Lulu had a few misgivings about bringing him to Guadosalam, but found to her relief that travellers' tales of the Farplane's instability were greatly exaggerated. To be sure, the improbable viewing platform had become even more precarious. The broad tongue of rock had unravelled into long stony filiaments like the web of a crazed spider, spiralling out into the golden haze in wild loops and arcs whose ends jutted in midair. The sky crawled with rose-colored lightning. Gusting winds, laced with a wild, maddening scent, endangered the unwary. Lulu had little to fear, however, having braved the ice spans of Gagazet and Sin's tumultuous fall. She was sorry now that she had put this visit off for so many years. The vast fields of firelike flowers were as breathtaking as ever, endless cataracts of water still roared their everlasting hymn to the sky, and pyreflies still whirled and sang with haunting beauty.
Vidina wriggled in her arms and stretched his hands towards the wafting lights, giggling with delight. A rolling thunderclap barely troubled the boy; his mother had taught him early to love and respect the stormier side of nature's elements.
"Chappu-Chappu-Chappu!" he repeated enthusiastically.
"Yes, that's uncle Chappu." She kissed the back of his head and set him down with watchful care; he was getting too heavy to carry. Dropping neatly to one knee behind him, she laced her arms about him securely and rested her chin against his cheek.
"He has red hair like me and Daddy!"
"So he does." She wondered when had Chappu begun to resemble Tidus, instead of the other way around. Awash with a strange sense of melancholy, Lulu gazed at the two brothers' faces side by side. Both she had loved, Chappu with the hotblooded innocence of youth, Wakka with the understanding of a river for its bed. One had been a star streaking across her sky whose fall had made the nights colder. The other had been a rock to lean against, a steady presence whom she had taken for granted for so long that, when she finally opted for stability over fleeting passion, she had quite forgotten that nothing, not even Yevon, lasts forever.
Their ghostly images hung there, uncharacteristically motionless, beaming with blank smiles that showed no awareness of a child's laughter or a lover's somber query. In the face of their uncanny stillness, Lulu felt as if she were falling. The curiously intoxicating vista before her-- alien, otherworldly, beyond comprehension-- tugged at those sleeping strands of power within her slender frame that expressed themselves in flare and fireball, lightning and tidal surge. She felt an arrogant desire to cast her magic in this lifeless realm, trying to spark a glint of recognition on Wakka's unseeing bland face. She longed to leap out onto the shimmering golden mist as Tidus had once done and learn whose arms might catch her. Vidina's precious warm body pressed against her knees helped anchor her against such irrational urges. She began to understand why the Guado were discouraging people from coming here.
"Mama?" Vidina asked wonderingly. "Why don't they talk? Auron talks."
"Sir Auron is in our world. Spirits in our world have bodies, like Fiends do. Here, in the Farplane--" she nodded to the swirling lights, "everyone is thought-magic, like pyreflies. They don't need bodies any more, and they can hear each other's thoughts. But since we can't, they make a picture for us to see, so that we know they're listening." She hoped it was true.
"Magic." The boy cradled the word. "Hey, Dad? Mama and her friends killed all the raiders! Can you come back now?"
Her heart twisted. "Vidina--"
"Wait." The boy had his own share of imperious stubbornness. "I'm talkin' to Dad."
She nodded and fell silent, watching. There was a magic in children that neither she nor the High Summoner could rival.
Vidina folded his arms in an unconscious imitation of his mother and waited. "Guess not!" he said finally. "He likes being a spirit. Do they have blitz on da Farplane, Mama?"
"I think so." Lulu smiled. "If they didn't before, I'm sure they do now."
"Good." Vidina made another careless grab for a pyrefly. "Can we go now?"
"Yes." The sorceress straightened, fixing the brothers with a wan smile. "Wakka... Chappu... be well."
Perhaps someday she would have to ask Wakka's forgiveness, but she was tired of mourning, tired of being afraid to face the Farplane, tired of shutting doors in her heart and walking away without looking back. She prayed silently that she would have no more reasons to come here for a while. Scooping Vidina into her arms, Lulu turned and painstakingly retraced their steps along wispy paths of stone. It was slow going, and she suspected that this was one place in Spira where she was truly on her own.
"Why does Auron stay? Didn't Yuna Send him?"
There it was, a question all Spira would soon be asking. "Yuna tried," she responded carefully. "It didn't work. Sometimes it's too hard for the dead to let go of our world, although that's very rare."
"Maybe," Vidina whispered, twining his fingers in her braids, "maybe it's because he likes you, Mama."
Her heart twisted. "Maybe."
"You like me too, right?"
"Oh, Vidina." She set him down before the shimmering blue portal leading back to Guadosalam, drawing him close. "I love you so much."
"Okay." Fearlessly jerking free of her arms, he skipped down the steps ahead of her, darting through the swirling blue mist with another burst of laughter.
Hurrying after, she was distracted from scolding him by the endearing sight that greeted her on the far side. Auron, sitting patiently at the foot of the staircase, had just flung out an arm to intercept him, and the boy had collapsed against his side giggling and wiggling. "Aww, let go!"
"You shouldn't run on stairs."
"Okay." Vidina kept squirming. "You know what? Aunt Rikku told me you're a Guardian. She said you fight better than Uncle Tidus."
"Probably." The swordsman glanced over his shoulder, searching for the boy's mother.
"Hey." Vidina pulled at his sleeve, eyes suddenly round and solemn. "Will you be Mama's Guardian?"
Auron's mouth twitched. "If Lulu wishes it."
Her eyes danced as she drew level with them. "I do," she said huskily.
"Then you can stay," Vidina announced. He crawled over the man's knee into his lap, stretching his arms around Auron's collar in a silent request to be carried.
Vision misting, Lulu settled beside the pair, embracing them. She furtively seized Auron's ponytail and murmured in his ear, "As long as it's understood that I am your Guardian."
Arching an eyebrow at her over Vidina's mop of orange curls, Auron removed his glasses, folded them with quiet deliberation, and slipped them into her hand with a meaningful look that threatened to shatter every scrap of self-composure she possessed.
There was a blinding flash. Auron made an aborted movement towards his sword-hilt. Lulu looked up with a sigh to see Rikku bounding off with a gleeful grin, sphere-camera in hand.
~ The End ~