Dedication: For Danni. All the good that the world holds, sweetheart.
Timeline: Set just before Zanarkand; vague story spoilers up until that point.
Mount Gagazet twists the ocean winds, sending them swirling back into the bowl of the valley that still shelters Zanarkand. The breeze is as filmy and fluctuating as the pyreflies among the ruins, but it stirs Yuna's hair over her cheeks as she scampers up the ridge. Below, their campfire glows bright, the only living light in the moonless dark.
He remembers the winds, though what name the mountain had then escapes him. He never thought about it much. The city by the sea was the world. Was, or would be, he doesn't know any more. He's gone forward, always, rushing with and against time, and now the journey comes full circle.
Somewhere out there is your Zanarkand. That's true; his home lies somewhere even Yuna's will couldn't carry her. Her worn boots scrape against the scree covering the ridge. She's brought them here, to a city that sleeps under a night so heavy it feels morning should never come. It spreads before him now, nestled in the bay whose outline against the ink-blue sea is both strange and hauntingly familiar.
She's a deft climber now, step and balance honed by the sweeping branch walkways of Macalania Woods and the icy slopes of Gagazet. It shows; he's watched her sidelong since Besaid.
"Hey, you." She stops right beside him, hands clasped behind her back.
"Hey, yourself." Normally, this would be where he'd nudge her gently. "Shouldn't you sleep? Auron will make us leave before dawn, you know he will."
"I know. I just couldn't..." Yuna glances away. The pyreflies flicker and soar like tiny, skyfallen stars. "It's so close. It's hard to stop now. I can't."
He reaches out and takes her hand. She wraps her fingers through his, looking down, but even in the faint light he can see how her eyes cinch the tiniest bit. She's smiling.
"I'm still coming along."
The wind strokes cold fingers over them both, rolling the loose stones and sand into ever-changing patterns at their feet.
"You've been up here a long time," she says then. "It is... nothing like your home, is it?"
Zanarkand that never sleeps. A city he remembers sharp as a dream on waking. "See there?" He points with his free hand, over the shattered roofs and towers to where the pyreflies draw a great, shimmering arc in the sky. "Just there was a bridge of water. It ran high over the city to the stadium."
Eyes wide, with the familiar wonder he'd do anything to keep there, Yuna stares at him. "You're-how do you say that? You're hiding the ball in your other hand, aren't you?"
"No, I'm serious. They raised the water for the dome that way." Laughter trickles into his voice anyway.
She sighs lightly, and then nuzzles her head into the hollow of his shoulder. The others are down in the camp, though he doesn't really mind Lulu's arch, knowing looks, or Rikku's warm-hearted ribbing any more. Yuna probably minds more.
"I think maybe... we needed your eyes to see Zanarkand."
He leans against her a little, settling into the nearness. "What'd you mean?"
"We would only see a city in ruins. You see a city full of people and life, all these wonders you've told us about."
"I... wanted you to see it, too, Yuna." There has to be another miracle left in Zanarkand. She's so close and alive; the city made of dreams cannot let him down. He'll find the answer if he has to turn over every stone in every ruined street.
"I do see it," she whispers. "In every story you tell me. It's so beautiful."
Yeah, it is. It had to be, to be preserved in a thousand years of stony slumber. Living in Zanarkand, he took its splendour and strength like the air he breathed or the sea he swam: a given, a constant, a touchstone he never realised leaning on. Only Spira made it real, in the sense in which dreams are real. Spira and Yuna, who threw the world open before him.
Is this where it ends? he asks silently. Will we make it?
They fold together in the way both of them are still learning. His arms reach comfortably around her shoulders, and her head fits snugly against the angle of his neck. The wind flows in a hitchless, slow river of air, deep from the sea.
"The wind's still the same," he says, half to himself. "You can smell the ocean. Maybe even all the other places on its shores."
"Like Besaid," Yuna says at length. The home she thinks she'll never see again.
You will, Yuna, you will. Just watch and wait. Lead me where we'll find the answers.
Walking her fingers along his wrist, she slips her hand into his again. This close, he can almost feel the firm beating of her heart.
"Let's go one step at a time, right?" He rests his chin on top of her head. "You take us down there first."
"Yes," she says. "Maybe we should sleep a bit first. It's still a ways." Even in the dark, he can see where the pyreflies linger along the crumbled highroad, as if they, even as ephemera, preferred the easiest course along the slope. It's the road they will take in the morning, too.
"After you." He chuckles as he lets go of her; she steps back reluctantly, her gaze still on him. Nonetheless, he hops down to the first secure foothold and turns to steady her with a flourish, even if she hardly needs it. A smile tickles the corner of her mouth as she takes his offered hand. Side by side, they make their way down towards the warm beacon of the fire.
Down, down to Zanarkand that ever sleeps.
Thanks are due to Don Huonot for inspiration and the title (taken from their song Näkymättömään kaupunkiin, which pretty neatly translates into the title of this story).