"Tell me a story."

"...No."


Once upon a time, there was a boy who, through no fault of his own, looked just like his father. Messy spiking hair the color of burnt wood, a sharpness of chin and nose. His eyes were blue but otherwise identical. His hands possessed the same blunt fingers. The same petulant glare.

No fault of his own.


Once upon a time there was a man who had once been a boy and now was dead. He was half blind and only half living, long fingered and long mouthed and quiet. He had never wanted a child.

No fault of his own.


"Why are you here," the boy had said, eyes swollen and red from crying, arms tense at his side.

"For you," the man replied.


The boy had dropped to squat on his heels and cry, scraping dirty hands over his eyes. Father dead and gone, mother distant and dying: he wasn't used to people existing for him.
For the first year, the boy almost believed that the man was his imaginary friend, a friend with the wrong accent and wrong clothes and wrong attitudes, a dream-thing, a djinn, a light sleeper that woke up and marched over to the boy's room in the middle of the room to tell him, crossly, that it was difficult to sleep over the sound of wailing.

And then the man would wait until the boy stopped crying on his own, never just leaving or ordering him to halt.


For the first year, the man wasn't sure what he was doing, taking care of someone else's son, buying food and cooking meals. He had hoped never to marry. Certainly never to have children. It was the reason he had once, long ago, been disgraced from the monks. It was the reason he had used to sit and listen with only faint interest as his companions discussed fondly the traits of their offspring. Little girl, intelligent beyond her years and so kind, little boy, lively and strong.

He was certain the children were all of those things. He had never calculated on having to pick one of them to raise on his own.

The girl would have been easier.


"Tell me a story."

"...No."

"Please?"


In the second year, the boy began school. He came home one day and sprinted through excuses, but it came to light eventually that parent-and-teacher conferences were upcoming, and the boy only had in his possession one half of that equation. Everyone knew his father was dead, but his mother hadn't been so famous. The boy had made up excuses. His mom was away, his mom hated conferences, his mom hated teachers, my mom thinks you are all really dumb and stupid--

The boy was given a sealed envelope and ordered to give it to his parent. He considered tearing it into pieces and throwing it into the ocean instead.


One day in the second year, the man fished the soggy papers out of the kitchen sink. He peeled it apart with clumsy fingers best suited for a sword, tearing a paper in a soggy two and setting the whole thing aside on the dish-rack to dry. The boy watched with stormy eyes. "It doesn't matter anyway, you aren't my dad," he mumbled and whined.

"Legally," the man replied.

"You aren't my dad!" the boy shrieked.

The paper curled in slightly, ink running as it dried. "I am," the man said, peering at the brittle sheets, "your Guardian."


"Please?"

"I said, no."

"I bet you don't know any stories anyway."


In the fifth year, the boy started Blitzing and announced it loudly, defiantly, daring the man to say something about it. Daring him to say anything, anything at all. He wanted to yell, "because I want to," he wanted to disclaim himself with "it's nothing to do with my dad," and both were true and both were wrong at once.

The man drank from his coffee. "I've never cared much for Blitzball."


In the fifth year, the boy played in the junior division Blitz League, left forward, brown hair starting to bleach from sun and chlorine. The man had had no interest in watching the game, as it was dull enough when experts at the game played, but he resolved not to go until the boy asked.

The boy didn't ask, and didn't ask with such stubbornness, that the man went anyway. Out of pride or spite or something between the two.

The boy accredited his watery eyes to nerves when his coach asked.


"I bet you don't know any stories anyway."

"I know many stories."

"Then tell me one."


In the seventh year, the boy dyed his hair blond and began to style it in order to attract female attention to himself. He stayed out late and began to get popular with his friends, but he never once was late when he was required at home, always claiming that the guy who took care of him was real strict about that, and often arriving back at the house before the man himself.

The boy was growing into a good cook, or the better of the two of them at it. He served only slightly overcooked meat and slightly undercooked vegetables, he goaded the man--getting weak in your old age, better eat up. The man poured the boy glasses upon glasses of milk, his expression grave.

The boy laughed until he cried, sometimes.


In the seventh year, the man was passing by the open door of the boy's room, where he was entertaining some friends. "Well," the boy was saying, "of course he isn't my real dad." The man had only paused for a heartbeat, not long enough that it counted, and he continued on his way. "But my dad was an asshole," the boy continued, "so I kinda wish he was anyway."

The girl, he thought again, would have been easier to raise, most certainly.

But the man didn't know that he would have liked her any more in the end for it.


"Then tell me one."

"Which?"

"I want to hear about you. Tell me that story."


The man flicked off the small lamp on the boy's desk with one quick movement. "That," he said curtly, "is a story for later."

Tidus was quiet until the door was nearly closed, before peeping up hesitantly--"'Night!"

"Until tomorrow," Auron replied, and shut the door.


They all lived happily ever after.