Unintentional Part 3
No legitimate kings or queens, do you know what I mean?
There are no indisputable truths and there ain't no fountain of youth
Each night when the day is through, I don't ask much, I just want you.
I Just Want You – Ozzy Osbourne
Cid breathed a sigh of relief as the city came into view, the toils of the past days worth it when he looked down to his niece cradled between himself and Luzzu, her strength and colour draining with each passing moment. She stood on a finely balanced knife-edge, hovering somewhere in between life and death as the crimson lifeblood continued to clot around her wounds, stark against the deathly white of her complexion. As they entered the city limits, he left Lesca with her other Guardian as he made haste to Seymour’s mansion, reasoning it would be quicker to bring the summoner to the fallen woman than to take Lesca to the man. He pounded on the door frantically, grabbing the collar of the Guado who answered his calls.
"Seymour, where is he?" He growled.
"Lord Seymour is currently preoccupied with matters of state."
Cid gritted his teeth, trying to bite back the words of anger that threatened to spew forth. "It is a matter of great importance. Please, tell him the Lady Summoner Lesca requires his aid urgently!"
The Guado rolled his eyes before sloping off dutifully. He returned some minutes later with a concerned Seymour in tow. "Cid, is it not? How can I help the Lady?"
Much as it pained him, Cid forced himself to be polite to the Yevonite. "Lesca, she’s dying. Come with me, save her, please!"
Seymour’s eyes widened and he ushered Cid out of the building. "Of course. Take me to her."
They ran back to the place where the Al Bhed had left Luzzu guarding the ailing Lesca, Cid stopping as he took in Luzzu’s tear stained face. The younger man looked up, not bothering to wipe away the salt water. "She, oh Yevon, Cid! She’s gone." He choked.
Cid leaned down beside the girl, her face blissfully free of the pain that had haunted her for the past number of years. No breath graced her lips; her body was still and cool to the touch. He shook his head, refusing to believe the sight in front of him. "No, she was meant to be ok…we were meant to save her. We failed her, as her Guardians and her friends."
Seymour placed a consoling hand on the Al Bhed’s shoulder. "The hurt was too much, even I could not have repaired this. There is nothing you could have done. Please, allow me to send her."
The two nodded dumbly as Seymour motioned to a nearby guard to lift Lesca’s body from the indignity of the gutter. Cid caught the Guado’s arm before Seymour gently prised the older mans hand away from the guard. "He will take her to the chambers we have for our dead. She will be prepared before the sending; we find it eases the souls passage. You should go my friend. The road is still long."
"You’re right. Luzzu, c’mon. We’re going."
"We can’t leave her here!" Luzzu protested.
Cid caught him by the shoulders, forcing him to meet his eyes. "She’s dead. Dead. It hurts, I know but we can’t undo it. We need to go. Lord Seymour, thanks for doing this for her, for us."
Luzzu hung his head, following Cid as they exited Guadosalam, each step further from their reason for being here in the first place, each step harder to take than the last. The warrior monk turned to take one last look at the city before it faded out of sight, pondering his life’s path from that point on. Cid caught the younger mans contemplative mood.
"What you gonna do now, kid? Go back to Yevon?"
Luzzu laughed bitterly. "Never. The religion of Yevon, it is…false. The only thing it gives us is death. Well, no more. I won’t follow those teachings any longer. I’ll go back to Besaid, work on defeating Sin in a way that doesn’t mean the cost of a summoner’s life. The Crusaders seem like a good place to start."
"You learned the hard way."
Luzzu’s normally placid face clouded with anger. "I’ll make sure others don’t have to. The Crusaders will defeat Sin, I know it. Once and for all."
Seymour looked over the body of Lesca. She looked so peaceful; so free of pain…he envied her. His whole existence was one long never-ending misery. The reward for being a halfling. He sighed, brushing a light kiss over her forehead as he pondered her demise. In some twisted logic, he reasoned that he himself could attain this peace from death, from his own, from that of others. He dismissed the thoughts for now, but still filed them away in the back of his mind for later examination. He freed his mind as he began the dance of the sending, closing his eyes as the steps soothed his troubled mind.
It was like the worst headache she had ever experienced, bar none. The pull she felt made her wince and she cracked open one eye to see Seymour dancing beside her. No, not dancing. Sending. Who? It came to her in a flash as she remembered the battle with Yunalesca. Me. I’m dead. Unsent. She felt herself become weaker as the Guado Lord continued to spin beside her. Stop…I don’t want to go to the Farplane. She raised herself from the cool bench she was laid on and caught the man’s hand, grinning as he howled at her tight grip.
"Lady Lesca? But, but you’re dead!" He stuttered.
"The rumours of my demise have been greatly exaggerated. Now, where are my Guardians?" She asked coolly.
Seymour frowned. "They are gone. You cannot continue the pilgrimage, my Lady. You are dead. You are an unsent. Please, let me send you to the Farplane. There, you will be at peace."
"You know what? I don’t want to go to the Farplane just yet. I’ll go when I’m damn well good and ready." She ran a hand through her hair, nearly laughing at the astonishment on the Guado’s face. "Farewell, Seymour. I hope we meet again someday."
She walked away from him, giggling slightly at the absurdity of the situation. She was dead, but living. Alive without a heartbeat. At that thought, the rhythm within her chest stirred into life, a feeling that made her jump and she breathed a sigh of relief as her organs began to reactivate themselves. She realised it would make her a little less suspicious if she still appeared to be alive. A familiar face smiled at her as she almost passed him by.
"Good day. Lesca, what are you doing so far from Home?"
She looked up to meet the green-eyed gaze of Rin. "Hey, Rin. I, I was on a pilgrimage." He raised an eyebrow and she continued quickly. "Long story, I’ll tell you some day. Anyway, I’ve uh, given up my life as a summoner. I’m at a bit of a loose end to tell you the truth." I’ve given up my life completely.
The flaxen haired man smiled. "Well, the offer of a job is still open if you care to accept. I need a worker in the Thunder Plains travel agency. Would you be interested?"
Lesca thought for a moment. It was one of the few travel agencies they had not stopped at on the pilgrimage, nobody knew her there… She grinned at Rin. "That’d be perfect. When do I start?"
Six years later…
He could feel the presence of his old friend as the thing the man had become approached the metropolis, slowly at first but gaining speed all the while. The girder he stood on afforded him a birds eye view of Zanarkand; the feeling proved right as the mass of water neared the city. Auron took a swig from the jug at his hip, amused that he felt no fear as the death bringer approached. Perhaps because he can’t give me something I already suffer from. He turned away from the menace, setting out toward the stadium he knew the boy was playing at. I hope you know what you’re doing, Jecht…
He listened to the commentary from the loud speakers dotted around Zanarkand, nearly laughing out loud at the irony that Jecht had chosen to come and reclaim his son on this date that marked the anniversary of his disappearance from Zanarkand. The man on the tannoy sung Jecht’s praises and those of his only son, while reminiscing about the day Jecht had ‘vanished’.
I was in a coffee shop, running away from home when I heard the news. Our hero, Jecht, gone, vanished into thin air! My dad must have been his biggest fan. I knew how sad he'd be. Heck, we all were that day. "Zanar," I says to myself, "What are you thinking?"" I went running straight back home. We sat up talking 'bout Jecht all night. My dad and I never talked so much. Whoa... Didn't mean to reminisce, folks. Anyways... Ten years later, the Jecht Memorial Cup tournament is today! The two teams that have won through to the finals are...of course, the Abes from A-East and the Duggles from C-South. I know there's a lot of people out there today to see the star of the Abes! In just one year, he's become the team's number one player! He's Jecht's blood, and the new hope of blitzball! What kind of super play will he show us today? Will we see his father's legendary shot? I don't think I'm the only one excited here, folks!
Tidus will not be amused that you stole his thunder, Jecht. Tonight was his big night. The red robed man dragged a hand through the salt and peppered hair, the soft bristles of his spiked locks tickling the palm of his hand. He blew an errant strand from his eyes, smirking as people moved out of his way to prevent hindrance of his purposeful strides. A death and a frown are precious commodities when you need to get anywhere in Zanarkand quickly. People caught sight of the harbinger that hovered over the municipality and began to shriek, milling around in an unseeing panic. Auron walked to and not from the threat, earning looks and questions of his sanity from the fleeing crowds.
He grimaced as the stadium was hit by the harbinger, fearing for the safety of his charge. The red cloaked Guardian looked up to the presence in the sky, rolling his eye as it released yet more bolts on the chaos that was Zanarkand. Can’t you be a little more patient? Auron watched the stadium entrance expectantly; a weight lifting from his shoulders when the blond head he was awaiting bobbed into view. "Auron! What are you doing here?"
Auron tried to keep his sarcasm at bay. "I was waiting for you."
Tidus threw up his hands in frustration. "What are you talking about?"
Auron shook his head, walking away from the youth. He knew that answers would only lead to more questions, this way he could lead the boy to where he needed without too much hassle. Another presence made the air heavy, stifling. Auron knew it well. The Fayth had come.
Tidus caught up to him, panting. "Hey, not this way!"
"Look!" Auron tipped his head to the skies, the young man gasping as he saw the fiend dominating the heavens. "We called it ‘Sin.’"
Small pods rained down from the skies, implanting themselves in the ground before becoming animated. So you wish to test him? Fine, on your head be it. Auron pulled Jecht’s old sword from his robes, handing it to the lad. "Take it. A gift from Jecht."
Tidus struggled with the unaccustomed weight, nearly falling over as he questioned the Guardian. "My old man?"
Auron silently despaired as the younger man prodded at the Sinspawn tentatively before falling over. "I hope you know how to use it."
Together, they made short work of the fiends. The older man snorted as more spawn took the place of those that had fallen. "These ones don’t matter. We cut through. Don’t bother going after all of them. Cut the ones that matter, and run!"
His instruction proved useful, and Auron soon found himself staring at his friend, at the thing he had become. It is good to see you, my friend. I hope you are well.
He was startled to hear the gruff voice that laughed in his mind. I’m not too bad, Auron, considering. It’s good to see you too. That my boy?
A snort of laughter. You did good, Auron. He looks like a good kid. I hope he can do it, when the time comes.
He is. He’ll be able to free you, I know it.
I hope you’re right, Auron. He goes to Spira with you; I wanna give him a chance at real life. I don’t want him to live out his existence in some dream.
Tidus began to yell, tearing Auron from his conversation with the boy’s father. "Auron! Auron!"
The Guardian looked back at Sin. "You are sure?"
I’m positive. It, it’s getting harder, y’know?
Auron looked at the terrified boy, remembering what he had been like at his age. "This is it. This is your story. It all begins here."
Auron looked around at the motley crew that Yuna had chosen as her Guardians. He had no doubt they were more than capable, but still he was wary. A black mage, another blitzer who blindly followed Yevon and…he turned to his right, noticing the Ronso with a flash of recognition. Kimahri! Not good… He saw an understanding in the man-beasts eyes that conveyed he would not betray the unsent man’s confidence. He nodded very slightly in thanks, the others not noticing as they stood in awe of the ‘legendary’ Guardian. It is going to be an interesting journey. He despaired that the young summoner had followed her father’s path, but if he could only make them see what had to be done…she would not be lost. He would atone for his past sins by guarding Braska’s daughter, making sure she lived where her father died. He would not fail twice. The summoner herself seemed to only remember him as Sir Auron, Guardian to Braska, not as Auron her brother-in-law. It will make things easier this way.
"No, no! We accept, right everyone?" Yuna cried, shaking Auron from his musings.
The blitzer, Wakka, spoke. "O, of course! No problem at all!"
Lulu, ever cynical questioned him. "But why?"
"I promised Braska."
Yuna looked overjoyed at the simple statement. "You promised my father? Thank you, Sir Auron! You’re welcome to join us!"
Auron grabbed Tidus by the collar, flinging him in front of the group. "And…he comes too." He sighed inwardly. The boy had survived this long in Spira with his paltry sword skills, but if he were to be a Guardian to the newly minted summoner he would need training. A lot of training. He sighed inwardly and resigned himself to the fact that his spare time would be swallowed with Tidus’ instruction.
"Hi…guys! Eh…howdy!" Tidus looked somewhat bashful as he stood blushing in front of Yuna. Oh no, not again. Don’t do it boy, don’t fall in love with her. It’ll only cause you pain when one of you has to leave, and one of you will have to. I guarantee it. Yuna too, coloured as she and Tidus exchanged shy glances at one another. Auron groaned inwardly. So I will be guarding Yuna and making sure they don’t become too involved. Great. The joys of guarding a teenage summoner. The number of hormones flying around will kill me. Again.
"This one I promised Jecht."
The young summoner regarded him anxiously. "Is Sir Jecht alive?"
Auron’s response was immediate, cutting off any remark Tidus may have tried to make. "Can’t say. Haven’t seen him in ten years." He glared at the lad, his protests dying before he could make a sound.
Yuna had hung her head and the older man tried to offer a little hope for reasons unknown to him. He tried to reason that it was simply to prepare her for the inevitable. "You’ll meet eventually."
She looked a little happier and moved away from the body of the group, Auron by her side. The girl looked up at him, so much of the child he remembered in her but the wariness that came with adulthood had begun to creep in as well. "Sir Auron?"
He snapped back to reality. "Yuna?"
"Do you wish to ask me something?"
He mentally berated himself for his obviousness. "Your sister, Lesca, she is not here?"
A look of pain crossed Yuna’s face fleetingly. "She, no. She’s not. She left Besaid six years ago and I haven’t seen or heard from her since."
A chill ran down his spine. She wouldn’t leave Yuna for that length of time without good reason. They adored each other. "Do you have any idea what happened to her? Where she is, what she’s doing? She was…a good friend to me."
Yuna shook her head sadly. "I wish I did. If only I knew Sir Auron. I miss her so."
As do I. More than anyone will ever know. These walls were built to stop the pain; I’m damned if I’m tearing them down now. Are you still out there, Lesca? Still waiting for me? A foolish dream, I know, but still I cling to it. It keeps me human, prevents me from being completely callous toward others. You gave me that gift, you know. Compassion. It may have been there before, but you made it blossom. I have so much to thank you for, I only hope that you still live so I can convey my gratitude and tell you…I love you more than ever.
We once had it all but events conspired,
Sometimes - Ash
Tidus snickered as Rikku clung on to Kimahri, yelping with each prong of lightning that struck the ground. Yuna looked over to the young blitzer, smiling apologetically for her cousin’s antics. He shrugged off her reparations with a wave of the hand, thinking them unnecessary. The young summoner grinned as Tidus tipped a nod to Auron who was watching the Al Bhed with mounting frustration.
"Rikku, you need to pick up the pace or we’re never going to get across. The slower you go, the longer we’ll be here."
"But I’m scared! I know we have to go across and I know we’d be out quicker if I hurried but I just can’t! There’s a travel agency coming up soon, can we stop there? Please?" Rikku whimpered, a small scream bubbling up in her throat as a bolt missed her by inches.
Stoical as ever, Auron replied. "No."
The young girls spiralling eyes widened in horror. "Auron, please! Meanie!" She covered her ears as the thunder rumbled ominously overhead. "I wanna go home! I hate lightning! I hate thunder! Let’s go rest over there! Please?"
Auron sighed, rubbing at his temples. "This storm never stops. Better to cross quickly."
"I know but…just for a little while?"
The older Guardian looked at her over the top of his glasses. "You wish to further delay Yuna’s pilgrimage?"
Tidus rubbed at the back of his head. "Heh, well? What now?"
The Al Bhed began to plead to anyone who cared to listen. "Pretty please? Just a few minutes? I'm scared of lightning! Let's rest, please? Pretty please? I'm too young to die!"
Auron ignored the girl as best he could, but still she continued to wail. "You're mean...cruel! Your moms would be ashamed of you! Are you having fun doing this to me?"
Yuna broke first, cutting in tentatively. "Sir Auron, I, I am quite tired. May we rest, if only for a few hours?"
The sarcasm bit into his thoughts. Ah, the joys of guarding a young summoner… "Fine. If that is what you wish, we rest. Tidus, go on ahead to the inn and secure us lodgings." He gestured to Rikku. "She’s worse than the storm."
The blond saluted him, earning laughter from the group minus Auron and ran ahead. He squinted against the driving rain, dodging fiends and lightning alike as he dashed to the agency. It came into sight as he rounded a corner and he sighed in relief, the joy short lived as electricity coursed through his body. He grumbled and entered the inn, rubbing at his blackened face. The woman behind the counter looked familiar, though he couldn’t quite place her face as he returned her grin.
"Hey yourself. Get a bit of a jolt I take it?" She gestured to his frazzled appearance and they laughed together easily.
He scratched his head; "You could say that. Uh, do you have any rooms for the night? It’s for a summoner and her Guardians."
The mention of a pilgrimage usually brought with it special rates and exceptions. Her eyes sparkled merrily as she smiled at him, opening the reservation book. "One of those, eh? Ok, let’s see what I can do…how many are in the party?"
"Um…well, there’s the summoner of course, me…" He mentally counted before pronouncing triumphantly, "Seven! There’s seven of us."
She frowned slightly. "That…could be a problem. We only have three twin rooms, you see? I suppose I could let one of you share with me, but only for tonight. How does that sound?"
He winked at her, turning on his charm. "That’s great! Thanks uh…"
He offered his hand which she duly shook, trying hard to keep a straight face. "Pleased to meet ya, Lesca. I’m Tidus."
Could it be…? Lesca raised an eyebrow. "Tidus? Interesting. Well, gimme two minutes and I’ll get your keys, ok?"
Lesca bent over, the tiny skirt she was wearing riding higher and higher to expose more taught flesh. The blond boy gulped, smirking as he ogled the sight. His viewing pleasure was cut short by a slap to the back of his head. Tidus turned to see Auron glaring at him and smiled weakly as he rubbed the back of his head, cursing the older man in his mind for walking in on his titillation.
Lesca straightened up with a bright smile, the grin quickly turning to shock as she noticed the red robed man standing beside the blitzer.
Her throat became dry as she stammered out her words. "A, Auron?" It, it can’t be!
Tidus turned to see the same stunned look reflected in Auron’s eye. "Lesca?" Please let this be real…
Kimahri walked in, a jittery Rikku still hiding behind the blue mountain as Auron and Lesca continued to stare at each other in disbelief. Lesca shook her head slightly as the surprise mellowed, anger taking her firmly in its grasp. She turned to the Ronso and narrowed her eyes. "You, oui meyn!"
She turned on her heel, trying desperately to escape the situation before the tears began to fall. Auron’s heart leapt as he caught her arm, noticing she still wore his ring. He whirled her to face him. "Lesca, wait! I,"
The sentence was cut short as her fist connected neatly with his jaw, the sound of bone on bone sickening the others present. The grip weakened and she shook her arm free, hissing as she left. "Pycdynt!"
Auron stumbled backwards nursing his jaw, dazed from the blow and the meeting that had just occurred. Tidus caught him, sitting the Guardian gently on the floor before turning to face the cowering Rikku behind Kimahri.
"Jeez! Did you see that?"
She shook her head, blond wisps of hair bobbing about her face. "Nuh uh. I was behind this big lug. I did hear it all though…"
Tidus leaned in closer, eager to know what had been said. "And?"
Rikku looked nervously at Auron before deciding it was safe to tell the older boy. "Well, she called Kimahri a liar and as for Auron…"
The Al Bhed blushed and stifled her giggles. "She called him a bastard!"
The lad raised an eyebrow as he walked over to the prone man, punching his shoulder lightly. "Jeez, Auron! What the hell did you and Kimahri do to her? She’s pretty pissed…"
His reward was a glower from below knotted eyebrows. "It’s none of your business. Take Yuna and the others to their rooms when they arrive; I have something I need to attend to."
The older man growled, cutting short any other questions that may have been planned as he strode through to the room Lesca had exited to.
Bastard! Fucking bastard! I can’t believe him! He said he loved me, he said he wanted us to be together!
She paced frantically, her thoughts fevered and irrational. The other Al Bhed watched her fearfully, not knowing what else to do. They knew better than to get in the way when she was in such a mood. She stopped and glared at the door before beginning the striding anew. "Go deal with that summoner’s party. She’ll need her rest with that bastard guarding her!" She barked. One of the women slunk dutifully away as Lesca continued to rave internally.
Liar. He got the Ronso to lie for him because he’s too chocobo shit to come back and face me like a man. Asshole. The thoughts were vehemently acidic and she made obscene gestures to the room where her husband stood. Hot tears of anger and sorrow coursed down her flushed cheeks, the salt water unnoticed as she continued her internal rant.
I thought about him, mourned him, loved him every day for ten fucking years! I fell to pieces thinking he was a damn fiend! I raised his son! Damn you Auron! Bastard!
The door opened and a flash of red entered. The other workers rushed to the man, trying to push him back. "Sir, please! Staff only in here."
"Leave us. Now." Lesca felt an involuntary shiver run it’s fingers up her spine at the sound of his voice. Roughened and gravelled with age, but still the voice that had the power to reduce her to a quivering mass on the floor. The other women looked at each other nervously as they took in the sight of the legendary Guardian of Lord Braska before doing as he asked.
Lesca tried to follow them out, but was caught and held firmly against the wall. Her struggle was futile as he grasped both of her slim wrists in one of his own callused hands, effectively stopping any attempted movement. He used the other hand to lift her chin up, forcing her defiant eyes to meet his own. Again the shiver as her eyes flashed darkly at him in anger. His heart skipped a beat as her verdant oculars pierced through the walls he had spent ten years building up around himself.
"Lesca?" He said softly. His warm breath blasted her face and she closed her eyes for a moment, revealing in his touch before opening her eyelids to reveal what she hoped was a cold, hard, emotionless stare.
"What?" She spat, the venom almost tangible. She was satisfied when he recoiled slightly before reasserting himself.
Auron trailed a finger lovingly down her cheek. "Why? Why this? What have I done to make you hate me so much?"
His wife laughed harshly in disbelief. "What have you done? Are you serious? Fine, I’ll list it for you. You never came home to me. You had Kimahri lie to me and tell me you were dead. I mourned you every day for ten years. Ten years, Auron! I went to the Farplane and you weren’t there, I nearly broke down because I thought you were a fiend! If you had decided that we were a mistake, the least you could have done was be man enough to come and tell me instead of leaving me wondering for a decade."
"I…" He hesitated. Do I tell her now, face further rejection? No, it can wait. "He wasn’t lying. I was in a sense dead, but to Spira. Sin took me to Jecht’s Zanarkand; I only just managed to come back with Jecht’s son a few months ago. I was fulfilling a promise I made to Jecht."
"What about the promise you made to me? Our wedding vows? Or are they easily forgotten in comparison to a pledge to a man you barely knew?"
Auron changed his tactics, pleading with her to listen to reason. "Lesca, please! You have no idea what it was like watching them die, having to leave you…it was as if my heart had been ripped from my chest and speared on a pole! It had to be done, I had to make good that promise, whether I liked it or not."
She sneered at him, tossing her hair back from her eyes. "You know what I think of your promise to Jecht? I think you can shove it so far up your ass it comes out of your mouth! For the sake of the God’s, Auron! Did you really expect that after ten years I’d welcome you back with open arms, no questions asked? If you did you’re an even bigger fool than I thought.
Just like all the rest, you expect the dutiful little wifey to sit at home, uncomplaining while you rush off to do Gods knows what, Gods knows where. You bastard. You selfish, unthinking, uncaring, lying bastard! Well, Auron, if you think that I’m going to act like I’m happy to see you, you have another thing coming. For one thing…"
He began to tune her out, smiling slightly as she continued her rant. So this is what our arguments would have been like…I still wish I had experienced one before now. He looked back to her; her face flushed from the exertion of shouting at him.
"Are you done?" Auron drawled lazily.
The steam rising from her was almost visible as the rage bubbled up within her once again. "No, I am not done! Don’t you even care? You’re not listening to a word I’m saying, are you?"
The Guardian shook his head, the smile stretching to a grin. Lesca’s nose screwed up as she struggled in vain against his grip. "Damn you, Auron! You left me! You left me for your own selfish desires and I am…"
He cut her off with a kiss, his laughter making her lips tingle as he caressed them gently with his own. This ought to shut her up. Maybe now she’ll listen instead of shout. Much as I have missed your voice, darling, you need to hear me too. She felt her struggle subside against her will as she melted into his embrace. Damn you, Auron… He pulled back from her slightly, searching her eyes intently. "Lesca, I wanted to stay but I couldn’t. I love you so much, so much…Take me back, I’ll never leave you again. I promise, you have my word."
The scepticism made her hold back from shrieking her acceptance. "You broke your promise before, how do I know you won’t do it again."
He sighed in irritation, claiming a kiss from her yet again. "Look at me. I love you. I will stay; I have no will to go! I never did."
He watched as she digested the information. She cleared her throat; eyes shining brightly with unshed tears as the suspicion began to subside. "So you didn’t want to leave me? You…still love me?"
"More than life. I have missed you so much, Lesca. Every day was torture." His heart ached to see her upset and he set her arms free.
She looked at him, and suddenly the wall of anger and resentment she had hastily erected in the past hour to save herself from the all to familiar pain came crumbling down, leaving her feeling horribly exposed. She fell into his arms, the tears staining her face as she whispered into his embrace. "I love you."
She wrapped her arms around his form, sighing contentedly as he rested his head upon her shoulder, her own head pressed against his chest. The familiar heartbeat was music to her ears, the rise and fall of his chest a comfort after so many years of unavoidable pain. She giggled a little as she found it hard to make her arms meet as they had done a decade before, the muscle he had gained adding to his mass.
"You bulked up."
A small smile turned the corners of his mouth upward as he ran a hand over her slim waist to her shapely hips. "I got older, trained more. You…have curves."
She winked. "I got older too."
The rich chuckle resonated in his chest, vibrating pleasantly against her ear. "Still have to go one better, my love?"
"You know it."
He pulled back and she frowned, noticing for the first time the scar that lined his face. Auron stiffened as she ran a gentle finger down the mark to his lip, tracing the contours tenderly.
She smiled a little sadly. "What happened?"
"Yunalesca. I tried to avenge your father and Jecht and…"
Lesca barked a bitter laugh. "You should be glad that’s all she did."
It’s not all she did… "Meaning?" He inquired smoothly.
The summoner blushed. "Nothing, I’ve just heard she can be pretty harsh." Experienced it as well.
"Lesca, the summoner I’m guarding…"
The woman raised an eyebrow. "What about her?"
Auron rubbed his temples before looking into her questioning eyes. "It’s Yuna."
Lesca dashed in and out of the rooms, using her master key with impunity. She gasped slightly as she opened the door to find both her sister and her cousin chatting idly in the darkness. They looked up, squinting in the dim light to try and identify the intruder.
"Yunie? Rikku?" Lesca croaked.
The young summoner gave a cry of joy as she recognised the voice, her cousin grinning inanely as she too figured out who called on her. Yuna rushed to the woman, embracing her warmly as Auron watched the reunion from the safety of the doorframe.
"Lesca! Yevon, it’s so good to see you! I thought you were dead, we all did! Luzzu said that you had died a noble death and when you didn’t come back after your pilgrim…"
Her sentence was caught short by the panic that appeared in Lesca’s eyes, pleading with her not to continue. Auron raised an unseen eyebrow, making a mental note to inquire about his wife’s assumed demise later. The younger girl nodded ever so slightly to indicate her comprehension before continuing. "Why did you not come back to Besaid?"
The elder sister hung her head. "I couldn’t. I failed, you know I did."
Yuna’s eyes shone with joy. "I’m glad you failed."
"Me too!" Rikku cut in, hugging her two cousins tightly.
"Why are you doing this Yuna? The pilgrimages have to be stopped; they’re a false tradition that will lead to the death of the summoner! I won’t let you throw your life away." Like I did.
Yuna shook her head, smiling. "No Lesca. I want to do this; I need to do this. It’s a family tradition, isn’t it? Please, Rikku has accepted it…can’t you try to do the same?"
Lesca slammed her fist on the bed, sinking heavily onto its warmth. "I…Rikku, you’re Yuna’s Guardian?"
The young Al Bhed grinned. "Yup! Me, Mr. Grumpy over there, Tidus, Kimahri, Wakka and Lulu."
The older summoner thought back to the days of her own pilgrimage and remembered the teenagers who watched over the young Yuna. Wakka, Lulu and… "Chappu? What about him, Wakka’s brother?"
Yuna’s smile faded slightly. "He was killed by Sin. He joined the crusaders and, well…He fought with a machina weapon and died." She made a slight face. "Wakka’s hated the Al Bhed ever since, so please don’t reveal our lineage to him."
Lesca rolled her eyes. "Ok, on one condition."
"Let me be your Guardian."
Yuna turned to Auron. "Sir Auron? You remember my sister, do you not?"
He chuckled slightly. "Better than you know, Yuna."
A slight frown of puzzlement crossed her face before she let the remark pass. "Well, you will remember that she would be an excellent Guardian. May she please join us?"
The red robed man nodded his head. "Of course."
Rikku and Yuna exchanged worried looks, he had not agreed so readily to anyone else becoming a Guardian. Yuna shrugged and smiled beatifically at her father’s friend. "Thank you, Sir Auron."
Lesca stood and brushed down her skirt. "Well, it’s late and we’ll have a long day ahead of us. We still have to cross the rest of the plains and then onto Macalania forest. There’s no travel agency there, so we’ll need camping equipment…"
Auron snorted at her suggestion and she stuck out her tongue at him as she continued. "Because such a young summoner needs her rest. It’s too long a journey without stopping. I’ll sort that out, Yunie, don’t worry. Good night kids."
She closed the door gently behind her, sighing as she leant against the frame. Auron raised an eyebrow. "Kids?"
"A lot has happened in ten years Auron. I feel so old, they are just kids to me now."
He nodded slowly, knowing exactly how she felt. He was sure that raising Tidus had added years to his life. Lesca bit her lip, eyeing him nervously. "Auron? There aren’t any rooms left, but if you don’t mind you could share…with me, that is if you don’t mind…" She trailed off uncertainly, searching his face for a reaction.
He inwardly grinned, nodding as he tried to keep his cheer from showing. "That’d be…great."
She fumbled with the lock, exhaling sharply in frustration as the key refused to turn in the door. Her husband prised the lock opener from her hand gently and opened the door with ease. As an afterthought, he scooped her up, carrying her over the threshold. She laughed, eyes twinkling in amusement.
"What was that for?"
He set her down, his good eye travelling hungrily over her body. Stop it. Now. Oh Gods, but I can’t…He groaned internally. "Well, I never got to do that since we never had a honeymoon so…"
Lesca pressed a finger to his lips, silencing him. "Let’s not talk of it anymore, ok? It’s too painful to think of what could have been. What matters is the here and now. We’re together, that’s the important thing."
He nuzzled her neck, growling as he removed the hindrance of his collar. The barriers melted to nothing, the usually stoic man trailing soft kisses up Lesca’s neck to trace the outline of her jaw, moving over to capture her full lips greedily. She pulled back suddenly and he looked at her in confusion, horror written on her face.
"What is it, Lesca? What’s wrong?"
She gestured sheepishly to his jaw. "Are you ok?"
He rolled his eye. "I’m fine, I used a healing potion. Now…"
He caught her in his arms once more, his eyebrows lifting in shock as she pulled him down on top of her as they tumbled to the bed. He opened his mouth to ask the question and she silenced him with a kiss. "Don’t dare ask if I’m sure. I’m sure." She shook her head, mumbling, as their kissing became more feverish. "Silly Auron…"
A groan escaped the lips of Lesca as she woke from her fatigued sleep. Eyes still firmly closed, she reached over to the other side of the bed, eyebrows shooting up in shock as she realised the other half was cold and empty. It wasn’t a dream, please tell me it wasn’t a dream. Her oculars snapped open and she breathed a sigh of relief as her eyes adjusted to the dim light to find Auron sitting on the foot of the bed, watching her intently. She grinned lazily, stretching the length of her sore body before sitting up, wrapping the covers tightly around her shivering, naked body. Her husband quirked a smile, leaning over to wrap his coat around her shoulders. She lay back down, inhaling his scent from the garment deeply.
"What time is it?" She yawned,
A moan. "I have not been up this early since our…" son used to wake me with his wet little kisses. She choked and turned it into a cough. "Our first days together."
"You were never up that early then!"
"This is the second time we’ve woken up in the same room, my love. How would you know?" She stuck her tongue out and he shook his head good-naturedly.
"I suppose. Lesca, there is one more thing you should know about Yuna. The Guado maester has asked for her hand."
Her eyes narrowed. "Seymour? I won’t allow it. The man is an ass. There’s something not right about him, Auron. There’re rumours he killed Jyscal."
He shrugged. "I heard. But it is Yuna’s decision."
Lesca sighed and wrapped the coat around her as she rose from the bed, shaking as the chill air bit at her tender flesh. "I know. That’s the problem."
I stayed up all night to see the dawn
The air was cold the sky was grey with shades of black
I stayed up all night to see the dawn
Stormy Waters - Ash
"I dunno Lu, it just seems awfully convenient for her to be at the agency, ya? Maybe she an Al Bhed spy!"
Lulu shook her head in disgust. "Wakka, would you listen to yourself? We know she is Yuna’s sister, how can she be Al Bhed?" The dark haired woman silently offered a prayer up to Yevon to forgive the small lie. It was for the sake of keeping harmony in the group after all.
Wakka stuttered, indignant. "But, how come she don’t want Sir Auron to know about her pilgrimage then? What she got to hide from him?"
"It is none of our concern. Enough Wakka!" She hissed; walking away to leave the blitzer slumped in defeat. He sat heavily on a nearby tree stump, holding his head in his hands while he contemplated Lulu’s words.
A different voice broke into his thoughts. "Gil for them?"
He looked up into Lesca’s eyes, startled by her interruption. "Huh?"
She grinned. "Gil for your thoughts. You look pretty serious."
The red haired man shook his head. "Nah, I just…never mind. So, it’s been a while, ya?"
"Yeah. I heard about Chappu. I’m so sorry."
Wakka stiffened slightly. "It’s ok. Why didn’t you come back to Besaid? Yuna, she waited for you everyday. Right up until we left Besaid a few months back, she was still waiting for you to come back. You hurt her, you know?"
Lesca sighed. "I never meant to. One day, when this is over, I’ll tell you. I’ll tell all of you. Just not now, ok? Please don’t force me into something I’m not ready for."
He nodded slightly, looking around the crystalline forest of Macalania. "Sure is pretty here, ya?" He remarked absently.
"It’s beautiful. Just a shame we can’t stop and enjoy it for longer." She turned around, searching the woods for their companions. "Where are the others?"
Wakka spun the blitzball on his finger while he thought. "Rikku and the other women are going to some spring, said something ‘bout getting cleaned up. Sir Auron and Tidus are sparring and Kimahri’s catching butterflies."
Lesca blinked. "Catching butterflies?"
The two looked at each other for a moment before beginning to laugh. Wakka wiped a tear from his eye. "Yeah, I think I might go and see how that’s going. Gotta feeling it might be pretty funny!" He turned to leave, apparently thinking the better of it as he turned to face her again. "What’s going on with you and Sir Auron?"
She faked ignorance. "I don’t know what you mean. I’m going to catch up with Yuna and the others."
Lesca turned from the man and walked away quickly, her heart pounding. Am I that obvious? We should never have agreed to keep this a secret, Auron! It may make things easier for Yuna, but it sure as hell complicates things for us!
Auron batted the boy’s blade away easily; looking almost bored as he removed the heavy collar while Tidus was readying his next strike. He returned his own sword back to its resting-place on his shoulder with a grunt. "Come on, boy. I know you can do better."
"I can’t! I’m doing my best, Auron, stop criticising me!" He whined.
"Then you should have stayed in Zanarkand. You’re not fit to guard Yuna."
Tidus slashed at the older man, eyes narrowed. "Take it back."
Auron chuckled. "That was a lot better. Did I hit a nerve?"
The younger man began to shake with anger. "What do you know? Take it back, old man! I am fit to guard Yuna, I am!"
The red robed Guardian rolled his eye. "Very well. You’re fit to guard her. Are you satisfied?"
Tidus grinned smugly. "Yes. Yes I am."
An unspoken truce was called and they stood apart, Tidus idly gazing around the clearing while Auron watched him intently. The boy began to shift uneasily under Auron’s scrutiny and so the older man turned his attention to the sword he had resting on his shoulder. He let come to rest by his side, running a gloved hand over the mottled surface. The Guardian sighed in slight irritation and laid the blade on the ground. He pulled a small, soft cloth from inside his coat and began cleaning the metal. "I’ve seen the way you look at her, you know."
Tidus started and began to stumble over his words. "Wha-"
He didn’t look up from his task. "Don’t bother trying to deny it. I think you and I should talk."
Tidus sat heavily on one of the nearby crystal formations. "What about?"
"Your relationship with Yuna."
The youth crossed his arms sullenly. "What have I done now? Don’t tell me, I’ve done something forbidden by Yevon. Again."
Auron smirked. "No, for once you haven’t. It is not unheard of for a Guardian and their Summoner to have a relationship."
The blitzer cocked his head to one side. "So why do we need to talk if I’ve not done anything wrong?"
"You’ve not done anything…yet. I need to make sure the pilgrimage continues, Tidus. You could be a threat to that."
The blond frowned. "What do you mean?"
This is going to be harder than I thought. Auron scratched the back of his head. "Raising you was never easy Tidus…"
"Ah, come on, Auron! I wasn’t that bad to raise, was I?" He interrupted impatiently.
Well, I certainly failed in teaching you manners. "You were evil…In fact, I take that back. You were worse than evil. You were the spawn of Sin. You’re lucky you still draw breath, boy."
Auron took a swig from the tokhari at his side, a small smile playing about his lips as he remembered back to his ‘adventures’ in Zanarkand. He glared at the younger man who had begun to prod his arm, eager to know his thoughts. "What?"
"You’re joking, right? I mean, I thought I was a great kid."
"You thought wrong." Auron commented.
Tidus kicked at one of the loose pieces of glass on the forest floor and winced. "Jeez, what did I ever do that was so bad?"
A raised eyebrow from the elder of the two. "Are you being serious?"
The man sighed in frustration and sheathed his blade; his training once again brought to an abrupt end by his young charge. He laid the sword against the wall, listening for any further calls. Sure enough, the boy bellowed again. Auron rolled his eye, deciding that the summons seemed sufficiently urgent to warrant at least an inquiry. "What?" What is that damn smell?
The groan emanated from Auron’s own chambers. "I dun feel so good…"
As he walked to the room, realisation dawned on him. The acrid odour was vomit. The boy was being sick in his room. He groaned and began to mentally prepare himself for a moaning Tidus and the task of cleaning up his mess. His eye widened as he took in the sight of the fourteen-year-old Tidus and two of his cronies sprawled over various articles of furniture, all green in the face, all totally inebriated. He cast an eye around the destruction, finding his jug upturned and empty on the floor. The rage threatened to consume him when comprehension decided to grace his weary brain. The teenagers were blind drunk. The teenager’s were blind drunk on his sake.
"Auron…" The sickly moan invaded Auron’s murderous thoughts.
His soft tone belied the danger the young blitzer faced. "Tidus?"
The youth hiccuped, gallantly trying to keep down the last remnants of his stomach. "I feel sick."
Auron turned to the boy’s two friends who were watching with interest. "Out. Now."
They looked at each other, nodding and stumbling, whether in their haste to leave or due to the alcohol the older man could not decide. He left the room wordlessly, returning a few moments later with a glass of water in one hand, a scrubbing brush in a bucket of suds in the other. He proffered the water silently to his charge, wincing at the stench of vomit on the boy’s breath. The younger man nearly grabbed the glass in his alacrity, gulping it down quickly. He closed his eyes as he felt the water begin to work its magic, a small smile playing about his face as the nausea began to fade. A weight was dumped in his lap, a warm wetness spreading over his shorts. His eyes shot open in surprise to find the suds slopping over the sides of the pail which now resided in his lap.
"It’s your mess, you clean it. You can forget that dance next week."
Tidus’ face registered shock. "You cannot be serious!"
The russet eye darkened. "I am deadly serious."
"My dad wouldn’t have done this to me. Sheesh, it’s only a bit of fun…" He muttered obstinately.
For the first time, the fine thread that was Auron’s patience snapped. "He’d have done a hell of a lot worse! You’ve not only disgraced yourself; you’ve disgraced your father. I hope your ‘bit of fun’ was worth that."
"He was a drunk! You said so yourself!"
"He was a good man. He knew where his responsibilities lay and he knew what had to be done. If you turn out to be half the man he was, I’ll be happy. In all honesty I can’t see that happening. You will not disrespect him again, do you understand me?" The red robed mans eyes flashed angrily as he growled at the blond.
The tears that threatened made the youths eyes shine. "I, I’m sorry."
Auron softened slightly. "He was proud of you, you know. He loved you so much…try and be the man he wanted you to be, not this idiot swayed by pressure from his peers. The man who cares what others think of him is weak. Your father despised weak people. Perhaps…despise is too strong a word. He pitied them. Do you really want his pity, or would you rather have his respect?"
"Well, then you know what you need to do."
The boy didn’t answer; instead he began to scrub at the floors marred by vomit. Auron nodded in satisfaction, leaving the child to his task.
Tidus scratched the back of his head, laughing nervously. "Oh yeah, that! That was a one off though."
Auron raised an eyebrow. "Really?"
He gulped. "Ok, maybe not. Well, what do you want to talk to me about? I’m sure it’s great for you remembering how much of a brat I was, but there must be some other reason for wanting to talk to me, right?"
"Aren’t you remarkably astute today?" Auron quipped wryly.
The blitzer began to tap the flat edge of the sword against his leg; a habit he knew irritated the older man. Sure enough, he sighed and began to talk. "Stop that. You and Yuna, you will be careful?"
Tidus frowned. "What do you mean?"
Auron took off the glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb. "I know we haven’t had that talk, but I thought you would at least know some basic human biology, boy."
It took a moment for his words to click in the blonde’s brain, but when they did he jumped up, a look of horror on his face. "God’s no! Jeez, we haven’t, I mean…" He hung his head, red faced.
The Guardian could not keep the small smirk from his lips. "I know what it’s like to be young and in love Tidus. I’m not going to lecture you on what you can and can’t do, I just ask you to be careful, for Yuna’s sake."
"Thank the God’s for small mercies." Tidus murmured.
"Watch your tongue."
"Sorry." The red robed man got up to leave; satisfied at the outcome of the conversation. He turned at a shout from his younger companion.
Tidus looked thoughtful. "Hey Auron! You were married at my age, right?"
He narrowed his eye suspiciously. "I was."
Tidus carried on, heedless to the unspoken warning. "So, what was she like? You never did say…hey, do you think you’ll meet her here in Spira again?"
Auron chuckled. "I think it is very likely." He walked away into the depths of the forest, leaving the younger man to ponder his cryptic words.
"Wakka! Hey, Wakka! C’mon, look at this!"
The red headed man ambled over to where Tidus was waving furiously to him "What’s the big rush?"
"Look, through there!" He pointed gleefully at a gap in the thick vegetation before parting the leaves himself. The elder blitzer peered through; his breath catching in his throat as the four women came into sight. Their clothes lay at the edge of the spring while they washed and chatted. Though all still had clothing on to some degree, Wakka could not help but feel a small thrill as he watched.
He nudged Tidus, glaring at him in mock anger before they both broke into wide grins. The two strained their ears to listen to the conversation.
"I don’t see why you have to marry him, Yunie! There’s something about him that freaks me out." Rikku shivered at the thought of Seymour Guado. "You agree, doncha Lescy?"
Lesca lay on her back, gazing up at the stars. "It’s Yuna’s decision. But I do agree, the man’s a monster."
Yuna turned to Lulu, her eyes pleading. "You understand, don’t you Lulu?"
The mage nodded slowly. "I understand. But my opinion is the same as the others, I do not think he is a man who can give you happiness. I would rather you married for love than duty, Yuna, but as Lesca said, at the end of the day it is your decision."
"What are you two gawping at?"
Auron’s rich voice resonated throughout the clearing as he peered through to the two younger men’s titillation, their valiant attempts to keep him from discovering their secret almost comical to him.
"Uh, nothin’ Sir Auron…"
"Yeah, Auron! We were just, uh, looking at some birds!"
The two smiled at each other while thanking the God’s that Auron had apparently not seen through the untruth. The red Guardian raised an eyebrow. "Really? May I take a look?"
The blitzer’s looked at one another fearfully. "Uh, best you don’t, Auron. They might get scared away, y’know?"
Auron growled, pushing the boy to the side and looked through the natural peephole himself. He watched as Lesca pulled herself from the water clad only in a t-shirt and shorts, the water dripping from her lithe body. The other women followed suit and Auron pulled away, a faint blush colouring his cheeks. The slight embarrassment turned to ire as he looked at the shame faced two standing in front of him.
"Do you really think it was appropriate for you to look at the women like that?" He asked, his tone menacing.
They replied meekly in unison. "No sir."
"You won’t do that again, will you?"
Auron sighed, shaking his head. "Try and keep your libido’s under control." Somewhere, a little nagging voice at the back of his mind began to taunt him. Hah! You’re one to talk! He shook his head again; striding back to camp until he heard Wakka’s voice as it was carried to him on the faint breeze.
"Hey, did you see Lesca?" A low whistle. "Hoo boy! Wouldn’t mind a piece of that…"
He didn’t get to finish the sentence; his air supply cut off by the vice like grip around his throat that pinned him to the tree. His eyes were wide in terror, as Auron glared at him.
"Don’t ever, ever talk about my wife like that again. Do you understand?" He spat.
The blitzer nodded, his face starting to turn a faint blue. Auron released his grip, letting the red haired man fall to the ground gasping for air. Tidus looked at him in confusion. "Lesca, she’s your-"
"Wife? Yeah, I am. Sometimes I wonder why when he goes and tries to kill one of our friends, but when all is said and done I still love him."
The group, now reassembled, looked at their newest member. She shrugged. "We would’ve told you at some point, just not right now if Auron had kept his big trap shut."
Auron smiled. "I apologise. Perhaps it’s better this way?"
"Probably. Well, now you all know I’m going to bed." She turned to her husband, offered her hand to him and winked. "Coming?"
Auron woke to Lesca tracing faint patterns on his chest. He grinned lazily at her. "Bored? It’s not like you to be awake this early."
"I can’t sleep." She offered by way of an explanation. "I stayed up all night."
"It’s nothing, my minds just not tired. Too much going on up here." She tapped the side of her head. "Want to come watch the sunrise with me? I need to get out of this tent, it’s too damn cramped."
He nodded, flinging his coat over her shoulders as they walked to dying embers of the previous night’s campfire. She murmured a chant and the flames began to lick and curl at the tinder wood, warming their chilled bones. Black was slowly giving way to hues of grey and blue, the celestial orbs fading away into nothingness as the sun began to reclaim the heavens, wisps of cloud dancing overhead. The iced air nibbled at their flesh and Lesca shivered, smiling sleepily at Auron as his strong arm pulled her closer into his side.
She rested her head on his shoulder. "This is my favourite time of day. It’s so peaceful, like the worlds at rest. Everything’s ok for once, y’know? You can pretend that everything bad never even happened just for these few moments and only remember the good." She whispered.
He held her tighter, understanding the hidden meaning behind the innocent words. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
So don’t ever think that I would ever ditch you baby.
Without a doubt you are my rhyme and my reason,
And I won’t let you down.
Holding on For You – Liberty X
The cool blues of Macalania woods had faded into the stark white of the lake, the frozen wind chilling them all to the bone. No more had been said about the relationship between the eldest Guardians, though curiosity was rife within the small group. The two led the pack; small touches and loving words exchanged frequently while the rest looked on in amusement. The change in Auron had been astonishing to behold. Though Yuna and Tidus knew the gruff exterior was a falsehood, it was one the red robed man had cultivated and used to his advantage for years. To see the barriers that had encased him for a decade melt to nothing with a few choice words from one woman was nothing short of a miracle. At the point where the spirits of the group had been at their lowest ebb following Yuna’s decision to marry, the obvious love Auron and Lesca shared was a source of hope.
Wakka looked at the couple and saw, in some respects, himself and Lulu. If a man as embittered by life as Auron could be persuaded to allow love into his heart, surely Lulu could see that her life didn’t have to end with Chappu’s death? Tidus too drew some comfort from the union. He hoped that Yuna would look at the two and realise she was marrying Seymour for the wrong reasons. The blitzer knew it to be a long shot, but the hope that it may be even a distant possibility kept him from sinking into depression at the thought of losing the woman he loved to her over developed sense of duty. The Macalania travel agency came into sight and the group breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Rikku punched the air in glee before retreating back into Kimahri’s side for warmth. "Finally! I thought I was going to turn into a popsicle!"
Lesca grinned from her position huddled under Auron’s arm. "Well, let that be a lesson to us both. We buy warmer clothes at the agency." The smile faded and she looked distant. "I’ll go on ahead and get us rooms, ok?"
Tidus stepped forward. "We’ll do that, right Yuna? Don’t worry about it."
"No, I’ll go. I know Rin; I’ll be able to sort something out. Just leave it." She stated firmly before running toward the agency, head down to ward off the snow.
Tidus frowned, turning to Auron. "What’s up with her?"
Auron too looked confused at her haste to leave the group. "I…I’m going on ahead. Guard Yuna, make sure she gets there."
He ran off without waiting for an answer. The ronin smiled wryly, Lesca might know Rin, but he knew a short cut. As he approached the agency he heard voices as he passed the window, recognising them as belonging to Rin and Lesca. He crouched and listened, hoping to solve the mystery of his wife’s behaviour.
"I’m sorry to have left you in the lurch like that, I just needed to protect Yuna. Yevon knows, I haven’t been around to do that for the past ten years."
"It is quite alright, I understand perfectly." Rin paused. "I suppose Sir Auron would have nothing to do with this?"
A laugh. "You know me too well. You have too keen a nose for Yevonite gossip, Rin."
Auron could hear the teasing in the man’s voice. "Whatever do you mean?"
"Well, how else would you know he was guarding Yuna?"
"I met them earlier in the pilgrimage."
"What? Shit! You didn’t tell him anything, did you?" Her voice was shrill, the panic she was experiencing audible.
Rin’s tone was reproving. "Of course not. You have told him nothing of the past ten years?"
"No. Not yet, it’s just I…everything’s going so well for me. I don’t want to jeopardise it by telling him what…well, you know."
Auron could sense the man’s frown as he questioned her. "What about the boy?"
"No. He knows nothing, not even that."
Rin sighed. "Lesca, you are only making this harder for yourself. How are you going to explain away the reasons for keeping the truth from him?"
Auron straightened and entered the agency, causing both parties of the eavesdropped conversation to jump. Lesca smiled warmly at him, the false gaiety unable to disguise the terror in her eyes. Rin nodded respectfully. "Ah, Sir Auron. You are well I hope?"
He ignored the question, turning instead to face his wife. "What are you keeping from me?" He asked softly.
Her eyes widened involuntarily before she realised and returned her face to an impassive mask. "Nothing. I don’t know what you’re talking about, Auron."
Rin backed away, leaving the two to discuss the issues at hand. Guardian squared up to Guardian, both with narrowed eyes. "I don’t believe you."
"I don’t care if you believe me. Drop the subject, there’s nothing to discuss." Her voice was calm, steady, but her eyes darted like a wild animal’s, desperately searching for an escape route.
"Don’t make me ask you again." He warned.
"Then don’t ask. Simple. God’s, but you’re stubborn."
Auron moved forward, enfolding her in his arms. She stood stiffly against him; and he smirked at her obvious mistrust. "What? Don’t you want to hold me?" He asked gently.
She snorted lightly. "I do, darling, but I get the distinct impression it’s not an embrace you’re after."
In a second her arms were held firmly behind her back, her disbelief turning to anger. He raised an eyebrow. "You’re too good at reading me. Tell me what you’re hiding from me."
"Dammit Auron! Let go of me!" She raged at him, lashing out with her feet. He winced as a boot caught him in the stomach before he managed to pin her feet down with his own.
"You really want to know? Fine. I’m unsent, Auron. I’m dead."
His grip on her went slack and she stormed free of his grasp and out of the room, leaving him to slump dazed onto the floor. She’s unsent? He groaned and threaded his hands through salt and pepper. My darling, who? Why? I failed you before and I’ve failed you again. I couldn’t even save you from my fate, this cursed living death. What kind of a husband am I?
"Well I hope you’re happy."
Rin looked up from the pile of paperwork on his desk to meet the glare of Lesca. "Excuse me? What is wrong, are you angry?"
She laughed incredulously. "Angry? Angry doesn’t even begin to describe the absolute burning rage I’m experiencing! I’m exceptionally pissed off and it’s all your fault!" The volume of her outburst had increased steadily at the last three words.
Rin rolled his eyes and sat back in his chair, arms folded. "What is my fault?"
"He overheard us. I had to tell him I’m unsent. Hey, did you see that?" She pointed out the window.
He squinted. "See what?"
"That was my chance at happiness flying out of the damn window."
"I think you are over-reacting. You do have a tendency for that as I recall." He placed a finger on his chin thoughtfully.
She sneered at him. "Really? And how do you figure that one out?"
"He is standing behind you."
She turned to see Auron leaning against the doorframe behind her. He nodded cordially at Rin, never once taking his eyes from Lesca’s face. "I think we need to talk."
Lesca tensed slightly. "Ok, fine. We’ll talk later."
She crossed her arms and held up her head defiantly. "I don’t want to talk right now."
"That’s too bad, because you’re going to." The commanding tone he used with the rest of the group crept into his voice. "Our room now, Lesca."
He exited Rin’s office and sighed. How can I tell her?
Despite the warmth of the travel agency, Lesca shivered as she smiled weakly at Yuna and her friends. The realisation that she’d have to tell them her secret haunted her thoughts, and she left the gathering before questions could be asked. The woman rubbed at her arms absently as she walked unthinking to the room she was to share with Auron, chewing on her bottom lip as if to make physical the mental torment. The handle of the door was cool to the touch as she placed a trembling hand over it, willing the quaking appendage to open the door. Unwilling to do it’s masters bidding, she had to resort to using both hands to turn the doorknob. The door creaked open and she crept in silently, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the dim candlelight.
"Auron?" She whispered softly, hoping against hope that he was not yet there and she could hide beneath the covers and sleep, effectively warding off his questions.
He stood from his resting-place, a chair in an unlit corner of the room and smiled gently at her. "You came."
She nodded, looking at her feet. "I, I suppose you want to know what’s happened the past ten years huh?"
His reply was eloquent, simplistic. "I do."
Lesca sat on the bed, pulling the comforter up to her chin as her eyes glazed over, remembering torture from a lifetime ago. Auron perched beside her, offering her the comfort of his touch which she accepted without thinking. He enfolded her in his robe and let her calm, knowing she would begin her tale when she felt strong enough. She leaned into him, resting her head on his chest. "You don’t hate me then, knowing what I am?"
He chose his words carefully. "You are my wife. Nothing else matters to me."
The relief she felt was immense and before she could stop herself she blurted out her secret. "Four years after you left I became a summoner." The statement chilled Auron to the bone and he shuddered against her. "You’re cold?"
"No, please, carry on."
"You were gone, everyone was gone. I had nothing left to live for. Sin had returned and destroyed what was left of my life. I wanted to die." She laughed a bitter, hollow sound. "I roped Cid into becoming my Guardian, Luzzu joined us at Besaid. Luzzu was so much like you, so idealistic…he tried to sway me from my path with declarations of love. I couldn’t, wouldn’t listen. I didn’t want to. I was blinkered by the thought of being with you again. When we reached Zanarkand and I found out about the sacrifice that had to be made to obtain the Final Aeon, I nearly gave up. Cid persuaded me to keep going, he knew how much it meant to me, he was to be my Final Aeon."
She paused, the troubled look returning to her eyes as she remembered that day. Auron interrupted, trying to save her from the pain. "You are a summoner? You died battling Sin?"
Lesca shook her head. "No, I…I am a summoner, that much is correct. I was foolish Auron; I threw my life away. It wasn’t even given for a good cause. When we went to Yunalesca, she told me. She told me everything. That Jecht was Sin, that my father had willingly died…she said she’d killed you."
Auron drew in breath sharply as he listened, reliving his own demise as she talked. Lesca didn’t notice and continued venom in her voice. "Lying bitch. I, I couldn’t take it. She robbed me of you, she stole our life together from us for naught! All because you tried to avenge them…" A tear rolled down her face, her voice cracking from the emotions reliving the experience was dredging from within her. "I fought her, Auron. I fought her and she struck me down. Cid and Luzzu, they tried to save me, but my wounds were too severe. I died in Guadosalam."
His voice was hoarse. "Guadosalam? But Seymour…"
"Seymour knows what I am, he tried to send me. He was already becoming twisted with his thirst for power when I met him six years ago, Yevon knows what he has become in that time. I’m so worried for Yuna; she’s keeping something from us. There’s a reason for this marriage and it’s not all to do with making Spira happy."
He held her tightly to him, trying to articulate the words and will them from his stubborn throat. "I gathered as much. Lesca?"
"I love you."
She raised an eyebrow. "E muja oui, duu. What do you want to tell me?"
Auron spoke in a ragged whisper. "She wasn’t lying."
Lesca sat up, looking into his eye with confusion written on her face. "What?"
"Yunalesca, she wasn’t lying."
She swallowed the lump in her throat. "What are you saying?"
"She killed me. I’m an unsent. I’m dead."
He looked up sharply. "Oh?"
"Yeah, ‘oh’. You know; you can’t really get on to me for keeping this a secret. You did it too." She said thoughtfully.
He began to argue before realising that she was right. "I suppose. Is there anything else I should know?"
"Maybe, one thing." She stood and rummaged in the pouch she kept by her side, retrieving a sphere. She flipped the switch and turned it on. "Watch."
She placed the sphere in front of them and smiled sadly as it slowly sprang to life. "I haven’t watched this since my death. Too many memories."
Auron watched fascinated as first himself and then Jecht appeared. He grinned at the expression on his younger self’s face before touching his scar subconsciously. "I used to be quite handsome."
Lesca responded with a kiss on the wound. "You still are."
The scene shifted to show Braska shaking his head at the bickering of his two Guardians, waving at the sphere and shouting best wishes to his daughters. Jecht had Auron in a headlock by this time and was promising to lighten her husband up for when they returned. The scene ended and moved to a picture of Auron and Lesca on their wedding day, grinning happily and waving at the camera. Auron shook his head as he watched. "It’s hard to believe we were once that young and that happy."
"A death will do that to you."
Again the picture changed, this time to show Lesca leaning heavily on an older man, her stomach larger than Auron could ever remember. She scowled at the camera and batted it away with a string of Al Bhed expletives. "Who’s that? And were you comfort eating?"
Lesca giggled. "This was about six months after you’d left Bevelle. I went to Home. That’s my Uncle Cid. And I wasn’t comfort eating, just wait and you’ll see." The giggles had quietened and been replaced by a solemn look.
Next, a close up of Lesca’s face, looking drawn and gaunt. She smiled weakly at the camera and raised a finger to her lips to indicate the camera holder to be quiet. The view panned down to the sleeping infant in her arms before coming back up to see that she had fallen into a fatigue induced slumber. Auron reached out to the sphere, touching the image lightly. "You look so ill. Who is the child, a cousin of yours?"
She shook her head. "Just watch. I hope you figure it out."
The next few images were of the boys various landmarks, birthdays, first steps, first words. All were recorded on this sphere with no clues as to who he was until the last clip. The boy, three years old at Auron’s guess as the previous image had shown his third birthday, ran over to a woman who sat on the sand, watching over him from afar. As the camera came into focus, Auron noted with a start that it was Lesca who grabbed the child in a bear hug, making him squeal with delight.
"Don’t go away that far next time, ok sweetie? There’s nasty fiends that would love to gobble up such a cute little boy!" Lesca tickled the boy and he giggled in delight.
"Ok, I won’t, I pwomise."
She smiled. "Good boy. Go get your shoes Aleron, we need to head back to Home." She called to the man behind the camera. "Cid, do you have them?"
The gruff voice from behind the camera called back to her. "They’re here, Lesca."
The boy ran off screen, returning a few moments later with the shoes, beaming as Lesca fastened them to his small feet. "Ready?"
The boy, Aleron, nodded. "Ready!" He turned to walk away before deciding against it and embracing Lesca in a hug. "I love you, mommy."
"I love you, too."
Auron sat, stunned as he worked through the images in his head. He hadn’t noticed at the time, but the boy looked exactly like he had when he was small. Aleron was the name he and Lesca had decided on for a male child should they have been blessed with a son. Eventually his sluggish brains pieced together the clues and figured out what Lesca had been trying to tell him. "The boy, he’s our son. I made you pregnant before I left." They were not questions, merely statements of fact.
She nodded, a small smile on her face. "I named him Aleron like we had discussed. I only found out I was with child after you’d left."
"I’m a father." He chuckled. "I can’t believe it. Where is he, where’s our son?"
He frowned as she bit her lip, her eyes glistening. "What? Lesca?"
Her voice was strangled. "He’s dead."
Auron slumped forward, head in hands. "Dead? How?"
"Sin. I tried to protect him; I tried to save him! I failed."
He looked up to see her shoulders shaking gently as she keened for the lost child. So these are the demons that have haunted you, drove you on this path. I’ll keep them from you from now on, my love. Now that I know there is nothing to fear. "It’s not your fault. We’ll see him again, one day."
She sobbed into his chest, his heart breaking as he held her. "You’ve found you had a child and lost him again all in the space of a day. How can you forgive me?"
Auron smoothed his wife’s hair back from her eyes, his touch comforting to her. "What’s important is now. We’re together, that’s what matters. He’ll wait for us with Braska and our families. Don’t chide yourself like this, let the past go. We need to move on with what’s left of our lives if we’re to be happy. Please stop blaming yourself, let me be with you."
"I’m so sorry."
"Stop apologising, there’s no need! Lesca, trust me, trust yourself."
Lesca didn’t hesitate. "I trust you."
He undressed her silently before swathing her in the covers; she made no attempt to resist his babying of her. He knew she needed the comfort such simple things as a kind word or gesture could provide. He raised an eyebrow at her sleeping form as he joined her in bed, her fatigued form instinctively pressing against him. Auron sighed and wrapped his arms around her, pulling her closer and resting his head atop her hair. An overwhelming rush of love washed over him and he kissed her forehead before returning to his previous position.
You raised our son. You died in no small part because of me. We’re so alike, you and I. Foolish, impulsive…I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s not you who should be sorry. I’m sorry, it’s my fault. I promise no one else will suffer our fate, the cycle ends here. I won’t allow anyone else to sacrifice themselves. Yuna will live and with her, our hope. I won’t fail you again.
Look what love gave us; a world full of killing,
And blood spilling, that world never came.
Hero – Chad Kroeger
Her eyes fluttered open, the gentle light of the early morning luminary wakening her from her slumber. She yawned softly, nestling further into the nook between arm and body of the man she loved. The man she now knew she would share eternity with. For once he slept longer than she did, his chest rising and falling rhythmically as he slept, his heart beating steadily within his chest. She ran a finger down his torso, smiling sleepily as he quivered under her touch, a light sigh escaping him as he pulled her closer. She lifted her head to look at the timepiece, suppressing a laugh as Auron twitched, her hair brushing lightly against his skin tickling him. Lesca kissed him gently before settling back down, unwilling to move from the warm cocoon provided by the blankets and her husband.
He stirred slightly, groaning before turning onto his side and moulding his body to her own. His voice was thick, clogged with sleep. "Time is it?"
Lesca nuzzled his neck and he chuckled, the vibrations making her tingle. "Seven."
His one eye snapped open. "Seven? We need to get up. We need to get Yuna."
She frowned. "What do you mean? She’s here isn’t she?"
His head sank father into the pillow. "She went with Tromell Guado to Macalania Temple."
"Please tell me you’re joking."
She jumped out of bed, hastily pulling on her clothes. "I can’t believe you let her go off with a Guado! After what we agreed about Seymour…for Yevon’s sake, Auron!"
His brain started to clear of the sleep-induced fuzziness and he cursed himself and his actions of the previous day. "I apologise. I don’t know what I was thinking. We’ll go now."
She sighed, looking up from pulling on her boots. "I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap, I just…"
"I know. It’s ok; it was irresponsible of me. You were perfectly entitled to your tirade."
She raised an eyebrow before going back to her task. "Honey, that was not a tirade. Believe me, when I go off on a tirade you’ll know all about it…"
Yuna breathed a sigh of relief as her Guardians came into sight, the Al Bhed had been bothering herself and Tromell as a wolf would worry a sheep. She recognised her cousin, Brother, and tried to recall what little Al Bhed she knew, the words escaping her at the point where she needed them the most. Lesca ran up to her, hugging her close before whispering in her ear. "What did I always teach you Yunie? Don’t go off with strange men, they’ll lead you into trouble!" The young summoner grinned as her elder sister winked at her before scanning the Al Bhed. Rikku tried to reason with Brother, her diplomatic attempts a failure. The group watched in horror as a machina took residence in front of them.
Wakka looked perturbed. "What the hell is that thing?"
Lesca took charge, addressing him brusquely. "It’s a machina weapon. Wakka you need to take out the negator, it prevents us from using magic and summoning aeons. None of the rest of us can reach, but you’ll be able to hit it with your great blitz skills, right?"
He coloured at the praise. "Yeah, course I will! Count on me, ya?"
The battle was hard fought, but bloodied and weary they triumphed, leaving Yuna to go on ahead with Tromell to the temple. The tension within the group was thick, Wakka’s discovery of Rikku’s race an unwelcome shock. He glared at the young Al Bhed who’d sandwiched herself between Lulu and Lesca, the two older women trying to shield her from the blitzer’s wrath. He pointed at her, hatred in his eyes. "I can’t believe I’ve been travelling with an Al Bhed! A heathen!"
Lesca narrowed her eyes. "Watch your tongue, Wakka. You liked her well enough before."
"But she’s an enemy of Yevon!"
She raged at him, biting back her own hedonistic ideals. "She’s a child! Chappu died Wakka, and yes it was sad and unfortunate, but that does not mean you have to lay the blame for his death on an innocent! Leave her alone!"
He waved a hand at her. "Bah! You’re as bad as she is! And you a summoner! What would the Maester’s think of a summoner being an Al Bhed sympathiser?"
Tidus looked at her with interest. "You’re a summoner as well? Cool! So are you going to get the Final Aeon too?"
She answered the question, her eyes never breaking from the stare between herself and Wakka. "No. My pilgrimage ended years ago."
Wakka snorted. "They probably found out you supported the heathens and stopped your pilgrimage."
Lesca smiled dangerously, still maintaining eye contact as she walked over to him. Auron tried to stop her, recognising the look on her face, but she shook him off. "You know nothing little man, so don’t spew your supposed knowledge to me or anyone else."
"I don’t know how Yuna ended up with you as a sister. Just wait till she hears about you and the Al Bhed."
"Her name is Rikku."
He spat on the ground. "She doesn’t deserve a name."
"Wakka, you’re being too harsh. Lesca is right, Rikku’s our friend, she’s Yuna’s friend. Can’t you put this foolish prejudice behind you?" Lulu interrupted the game that was quickly disintegrating into cat and mouse as Lesca toyed with the man.
The blitzer groaned. "Not you as well, Lu." He jabbed a thumb roughly in Rikku’s direction. "Her kind killed Chappu!"
Lulu sighed at his stubbornness. "No, Wakka. Sin killed Chappu. Rikku had nothing to do with that."
Lesca slapped the back of Wakka’s head. "Did you take one too many hits to the head with a blitzball as a kid? You’re heavily out-numbered here, my friend. I suggest you keep your mouth firmly shut unless you’re willing to be civil."
Shelinda ran up to them, fawning over Tidus. "Ah! There you are! So Lady Yuna is getting married. You shouldn’t kid around about these things!"
He rolled his eyes before answering her. "Yeah, I guess not."
"You’re not happy?" She inquired.
Lesca stifled a laugh. "Shelinda, leave the poor boy be."
The acolyte jumped, startled by the new Guardians presence. "Lady Lesca? It has been some time since we have seen you in Bevelle. We all thought-"
"I know what you thought. You thought wrong. So, all grown up and an acolyte now, huh? Each to their own, I suppose."
Shelinda bowed, flustered by what she believed to be praise. "I thank you Lady Summoner."
Lesca shook her head. "Just Lesca. I’m Yuna’s Guardian; she’s the summoner now, not I. Where is she?"
She pursed her lips while she thought. "I believe…she’s gone to the Cloister of Trials with Maester Seymour."
The Guardians exchanged a look before rushing to the trials, stopping to investigate a shriek from one of the rooms to the side of the entrance of the Cloister. "Lord Jyscal! A sphere, in Lady Yuna’s belongings…"
Auron raised an eyebrow as he handed the sphere to Tidus to turn on. "This may well answer a few questions."
The sphere flickered into life, an image of Lord Jyscal Guado appearing before the stunned group. The Maester began to talk, hesitantly at first before gaining strength. What I am about to tell you is the unclouded truth, I swear it on my honour as a Guado. Listen to me very carefully, for I shall tell you the truth about my son, Seymour. His mind is closed even to me, a Maester of Yevon, but I can feel flames of darkness burning in his heart. He is using Yevon, the Guado and even the summoner’s.
If he is not stopped, he will surely bring destruction and chaos to Spira. I will leave this world soon, killed by my own son, but I do not fault him. Because I was not wise enough he has suffered and become twisted. I could not protect him and his mother from the world and it’s cruelty. I will accept death as punishment for my deeds. But whoever is watching this I implore you to stop Seymour! Stop my son.
Auron rolled his eye. "Wonderful."
The young Al Bhed tugged at Lesca’s arm, eager for reassurance. "Will Yuna be alright?"
"Without us, no." The ronin stated gravely.
They ran through the trials, ignoring the bitterly cold wind that nibbled at their flesh and Wakka’s protests. Auron eyed him coolly, still not forgetting the scene from mere hours ago. "We will protect Yuna from anyone. Even a Maester."
The blitzer hung his head. "This can’t be happening."
The mage bit back her anger. "If he is truly at fault it must be done."
Seymour’s eyes widened slightly as he watched Yuna’s Guardians enter the temple, one in particular grabbing his attention. He suppressed a smile, her mistrust of him plain to see as she met his gaze coolly. He bowed to the assembled group, noting with interest the conflict within its ranks. "Please be silent. Lady Yuna prays to the Fayth."
Lesca grinned as Tidus stepped forward, narrowing his eyes at the Guado. "Make me."
The door to the Fayth opened and Yuna emerged; looking around in disbelief at the scene that greeted her. "But, why…?"
"We saw Jyscal’s sphere." Tidus explained.
Auron addressed the Guado Maester. "You killed him."
"What of it? Yuna, you knew of these things did you not?" Yuna nodded before he continued. "Well then why did you come here?"
"I came…I came to stop you!"
Her Guardians surrounding her gave her strength and she stood tall against the threat that was Seymour. He shook his head. "Ah, of course. ‘Protect the Summoner even at the cost of one’s own life.’ The Code of the Guardian. How admirable. Well, if you’re offering your life’s I shall have to take them."
"You think you can kill with impunity? Think again, we’ll stop you." Lesca spat.
He raised an eyebrow. "You’re still here. Reunited with Sir Auron, how touching. A former summoner is no match for me, Lesca. I should have disposed of you when I had the chance."
She smirked wryly. "You weren’t strong enough then and you’re not strong enough now. Your petty threats hold no sway over me."
"If only we had gotten to know each other better, my dear."
"I’m glad we didn’t."
Seymour cast an eye over the group, his gaze lingering on the younger summoner. "Tell me, Lesca. Do they know what you are, what you have become?"
Lesca smiled sweetly. "Go fuck yourself, Seymour."
The Guardians reeled at the profanity directed toward the Maester, the man himself merely shaking his head. "You would go against the teachings, defy a Maester of Yevon?"
"You set a fine example for us all. If you, a Maester, can disregard the teachings then so can we."
Yuna stepped forward hesitantly. "Maester Seymour. I trust my Guardians with my life. But they are also my friends. I will not stand by and watch them be hurt. I will fight you too!"
"All right!" Tidus cheered.
Only Wakka still clung to the hope that conflict could be avoided. "Maester Seymour!"
The Guado narrowed his eyes. "So be it."
"We’re finished." Wakka slumped against the wall of the ice cavern, unable to believe he had just had a hand in the killing of a Maester. No matter what evil deeds the Guado had committed during his lifetime, he still could not shake the feelings of guilt.
"No, we’re not." Lesca said firmly. "We just need to get out. We’ll figure out what to do then, there’s no point in worrying about it while we’re stuck here."
Tidus frowned. "But Seymour’s the bad guy! We’ll just show everyone the sphere and everything will be alright!"
Lulu shook her head. "It’s not going to be that easy. Retribution from the temples will be swift, no one will be willing to listen to traitors such as ourselves, no matter what we tell them."
"Lulu’s right, all they’ll be interested in is a confession and that’s the one thing they won’t get. We’ve got nothing to confess to." Lesca looked to Auron for support.
He nodded. "Exactly. Let’s get out of here."
They turned to leave, their path blocked by Tromell. "Traitors."
Yuna looked crestfallen. "Traitors?"
Auron stepped in front of her, keeping the Guado at bay. "Give us a chance to explain."
"No need. I already know what I’ll tell the other Maester’s."
Tidus jumped in, head first as always. "Hold on, Seymour’s the bad guy! He attacked us! We’ve got a sphere, you’ll believe us when you see it."
Tromell smirked. "You mean this? The Guado take care of Guado affairs."
A collective gasp arose from the troupe as he smashed Jyscal’s sphere into oblivion. Yuna sank to her knees in despair, clutching her staff to her chest. "This can’t be happening…"
Lesca dropped to the ground beside her, holding her to her while she whispered instructions. "Don’t question me, just listen and do as you’re told. Run."
She pulled the summoner to her feet, nodding to Lulu and Auron. He signalled to Kimahri, and together they pushed the guards back. "Run! Don’t look back just go!"
Lulu grabbed Wakka, pulling him with her as she took off up the icy slope, her dress skimming the frozen tundra. "Wakka you have to help me here. You’re not exactly a light weight."
He shook his head, blinking, as if he had only just realised he was moving. "Sorry Lu. I…"
"I know. We’ll talk later, right now focus on getting out."
He looked behind them, cursing at the Guado’s fast gaining on them. "The others?"
She flicked her eyes back, fine eyebrows furrowed until she spotted her summoner. "Tidus is leading Yuna, Rikku’s behind them…"
"Sir Auron? Lesca?"
"I don’t see them. They’ll not be far behind." Lulu breathed a sigh of relief as Tidus and the two girls caught up to them, the blitzer grunting as he lifted Yuna from where she’d slipped, never once slowing his pace.
He set her back down, grinning as she tried to keep up. "Come on, Yuna! We’re nearly there."
"But what about Sir Auron and my sister?" She fretted.
Rikku winked as she galloped ahead, all long limbs and grace. "They’ll be fine! They’ve probably beat them all and they’re making out somewhere! Don’t worry Yunie."
Yuna allowed herself a small smile. "I hope you’re right…well, at least about the being alright part."
Lesca grimaced, staggering slightly as the Guado’s weapon hit home, striking her bluntly across the temple. Her eyes darted around the temple, trying and failing to seek out the familiar red coat. Two more of the spindly creatures joined their brother in arms, smiling menacingly at her. She gulped, her heartbeat quickening as she realised she would not win a hand to hand battle against three Guado. Seymour had drained the last of her strength; her black magic refused to focus on her opponents who had all protected themselves to some degree with their own incantations. She cursed inwardly, backing away from the advancing men.
She looked around, expecting to see her companions and instead finding no one. "What?"
We’re still here. Call us.
She grinned at the men who looked at her as if she’d gone mad. The aeons. She closed her eyes, trying to remember the steps and movements required to summon the aeon to her. The forgotten summoner moved hesitantly, her concentration wavering as she attempted the motions without her staff to focus her mind. She grinned as she felt something click, the rush of air beside her indicating her success. Lesca opened her eyes, smiling at Bahamut. It’s been a while.
The Guado looked panicked but stood their ground as aeon looked at summoner. They watched in interest as Bahamut nodded almost imperceptibly. It has. I thought you had forgotten us.
Not forgotten… just not remembered.
We understand. You must leave this place soon; your story nears its final chapter as we hope does ours. We’re tired of dreaming.
She nodded. I know.
We’re not only here for Yuna. We still heed your call.
She chuckled. I appreciate it, but after this…no more. This is Yuna’s world now; I’m too old and too dead for the pretence of being Lady Lesca.
A pity. So, this then is farewell?
It is…thank you for your help and your presence over the years. You have been my comfort and I didn’t even realise.
She paused. Bahamut?
The King of Dragons roared, felling her enemies before retreating back into the skies. She felt what little strength that had remained desert her as the aeons purged themselves from her body, flickers of pyreflies dancing before her as she sank to the ground, ignoring the freezing temperature. The slight, uncomfortable tug of the Farplane on her soul increased as the essence of the aeons, part of her rooting to the world of the living, left her. The former summoner closed her eyes, allowing the feeling of emptiness to wash over her. Fatigue overcame her and she slipped into sleep, unable to resist the lure of the comfort slumber can bring. Auron wiped his blade on the snow, wrinkling his nose in disgust as it tainted the pure crystals crimson. He dismissed the bodies before him, raising an eyebrow at the slash marks that adorned their chests before carrying on past them, his eye scanning the white for his wife.
He choked back a gasp of horror as his eye feel upon her, a small trickle of blood running from her temple. The ronin thanked the stars at the sight of her exhalation hanging suspended in the air; the cloud of misted dew the only visible sign of life. He wrapped her in his robe, shivering at her death like pallor and frozen skin. Cradling her in his arms, her head tucked beneath his chin, he began the ascent from the temple. As he emerged blinking into the harsh daylight, he froze. His companions, bloodied and tired, fought valiantly against a Wendigo, it’s brute strength having a telling effect on the groups well being. Lulu looked up from the fray, her lips twitching into a slight smile as she saw the two before she cast her spell, the hex felling the beast. The small group cheered and whooped, the victory a tonic to their spirits which had taken a battering in the last few days. The celebrations were short lived, Auron’s one eye widening in horror as he watched the fiend break the ice beneath his friends. He ran to them unthinking, realising too late that he had condemned himself and his wife to the same fall as the others.
Lesca tried to sit up, the throbbing pain in her head making her give up the tentative attempt. She flopped back down onto something soft, her eyebrows knitting together as she tried to work out whom or what was acting as her pillow. She cracked open one eye, wincing as dim light filtered into the ocular. Auron grunted as she shifted slightly in his lap, tightening his protective grip on her torso. His free hand came up to stroke her hair, moving the iced strands gently back from her eyes. Both eyes now open, she realised she was enfolded in his coat, her face the only part of her exposed to the elements. They were huddled with the rest of the group around a campfire, frozen bodies slowly thawing.
Her voice cracked as she tried to speak, the word emerging as a whisper. "Hi."
Auron looked around the group, glaring fiercely at anyone who dared to look at them before turning his attention back to her. His voice was soft, the tone reproving. "Quite a scare you gave me back there."
She closed her eyes, opening them again slowly. "Sorry."
"What happened?" He asked.
"The aeons, they…left. I’m no longer a summoner." She grinned weakly. "They take as much going out of you as they do going in. Except this happens all at once instead of one at a time."
Auron frowned. "You wanted this?"
He nodded, leaving the subject alone. She looked around the group, most of who were sleeping. "Where are we?"
"Beneath Lake Macalania."
"I have a feeling I don’t want to know how I got here so I’m not even going to ask."
He chuckled, his deep, rich voice bringing a lazy grin to her face. "That’s probably a good idea."
"Yuna?" She inquired.
"Just awoken." He pointed to her position where she stayed close to Tidus.
"You think those two…?"
Auron smirked. "If not yet then soon. I’ve told him to be careful."
"Well he’s one up on you at that age." She caught the wince and regretted the words immediately. "I’m sorry."
The ronin waved away the apology as the troupe came together, some coming over, some awakening from much needed sleep. All eyes turned to Yuna as she stood before them, searching her for an explanation. She nodded as if to reassure herself before she spoke. "I wanted to confront Maester Seymour about his father, Lord Jyscal. I wanted to convince him to turn himself in to Yevon's judgement."
Lulu looked over to Lesca, the two exchanging knowing looks. It was something they had discussed and agreed on previously. "In exchange for marriage?"
"Yes, if that’s what it took."
The hurt was evident in Tidus’ eyes. "So, what did Seymour say?"
She hung her head. "He didn't say anything. Now...now I don't even think it was worth it. I should've told you what I was going to do."
"Enough. Dwelling in the past is futile." Lesca raised an eyebrow at the sharp words from her husband but kept silent. Rikku, however, did not.
"Hey! You don’t have to say it like that!"
Auron growled dangerously. "You want to waste time listening to her regrets?"
The Al Bhed turned back to Yuna. "You don’t have to say it like that."
He sighed. "Our immediate concern is Yuna’s pilgrimage. Are you willing to go on?"
Yuna hesitated. "Yes. But then, do you think Yevon will allow it?"
"The Fayth are the ones that give power to the summoner’s. Not the temples or the teachings. If the temples try to stop us...then we will defy Yevon if we must."
A crowd of shocked faces greeted the statement while Lesca hid a grin. Even Rikku raised an eyebrow. "I can’t believe you said that!"
Wakka as was expected, refused outright the notion of defying Yevon. "Count me out. We have to atone, to make up for the sins we have committed. Of course...It's not like I ever liked Maester Seymour, ya? No way I'll ever forgive him for killing Lord Jyscal, and for trying to do us all in too, you know? But still, the bunch of us going against Yevon? No way!"
Lulu clutched the moogle doll to her chest, drawing some comfort from the embrace of the enchanted toy. "But still, we have transgressed and must face our punishment."
Yuna nodded. "We must go to Bevelle. We must speak with Maester Mika and explain what has happened. There is no other way, I think."
Wakka looked triumphant. "I agree."
Yuna looked over to her sister and her husband who sat silently in the corner. "Sir Auron? Lesca?"
Her sister shrugged. "Why ask? It’s been decided, Yuna. You are our summoner, where you go we will follow."
"Sir Auron, you will come with us?"
Auron sighed heavily, pulling Lesca further into his embrace. "Of course. I am the trouble maker after all."
He sat up, leaving Lesca to prop herself up against a stump while he talked to Tidus. Lulu approached her, concern in her vermilion eyes. "Are you alright? You look unwell."
"I’m fine now. I lost my power to summon, it kinda knocked me a bit harder than I thought it would. It’s like receiving the power of all the aeons all at once. You’ve seen a summoner when they emerge from gaining a new aeon, you know how hard it is for us – them I mean."
Lulu nodded. "You agree with Sir Auron, don’t you?"
She spoke carefully. "Lu, if you’d seen the things I’ve seen, lived through what I’ve…lived through you’d agree, too. I lost what little faith I had in Yevon a long time ago."
Amusement danced in her fellow mage’s eyes. "I understand. Just don’t let Wakka hear you." She frowned. "The singing…"
"It’s stopped." Lesca finished. She looked up and gasped. "Sin!"
All the people nursing shattered bones don’t wanna fight no more.
But there’s no profit in peace so we gotta fight some more.
Profit in Peace – Ocean Colour Scene
Auron groaned, sitting up and squinting against the blinding light as he rubbed at the back of his head. He closed his eye again, burying his head further into the high collar as he attempted to remember how he’d managed to end up in this infernal oven. Daring to look up, he sighed at the vast expanse of sand that surrounded him and considered hiding in the confines of his jacket. Deciding against the traitorous thought, he stood and dusted himself off, pushing the glasses further up his nose to shield his eyes from the sun. He scanned the dunes, searching for any sign of life.
The slight desert breeze whipped the grains into a frenzy around him and he frowned as he walked through the wall of sand, the sandstorm would undoubtedly make his search harder. A sudden realisation struck him; Lesca was not with him. His pace quickened, his mission more urgent now. Summoner or no, Lesca needed him. He nodded to himself. She didn’t need to be alone anymore; he wouldn’t fail her again. He heard a shout as he crested one of the many dunes, catching sight of Tidus and Lulu engaged in battle with a Zu. He made his way down, felling the beast with a sword stroke before turning to meet Tidus’ inane grin. "Hey man! Where ya been?"
"Around. We head out, Yuna must be found."
Tidus scratched his head. "Uh, sure. Where are we?"
The mage looked cool even in the sweltering heat. "It’s hard to tell, there are many deserts in Spira. Wherever we are, our main concern is Yuna."
The blitzer nodded in agreement, looking sideways at Auron who kept shifting uncomfortably, eager to move on. "The others?"
Lulu shrugged. "Haven’t found them yet. We’re supposed to stay in one place if we get split up."
Auron sighed in frustration and walked away. "That will achieve nothing. She’s out there and we won’t find her if neither her or ourselves move."
Tidus offered Lulu his hand to pull her up from her position resting on a dune. She took it gladly as they followed the flash of red through the desert expanse. "Yuna would try and find us too, wouldn’t she?"
To his surprise, Lulu smiled. "It’s not Yuna he’s worried about. Sir Auron knows his duty to his summoner, but a promise he made before he took the Guardians oath for Yuna surpasses even that."
The young Al Bhed turned to face her cousin, smiling in delight when Lesca came into view. "Lescy! Thank the Gods it’s you!"
Rikku hugged her cousin, pulling back a little when she noticed how distant Lesca seemed. "What’s up?"
She gazed off into the distance. "We’re on Bikanel, right? We should be able to get to Home from here. We need to find the others and take them there."
Rikku frowned, puzzled. "Yeah, but we can’t take Wakka to Home! He’ll tell the Yevonite’s and we’ll have to move again!"
"He won’t. I’ll make sure of it. Is Uncle Cid still at Home?"
The blond nodded. "Of course." She paused. "Hey, Lescy? What happened six years ago? You said you were a summoner…"
Lesca bit her lip. "I was."
Rikku was like a dog with a bone, unwilling to give up on her questioning. "And? Something happened didn’t it? Tytto said you were dead. What happened?"
The older woman sighed. "Later Rikku, ok? I’m tired and we need to find the others."
Blonde hair fell into her eyes as she shook her head defiantly. "Now!"
"Don’t forget who has the itchy lightning finger, cousin."
The Al Bhed fell silent and they walked toward a shelter, Rikku pulling up her goggles to shield her eyes from the sand being whipped up around them. Lesca put an arm over her face to ward off the sting of the grit; wincing as stray grains nipped at her exposed flesh. "Don’t suppose you have any spare goggles?"
"Nope!" Rikku replied cheerfully. "Sorry!"
"Great." She muttered. "Great, great, great."
The shout startled the two women and they looked up to see Tidus flanked by Wakka, Lulu and Kimahri. Lesca frowned, her eyes shifting to scan the dunes for any hint of crimson. She jumped as a pair of arms encircled her waist, a kiss planted on the top of her head. She turned around, looking up into Auron’s face. Lesca punched his arm lightly, trying to sound cross. "You gave me a fright!"
The sides of his mouth quirked upwards slightly. "I apologise."
"Meyn." She teased.
He shrugged, moving to her side with one arm still around her, hand resting lightly on her hip. The three moved to Tidus and the others, the reunion a relief to them all. Rikku smiled warmly at the group, the grin fading as Wakka glared at her. "Hey guys! Where’s Yunie?"
Tidus scratched the back of his head. "Gone."
Lulu laughed bitterly. "Gone…some Guardian I am."
Lesca shook her head. "This isn’t anyone’s fault, Lu. We’ll find her; it’ll just take a bit of time and some teamwork. Isn’t that right, Wakka?"
"What you asking me for?" He asked, crossing his arms defensively.
Lesca looked at Rikku who nodded and started to speak hesitantly. "Umm…there’s something I wanna tell you guys, but promise not to say anything."
Wakka barely contained his snarl, a discreet kick from Lesca making sure he kept his mouth shut. Rikku continued, flustered. "No glaring either! I know where we are. We’re on Bikanel Island. There’s a place us Al Bhed call Home near here. Yunie’s there, I’m sure of it! Other Al Bhed must’ve come and rescued her!"
The red haired blitzer snorted derisively. "Rescued? You mean kidnapped!"
Tidus rolled his eyes. "As long as she’s safe what does it matter?"
Rikku nodded enthusiastically. "That’s right! Anyway, I’ll take you there if you promise…you won’t tell anyone about it. Especially not Yevonite’s, ok? You know they don’t like us Al Bhed. Who knows what they’ll do if they knew?"
Wakka’s lip curl into a sneer. "Gimme a break. What are you accusing Yevon of this time?"
Lesca stepped between the two before a fight could erupt. "Leave it. Rikku, lead the way."
The Al Bhed nodded and skipped merrily in front of the group to lead them to Home. As she walked over the final dune that separated them from the Al Bhed’s sanctuary she sank to her knee’s with a scream. Lesca and Auron ran up to her, both looking down in horror at the destruction of Home as it unfolded before them. Auron watched as his wife froze with her arms around the younger girl, staring with glazed eyes at the massacre of her people. Her lips moved ever so slightly, unable to say the word aloud. No...
The cousins got to their feet slowly, as if the body was rebelling against the mind’s wishes. Rikku was first to regain use of her faculties as she ran toward the carnage, disappearing into a wall of sand, Lesca soon following her. The others followed, gasping as the full scale of the genocide dawned on them. The young Al Bhed was weeping softly in her cousin’s arms, clutching the still warm hand of an Al Bhed boy to her heart. "Keyakku...he, oh Lesca!"
Lesca rocked her, crooning softly to try and ease the pain. "I know, I know. Rikku we can’t stay here. Say your goodbye’s to him, sweetie. We need to leave."
She stood, leaving her young cousin to deal with the raw grief. Looking up from dusting herself off, she reeled as she met her uncle’s astonished gaze. They stared at one another in silence before he whispered raggedly, "Lesca?"
She nodded, the words caught in her throat. Cid shook his head, trying to ascertain whether the reappearance of his niece was a dream. He reached out tentatively to her face, recoiling in shock when he felt the skin warmed by the Bikanel sunshine beneath his fingers. The Al Bhed let out a strangled cry before embracing the woman tightly, his mind trying to work through the strange event. He looked at her once more, shaking his head in disbelief. "But you died. I watched you die, Lesca."
She lowered her eyes. "Later, I’ll explain later. Who’s doing this to us?"
He spat on the ground as he said the name with venom. "The Guado."
Her eyes widened, further questioning interrupted by the timely arrival of her companions. Cid looked up, noting Rikku and the fallen Keyakku. He took the boys pulse and shook his head before addressing the crew. "You Rikku’s friends? Well, don’t just stand there, c’mon! Let’s kick those damn Guado out of our Home!"
Auron clutched Lesca to him protectively as Tidus ranted at them all, cursing them for allowing Yuna to journey to inevitable death. The woman cringed as he turned to her, eyes blazing with fury. "And you! You’re her goddamn sister! What kind of a person are you that you’ll let her die?"
Where the others had backed down meekly, stating that Yuna had chosen her path and her death was the only way to save Spira from it’s twisted death spiral, Lesca held her ground. "She’s not going to die, I won’t allow it. Why do you think I’m here? I may journey as her Guardian, but...I am her sister first, her friend second. Guardian is at the bottom of my list. There is another way; Sin can be defeated once and for all. We just need to find that way. She’s strong where I wasn’t, she can learn from my mistakes. Together, all of us...we’ll make sure she’s the first High Summoner to live to see her statue."
Tidus nodded. "We’ll think of something."
"I know it."
Cid’s voice boomed over the tannoy, announcing in Al Bhed that he was going to raze Home, destroying the sanctuary of the Al Bhed and the Guado and fiends that had desecrated it. Rikku started to lead them to the airship, pausing and staring at Lesca in confusion as her cousin ran in the opposite direction. "Frana yna oui kuehk?" (Where are you going?)
"E mavd cusadrehk pareht; E lyh'd mad ed pa tacdnuoat! E'mm lydlr ib fedr oui!" (I left something behind; I can’t let it be destroyed! I’ll catch up with you!) She called over her shoulder.
Lesca ran through the disintegrating corridors, dodging pieces of falling masonry and shards of glass. Six years hadn’t dulled her memory; the visits to this place had been too frequent and too painful that the path was etched permanently into her mind. The door was partially blocked by a fallen beam and she wriggled into the small gap between floor and wood, breathing a sigh of relief when her scans of the room revealed that the object was intact. She wrenched at the wall, pulling the thing loose from its casing after a struggle. She tucked it into her pouch safely, turning to leave until a child’s stuffed chocobo toy caught her eye. Boko...Aleron’s favourite playmate. She snatched it up before heading back the way she came, the toy clutched in her arms as she collided with Auron.
He raised an eyebrow. "Tell me you didn’t risk your life to go back for a stuffed bird."
"I didn’t risk my life for a stuffed bird. There was something else; I’ll show you when we’re out of here. This place’ll be nothing but rubble in a few minutes. Move!" She grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the airship, the doors slamming shut behind them as they entered. She grinned; wilting with relief as the rumble of the engines signified their ascent to the skies. "That was a rush, huh?"
He shook his head, rolling his eyes at her as they stepped onto the bridge. They watched, mesmerised at the sky came rushing up to meet them, the clear blues a welcome change from the crimson, blood stained Home. Lesca left her husband’s side to stand by Cid and Rikku, cringing as he gave the order to destroy their Home. "Ech'd drana yhudran fyo?" (Isn’t there another way?)
Cid shook his sadly and gave the final command to obliterate Home. Rikku watched dully as the missiles shattered her birthplace, her only reaction the tightening grip on her father’s hand. Her cousin turned away, unable to watch the decimated building as it returned to the sand it had been born from. She caught the tail end of a conversation between Wakka and Rikku and shook her head; the blitzer’s insensitivity never ceasing to amaze her. "Boom! Like happy festival fireworks, ya?"
Her mouth turned upwards slightly as grief loosened Rikku’s tongue. "You can cram your happy festival you big meanie!"
She walked slowly and deliberately from the bridge toward one of the cabins, the calls of her comrades falling on deaf ears. As she passed Auron he reached out to her. She kept walking, ignoring the comfort his touch could bring. She wanted to feel this pain and then obliterate it. She snatched the tokkuri from his hip deftly and sauntered past, smirking at the surprise in his eye. Boko in one hand, jug in the other, she locked the door and leaned against the wall, her irrational mind working out a solution to the grief. She was going to get drunk. She laughed slightly at the thought as she swigged deeply from the earthenware container. Lesca decided to go past the point of drunkenness into total inebriation. Where life tried to make her feel this pain, she would block it out with man’s anaesthetic for the soul. She tilted back her head and let the rice wine trickle down her gullet. She didn’t want to remember. She only hoped this would go some way toward helping with that wish.
To her surprise it was Wakka who knocked timidly on the door, stepping back unconsciously when she answered with a big grin and a stuffed chocobo under her arm. She grinned lopsidedly and moved back into the cabin, gesturing for him to follow her. He noted the sake jug sitting by the bedside and made a surreptitious attempt to confiscate it. Anger flashed in her eyes and he replaced it, scratching the back of his head. "Look, Lesca. I’m sorry, ya? I was outta line."
She blinked slowly as she tried to understand the words, taking another drink from the jug to see if it helped her comprehension. It didn’t. She giggled at her attempt to stop the words from slurring. "Haveya told Rikky? Rikku. Damn." She shook her head, giggling again.
He nodded and began to back away. "Yeah...listen, I’ll just go get Sir Auron and tell him you’re up here, ok?"
She caught his arm, looking into his eyes earnestly. "Wakka?" She strayed from her train of thought, squinting as she studied his face. "You have nice eyes, y’know? They’re kinda like Auron’s ‘cept he’s nicer. I would say that though, huh?" She chuckled. "You like Lulu, right?"
The man nodded, intrigued and frightened all at once as she continued in a stage whisper. "I think she likes you, too! She just doesn’t know how to show it yet. Can see why, you’re kinda pretty even for a dumbass." She snapped her fingers. "Oh yeah! Wakka, look. I don’t mean to be horribuble. Horrible. Yeah. I don’t mean to be that, but you’ve been an asshole. Me and Yuna? We’re half Al Bhed. Those things you said, they really hurt, y’know?"
Her face crumpled. "You hate us for no reason other than because Yevon told you to. Chappu’s death was just a handy excuse. I just watched my Home be destroyed by those fucking Yevonite bastards! We Al Bhed, we don’t want to fight, you see? We were scattered all around the globe; Home was our chance to be together and happy. And now it’s gone. We have to fight now, cause if we don’t...we’ll die. There’s no profit to be made from peace, if we stopped fighting there would be a worse massacre than there was today. We may be peaceful but we’re not fucking stupid." She frowned. "I know I’m drunk, but am I making any sense to you at all?"
He didn’t respond, instead he drew her close. They stood there, the mutual embrace more than a confirmation of friendship. It was an understanding born from unnecessary conflict and death. Wakka frowned slightly at a tickle on his shoulder, shifting his eyes to find Boko sitting there. Lesca moved the toy, giggling at the perplexed look on Wakka’s face. He grinned, disengaging himself from the embrace and the chocobo’s attention. "I’ll go get Sir Auron. Your friend scares me."
Auron sighed as he entered the room, noting the now empty tokkuri on the floor. Lesca hid her face behind Boko, making the toy nod its head in greeting. He pushed it away gently and looked into her eyes, her face the picture of innocence. "You’re not as good at that as Lulu. And you owe me for what you drank." He held the jug upside down, not one drop spilling out. "Make that demolished."
She smiled lazily. "Sorry."
"No you’re not. But you will be when the hangover kicks in."
She stuck her tongue out and inhaled the scent of the chocobo as she snuggled into his side. He prodded at the dog-eared animal. "What’s this for?"
"It’s Aleron’s. His name is Boko." She replied simply.
Auron took the bird from her, rubbing it to his cheek. The faint smell of summer and hot, sunny days at the beach drifted up to meet him, intermingled with the indescribable scent only children possess. "So this was his...my son’s. This is all we have left of him."
She shook her head, producing the spoils of her earlier scavenging mission. He ran a hand over the cool metal, choking at the words. Lesca pointed at the lettering, explaining to him. "It’s his. So he would never be forgotten. I had to save it. I picked the words myself."
He held her close, allowing the tears to slip unfettered down his cheek. "It’s perfect." He whispered. "Perfect."
Aleron, son of Auron and Lesca. Rest amongst the stars our angel. Our light of hope that burned so brightly has been extinguished too soon.
A fight for love and glory,
A case of do or die.
The world will always welcome lovers,
As time goes by.
As time goes by – Dooley Wilson
"So what now? Yuna’s out there, somewhere…We can’t just leave her at the mercy of Seymour!" Tidus looked around the rest of the group, searching their faces for answers they didn’t have. He crossed his arms and muttered darkly. "Who knows what he’ll do to her…"
Rikku nodded absently. "He’s got all kinds of tricks up his sleeve I’ll bet. The sooner we find Yunie the better."
"But what if we can’t find her?" Lulu fretted. "There is always the possibility that he…"
"Don’t say it, Lu. If we imagine the worst…just don’t say it, ya?"
"That’s enough, ok? We’ll find her." Lesca walked onto the bridge, leaning slightly on Auron while she rubbed the bridge of her nose between forefinger and thumb. She looked up, casting an eye over the crowd. "I’ve got a headache, ok? Jeez…"
Wakka snorted as he tried to hold in the laugh, her scowl only serving to spur on his spluttering. "Headache? I’m not surprised, ya?"
Cid left his place at the sphere oscillo finder and walked over to his niece, placing a hand gently upon her shoulder. "Time me and you had that chat, kiddo."
She glanced sideways at Auron. "Now?"
"Now." Cid confirmed.
The elder man led the way to his office in the bowels of the ship, holding the door open for her and gesturing to take a seat. Lesca shook her head, preferring to stand and face her fear. Cid perched on the edge of the desk, watching her face for any movement that might give him a clue to the secrets that she was hiding. Her face remained a blank mask and he sighed, resigning himself to the impending battle to force her hand. Cid crossed his arms, quirking an eyebrow. "Well?"
"Well what?" She replied evenly.
He shook his head, a small smile on his lips. "Don’t make this hard, Lesca. How can you still be alive? What happened?"
His niece walked over to the small porthole through which the dawn light illuminated the room. She stared out over the ocean, marvelling at the flying machines capabilities. "This is amazing, Cid. You worked and worked on this. I’m glad it finally happened. Remember how excited Aleron was when you started fixing this hunk of junk up? I wish he were here to see it."
He strode over to her side, putting an arm around her waist. "So do I. Don’t change the subject. Tell me."
Lesca leaned her head onto his shoulder. "You know the man in the red coat?"
He sighed impatiently. "Yeah, I saw him. Another damn Guardian, right? Seems a bit stiff."
She laughed. "I suppose…Jecht used to say that about him, too. He’s Auron, Cid. He’s my husband, Aleron’s father. He came back."
The Al Bhed stepped back unconsciously, reeling from the disclosure. "Him?" He slapped a hand to his forehead, cursing in his mother tongue. "How could I not have seen it? It’s so damn obvious now."
Lesca shrugged. "It has been ten years, Cid. How could you recognise him? He’s not the young man my father took with him."
"I guess. I’m still gonna kick his ass." He growled.
"No, you’re not." Lesca admonished.
Cid slumped back into a chair and looked up at his niece expectantly. "Enough easing your way around it. Guadosalam. Start."
The younger woman buried her teeth in her bottom lip. "Don’t tell anyone else. They don’t need to know, not yet. Promise me."
Cid frowned. "I promise. Go on."
She drew in breath sharply, before exhaling shakily. "I’m dead. I died in Guadosalam, just like you thought, except…I didn’t go to the Farplane. I, I wasn’t ready to die. I’m an unsent, Cid." Her voice dropped to a whisper. "I’m so sorry."
The colour drained from Cid’s face and he leaned forward, his head in his hands as he tried to make sense of the words. She stood quietly in a corner, awaiting his reaction while she fidgeted with her hair. After what seemed like an eternity to her, he looked up. "Dead? I, I…Gods. I never imagined…" Cid ran a hand over his neck, trying to ease away the sudden stiffness in his joints. "He said he would send you." He said plaintively.
"Seymour?" Cid nodded and she shrugged. "He tried. I wouldn’t let him. That’s why…it’s so dangerous for us to be around him. If he decides to reveal what we are…"
Cid narrowed his eyes. "Who’s ‘we’?"
"Auron and I. We’re both…y’know?"
Lesca knelt beside her uncle, pleading with him. "It’s ok. We’ll protect her, don’t worry. I’m still me, that’s not gonna change. But…"
She trailed off, leaving Cid to guess correctly what she was going to say. "When this is over you’re leaving."
Lesca lowered her eyes in acquiescence. "It’s hard being here. I’m sorry I’m not what you thought."
"You are. You’re still my niece. You’re still Lesca. That’s all I need to know."
Lulu looked down at the grappling wires to be fired upon the Holy capital with disdain. "This is our way into Bevelle? I cannot believe we entrust our lives and Yuna’s safety to a length of metal."
Tidus grinned and pretended he was already sliding down the rope to free his love. "Ah, c’mon Lulu! See this rope here? This to me looks like a golden, shiny wire of hope!"
The mage shook her head and left in search of more intellectually stimulating conversation. Wakka punched the younger man’s arm lightly in camaraderie and grinned. "Don’t worry about Lu, she’s just a little wound up ‘bout Yuna. We’ll find her though, like you said."
The blitzer tried to smile and failed. "I hope so. It’s just that I need to tell her…everything, ya know? She needs to know I’m sorry."
Red eyebrows knotted. "She knows. Stop beating yourself up, ya? Some blitzer you’ll be if you can’t keep your mind on the game."
The ship shook slightly beneath their feet, both men looking around in surprise. Tidus stepped back as he watched a fiend fly past the window, pointing open mouthed at the thing. He turned to Wakka, jumping a little when he noticed everyone else had joined them. "Wh, What the hell is that?"
"The guardian wyrm, Evrae. The great sacred beast, protector of Bevelle." Lulu explained.
"Nice pet. Think it’s friendly?" Lesca joked.
Rikku was uncharacteristically grim. "I don’t think so. Tytto says we gotta fight it to get into Bevelle."
The red robed Guardian unsheathed his sword as he made his way to the deck. "The ferryman asks a high price."
"If it’s for Yuna, it’s more than worth it. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to keep her safe." Tidus said decisively.
The others made their way onto the deck, Lesca’s hand on his shoulder keeping Tidus from joining the group. "That thing you said just then? Don’t forget it. If you hurt her, I’ll kill you." She smiled sweetly and ran to the deck, leaving the blond man to rub at his head in confusion.
"Are you sure this is safe, Rikku?"
The girl grinned as Wakka put a tentative foot on the wire. "Sure it is! Let’s go!" She punched the air and pushed off, careering down the wire with Wakka and Tidus behind her. Kimahri scooped up Lulu, the corners of her mouth turning upward slightly in thanks. Auron glanced over at Lesca who was shielding her eyes from the sun, testing the tightness of the rope with a boot.
He held out his hand to her. "Ready?"
She grinned mischievously and stepped onto the wire, yelping as she picked up speed. She turned back, sticking out her tongue at him as he watched on in amusement. Apparently more ready than I am. He chuckled and descended into Bevelle amidst gunfire and pyreflies.
"Get that rifle out of my face or I’ll shove it up your ass."
The rifle was duly removed and Lesca watched in fury as Seymour claimed a kiss from his new bride. She laid a restraining hand on Tidus’ shoulder, fearing the boy would charge to his death. She stole a glance at Auron who held the lad’s other shoulder while eyeing Mika coolly. The Guado Maester broke from the embrace and dismissed the Guardian’s with a disdainful flick of the wrist. "Kill them."
Kinoc stepped forward, his eyes widening at the sight of Auron. "I am sorry, but it is for Yevon."
"Aren’t those weapons forbidden by Yevon?" Auron asked dryly.
"There are exceptions." Kinoc pushed the butt of the rifle in Auron’s face, frowning as it was forcibly pulled to one side. He followed the line of the gun’s sight; his eyes meeting verdant oculars he had not forgotten.
"Hello Kinoc. Guess your brown nosing finally paid off, huh?"
He squinted, shaking his head in disbelief. "Lesca? But you’re dead!"
She sighed. "I’ve been hearing that a lot lately, though I’d have thought it was quite clear by the fact I’m talking to you that I am still very much alive."
The gun prodded her collarbone as Kinoc growled at her. "Not for much longer."
She held her head up high, meeting his glower with cool indifference. "So shoot me."
He hesitated, looking to the other Maester’s for support. She laughed harshly. "What’s the matter, Wen? Can’t you make your own decisions anymore? Go on, be a man! Shoot. Me."
The gun trembled in the Maester’s hands and Auron whispered roughly to her. "Stop it! Don’t give him cause with your taunts!"
Lesca waved the concern away, her eyes flashing with malice. "Pah! He’s not got the guts to shoot his summoner. See? Do it, Wen! Shoot me! Make your Maester’s happy like the good little lapdog you are!"
Kinoc loosed a cry of anger and pulled the trigger, the bullet ripping through Lesca’s chest like a knife through butter. Her eyes widened in shock before glazing over, Auron exhaling sharply as she was knocked backwards by the bullet’s impact. She turned to Auron, smiling dreamily. "Heh. Guess I was wrong…"
Her eyes became heavy and she closed them, the will to offer any resistance to her body gone. She toppled forward as unconsciousness claimed her, Auron releasing his grip on Tidus to catch her before she met the ground. The red robed man glared up at his former friend as he cradled his wife, rancour dripping from his every word. "Take care, Kinoc. You never know what moment may be your last."
Auron laid Lesca on the ground and stood slowly, never removing his eye from the silent battle he was locked in with Kinoc. A shout startled them and they looked over in horror to see Yuna tumble from the heights of Bevelle, landing safely in Valefor’s embrace. Auron picked up Lesca, eyebrows furrowing at the blood soaking her clothes. Rikku looked across, her eyes widening in panic at her cousin’s condition. The Al Bhed pulled a grenade furtively from her pouch and removed the pin, tossing it with a yell. "Cover your eyes!"
Enveloped in a blinding white light, Auron grimaced as a well-aimed kick caught him unaware, causing his legs to buckle and his grip on Lesca to falter. Her weight was removed from his arms as he was dragged away by a strong grip in the direction of the temple. He struggled against the grasp, howling in frustration. "Let me go, they have Lesca!"
Wakka loosened his grip, but did not remove it. "We’ll find her later, Yuna first, ya? The summoner is more important than anyone."
Dazed, Auron nodded mutely, inwardly screaming at the blitzer. No. She. Isn’t!
The cool air kissed her flesh, stirring her from slumber. She let her eyes open, gritting her teeth against the dull, nagging ache of her still fresh wound. Lesca tried to bring a hand down to inspect the wound, frowning when the limb stayed put despite her efforts. She cast her eyes up toward her hands, a slight panic gripping her as she realised they were bound to a post of the bed on which she lay. She struggled against the restrictions, stopping only at the sound of a door being opened. The woman looked up and into the eyes of Seymour. He smiled at her and sat beside her, running a clawed finger down her arm. She shuddered in revulsion and inched further away from him.
The Maester sighed. "Come now, Lesca. There is no reason it has to be like this. All I want is your co-operation."
She rolled her eyes. "What do you really want, Seymour? Blood?"
He laughed. "Not at all. You are a problem, I’ll grant you that. But there are easier and less messy ways of bending you to my will."
"The threat of a sending won’t work. I don’t care." She grinned. "It may be easy at first, but you get tired after a few years, not that you’ll be around that long. Besides, if you send me, you send yourself."
Seymour’s eyes left her face, travelling down her body appraisingly. "I didn’t have a sending in mind, that would be quite ludicrous. No, I have other plans for you." He cupped her face in a hand. "Beautiful…" He breathed.
"Don’t touch me!" Lesca spat.
Seymour giggled, a disturbing sound. "And what will you do if I disregard that wish? Precisely. There is nothing you can do. Do you realise that you were the reason I chose Yuna as my bride?"
Lesca clenched her fists while he continued. "I had hoped she had the same spirit as you, and I was right. She is as hard to break as you are. Indomitable. I like that. But, break she did and so will you."
She laughed hollowly. "She only became your wife to destroy you, not for love."
"Maybe so, but you will stop your interference. She will love me."
"She loves another."
He dismissed the thought. "Easily taken care of. As are you."
She raised an eyebrow. "Really? How so?"
"You will depart to the Farplane soon, the shame will overwhelm you." Seymour riddled.
"I know your weakness. I know what you hold dear and I will destroy it to destroy you. How would your dear husband, whom you love so much, feel, knowing his wife had been with another man?"
The tear slipped down her cheek unbidden, as she understood at last his intent. "No…not this. Seymour, you can’t. Not this, please!"
He smirked at her. "I will have my wedding night. The bride is of no consequence."
"Come out. Your sentence has been decided."
Kinoc opened the heavily rusted door to the cell Tidus and Auron shared, the latter looking up from his frantic pacing with a smirk. "Sentence? Don’t you mean execution?"
Kinoc barked a laugh. "Really, now, what person would execute a dear friend?"
Auron stared at Kinoc. "You would."
The ronin breathed a sigh of relief as Yuna, Kimahri and Lulu came into sight. He nodded briefly. "There must be an exit somewhere. We search!"
He began to stalk off, stopped only by the gentle touch of his summoner. "You’re worried about her, aren’t you?"
He began to argue, then thought better of it. "I am."
"As am I, as are we all. She will be all right, Sir Auron. I know it." The words were designed to reassure herself as much as he, but still he found comfort in them. He took her hand briefly and let slip a rare smile.
They walked in silence; occasionally battling fiends until the still became too much for the young summoner. "Sir Auron? How do you know when you love another?"
He felt the blush rise up his neck as he adjusted the dark glasses. "Your sister is better at this than I. Maybe you should ask her?"
Auron rubbed his temples. "When I met her, I felt this…elation I had never known before. The stars seem to shine more brightly and birdsong seems all the more sweet when she is by my side. I despair of loosing her and I’d die to save her. That is how I know."
Lulu smirked. "Sir Auron, the legendary Guardian, a romantic? Who would have known?"
"No one. If I hear that Tidus or anyone else knows, I’ll know where to look." He growled, looking pointedly at the mage.
The binds still around her wrists bit into her flesh, the hurt of the gunshot wound and the rubbing from the rope nothing compared to the agony of knowing what he had subjected her to. Knowing she could never again look her husband in the eye without feeling unworthy and unclean, the shame threatening to consume her. She felt herself dumped unceremoniously on the floor and she buried her face in her lap, letting the darkness feel her pain and absorb her tears. She listened in despair as Auron’s voice cut through the air, calling for Kinoc as his body was dropped from the Guado’s grasp.
Tidus narrowed his eyes at Seymour. "Why, you!"
The Guado Maester laughed. "I have saved him. He was a man who craved power. And great power he had, but he feared losing it. Trembling at unseen enemies, he spent his days scheming petty schemes. Chased by his fears, never knowing rest. You see...Now he has no worries. He has been granted sleep eternal. Death is a sweet slumber. All the pain of life is gently swept away... Ah, yes.
So you see...if all life were to end in Spira, all suffering would end. Don't you see? Do you not agree? That, Yuna, is why I need you. Come, Lady Yuna. Come with me 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, Yuna, your life, and become the next Sin. I will destroy Spira! I will save it!"
The blond haired youth made a face. "You’re totally nuts!"
As the exchange continued, Lesca found herself drifting in semi-consciousness, thankful for the small release from reality it granted her. Auron’s voice broke through the daydream.
"I said go."
Tidus gulped as the sword was brandished in front of his face and turned, running with the rest of the group to leave Kimahri facing the being that Seymour had become. Yuna spoke up, freeing herself from the confines of the group. "I won’t leave Kimahri behind!"
Auron towered over her. "He is a Guardian. Protecting you is everything."
"Auron! If that were Lesca, would you leave her? Would you?" The summoner shot back.
He hung his head. "No."
The summoner and her Guardians ran back to the Ronso, squaring up to the Guado. After his defeat he vanished, erupting into a sea of pyreflies. With the obstruction gone, Lesca could now be seen huddled into a tight ball in the corner, her face hidden from view. Auron gave a strangled cry and rushed to her, his wife feigning sleep to avoid the inevitable questions. He tore off the bindings; ire coursing through his veins as he internally documented the fresh lesions and abrasions in addition to the still bleeding bullet wound. The Guardian picked her up gently, cradling her head to his chest as he lowered his mouth to whisper words of comfort in her ear. A tear escaped her eye and he thumbed it away softly so as not to wake her. Straightening up, he turned to his comrades. "We leave now."
The cool exterior never faltered while inwardly he raged, plotting revenge against the thing that Seymour had become. You will pay for this. By the Gods, you will pay dearly.
Let me be the one you call, if you jump I'll break your fall,
Lift you up and fly away with you into the night.
Crash and Burn – Savage Garden
Auron waded into the middle of the spring, bearing his load with infinite care. Shrugging off the robe, he allowed the cool liquid to envelop them both as he lowered their two bodies into the watery embrace. He shivered as the pool’s icy kiss met exposed skin; yet still the woman did not stir. He lightly ran a calloused fingertip over downy cheek, frowning at the newly swollen lip and fresh cut above her eye. She winced slightly before relaxing back into his arms and he took the opportunity to survey her wounds. Peeling off the clothes clinging to her shivering frame, he stifled a gasp as the full extent of the hurt was revealed. The bullet had passed through her body, leaving in its wake a messy exit wound. Alabaster flesh was peppered with lurid red bite marks, trails of blood from fingernails raked through flesh painful to behold. Crimson stained her thighs.
The ronin bit his lower lip hard, drawing his own blood as he bathed the abrasions with tender hands. The comprehension of what Lesca had been subjected to was not spared from him, and he fought to keep his emotions in check. Inwardly, he raged at the one he knew had perpetrated the wrong, struggling to direct his anger at the Maester and not himself. Misguided ire and unwarranted guilt threatened to overwhelm him. Auron hung his head, allowing a lone tear to escape the scarred eye before turning his mind to his task. Blood mingled with water as he cleansed her skin of Seymour’s touch, ridding her of the Maester’s mark as best he could. The imprints of cruelty that ablution could not remove would be healed easily by Yuna. The former monk knew that ridding his love of the physical scars would be easier than erasing those that would lurk within her psyche.
He dressed her gently, wrapping her in the sodden coat to hide her wounds as best he could from the prying eyes of the summoner’s troupe. Easing his way into the tent he shared with Lesca, he laid her on the bedroll, pulling the blankets over her chilled flesh. Auron’s kiss grazed over her forehead before he exited the tent in search of her sister. He didn’t have to look for long, finding the young summoner entwined in an embrace with Jecht’s son beside a Macalanian spring. He cleared his throat, the teenagers jumping apart as he hid a wry grin behind his collar.
"Sir Auron!" Yuna blushed, her fingers still interlocked with the boys. Tidus grinned before lowering his eyes submissively as his mentor raised an eyebrow at the scene.
"May I have a word, Yuna?" He inquired smoothly.
The young woman nodded. "Of course."
"Alone." Auron said, looking pointedly in Tidus’ direction.
A fleeting look of confusion passed over her face. "I do not mind if Tidus hears our counsel."
"I do. Leave us."
The boy took one look at the older mans face before dutifully sloping off, the expression on Auron’s visage one he knew better than to argue with. The summoner motioned for her Guardian to sit beside, not in the least surprised when he elected to stand. She looked up at him expectantly. "How can I help, Sir Auron?"
The red clad hesitated, unaccustomed to seeking aid. "I…it’s Lesca. I need your help. Will you heal her?"
She clapped a hand over her mouth. "The wound! I had forgotten completely! Lead me to her, please. She must be in pain."
Auron held back the tent flap as Yuna entered, her brow creasing slightly as she noticed the facial wounds. She turned to Auron, silently asking if he knew the reason for the lacerations. He shook his head, feeling the situation warranted the small untruth, and joined her at Lesca’s side. Yuna began to murmur, a bright light surrounding her sister before fading delicately into nothingness. She made to pull down the blanket, wincing as Auron caught her wrist, dissuading her with a single word. "No."
The older man stroked damp tendrils from Lesca’s forehead, his eyes locked to his wife’s face as he murmured his question. "Will she be alright?"
Jade and sapphire met with russet. "She’ll be fine. The wounds will have healed completely, when she awakens she won’t even know they were there. Will you let me know when she comes to?"
"I will." Yuna opened the tent, smiling as she heard the deep, rich voice call softly after her. "Thank you."
Lesca tossed uneasily, nightmares plaguing her fitful slumber. She trembled, the imagined touch of Guado claws burning through flesh like red-hot pokers making her skin crawl. Her eyes snapped open as she struggled for breath, verdant oculars darting wildly in the dim light as she tried to recognise her surroundings. A tanned arm lay protectively over her torso, it’s owner slumbering peacefully at her side. The weight of the appendage was a stifling burden where once it had been a comfort, a pleasure in which she revelled. The notion of any man near her, touching her made her shudder. She inched away from her husband, pressing her body into the cool fabric of the tent in order to put as much space between their two bodies as she could. The woman squeezed her eyes shut, opening them almost immediately when a vision of her tormentor sprung into her mind. Wracked with misery and wretchedness, she let the tears flow soundlessly, begging silently to be set free of the torture.
She stole a look at Auron’s sleeping form. Even in rest, his concern was indisputable. The frown, though somewhat eased, was still present. Muffled words and grunts of anguish escaped from his throat, disturbing the still of the night. She felt the sharp pang of guilt; her revulsion aimed toward man turned on herself, the compunction at the deed she had been made to withstand curling her knees instinctively to her chest. She wrapped her arms around her legs, ensuring she was as small as possible, making it easier to focus the animosity and contrition at the body that had betrayed her. Her will had been no match for the strength of the Maester, her body had failed to protect itself from his desecration despite her efforts. Her spirit lay in a thousand pieces, her heart weak and untrusting. She rocked gently, allowing the pull of the Farplane to tug on her soul.
A pyrefly escaped her, dancing in lazy circles as she watched dully, knowing what the rainbow light meant but not comprehending what she was allowing. Auron’s eye fluttered open, long lashes brushing his cheek softly as he battled into consciousness. His sleep addled brain slowly began to function, Lesca’s waking state easing some of his worry. He allowed a grin to wipe away the remnants of uneasiness and propped himself up on an elbow, trailing the free hand down her bare arm. He pulled back from the small intimacy with haste when she jumped in alarm, facing him with trepidation and guilt in her eyes. Auron noticed the small pyrefly hovering around her, more slowly beginning to escape her form to join their brethren. The warrior narrowed his eyes and sat up fully, ignoring her flinch as he placed both hands on her shoulders.
"What the hell do you think you’re doing?" He whispered fiercely, his eye flashing darkly.
She refused to meet his gaze, pleading with down turned eyes. "Don’t touch me…please."
He forced her eyes to meet his own, growling sharp commands. "Stop this. Now."
"I want to go. Don’t make me stay, Auron. Please."
"This is madness! Why would you leave me? Ten years, and when we’re finally reunited you want to abandon me?" He almost shouted.
"I, I can’t be the wife I should be. Not after what happened." She paused, her voice a strangled whisper. "He was right. He said this was how he’d rid himself of me."
His fragile patience snapped. "Who? Damn it, Lesca, tell me!"
"Seymour. He…oh Yevon, I’m so sorry, Auron. I tried to stop him, I tried…" Lesca choked, stumbling over the words pouring out without her consent.
Auron gathered her into his arms, sighing as she recoiled from his touch. "It’s ok. It’s not your fault. I know."
"Everything?" She despaired.
"Everything. From your wounds…We used to see women brought to the temple with injuries like that. We hunted and killed the animals that subjected them to such acts. It’s no different now. He’ll die by my sword. I swear to you."
"You know and you’re not ashamed of me?" The woman asked softly, unable to relax her stiff posture into his embrace. The mind was willing; the abused body forbade his touch.
"Why would I be ashamed? How many times do I have to tell you; it’s not your fault? Look at me." She obliged meekly and he continued. "You’re my wife and I love you. One mans act will not change that, nothing ever could. I’ll never hurt you; you need not fear me. I’ll help you through this; I will always be here. Please don’t cower when I hold you or run from my kiss. To me, that is death."
She nodded. "The others…?"
"Do not know. No one here wishes you harm, they are your friends as you as so fond of reminding me, lest I forget." He finished wryly.
"I’ll try to remember that. I’ll try to be…how I was."
"That’s all I could ask for. Tell me you’ll stay. Don’t leave me, not now. Not ever."
She hesitated before agreeing. "I’ll stay." A pause. "I need time. I can’t do…this. Not yet." She motioned helplessly to his open arms.
Auron lowered his eye. "I understand. I will rest with Kimahri until you are ready."
Body and mind fought a desperate battle as she struggled to overcome the fear and lose herself in the comforting, familiar heat of his solid body. She bit her lip, uttering the words neither wanted to hear. "What if I’m never ready?"
He exhaled sharply. "It matters not. I will still wait, even if I’m waiting an eternity."
He felt a slight relaxation of her body in his arms, a tentative incline into his embrace and he smiled as he brushed a kiss atop the raven tresses. "Know this; I love you."
"Room for one more?"
Tidus looked up sleepily from his makeshift Kimahri shaped pillow to the direction of the grunted inquiry. His eyes widened as he noted the figure at the door and he waved Auron in. "No problem." He murmured; his voice clogged with sleep. "Lesca kick you out for snorin’?"
The older man shook his head. "Something like that."
He ripped off the collar in one fluid, practised motion, tossing it carelessly to one side and folding the glasses neatly atop the garment. He stretched the knotted muscles as best he could in the confined space, wrinkling his nose in distaste as Wakka loosed an almighty snore. Tidus caught the look and grinned. "You get used to it. He kept me awake for the best part of a week ‘til I could ignore it."
"I sincerely hope I do not have time to get used to it."
The blitzer whistled lowly. "You pissed her off again? Glad I’m not in your shoes…"
"No, I have not." There was a slight abeyance before he continued. "I know how you and Lesca like to play the fool. Do not question me why, just refrain from doing so for the moment."
He crossed his arms defensively. "She doesn’t mind."
"She will. Do as I ask. Please."
The small pleasantry caught Tidus off guard and he found himself agreeing. "Ok. Whatever you say."
Auron settled back down to sleep, trying to breathe through his mouth to avoid inhaling the stench of the blitzer’s footwear. "I apologise for being brief this afternoon. I do not mean to be harsh, but…"
"You’re protecting Lesca." He finished simply. The elder Guardian nodded mutely, astounded at the boy’s astuteness. The blitzer carried on. "If Yuna needed me to, I’d do the same. I won’t ask."
He placed a hand on the armoured shoulder. "Thank you. Talking of you and Yuna…"
The youth rolled his eyes. "I’m being good! Jeez!"
"Remarkable. You are a conglomeration of contrasts. You never cease to amaze me, one moment with your maturity, the next with your ignorance." The red robed figure in the corner mused.
A quirked eyebrow. "I aim to please."
A rumble came from behind Tidus, startling both men. "Kimahri sleep. Auron and Tidus quiet."
"I apologise, my friend." Auron appeased the man beast. He and Tidus waited until the Ronso’s breaths became deep and even before resuming their converse, albeit more quietly.
The Guardian chuckled as the blitzer watched in confusion. "What? What’s so damn funny?"
Auron wiped away a tear of mirth, the laughter and company of the boy the only thing keeping the sorrow at bay. "Nothing, I…You are so very much like Jecht. You share the same proud, stubborn manner. He would be pleased to see how you have grown. I am."
The lad scratched the back of his head, a trait inherited from the Great Jecht. "Yeah, well…Wait! You’re proud of me?" He realised the meaning behind the Guardians words with a start.
He inclined his head slightly. "Yes. I take back what I said in Zanarkand. If my son…" He stopped and corrected himself. "If I had a son, I’d be pleased if he grew to be half the young man you are today."
Tidus looked abashed until Auron interjected smoothly. "Still, I’d hope he would hold more respect for me than you do."
The youth had the good grace to look slightly chagrined. "I respect you. I just don’t show it."
Auron settled down to sleep, the day’s events finally taking their toll on the world-weary warrior. "We will talk more on this tomorrow. Goodnight. Sleep well."
"Night Auron. I hope…I hope you and Lesca sort things real soon."
Tidus was already asleep before he could hear Auron’s whispered reply. "So do I."
Lesca rose with the sun, grateful for the dawn that had ended the nightmares. Exiting the tent quietly, she made her way to a clearing and sat on the cool ground to watch as the sun attempted to exhale shafts of light into the perpetually twilight crystalline forest. She shivered though it was not cold, the stillness of the woods unnerving her. Rising from her seated position, she began to move to an unheard rhythm, intending to hone her skills to the point where no one would again pose her a threat. She swooped low, a leg extended to catch opponents off guard, before rising into a deadly pirouette. The woman lost herself in the dance of the warrior, the actions flowing unconsciously as she concentrated fully on her breathing. Every thrust of a fist, booted blow and lunge was directed at one figure that lurked in her subconscious, threatening everything she held dear.
Lesca’s fist connected with a crystal tree, sending shards of glass flying through the air. Bloody knuckles. Seymour…
A kick decimated a fiend foolish enough to stray into her path. Seymour…
She loosed a cry of anguish, as the tree collapsed from the barrage. I’ll kill you, I swear to the God’s I’ll kill you. You won’t beat me.
A soft voice broke the murderous thoughts. "Lesca?"
She turned, shaking to face her husband. Her lower lip quivered, her eyes heavy with unshed tears. She blinked away the salt water, holding her head up defiantly. "He won’t beat me. He won’t win."
He stepped forward uncertainly, waiting to judge her reaction from his nearing presence. "I know. You don’t have to hide your tears from me, Lesca."
She smiled sadly. "There aren’t enough tears for what he’s done to me, to us. They’re spent. I’ve forgotten how to weep."
He took another tentative pace. "We will learn together then."
She stepped forward, meeting him in the middle. "I’d like that."
Lesca bit her lip, reaching up hesitantly to caress his unshaven cheek. Auron’s eye closed in emotion as he savoured the touch he feared he might never again feel. His hand covered hers and they stood, eyes closed, feeling the heat of the rising sun warming their skin. She brushed her lips over his, smirking as the ebony eyebrows shot towards the heavens. Guardian embraced Guardian; soul mingled with soul until they were again as one, the tribulations forgotten and the ache of longing extinguished. Lesca pulled away from the kiss first, smiling gently at Auron. "I think I’m gonna be ok."
He returned the smile and nodded. "I know."
Yuna turned to see cerulean blue eyes watching her intently. She offered a grin in greeting, feeling her heart flutter within her chest as he sat beside her. "Hi."
"Whacha doin’?" Tidus inquired, slinging an arm lazily around the summoner’s shoulders. The girl tipped her head in reply toward the clearing where Auron and Lesca stood embracing tenderly. The blitzer smirked, stifling a yawn. "Spying, huh?"
Her cheeks coloured. "I was not spying! I was just…making sure they were alright."
"Well, it looks like he won’t be sharing our tent. Thank God! Honestly Yuna, he takes up so much space." Tidus laughed, batting away Yuna’s hand as she struck his arm playfully.
She surprised him with her next question. "Do you think that is how it is meant to be? Love, I mean."
He squinted at the other couple as he thought for a moment. "I think so. He’d do anything for her. And Lesca, she balances him out, makes him a bit more human. They’d die for each other. I think they kinda live for each other as well, y’know?"
Yuna sighed. "Hmm. I sometimes wonder if I’ll find that, one day. I just feel like I made such a mess of everything."
"You made a mess of nothing. It’s Seymour’s fault!" He paused. "Yuna?"
"I think I’ve found what they have. I found it with you." He lowered his head, fearing rejection.
Her eyes lit up. "I, I feel like that, too. You meant what you said last night, you will stay with me?"
Tidus looked into the distance, his voice cracking slightly as he spoke. "Always, Yuna. Wherever I am, whatever I do…I’ll always be with you."
But watching stars without you, my soul cried.
Kissing you– Des’ree
"Unless you want me to permanently detach that hand from your body, I suggest you remove it from my person."
Tidus held up his hands in mock surrender. "Ok, ok! Jeez, it wasn’t like I was touching your ass."
"No, because if you had been I wouldn’t have asked you nicely to move. I’d have ripped your arm off." Lesca deadpanned.
"Feeling particularly violent today then?" The blitzer grinned.
She pretended to think on this for a second, placing a finger on her chin. "Why yes, yes I am. Interesting."
"Wanna go kill something?" He asked eagerly.
The older woman shrugged nonchalantly. "Sure."
Auron shook his head from his vantage point behind the squabbling pair. The two enjoyed their verbal spats; it was their way of keeping the boredom at bay. The monotony of the Calm Lands had everyone in the troupe looking for some form of entertainment. Rikku and Lulu were smirking as the mage taught the young Al Bhed some simple spells, aiming them directly at the red haired blitzer who was trying to explain the intricacies of Blitzball to the indifferent Ronso. The red robed man kept quiet and to himself, pondering their next move as he trudged over the vast green expanse. He pushed the glasses up his nose with a finger before adjusting the blade on his shoulder, a shiver creeping up the length of his spine. Auron’s brow furrowed as he ran a cursory glance over the surroundings, trying to ascertain the presence of any threats to the group. Noting the area was free of fiends; he studied the unexplained reaction in more depth, wondering what could have drawn such a response from his staid demeanour.
The Guardian stopped as he realised where he was. Rooted to the spot by visions of the past, he remembered. This was where he had fought Sin at Braska’s side. This was where he first caught sight of the thing Jecht had become and had recoiled in shock. He looked at the grass underfoot, expecting to see the crimson stains of erstwhile marring the crisp lushness. This was where he had cradled Braska as he drew his last breath. This was where he had seen finally seen through the prevarications and dissimulation of Yevon as his friend had been forced to merge with Yu Yevon, beginning the cycle anew. The memories of the day he had witnessed death and rebirth made him weak, and he leaned heavily on his sword, trying to clear his head of the damaging illusions. He had thrown his life to the winds of fate here, forsaken the chance of normality and bliss for foolhardy revenge. The knowledge burned into his mind, causing him to sway slightly in the gentle breeze that caressed the lands.
Lesca looked up with a grin from her latest kill, clutching a dropped item closely to her chest. She scanned the plains, looking for the man in red. The smile faded as she saw that he had froze and she bundled the prize over to Tidus who accepted without question. She padded over to her husband, waving a hand in front of his face. "Auron? Spira to Auron?" He didn’t appear fazed and she swallowed heavily, speaking more quietly as she tried to quell the rising panic. "Auron?"
"He died here." Came the flat, monotone answer.
She winced, not wanting to know the answer to the question she was about to ask. "Who?"
"Braska. Your father died right here, and I could do nothing."
Lesca covered his gloved hand with her own, trying to contain her surprise as it trembled. "You tried."
He nodded absently. "But I should have come home."
"It’s in the past." She said gently. "There’s no use on dwelling on it."
"Perhaps…" He paused. "I hate this damn place. It’s a fucking graveyard." He spat with vehemence.
His wife raised an eyebrow at the profanity but said nothing of it. "How so?"
He ground his teeth, a habit that had grown out of frustration and anger. "Summoner’s come here to die, you know that as well as I do. No more. I will not allow it."
Lesca took his hand, leading him gently toward the others and away from the recollections. Lulu eyed her quizzically; nodding slightly at the silent look that was Lesca’s response. Wakka opened his mouth to question the legendary Guardian, abstaining from the chance to probe the staid man’s complex personality only when Lulu threw him a disarming smile. The black clad mage raised an eyebrow at her fellow patron of the dark arts, muttering darkly under her breath. "You owe me." Lulu walked on in front, catching up to Tidus and Yuna with Wakka in tow as he regaled her with Blitzball tales of yore.
Lesca threaded her gloved fingers through Auron’s, half dragging him toward the Al Bhed agency situated near the middle of the plains. The touch seemed to calm him, his eye focusing on events in the present rather than those of the past. He adjusted his arm inside his robe, squeezing the small hand clutching his own to convey his appreciation of her contiguity. She glanced sideways at him, wondering if mere words could soothe the turbulent soul that lurked beneath the calm demeanour.
"It’s ok, you know."
Auron turned his head to face her. "What do you mean by that?"
She traced idle circles with her thumb on his hand. "Whatever it is that you’re feeling, it’s ok to feel it. You don’t have to live up to the legendary Guardian shit when you’re with us. You’re a man; you’re not infallible. You’d be a hell of a lot less interesting if you were."
"I need to be strong, I cannot show weakness. They depend on it." He said brusquely, unnerved that she had read him so well.
"Being able to admit to your weaknesses and share them with others can only ever be a strength." Lesca pointed out onto the horizon where the Chocobo trainer was lovingly grooming one of the tall birds. "Look. Chocobo’s have a weakness in that they cannot scavenge for themselves. Without a trainer, they would starve and the species would become extinct. The trainer cannot defend herself from fiends, but her charges protect her from them by ferrying her throughout the world. Both have a weakness and neither would have survived if they had not shared that frailty with the other. Together they are strong, infallible. Without the other they are weak. Admitting to your own shortfalls is half the battle. Share them, and the battle is won."
Auron raised an eyebrow. "You compare me to an overgrown bird?"
Her mouth hung agape until she recognised the twinkle in his eye that denoted mischief. "Meanie. You know what I mean though. Don’t keep things from me."
He removed his hand from her own and rubbed at the stubble on his face as he stared at the ground. His voice was barely audible as he spoke. "I’m scared. What if I make the same mistake with Yuna as I did with Braska? What if I lead her to her death?" His voice dropped to a whisper. "What if I loose you? I couldn’t bear it...I don’t want to be a failure yet again."
"We’re all here to make sure she lives. You could never be a failure, Auron. You need to forgive yourself; it wasn’t your fault. And I promise you, you’ll never loose me." She pointed to his heart and his head. "I’m in here and up here. With that, I’m always with you."
From atop the peaks of Gagazet, a lone figure watched the progression of the summoner and her Guardians. Seymour smirked, noting with glee the eldest Guardian’s struggle with the events that had transpired in the past. The sneer quickly faded and was replaced by first shock and then unimaginable anger when Lesca crossed his field of vision. The Guado quelled the rage, replacing his calm demeanour as he began to converse with himself.
"I thought she would have departed for the Farplane. It was obvious what we’d done. Surely it must have had some effect on her relationship with that boor?"
The Maester narrowed his eyes. They still walk as lovers. It did not work. A pity. I thought your plans were brilliance?
"They are. If you fail to appreciate the subtle nuances of ingeniousness that is none of my concern. Yuna?"
Violet eyes flashed darkly. With the uncouth blitz player. We must put a stop to that, she is ours.
"We await her here then, and rid Spira of the mark of Jecht for all time."
"Thank you, Father Zuke, for your warning."
Yuna bowed to the holy man, smiling at Lesca and Auron as they approached the agency. "Father, these are the last of my Guardians. Sir Auron and my sister, Lesca."
The couple nodded cordially to the man, exchanging looks when Zuke’s eyes widened. "Lesca? You were a summoner, correct?"
Lesca nodded, confused. The man continued. "You helped me on the outskirts of Zanarkand. At the time I was a Guardian, my summoner had fallen to the fiends that pray in the wastelands of the great city. You sent her."
She frowned as she remembered the dance, the haunting steps of her first and last sending. "I remember. So you became a summoner and then a holy man? It is a strange path from the one you were on."
Zuke smiled crookedly. "Let’s say that Yevon has a lot to answer for. I can do more good in the order than from outside. That is the only reason I wear the robes of a false deity."
The former summoner sighed. "It’s a pity we didn’t know the true Yevon before we devoted such energy to the pursuit of a meaningless goal."
"Indeed. But now is not the point to waste time on regrets. Yevon is in a state of disorder. Things are calm on the surface, but the depths are turbulent. After the death of Maester Kinoc, Kelk Ronso left Yevon."
"Convenient. Getting around will be easier with Yevon in disarray." Auron commented.
Zuke hastily interjected. "But be careful, my friends. You have been branded enemies of Yevon."
Lesca sighed. "What else is new? Farewell, Zuke and safe passage." She exited the conversation, leaving Yuna and Lulu still talking to the Bevellian Monk.
Auron caught up to her, raising an eyebrow at her hasty departure. "Is he so difficult to converse with that he deserved such short shrift?"
She shook her head. "Not at all. But I don’t want to be reminded of the past at every turn. The sending I performed haunts me as it is, I don’t need to talk to him to remember it. It’s hard…"
Auron lowered his eye. "I apologise. I should have realised."
"It’s alright. You weren’t to know."
"But I should have known! Braska was the same, the sending’s he performed chilled him to the core. He told me often how it was the only part of his life as a summoner that he despised." He said fiercely, angry at his own indiscretion.
Lesca rested on the grass, leaning back to bask in the sun. "He was right though. It is the hardest duty to perform but also one of the most essential. The constant worry of what one wrong step can do to the souls entrusted to you…I pity her, you know. She’s too young for such a burden."
"Are any truly prepared for it? Absolution should not rest on the shoulders of mortals."
"This place…this is your hell, isn’t it? It’s gotten under your skin; you link the clear skies and the endless plains with death. Auron, it’s only a place, just like any other. Like Luca or Kilika, Besaid or Djose. It has no special powers, do not let the past interfere with your rational mind. You’re more than this." She smiled wryly. "You’re not me."
"There’s nothing wrong with being you." He slumped beside her, tilting his head to the heavens. "I need to let it go."
He turned to face her and showed her his palms, as if the gesture was the physical embodiment of releasing his fears. "Then I will." He said simply.
Night drew in, wrapping the Calm Lands in a shroud of darkness. The dying embers of the nights fire glowed invitingly, calling those still awake to the fireside. Kimahri prowled the silent mesa, his sharp eyes searching for fiends that would threaten the peace of the Al Bhed agency. Wakka and Lulu had pleaded fatigue, retiring to rest before the luminary’s final breath had been spent. Yuna had entreated Tidus to the back of the agency; the two giggling and whispering well into the night before sleep had claimed them. The young lovers lay curled in a chair; their heads touching softly as Tidus’ arm held Yuna’s slight frame close. Rikku was chattering with the Al Bhed woman, the mother of one of her friends lost in the attack on Home. And Lesca…Auron’s lips quirked slightly upward as he brushed a stray strand of hair from her face. She lay against him, huddled into his side as she slept.
He unhooked the tokkuri from his side and drank deeply, hoping the beverage would aid him in his quest to dull the memories. At his side, Lesca stirred in her sleep, mumbling incomprehensibly before burying her face more deeply into the scarlet robed mans side. He slipped his arm around her, stroking her hair absently as he drank. The warm effulgence secreted by the coals was almost hypnotic, looking into their depths a tonic to his soul. As he stared at the wood, he fancied he could see the effigies of his victims, the nameless faces whose lives he had been ordered to end as a Warrior Monk. They screamed at him for retribution, laughing as he began to tremble from the onslaught of their torment. He whispered to the night sky, hoping those stories he had cut short would hear his prayer. "I’m sorry. I’m so sorry…"
Lesca looked up at him sleepily, rubbing grit from her eyes as she yawned. "What?"
"All the people I have killed, the lives I have ended…how can I hold you? My hands are forever tainted with the blood of the innocent." He stared at his palms, frowning at the stains he saw there.
"They look clean enough to me. We’ve all done things we aren’t proud of, but that doesn’t stop us from going on. Look at me." She commanded, using a gentle hand to guide his eye to meet her when he refused. "Stop this and stop it now. Their deaths weren’t your fault, my fathers or Jecht’s. Not the people who died by your hand in the name of Yevon. Yevon is the culprit; you did what you had to. Never forget that."
"I can’t forget what wrongs I have committed."
She flung her hands up in frustration. "But you can forget the rights you have done? That to me is very strange logic."
"What rights?" He exploded. "I led your father to his death! I lead your sister to hers! I left you alone in this world to raise our child! What rights? Pray tell me my love, for I can think of none."
"You loved me. There is a right. You gave me our son. There’s another. You fulfilled your promise to two dying men. A third. You were a father to an orphaned boy. You came back, you protect my sister, you keep your promises…Need I go on? Snap yourself out of this damnable self-pity, Auron. It’s not becoming of you." Lesca said softly, threading a hand through his salt and peppered hair.
"It’s alright. Everything’s going to be ok." She lay on the grass, staring up at the night sky, gesturing for him to join her. With a grumble he did so, offering her the warmth of his coat before he settled. She accepted gladly, the warmth of the heavy material and the pleasant weight of his arm heating her chilled bones. "You know, I used to watch the stars when you were gone, wondering if you were up there among them. I always used to think that whichever star shone the brightest against the nights cheek would be yours."
He looked at her from the corner of his eye. "You are more beautiful than the diamond studded heavens. Nothing could compare to you."
Lesca entwined her legs with his, capturing his hand and pressing her own to it, palm to palm. "So alike and yet so different. Is this how it is? We look for someone who is so completely opposite to ourselves, but in being so juxtaposed we find a kindred spirit?"
"If so, then fate must laugh at the minds of lovers."
Her eyes ran over the line of his jaw seductively, lingering on the swell of his lips. "Do they laugh at us?"
She brushed her lips over the stubble, stopping as she reached his mouth. Her free hand came up to trail a lazy finger down the scarred cheek. She mumbled into his lips, the vibrations of her throaty purrs tickling his lips. "Want to make them laugh more?"
His eyebrows raised, amused. "And how do you propose to do that?"
Lesca made a little sound of want, nipping his lower lips gently as she raised her own eyebrow suggestively.
"Oh…" He trailed off as she grinned wickedly at him.
Strike now! They sleep, unsuspecting! The timing is perfect.
Seymour shook his head, clenching the staff so tightly his knuckled turned deathly white. "No. Let them rest. The worthy await their prey in the light of day, not stalking under the cover of night like the cowardly Skoll. We wait."
A sneer. You wish to torture us further by watching them. They are no better than animals, barely able to contain their lust. Pitiful. Do you derive some twisted pleasure from being a voyeur?
The Maester smirked, drawing his robes around him as the biting winds of Gagazet stole around his frame. "Yes. That was us not so long ago."
She was less than willing.
"Do not remind me." He smiled the smile of the truly insane. "They will both be ours. The dream and the unsent shall be crushed."
Mother would be proud.
"Yes. She would." Seymour said softly, staring out wistfully over the plains as the fire of passion burned brightly in the lands below. Sealed in her Fayth, Anima wept for the son she could not save, the son whose greatest enemy was himself. Her son, Seymour, who held insanity to his breast and coveted it, worshipped it as his saviour and Sin as his redemption. She wept for her failures, and prayed the young summoner would forgive her, for she could never forgive herself.
Soul mates never die.
Sleeping with Ghosts – Placebo
The bitter winds of Gagazet whipped the snow up around the group, lashing exposed skin with ice and cold without mercy. They huddled together for warmth, weak jokes and regurgitated tales adding to the faked joviality intended to bolster their spirits. The mood was sombre, the realisation of how alienated they were from the people reinforced by Kelk Ronso at the foot of the mountain. It was as if they were travelling and fighting without cause or purpose. Shadows moved about them, stalking their movements with alacrity that was alarming. Their Ronso guides had left them long before and desperate loneliness, even fear had settled on the troupe. The mountain was a hard taskmaster, claiming lives with reckless abandon and the ever-watchful eye trained on Yuna was hard pressed to honour its duty in the harsh conditions.
Graves were strewn across their path like so much litter, sending a shiver down the spines of Guardians and Summoner alike which had little to do with the sub zero temperatures. Frost clinging to her braids and her skin tinged blue from the chilled air, Lulu explained the markings to Tidus. Auron nodded to himself as the boy glanced over at Yuna worriedly, barely listening yet still understanding the intent of the mage in pointing out yet another burial site. Lesca’s mouth was set into a grim line, the scene so foreign yet so familiar, the next act too close for comfort. The stage was set and time had passed too quickly. They trudged on, the thinning air and fierce storm spurring them into sudden haste, so great was the need for shelter.
The two who had braved the mountain before in pursuit of Sin’s demise led the group toward the caves, the stronger fiends and winding road was a small price to pay for the relative warmth and haven from the elements. Auron cast an eye back, frowning at the absence of Tidus and Rikku. He placed a hand on Lesca’s arm, motioning silently to indicate the missing party members. She turned, biting her lip as she raised a questioning eyebrow. "Where are they?"
"They were bringing up the rear. Muttering about ways to save Yuna if I recall correctly."
She lowered her eyes in deference to the subject. "Their hearts are in the right place. Maybe we should -"
"Auron!" Lesca was cut off by Rikku’s anguished plea and they spun to face the panicked Al Bhed. The blonde girl waved her hands in the air maniacally, her eyes wild as she stuttered in her haste. "Auron, it’s Seymour!"
"Now is your time to die. Prepare yourself, son of Jecht."
Lesca cringed at the voice as it rasped the threat, urging her unwilling feet forward and into the fray. She heard Kimahri growl as he reached the boys side, brandishing his spear menacingly at the Maester. The Guado cast a glance over the group, his eyes alighting with malice as they fell upon her. She took a step backward, bumping into the warm, solid mass of Auron. He pulled her behind him, narrowing his eye at the unsent before him. Seymour giggled, pointing a clawed finger in Lesca’s direction. "So you know then, Sir Auron? I am surprised, I didn’t think you one to so easily forgive."
Auron snarled, his hand tightening on his blade. "I have nothing to forgive her for."
"She betrayed you." Seymour exclaimed, smiling as the memory of that night rushed over him. He revelled in her pain, the unbearable anguish and the unspeakable torment. Blood, sweat and tears had mingled to create something, which in his mind had been truly beautiful. She had been the mortar to his pestle, his music a symphony of his own inhuman grunts. His vile art.
The red robed man stepped forward, the tip of his sword aimed at the Guado’s throat. "She betrayed no one. I’ll see you dead for what you’ve done to her, I will have my revenge."
"I grow bored of your petty threats." He looked to Yuna as she prepared to send him and laughed. "And you! A sending so soon? Allow me to say something to the last Ronso before I leave."
They grew silent as his terrible barrage of words continued. "Yours was...truly a gallant race. They threw themselves at me to bar my path. One...after another..." He smirked, bringing his hand down with a finality that could not be mistaken. Yuna watched, stricken as Kimahri struggled to comprehend the reality he was facing.
He shook his head, unwilling to believe the words. "No…"
"You could end the suffering of this poor Ronso." Seymour offered to Yuna.
The summoner cried out in anger. "I don’t understand you!"
Seymour shrugged gracefully. "Allow Kimahri to die, and release him from his pain. Spira...is a land of suffering and sorrow caught in a spiral of death. To destroy - to heal - Spira, I will become Sin. Yes, with your help. Come with me, Yuna." He eyed Tidus and entreated him. "Once I have become the next Sin, your father will be freed again."
Tidus struggled to release his words and make verbal his anger. He hung his head, before rushing forward with renewed resolve. "What do you know?"
Behind Auron, Lesca checked her gloves, flexing her fingers in preparation for the battle ahead. "He knows more than you think." She whispered.
"Don’t let her know, keep it from her. It’s for the best." Lesca was begging, she knew she was, but still Auron agreed. He nodded, squeezing her hand to let her know he would honour her request.
Yuna walked as if in a daze, thinking about what the madman had told her. "He will become Sin…with my help." She looked at Auron, searching his face for a reaction.
His visage remained blank, his answer abrupt. "Lies. Forget them."
"If he becomes Sin, Sir Jecht will be saved." She continued.
Yuna rounded on her eldest Guardian, exploding in a rare fit of temper. "You know something! Tell me!"
He stayed silent, meeting her accusing glare calmly. Tidus hung his head; unaware of the warning looks both Auron and Lesca were sending him. "Sin’s…my old man."
Wakka, quiet for most of the journey, burst out unbelievingly. "You hit your head?"
"Sin is my old man. My old man became Sin! I don't know how or why he did it. I felt him, inside, and when I did, I knew it was true. My old man is Spira's suffering. Sorry."
Lesca massaged her temples, the worry of how Yuna would react and her own thoughts of her son’s death at the hands of Sin haunting her. So many had died, Aleron, Auron, herself, Chappu…her eyes snapped open, realising what this could mean for the company if the Besaidian realised the connection. She needn’t have worried. "Uh...’bout your old man...You sure this ain't some kinda bad toxin dream or something? Then, Chappu...I, uh...I think I'll just pretend I didn't hear nothing. I'm getting a little confused, ya? Why... Why'd all this have to happen?"
The sunlight reflected off the rock face, bathing their descent into Zanarkand in honeyed light. They stopped as Rikku tried to sway Yuna from her fate, listening but not really paying attention to the scene. It was futile; her mind had set long ago on this path. Rikku’s vain attempts to slow the pilgrimage were nothing short of useless. Tidus shielded his eyes from the sun, trying to scan the road ahead. "We’re nearly there, aren’t we?"
Lesca nodded. "Zanarkand lies just over the summit. And then…" It was too hard to say.
"We’ve come a long way." Wakka observed casually, trying to fill in the uncomfortable gaps in conversation.
Auron smirked, his arm tightening around his wife’s waist as they looked toward the ruined city. The youth from Zanarkand eyed him warily. "What’s so funny?"
"You remind me of myself. Before, the closer I came to Zanarkand, the more I wondered...when we arrive, Braska will call the Final Aeon...He will fight Sin, then he will die. I thought my mind was made up long before. But when I stood here, my resolve wavered."
Wakka grinned, lightening the mood. "Huh. Never would’ve figured. Legendary Guardian’s choke sometimes too, ya?"
Auron turned, his smile tinged with sadness and regret. "Legendary Guardian? I was just a boy. A boy about your age, actually. I wanted to change the world, too. But I changed nothing. That is my story."
Zanarkand lay before them, the ruined streets of the ghostly metropolis stretching out into the distance toward their ultimate destination. Lesca drew herself closer to Auron to combat the shiver running up her spine. This was where they’d both met their fate; it hurt to think of it. Tidus looked out over the city, a faraway look in his eye. Lesca turned to Auron, speaking quietly. "He’s going to leave her, isn’t he?"
He swallowed thickly. "I think so, yes."
"What is the truth about him and Jecht? Tell me."
"I think…they are but dreams of the Fayth. The Zanarkand I visited was alive, it was this Zanarkand but it wasn’t at the same time. The Fayth on Gagazet, they dream of Zanarkand and as they dream they’re used to summon Sin. Jecht told me that he encountered Sin in his Zanarkand and that’s how he came here, the same way I went to Tidus. When they touched Sin…they became more than a dream."
"But when the Fayth stop dreaming, when we defeat Sin for good…" She trailed off as he nodded slowly.
"If they stop dreaming, he goes."
He looked at Tidus and Yuna as they whispered together and felt his heart contract painfully. "I don’t know…"
Tidus laughed at some private joke he and Yuna were sharing, Lesca’s frown deepening. "Does he know?"
Auron sighed wearily. "I think he suspects what might happen, but to say it aloud…it’s too hard to face. He’s hoping against hope that he’s wrong. So am I."
"Have you talked to him about this?"
"How can I? We may be worrying for nothing, it might all right itself." He finished feebly, unable to convince even himself.
"Maybe." Lesca remained unconvinced and stood, brushing the dust from her skirts. She screwed her eyes up against the setting sun and pointed toward the horizon, turning to address the group. "If we head out now we should reach the dome before nightfall. We should leave."
"Leave? But Lescy…" Rikku looked close to tears.
"No buts. Get going. Yunalesca’s waiting." She looked pointedly at Yuna who nodded slightly.
"I understand. We should make haste."
Lesca stumbled backwards, feelings sick to her stomach as the pyreflies buzzed around them, enacting scenes of the past.
If it might benefit the future of Spira, I will gladly give my life. It is the highest honour for which a guardian might ask. Use my life, Lady Yocun, and rid Spira of Sin.
"Lady Yocun and her Guardian…" Yuna breathed.
"Our predecessors." Auron explained to Tidus. "High Summoner Yocun."
No! Mother, no! I don’t want you to become a Fayth!
There is no other way. Use me and defeat Sin. Only then will the people accept you.
I don’t care about them! I need you, mother! No one else!
I don’t…have much time left.
Wakka started. "Hey, wasn’t that…?"
"Seymour?" Rikku finished. "No wonder he’s messed up."
Auron felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle as his younger self rushed past him on the heels of Jecht and Braska.
"Hey Braska. You don’t have to do this."
"Thank you for your concern."
Jecht folded his arms over his chest. "Fine. I said my piece."
"Well, I haven’t! Lord Braska, let us go back! I don’t want to see you…die!"
Braska eyed Auron sadly. "You knew this was to happen my friend."
Auron studied his feet. "I know but I…I cannot accept it."
The summoner laughed; glad his daughters were in such caring hands. "Auron, I am honoured that you care for me so. But I have come to kill grief itself. I will defeat Sin, and lift the veil of sorrow covering Spira. Please understand, Auron."
Auron remembered his thought at that moment perfectly. How can I understand? How can I accept your death when I promised to deliver us all safely back into her arms? He shook his mind free of the thoughts to see the final stages of Lesca’s pilgrimage flickering in front of the summoner’s troupe. The colour drained from the former summoner’s face as the familiar scene played out.
Lesca shook her arm free of Luzzu’s tremulous grasp. "Please, Luzzu. Let me go. The Fayth await me."
"Why should I let you go to your death?" The monk rage; his face contorted with misplaced anger.
She smiled sadly, running a soft finger down his cheek. "Because I ask it of you. I told you not to accompany me back in Besaid if you meant to hinder us. Why did you not heed my warning?"
He flung his arms in the air, frustrated at her inclination toward a futile death. "I thought you would change your mind! I thought…"
Cid prised him away gently. "I know what you thought, kid. I told you it wasn’t gonna happen. We have to resign ourselves to it, ya know? Let her go, don’t make it harder for any of us."
Rikku reached out to touch the ghostly figure of her father, turning to her elder cousin. "Lesca?"
Visibly shaken, she brushed passed the group. "You heard what the man said, she’s waiting. Now is not the time for needless delay. We move on."
"That statue lost its power as a Fayth long ago. It is Lord Zaon, the first Fayth of the Final Summoning. What you see before you is all that remains of him. Lord Zaon is... his soul is gone."
The group reeled, stunned from the news. Lesca and Auron exchanged knowing looks, their calm unnoticed by the others as they panicked. Finally, after the sceptre had suggested they consult the Lady Yunalesca for the answers to their question, Tidus turned, squaring up to Auron who eyed him impassively. "Auron, you knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?"
His reply infuriated the youth with its simplicity. "Yes."
"Why didn’t you tell us?" Rikku wondered aloud.
"If I had told you the truth, would that really have stopped you from coming?" He shot back.
The man beast spoke but one word. "Yuna."
Yuna steeled herself defiantly. "I’m not going back."
Auron thought he could see a slight slump in Kimahri’s posture, a feeling of defeat and helplessness that he himself had experienced over ten years ago. "Kimahri knows. Kimahri goes first. Yuna is safe. Kimahri protect." Her protector entered the portal first before being followed by the summoner herself.
Lulu scooped her doll into her arms, not daring to look anyone in the eye. "This is it, isn’t it?"
Wakka could only lay a hand on her shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. Try as he might, the words would not materialise. They stepped into the grand hall; the air seemed to hum with a power of sorts as pyreflies illuminated the gloomy chamber. Rikku shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, the antechamber setting her nerves on end. As a faint figure descended the stairs, she yelped in surprise before regaining her wits enough to form a coherent sentence. "Someone’s coming!"
Auron sliced his hand through the air, venting his frustration. "It is not too late! Let us turn back!"
Braska eyed the young man sympathetically. "If I turn back, who will defeat Sin? Would you have some other summoner and his Guardians go through this?"
He hung his head, before meeting his father in laws gaze defiantly. "But…my lord, there must be another way!"
Jecht, quiet up until this point, stood before the younger man, resignation in his eyes. "This is the only way we got now!" He turned to Braska. "Fine. Make me the Fayth."
He walked over to the stairs with his back to the others, looking up to the heavens as if seeking an answer. "I been doing some thinking. My dream is back in the other Zanarkand. I wanted to make that runt into a star blitz player. Show him the view from the top, you know."
He clenched his fist, sorrow in his eyes. "But now I know there’s no way home for me. I’m never going to see him again. My dreams never gonna come true."
Jecht turned back to face his comrades, the men he called friend. "So make me the Fayth."
Taking Braska by the shoulders, he looked into his eyes, the sincerity shining through. "I’ll fight Sin with you, Braska, then maybe my life will have some meaning, you know."
Auron cried out in anguish, "Don’t do this Jecht! If you live…there may be another way! We’ll think of something, I know!"
Jecht grinned, his eyes belying his woe. "Believe me, I thought this through. Besides…I ain’t getting’ any younger, so I might as well make myself useful."
He began to climb the stairs toward his destiny when Braska interrupted hesitantly. "Jecht."
The scarred man turned back, rolling his eyes. "What! You’re not gonna try and stop me, too? Braska, it’s him or me, we all know that. I can’t go back to my life. Auron’s got a job to do, he’s gotta look after little Yuna and he’s got to take care of his wife. He’s got his whole life in front of him Braska, I’m not gonna rob him and Lesca of their time together. They don’t need to suffer like we did."
Braska understood, berating himself silently for forgetting the needs of his children. "Sorry, I mean…thank you."
Jecht turned to Auron; "Braska still has to fight Sin, Auron. Guard him well. Make sure he gets there.
Auron tried to speak, tried to argue with man as he had countless times before. Only a strangled cry surfaced from his throat, emotion swelling within his chest so he could not breathe. Unshed tears threatened to spill and he turned from the scene, unable to watch.
Jecht addressed Braska softly. "Well, let’s go."
They headed toward Yunalesca slowly, every step closer to death before a voice stopped them one last time.
"Lord Braska! Jecht!"
Jecht punched the air in frustration. "What do you want now?"
The terror was evident in Auron’s eyes as he pleaded with his friends. He held his arms out to them, begging them to listen. "Sin always comes back. It comes back after the Calm every time! The cycle will continue and your deaths will mean nothing!"
Braska smiled, "But there’s always a chance it won’t come back this time. It’s worth trying."
Jecht tried to calm the distraught youth. "I understand what you’re saying, Auron. I’ll find a way to break the cycle."
Auron looked up, tentative hope beginning to surface. "You have a plan?"
Braska looked confused. "Jecht?"
The man from Zanarkand laughed heartily. "Trust me, I’ll think of something."
The scene faded, no one bar Lesca noticing the tears that shone in Auron’s eye. "And the cycle went on."
Tidus grinned confidently. "We’ll break it!"
"But how? What, you got a plan now?" Wakka looked at his friend curiously.
Lulu was more realistic. "If one of us has to become a Fayth, I volunteer."
Not wanting to be outdone, Wakka added hastily, "Me too, Yuna!"
"That still won’t change anything, you know? You’d bring the Calm, and then what? That won’t break the cycle!" Auron smiled at the youth’s words. He’s learned well.
Lesca stood back in the entrance to the hall, badly shaken by seeing herself, her father and her husband all rush headlong to their deaths. Auron joined her, watching as the pyreflies formed another memory.
Lesca turned to leave the antechamber, her path barred by her uncle. "Don’t be a fool! I don’t want you to die! We leave now. I rue the day I contemplated this death." She hissed.
He stared her down. "You think all this time on the pilgrimage I was happy escorting you to your death? I don’t want you to die either, Lesca, but you yearn for it. It will consume you."
Lesca scuffed the ground, the hair falling over her face hiding her tears from the men. "You’re right. I want this…Uncle, thank you."
Auron swallowed the lump in his throat. "You nearly lived."
She nodded. "Nearly." She raised her eyes, noticing Tidus waving them over. "They’re going to see her, try to reason with her. It’s futile."
"I know." He allowed himself a grim little smile. "She never was a reasonable woman."
"Sin is an inevitable part of Spira’s destiny. It is never ending."
Wakka struggled to grasp the concept that the teachings he had followed so devoutly were false. "Never ending? But…but…If we atone for our crimes, Sin will stop coming back, ya? Someday, it’ll be gone, ya?"
Yunalesca sighed. "Will humanity ever attain such purity?"
The normally staid Lulu cried out in despair. "This…this cannot be! The teachings state that we can exorcise Sin with complete atonement! It’s been our only hope all these years!"
"Hope is…comforting. It allows us to accept fate, however tragic it may be." The sceptre explained.
"No!" Tidus charged forward, surprised to hear Auron’s voice lending strength to his cry. Beside him stood the image of the younger Auron, his sword brandished at Yunalesca in the memory.
"Where is the sense in all this? Braska believed in Yevon's teachings and died for them! Jecht believed in Braska and gave his life for him!" Auron raged; his body tensed to lash out at the witch.
Yunalesca dismissed his anger with an arrogant flick of her wrist. "They chose to die…because they had hope."
He loosed a cry of impassioned ire intermingled with sheer grief and charged, gaining little headway before she stuck him down effortlessly. He landed heavily, the only sound a sickening crunch. His sword embedded itself into the cobbles as the unsent walked away from him without so much as a backward glance.
Lesca looked at him, wide eyed with shock. "This…"
"Is how I died." He finished quietly, never removing his eyes from the first High Summoner. "I’m sorry you saw that."
She shook her head. "I’m sorry it happened." They watched as Yuna defied Yunalesca’s logic, their hearts swelling with pride.
"My father... I loved him. So I...I will live with my sorrow, I will live my own life! I will defeat sorrow, in his place. I will stand my ground and be strong. I don't know when it'll be but someday, I will conquer it. And I will do it without...false hope."
Yuna and her Guardians stumbled to one another, disbelief keeping comprehension at bay for a short while. Lesca smiled as the others laughed and joked, a slight but welcome reprieve, which added to the high sprits induced by the realisation that Yuna was safe. "We need to tell him."
She rolled her eyes. "About us, our…condition. It’ll make things easier."
"Alright." He agreed grudgingly. As Wakka led the summoner and her Guardians from the Dome, Lesca and Auron cornered Tidus. The red robed man was direct. "We must talk."
Tidus’ eyebrows knitted together. "What?"
Lesca giggled as Auron shot her a look. "There is something you should know."
The youth looked from one face to another. "I know…it’s about you, right?"
"I am also an unsent." The elder man paused, waiting for a reaction and receiving none. "You are not surprised?"
"I think I kinda knew. It was Yunalesca, wasn’t it?" Tidus asked softly.
Auron’s eye took on a faraway look. "When Braska and Jecht died defeating Sin...I just couldn't accept it. I came back here...tried to avenge them. But she struck me down. Somehow I made my way, crawling, down Mount Gagazet. But my strength left me just outside Bevelle. That's where Kimahri found me. I told him about Yuna... just before I died. I've been wandering ever since, never going to the Farplane."
He snorted. "Don’t make that face. Being dead has it’s advantages. I was able to ride Sin and go to your Zanarkand."
Lesca ruffled Tidus’ hair fondly. "He’s right you know. Don’t feel bad for us."
"You knew?" He asked incredulously.
She smirked. "We traded. I told him how I died and he reciprocated."
Tidus scratched the back of his head. "You’re unsent too? This just gets better and better. How did you…"
"Die?" She offered. "Yunalesca was my undoing too. She told me what she’d done to Auron and I went a bit nuts. She’s got that effect on people I suppose. I tried to kill her and she killed me instead. I died in Guadosalam. That’s how Seymour knows what I am, he tried to send me all those years ago."
The blitzer exhaled sharply. "Wow. So, you went into hiding and Auron went to Zanarkand." He pointed an accusing finger at the man. "You’ve been watching over me since then, haven’t you? Why? What’s the big idea? Why me?"
Auron looked at Lesca for support, drawing strength from her smile. "It is one of those things that is difficult to explain. Very well, I will show you." He crossed the room, kneeling down as several pyreflies escaped his body, his form becoming transparent. "My memories." Tidus watched through Auron’s eyes as his father stood nervously in front of the young monk.
"Can I ask you one last favour? Uh…nah. Never mind."
Auron stepped forward, "Out with it!"
Jecht grinned. "Okay. Listen good. Take care of my son. My son, in Zanarkand. He’s such a crybaby. He needs someone there to hold his hand, see? Take care of him, will you?"
Auron frowned, "How am I supposed to go to Zanarkand?"
The older man laughed, his confidence in Auron obvious. "Hey! You said it yourself! There must be a way to get there, right? You’ll find it. Bring him back here, raise him with Lesca to be strong like his old man."
"All right, I will! I give you my word. I’ll take care of your son. I’ll guard him with my life."
Jecht stepped forward with a sad smile, embracing the younger man tightly. "You were always such a stiff, but that’s what I liked about you."
Auron stood, his shape solid once more. He slipped his hand into Lesca’s, smiling as he saw that at last she understood his reasons for not returning. He nodded cordially to Tidus before walking away. "That is why."