Auron arrives in Zanarkand. How will young Tidus and his mother react to this otherworldly stranger?
This story relates to my story Life is but a dream, which may be also be found on this site. Not related by chapter, but by characters.
Astrid was trying to move on. It would only be healthy, it would only be right. But the boy looked so much like him. Of course, he wouldn't have any of that. He despised his father. How could a six year old boy be so hateful? She supposed it was her fault. It might even be a little easier, if she could talk to him, if they could cry together, as a real mourning family. It was hard enough to give up hope, and now she was faced with acceptance. She'd look bad if she didn't, after all.
Despite bone-sapping fatigue, Auron's first night in Zanarkand was absolutely restless. Nevermind the sleeping out of doors --he was obviously used to that, though the underside of the pier was exceptionally filthy and grit kept falling into his face. His wounds still stung, and the city made him tense. The damn machina lights that winked perpetually brought to mind the pyreflies of haunted Spiran ruins. He wasn't even sure he was in Spira anymore. This Zanarkand hardly shared a resemblance with the ruins of the same name in Spira. His mind halted at the thought of Spira. Spira was probably celebrating now. He wondered if Yuna had made it to Besaid yet. He regretted not being able to bring her there himself, but he had done what he could. Kimahri Ronso was as reliable as a Ronso, after all. Braska himself had sworn the trustworthiness of the Ronso tribe. At the thought of Braska, Auron clenched his jaw. He had failed them once by his survival, and nearly twice with his death. The memories were almost strangling, yet they kept him harnessed to this world. He would learn to pull this cart. He uncorked his jug for a hesitant swallow. The harsh familiar burn anchored him quickly. He hoped he'd find nog here.
Tidus was seven now. Despite what the boy might tell you, this was the first one Jecht had missed. Jecht liked birthday parties, and always flirtily guided his first forkful of cake into Astrid's mouth. It's been nearly half a year since he disappeared. She should have accepted it by now. Yet she still had hoped, wearily, that her errant husband might reappear somehow, to celebrate his son's special day. They never did find his body, after all. She had even cut an extra slice of cake, now growing stale as Tidus and his friends blitzed on the docks.
Auron nodded curtly to the youngsters playing on the pier outside the home he believed to be Jecht's. One of them scowled at him. Many in Zanarkand did that. Perhaps they would have in Spira, as well. He was missing an eye, after all. He would have to learn to make his appearance more acceptable.
He felt slightly sick as he tilted his wrist back to knock on the door. Jecht's door. Jecht's door, Jecht's wife's door, Jecht's son's door. Having anticipated this all morning, he had felt oddly vulnerable, even before he decided to leave his sword behind (he saw very few in this Zanarkand carrying recognizable weaponry of any kind) to approach their home. He felt like an officer in the Crusaders delivering the news and uniform of a fallen soldier to a widow. He hoped he wouldn't have to say much, as he was not well-versed in words of comfort. Hopefully the sphere would say enough. After volunteering to become the Final Aeon and asking Auron to look after his son, Jecht had made the sphere, at Auron's insistence. It explained enough, while still being plausible to one who had never existed outside this Zanarkand. He was glad Jecht had done it, though at the time, Auron wasn't sure how he could keep his promise. Now that he had found a way, he hoped he would be allowed. He knocked.
Astrid grimaced. Her famous husband was gone, why don't they leave her alone? She couldn't image even the lowliest rag sending out a weirdo like this, either. Dressed like some eccentric king, face half swathed in makeshift bandages, carelessly holding some generic sphere. Maybe he wasn't even a reporter, perhaps just a freelance paparazzi scumbag. She wanted to scream and curse or maybe even punch him in his bandaged face but he was probably already sphering her every movement for all of Zanarkand to see. "Please leave us alone. It's my son's birthday. We only want peace." She spoke icily through clenched teeth. "Good-bye. Please leave our property before I summon security." She shut the door before he could retort. She watched him warily through the window. Dread filled her as the man approached her son. Her finger hovered over the security summons switch. The dread dissolved to puzzlement as she watched the scene outside.
With few words, the man simply gave (gave?) her son the sphere he was holding and promptly left their property.
The screen door of their house boat jangled as Tidus bounded in, holding the sphere. "He said this was for you. He was pretty weird looking."
Auron was uncomfortable. He half-hoped she would have slammed the door in his face again. He could probably guard the boy discreetly, after all. His shoulder was for hefting the weight of swords, not for cradling crying women. And yet she was clinging to him like a tear. He nervously gave her upper back a fraternal tap. "I'm sorry about yesterday." She said finally. "Please come in, Auron."
He sat opposite her, his long legs angled awkwardly on a low wooden chair and she perched birdlike at the edge of a divan. The boy was also there, playing with something beeping, bright and hand-held, pretending not to listen. "So."
She smiled and wiped at her red-rimmed eyes. "Jecht never mentioned you."
Auron faltered under being asked directly. He hated to lie -he'd much rather conceal, but it was best to make himself believable. And in this case, the truth wouldn't be. Still, he hadn't considered a story.
"We...drifted apart. My fault. I was not a good friend."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"As am I."
Astrid nudged Tidus gently. "Tidus. This is Auron. He knew your father." Tidus grunted in response, not looking up from his beeping device.
Auron held out his hand. Astrid lifted Tidus' head with a finger. "Be polite, okay?" His mother took his wrist and guided it in the direction of Auron's outstretched hand. Auron shook the boy's small hand gently, then bowed as he could while remaining seated, with one fist across the chest in a Spiran salute.
Tidus jerked his hand back and crossed his arms firmly, glaring at the strange man under his brow. Auron could see the blue eyes beginning to glisten. "Your hands are scratchy. I don't like you."
Half exasperated and half apologetic, Astrid shrugged slowly. "He didn't like his father, either."
Auron addressed the boy softly. "I am not Jecht. I am not your father. And I hope..." The words stopped for a moment. What did he hope? He was no mentor; he was a guardian. He was no friend; he was a comrade. But that was in Spira. This was Zanarkand. He hadn't brought his sword along this time, either. "That we can become friends." He concluded firmly, with a smile so wide that it stretched and stung the still-forming scar on his cheek.