Setting: Luca and Besaid, pre-canon to various degrees.
Theme + Number: #30, "Childhood".
Character/Relationship/Pairing: Chappu, Wakka, and Lulu.
Warnings: Character death, angst.
Summary: In these moments, they ceased to be children. A story in three parts.
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies. --Edna St. Vincent Millay
Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,--
mothers and fathers don't die.
Lulu was five years, two months, and twelve days old when her parents went out sailing together on their wedding anniversary. She kissed them goodbye dutifully, sulking a little because she wasn't being allowed to go with them, and went back inside to play with her dolls.
That day, Sin came sailing past Luca. Somehow, the warrior monks, priests, and Crusaders managed to turn it aside just in time to save the city. Most of them died doing it, though, as did everyone who had been out on the water.
The neighbor who was watching Lulu didn't need to be told what had happened. Everyone had seen it; the giant monster was hard to miss in the middle of a fishpond-flat sea. As soon as they were sure it was gone, half the city was out combing the shore and water for the bodies. They found the hull of Lulu's parents' boat splintered on the shore. Her father was still inside the cabin, his neck broken. Her mother was never found.
When the neighbor told Lulu, the little girl said nothing, just went to her closet and put on the velvet dress her mother had given her for her birthday. She wore it through the Sending, while she fought tooth and nail against being put on the boat to Besaid Island and her aunt, and all the long sea voyage besides. It was weeks before she could be convinced to wear anything else.
For a while, Lulu believed or wanted to believe that her mother had survived, somehow, and would come take her away from the new island that was not home. But in time she gave up, or grew up, and stopped believing. She took off her velvet dress that was by then too small and put it away for good.
When she did, Lulu ceased to be a child in any real sense of the word.
And tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow if you're busy having fun,
Is plenty of time to say, "I'm sorry."
Chappu was eight when Sin came back to Besaid. They were a small community, with the temple but not much else; Sin hardly ever bothered itself about them. But once in a while, it did. The last time had been seven and a half years before; Besaid had been the last place attacked before the start of the Calm, and Sin had razed it to the ground. They were better prepared this time, or so they hoped.
When the light fishing boats skimmed into port with warning of Sin's approach, all who could ran for the shelter of the temple's stone walls. The whole island came, stumbling and gasping with fear. Chappu, already in the temple, swarmed up the statue of High Summoner Yocun and perched on her stone shoulder. He smiled at other children with the same idea, but the smile felt forced and fake. He was terrified, and smiling couldn't cover it up.
Sin's power rolled up the island with the force of a hurricane. The quay was ripped to pieces that tore through the beach houses like a sword through parchment. Everywhere, trees blew over and houses crumpled in the gale. The whole island shook.
Chappu lost his balance and slipped, falling from his perch. People were screaming, panicking and falling over one another in their frantic attempts at getting further inside the temple. The fear was infectious; Chappu found himself squirming through the crowd, trying desperately to get to his room. If he got there, he was sure, it would be all right. Wakka and Lulu would be there too, and nothing bad would happen. He just had to get there!
As he wriggled between grownups, who might in normal life have been friendly, familiar faces, but who in the nightmare shadows of the temple were nothing but voiceless fiends, Chappu fetched up against someone firm and calm. It was Priest Lukan, who had been for years the father Chappu had never known. He was speaking in his usual deep voice, trying to calm the people around him. One by one, they listened and stopped struggling against one another. Chappu smiled for real. If Lukan was there, everything would be okay. He saw his brother on the steps outside the Cloister and started to make his way toward him.
The temple shuddered again as a second shockwave rippled over it. Far up in the dome of the temple, old stonework, weakened by time and constant attacks, gave way and fell down into the crowd…
Most of the people survived. Those who had not made it to the temple, or who had been killed there, were Sent by the temple's high priest. Chappu watched the only father he had ever had vanish in a swirl of shimmering mist and cried. When Lukan had told him to stay quiet and out of the way, he had said, "You don't have to treat me like a baby! I can take care of myself!"
He knew, now, that Lukan had been trying to keep him safe, and, having been trapped in the press of people, he appreciated the effort. Knew and appreciated, but would never get to apologize for not having done so before.
Chappu grew up in the minute when he first regretted words left unspoken.
But you do not wake up a month from then, two months,
A year from then, two years, in the middle of the night
Wakka didn't grow up when his parents died, which he couldn't remember anyway, nor yet with the coming of Sin and the death of Priest Lukan. He cried for them, even mourned for them, when he remembered. When sometimes he looked at the children whose parents were still alive and wished for what they had, his envy was for the idea of parents, not the parents themselves.
He tried to be sad, tried to be sorry, and he was, but not for long. He would start kicking a blitzball around or find a stray cat, and he would forget what he was supposed to be sad about.
It wasn't that he didn't care; Wakka loved freely and fully, and losing anyone he cared for at all was a sword wound in the gut. But his wounds healed quickly, scabbed over with the small joys of everyday life, and he ceased to mourn. Like a summer rainstorm, the grief poured over him, passed, and he turned to happier things.
Wakka was twenty-one when he heard that his brother was dead, killed by Sin on the beach of Djose. He finished the tournament with scarcely a falter in his rhythm, but when he got home to Besaid, Besaid that was full of memories of Chappu, he stopped. For days he did nothing but sit in one of the places he and Chappu had gone together so often, watching the sea and cursing himself and the world. For weeks he barely smiled, and when he laughed it was full of bitterness.
Then he started to return to his old self. He had a grin for everyone he saw, laughed at his own bad jokes, pulled Lulu out of her own shell of grief by sheer stubbornness, and went back to the life he had been living. By the time a year had passed it almost seemed like it had always been so, like there had never been a brother who was the apple of his eye.
But there had been, and though Wakka forgot sometimes that he mourned, at others the pain nearly crippled him. He wept and would weep for his brother all his life, in the dark hours when the existence of joy seemed a myth.
On the day life dealt him a wound that would never heal, Wakka would never be so young anymore.