Designed To Fade

BY : tuatha
Category: Final Fantasy X > General
Dragon prints: 488
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.

XxxxxxXxxxxxX


"You refuse?" It hadn't occurred to me that she might reject my
offer of guardianship, but if she did it would throw all my plans
into disarray. I find myself relieved when she bows hastily in my
direction, negating my words.

"No! No, we accept. Right, everyone?"

She looks around at their little party and my eye tracks hers,
following her gaze. I first take stock of a tall man of muscular
build who stood with a blitzball under his arm. It was the man I'd
seen score the day before in the Auroch's first match. This was the
ex-captain of the team, Wakka. A woman who looked a little older
than Yuna stood beside him, a moogle doll in her arms. She had dark
hair and eyes, a painted mouth and wore a severe expression. This
was obviously the 'Lulu' Tidus had told me about earlier.

Kimahri stood at attention behind Yuna and my eye met his. His gaze
acknowledged mine, holding silent approval at my return. I am quite
sure he guesses my secret, but I am also absolutely certain that it
will never pass his lips, not even on his dying day. It pleases me
that he is here with her still, guarding her during my long absence
from Spira.

Now there was one more hurdle to jump. I reach behind me and grabbed
Jecht's boy by his shirt, propelling him forward. "He comes too.
This one I promised Jecht."

Tidus stumbles and then recovers, scratching his head and shrugging
apologetically at the others. "Uhhh...hiya?"

XxxxxxxxxxxxXxxxxxxxxxxxX


We disembarked at Kilika Port and then stood around waiting on the
pier. Braska wanted to find out how much delay there would be, if
any, as a result of the damage caused by Sin's aborted attack.

The dock was bustling with activity; crewmen shouted warnings and
instructions as goods were lowered over the side of the boat,
merchants collected their goods, and passengers like ourselves, or
those who wanted to catch the next boat to Luca stood around waiting
for information. We were planning on going on to Besaid before
returning here, but it was as well to know now if we'd need to
change our schedule. Jecht wandered off towards the town with a
backward wave of his arm. "I think I'm gonna take a look around."

I was about to go after him and haul him back by the scruff of his
neck but Braska placed a hand on my arm. "Let him go, Auron. I'm
sure he'll be alright, Kilika is too small for him to get lost."

As it turned out I should not have listened to him, but by the time
I turned around again Jecht was no longer in sight, and I was
reluctant to leave Braska here alone. Eventually the crewmen who
were diving around the side of the ship must have reported the
damage, and a sign was posted up. The ship would be hauled into dry
dock to repair the damage, and would be out of the water for at
least two weeks. The Besaid ferry would be pressed into service,
taking the Luca run after its next scheduled trip to Besaid. Those
passengers who had thought to go to Luca on the next day were now
stranded in Kilika for the present.

Things then took a decided turn for the worse for us. We were unable
to get even a single room at either of the inns, and then we
couldn't find Jecht. We could have trekked up to the temple and
sought lodging there, as if we'd left straight away we would have
made it there by dusk, but the hours passed with no sign of our
missing companion.

We'd been up and down every dock at least twice, and the sun was
seeking the horizon, its reflection shimmering golden across the sea
as Braska paused and sat wearily on a bench. I walked over to him
but didn't sit, inside silently fuming at Jecht's behaviour and how
it had inconvenienced us. Braska blinked up at me in the late
afternoon glare, his mobile mouth twisting with rueful humour.

He reached up and pulled on my arm. "Sit with me, Auron. Maybe if we
just wait he'll turn up eventually."

"Like a bad penny..." I muttered, but I complied with his request,
taking up the other side of the bench and leaning forward to rest my
elbows on my knees. Braska patted me on the back.

"I am sorry. I should have realised...and your instincts were right,
as usual."

"My lord..." I began but he interrupted me.

"But please try not to be too hard on him...for my sake. He doesn't
understand yet, what it means to be a guardian."

"When will you tell him? What it means?" I asked him, as his
continued silence had been weighing on my mind. Every time Jecht had
assumed that Braska would survive the end of our pilgrimage I looked
to Braska to speak but he had remained silent.

"I don't know. Soon." He frowned. "I just...don't know how to say
the words."

I wondered if I should say something, and was not surprised when
Braska read my mind. "It is my responsibility...I will find a way
soon, to tell him, Yevon willing."

I listened but made no sign. Braska sighed and continued. "I know
you doubt him, but I just know he...somehow, he matters. It's as if
Yevon himself spoke to me and told me he would be my guardian too.
Please don't be angry."

"Why would I be?" I said, but I knew it was at least partly a lie
and I was ashamed of myself for it. I let my head fall forward.

"I really haven't had a chance to say this, to tell you...yet, how
much it means...to me. To have you with me, as my guardian, is such
a blessing to me..." I do not want to hear his words, they strike my
heart like arrows, wounding me with reminders of what will happen,
the future I cannot avert. I stand abruptly.

"It is unnecessary." I tell him. I think he knows how I feel but I
cannot look at him, into his expressive eyes to see if the sympathy
I feel from him is real or imagined. I allowed my mind to return to
our predicament. "I think we should return to the hotel for the
evening meal. It will be crowded later, and we don't want to find
ourselves without food on top of everything else."

He nodded and rose with me, saying nothing further, although I knew
he was thinking about it. Later, after we ate, we stayed in the bar
of the hotel. I suggested going out and looking for him again, but
Braska demurred, saying his feet hurt after our earlier wanderings
around the town. A ruckus in one of the rooms broke out and I looked
up, ready to draw my sword and stand between Braska and any danger
that emerged, but the sounds erupted into laughter and a shout of
triumph.

"I won, fair and square, and don't try to say otherwise!" I
recognised the voice, although it was slightly slurred as he
shouted, then he emerged from the hallway, weaving his way to the
bar and slamming a collection of coins onto the counter. He peered
at them, trying to make out their values, and then he looked up and
saw me. He grinned, taking up his money and staggered in our
direction.

"There're you guys! I've been lookin' all over..." As he reached us
he stumbled forward and almost landed in Braska's lap. His arms
leaned heavily against Braska's shoulders as he tried to prevent
himself from falling any further. "...Fer ya two."

He pushed himself upright and collapsed into a chair. He was dead
drunk, his eyes glazed over and barely open. He then ignored us
completely, staring around him without seeming to take anything in
at all. I gave Braska a look of dismay and disgust. Jecht finally
reached over and slapped his fist down on the table. A collection of
gil hit the table as coins fell and rolled from his hand.

"There'sh your gil back, shentlemen. Won it'll." He giggled, then he
let his head fall onto his arm.

"Wonderful." I said, as my rough estimation of his collected
winnings came up with barely enough to pay for our meal, let alone t
he sword and the gil he'd borrowed from Braska. Braska was laughing
quietly though as he scooped up the money, seeing the humour in the
situation, although I could see very little that wasn't irksome.

"We'd better go." Braska told me, and I looked around to see some
rough looking individuals enter the room from the same direction
Jecht had first appeared. They were looking around the bar and I had
no doubt they were seeking our companion, perhaps to try to win back
the money they'd lost to him.

I stood and roused Jecht enough to get him half out of his seat,
then practically carried him under my arm, as we made our way
swiftly towards the exit. We emerged into the night air which woke
him and he staggered away from me.

"Where're we goin' now?"

"Not far." Braska told him kindly. Jecht staggered back in his
direction and Braska took him by the forearm to steady him.

"'nother bar?" He asked, peering hopefully out from under the hair
that covered his eyes. I let a groan of disgust escape me. The man
was incorrigible.

"You can rest soon." was Braska's reply.

We made our way to the outskirts of Kilika but did not venture into
the forest, instead turning to the side and making our way down to
the beach. Jecht fell into the sand as soon as Braska let go of his
arm. He curled up and was soon snoring as the work of setting up our
camp in the dark fell to Braska and I. I realised he was going to be
useless to keep watch too, so I resigned myself to a sleepless
night.

We built a campfire in short order, bringing wood from the edge of
the forest down onto the dunes. Then when Braska suggested splitting
the watch I replied shortly to him, telling him to rest. I knew he
might have to spend many hours in the temple praying to the fayth
tomorrow, he didn't need to have suffered a sleepless night befor
hand and I told him so. He was quiet then, and lay down in the sand
nearby.

I listened until his breathing softened into the regular pattern of
sleep and found myself regretting my sharp tone with him. I'd just
felt that with one guardian letting him down so badly I had to do
everything I could to take up whatever slack was left. I hadn't
meant to take my anger out on him though.

>From time to time Jecht stirred, groaning in his sleep. He raised
his head once, looking around at the beach and the fire before
sinking back into unconsciousness. I am not usually uncharitable to
others but I hoped he was feeling the effects of his inebriation.

The night passed slowly, unpleasantly. Each time I felt encroaching
sleep I rose and tended the fire, or walked around for a few moments
to keep myself awake. Just before dawn, when I was most in danger of
falling asleep, I made my way to the sea waiting till a wave came
close enough for me to scoop some water up and run it over my face.

Jecht sat straight up and looked around at me. I stared back at him
impassively, then he hiccuped. "Argghhh!"

He groaned theatrically, but I'd had enough of his theatrics. I rose
and stood over him. "Be quiet! Do you think to wake your summoner on
top of everything else?" I kept my voice low despite my rising
anger.

He put his hands over his face. Then lifted one to wave it at me.
"Alright, already. Don't get your knickers in a twist."

I have to confess I really hated him then. He was a smartass of the
highest order, never accepting criticism or correction with any kind
of seriousness. He rose and went down to the sea, wading out until
the water was deep enough to dive beneath a wave. I returned to my
place and eventually Braska stirred, twisting in the sand and
stretching. He smiled when he saw me.

"Auron! Good morning."

"Good morning. Did you sleep well?" I asked him, as I went to our
pack and poured some water into the pot and placed it on the fire.

"Like a baby." He replied. "Has Jecht...I see he's already up."

I waved at the ocean, indicating where he'd gone. He stood and gazed
at the ocean, deep sparkling blue in the early morning light. "A
swim before breakfast sounds like a fine idea."

I sighed. I was tired and my eyes felt gritty as though they were
full of sand. I didn't feel like bathing in the sea, but it would
probably help since we now had to trek through the forest of Kilika
and then make our way up the great stone steps to the temple.


XxxxxxXxxxxxX

I spread my coat out on the sand and lay down on it. I no longer
felt tired, just numb and cold from the water. Once I was tolerably
dry I dressed myself with fumbling fingers.

Jecht had emerged from the waves earlier and waded back into shore
further up the beach, shaking himself like a dog before wandering up
the sandy slope and disappearing into the fringe of the forest. I
watched him go, wondering if he would disappear on us again, but
eventually he emerged from the shadows and gave me a half-hearted
wave as he headed for the fire.

"Don't worry about him." Braska told me, also struggling with his
robes which twisted around him as he dressed, but eventually we were
both fitly attired and followed Jecht. Braska refused to let me help
with breakfast, telling me to sit down and wait.

He poured tea into the pot which had been boiling for some time,
then levered it carefully out of the fire. He then brought a mug and
placed it by my feet, kneeling before me as he lifted and poured the
water into it, his hand shaking slightly with the strain. Then he
passed the cup to me and I took it carefully from his hands.

"You two are so cute together...I can just about hear wedding
bells." Jecht drawled. I looked over to see him lying back in the
sand with his arms crossed behind his head. His eyes met mine and
seemed to mock me.

My palm literally itched for the hilt of my sword. I was aware of
the implication he was making but Braska sat back on his heels and
regarded Jecht with an expression of innocent inquiry. His mind was
as pure and simple as a child's and he saw only the surface meaning
of Jecht's words, completely unaware of the darker undertone that
was being suggested. I knew, and I wanted to take the fool's head
off his shoulders with one swipe of my sword and be done with him
for good.

Braska looked back at me and I schooled my features into a more
normal expression. His eyes crinkled up with amusement. Then he
laughed, loudly and sincerely. "That's a good one, Jecht."

He rose, and took up the pot of water and went over to the
scoundrel, and performed the same ritual, kneeling and pouring tea
for him as well. Jecht's eyes met mine over Braska's head without
even a hint of an apology. "I mean, you guys obviously love eaotheother."

Braska sat back and regarded him. "Seriously? You have no idea."

I winced, and then scowled although I remained silent. Braska
returned to the fire, preparing his own tea, and then he sat
opposite Jecht.

"It would be impossible to explain how much it means to me, not just
as a summoner, but as a person, to know that Auron is with me. I
know that he will always be there, by my side..."

Jecht regarded him curiously as he professed his feelings about me,
and I was embarrassed and mortified because I'd prevented him from
speaking these words yesterday, so he was now telling Jecht what
he'd meant to say to me all along.

"I know that I can trust him, and rely on him, and that he will
always be there to protect me. So yes, I love him very much..." I
looked up to see him smiling gently at me, hopefully. "More than
anything in the world."

I looked across to see Jecht looking faintly amused by the
conversation, but he looked away, casually turning his attention to
the fire when he realised my gaze was on him. I looked back to
Braska sending him a silent appeal with my eyes that he seemed to
understand. The matter was dropped while we had breakfast, but later
after we packed and were ready to make our way to the temple Jecht
walked past me while Braska was otherwise engaged.

"I guess I did you both a favour then, back on the boat." is all he
said before he casually sauntered after Braska. I took off after
him.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing, nothing. Just that since Braska values you so highly, I
guess it's lucky for him I saved your ass."

I gritted my teeth. "You can tell him whenever you like, to claim
credit for your good deed."

"No, no, that's okay. If it makes Braska happy having you around
that's reward enough for me." Then he sprinted away from me, up the
path to where Braska was waiting patiently for us to catch up. "Hey,
summoner man! Wait up!"

He slapped Braska good-naturedly on the shoulder as he too, turned
to wait for me to catch up. "Auron's being a bit of a slowpoke this
morning."

I frowned, and did my best to avoid him for the rest of the morning.

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