~one~

The first real nightmare he has - one that isn't about rampaging ants or broken toys or lots of yelling and thunder storms - is when he's six years old. He'd been playing blitzball in the park with his dad one evening, the first free time his dad had had to spend with him in weeks. It went pretty well, and he was laughing and smiling and happier than he'd been since his last birthday, when his dad had made it home not only early but with a cake and ice-cream and everything else a sticky young kid could want. Then, as he was wont to do, he got tired, little chubby legs slowing and happy cries turning to sleepy complaints.

It hits him in the back, a sudden sharp pain that burns through his nerves and into the depths of his subconscious. His father had already started laughing, saying things like gotta have eyes in the back of your head if you want to be a star, son. Tidus doesn't know when (if) he notices his tears, if he notices the slight shakes in his hands. A half an hour later, they're both back at home, his mother fussing over dinner and Jecht already sprawled on the couch. He manages to choke down half a serving of spaghetti before his mother sends his pale little self off to bed.

He wakes up screaming, feeling the sticky wet spread of blood on his back, on his chest, hating the rasp of his last words in his throat.

His mother tells him he's fine. She tells him it was just a dream. She tells him getting hit in the back with a blitzball doesn't kill anyone (and she's not lying, really, because a bad a father as Jecht was, he was a damn good blitzball player, and he knew better than anyone how hard was too hard to throw one).

He throws the spaghetti up in the bathroom toilet anyway, his tiny little hands gripping the porcelain for all they're worth. The vomit burns his throat, harsh and acidic enough to make the next words he says hurt so much he'll never try to say them again.

"It wasn't a blitzball."

~two~

Of course, nothing lasts forever, good or bad. His dad disappears the next year; his mom sickens, then dies. Auron shows up in that god-awful coat of his, dark and mysterious and absolutely useless in consoling a newly orphaned boy in a world that will worship his hated dad's name for the rest of its short life.

The feeling of waking up covered in screams and fear and blood dies quickly, replaced by the feeling of waking up to a world devoid of mommy and daddy and anyone else who gives a fuck. Unlike the first nightmare, waking up doesn't cure the second. He spends years upon years upon years raging about that fact, and no substitute playing dress up was ever going to convince him that things weren't not okay.

He doesn't give a fuck if this is his story or not; he's not the one doing the writing. He knew his life was going to be a tragedy the second that blitzball hit him in the back. It just takes him a few more years, give or take a decade, to find out how right he was.

He throws himself into blitzball, knowing that it's the one fear of his that's irrational enough to be overcome. He learns the tricks, memorizes the trade, and plays so damn well that people finally start to see him as more than just Jecht's son.

One night, looking up at the screen where his dripping wet face beams back at him, Tidus still isn't sure if that's an improvement or not. He's good at blitzball - the best. The fact that he's tan and blond and blue eyed might have something to do with it. He has fans that scream his name even when the other team is about to score, just because he's hot and he's moving and they don't know shit about blitzball other than it's played by fit guys underwater and what's more to want?

He has no dad and his dear departed mummy is, well, departed. He sleeps with more girls than he knows what to do with, would be the father of too many screwed up brats if he didn't have enough deep-seated hatred about his own daddy dearest to always insist upon protection.

Always.

Seventeen is a bit young for marriage offers, so he doesn't take the ones he gets screamed at him very seriously, but he's half sure that if he tried to take one of his fan girls up on it, he'd find more than a couple willing. Somehow, the thought isn't as appealing as it could be.

He's still a bit too inexperienced to be developing a preference, but he finds himself leaning towards brunettes. He likes them with straight shiny hair, long enough to cover their shoulder blades and soft enough to never want to stop touching. He tries to avoid the fan girls most prone to shrieking; bad voices are one of his biggest turnoffs. He likes smooth over shrill; melodic over dissonant.

He doesn't feel bad about most of it. He had a crappy male role model and then an even crappier replacement. He figures that doesn't excuse him forever, but it should more than cover his teenage years. Strangely, the one thing he feels most guilty about is his dreams. He's a normal teenage boy, with normal teenage hormones, and although he's tried some pretty crazy stuff in them, that isn't the part that leaves him hesitant to face the photo of his dead mother in the eyes.

It's probably because he's played in too many games, he thinks, seen too many cheerful fan girls. Maybe she was even one of the opposing players, he doesn't remember. All he knows is that she's melodic, and kind, and jaw droppingly beautiful.

He hates that he can't remember her name.

~three~

When his reluctant father figure drops him off the edge of the world with nothing except a this is your story, he wants nothing more than to scream. So he does. While he wouldn't quite call himself a simple person, when he has simple wants, he tries to oblige them. Screaming won't hurt anything but his pride, after all, and in this ruined dump, there probably won't be any witnesses to do that.

He's wrong, of course, because he should have known better than to expect anything to go right that day. He finds himself chased by a demonic fish the size of a house, and if that isn't the weirdest thing he'll ever do, well, you won't find him making any bets, because the blonde girl with her braids and ribbons and heavily armed entourage quickly dissuades him of that particular notion.

There's something wrong with the world. He can tell that much, even with his measly seventeen years of experience. Monsters aren't supposed to roam the wilderness, and Sin is supposed to be something you feel guilty enough to pray about, not something that wrecks your house and your neighbor's and then your entire village. He isn't supposed to have to swing his sword (his sword! he isn't supposed to have a sword! swords are for knights of the round table, for history books and dorks who play fencing instead of blitzball!) again and again and again if he wants to live long enough to make it into town to get something to eat.

But he has to, and so he does, and by the time he makes it far enough into safety to be able to screw things up further than he ever thought possible, he half wants to believe their story about him having lost his memory.

Because Zanarkand, his Zanarakand, his wonderful sprawling metropolis, can't be gone. The thousands upon millions of people that lived in its skyscrapers, that walked the streets that never sleep, can't be dead and gone and destroyed. Especially not a thousand fucking years ago.

It's not possible.

He's so worried and out of place that by the time he finally starts paying to their lecturing, (say some five or ten seconds after they're done doing it) he doesn't know what to believe. He lived in a city yester-yesterday that had been dead for a thousand years. He was the star on a team that never existed. He was in love with a dream

wrapped in soft black and white cloth, all short silky brown hair and mismatched blue and green eyes, ringing with the sound of his blood rushing in his ears and the bells tied to her sleeves.

He thinks lenne? and knows yuna.