The Many Adventures of Walking Man

BY : cognomen
Category: Final Fantasy X > General
Dragon prints: 819
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy X, nor any of the characters from it. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.

Auron did not react the least in surprise when they woke and found the third member of their party gone. He’d known that Jecht would run, and told Braska as much - the man was as much in search of a bottle as his mysterious past.

Braska waited up all the next day, quietly thinking his thoughts. He sat by the window, hands together. His eyes moved, but Auron couldn’t discern what he was looking at - if it was, indeed, anything. He sat nearby, listening to the sounds of people moving around in the lower rooms. When evening crawled around, he went downstairs to get supper. In his thoughts, he considered berating himself for letting the whole day waste watching for someone who certainly wouldn’t come back. His heart told him that he at least had more time with his summoner - a selfish thought. Auron pushed it down, though it was more difficult than he would have imagined.

“Auron,” Braska said at last, when the guardian entered, balancing two plates and two cups. Auron looked up, making eye contact as he toed the door closed with his boot. Braska’s expression was sad, worn. Heartbreaking. “Don’t you want to live for yourself?”

Inexplicably, Auron had to quash the rising tide of anger that welled up from his chest. He grit his teeth hard against the tirade that threatened to spill - this was Braska, he only meant the best for Auron. It still didn’t dull the feeling like he had just been kicked in the stomach. There was a sick, hard twist in the back of his throat, silencing his voice for several long minutes, but he could feel his eyes narrowing. Braska, too, saw. He turned away sharply, as if he couldn’t bear this, either.

“You can’t send me away,” Auron managed at last, voice half snarl. The rest was sob, perhaps, or growl or affection. “I won’t let you do this alone.” He could not even begin to consider the notion.

“I’m glad.” The words were a whisper, pushing the fog of his breath against the cool pane, where the water clung desperately to the glass in a haze.

It was then that Auron realized that Braska was truly alone all the time. Here was a man pushing everyone away from fear - not that he would miss them, nor that he would falter in his path from attachment - but that they would miss him when he was gone. That his death in the final summoning would cause them pain when they should feel nothing but relief and happiness. This thought - that no one would morn - was wrong. Intolerable.

He crossed the room in two long strides and took Braska’s shoulders in his hands. Here, this done, Auron had no idea what his intentions were next. He wanted to say - a thousand ways - that Braska could not force Auron to not miss him. That he would never be turned away from following his summoner to even the most dangerous of places. That he would never abandon Braska, flying for an imaginary Zanarkand on a trail of broken things and alcohol. Instead, when his gaze met Braska’s ice-chip blue one, words died.

He kissed him instead, gripping hard, without checking his strength for fear of hurt. Braska stood into the kiss, his hands sliding up along Auron’s spine like cool absolution. They caught at his collar, pulling down on the heavy red fabric until it slid free of broad shoulders and pooled on his elbows. To loose it, Auron let go his grip and his fingertips slid over the heavy fabric of Braska’s robes from shoulders to hips, traced a terminating arc over his thighs as his hands fell to his side, freed from fabric at last.

The kiss did not break still, while Auron’s hands came back up, untying the first layer he could find purchase on. He fumbled - too many ties and fastenings from different layers all coming together at the waist or under the waist coat, all complicated. Braska’s hands covered his, helping - frantic, almost. Layers of fabric shed from between them, leaving them closer to each other as each fell away.

At last they broke, panting like swimmers at the surface. Auron could not back away, and Braska - bare chested - pressed hard against his front, clinging to his armor. It felt heavy, suddenly - in the way, keeping his heart’s beat concealed. Auron undid it, and Braska’s hands pulled it away as quickly.

“The bed,” Braska said - and he was breathless, pushing against Auron to get him to move, his tone rough in a way that went straight to Auron’s groin. The guardian stepped carefully clear of the clothes, his fingers sliding over Braska’s smooth stomach as he backed blindly in the direction. He did not stop until his knees hit the mattress, then their mouths met again - and he let go of trying to think things through in sequence.

At Braska’s direction he lay back on top of the comforter - then the summoner stopped at the foot of the bed, twisting his hips free of his pants. The sight sent a hot trail down through Auron’s stomach, turning the first twitchings of interest into a rock hard erection that made his pants uncomfortable. Braska’s hands helped his get them off, Auron’s voice grating free of its careful keep when the fabric brushed over him firmly enough to stimulate.

Sliding onto the bed on his knees, Braska straddled Auron’s hips - he was also erect, and it was a strange sensation. It pushed hot and insistent against Auron’s stomach, and his hands went of their own accord to touch - and oh, but the first noises out of Braska’s mouth went like electricity down his spine, a sudden cold shock of excitement when he realized how badly his summoner wanted him in this way. Warm hands braced on his chest, and Braska hunched his shoulders, arching into the slow explorations of Auron’s fingers. His neck formed a graceful curve, long pale hair falling against Auron’s neck in a silken caress.

It was beautiful. It was driving him crazy, exiting in a way he’d never thought possible. Overcome by a dizzy, tingling sensation, he almost missed it when Braska leaned down to whisper in his ear, but it was prefixed by a sharp nip on the lobe that cut through the haze.

“Please,” the summoner said, nothing but husky whisper as Auron’s hand suddenly closed about him, stroking firmly. Then he repeated, louder but the tone broke in the middle. "Please.”

Braska’s hands covered his, two to one, and stilled his motions for a second. Then he leaned sideways, and Auron could feel the counts of three he was making between taking breaths as he rummaged in the drawer of the bed’s side table. Then he straightened, and knowing hands found Auron’s length. For a minute, the touch was all he could think about - a long slow drag of sensation that pulled a growl from him before he could bother to stop it. But his fingers were slick, too, and making him ready - Braska’s soft palm slid finally over the head of Auron’s cock, and he could not have stopped then for anything in the world.

Getting up on his knees with one hand still on Auron’s length to guide, Braska scooted back the inches it would take him to get into position. Auron held his breath, reaching up to cup his hand around Braska’s neck. They kissed as he seated himself to Auron’s hilt, mouths pressing whimpers and growls of satisfaction between them around the touches of tongue on tongue. It was a long, slow glide that burned while both held still, like a pull of good spirits held on the tongue for taste. It took all of Auron’s discipline to hold still.

“Okay,” Braska breathed, but it was a command too, and he began to move. At first he was slow, ginger, and Auron followed his pace carefully. Then Braska shifted, and he made a noise - one that begged and sobbed at the same moment. Auron’s fingers seized at Braska’s hips and he drove up again, Braska’s gasps telling him that he wasn’t stray.

Braska’s spine arched and he snapped his hips down, then his hands covered Auron’s, pushing them toward his own erection in a clear motion. They guided still, when Auron took his length again in his fingers - finding it wet now, weeping its readiness in thick drops. The summoner’s hands commanded a fast pace, and he hunched down further still, his breaths pushing gasps against Auron’s ear, maddening.

And then - “Please! Please. Yes,” - it was over. It was as much Braska’s voice as his muscles contracting hard on Auron as he came that pushed Auron over the edge right after. He spent hard, each muscle in his abdomen winding up hard before they both sagged, panting, to the mattress. Auron pulled Braska down, forehead to forehead as they pulled apart - both hissing.

Here, he knew what he was. This close to Braska, there was no question that he could ever leave. It was impossible, he could not escape from this - much the same as a fish could not escape from the sea. It would leave him gasping and dying, baked and bleaching in the sun, without what he needed to live.

-

The surprise came when it seemed that Jecht was always one step ahead of them - they were following his trail, the man pursuing Zanarkand as if there were still something in it to save from its long forgotten fate. Or maybe he was just stumbling toward whatever he could find to hold on to, unslowed by visits to temples and people’s needs and hopes.

They chased his shadow again, following in his tracks sometimes seeming to be just on his heels. They never caught him - never would unless he desired it. Nothing tied him, he did not need to visit temples to try his Fayth or determination.

At last there were no more temples, no more cloisters. No more trials, save that one last long walk - past the Calm Lands, and into Zanarkand - the city that sin destroyed.

"Why wouldn't you marry her?" Braska questioned, hands supporting his staff behind his back as he walked.

"I didn't even know her," Auron explained, thinking back. "I would not have loved her."

"Love isn't something that can grow?" Braska's brows arched over the question.

Auron stilled his sudden firm negative before it emerged. He wasn't entirely sure why the answer wanted to be so sudden and sure. When he thought about it - as now - he knew better. He thought carefully, re-examining his decision in light of all that he had learned.

"Not if you force it." The answer felt best. Right. Silence chased the statement as Braska thought, the path turning to a gentle incline.

"Why did you marry?" It was a matter that was more important than Auron's tone let on. He wasn't entirely sure how to classify his relationship with the summoner. Clearly, Braska had loved his wife, and just as clearly he thought the world of his daughter. Why or how then, he had started to develop feelings for Auron was a subject the guardian was almost afraid to ask. He worried that thinking about it too much might change the summoner's mind, or bring about doubts.

“She asked me,” Braska said, his warm tone complimented by the slow smile. “We were in love - though no one really approved, what did it matter what they thought? You can’t stop something like that.”

Auron sank into silence, his palms damp. Nothing could stop it, he knew. Love grew without nurture, without notice or acknowledgment, blossomed in the dark corners of the heart where one never looked. It spread, turning bright tendrils out and coiling hard around parts of you that you never even considered - left you reacting to things in ways never expected. Like vines, it could tear apart even mortar and brick - or the much softer stuff that made up your soul.

“It grew,” Braska continued, eyes turned up toward the clouds running across the blue sky, racing each other toward the end of perception. “It just got bigger every day. I never thought I’d feel that way about anyone else - then Yuna was born.” There was a long pause while Auron focused on keeping his motions steady and even. He found himself holding his breath, and couldn’t quite force himself to breathe yet. “Then I met you.”

Auron breathed again. Held breath went out of him in a long exhale that carried doubt and fear with it, swept out of him like lethal debris in a Sin-storm. A bright spark replaced it - he felt like he could walk forever, face anything. For Braska, he would.

-

He caught them in Zanarkand. Jecht sat alone on the wreckage of a long wide walk that would once have lead like an artery to the heart of the city. No one came to this Zanarkand - too many ghosts, too many grim reminders of what Sin could undo permanently. There was nothing that could make this city whole again - it’s people and technology were lost, long ago dead with their carefree way of life. He was the one living thing in this place, and he stood up as they approached - coming to life as suddenly as a marionette jerked up on it’s strings from a long stillness.

“Listen.” Jecht gripped Braska’s arm tightly. “It always comes back, right?”

Auron tensed. It was an inconsiderate thing to bring up the overall futility of a Summoner’s task. Most assumed that the risk was known, taken into account when the decision to journey on pilgrimage was made. Braska’s expression was neutral.

“It’s just the way of things,” Braska answered. The resigned tone shocked Auron. It was uncharacteristic He seemed far more burdened by the task than ever previous. "I already know the terms of the bargain I’m making.”

“And you, Auron.” Jecht turned in his direction. Honestly, he seemed genuinely concerned for them. It vexed Auron, since the man had run from their presence at any opportunity, often leaving a mess behind him. “You’ll just let him do this?”

Auron sighed. “I’ll protect him.” It was all that needed saying. He had made his decision at the start, also. If Braska held firm to his choice, Auron would be there to help ascertain success. It pained him, the thought of letting go in the end. At this point, the thought of letting Braska continue alone was a thousand times worse.

Jecht was frustrated by the answer. “D’ja ever think that maybe it keeps doin’ what it’s doin’ just to make this happen?”

Releasing Braska, Jecht continued after a moment. “What makes it come back?” he rasped. “And why the heck doesn’t everyone just stand up to it?”

“We’ve tried,” Braska began patiently, though his grip was twisting anxiously over his staff. “Jecht. You can’t stop me.” He turned away, looking down the broken path into the city. Long ago, Sin had rent the path, leaving it twisted and cracked - so that summoners would know what sort of power they had to stand against. What they must fight with the aid of their Fayth and what they conjured from it.

Jecht followed his gaze, and firmed his jaw. “I’ll do it first.” He let his hand drop from Braska’s arm, and looked hard at Auron. “It’s afraid of me.” And here, maybe his faith - in himself, rather than in things that could be summoned or the hopes and dreams of countless that followed behind him - maybe that was what could protect him. What could help him succeed.

Auron was willing to let him try.

Braska hissed out a breath. “Maybe.” His hands twisted on the staff a last time, then he set it aright on the ground, striking up a tiny puff of dust. “We’ll be close behind you,” he assured - in case Jecht failed, there would still be a calm.

Instead of following the course of the broken road to the final place of prayer, Jecht leapt down amongst the rubble, intent on cutting across and through, rather than following the longer, winding course.

-

The steps pulled hard at Auron. His feet felt heavier, the closer they got to the center of the city. His determination did not waver, and he tried hard not to think about the finality. He could not help counting his breaths - counting Braska’s. It seemed forever ago that he had promised never to leave his summoner’s side. Here - what choice did he have? Braska would defeat Sin, but he would also fall, it was the way things were. It was the cold, unfair truth of everything. His own breaths rang hollow, like they were eroding away the things he held dearest inside of him. Auron did not think about it, did not think at all.

And then, at last, when they reached the steps, Yunalesca shimmering whole and beautiful as a memory above them, Braska stopped walking. He looked up at her, and she down at him, one hand extended in welcome. Minutes passed. Her warm, welcoming smile faltered. Slowly, her expression turned disapproving.

“Come, Summoner,” she enticed at last. “This is the last trial you must face.”

Auron put his hands gently on Braska’s back, meaning to encourage. The summoner sagged, his weight suddenly entirely borne by his guardian. Under Auron’s fingers, Braska’s breath hitched once, uncertainly. Then he turned back, pressed his face into Auron’s neck. Pale hands curled in Auron’s hair, pulled him closer.

“I can’t,” Braska said, softly as a breeze - barely a sigh painted with his voice. Auron felt the words more than heard them, understood them in the utter defeat of body language, the lack of strength. “I can’t. I can’t.”

Gathering breath to reassure, Auron found that all of his courage is exhausted. He was exhausted, every fiber of him worn and patched and worn out again. It was Braska that was holding them both together, when by all rights that should be his job. And here, too, he discovered a new meaning in duty and a new definition to loyalty. He could not choose for his summoner, and the deep relief blossoming in his stomach - spreading heartwards like a disease or love - was not something he wants to quash.

“Then don’t,” Auron said, into Braska’s ear directly. Yunalesca looked down on them, terrible and angry and completely powerless outside of her little world of memories and faith. They could run, and she couldn’t stop them. Go and never look back, not even for what could have been. There was no need - not for false sacrifice, not for false hope. “Don’t.”

-

In the coming ten year’s Calm, Auron thanked Jecht every time he said Braska’s name. The man had run, abandoned them, left them with nothing behind but a mess and an endless shadow to chase and happiness. They ran - lived for a while in Gagazet, Besaid, and then alone where they couldn’t be recognized. Together. For a while, everything was quiet - fiends settled, unroused by the call of Sin’s wrath. Places rebuilt. Children played.

Auron thanked Jecht even as Sin chased them down at last, stood towering and unstoppable above them where they faced it alone in front of the home they’d shared. They could not outrun it, they could not escape it, so they stood together. The monster raised itself on its fins and glared down at them - judgement and forgiveness, and familiar. Auron held tight to Braska, in the end, while the summoner mouthed the hymn against his neck over and over, Sending them before they were dead. Before Sin’s wrath crushed them at last, memories unable to hold it back - twisted by the weight of time and suffering.

Even with his last breath, he gave thanks.

epilogue:

Years later a beautiful young summoner, eyes full of mismatched stars and promise, passed the Travel Agency on Mi’hen’s Highroad. Rin found an old, fond memory at their passage. A soft-spoken girl, she radiated strength and determination, an emotion echoed in her companions. Among these, a sunny blonde who seemed as graceless around the one he was supposed to guard as someone Rin had met long ago.

When evening came, he gathered together two warm drinks and sought her out where she sat alone, watching the sunset with a mix of determination and nostalgia. When he pressed a warm cup into her hands, she smiled - a bright facade of paper and good intentions. She was strong as steel inside, Rin knew. But her smile rang hollow - like a bell struck with a hammer, reverberating. There was something keeping her from absolute devotion to her cause. Rin guessed it was something blonde, with a bright smile and a naive outlook.

“Have you ever heard the tale of Walking Man and the Summoner that almost was?” Rin asked, carefully directing his attention at the sunset over the rim of his mug.


-End.


Author’s Note:
God this is long. I’m in desperate love with it - which means everyone should hate it already, maybe. This fic repeatedly woke me up at night with dialog or ideas. Several things had to be cut - for sheer length. At some point, I may try to add it back in, but not on a deadline. There was a scene I cut where Rin revealed what Walking Man’s one insurmountable feat was - he could not lose One Love. This I cut because I wanted the ending to be undulled by expectation.

Rin’s stories are heavily and shamelessly influenced by Native American myths.

Also, if it isn’t clear, Jecht managed to defeat and become Sin all on his own. I’m not sure how, it just had to happen for the story to work.

Moral of the story: Never ask Cognomen to write AU. It gets complicated.


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