"Kimahri has you. Lie still."
Tidus closed his eyes and heaved a sigh of relief. Those words in that deep slow voice were the sweetest he could recall having heard at this particular moment in time. He closed his eyes raising his hands to the hard muscled, fur covered chest above him. "Just, don't let go, okay? Letting go would be very bad right now." He could have sworn the grunt he got in reply held a note of humor, but now hardly seemed the time to ask. Another bolt of lightning slammed into the ground beside his head scorching and cracking the already fused obsidian soil and hissing as it shunted off the lightning shield the Ronso lying on top of him had cast. "This is so far from good it isn't even funny."
"Tidus correct. This storm should not be here."
"Huh? I mean, of course I am, but uh why shouldn't it be here." He idly touched Kimahri's braid that was hanging beside his face touching his cheek, it was incredibly soft like his fur.
"We cross into calm lands two days ago."
"What!" Tidus sat up smacking his forehead hard on the Ronso's chin, "OW!"
Kimahri snarled as he lost the shield and barely got the spell off again before another bolt exploded against it in what would have been a direct hit.
"Oops, sorry big guy," He earned that same long suffering grunt that Yuna got when she did something incredibly stupid.
She was gone now, though, living her life her way, treasure hunting. She had not left him, he had disappeared on her, back into the dreaming, but something had gone wrong. He had been lost somewhere in the Farplane, drifting, alone until a heart called to him. He had been startled to find that it was the Ronso warrior rather than one of his human companions. He still didn't know why.
All that crap about getting all the answers when you died and went to the other side was just crap. The only thing he had learned was that the spirits there were not souls at all, just energy given shape and texture by the living, saying just what they wanted to hear, looking just how they wanted them to look. It was pitiful really. He had been real though and so very alone and Kimahri had caught him back, pulled him through, into the world he had been taken from, or so he thought at first.
Then after they went to find Yuna, they began to see the differences, little things, people were in different places than before, doing different jobs, remembering the past differently. There were names he had never heard before linked to his, actions credited to him, that he had not done, and maybe most disturbing of all, everyone kept telling him he was supposed to be dead. Even the cities and villages had changed drastically and the seas apparently receded to leave a huge mountain range just past the Calm Lands which he was now supposed to call the Veldt. Kimahri seemed to know more than he was telling, but then he had always been that way.
"Do you see anywhere we can get out of this storm?"
"There is a house."
"Where?" He tilted his head back getting a weird upside down view of the direction the Ronso was squinting in.
"Past the storm,"
He looked farther tilting his head until Kihmahri's breath ghosted over his skin sending goosebumps along his skin. "Hey! I see it, that shack!"
"Yes." The words rumbled against his throat.
He closed his eyes, "that feels so good." He bit his lip, eyes widening as he realized that could be taken the wrong way.
The Ronso actually sounded puzzled for once and Tidus could not keep from smiling, it was not often he surprised his companion. He smiled up at the feline face. "You could carry me there."
The larger creature sighed and shook his head but rose slowly holding onto the spell raising it over his head and managing to scoop the human into his free arm at the same time. They headed for the line, almost too straight to be natural, where the lightning just seemed to stop, behind it the grass was lush and green and chest high on a man. The way was steep and winding and they startled pockets of lightning resistant monsters and had to run or sneak past them. It would have been suicide to stand and fight. The rain started again making it hard for them to see, though apparently not so for the monsters.
"Look out!" Tidus pointed out a massive animal looming in the flashes of light. It had an armoured body and one horn on a bovine face. It lowered the horn and something struck the tree beside them splintering it. "It's got a range attack!"
"Kimahri notice." The voice behind him was dry.
"We'll have to fi- What?"
The cry came again, an eerie haunting howl that sounded like nothing he had heard before. He blinked as he saw a flash of movement on the monster's back, something, someone, it looked human leaped onto its neck and leaned down beside the horn looking into its face. In the flickering light he saw a shock of wild green hair and a thin, sharp body and could that be a cape? Then the animal seemed to flicker and disappear, the whole area around it too including the two red-eyed, wolf like canines that had been slinking up beside the beast.
"Did you see that, Kimahri? What was that?"
Instead of answering, his companion jerked him up again and began to run at full speed. The shield flickered and died but he only ran faster dodging every time he heard the snap of thunder. Tidus tried to yell at him to slow down and explain but then he heard it too a sound like leather flapping in the wind. He fell silent and looked up at the sky. Dragons, hundreds of silver dragons filled the sky flying in the same direction they were running. The lightning chased along their wings and cracked in bold arcs between them. They seemed to be searching the ground below. He saw a heard of ape like things break from a copse of trees into the open. A group of dragons seem to undulate in a strange way, as if seen through a wave of heat above the desert then the air erupted into flame and the monsters were on fire screaming in agony as they burned away to ashes.
"Faster Kimahri, oh shit, they see us! Run!"
The howl came again, to the right and Kimahri changed directions nearly dropping Tidus as he slid on the loose gravel and wiry grass between the veldt and the lightning plain.
"What are you doing! They're almost overhead!"
The howl sounded again and a flock of huge flies with long wicked looking stingers shot up from ahead of them covering their flight. "Hurry Hurry, Blue Horn! Hurry, Mr. Whiney. Hurry! Hurry!"
"Who the heck is that and who is he calling Whiney?"
Kimahri spotted the green haired person sitting astride the back of something that looked like a horse with a sickle shaped blade on its forehead. The horse thing pawed and danced just at the mouth of a cave. The boy was waving frantically as he called out to them. Without worrying about the consequences, he plunged forward just as a blast of heat struck the ground behind him obliterating the place they had been moments before. He hit something that felt like a spider web and tingled like static. It threw him off balance so that he stumbled and slid into the shelter on the other side of the barrier. Fortunately, he had the presence of mind to pull Tidus up against his chest and protect him from the slide.
Tidus blinked and lay still a moment. They were alive he could feel the strong heartbeat below him and his face was buried in soft blue fur. He froze as he heard a strange voice, one that was cultured and oddly stilted.
"What hast thou brought in to us now, Sir. Gau? Didst thou not agree that we can hardly bring every monster on the Veldt in with us?"
"Not monster! Blue horn summoner, Mr. Whiney. In from storm. In from shiny, shiny dragons!"
Feeling obligated to defend their odd savior, Tidus sat up astride Kimahri's stomach. "I'm not Mr. Whiney, my name is Tidus. This is Kimahri. He's a Ronso warrior though, not a summoner." He stood up and turned to meet a middle aged human with black hair just greying at the temples pulled into a ponytail and a strong, rather handsome face.
"My name is Sir Cyan Garamonde of Doma. My feral companion is Gau, and the silent gentleman behind thee is Shadow."
Tidus turned and was startled to see a man, well he assumed it was a man, clad all in black with his face completely covered with a mask of some kind. Only his eyes were visible through it. "Um, pleased to meet all of you and thanks for the shelter. What exactly were those silver dragon thingies and why has the great storm come so far into the calm lands, er the veldt that is?"
"Ah, thou hast come here in an attempt to explain the strangeness that has overtaken this world as well?"
"Well, yeah and..." he looked at Kimhari to see if he thought they should tell the gentleman everything, Cyan had an almost fatherly comforting presence that seemed to inspire trust, His companion nodded. "Well, sir, we aren't totally sure whether the strangeness is with the land or with us, you see."
"Verily? "Cyan's brow creased, "Shadow has expressed to me similar misgivings."
"He has?" Tidus cast another glance behind him, but the strange, silent figure was gone. "See the thing is, I was supposed to be back in the dreaming, but we stopped the dreaming, to take away Sin's power, you know. I was supposed to be dead then, I guess. Somehow though, I was in the Farplane and Kimahri called me back; and we were here, but this is not the right world. It is, but there are so many things wrong. I don’t know just how they’re wrong, but they’re just not right, mountains out of place, different monsters, like pieces and parts of my world and other worlds all jumbled together."
"Pieces Parts! Pieces Parts!" Gau was suddenly in front of him bouncing up and down on all fours like an excited puppy.
He noticed that the boy did not actually stand on the ground, he floated above it. That would be amazingly handy when dealing with enemies who created earthquake style attacks like the big brown giant things they had found in that abandoned tower sitting in the middle of the ruined city they had passed before entering the lightning plain.
"Gau, please to calm down lad, our guests might be disturbed."
"Pieces Parts! We pieces, we parts, you, us me, lands, monsters, all! Pieces Parts! Not real here, not real there, real us!"
Tidus frowned not understanding at all and Cyan simply shook his head.
"Gau is very clever and knows many things we simply cannot understand," Cyan said softly and laid a soothing hand on the young man's shoulder. "I do hope both of thee will join us in our party. It shall be safer thusly and perhaps we can uncover the truths together."
Tidus looked at his friend hopefully,
"Kimahri think there is safety in numbers, it is good to be party."
Tidus could not resist a smile and a chuckle as Gau began to sing to himself and went to playing with a handful of carved toys in a corner of the cave. "Count us in, Cyan, pal."
"Very good Sir Tidus."
"Just Tidus, Dude, no sirs or misters."
"As thou do wish."
Shadow returned a short while later as silently as he had left laying several skinned and cleaned rabbits the size of wolves in front of the fire. Cyan thanked him and quartered and spitted the beasts to roast. He also shoved several roots of some kind into the embers. Tidus heard his stomach growl loudly in the darkness earning a delighted laugh and some playful teasing from Gau. He was rapidly growing fond of the feral boy who seemed to vibrate with energy almost continually.
"Does he ever run down?" he asked Cyan after Gau had run in circles chasing his own shadow until he grew dizzy and fell over on his back panting.
"He does not slow until he collapses, then he is asleep in an instant. The only other time he rests is when Shadow has reached his endurance and knocks the child out cold with one of his ninja moves." There was a hint of mild disapproval in his voice.
Tidus cut his eyes to the dark clad figure. He was surprised to see what looked like a rather amused twinkle in the deep violet eyes. "So Shadow, do you always talk so much?"
Those eyes regarded him a long time and he wondered if they could see into his very soul. "No."
Tidus shivered as the ninja spoke. His voice was low and sibilant and uncannily resonant. The sound seemed to die the second the words were born leaving him uncertain as to whether he had heard it or not. He saw Kimahri look at the slender figure intently then turn his gaze to Cyan for a long moment before looking back at the more sinister of the two.
"Shadow, thou wouldst not try to frighten our guests would you?" Cyan asked looking up from the tea he was preparing and locked his partner with an even gaze.
"Yes?" There was no mistaking the playful tone now, as a little lilt of the single word turned a statement into a question.
"Absolutely incorrigible, did I not love thee so dearly, I fear I would have to defend the honor of my hospitality."
His soft laugh reminded Tidus of a den of deadly snakes just stirring lazily but ever ready to strike. He decided he preferred not to hear that sinister voice. Then it hit him and he blurted out, "you love him?"
"Yes, verily I do, though sometimes I wonder at myself for doing so. I had a wife and son once that I loved deeply and truly. They were killed and Shadow and I and some friends fought to destroy the one who killed them. In the process we came to honor and respect one another. Then our journey and battles were over and I thought to finally follow them on the ghost train, but Shadow called me back to him."
"Love like brothers or something?" He asked hesitantly though some part of him knew that was not right.
"No. Not like brothers, we share both battle and bed." Cyan gave him a long look. "This bothers thou?"
"Ah no, I don't think so. I just, well never realized that two guys could, uh well-" he trailed off embarrassed certain he was blushing crimson red.
"Ah, I see," Cyan's voice was as kind as the father he had dreamed of having. "It is nothing for thou to worry on. Thou art young and of an age to be curious in such things. Know that Shadow and I are devoted one to another and would never behave in any way other than honorably towardst thou or thine companion."
"I know that. You guys are cool." Tidus waved his hand in a gesture of brushing the matter away.
“Good, I am glad that you feel that way. You remind me much of one of our companions in that time long past. I wish you no discomfort while we travel together.”
He leaned back and felt Kimahri's silk furred shoulder against his back. He leaned on it sighing with relief when Cyan went back to his dinner preparations and a stolen glance toward where Shadow had been revealed only stones.
He closed his eyes thinking. Shadow called Cyan back from some Ghost Train, was that like the Farplane? His dead wife and kid were there. Kimahri called him back. "How did Shadow get here, or Gau, or you Kihmari? You called me back. Shadow called him back. Who called you two and was Gau called too? Were you somewhere else before?"
"Kimahri not know." The gravelly voice was close to his ear. "He was looking into the farplane and he closed his eyes and thought of Tidus. Then he was in the woods and Tidus was in his arms. Then the giant caterpiller monster attacked."
"Did Shadow tell you what happened, Cyan?"
"He said he searched the Ghost Forest until he came to a lake whereat he knelt to drink from its healing waters and closed his eyes thinking of me. When next he was aware, he was lying on his stomach. A terrible roar sounded behind him. He started to rise only to find yours truly beneath him. He caught me up, preparing to flee and Sir Gau's cry came from behind us just as a dinosaur, like but unlike the Tyranosaurs we had fought together long ago crashed through the trees into the clearing. Gau leaped down from the back of a giant, black raven and onto the brute. He has the ability to -absorb, I suppose would be the best word- monsters he hath not met before. He learns their powers and their behaviors and can for short times almost become them. It is his gift."
"Kimahri can do something like that too. He learns the fiend’s way of fighting.” He chewed on his lip as he thought. “We’re all tied together somehow. It has to mean something. I think the thing we have to find out is how we all got here. I don’t really want to go back or anything, but I want to know if somebody is behind it all." Tidus ran his hands over his face smothering a yawn.
"Tidus rest now, think some more later." Kimarhi pulled him unceremoniously back against his chest cradling him in his arms and Tidus found he did not mind that in the least. He was warm and strong and safe, not like the empty nothingness he had been trapped in. A warm cloak was dropped across him and he smiled up warmly at Cyan.
"Thou art most probably right, young sir, but we shall ponder upon it when thou hast rested and dined. Sleep now and when thou awakens, dinner shall be served.”
"Mmm, sounds like a plan to me." Tidus made himself comfortable on the fighter's lap and snuggled into his shoulder closing his eyes. He caught his braid and held it up to his cheek. It was soft and comforting and Kimahri did not pull it away.
Cyan waited until the young man was deeply asleep and his breathing even then spoke quietly, "you care much for him?"
Kimahri looked up at him and nodded, “Kimahri protect Tidus.”
“He is very young, and perhaps a bit sheltered, though a warrior beyond doubt. He knows not the depths of your feelings, I think.”
"Know what feelings?"
“Ah, I see more now than I did before. I think that you both shall be just fine.”
"Kimahru not know what you mean."
"Do not trouble yourself, my friend. All things will come in their own time. That is the way of things."
"Speaking of time, we have some of our own," the soft hiss came from the shadows followed by the ninja himself. He pointed to Gau who was sleeping sprawled out as he had fallen hovering just above the floor.
"Indeed, and the food will be fine on its own for a while. If thou will excuse us, Kimahri, we shall withdraw to our own rest for a time."