Author's notes: Welcome, one and all, to 'The Man in the Red Coat'. Okay, so the title may not be the best in the world, but you know the saying: "Don't judge a book by its cover." Or in Fanfiction: "Don't judge a story by its title." No, you judge it one its contents… and the summary.
This story started out as just this prelude, and then exploded to include the Final Fantasy X game, with more than a few hints of X-2 tied into it. I know you're dreading the tiring retelling of the game. Hopefully this is a bit different. We'll have hints of Spira before Sin, fleshing out characters such as Belgemine, Yunalesca, Lenne, the Magus Sisters, and many others. We've increased the Aeon count dramatically.
So, don't think this as a Fanfiction that is a simple retelling the story with an added character, but a retelling that expands the story greatly. How did Belgemine die? What Aeons did Summoners use before Sin and the Final Summoning?
Did Auron interact with anyone else in Dream Zanarkand?
Disclaimer: I do not own Final Fantasy X or any of the characters. I do not own the 'Aeons' or summons, they're from other Final Fantasy games. I do own Terra and Lenore, and no, Terra is not the same as the heroine from Final Fantasy VI. However, they are free for the snagging, just let me know why you're using them.
Rewritten and Beta'd by the fantastic TwiliPrincess049! (8/11/11)
::Prelude: The Man In The Red Coat::
I sighed when the large clock built into the building across the street chimed as 9 o'clock rolled around. He was three hours late. Three hours! I was tempted to wait another hour, just in case, but I knew better. If he was this late, he probably wasn't going to come. Besides, my stomach felt like it was about to eat itself if I didn't feed it soon.
'He's probably just too busy,' I thought with another sigh as I slid off the half-wall separating the public sidewalk and one of the few green parks in Zanarkand. I paused as my feet slammed against the pavement, sending a small painful jolt up my legs before I looked back up at the large clock face. It's not like this was an official…whatever. I wasn't even sure if we were really friends, or just good acquaintances that happened to share dinner every week. Still, I couldn't help but worry. He always was here, 6 o'clock every Thursday; unless he became sidetracked of course, but then the latest he had ever been was 10 minutes.
The sky gave a warning rumble, reminding me there was a chance of rain. Zanarkand was one of the few cities of Spira known for its storms, after all-next to Djose and the Thunder Plains, of course. I looked away from the clock and began walking towards my home district, digging my hands in my loose pants, my fingers playing with the lint and 5-gil coin inside. 5-gil wasn't going to pay for much; it had been his turn to buy.
I kept walking past the restaurants, trying not to look inside at the happy patrons. I was hungry enough as it was: I didn't need the sight of delicious food to make me even more miserable. The ringing of a bell caught my attention, and out of reflex I looked over to the window beside me where a happy couple was leaning against one another, laughing about something before the brown haired man, probably a blitz player from the way he was dressed, scooped something with a spoon and fed his beautiful girlfriend. The laughing died away as the pair shared a look, and I forced myself to look away and continue walking before they kissed.
I felt both embarrassed and a bit saddened. I knew why I was embarrassed: public displays of affection tended to do that to a girl who never had a boyfriend, not counting Erik back in elementary school. Even with Lenne and Shuyin making googly eyes at one another half the time, and we weren't ever going to speak of the evil witch Yunalesca and her surprisingly decent husband making out ever chance they got like a bunch of newlyweds, I wasn't desensitized enough to stop a blush from rising and loud protests.
It was the fact that I was sad that bothered me. We weren't like that, and would never be like that. He was quiet most of the time, not exactly silent, just… quiet. He didn't joke, but gave a deep chuckle when I did. His quips were usually full of sarcasm and pessimism that made me laugh and try my hardest to cheer him up. I never did, of course-I couldn't imagine him happy and cheery anyways. He smiled, behind that high collar of his, once in a while, usually when I did something childish, like sticking my tongue out or something, or try to use the magic that my sister bragged about. She could summon a wall of flames that burned anything, but I could only just manage small flicker of flame that could barely light a candle.
"You shouldn't force yourself do what you are incapable of doing," he told me once after I bemoaned about being horrible at my lessons. "So, magic isn't your strong suit. Find what is."
"Annoying and mooching off old men?" I had teased, and he just graced me with a small smile before ordering two Besaidian dishes from the street vendor.
Really, he wasn't old-maybe in his mid thirties. But he acted kind of like my grandpa, who fought in the last Machina-Summoner war between Bevelle and Zanarkand. There wasn't really a way to describe it, he just seemed old, as if his spirit was older than his body. Maybe that's what they mean when people say so-and-so is an 'old soul.'
That and he did have this rather awesome and admittingly attractive brush of grey in his otherwise black hair. I teased him endlessly about it, of course, but I did secretly admire it. It just matched him, along with that large dark scar across his right eye. He tried to hide it behind his sunglasses, and who knew how far it traveled below that high collar of his but I had seen it. Gramps was always secretive about his scars, so although I did ask him regularly about it, at least once a month, I never pushed when he wouldn't answer. Despite what my sister and most others think, I do know when to stop asking questions.
The sky followed through with its earlier threat when a large bolt of lightning streaked through the sky, lighting everything for a brief second before it began to drizzle lightly. That didn't bother me: I grew up in Zanarkand and you couldn't live here if you had an aversion to water. However, the combination of the light rain and the chilly wind swooping down from the Gagazet mountain range to the south that chilled me to the bone did bother me. I shivered and started to run towards my home in the C-District. Common sense told me I should probably catch a bus, and I was about to stop at the small bench next to a bus stop sign before realizing they took exact change, and all I had was a 5-gil coin, and no bus pass.
Since the bench offered no protection from the cold rain, I kept running down the street. Knowing my luck, I was going to get hypothermia, and my sister would tease me endlessly before casting curaga. "What, can't you heal yourself, little sis?" I could already hear her tease as I sat bundled under all the blankets I could pilfer. "Come on, weren't you going to be a great Summoner some day?"
I wanted so badly to be a Summoner just like her, and our mother, and our grandmother, and all the women in our family. I wanted to pray to the Fayth in the sacred chamber and receive the great Aeon of Zanarkand, Alexander, the perfect blend of machine and magic. Then, if Bevelle threatened war again, I would protect my beloved city.
But no, I was cursed with the inability to even cast a base-level spell. My perfect older sister Lenore, on the other hand, could already summon Alexander and even Mount Gagazet's protector, Pandemona.
I ran a little faster, annoyed by my train of thought. I was so focused on trying not to think that I hadn't noticed the familiar red-coated man standing on the steps of my apartment until I ran straight into his back.
"Umph!" The air was knocked out of my lungs as I was knocked backwards into the sidewalk, the cement harshly breaking my fall and getting my backside wet all at the same time. I groaned as I felt the cold water seep through my clothes, not that I was exactly dry in the first place.
"Do you plan on sitting there all night?" My eyes flew open at the sardonic tone, and I grinned when I saw Auron standing in front of me.
"It would be rude to get up after you oh-so-gently helped me take a seat!" I stuck my tongue out, glad to see a small smirk form on his lips, visible thanks to the fact his usual high collar was missing for some reason. He extended the hand that wasn't half-tucked into his coat, which I gratefully accepted. I had expected just leverage to haul myself up with not to be lifted to my feet as if I was a child. I had known he was strong, but not that strong!
There was an awkward pause that made me fidget a little, trying to wipe the water off my clothes which was rather impossible at this point. Realizing I was probably making an idiot out of myself, I gathered my courage and asked: "So… What are you doing here?" I offered a teasing grin. "Feeling bad that you stood me up?"
"A bit." I blinked, surprised at the answer while my face decided to turn red hot, when really it was my arms that needed warmed up! I looked away from the black glasses half-covering his eyes, deciding to look down at his feet instead. After all, those were some pretty nice shoes, better than my flip-flops that displayed my painted toes for all to see. Where did he get a pair like that? I had been dragged all across Zanarkand by my sister and roommates on shoe-shopping sprees, and I had never seen a pair like that. Then again, their focus was on pumps, flats, and sandals, not men's shoes. "I wanted to say goodbye."
My stray train of thought suddenly derailed and exploded catastrophically. My eyes shot back up to his sunglasses, trying to pull an answer from his stoic expression. "Goodbye? You're leaving?"
"Something like that." I felt a bit cheated as he not-so-discreetly pushed his sunglasses up all the way, destroying any small chance to read his face. Did he really have to wear them? I mean, it's nine at night! Sure the streetlights made everything bright as day, but still!
"Well, then no ice-cream cake for you on my birthday," I defended, trying to act as if it was nothing when I was sure there was a pout on my face. I was such a child. "I was going to have cookie dough in it too. And triple chocolate cake." That was a blatant lie, I didn't really like ice cream cake, and my birthday was months from now, but he didn't know that.
"I think I'll survive," that small little smile is there again. If it wasn't for the fact he was saying goodbye, I would have been ecstatic.
"I'm going to die happily of sugar overload though," I cajoled, and to my surprise the small smile disappeared. Okay, not the time. Maybe it was time to un-change the subject. "So, uh, when you leaving?"
"Oh... I'd see you off or something but tomorrow's the anniversary of Jecht's death, and you know how crazy Lenore is about..." I trailed off, rethinking that idea. I disliked blitzball, and I really didn't want to go to game tomorrow. This was a rather bittersweet yet perfect excuse to escape my sister's insane fanaticism with the dead player. "You know what, scratch that. I'm going to come bug you after all." I was far more fonder of him then I was of blitzball by a long shot.
"Spend the day with Lenore," he stated quietly but firmly as he adjusted his weight, a small cue I had come to learn meant he was about to walk off and disappear into Zanarkand. "Tomorrow is the end of this story."
"Huh?" I scratched my messy damp hair, more than a little confused. Was that a new- or maybe it was an old- saying? If it was, what did it mean?
What did it mean if it wasn't some idiom?
Instead of clarifying he went on to confuse me even further. "Your story deserves a happy ending. Be with those you love." He put a hand on my shoulder for a moment and squeezed it slightly, sending goosebumps across my body. I loved Lenore, yeah. She's my sister after all, but she wasn't the only person I loved.
"Auron," I protested slightly when his hand dropped away, he turned towards the way I had come, and proceeded to walk away. "Auron!" I turned and put my hands on my hips. "You better save me from my birthday cake, understand?" I had no clue where those words came from, they definitely were not the ones I meant to say, but they would have to do. "If not, I'll… I'll haunt you!"
Auron paused for a moment, his dark chuckle cutting through the pitter-patter of the rain before developing into a full-bodied laugh that wasn't exactly full of humor. My stomach did a small squirm, which I wanted to place on hunger pains even though I was no longer the slightest bit hungry. "As you wish," he called back before disappearing in the rain. My hands slumped from my hips as I sighed. I didn't even say good bye, did I?
"Are you okay?" I barely had time to register Lenore's voice before she tackled me in a violent yet somehow protective hug that only siblings could do. "That freaky guy didn't hurt you, did he?"
"What? No! Auron would never hurt me!" I protested into her shoulder. Except, this time he did. Unintentionally of course, he couldn't have known about my feelings, but still... "Lenore, I love you and all, but I kinda can't breathe…"
The Summoner gave me a slight shove as she let go of me. "Auron? You know that guy?" Worried-and-protective Lenore was gone, and in her place was bossy and maternal Lenore, my least favorite aspect of my sister. Her hands were on her barely hidden hips, her brown eyes giving me the patent I'm-upset-with-you-and-by-the-way-I'm-a-Summoner-so-you-should-be-really-worried glare.
"Er, kinda?" I didn't really know-know him, but after sharing about a dozen meals with someone, they weren't exactly a stranger anymore. "Why?"
"He's been standing out here for almost three hours! He gave me and the other girls the creeps." She rubbed her arms dramatically and looked out into the strengthening rain that was now drawing up a fog from the waterways. "There's something not quite right with that man."
"I think the Aeons have gone to your head." I said under my breath but loud enough for her to hear. To prove my point I twirled my finger near my ear, indicating that she was nuts. There was one thing I had learned: never let a bunch of Summoners alone for long periods of time without someone to bring them back down to Spira. Every single time I left Lenore, Lenne, Cindy, Sandy, and Mindy alone for long stretches of time I would come home to some kind of insanity. And for me to call it that, it has to be really insane. "So hey, we got anything to eat?" I changed the subject, putting a grin on my face. "I need ice-cream, and cake, and fries. Oh, fries would be delicious right now, along with pizza. Smothered in cheese."
"I thought you were going to watch your weight." She poked my hips, where I claimed the squishy flesh was just left over baby weight. Still, there was a smile back on her face when I grabbed her hand and pulled her back towards the dormitory we shared with the other Summoners and Lenne's on-again and off-again boyfriend Shuyin.
"Weight-shmat! It's time to party!" I punched the air with a loud yell. I swore I could hear one of the girls inside groan but it only brightened my mood. Hellfire, I was hungry, tired, and upset. I needed some fun!
It wasn't until late that night, practically morning, that I allowed myself to let go and cry. It was stupid of me, I knew that-we hadn't even really been friends! I didn't know anything beyond the fact he came from Bevelle, he was looking after a kid named Tidus that may or may not be the Tidus from the Zanarkand Abes that Shuyin is resentful of, and he liked to wash down spicy food with a little of that rice-wine he always carried around. Which, by the way, was some weird Bevelle tradition and not because he had an alcohol problem. I think. Those Bevelle people are so backwards, and that's one of the primary reasons why I shouldn't care for him! He was from the evilest place on Spira, he was a strange man who sometimes carried around a sword longer than I was tall, had to be at least ten years older than me, emotionally messed up (which I blamed Bevelle for), and had a tendency to ignore private property and hang out on roofs.
Who was I kidding? I had fallen in love with him and his mysteries. His gray hair and that thick scar, the sarcastic and abrasive attitude, the arm that might-or-might-not-be lame, the katana that could slice anything into two, the jug of sake, the big red coat… (
And now he was gone.
It was late fall and the driving rain managed to penetrate the sheltered bus stop. Still dressed in my summer outfit I was shivering violently and stamping my feet impatiently. Why couldn't the bus be early for once?
I saw the man waiting with me give me a few glances out of the corner of my eye. Usually I would be striking up a conversation. I've been accused of being a social butterfly and I carried the title proudly, but it was too cold and I was too miserable to even offer hello. I dread getting back to the dorm: Lenore was going to scold me until she was blue in the face, and then Lenne would take over, followed by Cindy, Mindy, and Sandy. Maybe even a tease from Shuyin if I was really unlucky. In my defense, the weatherman said it would be partly sunny today…
With a 70% chance of rain with possible snow mixed in. I seriously thought I could bank on that 30%.
All of a sudden, something warm and dry was draped over my shoulders. I looked down at the thick red coat that now protected most of me from the rain and wind before I looked over to the man beside me, bare of the red coat he had been wearing a minute ago. The man wasn't looking at me, but staring straight ahead, watching the cars zoom past. He was older-the faint lines on his face and the brush of grey in his hair gave that away, even if he appeared to be very physically fit: the muscles were nicely pronounced in his bare arms. I was so wrapped up in my thoughts (and not admiring him! ... well maybe I was admiring him a little...) that I jumped slightly when he grumbled with a rough voice, "You shouldn't wear clothes like that in this weather."
"It was sunny an hour ago," I defended lightly with no real malice, but a smile on my face. "But thanks."
"Hn, I want it back when the bus gets here."
"Yes sir!" I snuggled into the big red coat with a small smile on my face. The coat smelled pretty good, it had a musty male scent with an edge of spice to it. I took a deep breath before introducing myself. "My name's Terra, by the way."