Re-uploaded and revised 4 June 2010
This is the sequel to Spira's Dream - it would be best to read that story first. This story is heavily dependent on the concepts originally presented in that one.
The setting, characters, and inspiration for the plot all belong to Square Enix. Fans of the game will recognize which content is not mine, so I do not even pretend to take credit for it. My appreciation goes out to Square Enix and their wonderful game designers for giving us such inspiring entertainment.
Any resemblance between my fan-fic and other FFX2 fan-fics is purely unintentional. We are all playing the same game, after all, so it's pretty easy to draw some similar theories out of it. Hopefully, it will pack a few new surprises, though.
Chapter 1: Within this Skin
Yuna gathered the last of the spheres that she had been labeling and placed them in a crate, careful to cushion them with a blanket. Then, she stepped back to take another look at her packing job. Her brows knit in consternation for a moment, but then she remembered where another blanket would be. Capping the pen and humming to herself, she skipped up the stairs of the bridge and headed down the hall to the lift. She touched the engine room button and the doors closed with a hiss. The lift lowered her into the belly of the airship, and when the doors opened once more, she walked down a second set of stairs to the right corner. A smile graced her lips as she approached because the blankets weren't all that she was happy to see there.
Tidus was on one of the borrowed blankets doing sit-ups. Fulfilling his promise to Wakka to take on the job of coaching the Besaid Aurochs blitzball team, he faithfully tested his fitness routine on himself each morning before making his teammates run through his drills. When he noticed her watching him in admiration from the bottom of the stairs, without breaking his stride doing the crunches, he gave a short, mischievous kiss to his bicep.
Yuna laughed lightly and rolled her eyes as she crossed the floor toward him. "You know, if you flirt with yourself too much, then there's no need for me to do it."
He grinned. "Ah, but if you flirt with me, then I'll easily get distracted and lose my count."
Yuna giggled at the memory of scheming with Rikku to distract him from catching a pass. The ball had hit the side of his head seconds before Wakka nailed him with a harsh tackle. "Doesn't this floor hurt your back?" She knelt at his feet and folded her arms across his knees, resting her chin on them.
Tidus drew himself up in a crunch and held the position for a few seconds to face her. "Not much different from having to sleep on it. Fifteen. Set five, one, ..." He vocally marked his place starting a new set of repetitions, as he lowered his back to the floor.
"It's been two weeks now since you came back. I don't think Brother really meant for you to sleep in the engine room this long."
"Well, the one time I asked about it, he said there was no more space in the men's bunks. Two, ..." Tidus rose eye-level with her again.
"Well, then maybe you could share the loft with us." Yuna smiled so big that her eyes squinted shut.
"Are you kidding me? Brother's tolerating me now, but there's no way he's let me sleep up there." He lowered himself, then curled back up again. "Three, ..."
"You could sleep on the futon sofa at the end."
Tidus gave half a laugh, as he lowered himself to the floor once more. "It doesn't matter if you offer me the shower stall. He's not going to let me sleep in the cabin."
"I'll talk to him about it after I come back from Bevelle."
"Four, ..." He continued counting under his breath as he drew himself forward.
"Would you like to go with me to the conference? I know you've got to get the team ready for the second half of the league games, but since this does involve Zanarkand, I think maybe you should come with me." She playfully tapped the end of his nose making him blink before he could lower himself again.
Tidus winced at the thought. "I'm no good at stuffy, formal things, Yuna. If I have to sit in a hard chair listening to lectures for more than thirty minutes, I start snoring." He pulled himself up once again, but then paused, holding the position for a moment. "Was that four or five?"
"Three," Yuna helpfully answered.
Tidus almost believed her for a moment. "Nah, see, you made me lose count!"
She tried not to laugh. "If you've already done four sets of fifteen, that's 60 sit-ups. I hardly see how being one count off is going to make any difference."
"I always did five sets during game season."
"Then, I'm sure you're strong enough to carry some spheres into Bevelle for me."
"You can swing Caladbolg, but you can't carry a bunch of large marbles?"
She gave him her best kitten look - an easy thing for her to do considering that one eye was forest green and the other was sea blue, just like that of a cat. "Please?"
Tidus continued his uncounted crunches with a groan. He decided to aim for a compromise. "An hour of practice time and a shower first?"
"Deal." She clasped her hands together, pleased. "Oh, and I need one of the extra blankets to finish packing the spheres, so they won't break." She kissed his nose as he came forward again, before he could lower himself back to the floor.
Tidus lowered his hands from behind his head, winced, and rubbed a hand across his sore abdomen. "Kyaaa, talking to you during crunches means more crunch than reps." He sat up, placing his hands on the floor behind himself for support. "You know, I'm thinking of dragging Wakka's butt out of bed today to join us for a run. I mean, I know he's a home body now, but he still loves the game. I want to keep him involved somehow. Think he'll go for it?"
Yuna giggled lightly and stood. "I'm sure he would appreciate your intentions, but rolling him out of bed for a run around the island every morning might get a shoe thrown at you."
"Hey, if I can dodge his tackles; I can dodge a pair of shoes."
Moving to the pile of blankets on the floor, Yuna sifted through them and selected one. Then she changed her mind and drew all of them into her arms. When she turned around, he was standing and offering her the last one. "Thanks."
"Two hours." He repeated his bargain and headed for the door.
"Two hours." Yuna watched him jog down the steps of the hatch and leave for the village. Having him back like this felt ... right. Even the routine tasks of the day were more special just knowing he was around. Hefting the cumbersome blankets into her arms, she headed up the stairs back to the cabin. There, she went straight to the futon sofa and dumped all of the blankets except one. Draping her choice over her arm, she skipped back down the stairs, humming to herself, and headed to the bridge to finish packing the spheres.
Tidus jogged up the beach and down the path toward Besaid Village, coming to a stop outside of the Aurochs' team hut. Everyone on the team was already stretching and getting ready for practice. "All right, I have a stuffy, formal thing to go to in Bevelle in two hours, so all we're going to do today is go once around the island and meet back at the beach for some crunches and passing drills. Go ahead and start without me. I'll catch up to you." The team answered with a few muffled complaints, but Tidus turned in the opposite direction and knocked on the door frame of the little hut across the road to collect his guest of honor.
The curtain was pulled aside with a woosh, and Lulu greeted him with a mildly surprised expression. Vidina loudly suckled a drool-slimed fist at her shoulder. "Well, aren't you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed."
"Is Wakka around? I thought I'd invite him on our run."
Lulu chuckled, but stepped aside and tilted her head in invitation for him to enter.
Tidus slipped off his sneakers and ducked between the curtains. Wakka was easy to spot in the one-room hut, sitting on the floor at the tea table with a bowl of tropical fruit and a juiced plate.
"Hey! Come to help climb more palm trees? You should'a seen him scale those trees, yesterday, Lu. Funniest thing I've seen in a long time. He was like a little monkey, except a monkey would know not to hit the really ripe fruit that's directly overhead, ya? He nearly knocked himself senseless." Wakka laughed and popped another piece of sliced palm fruit in his mouth.
Tidus gave him a flat expression and rested his hands at his hips. "Well then, you climb the tree next time."
"More fun watching you do it."
Tidus shook his head and popped a fist against Wakka's shoulder. "Just for that, you're going for a run."
"Nah, man. My breakfast is still settling." He patted his stomach.
Not taking "no" for an answer, Tidus grabbed Wakka's arm and pulled him up off the floor. "Come on, Coach. Your breakfast doesn't need to settle any more than it already has."
"What do you mean, 'Coach'? You're the captain now." Wakka stood.
"Yeah, and my first act as captain is to make you the official coach. I'll gladly set up the drills and make them work hard, but a team's not a team without its heart and soul. So, ... you're coach."
Wakka blinked at him in disbelief. "You're serious?"
"I'm serious. Look, you don't have to play in the games or attend all the practices. I know you have more important things to take care of now. But, ... the team has talked about it, and it's just not the same without you being there at least some of the time."
Lulu smiled at the gesture and approached her husband. "I think you should take him up on it."
"But, what about -"
"Your son would love to share your enthusiasm some day, Wakka."
Tidus grinned and clapped a hand down on Wakka's shoulder. "Island fun run. Shake a leg, old man." He turned his larger buddy around and began pushing him toward the door.
"Fun run? Are we going the length of the whole island, or something?"
"Nope! Around it."
"What are you trying to do? Kill me?" Wakka loudly protested.
As the two men collected their shoes and left the tent, Lulu held the baby at her chest and used his hand to wave goodbye to them. "Looks like your daddy's going to be very, very sore for the next few days when Uncle Tidus finishes with him."
Vidina smiled at the sound of his mother's voice so near and drew his fist to his mouth once more with a soft, wet coo of agreement.
Lulu chuckled to herself at this development, smooched the baby's cheek, and gracefully stepped back into the shade of the hut. "Well, this is going to be fun."
An hour and forty-five minutes passed before Tidus, sandy and dripping with salt water, ran up the ramp of the Celsius and headed straight for the shower. He came out, still drying his hair, and tried to make himself presentable for the occasion by donning his black, basilisk armor. Then, he tossed the towel to the floor and ran to the lift.
"Right on time," Yuna spoke, not realizing the rush he had been in, as he entered the bridge.
Tidus lifted his chin to find her standing with Rikku and Brother. They had apparently been waiting for his arrival. Yuna was dressed in her most formal sphere - a red and blue ankle-length gown with revealing cut-outs along the sides and center front. She held a formal fan in one hand and had another fan-like comb set in her hair.
Rikku giggled and drew close to Tidus's ear. "Close your mouth, silly," she whispered.
Tidus, not realizing his own astonishment, obeyed with mild embarrassment.
"Well, it's time to go." Yuna stepped forward and clasped her fan between both hands.
He nodded and headed back toward the lift.
"Um, ... you need the spheres?" Yuna pointed to the crate nearby as a reminder.
"Spheres ... Right." Tidus moved behind the crate and lifted it into his arms. Though he had teased her about it earlier, he was quickly surprised by the weight. "So, why isn't anyone else coming?"
"We didn't want to have to dress up fancy." Brother tucked his thumbs under his suspenders and proudly stretched them out a little.
Tidus wondered if Brother ever wore a shirt, or if he just assumed his copious amounts of body ink were sufficient covering.
"It's just not necessary for everyone to be there," Yuna explained. "It's a formal gathering of Spira's leaders as a temporary council, and I was asked to represent Besaid."
"Okay, but don't be surprised if I start to snore," Tidus warned, prompting a swat from Yuna's fan.
The airship set Yuna and Tidus down outside of Bevelle, and together they strolled down the long, mosaic-tiled road toward the city gates. The guards allowed them immediate entry.
Tidus looked up at the lifts that crossed the sky above them. It was ironic, but of all the new civilizations on Spira, Bevelle reminded him the most of Zanarkand. Its fortressed, red walls looked nothing like Zanarkand's ancient towers, and machina were only just now being introduced again, after having been forbidden by the teachings of Yevon for so long; but Bevelle was the only city as old and large as Zanarkand had once been. And yet, this city had destroyed the other. He paused a moment near the balcony to take in the view above and below him, until a gentle tug on his arm drew his attention back to the present. Yuna smiled sweetly at him and coaxed him toward the temple doors.
Inside the temple, robed priests of New Yevon greeted them and escorted them to the lift, which took them up to the second level. There, more priests greeted them. "Lady Yuna, Praetor Baralai will see you straight away," one of them spoke and ushered her into a conference room.
"Lady Yuna." A small-framed, young man with short, white hair came to greet her with a formal Yevonite bow. "Welcome. Everyone else that has been invited to attend the council has already arrived. Please go ahead and take your seat at the table."
"Thank you." Yuna courteously repeated his formal greeting. "I hope you don't mind that I brought someone with me."
"Not a problem. We can just bring in an extra ch-" Baralai's heart skipped a beat as Tidus came closer into view behind her.
"Shuyin!" At the table in the center of the room behind them, Nooj angrily blurted what Baralai was thinking. He reached for his cane and started to stand.
Tidus sighed in light annoyance. Here we go again ...
"That's not Shuyin." Seated next to Nooj, Gippal took the cane and dropped it back to the floor. "Take a pill. That's Yuna's new friend."
"Old friend, actually." Yuna gently hooked Tidus's elbow and lead him the rest of the way into the conference room to set the crate of spheres down in the corner. "His name is Tidus. Tidus, this is Praetor Baralai, the leader of New Yevon. You've met Gippal of the Machine Faction already. That is Meyvn Nooj of the Youth League. And of course, you already know Kimahri Ronso and Tromell Guado."
"Tidus." Baralai was clearly uncomfortable with the coincidental likeness of the spirit that had possessed and used him in an attempt to destroy Spira recently. He studied the shape of Tidus's face for a moment, noting that he did look a little different. Finally, he made himself smile and gave him a formal welcoming bow. "Nice to meet you."
Shuyin ... Would he forever be haunted by his physical resemblance to him? Fortunately, only a handful of people had seen Shuyin's face and lived to tell about it, but those who did always mistook him. He could reshape his body for the sake of a game, but no amount of training would help him escape the truth within his own skin. He was still trying to absorb his relationship to the departed spirit that had terrorized Spira for a thousand years. Baralai and Gippal had managed to tuck away their skepticism well enough, but he could tell by the look on Nooj's face that he was going to be tougher to convince. Tidus still felt stupid doing the Zanarkand blitzball cheer as a formal greeting, but he followed etiquette as a gesture of good faith. He hoped it would be enough.