Blood and ashes--time burning
On the skyline dark against the stars
A solitary horseman--waiting
Lashed to the wheel
Whipping into the storm
Get up, Jonah
It's your time to be born.
-- Bruce Cockburn


****

When Tidus remembers his dreams they have been about water.
Tonight he is remembering even as he is dreaming which would feel
strange except it doesn't. He is on his back, floating in a green-blue sea
(he can taste salt in his mouth). The sun is beating down on his closed
eyes, not unpleasantly, just giving him something to focus on besides
the gentle resistance of water beneath his hands. There is water below
him and above him; he is by himself but not alone, and the current of
the tide hums in his ears.

When Tidus wakes up, he finds he has been crying.

****

By the time he gets out of bed, Auron is in the kitchen, frying eggs.
There's a glass of orange juice on the counter even though Tidus
knows he had finished the last carton two days ago. He yawns at Auron
by way of greeting and plops down at the table, still in his boxers. It's
only Auron after all, and Tidus only ever feels naked when his tan
fades.

Auron doesn't acknowledge the blitzer until the eggs are off the frying
pan and on a plate, and then only by sliding the dish across the table to
the boy and setting down a glass of juice to Titus' right with a weighty
thunk. He leans back in a chair and crosses his arms, staring at Tidus
expectantly.

The blond scratches the back of his neck, still yawning. "You know I
don't eat breakfast."

"That's why you're too thin. Eat."

Tidus gives up and stabs through the yoke with his fork. He doesn't
feel like arguing today. They're pretty decent eggs he guesses, although
he's not sure what good eggs are supposed to taste like or if there's
even such a thing as a really well done egg.

Auron's still staring at him while he eats, and for once Tidus doesn't
mind because he knows why. The old guy is like a big nasty stray
tomcat most of the time, showing up whenever he damned well pleases
to glower at Tidus like the blitzer was his property and not living up to
the investment before he saunters off again for who knows how long,
but there has been always one day of the year he comes without fail.

Now there are two.

"I'm gonna visit her," Tidus says, chewing. "After practice. You wanna
come?"

Auron shakes his head. "She wouldn't appreciate my respects. Nor do I
owe her them."

Tidus shrugs and carries his plate to the sink. Auron's gaze itches at the
back of his neck. "Look, I'm fine," he says over the rush of the water.
"You can go and do...whatever it is you do."

"You seem...distant."

Tidus puts the dry plate back in the cupboard. "Just sleepy. Had one of
those dreams you don't really want to wake up from, you know?" He
hear Auron chuckle dryly. "What's so funny?"

"What can you possibly dream about?" Emphasis on the 'you'.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Tidus shoots back, smoothing a
crease in his uniform. Auron doesn't answer, and Tidus heads to the
door, stomping a little.

"Don't you usually bring flowers?" Auron says, which is as much of an
apology as Tidus is going to get.

"Yeah. I always do." He nods to the bouquet still wrapped in plastic
misty with condensation in his hand, a little puzzled.

Something flashes in Auron's good eye and then is gone again. "My
mistake."

****

It's a small graveyard for such a large city, but Tidus never wonders
how so many bodies could fit into such a tiny space. It's just something
that /is/, like the color of the sky is the color of the sky which he
doesn't question either.

"Hey, Mom," he says, putting the flowers next to the tombstone, not in
front of it where the body is buried because he's kneeling there. "It's
me again. I'm doing okay. I'm playing for the Abes now. I know they
weren't your favorite team, but...yeah. The other guys are okay, I
guess. I'm pretty famous now -- ten people stopped me to ask for my
autograph on my way here. Four of them were girls so my weekend's
pretty full." He runs out of words so suddenly it takes him a moment to
remember to inhale. He stares at his hands.

"I miss you," he confesses. "But I don't know if I miss you as much as
I should. Everything's so busy now -- everything's going my way, you
know? But it doesn't feel...right. Not that I don't deserve it or
anything, just that..." Tidus tugs a piece of hair over his eyes, sighing.
"Whatever. It's nothing. I only think stupid stuff like this when Auron
is around."

He does not look back to see if the grave is still there once he has
turned away.

****

He sits in the stadium stands and watches the field being filled up for
tomorrow's game. It's pretty here at night with the globe all lit up
inside like some...big, lit up fish bowl.

Yeah, Tidus sure is one hell of a poet.

It'll take a few hours for the crew to fill it up completely and even then
players aren't allowed inside the arena six hours until the game. Tidus
rests his chin on his chest and sighs. He would like to swim, but just
watching the water soothes him enough to get by.

As a blitzer, Tidus has always been better in the water than with the
ball. It had taken him practice to become a master handling the latter;
the first had come naturally. He's at home in the water.

Might as well grow a damn pair of gills and get it over with, Jecht had
said once.

Tidus supposes it's only natural that he's a little sad today. But he
thinks that deep down maybe it's those dreams that really make him
sad, the idea of an endless ocean beneath an endless sky when all he has
ever known is this stadium.

Tidus' life is in the water. He just wishes Zanarkand had more of it.

****

"What are you still doing here?"

Auron hasn't even moved from the kitchen table. His scar stands out
strangely in the half-life. "You never answered my question."

"I didn't?" For some reason, Tidus refrains from snapping that Auron
sure as hell had never answered any of /his/.

"What do you dream about?"

Tidus groans. It's been a long day and Auron's being...well, Auron.
Why did he ever give the man a key to his apartment, anyway? He had,
hadn't he? He couldn't quite remember. Maybe he did.

Whatever. It doesn't matter. Just answer the stupid question and Auron
will go away. "I dreamt about the ocean, I think."

At that Auron looks up sharply. "You /think/. You think you dream
about the ocean."

"Okay, so I /do/ dream about the ocean," Tidus opens the refrigerator
looking for orange juice, remembers he's out and closes it again.
"What's it to you?"

"Tidus," Auron says, so softly it is a threat. "How do you know what
the ocean /is/?"

"It's...it's the /ocean/." He's distinctly uncomfortable now, shifting his
weight from foot to foot. "Don't be stupid. Everyone-"

"Zanarkand's only source of water is the lake that feeds the stadium,"
Auron says. "At all. So how, Tidus, /do you know/?"

"Who cares?" Tidus shouts. There's a whine threaded in his voice that
he winces at hearing. "Who gives a damn? I-"

Auron is advancing now, reminding Tidus of a time when the man had
been much taller than the blond had been, and terrifying. "You should
care. You should care very much. Don't you ever think it's odd that
whatever authorities there are here let a teenager live by himself? Make
a living at a dangerous sport? /Are/ there authorities at /all/ here?"
There is something much older than rage in his voice, something much
more tired.

Tidus, confused, says, "Yeah there are. There's a-"

Auron brushed away whatever he was going to say, as if it wasn't
worth the older man's time to hear him out. "Of course there are, now
that you're thinking about it."

Strangely enough, that hurts. "Auron, I don't understand..."

Auron meets his eyes then turns away again with a small shake of his
head, all the intensity gone, only the weariness left. "Forgive me. It's
not my place to speak of such things. I suppose I'm just getting tired of
waiting for you to wake up."

He leaves after that.

****

When he dreams there is a world of only green and blue and sunlight
playing off the breakers like laughter, and the warmth of the water and
the sky coming together to form the horizon and hold him there.

Time enough, the current murmurs. We are so tired, but we will give
you time to rest before the storm breaks. It is not right to give the
reward before the sacrifice, but it is the most we can do. Don't cry.
Rest for now.

And Tidus closes his eyes and floats in the dreaming.




Notes: Song call shamelessly stolen from the Technomancers
(www.mancer.net) because it fit too perfectly for me not to use it. I've
claimed many songs for various aspects of Final Fantasy X but none
that corresponded with the subject matter of this fic.