed through the middle of the dungeon from one end to the other through all the cells that hung on either side of it. Maester Kinoc came to their cell and unlocked it. He had four guards with him. Armed warrior monks. "Come out," he said, "Your sentence has been decided."
"Sentence?" Noodles snorted fixing the older man with a look. "Don't you mean execution?"
Kinoc snickered, "Come now, what kind of man would do something so cruel?"
"You would," Noodles said flatly, keeping his stare on the maester.
Josh and Noodles were taken from their cell, Dexter and Demi as well. They were dropped, separated into the Via Purifico, a dank, dark prison born from ruins of the ancient end of the city underneath the rebuild. It consisted of small rooms and mainly long narrow halls. The area was infested with fiends and when Josh was left alone, he moved as quickly as he could to find the others so that they could escape together. When he found Noodles, he breathed a deep sigh of relief, "We have to get the others and get out of here... maybe we can find Lindsey here as well."
"First we find Dexter and Demi, I'm sure they're here somewhere," Noodles said keeping his sword drawn. "We need to stay moving, the fiends'll find us easier if we stay in one place."
Josh nodded and breathed, "Okay..." He follow Noodles as they moved, not wanting to question or make any of the decisions right then.
Demi and Dexter sprinted through the maze, cutting through the fiends, sure that if they moved quickly enough that they would find their friends soon. Huffing and puffing as they turned a corner, Dexter ran into Josh. "Oh thank God," he breathed steading the summoner.
"Big-fiend," Demi panted. "Big-bird, no-seseame street."
"I'm not quite sure what that means, but okay," Noodles chukled kissing her on the head as they kept moving. "There's an exit around here, if I'm right," he said leading the party till they came to a room. "Almost there."
"That hallway looks suspicious," Josh said, pointing to a narrow hallway lit with red lights. "Let's follow it?" Josh looked up at Noodles.
"We'll keep going," Noodles nodded as he lead the way, being careful to keep the others behind him.
The red hallway lead to a massive room, which branched off into another hallway that lead to a gate in the ceiling. Upon breaking through and climbing up, the group found themselves on the Highbridge of Bevelle, the end of the bridge leading back to Macalania Forest.
"We're out!" Josh shouted happily.
Noodles swiftly lead them up to the cold forest. The sight he saw made him stop. Seymour stood in his robes, holding a bloodied and battered Lindsey still in her wedding dress. "Oh God," he breathed as he stopped the party. Demi gasped at the sight of her friend, exactly the way she looked from her dream. She could have stopped this, she could have made Lindsey listen. It was all her fault.
Seymour held Lindsey carelessly, her head hanging from her neck, coiled and stretched almost like that of a bird's. He smirked at the party stumbling before him. "It's good to see you made it out, but it appears you're too late. See what living in this world has done to her?"
He looked down at the unconscious brunette in his arms, "She longs for sleep eternal. Freedom from this painful existence called life. This is why I need her... and it is why, now, that I realize, that I need you as well, Josh. We will go to Zanarkand, the lost city of the dead... With death on our side, we will save Spira... and for this... I will take from you your strength, Josh... your life! And become the next Sin! I will destroy Spira... I will save it!"
Josh stared at him, pale and cold. "You're... you..." he breathed, staring at Lindsey's limp form, "You're.. you're fucking nuts..." Within him, his anger rose, "You monster... you'll pay for what you've done to her! I'll kill you!!"
"Josh!" Noodles said keeping his eye on Seymour. "You won't be able to do it alone, but. . . We can all do it," he gripped his sword tight. "Seymour you don't belong in this world anymore. It's our job to make sure you go on to whatever hell is waiting for you."
Seymour's smirk faltered and he narrowed his eyes. "Unpleasant... Well then... I'll give to you your deaths... You seem to want it so." He grit his teeth hard then, his and Lindsey's bodies glowing together as he levitated up into the air. When the light died down, Seymour's form held a metallic look. he was bigger with longer claws and Lindsey joined with him at the torso, her upper torso hanging from his chest, arms raised and buried merged just before the elbow into his shoulders. She held the same look as he, their skins seeming to be engraved with symbols of Yevon. Lindsey's eyes opened wide, glowing white and vacant as her dark hair hung in front of her face.
"We'll have to fight him," Noodles said. "Aim around Lindsey! The only way we'll defeat him is if we weaken him and get Lindsey out of him." He moved into postion, the others going to theirs. "Josh! We'll need you to heal us till it's time for you to summon your aeon."
"I... I can't..." Josh stared painfully at Lindsey hanging helplessly from Seymour's chest, "..I can't hurt her..."
Seymour started out the fight with powerful elemental spells, double and triple-casting with each turn. Josh healed the others as the damage came, his heart aching as he just watched the girl he loved just... be held up and used as a shield.
When enough damage was taken, Seymour absorbed energy from Lindsey, causing her to cry out an animalistic sound, her body jerking upward from the pain before going limp in exhaustion.
"No!" Josh cried, heart breaking.
"I'm sorry Josh," Noodles said before rushing Seymour, slicing just above Lindsey's arm before twirling to slice above the other, freeing her upper body momentarily while dealing a great hit to Seymour. "I won't let you kill anyone else Seymour!" He roared as he plunged his sword just above Lindsey's head into the maester. "If I die, then I'm taking you with me," he grunted jumping back.
Just as Lindsey was cut from Seymour, her arms were brought back up again, her lower body already joined and merged in with his middle. He drew energy from her again, his health draining from Noodles', Dexter's and Demi's attacks. "Why sir!" he said, seemingly unfazed, "I believe you are already dead!"
Demi froze turning to look at Noodles. He. . . He was an unsent? That meant, Dexter was too. There was no time to run off and cry, her friend was in danger and needed their help. Gritting her teeth, she kept up the fight. "Josh! Use Bahamut!" Noodles cried as he took a hard blow. "JOSH!"
"I cant.. I can't..!" Josh gripped hard at his hair, closing his eyes tightly. Despite his own words, the dark clouds above them opened up, the large dragon spreading his wings and growling before he shot down towards the earth, landing proudly on his feet and roaring once more before crossing his arms about his chest. Despite his Summoner's wish for the girl to be safe, Bahamut couldn't promise anything. Being a terrible beast, Bahamut couldn't hold his own power back. He growled deeply, holding out his arms. His palms and the claws of his wings gathered energy before thrusting them forward, hitting and damaging both Seymour and Lindsey, though it was enough to push Seymour over the edge.
Seymour disappeared in a thick cloud of pyreflies with a choking gasp, Lindsey's body falling from its position in a heap. The gray metalic faded away to her torn wedding dress, body limp and bloodied, bruises covering her along with cuts and gashes. Josh ran towards her, falling to his knees at her side and pulling her into his arms. Bahamut glided forward, mere inches off the ground before landing gently behind them. He bent forward slightly, his large fanned wings curving over them protectively.
Noodles shook off his anger for now, it wasn't time for him to chew the boy out. Handing out hi-potions to Dexter and Demi. He paused when he stood in front of Demi. "Demi. . . I-"
"Don't speak to me," she said softly, hurt beyond belief as she went to check on her friend. Feeling the same stabbing pain from the farplane as he watched her turn her back to him to see Lindsey, he knew he'd just blown it.
Once Josh got himself together, he dismissed his new aeon and stood, Lindsey carefully cradled in his arms. Without a word, he headed back down the Highbridge toward the Macalania woods. He headed towards one of the pools, carefully laying Lindsey down against a rock. Gently, he stroked her cheek, "God... what did he do to you..."
"He broke her," Demi said softly kneeling on the other side. "He broke her and glued her back together they way he wanted her." Her hands fluttered for a moment before she pulled out a piece of cloth and dipped it in the pool and wrung it out, folding it and putting it on Lindsey's forehead.
Josh gently washed the heavy makeup from Lindsey's face, uncovering bruises and cuts on her face. he washed further down, taking off her wedding collar and exposing bite marks and more bruises and red spots. Peeling her dress off revealed more signs of abuse.
"Oh. . . God. . ." Demi breathed jumping up and leaving, her eyes burning from tears. Darting off to a sphere pool of her own, she fell to her knees sobbing. Everything was tumbling down around her and there was no one to make it stop. Her dreams meant nothing except everyone was going to their place except her. That she was spireling out of control and she was alone.
With Lindsey stripped, Josh carefully carried her into the cleansing water. He prayed quietly as he held her up, her head resting against her shoulder. Her injuries slowly healed, the blood on her face and between her legs slowly dissolving into the water. "He hurt you..." he said quietly, "...but I will never... let him touch you again..."
Noodles followed the flailing Al Bhed girl to where she sat sobbing into her hands by the pool. Slowly he made his way to them, his boots jingled with his armor as he knelt behind her. "Demi. . . I am sorry," he sighed softly wrapping his arms around her.
"You bastard!" She cried turning on him and hitting in the chest, though not hard. "You and Seymour are both bastards. You leave me and he take my best friend." Noodles held her sobbing form close, rocking her slightly.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry for leaving you," he whispered.
Josh was silent as he held Lindsey close, letting the water merge with his magic energies and heal her wounds. After a good long while, her eyes slowly opened and blinked, her eyelashes gently tickling his neck. He looked down at her, holding her up. She looked up at him weakly before bringing an arm up over his shoulder and laying her head back down against his collarbone. He said nothing, except for kissing her head softly and bringing water up with his fingers to heal the wounds on her face.
"I didn't know how to tell you," Noodles said as he shifted to Demi sitting in his lap. "I was scared. . . Scared of this happening. Scared of losing you."
"Noodles you act like you lo-" Demi was cut off by his soft lips on hers. His scruffed rubbing against her chin as they sat there holding each other. "Please don't hide from me anymore," she whispered breaking away before kissing him again, this time with more 'umph.'
"I promise I won't," Noodles said returning the kiss.
In Josh's arms, Lindsey started to shiver, her weak grip on him tightening oh so slightly. Looking down at her, Josh backed up and waded back to the shallower waters, taking off his doublet and putting it on her. "You're not going back into that dress... not while I'm here..." he said softly as he lifted her up out of the water. He walked around, hoping maybe Noodles, Demi or even Dexter would have some extra clothes for her. Whatever it was that he could get, he needed to get her in it and warm fast. Happening upon Dexter in a small clearing, he looked to the blond man, worn and drained, "She needs clothes."
Dexter had just gotten a fire going. "K," he said digging in his pack, only an extra shirt to spare. "Here," he grunted going through Demi's and Noodles's packs as well. Finding an extra gi in Noodles's pack and a pair of short along with boots from Demi's. "Huh?" He frowned taking out the candle from the Al Bhed's pack. Shrugging, he put it back and helped Josh with the clothes. Playing gentleman, he kept his eyes averted till Josh had her womanly parts covered and helped him put the clothes on.
"You won't be going home with us. . . Will you?" She sniffled, burrying her face in his neck.
"I. . . I don't know," he said rubbing her back, trying to sooth her.
"So what am I suppose to do when I get home and you're not there?" She frowned up at him.
"Think of me when you're with your hand?" He only earned a glared. "Ok, not as funny as it sounded in my head."
"Is that why you've gone Auron on us? Because you're unsent?"
"I see him in my dreams, he tells me what I need know to help us along. Sometimes he's hard to follow sometimes he's not," he sighed. "Most of the time it's hard."
"How?" Demi asked.
"Because he doesn't want me doing this," he leaned down kissing her passionetly.
Gently, Josh removed his Doublet from Lindsey and wrapped her up in the spare clothes taken from the other three's packs. Lindsey slowly opened her eyes again, looking up and over at Dexter, eyes half-lidded and slightly watery. With a sad look, she looked away, burying her face into Josh's chest.
"You guys should rest," Dexter said rolling out the sleeping bags for them, putting them together. "I'll take watch." He could only imagine what Noodles and Demi were doing and hoped it wasn't going to get them all killed.
Josh nodded silently as he laid Lindsey down on one of the bags. He laid down gently with her, half on top of her to protect her, half off to keep from crushing her broken body. "Sleep," he whispered softly, "I'll protect you..." Lindsey looked up at him, eyes watery and tired, and nodded before laying her head down and closing her eyes.
It was late and Noodles and Demi still weren't back. Dexter grumbled under his breath. He'd go look for them, but then Josh and Lindsey would be left unprotected. Hoping for the best, he finally heard the leaves rustle. Noodles and Demi came walking out, their hair all over the place and their clothes. . . Well they certainly weren't exactly what they were wearing. Noodles didn't have a shirt on and Demi was wearing his gi. Quirking an eyebrow he gave the two a look. "Oh Dexter. . ." Noodles said softly eyeing the sleeping pair. "Um. . . You can sleep for a bit if you want now." Demi just blushed going to her bag and wriggling into it before Noodles sat next to her.
"Yeah, ok," the blonde said hiding a smirk as he settled into his bag for the night.
Despite Josh and the covering of the sleeping bag--including the warmth of the clearing itself brought on by the mixing air of the lukewarm Calm Lands beyond--Lindsey was noticeably shivering. Josh was asleep, holding onto the girl, seemingly unaware of the brunette's movements.
Noodles spied her movement. Watching as Demi's chest rose and fell evenly, he got up and went to check on her. "Lindsey?" He said softly putting a had softly on her shoulder, noting that she was wearing his extra gi. "Lindsey, wake up hun," he said shaking her lightly.
Lindsey jerked to the touch, the only sign of being startled being the voiceless sharp intake of breath. She looked up, face half hidden by her hair and Josh covering her. Her eye looked up at him, frightened and ringed with remnants of burst capillaries underneath that the waters of the Macalania water hadn't healed all the way. Her eye was like an open window, showing the man what happened to her while in Seymour's custody, whether she wanted it or not.
"I'm sorry I wasn't there to stop it," he said softly, brushing her hair out of her face slightly. "Go back to sleep." Sighing, he leaned down and kissed her on the head before going over to Demi's pack and digging for her candle. He had known she made it when he started to dream about Auron back at the chocobo inn. Seeing the candle, he figured Demi had known what she was doing with it. Placing it under her pillow softly, he retreated back to his spot by Demi where he sat guarding.
Lindsey looked from Noodles, shame of all levels bleeding from the transforming look on her face. She turned her head further against Josh, weakly holding onto him, her breathing the only signs of her weeping.
Noodles stayed guard well through the night, only closing his eyes for a few moments before the others started to stir. Getting food ready for them, he made sure the fire was well fed before he started up with the usual noise making. They had a pilgramige to finish, whether Josh knew it or not, and it would still take them a few days to to reach Mt. Gagazet. If they wanted to hurry, they'd have to leave now.
Josh was awake, watching Lindsey sleep. He was petting her hair gently, leaning on one elbow and laying on his side. He was a little worried about how long she would be out, but the smell of food woke her up easily. She hadn't eaten in days, not since the last time they ate before she was picked up at Bikanel. She had been given water and nothing else.
"Here," Noodles said handing a plate to both Josh and Lindsey filled with food. "Eat, we'll be leaving soon and you need your strength." Kicking Dexter awake like he usually did, the oldest guardian moved on to Demi, gently shaking her awake and a kiss on the head. "Morning beauty," he smiled softly as she blinked her eyes open.
"S'mornin'?" She grunted. He chuckled and nodded, handing her a plate of food.
Josh took both his and Lindsey's plates, setting his own down before holding Lindsey up and holding her plate for her. Still wanting to retain some sort of dignity, Lindsey insisted on feeding herself. She had a little trouble holding utensils, but with a shaky hand and bruised wrist, Lindsey was able to slowly eat, focusing on nothing else. Josh kept her from eating too fast, not wanting her to get sick just because the Guado decided to let her starve. "Is it good?" he asked quietly, stroking her hair. Silently, she nodded as she continued to eat.
"How're her wounds?" Noodles asked Josh as he snuffed out the campfire before taking his gi from Demi and putting it on again. Adjusting her tank top, Demi grabbed up her vest and put buckles it back up as she finished eating, making sure that everyone's packs were good to go.
"Some healed last night... but.. I fear some of her wounds may never heal..." Josh said softly, not looking up. Lindsey was done with her food and Josh ate his, letting her rest against him.
"Lindsey can you walk?" Noodles asked bending down to kneel next to her. "We need to leave as soon as possible and if you can't walk, we'll have to wait till you can."
Lindsey looked up at Noodles, silent for a moment, almost not sure what to say or do. She opened her mouth to speak, the only sound coming out a strained squeak. She shut her mouth and looked away, shame masking her face.
"We'll wait for the day," Noodles said. "We can wait a day. Just rest, you need it." Getting up, he grabbed his sword and secured it to his back in it's sheath. "Dexter you keep guard with Demi for fiends, I'm going to go hunt for some food. Shouldn't be too much at the moment, but I'd rather be safe than sorry."
"K," the two blondes nodded as they sat and kept an eye out.
Josh watched Noodles leave before slipping out from underneath the brunette. He stooped down next to her and took her arms in his hands, "Let's try to see if you can walk..." She nodded to him slowly, holding onto him as he hoisted her up to her feet. She held onto him as she looked down at the grass beneath her feet. Her legs wobbled a little as she tried to stand on her own, Josh's hands on her arms gently pulling away.
Demi smiled at the two briefly before turning to Dexter. "Let me see your claws, I wanna add something to them," she said before grabbing her pack and digging out a small coil of line.
"Ok," he said curiously as he handed over her claws. "What are you gonna do to them?"
"I'm gonna go Batman on them and give you a grapple gun like thing in case you need to scale walls or mountains or keep from falling off something hihg," Demi said as she got her tools out as well and got to work.
"Ok. . . I guess," he shrugged.
Josh helped Lindsey walk, holding her and walking slowly with her, watching her face as they moved together. She stared down at the grass, eyes blurring up and not blinking. Her face paled as tears came, hands coming up to cover her face. Josh looked over at her, "Lindsey, what's wrong...?" He turned to her, holding her shoulders, going down with her as she sank to the floor. He never knew the brunette to be this... fragile. She was usually rigid, to the point of having a near-god complex.
Demi looked back at her shoulder, but resisted running to her friend. She would be waved off by Josh with some sort of remark or snap, so she left him to it as she worked on Dexter's weapons, biting her lip to keep herself in check. "Good job," Dexter leaned over and smiled at her.
Josh knelt down in front of Lindsey, her weeping silent in her voiceless state. He wrapped his arms around her and held her close, "It's okay... I won't let him hurt you again..." He held her and stroked her hair, pressing his lips and nose down against her head. She buried her face into Josh's chest, holding onto him as if for dear life.
Demi gritted her teeth as she stayed in her spot. Lindsey didn't need another perosn hovering, Josh was doing a good job of helping her along and getting her better. Swinging her attention back to her taks of modifying Dexter's claws, she concentrated on the screws and line, making sure it wouldn't snap or break.
Josh held Lindsey tightly until she settled down, pulling back to gently wipe away her tears and whispering soft, sweet nothings to her to soothe her withered spirit. Carefully, he stood and pulled her up with him to help her walk some more.
"Ok," Demi said shining it a bit before handing the claw back to Dexter. "Test it out and see how it works and I'll work on it some more."
"Can do mah little mechanical genius," he grinned as he adjusted to his arm and aimed it at a tree. Gripping the lever, he squeezed his fist and the grappling hook shot out at the tree, planting itself into the bark and wood.
"Now flick the button by your thumb," she said pointing to the tiny switch. He nodded and was quickly dragged to the tree. "It works," he groaned from the upper branches.
Josh let Lindsey go, allowing her to walk around by herself. Her energy was coming back rather quickly, but Josh stuck by in case she lost her footing or if her feet gave out beneath her. Despite his happiness for her, he felt sick to his stomach. How could Seymour brutalize her to the point where she seemed had to learn everything from scratch?
Demi made a face running over and quickly scaling the tree. "Here," she said helping him get the hooks out of the tree.
"Thanks, at least it works now," Dexter said shaking his head before the both dropped to the ground.
Josh helped Lindsey sit down when she was done. They both sat in silence, Josh running his fingers through her hair as she sat with him.
"Wanna try it again?" Demi asked.
"Is my piss yellow?" Dexter grinned. The blond girl just stood there for a moment with a disturbed face. "Ok never mind that," he waved his hand.
"That kind of killed the moment there," Demi said scratching her nose.
Josh and Lindsey didn't pay attention, only sitting there and waiting for Noodles to get back.
Noodles trudged out of the forest, hauling meat in his gi. He had it slung over his shoulder with the blood running down his back slightly. "Hey there sexy," Demi through him a wink as he chuckled and set the meat down by the ashes of the camp fire.
"Could you go get some fire wood Demi?" He asked as he started to cleaned his sword so he could slice up the meat better.
"Sure," she nodded, getting up and trotting off into the woods.
Lindsey flinched at the affectionate term. Turning to Josh, she buried her face into his chest, shutting her eyes tightly an curling inward towards him. He only sighed softly and rubbed her back.
"Hey Lindsey, how're you doing?" Noodles asked as he cleaned his sword, getting ready to slice the meat to cook.
Lindsey didn't even try to respond. Josh looked up at Noodles with a defeated look on his face, "..She can walk, if only a little... but her voice is gone..."
"It'll be back," Noodles said putting his sword up. "She's strong, she just needs time is all."
"How long does it take for someone to recover from what she's gone through?" Josh almost snapped, arms around Lindsey and hands covering her ears. Despite that, she still heard him, but didn't make it apparent.
"It takes a while, she's just in shock now," Noodles said giving Josh a look. "These things don't heal over night Josh. As for how long it takes, ask Demi, she knows."
Demi was the last person Josh wanted to even think of consulting about anything at this point. Silently, he stood, helping Lindsey up, her swords in his belt, before taking her from the clearing.
Demi grunted as she broke the branches, making smaller pieces to carry back to camp.
Josh took Lindsey back to the pool from the night before and took her clothes off. She watched him, not resisting as he gently peeled the clothing from her skin before doing the same with his own clothes. Taking her hand, he took her into the water, wrapping his arms around her as they floated, heads and shoulders above the surface. Lindsey blushed slightly, at the sight of a naked Josh, and the feel of his fuzzy torso against hers. She looked up into his eyes, their matching almond irises meeting and locking. "...They told me everything..." he said softly, looking down at her.
She blinked in confusion.
"...About Sin... About the Final Aeon... About what happens in the end," he said softly. He brought a hand from under water to gently pet her cheek as her eyes watered up, "...And I know that... you probably never would have rushed me into this without me knowing... and just let it happen... right...?"
She nodded, tears lining her face.
"Why didn't you tell me straight off...?" he asked, knowing she couldn't speak, "...Did you want to protect me...? from the truth...? It's a terrible reality isn't it... thousands of years... thousands upon thousands of summoners dying... in a fight that never ends..."
She nodded again.
"You wouldn't have just let it happen... would you," he said, looking at her.
She shook her head, face lowered towards the surface of the water, rings forming around the impact of her tears dropping from her face.
"I knew you wouldn't..." he said with a gentle smile, "You have more character than that..."
Lindsey looked up at Josh, eyes reddening. He rose a hand to wipe away the brunette's tears and ducked his head to catch her gaze, "...We can do this together... We can beat this... I want you to be strong... okay?"
She nodded burying her face into his collarbone.
Demi came back with the fire wood, plopping the big pile next to the ring of rocks and ashes getting to work building another blazer to cook on. "So I guess Josh and Lindsey are off having their alone time?" She asked as she started to fire.
"Yep," Noodles nodded, wrapping the meat in large plant leaves to cook the meat with.
"Ok," she said as she helped him start dinner. "Think we can go on tomorrow?"
"Yeah," he nodded. They both knew what would happen at the end of the journey and neither of them wanted it.
The air was quiet around the pool as Josh and Lindsey simply floated in the water, ensnared in each other's embraces and nothing else. Josh had his eyes on the sky, while Lindsey was resting against him, head down and eyes closed, hands on his back and nose against his collarbone. "I'm... happy I met you..." he said softly. She looked up at him, opening her eyes. He looked back down at her, smiling gently, "...and I'm happy that... you're my guardian."
"Hey Demi, thanks for hooking me up with this," Dexter smiled as he came walking over to them. "It's working great."
"No problem," she smiled. "I'll have to fashion some sheaths for Lindsey, so she can carry her swords."
"There's hide just outside the camp from where I skinned the fiend," Noodles pointed to some shrubbery.
"Ok," Demi nodded as she got to work.
"..I know that.. you're not all too fond of my songs..." Josh said softly, her head back down against his shoulder. "..but if not for the song... at least let me sing as myself to you..."
Lindsey closed her eyes and nodded, breathing deeply.
Softly, he sang, hand gently running little patterns over the skin of her back.
"Do you think. . . Josh'll continue the pilgramige?" Demi asked as she worked on fixing the sheaths.
"I hope he does," Dexter said. "I'm sorry Demi. . . I just. . . None of us belong here, no matter how we got here." The young girl only nodded as she continued her work, trying to keep her mind else where.
Josh and Lindsey were soon out of the pool, drying each other off before dressing back up and heading back to camp. Lindsey's stride was a little smoother, though she still held Josh's hand for more than just romantic reasons. He held onto her just as tightly, for both warmth and support.
Coming back to the clearing, Josh put an arm around Lindsey's shoulders. She was smiling a little up at him, certainly more at ease it seemed.
"Food's ready," Noodles said standing back up as he pulled the last of the meat out of the fire. "There's some fruit and meat and water," he pointed to the three containers on the grouned next to the fire. "It'll be dark soon and we need the rest for tomorrow. We'll be crossing the Calm Lands tomorrow. That's a day's journey, two if we keep at least a moderate pace."
Josh and Lindsey sat down, helping themselves to a little food and water. Lindsey was at least calmer than she was earlier. "What's the Calm Lands?" Josh asked.
"The Calm Lands are were the final battle against Sin was once fought. There's a canyon to the north called the 'Scar' where Sin broke through the eart fighting previous summoners, a small Al Bhed shop in the middle, Remiem Temple to the southeast, then there's a monster arena to the east, and to the northeast is a bridge that will take us to Mt. Gagazet. There's a path that goes under the bridge that'll lead us to a temple where you'll get your next Aeon, Yojimbo. He's picky and you have to pay him to fight, but he's well worth it." Noodles explained as he sat and ate.
"Oh... Is.. is that where I'll be fighting Sin then...?" Josh asked quietly, wrapping an arm around Lindsey's shoulders as she ate.
"No, it'll be later on. We'll go up Mt. Gagazet and we'll go from there," the gray and black haired man said.
"Okay..." Josh sighed softly as he started to eat.
"I'll take watch tonight first then Dexter'll take second, you guys just rest up, you'll need all your strength for tomorrow," Noodles said getting everyone settled.
Josh nodded silently. When Lindsey was finished, he kissed her and had her lay down. Josh finished up his meal and laid down behind her, spooning her and claiming her and her space as his own. He growled softly as he nuzzled her comfortably, Lindsey relaxing underneath him and drifting easily off to sleep.
Noodles smiled at the two before he sat on a rock to stay watch for half the night.
Lindsey was last to wake up the next morning. Josh woke her with a kiss and helped her up, giving her her swords and fixing her hair.
Demi had hoisted her pack onto her back before going over to Lindsey. "Here you go, lost your sheaths, so I made you some," she said softly handing Lindsey the stiff leather holders.
"Is everyone almost ready?" Noodles asked as he helped Dexter get everything cleared up.
Lindsey gingerly took the sheathes, looking at Demi with an unsteady face before giving her a slow nod. Josh helped her install the sheathes and helped her sheathe her swords. "We are ready..." Josh said.
Demi gave her a soft smile and a nod back as she walked away. "Ok," Noodles said as he started to lead the way away from their camp towards the Calm Lands. It was hilly, reminding Dexter and Noodles of Ireland almost with the green and hills. Keeping his sword out, Noodles kept an eye out and alert as Demi brought up the rear, with Dexter off to the side, letting Josh and Lindsey stay in the middle.
Lindsey smiled lightly at the sight of the Calm Lands. It was beautiful, and all over ran wild chocobos under the watchful eye of the rider far up in the west on her own trained bird. She wanted to run out over the grassy fields... but she was weak and couldn't concentrate on any one thing. Her mind raced all over the place, about Josh, the party, Seymour, Jyscal, Sin... Spira. Home. She held onto Josh as they moved, looking out with obvious interest as they came upon the Calm lands.
"This is probably as close to Ireland as I'll ever get," Demi said smiling at her surroundings.
"I'll take you-" Noodles started but stopped. Biting his lip he forced himself to stay looking forward and not at the hurt expression on Demi's face.
"I'll take a picture for you," Demi said. "I'll. . . I'll go and I'll take a picture and bring it to wherever you are, so we can be there together as much as we can." Her voice cracked a moment before she squeezed her eyes shut and bit her tongue, making her throat stop getting tight and lumpy. "I'll figure something out."
"Let's go," Josh said, holding Lindsey's hand and guiding her down the ramping fault of earth to the vast plains, "We're not going to get to Gagazet just talking."
Demi bit her tongue when just a few days ago he was so eager to give up his pilgramige. Of course she was Demi, why should it matter if she's in pain or not? She's the bitch of the group that no one wants. Keeping her smart, spiteful, and more than likely VERY colorful remarks in her head, she kept up the back of the group, making sure that Josh and Lindsey didn't get attacked from behind.
As the group descended upon the plateau of the Calm Lands, the group of chocobos dispersed and fled out onto the plains. Throughout fights with fiends as they moved onward, Lindsey's skills in combat appeared less than half of what it used to be. She couldn't concentrate, the trauma and vivid memory of her rape interfering with her usual prowess and disturbing her out of the will to fight.
Demi knew what her friend was going through, she wanted to talk to her, just them two. Though her chances were slim to none with Josh permantly attached to her side. So she stayed back, determined not to get her head bit off by the summoner because he decided to be guard dog from hell.
By the time nightfall was coming, the group had fallen upon the small Al Bhed camp, one of Rin's handy travel agencies. It would be the very last one they'd see on their way to Zanarkand. The group was safe from fiends even though the center was outside and in the open. The area had been layered and sprinkled with Purifying Salts to keep fiends at bay. Josh had left Lindsey at the camp to help with food gathering.
The brunette was comfortable in her sleeping bag, looking into the bonfire. Despite her relaxed face, in her mind she was less than peaceful.
Dexter and Noodles had gone out with Josh, leaving Demi and Lindsey alone at the camp. Not that Demi minded, she wanted to talk to her, clear the air so to speak. Settling down next to her lying friend Demi sighed. "I know. . . It's hard, it will be for a while. It does get better though, my dreams don't have to tell me that," Demi said softly as she slid her shades off to let her eyes adjust to the firelight.
Lindsey tensed up a little, staring at the dancing flames. She spoke, voice husky and cracked, "...my first sexual experience... was with a man... who wanted to destroy the world... using me..." She shivered, "..it hurt so bad... he just forced it in... and he wouldn't stop... he wouldn't stop at all..." She gripped hard at the grass under her hand.
"I. . . I know," Demi nodded. "They think they can just take it from you, like it's something like money or clothes. That it doesn't matter what you feel as long as they get what they want in the end. The one thing he can't take from you. . . Is your choice. You chose to fight back, you never stopped fighting either, did you? They can hold you down and kick you, spit on you, say you want it because of your body, but they can't take away your choice to say 'no.' Your body hurts and so does your heart, but he won't ever take away the fact that he got it because you didn't want to give it up. You're still. . . You're still you Linds. No matter what anyone says, hold your head high, show him up. Let him know that he lost and you won. It was just a battle in a big war, but I'm fighting right there beside you. So is Josh and Noodles and Dexter. He may have one that small step, but he'll lose everything. I guarantee it."
"..I feel like a whore...." Lindsey whimpered, eyes tearing up as she stared unblinking into the fire, "..a dirty fucking skank..."
"You're not, if you were. . . You wouldn't feel this way. You wouldn't have guilt. You did everything you could to stop it. If anything, that makes you higher than a virgin," Demi said. "You've got a guy that loves you dispite what's happened. He's helping you heal and mend you. Josh isn't going to leave you when we go home. Hell give him a few days if that and he'll be at our door step even. It sucks for a while, it's different for each person. I got over my ordeal in just a day. Of course I have a big head and uber boat of confidence to almost arragence, but I didn't let him win. If I had just curled into a ball and cried for days and days into months and years, then he wins. Don't let Seymour win."
"...that doesn't help..." Lindsey curled up further. The memory of Seymour leering down at her, her limbs tied and the sheering pain between her legs was just too vivid. The pain of his teeth on her neck, shoulders and breasts was still too real for her to forget. "...you'll never know... the way he looked at me... ...what he said... it's not about winning... or losing.... he took my human rights away from me... when.. he was on me... I didnt care about.. ..anything else.. Demi.. I wanted to die..." she crawled up onto her friend, clinging to her for dear life, eyes blinded with tears and bottom lip trembling, "Demi... ...I'm so fucking scared..."
"Shh," Demi said wrapping her arms around Lindsey. "It's ok, he can't hurt you anymore. I won't let him, Josh won't let him, Dexter won't let him, and Noodles won't let him. We'll kill him or die protecting you from him. We'll get home and he'll never be able to touch you again. EVER."
Lindsey only shivered, sniffling as she clung to her friend. She shut her eyes tightly, shivering and whimpering in the night air. She curled up with her friend, quieting a little to the comfort efforts.
"When we get home, we'll get a dog. A big dog, one that rips balls off of guys if we tell him too," Demi said. "We'll get lots of choclate, get a big fondue pot, and dip strawberries in it, pretzels too. Maybe invite a certain opera boy over and have a romatic movie and lots of cuddling on the sofa. I'll be out back in the hammock, even though we don't have one now we will then."
Lindsey nodded, sniffling and cloudy-headed. She just wanted to get home and sleep in her own bed. She knew the road ahead would be tough, but restrictions would soon be lifted and they'd only be closer to defeating Sin and going back home.
"First thing when we get back, I'm going to get a baconater, that big ass piece of meat and cheese and sauce," Demi said. "Go hug my truck and blare my music as loud as I possibly can, then pass our dirty and stinky in my bed."
Lindsey was calming down, eyes staring at the fire while being close to Demi. Josh, Dexter and Noodles were returning, coming back with slices of a massive Anacondaur, it's eye having been gorged out after it's death in order to prevent any accidental petrification. Josh insisted on keeping everything of the beast in hopes of using its bones and leather skin to fabricate new armor for Lindsey, as well as maybe the eye... perhaps they could do something with that.
"I hope you girls like giant lizard alamode," he said, letting Dexter and Noodles haul up the massive body while he held the severed head.
"Oh God!" Demi cried. "He killed Godzilla!"
"Pretty damn near close," Dexter grunted with Noodles as they dropped it just on the outside of camp. "God fucking damn that thing's heavy."
"It's like a fucking dinosaur," Noodles nodded, quickly getting to work skinning and cleaning it to eat.
"I think you left Destoroyah alone out there," Demi eyed the head. "It's like it's socket follows me where ever I go," she said weaving her upper body.
Lindsey pushed up and scooted away from Demi, wiping hair and tears from her face as she huddled deeper into her own sleeping bag. She looked up at Josh as he sat the head down and moved over to kiss her, "You okay?"
"So I guess it'd meat, meat, or meat tonight," Demi said taking a few slices of the raw muscle and slapping them on a hot, flat rock to cook them.
"Oooo, I'm thinking meat," Dexter said as he helped Noodles finish skinning and deboning the beast.
Lindsey silently nodded, nudging her face against his neck. "We'll be able to make you some new armor out of this... what do you think?" he asked with a smile on his face.
She smiled a little and nodded again, silent still.
"You'll be like this kick ass dragon slayer/guardian," Demi grinned as Dexter handed her the skin as she got to work on it immediatly. "No one will mess with you because you will look too damn awesome."
Lindsey smiled a little but it was easily faltered. She looked up at Josh and watched him as he sat down with her, cooking both of them food. "I hope this doesn't taste too awful," he said, wrapping a protective arm around her.
"Ok you two monster killers," Demi smiled as she stuck the meat onto sticks for Dexter and Noodles. "Feast upon the great sticks of meat!" Smiling she handed them both a good size hunk of meat as she nestled down next to Noodles with her own.
Lindsey seemed lost amidst their jollity, eyes empty as she stared into the flickering blaze before her. She hardly ate, even when Josh tried to encourage her in any way he could. It wasn't long before she turned in, no longer wishing to be part of the living, at least until morning. Josh only sighed and buried his face into one of his hands, "..I wish I knew how to fix her..."
"You can't fix her," Demi sighed looking at him across the fire. "She's gotta fix herself. You just gotta be there for when she needs help getting back on her feet. Everything else, she has to do on her own."
Josh was silent for a moment, eating up quietly and looking at the fire. After a while, he looked up at Noodles, "You said... there's a temple here?"
"Yes, Remiem Temple. There you'll get the Magus Sisters," he nodded as he finished his meal, throwing the stick in the fire. "You'll have to let them run the show when you summon them, but they're pretty much the most powerful aeon you'll get. There's also a cave where you can get Yojimbo. Though you'll have to pay him to fight."
"Do you know where it is...? Maybe... maybe we can go there and stay a little while... Maybe... maybe it would be good for her..." he said softly, "..and a new aeon would be nice.. if it's really as powerful as you say it is."
"I believe so," he said. "It'll be safe there and we can rest again before getting to the bridge where the cave is."
Josh nodded and smiled a little, "Yeah... Well... I-I'm done.." Josh stood up, having completed his meal. He went over to the Anacondaur carcass, taking its long ribcage and cleaning meat and tendon from the hard bone. "Please, if you can, don't throw the skin away... or eat it for that matter."
"Don't worry, I didn't plan on it," Dexter made a face poking that hard leather.
"Go to bed," Noodles shook his head. "We have a long walk tomorrow if we want to reach the temple by sundown. I'll have Demi work on more armor for Lindsey in the morning, she's quick about it," he nodded to the sleeping Al Bhed girl.
Josh frowned, but stopped his cleaning. He went to lay next to Lindsey, spooning her protectively as he had done previous resting times. He sighed deeply as he kept the girl warm and shut his eyes.
"Dexter, go to bed," he chuckled at his friend's face as he continued to poke the carcass. "I'll take first watch then I'll wake you in a few hours."
"K, night Kevin," Dexter yawned, snuggling down in his own sleeping bag.