Author's Note: Well, here we are with a story that turned out a lot longer than originally anticipated. Apparently, Tidus has a lot he wants to get out. This fic is only my second dip into the FFX fandom, so I hope you all enjoy it for what it's worth, and don't hesitate to tell me what you think; as a matter of fact, I encourage your feedback. Thanks!
Disclaimer: Alas, I own absolutely nothing. Go figure.
He'll admit, the first time he sees her, he finds her…odd. Definitely different from any of the Abes fan girls he met in his brief career, and certainly different from Rikku, whose bright clothes seem tempered only by her brighter personality. But just like his oh-so-chipper young friend, this girl's appearance speaks wonders about her person. The pale skin, the dark brown hair, the religious robes covering her body with the huge bow at the small of her back. And those eyes. Those weird, weird eyes that house far too much knowledge and sadness for someone her age.
When he witnesses the completion for her…training or whatever, and he sees her face about to greet the floor, he can't help but remember those stories his mother used to recite before bedtime. They told tales of fantastical beasts, brave heroes (named Tidus, of course), and daring heroines courageous enough to flip the world on its ass. And as he watches this mystery girl, she fits the description of his bedtime stories, weird and brave and so, so pretty.
And to think, he originally pictures the young woman as some old priest with a bald head and a hunched back. Shame on him and his complete lack of creativity.
When they speak for the first time, he's surprised at how flustered he feels. He knows he's not smooth or suave or debonair (whatever the hell that means) or any of those other adjectives that utterly fail to describe his true self. He also knows he's dated his more-than-fair share of young women, courtesy of his blitzball super stardom, his reputation as his old man's son, and his pretty-boy good looks. Auron, the wannabe nanny that he is, unfortunately trashed most of those dates before they could get anywhere near his desired location, but the teen heart throb still has some valuable experience when it comes to the ladies.
This girl, in the course of five minutes, tosses him out of the water like a frickin' guppy and leaves him flopping on the sand like an idiot with just as little effort. All his "expertise" might as well be garbage, similar to the apartment complexes in lower C-South.
Somehow, despite his floundering, their conversation proceeds surprisingly well, and he survives it with minimal burns to the ego. His playboy attitude may not have worked, but she does seem to express a genuine interest in him.
He just can't tell if that interest stems from romantic inclination or just boredom. After all, how exciting can a boat ride be? Hell, he lived on a boathouse until very recently.
Nevertheless, he feels a little prickle of excitement thinking of the trip ahead. Unlike the majority of the residents (who obviously see him as a quack), this girl actually seems to believe he's from the place he says he is, regardless of toxins, memory loss, and whatever else he's supposed to use as an excuse for his ignorance.
The official name of his new boating companion is Yuna, and he finds it just as weird and pretty as she is.
Turns out, Sin is real, and not just some illusion from a time-travelling-induced concussion. Point taken.
The attack during the boat ride and the following destruction of Kilika brings the threat of the monster that much closer to reality, and he's lying if he isn't more than a little afraid. The sobbing voices and despairing cries of the survivors are something he's never heard before, and a shiver runs up his spine at the sight of the decorated caskets floating less than 20 feet away. He unconsciously stays close to Lulu, who has become his stern but helpful educator in this strange world called Spira.
The creation of fiends from vengeful spirits sounds more like a boogeyman story than anything real, but he swallows the black mage's words and watches with slight apprehension as Yuna positions herself at the edge of the dock, her violet skirt fluttering in the ocean breeze and her white top painted a burning orange in the sunset.
The dance is incredible, unlike anything he's ever seen, and if he weren't so disturbed by the rainbow creatures erupting from the caskets, he'd find the performance beautiful. But this is a dance of death, and not even the towering water or the pretty girl expertly spinning her staff can change that fact.
She's strong and wise, capable of commanding her own set of monsters with ease; but she's also young and sweet. She doesn't deserve to live in such a sad world, where death is more common than life.
Perhaps it's rude or disrespectful (he's been pretty consistent so far), but he doesn't want to see it again, doesn't want to see Yuna dance on the water for the dead, like some elegant grim reaper.
Even while travelling down the dirt road of Mi'ihen, he has yet to fully grasp the notion of the giant they're apparently trying to kill. The thing is huge, massive, and makes him want to desperately piss his pants every frickin' time it shows up. He swears that, along with the memory loss, it must be a side effect. Spontaneous pee. He'll ask Lulu later.
…On second thought, he won't. He doesn't even want to consider what the black mage will do if he utters those words in her presence.
Time to think of something else. Something more positive. After all, that's what his mom always praised him for, when she actually had time for him. His optimism.
He's now Yuna's guardian. That's pretty cool. He now has a legitimate reason to barge into every temple and subsequently break every religious rule found on the scrolls of Yevon. He also has a reason to walk next to her without being condemned by the stink eye, courtesy of Lulu and the ever-faithful Kimahri. Not that his new title would ever stop the big blue guy from chowing down on his innards.
Backtracking into negativity again. Happy thoughts, jolly thoughts. Anti-Tidus-killing thoughts.
Chocobos. They're interesting creatures, though he notices that Spira seems to have a fetish for big things (no pun intended). There were never any chocobos where he came from. Then again, there were never any Flan or Sinspawn or man-eating dogs, either, at least not in the large number these show up in. He thinks he should stop being surprised at this point. But Spira and its natives seem to unfailingly leave him stumped. Take Yuna, for instance. While her pretty face and quiet strength have grown on him quite quickly, she still holds the affectionate title of "Weirdest Girl He's Ever Met…Ever."
The woman's a living contradiction! Her shy nature and respectful disposition contrast amazingly with the glow he sees in her eyes, if he's lucky enough to catch it. Her growing confidence in battle and the creatures she controls (which are strangely reminiscent of the fantastical beasts from his mother's fairytales) reflect a side of her others rarely see. The ridiculous laughter she engaged him in on the outskirts of Luca still bring a grin to his face and a warmth to his insides.
He sees now that Yuna has a playfulness, a passion in her that stems from something other than her mission. He's watching it now as they trot the chocobos down the Highroad, and the always-reflective look in her expression is tempered by a smile that is three parts nervous, but one part excited. Even with the safety of riding with Kimahri, her caution around the large birds is more than apparent, as she seems just as inexperienced with them as he is. As they begin a slow walk, she latches onto Kimahri like a child and buries her face in his fur. He has to keep himself from bursting into laughter, despite the empathy he feels.
As time passes, however, and the steady beat of chocobo feet fills the air, Yuna's arms carefully relax, and her head slowly rises to the feel of the breeze. The wind frolics across her face and her petal lips blossom into a hesitant smile. From that point, the joy on her face only grows, until she's laughing with delight and he's whooping in joy as the birds speed down the path in a race for dominance he's started with Wakka. It's the first time he witnesses such pure joy from her, unhindered by the weight of their journey, wherever it happens to lead.
And it's something he finds himself more than willing to help let out again.
It's decided. This "Maester Seymour" is a creep. An absolute creep.
No one else seems to notice the haze of nastiness surrounding the guy, the way he looks at everything like it's dog crap stuck to the bottom of his fancy shoe.
His voice is oily-slick and smooth, and he swears that if he looks at just the right moment, he'll see a forked tongue dart out.
The others seem to treat the guy like he's a king. All he sees is a snake with oversized hands, an eerie smile, and a bad case of varicose veins. The only one who seems to share his sentiment is Auron, and it's not like he's going to say anything to jeopardize their free ticket into Mushroom Rock.
Even with their meeting already passed, he still feels slight shivers, like cold sweat running down his back after a workout. The way the guy looks at Yuna like a predator, the way some of his old man's buddies looked at their girlfriends.
He thinks he'll just chalk it up to "Guardian's Duty" when he punches the stupid prick in the face. He's really not in the mood to confront the green-eyed monster that lurks in the bowels of his stomach, just waiting for the "good maester" to look at Yuna like that again.
Operation Mi'ihen seems like a desperate shot in the dark, but he notices that, despite Wakka's adamant disapproval of the use of machina, Yuna seems willing to give the Crusaders their chance, even when he's a little skeptical himself. He may have only witnessed Sin's power a handful of times, but it's enough to convince him that a giant laser-gun is probably not enough to destroy it.
After all, Sin is Jecht (though he's still reluctant to believe Auron's claim), and if there's anything Tidus inherited from him, it's his stubbornness. Perhaps that's how he knows it'll take a hell of a lot more to knock his old man out of this world, out of these people's lives.
But for Yuna's sake, he'll keep the doubts to himself and stay close by. Just in case.
How long? How long can the people of Spira last with this monster destroying their lives? How long can the world hold up before it crumbles under the weight of its injuries?
How many times can Yuna dance before she's overtaken by the sadness permeating the air like a toxic fog?
Every time he thinks the devastation can't get any worse, Sin always seems to prove him wrong. And he's sick of sitting around while his bastard father goes around murdering people.
He doesn't know what he's thinking as he swims after Jecht with Brotherhood held tightly in his forceful grip, his only means of attack and defense. He only knows that he can't continue to stand by like a child afraid to jump into the water for the first time.
With determination as his sole guide, he swims harder and faster than he ever has before; but even with all of his training, he stills winds up losing his father, and awakens on the beach with his body still whole and relatively unscathed. He stands and staggers slightly as he recovers from exhaustion-induced vertigo, and when he finally looks up, the first sight that greets him is Yuna's sending. He immediately turns away, too furious with himself to be of any help to her.
For the first time since Luca, he gives in to his dark thoughts and aimlessly wanders, wishing only for the familiar safety of his city, his houseboat, his home.
So the oversized hands and varicose veins aren't just bad genes. He stares in wonder at the elaborate city of Guadosalam, the huge, twisting roots twining around the area to provide a kind of intimate atmosphere, despite the bustling nature of the town. The inhabitants, 'Guado,' as Lulu informs him, seem nice enough. Tromell, Seymour's personal lackey, appears just as courteous, though he has a certain silver-tongued quality that's reminiscent of his superior. As they make their way into Seymour's wealthy manor, Auron's muttered warning only supports his bad vibes, and he purposefully angles his way closer to Yuna's side as Seymour himself appears in the banquet hall.
He finds even more reason to hate the bastard when he sneers in disgust at Rikku, whose too busy sampling from the fruit platter to take notice. The Al-Bhed girl's return still seems too surreal at times, but her sprightly gestures are a welcome relief from the tense atmosphere that occasionally leaks into their group. Between the two of them, they've managed to bring Yuna some much-needed sunshine.
Sometimes, though, he feels like everyone is keeping something from him, like he's not in on some important piece of info he should know. He's getting that feeling now, as he reels from the revelation of Seymour's proposal and struggles to keep himself from barging back into the estate and beating the living crap out of him. Even worse, he seems to be the only one so adamantly against the marriage. He looks to Lulu and Wakka, Yuna's protective siblings, knowing that they can't be okay with this turn of events. He looks to Kimahri, who remains silent as always, though even his sharp gaze seems more troubled than usual. Rikku is at Yuna's side, trying to convince her to think her decision through.
But just what the hell is there to think about? She obviously doesn't love the man (she barely knows him), and his supposed affection towards her is clearly a ploy to get something (though he's too afraid and disgusted to guess what that something may be). And what about her pilgrimage, the core of their journey and the source of the determination he admires so much?
The uncertainties are too much for him to take, and he makes a desperate escape around the corner, Yuna's gaze piercing his back like a poison dart. He knows he's hurting her, making a difficult decision even worse, but he needs time to process his own thoughts and emotions before he can face her directly. It's only now that he's ever felt their friendship was truly threatened, and it's only now that he's realizing how very not-okay he is with the likelihood of its end.
"Don't fall for her," she says. "She has a mission to complete, and she can't afford any undue distractions."
He doesn't know what constitutes as "due" distractions, but he does know that Lulu's words, as truthful as they may be, have arrived too late to have any effect. Yuna's already made a nice, comfy home under his skin and in his heart, and it doesn't seem like she's going anywhere.
He knew long before that his feelings for the girl wouldn't stay platonic, if they ever were to begin with. And since seeing her pretty face on that first day, he's only fallen deeper into that thing they call lo-
He doesn't like to use that word. If he's to be completely honest, he hates that word, and all its implications of forever. Though he was young during the time of his parents' marriage, he was old enough to know that if love meant preferring blitzball and fame to your wife and child, he didn't want it. If love meant neglecting and ultimately abandoning your son to be with your husband, he didn't need it.
He cares about things. He cherishes things. But he never uses the word "love."
His feelings towards Yuna, they're strong. Really strong. And he's pretty sure he'd be willing to do just about anything to see her eyes light up like they did that day on the Mi'ihen Highroad.
But he doesn't want to say he's in love. He feels like the moment he does, it'll all go to hell, and they'll be left with nothing.
He doesn't want that. He doesn't want to follow the pattern and hurt Yuna the way his father hurt his mother. He doesn't want to be those lovebirds, the ones that die without the other there.
He doesn't want to be the cause for Yuna's sadness.
So he'll take Lulu's advice and keep his feelings to himself, whatever they may be. And he'll try to keep Yuna smiling.
That's all he can think to himself as he makes his way to the spring located deep in Macalania Woods, forcing himself to stay calm and not take off in a dead sprint.
He's failed her. As a guardian, as a friend, as a…whatever he is to her. And he hates himself, along with all of the stupid, stupid things that ever spouted from of his mouth about Zanarkand and return trips and blitzball.
All this time, and he was just the idiot lost in the dark, spewing nonsense that only reminded his summoner of her fate.
He can only imagine the way he made her feel, making promises that they all knew he would never be able to keep.
Kimahri acknowledges his presence with a sharp, golden gaze before slightly inclining his head in permission. Tidus nods back and steps out from under the shadow of the crystal trees. He can see Yuna as he turns the corner of the narrow path, her lithe figure standing in the center of the spring, her pale bare back contrasting against the dark water.
He's not one for poetry, but he finds himself making so many exceptions for Yuna anyway, becoming a total sap won't make much of a difference. He's in far too deep to care about his pride.
He knows she senses his presence before she sees him, but the moment they make eye contact, masks fall away, and they're left in their rawest states. Just a boy and a girl, heading towards an end neither of them want.
For now, perhaps he can ease her troubled thoughts and put that smile back on her face.
To this day, he denies any ulterior motives. That doesn't mean he regrets his actions.
He wishes he had removed his glove and armguard, to better feel her skin against his. He wishes he had remembered Kimahri's presence, for fear his death would come shortly after their first kiss. But as the first kiss becomes the second, the third, the fourth, he finds himself wishing he had thought of this tactic sooner.
He'd never seen a brighter smile on her face than when his lips had met hers.
He thinks this must be the difference between lust and true affection, the difference between a lasting relationship and a passing fling. He may have more technical experience, but with these emotions, he's as much of a rookie as the girl in his arms.
He's never been more thankful for his blitz training as he guides her body through the water, her skirt swaying against their entwined legs, her arms around his neck like he's a buoy (and he's more than happy to serve as her personal life jacket). He periodically puffs air between her lips, as he knows she can't hold her breath for nearly as long as he can, but the sphere water, and their embrace, feels too wonderful to break for air.
When they finally return to the surface, they're both breathless, and he slowly swims them to the shallows. When they're both able to stand, and Yuna makes to separate them, he gently tugs her back and laces his fingers with hers. When he looks down, her face is a warm, pretty pink, and her slightly kiss-swollen lips are turned up in a soft smile. He doesn't think he's ever seen her look so close to her age.
They sit on the bank, and they talk. About friends. About family. About duty and about destiny. About sacrifices.
And even as he continues to rack himself with guilt, he makes another promise. A promise for a longer life, a promise for a brighter tomorrow.
And he swears to himself, to the stars, to Yuna and their companions and anyone or anything else willing to listen. He will not fail. Not this time.
They're standing at the edge of the world. That's what it seems like, and reality isn't too far off.
Too little time, too many revelations, and this latest one is really a doozy. So he's not real? Well, there's a shocker, minus the sarcasm. He always knew something in the universe was way off when he ended up in this foreign place and time, just like that. Now he knows.
It isn't the universe that's off. It's his presence, his very being. He doesn't belong here. Not with his memories, not with his friends. Not with Yuna.
He tries not to choke on that last one. He wonders, was someone else supposed to be here, standing at her side, admiring her face in the dying sunlight? Was someone else supposed to be the hero, risking life and limb to keep his strong, beautiful heroine safe?
Was someone else meant to love her?
It doesn't matter, he thinks, as he straightens himself and turns back to the humbling scene before them. He's here now, and his illusory existence means nothing to his mission. He'll make the most of the chance he's been given, and he'll end the cycle of sadness that threatens everything he's come to cherish so much in this strange world.
He just hopes Yuna will one day forgive him for his dishonesty.
His old man is gone. Auron is gone. Sin is gone.
Soon, it will be his turn to leave.
He tries to make it short and sweet, as painless as possible, even as he feels his resolve breaking and his heart stuttering. He avoids their confused gazes and does everything in his power to keep himself from drowning in her beautiful eyes.
He did what he promised. He never made any guarantees that he would be able to see the future with her. So why does he feel as if he's failed her again, like the reality they've been dealt has twisted his vow into a humorless joke?
He wants to stay, he does. He wants to shriek to the heavens, wake the Fayth again and change his mind, tell them that he can't handle this, that he can't just walk away from this life he's found.
The hero isn't supposed to just leave like that.
But he knows the time for fairytales is over. It's time to wake up and accept the truth. There isn't always a completely happy ending, and the hero doesn't always end up with the heroine.
Sometimes, he's left grasping at straws, hoping for a bit more time, a little more sand in the hourglass.
He hears her boots clunking in time with his heartbeat, and he turns and holds his arms out as she runs toward him. He prepares himself to savor her touch for the last time…and nearly loses himself when her body slips through his and collapses on the hard deck.
Fate is such a cruel bastard sometimes.
He's still struggling to keep himself together, mentally and physically, when he hears the words come from her lips. They're firm and clear, even as her heart is fracturing at the same devastating rate as his own.
She doesn't use the word 'love'. She knows of his aversion to it, learned it like they learned so much about each other that night in Macalania. Part of him is grateful for her remembrance; another part is painfully twisting because he can practically hear the underlying meaning behind her gratitude, the truth neither of them wants to admit now that they're forced to separate.
He embraces her from behind, phantom limbs desperate for some sort of contact. He wants to brush away the tears he's caused and say the words he swore he would never say. Instead, he holds her the best he can and trusts that his thoughts will somehow reach her.
When he purposefully steps through her body and takes a sprinting leap off the airship and into oblivion, he hopes a piece of him will remain with her.
For now, that will have to be enough, until he's able to find his way home again.