To Drown me in thy Sphere -- FFX fanfiction by Regann To Drown me in thy Sphere
by Regann (regann@kalyka.net)
http://kalyka.net/jecht - FAYTH (a shrine to Jecht)


Let me pour forth
My tears before thy face whilst I stay here,
For thy face coins them, and thy stamp they bear;
And by this mintage they are something worth,
For thus they be
Pregnant of thee.
Fruits of much grief they are, emblems of more:
When a tear falls, that thou fall'st which it bore;
So thou and I are nothing then, when on a diver's shore.


Sighing softly, Yuna gazed out over the blue expanse of the sea, lulled by it soft murmuring against the wooden planks of the Luca Harbor. Behind her, the summoner could discern the continuous din of the celebrating masses, the whole city -- with its Blitzball stadium its shining focus -- ablaze in radiant light as the festivities continued, probably to last long into the night. Yet, her own eyes were turned away from the celebration being held in her honor, and instead the blue and green irises were fixed upon the setting sun, its fading rays streaking the sky in vibrant colors. She took another deep breath, raising her hand to lay flat over her heart. The wind ruffled her light brown hair, fluttered in her long sleeves as she bowed her head, resisting the urge to raise her hand to her lips. The waves beat against the pier, rising as gently as her chest did beneath her hand with each breath. She knew that she shouldn't, that it was nothing but a silly dream based upon a rather insignificant moment in her eventful past, but part of her clung to that hope. Without another moment of hesitation, she lifted her hand to her lips, pushing out her breath in a long whistle. She paused only to whisper a silent prayer before repeating the motion, her fingers pressed against her lips as he had taught her. When the last echo of call died on the wind, Yuna closed her eyes and hugged her arms around herself, hoping with all her heart.

When she registered the sound of heavy boots striking the wooden pier behind her, she whirled quickly to see the approaching figure, sending her flowing sleeves and pleated skirt into a swinging fan. Her eyes landed on the figure, her hope dying as she watched the unfamiliar woman slowly move toward her. Yuna struggled to control her racing heart and turned away from the approaching figure, clutching her hands in the folds of her dark blue skirt in an attempt to steady them.

"Lady Yuna?" the woman questioned, now only an arm's length from the young heroine. "Are you well?"

Sighing deeply, Yuna nodded, this time gracefully turning to meet the woman's worried gaze. "I'm fine," she smiled, her voice soft and serene, belying her inner emotions. "I was merely startled. I thought I was the only one not at the celebration."

The woman bowed as many did when face-to-face with someone as revered as a high summoner. "I am sorry for startling you. I hope that I did not disturb you."

"No, it's alright," Yuna reassured her. She watched as the woman seemed to be indecisive, unsure of what to do now that she was speaking to directly to the young heroine.

"I heard your speech earlier today," the woman finally offered to the conversation. Her hands were still clasped behind her back. "It was very inspirational, Lady Yuna."

"I…thank you," Yuna told her sincerely.

The woman lowered her eyes away from her companion to stare at the still-sinking sun. She seemed to struggling to find the words for what she wanted to say and Yuna, respecting that, remained quiet, offering her a small smile of encouragement. The woman straightened, squaring her shoulders as she locked her light blue eyes onto Yuna's. "I've been searching for you ever since I heard your speech," she began, her voice trembling slightly as she spoke. "I felt that there was something which I needed to give to you. I am quite fortunate to have found you."

"Something to give to me?" Yuna repeated, confused. She had never seen the woman before, and so she had little inkling of what the something could be. Yet the woman seemed so serious, so intent…

The woman nodded, regaining her confidence as she continued. "I…my name is Nahele, and I live in Macalania, in the northern forest near the Calm Lands. I've lived there all my life." She paused and nervously plucking at her embroidered skirt, then patting at her long dark braid of hair coiled at the nape of her neck. "When I was about your age -- perhaps younger, I suppose -- I met three men on the road near my home. A summoner and his two guardians."

Yuna believed the woman to only in her later twenties, despite the tiny strands of silver which were already threading through her dark hair. "A summoner? You mean my father and Sirs Jecht and Auron?"

Nahele nodded gratefully. "They were very kind to me. Actually," she smiled, "Sir Auron and Sir Jecht were kind enough to rescue me from a fiend in the woods while I was on my way home from the temple. For their kindness, I offered them a night at my home." Nahele pulled her hands from behind her, and extracting a very familiar object from her wide sleeve.

"A sphere!" Yuna exclaimed, instantly reminded of the number of abandoned spheres that she and Tidus had found scattered across Spira, memory spheres which allowed them a glimpse of their fathers' adventures. The unbidden thought of Tidus that sprang to her mind struck at Yuna's heart and she winced as the emptiness welled up inside her once again.

"Lady Yuna?" Nahele questioned again, her concern evident in her lined face.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "Please continue with your story. It has something to do with your sphere?"

Nahele held the sphere before her, clasped in both her hands. She looked down into its watery, blue depths as she answered. "Yes. When I decided to come here, I brought it with me on a whim, but after I heard the full tale of how you came to defeat Sin forever…I felt perhaps that you would have more need for this memory than I." With her own speech finished, Nahele held out the sphere for Yuna to take. Diffidently, Yuna accepted the cool orb from the woman, feeling its smooth weight in her hands, reminding her of another sphere she'd once carried. She glanced down at the gift, then back up at Nahele. The woman was bowing again. "I guess I shall leave you in peace now, Lady Yuna. I hope that I have not bothered you overmuch. " She turned to leave.

"Please, wait!" Yuna called out to her retreating back. Nahele stopped, and looked over her shoulder at the summoner. "Would you mind…staying with me until I've watched the sphere?" For some unexplainable reason, Yuna did not want to be alone while she relived whatever had been recorded in the watery orb. No matter how insubstantial, she needed the support which another person, even a stranger, could offer.

"I would be honored, of course." Yuna sank to the rough planks of the pier, tucking her legs beneath her as she settled into a comfortable position. Nahele did the same, the earthy colors of her dress's embroidery brightened against the cream-colored fabric by the fading light of the sun. Taking a deep breath, Yuna held the sphere between her and its owner, then activated it. Deep within its depths, it sparked into life and as the iridescent blue began to bubble, a wavy image appeared before the two women. Slowly, Yuna found herself sinking into the memories frozen in the moonflow, back gently into the past which was the catalyst for all that followed…

=======


When the large fiend had growled low in his throat, Nahele had been frozen in terror. Her feet, refusing to move as she bid them, tripped clumsily over the rough path in the forest as she tried to scamper out of harm's way. As she toppled to the ground, a stumbling mess of fear, her small basket followed her, its contents spilling around her haphazardly. A sphere from that basket spun out, rolling on its round side into an overgrown fern, almost hidden in the foliage. Cringing from her place on the ground, the young girl curled up protectively, shielding her face with one hand as she silently prayed to Yevon for salvation.

"Oh please," she whispered in prayer. "Please don't let me die and become a fiend! Please!"

Instead of the growl she expected, Nahele's ears were met with the sound of a man's rough voice, "Hey, you! Ugly! Leave the kid alone and pick on someone your own size, eh!"

Nahele peeked from behind her hand to see that two men had appeared, both of them now standing between her and the angry monster. As she remained prostrate on the damp ground, still immobilized by fear, the younger of her two saviors shook his head. "Really, Jecht," he sighed, readying his heavy sword for the fight against the snarling fiend. "You don't have to insult the beast. It's rather unnecessary."

The first man, dark-skinned and animated even in his battle motion, laughed good-naturedly. "Yeah, yeah. Let's just get this over with without one of your lectures."

The young girl in distress had still not recovered from her shock when a third man appeared at her side, his gentle face creased in concern. "Are you injured?" he asked her, taking her by the arm and helping her to her feet. Nahele shook her head as she stood, her attention focused on the summoner as she steadied herself. "No, my lord, thank you. I am quite well." The young acolyte quickly recognized the robed summoner for what he was. "I am sorry to cause you and your companions trouble."

Braska chuckled softly, its sound oddly mingling with the fiend's last howl before it faded into pyreflies. "You caused us no trouble. No more trouble than these two attract, anyway," he added with a conspiratorial wink.

"Hey, Braska," the sun-browned guardian -- Jecht -- called out to the pair. "Is she alright?"

"She's fine," Braska answered him, turning back to see that Auron was gathering the spilled contents of the small woven basket which Jecht now clasped in his rough hands. He presented the basket back to its owner. "Here ya go, kid."

Nahele took the proffered basket and then bowed deeply to the three men. "Thank you all so very much." As she straightened, she noticed the dimming sky. "If I may, allow me to offer a summoner and his guardians a place to rest for the night? My home is not too far from here."

Braska glanced at Auron and Jecht, silently asking them what they thought of the invitation. "It is getting late," Auron echoed, casting his own dark eyes to the sky.

"Yeah, and we could make sure the kid gets home without anymore trouble," Jecht added.

Braska nodded, then smiled at the girl. "We would be honored to accept your hospitality," he told her. "I am Braska" -- he pointed to himself, then to Auron and Jecht -- "And these are my guards, Auron and Jecht."

"Pleased to meet you," she bowed deeply, first to the young warrior monk and then to the Blitzball player. "I am called Nahele," she returned. Tucking her basket back into the crook of her arm, she used her unencumbered one to beckon to her new traveling companions. "If you please, follow me."

Braska and Jecht immediately followed the girl down the glittering forest path, but Auron hung back, his eyes scanning the area, as he remained still in the small clearing. The party halted when they noticed his inactivity. "What's the hold-up, Auron?" Jecht wanted to know, scratching at his neck with his gauntlet-clad hand.

Ignoring him, Auron focused on what his eyes had been seeking. "There it is," he muttered to himself. From beneath the cool fern, he retrieved the forgotten sphere, whose image fluttered and wavered as it was picked up. The image was fuzzy and tilted as he handed it back to Nahele. "Yours?" he inquired.

"Yes, thank you. I forgot all about it." Through the sphere's watery bubbles, it captured a close shot of Nahele's embroidered sleeve as she deactivated it and tucked it back into her basket. Even as the images faded, Jecht could still be heard saying, "I hope you got lots to eat, kid. Cuz I'm starving."

=======


The sounds of Macalania had not yet fully faded from the air when the sphere lurched back into life, the bubbles of the orb floating across a blue-tinged image of Nahele. She sat alone in what looked like a barn, and the bright yellow color unique to chocobo feathers could be detected faintly behind her in the darkness. The young Nahele looked seriously into the sphere for a moment, before lowering her eyes to stare down into her lap. For a moment, all was silent except for the chocobo as she idly traced the patterns of her skirt with her finger. Sighing, she once again faced the sphere.

"Hello, Zaym," she greeted into the sphere, her long dark hair slinking over her shoulders as she leaned closer to the orb. "I hope that your training is going well. I received your last messages from one of the knights passing through the temple and he said that you have decided to enter into the ranks of the Crusaders instead of continuing as a monk." She paused, unsure of how to continue. "I realize how important this is to you and I can only pray to Yevon that you will return to me…us, that is…safely. May Yevon protect you until we see one another again. I--"

Whatever she might have said was cut short by Auron's strong voice calling for her. She guiltily jumped to her feet as the door to the barn was pulled open and the young guardian appeared, his red robes pulled around him to fight the chill. "There you are, Nahele," he nodded when he saw her. "Your mother is asking for you."

"Oh!" Her hand flew to her mouth, aghast. "I've forgotten all about the bread!" She bowed deeply, then dashed around him. "Pardon me." She slammed the door tightly behind her.

Auron, bemused by the young girl's antics, half-smiled to himself as he glanced around inside the dusty barn. The chocobo, tucked away in his warm stall, cooed and jumped, trying to get some attention from this newest arrival. Auron chuckled softly as he rewarded the big yellow bird with a pat on its head. "You ham," he told it. "Love the attention, don't you?" Auron's half-smile softened. "Just like someone else I know." Oblivious to the comparison, the bird continued to bask in the affection. Unbeknownst to the guardian, Nahele's sphere continued to record from its perch on one of the bales of hay.

After the chocobo was satisfied and had settled itself back into his warm stall, Auron sat himself down on one of the stacks of hay-bales, sighing to himself as he did so. Despite the heavy cloth of his robe, the chill of the North Macalania night was settling into his bones, into the many half-healed aches and pains he'd acquired on the pilgrimage thus far. The young guardian then meandered around the length of the small, dark cabin, weaving in between the stacks of hay which served as chocobo feed in a lazy pattern, one which spoke of a man trying to expend extra energy. It was, in fact, what Auron was trying to do. Ever since that early morning, when they'd passed from the Thunder Plains back into the cool forest, he had felt something akin to quiet panic rise up in him, as if a great fiend inside his soul were slowly waking to destruction. If he had to trace its moment of revival, he'd place it not too much before they'd encountered their young hostess, to the moment when the northern edge of the forest peeked into view for a brief instant before being lost again behind the glittering sphere-laden branches of the gnarled trees. Auron knew that flat, scarred plains lay beyond Macalania and the plains gave way to the stark, purple peaks of Mt. Gagazet. After the holy Ronso Mountain awaited Zanarkand. And Zanarkand, the guard knew, meant the end.

The end of their journey, the end of the pilgrimage. The end of Braska. Auron felt something crack inside him at the mere thought of what lay ahead. Poised on the edge of the last steps of his journey, Auron's courage was failing him. For a warrior, one which had always prided himself on his strength and courage, one who had endured hardships to acquire both, the knowledge that his courage and his strength of spirit could desert him at so critical an hour was a blow, but not so much one as the reality of what was going to happen. Braska was going to die and there wasn't a damn thing he could do about it, because no amount of protecting could save the summoner from that fate, short of bodily stopping him from continuing. While the idea had crossed Auron's mind, he knew how futile an action it would be.

Auron was so lost in his depressing reverie that he paid little attention to the creaking of the barn door as it was swung open and close. "I didn't know you was this anti-social," Jecht remarked to the younger man as he sauntered in. Auron noted with a trace of jealousy that the old ball player did not even react to the chilly conditions, although he was bare-footed and bare-chested. "Sittin' out here, in the dark," Jecht continued, his arms crossed as he looked down at him. "Braska is startin' to worry about you."

"I'm sorry to have worried him," Auron replied quietly, still in the throes of his own emotional turmoil. "I'll -- go back in shortly."

When Jecht made no move to leave, Auron glared up at him. "Yes?"

Jecht draped himself across the bale of hay stacked beside where the monk sat. "I just thought that I'd, ya know, sit out here with ya. Offer myself up to listening, because it's obvious that there's something bothering you."

Auron moodily turned away from his friend, silently cursing him for being so unusually perceptive. On a typical day, Jecht was so damn cheerfully oblivious to the world around him that Auron had to beat him over the head with the facts before he would understand anything. Now, when he wanted to be left alone…

"We're very close to Zanarkand," Auron offered softly, as if that simple statement expressed everything that he held inside. And perhaps, to Jecht, it did.

"Yeah," Jecht replied, brushing a hand through unruly dark hair. "Though I doubt it'll be my Zanarkand on the other side." Somewhere deep in his gruff voice, Auron heard the faint echo of what he himself had been feeling, and turned sharply to face him.

"Perhaps, it might be, Jecht," he encouraged. "Or at least there will be a way to help you home."

Jecht clenched his hands together and shook his head. "It's no use, Auron. I know that I'm never getting home. I've accepted it."

"Jecht…"

The old blitzer looked back up at Auron. "So, what's bothering you, really? I know it ain't whether I can get home or not." He paused. "Is it that the pilgrimage is almost…over?"

Auron flinched as if from a physical blow. "Is it that obvious?" he asked, his voice restrained, laced with a trace of bitter humor.

"Nah, I'm just a mind reader," Jecht joked weakly. He grew quiet. "Nobody wants to think about somebody they love dyin'." His seemingly simple declaration had indeed spoken volumes to his fellow guard.

"You're right, of course," Auron agreed. "But I've known since we first left Bevelle, what awaited us at the end. I should not be acting this way. I should not be feeling so…empty inside. It's so…"

"What, human?" Jecht finished for him. "You didn't really expect to feel nothing, did ya? Auron, you…you --"

Auron felt his control on his raging emotions weaken, and that fiend within him called fear, or perhaps, anguish strengthened. "It's selfish of me, but I don't want Braska to have to die. Even if he's doing it for all of Spira. I just…"

Jecht rose to his feet, his back to Auron as he moved restlessly in the small space. "I know that I don't know a whole lot about this crazy place," Jecht began, "but I've been listening to what you and Braska had to say. And I think…I kinda understand why he's doing it."

"Well, I know why he's doing it," Auron interrupted indignantly. "He wants to free Spira from Sin. He ---"

"That's not really it," Jecht disagreed. He turned to look at Auron and waved his arms emphatically as he spoke. "The way I see it is that … this whole pilgrimage thing, it's like a big Blitzball game, you see?"

Auron narrowed his eyes. "No, I don't see! And I think it's a bit of an over simplification for you to compare this to a ball game!"

"Just shut your mouth and listen, will ya?" Jecht broke in. "Gimme a minute to make my point, ok?"

"Tch. Fine." Auron returned, looking much like he had the first time he'd met Jecht and the drunken stranger had been disrespectful to his closest friend. Braska was so much to Auron; not simply his summoner, but his friend and his lord, someone he'd always revered, the closest thing to a holy man he had ever encountered in their death-ridden world. The formality he maintained between them was his way to express the depth of their bond that he couldn't say in words. "So, you were saying that this sacred pilgrimage is somehow akin to a silly athletic event?"

Jecht gave him a dark look, but nodded. "When you play blitzball, you're playing for all your fans, for the cheering people out in the crowds. But you're really not. You see?"

Auron simply arched a dubious brow, still brooding.

"Okay. Let me explain," Jecht was becoming visibly irritated with his inability to express himself. "When you're playing blitzball, on the surface you're playing for all your fans. But you're trying to play good for your team, cause you don't want to let them down. You don't want them to lose 'cause of you. And it's really not your fans, not deep down. When you really get down to it, the only people in the stands you really care about winning for is your friends, and family. You wanna make 'em proud." The uncharacteristic gravity of Jecht's voice betrayed the undercurrent of emotion.

"Perhaps, someone like your wife and son?" Auron supplied softly.

Jecht sighed, a ghostly smile barely touching his lips. "Yeah, like your wife and kid. It's them you wanna make proud. And that's how it is with Braska and this pilgrimage. He's not really doing this for the adoration of the masses or even to save all them people he doesn't know. He's doing it for little Yuna, so she can grow up without worryin' about Sin." Jecht laid the hand of his armor-clad arm on Auron's shoulder in a reassuring gesture. "And he's doing it for you, his best friend, so that you don't have to lose anyone else."

Auron looked up at his friend, comforted by his words, but also disquieted them. To see Jecht so cool, so utterly serious, so unlike his usual brazen self reminded him of how he felt just before Sin appeared over the horizon of a serene sea: that the world was too still, too stable which only meant that it would soon be pitched onto its side. The young monk searched Jecht's face with his dark eyes, and tried to rein in his thoughts. He stood up, almost eye-to-eye with the other guardian. "Jecht, I…I know that. But I don't want him to die, to give his life when it may mean nothing. Sin always comes back!"

"But maybe this it won't," Jecht reminded him, "Isn't that what Braska would say? You can't live his life for him, ya know."

"I know! I know," Auron threw his arms up as if in disgust. "But Braska, he…" The air seemed to freeze and fall deathly still in the silence. "He is the most important person in this world to me. He's all I have left." Without ever one word wasted on his pain, Jecht could hear the losses Auron had suffered wavering in his voice, and he hurt for him, understanding that pain. "Without him, I don't know if…" Auron stopped, already having said too much. He didn't know what was wrong with him, why he was talking such nonsense. He'd been born and reared in the teachings of Yevon; the hymn and the prayers were as much his breath as the air which actually filled his lungs with each intake. Never before had he thought of denying or questioning the scriptures, even when the politics of the Bevelle Temple had ended his career in the ranks of the monks. The teachings had remained pure, even in the face of that corruption. But when the faceless great summoner fated to die by the Yevonite ways was Braska, his Braska, the ideas of atonement and sacrifice he'd been taught became much more serious, less easily accepted.

Auron moved as if to leave the frozen barn, but Jecht grabbed him by the wrist to keep him from leaving. "I understand that. But, you have to be willing to go on," Jecht spoke with the piercing knowledge of a man who had learned the true meaning of sorrow in a short time, learned it so well that his soul felt almost like it had been born in Spira, born in the eon of Sin. "Because it don't mean anything if you don't. It's your place to remember exactly what Braska is giving up, if he goes through with it. Don't see you? It's what I was saying about blitzball. Just like Braska ain't really doing this for the masses, they don't really care that he's doing it. He's just some vague face to them and his life is some high and mighty idea that don't affect them in the least. But to us, it'll means a whole helluva lot. Every time we think about what he's gonna miss, like little Yuna growing up and getting married, missing her first everything, we'll know just how much he cared. He's doing this for us. So it's up to us to remember and be grateful. That's what he wants us to do, go on livin' for him." Jecht dropped his hold on his arm and looked away, propping his elbows up on an empty shelf along the back wall. He buried his face against them. "I know I ain't ever going home," he announced with finality. "And I regret so much about what I'm gonna miss. But I hope that my wife and kid didn't give up because I'm gone." He straightened, just a fraction of an inch. "That's why I didn't give up because I'd lost them. I didn't crawl in some corner and die when I ended up in this godforsaken place. Because I needed them to go on without me."

It was in that moment that Auron realized how much Jecht had changed from the boorish, arrogant drunkard that they'd rescued from the Bevelle Temple prison. The façade of conceited self-confidence remained; but he'd changed beneath it. He also realized something else, something that was more of a shock than the fleeting nature of his own courage. He'd never thought that Jecht would ever truly understand what the pilgrimage meant, the sanctity of it, or what Braska was doing, at least not in the way that Auron understood it. But somewhere along the roads and waters of Spira, Jecht had come to understand, in ways his young friend had yet learn to fathom. Only time and death would bestow that depth onto Auron. Yet he only recognized Jecht's new clarity at that moment and his own lack of it. He knew nothing of future, of how strong his bond to Jecht had really become, or of what that connection would see him do. He was only grateful for it, in the frosty air of Macalania, drawing on its untapped strength in the waning of his own. As the young monk stood there, almost speechless, he had never been more glad that Braska had decided to help the man who Sin had lost in time.

"Jecht, I ---" Auron reached out and laid his hand on Jecht's shoulder, returning the other man's earlier offer of comfort. "All I can say is thank you. For listening to my foolishness."

Jecht offered him a crooked grin as he looked over at him. "It's this damned forest," he assured him. "All this memory-sphere-making-stuff, it gets to you and makes you stupid." His grin widened. "C'mon, let's go back in. The kid made some good-smelling little cake things." He cupped his hands and blew into them. "Not to mention that this damp cold air is settlin' into my bones. I feel as if I might start creaking when I bend."

"What, you're cold?" Auron laughed. "I can't believe it."

Jecht gave him a look. "Well, I'm not exactly dressed for the weather, Auron."

"A day of surprises," Auron declared as they headed toward the door. "First, we get offered a nice, warm resting place out here on the brink of the wilderness, and then you actually managed to sound intelligent. On top of that, you admit that the 'great Jecht' isn't quite so great."

"Now, I never said that," Jecht retorted. He paused in the door of the barn, peering at his companion. He gave him a serious yet uncertain look, pausing hesitantly before concluding. "Hey, no matter what happens at the end of all this, for better or worse, I'll still be around."

Auron was quiet for a moment, his handsome face a blank mask. Then he returned the blitzer's usual grin. "I think perhaps that's more worse than better."

As he threw his heavy tanned arm over Auron's shoulder, Jecht's good-natured reply was lost in the sound of gurgling bubbles, as the sphere began to slowly die, still forgotten in its dusty corner of the barn.

=======


As the images faded in the sphere she held, Yuna was not certain what to say. Her hands were clasped more tightly on the sphere's rim than they needed to be, more in order to steady herself than the small object. Beside her, as if sensing her dilemma, Nahele began to speak softly. "I found this in our barn only a few days before Lord Braska defeated Sin out on the Calm Lands. I thought I saw Sir Auron pass through the forest one night, but he didn't stop, so I was never certain." She gently took the sphere from the young summoner. Echoing the scene in the sphere, Nahele's braid had come loose from its knot and the long plait slithered over her shoulder, the dark silver-streaked tip brushing against the cool glassy surface of the sphere. She looked down at her reflection, slowly raising her hand to touch her fingertips to the gray which threaded through her dark tresses. "A lot has happened, between then and now," she admitted. "And I found strength in Sir Jecht's words for they are good ones." Nahele looked away from her aged image that stared at her with sorrowful eyes. Instead, she focused upon the young summoner at her side, but did not escape the sorrow because it had found a home in Yuna's mismatched eyes as well. "Now, I hope that you may find strength in them."

The wind blowing over the cooling waters sifted around them, gently rustling their clothing. Yuna's beaded earrings made a soft, pleasant sound as they swayed. "If I may so ask, who was Zaym?"

Nahele smiled, but like all people of Spira, it was tinged with sadness. "Zaym was my first love, who left our home to fight Sin," she reminisced. "We were married, eventually, after he joined the Crusaders." Her voice trailed off. "He died, two years back, in a fight with Sin."

"I'm so sorry," Yuna apologized. "I didn't mean for you to have to relive that pain." Yuna gently laid her hand over Nahele's in silent support.

Nahele shook her head. "You have nothing to be sorry about, Lady Yuna. You have freed so many others from that having to face the pain of losing one's love. Because of that, my own is lessened." She accented her words with a smile not touched by sadness and for a moment she looked as young as she had in the sphere. Having concluded her business, Nahele rose to her feet, smoothing her heavy skirt as she did so. Yuna followed her example, still clutching the sphere in one hand.

"Thank you, Nahele," Yuna finally said, bowing. "For bringing me this sphere. It means a great to deal to me."

The elder Macalanian returned the gesture, bowing more deeply. "It was my pleasure, milady." Whatever she might have said was cut short by the cawing of several Spira gulls which were circling above them in their playful way, dazzled by the bright lights which still burned in Luca as night fell. "Ah, the legendary Spira gull," Nahele almost laughed. "I don't see many of them so far inland as the forest."

Yuna looked up at pale birds against the blood-red sunset, the sun having sunk far below the horizon, leaving only its glow against the clouds. "They are pretty, aren't they?"

"I have heard that to make one's wish upon a gull's wing is to be have it come true," the woman glanced over at the summoner, who was still watching the gulls circle and dive. "You should try wishing, Lady Yuna. I believe that you would have the most luck at a wish come true."

Yuna returned to her gaze to the woman, caught by something in her voice. But she had little time to ponder what it had been because Nahele voiced her farewell. "I shall take my leave of you, now, Lady Yuna," she stated, glancing toward the lit stadium. "If you ever find yourself in the northern forest and need a place to rest, ask my sister. She will know where to find me."

"Sister?" Yuna asked.

"I believe you know her." Nahele returned. "She took over our family business - she trains chocobos on the plains."

"Yes, I know her," Yuna nodded. "I had no idea."

Nahele shrugged. "Spira is a smaller place than one might think, milady." With that, she trailed her way up the long pier, leaving Yuna alone with the sphere and the squalling gulls. Before she disappeared completely, she spun around to wave once more, then disappeared into the milling crowds. Yuna watched until she could no longer discern her light-colored skirt in the throng, then whirled back to look out across the sea, whose waves were being painted silver with moonlight. Only moments before, they were golden. "How quickly it changes," she said to herself. Or perhaps she spoke to the gulls, which squawked back at her in response.

The breeze, cooled enough by the moon to chill, rippled across the waves and pier, while Yuna stood still, clutching the sphere to her. As the birds rode on the swirling air, the words spoken by her father's guardians floated back to her, washing over her as she closed her eyes. Ten years later, having outlived all of them, Yuna understood Jecht's blitzball metaphor. And she understood what the young Auron had not, about remembering and being grateful.

She would probably never understand what had happened when Yevon was destroyed that had caused Tidus to fade away, to disappear into the golden clouds. It was all a sudden and violent mystery, one which left her reeling and uncertain. From the moment Yuna had chosen to live with her sorrow and stand against Lady Yunalesca, she had imagined that no matter what the future held for her, Tidus would be part of it. It had been so fond a desire that her heart had accepted it as truth. Without that truth, she was no longer certain of how to feel; she only knew that Sin's destruction had not ended sorrow. Certainly not hers. And just as she could not have chosen to lose one of her guardians to fayth-hood at Yunalesca's hand, she had never expected to lose one to Yevon.

But Tidus had. Reliving the moment he had spoken his hasty goodbye, Yuna was thankful that her eyes were closed for otherwise they would have been blurry with tears. She could feel the warm, salty drops trailing down her cheeks, her face visible only to the moon and the wild, laughing birds. Just as she once had been willing die, Tidus had knowingly battled Yevon whose destruction was irrevocably tied to his own. Died, she realized, to save her from death. To save Lulu and Wakka and Kimahri and Rikku. And to save his father's soul from its tormenting prison. Like her father and his father had once done, Tidus had died for his belief in the cause. Not in Yevon, or the teachings. But in her and in himself. So much like Jecht he was, without realizing it.

All of these rambling thoughts curled around Yuna as she stood on the pier, the noises of the celebration drowned by the sounds of the sea which drummed in her mind. How much more she had come in that time to respect Auron, to understand him. Like him, she was the one was left behind by those willing to die, left to live with her sorrow in order to honor them. But she would. She would live on with her sadness, with her broken heart and the bittersweet memories of a lost love. It was the least she could do for all of them. Her father, Sir Jecht, Sir Auron. Tidus.

Jecht's words began to echo around her once more, but slowly the voice which spoke of remembering and living on was not the father but the son. Yuna, teary eyes still closed, felt that feeling again, the whisper of a soul wrapped around her as she had when he had left her, his translucent arms embracing her. She leaned back into the whisper of a warm body, listening as he seemed to breathe his message in her ear. "Remember me," said the wind in Tidus's voice. "And know that your happiness means my happiness."

As the wind whipped up suddenly and the moment shattered, Yuna's knees buckled and she collapsed to the ground, dropping the sphere as she caught herself with her hands to keep from hitting her face on the rough wooden planks. On her knees, Yuna cried, streaming tears of emotion that begged for release. She wept until she had no more tears and her throat was dry. Until she had sapped herself of strength, she continued, a heap of flowing cloth and bangles on the deserted pier.

How long did she cry? She wasn't quite certain of how much time had passed when she had finally composed herself. It seemed as if she had cried for days, or least hours. But the moon, in its glittering path, had moved only a discernible fraction, and the air had not grown much cooler. Drained of strength, she struggled slowly back to her feet but somehow her small body seemed to weigh less than it had earlier in the day, she noticed as she straightened. She smoothed her blue skirt, shook out her long sleeves and then patted her heavy hair back into a semblance of order. The gentle movements of her head made her earrings dance, producing the pleasant familiar sound. All the while she acted in simple ways, her tears were drying themselves from her pale cheeks. It was as if nothing had happened; and nothing had, not really. But still, something had been freed inside her and it had caused a flood. But, with the dam broken, the river could return to its natural course once again. All it needed was some time.

======


The crowds were still celebrating loudly as Yuna watched the moon in the dark sky, her hands clasped calmly together. Anyone who saw her would have remarked on how she always seemed to look so serene and composed, her face a saintly visage of kindness and strength. And so she looked, watching the last of the Spira gulls dance over the white-crested waters. Since her back faced the glowing city with its crowds and music and lights, Yuna did not see an energetic young woman trot up to her, the long blue streamers she wore fluttering behind her.

"There you are, Yunie!" Rikku exclaimed happily as she bounced to a halt behind her cousin. "I've been looking for you everywhere!"

"I've been here the whole time," Yuna returned, watching as her cousin made wild gestures into the distance which seemed to be telling someone that she had found their missing summoner.

Rikku looked back at her. "Yeah, well this place is crazy crowded! It took me for-e-ver to work my way around." She paused, tilting her head to one side as she studied Yuna. "Are you okay?" The Al-Bhed could see the faint lines of tears that still marked the girl's face.

Yuna took a moment before answering, breathing deeply. "I will be," she promised, smiling. A smile that was still shadowed by sadness, but her eyes no longer glittered with it.

Rikku seem puzzled for a moment, but she was an intelligent girl, who knew Yuna's moods almost as well as she knew machina. "Alright," she conceded. "Let's get back to the city. It's cold out here. And Lulu's looking for you. She and Wakka are worried."

Yuna nodded. "Alright."

As the cousins were drawn back toward the lively masses, a lone Spira gull twisted itself in the air, its blue-tipped wings bright against the darker sky as the pale moon made its white plumage iridescent.

"Oh, how pretty!" Rikku remarked, watching the bird with her swirled green irises as it spun and dove.

For a moment, Yuna felt the warm whisper again, and she smiled, a simple but wholehearted smile. Without thinking, she raised her fingers to lips and whistled. While no person offered a whistle back, the gull responded with a call of its own, proudly stretching its glorious wings in the air, reminding Yuna of something Valefor had once done. A gentle laugh escaped her.

"What are you doing, Yunie?" Rikku asked quietly. Whether she was questioning the whistle, the smile or laugh, Yuna was not certain.

Yuna's sea-colored eyes were clear as she answered. "Making a wish. Haven't you ever heard the old legend?"

And as the two left the empty pier, Yuna held the wish she had made close to her heart. Perhaps it was simply an old wives' tale created to give the people another small piece of hope, but hope should never really die. And perhaps the whistle fell only upon the sea and wind.

But perhaps, on the wings of a wish made on a gull's feather, the whistle would travel in the winds' arms to another sea…

Into a new dream where old dreams lived on.


= The End =




Author's rambling post notes: Ooh, I just love Jecht ^_^ This was about hope -- not Yunalesca's kind -- and sadness, of course. I hope it wasn't too strange for all those reading; I tried to keep the characters pretty much faithful to the game, but I wanted to show them at a turning point: for Auron, it was when he loses his courage and begins to question, and for Jecht, it's when he finally understands what it's all about. And I wanted for Yuna it to be an upswing, the reverse of what happened to Auron, as she gains the courage to go on. Nahele was my frame for the story and is really of little relevance except that she is the one who passes the sphere from one generation to the other. Her name is Hawaiian and means 'forest' or 'grove of trees'. As for the last few lines….it was inspired by the story about the Spira gulls which the lady on the SS Wino tells and by the speech given by Shiva's fayth when you revisit the temple.

Other random facts…I had to look through my FFX artbook to make certain that I described the gulls correctly. The opening poem is from John Donne's poem "Valediction: Of Weeping," which is also where the title of this piece came. Now, that I've bored y'all to death, I will stop. I hope I've answered all questions any readers might have. And, let me mention again, that I love Jecht.