Designed To Fade

BY : tuatha
Category: Final Fantasy X > General
Dragon prints: 477
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.

Part Two

XxxxxxXxxxxxX


"You said it yourself, there's gotta be a way."

"Alright, I will!" My promise flew unbidden from my lips, stunning
even me with the import of my words. I had just told a man about to
sacrifice himself for all our sakes that I would perform the
impossible, fly back a thousand years in time and comfort his son.
It was sheer madness and I couldn't imagine what had possessed me to
say yes.

It troubled me as Braska and I made our way back from Zanarkand.
There was no way to fulfil my promise to him. Later he returned to
me, and showed me the way. Afterwards, after Braska had defeated
Sin, and died, after I had raced to meet him there in death.

XxxxxxXxxxxxX

I check the player lists when I reach the stadium, only to find
Tidus's name almost down the bottom, listed as a substitute player
for the Besaid Auroch's. After checking the match schedule I head
away from the docks, eventually finding myself in the Luca Cafe.

There is an air of excitement among the patrons, everyone is waiting
for the first match to start and most of the talk is of players and
teams as I find a seat facing the door.

While I wait to be served a bookmaker approaches me asking me if I'm
interested in a wager. I am surprised when he tells me that the odds
are fifty to one for the Auroch's to place in the top three, and two
hundred to one to win outright. It seems that Tidus has signed up
with the underdogs. By contrast the Luca team are the favourites.

They seem like good odds to me so I take them, offering twenty gil
for the bet and receiving my ticket in return. I have a lot of
confidence in Tidus, if he plays they have a fair chance of winning
against any team, no matter how good. The boy can swim like a fish,
and despite his early setbacks he was capable of exhibiting
exceptional brilliancy when faced with a ball, a goal and an
opponent. And four thousand gil will no doubt come in useful later.

I drink coffee, it being too early in the day for anything else,
waiting until the Auroch's match begins, playing against the Al Bhed
team. I leave the bar in the closing stages of the Ronso's game,
heading back towards the stadium. Clusters of people move through
the streets of Luca, a holiday atmosphere pervading the crowd. There
are street jugglers and mimes entertaining passers by, and stalls
are set up near the waterfront selling pennants and flags for the
teams and players.

I weave my way through the crowds oblivious to the good cheer around
me, eventually climbing the stone steps of the stadium to look down
at the sphere pool suspended in the centre. It hangs like a glowing
blue orb, the hum of machinery binding the field that holds the
water within audible now that the last match has ended and the crowd
is relatively quiet.

I have my choice of seats. There are very few fans staying for a
match between the Al Bhed and the Besaid team. The Al Bhed hadn't
been popular in my lifetime and it seemed that little had changed
since then. The Auroch's were not expected to win, and no matter how
popular the sport not many fans left the island communities to
follow their teams to Luca. Sea travel was too dangerous with the
ever present threat of Sin.

Where I sit I have a view of the private section of the stadium,
reserved seating for the temple officials and maesters. Mika sits
enthroned there among the priests of Yevon and I begin to wonder
about him. He was old when Braska and I set out on our journey,
frail and trembling then, how is it that he has lasted all this time
to still be officiating at the head of the Yevon clergy?

I see a tall man bend to speak to him, whispering something in his
ear, then appearing to laugh at his own wit. It takes me some time
at that distance to realise there is something quite odd about him.
Later during the match the screen above my head shifts its camera
viewpoint to focus on the Maester's box, and I see that the tall man
isn't completely human. I hear someone behind me say 'The new
Maester.' and another reply 'Seymour Guado' and thus I learn that
there have been some changes in the Yevon order since I left a
decade ago.

I am disappointed that Tidus does not appear during the match, and
for most of the game I am quite certain I won't see my money again.
The Al Bhed play hard, committing foul after foul and only being
called out occasionally for them. The score is tied for most of the
second half, but the Besaid team rallies, their captain taking the
ball and torpedoing towards the Psyche's goal. He leaves his
opponents in his wake, kicking at a wide open goal and scoring in
the dying seconds of the game.

It is a remarkable upset. I sit through the next match, the
semi-final before the deciding match between Luca and Besaid and am
eventually rewarded. Just before the final match is about to begin I
catch sight of Tidus. The boy is unmistakeable asswimswims into the
pool, his fair hair weaving like silk around his eyes as he takes
the left forward position.

The first half is a draw, neither team making any headway. Tidus
attempts a goal but is blocked, and despite the commentators
exhortations it is clear this is not going to be a pushover for the
Luca Goers. When the second half begins the crowd is tense, edgy
with excitement.

Something bothers me, and I scan the crowd. I sense something
dangerous, my instincts on alert but I see nothing untoward. A shout
goes up from around me and I turn back to the sphere to see the
boy's body arching through the water in a graceful curve, his leg
shooting forward to the ball that was spinning gently through the
water. The impetus of his kick sends it flying through the water in
a blur. A loud buzzer sounds as the net behind the Al Bhed keeper
snaps backward, sending a shockwave of ripples through the pool. A
goal for Besaid.

A tiny section of the crowd screams and cries out its approval while
all around me there are quieter exclamations of surprise. I watch as
Jecht's fair-haired boy high-fives his teammates as he swims back to
his starting position. While I sit there I find myself picturing in
my mind's eye how Jecht might have looked if he'd seen this moment.
He would have worn a grin a mile wide, his eyes shining with pride
at his son's accomplishments as he shouted out his approval. I do
not allow myself to display the pride and love I feel, being there
in his stead, it is simply enough to know that the feelings are
there in my heart.

XxxxxxXxxxxxX


I watched him, just as I had promised Jecht. I did not appear often,
visiting his mother once and watching him out of the corner of my
eye. He lurked in the doorway watching us with darkened eyes as we
discussed his father's disappearance and Tidus's future.

"But do you know...what happened to...him?"

She was close to a breakdown, her eyes shadowed, her skin sallow and
her features pinched from grief. There was no way to tell her the
truth, and it was better to shield her from it. She didn't really
want to know. "I'm sorry, I just still hope for word, even after all
this time."

"I wish I could bring you better news." I hesitated, then added "I
don't believe he is dead. As long as he is missing you still have
hope."

She finally looked at me then. "Thank you. You're very kind."

Then she rose abruptly asking me if she could get me a drink. I
guessed that when she was in the kitchen she cried about it, trying
not to let a stranger see her upset at his words about her
missing-presumed-dead husband. The boy had disappeared back to his
room at some point while we talked. I hadn't noticed him slip away
silently.

When she returned the inevitable questions followed; 'How did I meet
Jecht?', 'How long had I known him?' etc, and I ducked them with
vague enough answers that it was eventually established that I was
some sort of blitz scout/manager and had met up with Jecht while
travelling to and from the games. It was just as , I , I could never
have faked enough skill to pretend to be a player. I told her what I
could about him while maintaining the pretence that we'd met in
normal circumstances.

"Jecht would talk about you both often. I know that he loved you and
missed you...when he was away."

"Really?" She smiled, and I could see that she wouldn't have
believed me if I hadn't spoken with such certainty of the truth.

"Once, he asked me...I'm sorry, that's why I came. He said that if
something happened to him and he couldn't return he'd worry about
his son. He asked me to...and I promised. I didn't think at the time
that I would ever be sitting here."

"Oh, I see. Of course."

"Yes. So if there is ever anything you need, either yourself or your
son..."

"I...no, we have everything we need..." I don't think she could help
the words that followed. "except for him."

Then she began to cry uncontrollably. Whatever reservations she had
about me couldn't dam her emotions as they broke over her. I rose
and made my way into the back of the house. Tidus was sitting on his
bed, a comic book resting on his knee. When he saw me he looked up
sullenly. "Your mother needs you." I told him.

He looked surprised at the responsibility I'd just placed on him,
then he flicked the book onto the pillow as he preceded me back down
the hallway into the main room. I waited until he hugged herh
th
the awkward grace only a young child possesses. Then I went into the
kitchen to make tea for her.

It was clear the place was somewhat neglected, so I busied myself
cleaning up the dishes in the sink, mostly single plates and bowls,
undoubtedly from the boy's meals. I doubted she'd been eating much
from the look of her. I examined the contents of the fridge finding
only basics like milk, juice, butter and eggs. There were
pre-prepared s ins in the cupboard, spaghetti and the like, cereals
and biscuits. Other than that there was little of substance in the
house, certainly nothing that didn't take more than a few minutes to
prepare for the boy so she could sink back into her gloom and
depression.

I shook my head at the tragedy of it. She was wasting her life away
when the rest of us had no choice at all...Jecht would have expected
me to do something. I hadn't intended to stay for long but I had
little choice. I went to the doorway to find that Tidus was looking
up at me with resentful eyes as he clasped his mother in his arms. I
motioned to him and waited back in the kitchen until he came in.

I gestured to the tea I'd made. "You should try to get her to drink
some of this." At the same time I'd taken a packet of biscuits to
place on the tray as well, but I was unfamiliar with the packaging,
gripping it in the wrong place and it wouldn't tear. He came over.

"Not those, they're mine." He went to the cupboard and selected a
different variety. He stopped then. "If you think she's going to
forget about him you can forget it."

"Why would I think that?"

He shrugged. "Guys have been coming around here. Imarru says
they..." He blinked up at me with a serious expression. "want to
marry her. My dad had a lot of money."

"Who is Imarru?"

"She comes once a week."

"Does she do the shopping?"

He nodded. "Yeah...and the washing and the washing up. Then she
cleans."

"I see. And what day will she be here again?"

"Saturday."

He wasn't exactly animated, but at least he was talking to me. It
was a start.

"And is there somewhere you can buy more food if it runs out before
she gets here again?"

He shook his head, his gaze unconsciously shifting to the direction
of the other room. "There's a market, but...I'm not supposed to go
out by myself."

"I see." I did, all too clearly. She'd lost her husband, it was only
natural she would fear losing her boy as well. But it wasn't good
for him to be cooped up here by himself, even if he could go out on
the dock for fresh air. "Alright. Once you take that to your mother
I will ask you for directions to the market."

It didn't take long to establish my role. When I returned I cooked
some of the food I'd bought, making soup and grilling some chops to
have with salad. The boy dug into his food with alacrity, and I
wondered how long it had been since he'd had anything home cooked
from freshly prepared ingredients. He left the table before we were
done. She only ate a little, but thanked me for helping.

"Any friend of Jecht's would do whatever they could for you." I
thought she might have been embarrassed, at any rate I didn't want
to have her dismiss me outright so I added "I would like to visit
again. Tidus...Jecht was very proud of him, I can see why."

"When...?"

"Next week, if that would be alright. I'll be back in Zanarkand
then."

She nodded, and excused herself, giving me the chance to talk to
Tidus before I left them that evening. I went out on the deck to
find him there, hugging the mast as he stared out onto the water.

"Tidus, we need to talk about your mother."

"What about her?"

"She needs help."

"I'm here."

"You need help."

"I can look after her." He replied sullenly.

I thought back to what he'd told me about the maid's opinion. "I
assure you I have no designs on your mother. I am only here because
your father asked me to help you."

"You don't even know him! He'd never ask you to do that!"

I wasn't sure what I'd been expecting, but I'd walked unknowing into
a minefield and now had to be careful to extricate myself without
causing any further explosions. "The fact remains that he did ask
me, and I'm here now. As it is you can't even go to the shop. And
your maid is only here once a week."

He didn't reply, didn't even look at me. "I'll be returning next
week. Try to take care of her until then."

I left him, and returned as promised. Weeks passed, and the boy
began to accept my presence. She also came to rely on me, sinking
even deeper into the morass of her depression. After a time it
became clear that my efforts were going to be in vain. She grew
weaker, her will to live sapping away as she spent most of her time
in her room.

She died in the spring of a broken heart, one year after losing
Jecht, leaving her son an orphan at the tender age of eight.

XxxxxxXxxxxxX

End Part 2


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