Luzzu and Gatta, and Spira. [yaoi warnings]
O For a Voice Like Thunder
O for a voice like thunder and a tongue
To drown the throat of war!-When the senses
Are shaken, and the soul is driven to madness,
Who can stand? When the souls of the oppressed
Fight in the troubled air that rages, who can stand?...
When Sin claps his broad wings over the battle,
And sails rejoicing in the flood of Death;
When souls are torn to everlasting fire,
And fiends of hell rejoice upon the slain,
O who can stand? O who hath caused this?
O who can answer at the throne of God?
The Kings and Nobles of the Land have done it!
Hear it not, Heaven, thy Ministers have done it!
It has been a year and three months since Lady Yuna left us. Her Statue stands now in the temple of Spira, beside that of her father, and will in all the smaller temples by year's end. I hear the Ronso are planning one with a horn. She left us in good standing, her legacy stretches to the outmost corners of Spira, surpassing even that of her father's. You will have to tell me of their reunion, love. I am certain it was a happy one. I will expect reports, as well, of her husband, dead two years this spring. I think it was Isaaru's passing that was her own end, she showed no sign of flagging health until the very end. But I would have the words from you directly, Captain, and not consult shadows of pyreflies on the farplane.
I have seen too much of it. Too much of death. The young troops under my command do not know, and so it is for them that I leave this sphere, to go to High Summoner Atlatid at such time as I see you again.
I do not think my wait to be much longer. I can feel the years on me, and morning seems pale. I'm going back to Besaid, I haven't seen her beaches for ten years now, and that's much too long, don't you think? Pacce has things well in hand here, and I will be glad to never sign another troop review or supply order. The crusaders have been my life and my lover, but--
I'm getting away from myself. It's no wonder my subordinates tease me for my rambling.
They have no memory of Sin.
So I will give them mine.
"Are you sure you can't take me with you? I could, you know, hide under your seat or something."
"Nice try, Chappu." Gatta frowned at his rucksack, and the stack of shirts his mother had left him. As if he would remember to change clothes.
"Opening game of the season." Chappu's voice dripped with envy, and he flopped back on Gatta's bed. "Goers versus the Beasts!"
"Second tier seats," Gatta reminded, rubbing it in.
"It's going to be /gruesome/." Chappu looked like a boy missing out on dessert. "Will you get it on sphere for me?"
"I'll see what I can do." Gatta swung his bag on one shoulder, and grinned around the room. "Well! Here I go!"
"I'll walk you down to the harbor," Chappu said, hopping off the bed. "Maybe if I stick myself to the side and pretend to be a barnacle they won't notice."
"They don't let barnacles in the stadium, Chappu," Gatta said sternly, and they left the small hut laughing, trading barnacle impersonations.
"At least get a sphere for yourself and let me see!" Chappu had to yell to be heard over the harbor wind, hopping up and down on the pier as he waved at the departing ferry.
"Don't worry!" Gatta was leaning so far over that he might have fallen in, had he not hooked his ankles around a deck post. "when you get to go to Luca, it'll be with the team next year!"
Chappu grinned. "And you'll have to wait a whole nother year before you're thirteen!"
"At least I'm going first!"
Gatta would have answered back to that, but his mother caught him dangling off the rail and pulled him back. Gatta waved wildly until Chappu and the harbor vanished behind him, and then he turned to face the open sea for the first time in his life.
He thought, right then, that he was the luckiest kid in the world.
"Watching the best bits of the game?"
Gatta powered down the sphere, and peered suspiciously at the man addressing him. "It's for a friend back home."
"Ah." The stranger leaned on the railing, and stared out over the dark ocean. They were likely to get back to Besaid before both nightfall and the summer storm caught up with them, but the wind had an eerie edge of cool to it and it ruffled Gatta's ponytail and the stranger's collar, the light strange with cloud and twilight. "Are you a native to Besaid?"
Gatta drew himself up proudly. "Born on the beach. Where're you from?"
"Luca. I've never been to Besaid." He was probably the same age as Chappu's brother Wakka, with the build of a fighter.
Gatta stuffed the game sphere down the front of his shirt, the same one he'd worn at their departure. "Whatcha coming to Besaid for? You a Summoner?"
"Hardly," the stranger laughed, shaking his head. "I'm a Crusader. Just got stationed to Besaid."
"Oooh." Gatta nodded. "You must be Ianfrey's replacement."
"I doubt I could replace such a good officer. But, I'll do what I can. I'm Luzzu."
"Gatta." The boy drew his head up. "New to the island, huh? Well, you'll get the hang of it. Besaid's a great place."
Luzzu raised an eyebrow. "Sounds like someone wants you."
"Aw." Gatta climbed to his feet, and scuffed sandaled toes on the deck. "It's my mom." He sighed heavily. A moment ago, the stranger had been an intrusion. Now, with a name and a new position and with his mom no doubt wanting him for something, Luzzu was infinitely more interesting. Gatta was the first of his peers to meet the new Crusader, and as that was News of the highest caliber, he wanted to have some more knowledge to share. Like if the Crusaders lodge would still let the village kids come in and look at all the armor. "Gotta go."
Luzzu waved. "Maybe you could show me around the island when we get there."
Gatta grinned. "Really? I know all the best trails." Blitzball and a new Crusader; Chappu was going to be so jealous.
"Gatta! I've counted to three!" Gatta's mother appeared at the hatch opening. "What are you doing! The storm is moving quickly, you get below this minute, young man!" Sure enough, the dark clouds were no longer on the horizon, but racing towards the small vessel.
Gatta winced. "oops. See you at the harbor!"
"Good luck," Luzzu grinned.
"Ah, Mom's no problem." Gatta turned and skipped a step towards the hatch, trying to remember what that spin move was he'd seen at the game. He knew he could get it if he just tried. All he had to do was land on his left foot--
The deck bucked up underneath him, catching him too soon and sending both knees crashing into the planks. Pain shot through his thighs and he fell forward onto a rapidly tipping surface, seawater smacking cold against him and washing him into a bulkhead. People were screaming and the ship was groaning protest, and out of the dark ocean loomed a strange, amorphous shape. The cries resolved into a word, echoing in the twilight.
Gatta was too scared to make a sound. Spawn shivered off the side of the fin and arched whistling though the air, thudding into the deck and splintering the wood. They unfolded wings and legs and glittering moving mandibles, advancing ominously. Gatta tried to back away, but everything was slippery with seawater and the ship rolled again, nearly sending him overboard. He snagged a post with his elbow and clung to it for dear life, but it would not be enough to save him from the spawn raising flickering wings, talons scraping the deck.
Gatta shrank against the post and closed his eyes, the small noise he made lost in the roar of the storm.
Something warm splattered all over him, not the cold of sea or rainwater, and Gatta thought sure that if he looked he would see that he'd been torn right up the middle. At least it hadn't hurt, and he should die pretty quickly--
"Get up." Someone pulled at his arm, peeling him away from the post. "Gatta, it's not safe here, get up."
He blinked. Luzzu was pulling on his arm, and held a sword in his other hand. Pyreflies were wafting up from the spawn's remains like steam, and Gatta was splashed with its dark-blue blood. Water sluiced across the rolling deck, dumping the dead spawn overboard. More of them were still coming, their shrill cries sounding over the thunder as they skittered towards the lone crusader on deck. "Get below!" Luzzu yelled, shoving at Gatta and wading into them, swinging his sword with both hands.
The fin dove suddenly and the ferry plummeted down in its wake. Gatta's fingers sought purchase on whatever they could find, and he found himself dangling from the center mast rigging. His feet swung free over a deep valley of ocean and he could see the shadow of the dark monster writhing beneath the surface, a rainy plummet away from his perch. They were going to capsize, he knew it, swallowed whole by the ocean, and no trace of them would be found. He could feel the ropes breaking his skin, each shuddering blow to the ship loosening his grip a little bit more.
"Help." It was instinctive, and he knew there would be no answer. Yevon was not a merciful deity. "Help," he said, and whispered names he knew, wondering if someone on the farplane was listening, if they would care, "...Lady Yunalesca, Lord Ohalland, Lord Braska--"
The ferry groaned in agony. Gatta felt his gravity shifting, slowly at first and then he flew forward, hitting the mast with enough force to bloody his nose. the ship leveled off with a splat, his fingers gave way, and he collapsed onto the deck.
"Over here! We've got one!" For all the water and spawn blood on him, Gatta thought he had never seen a man look more relieved than Luzzu did. "thought you'd gone overboard, my fault for telling you to go." He fell back on his knees, chest heaving for air. "Praise Yevon."
Gatta thought, small in the back of his mind, that it was not Yevon who had aided him.
I would think, in the following days, that my moment of blasphemy came at a high price, for my mother was one of the nine passengers lost to Sin and the storm. Up until that day, I had dreams of becoming a star blitz player, but knew in my heart that I would most likely be a weaver, like my mother. Three days after the sending for those souls claimed by Sin, I entered the Crusaders lodge, and requested to join the ranks.
Of all the people in the village, Captain, you were the only one who did not say I was too young. The sword you gave me was your own.
I have never carried another.
"I think she likes you."
Chappu looked like he'd swallowed a shoopuf whole. "No, No I don't think so. She probably doesn't even remember me."
"Aw, c'mon. why else would she come back to Besaid? Without a summoner? I don't think it was for the scenery." Gatta set aside the breastplate he was polishing and worked a kink out of his wrist. Chappu was staring out at the village plaza, the net he was mending lying forgotten in his lap.
His best friend looked dazed. "Mmmmmmm?"
Gatta grinned. "Why don't you go and talk to her?" He leaned back against the palm tree whose shade they were enjoying, and dug his toes in the sand. "Tell her you're Besaid's star Blitzer."
Chappu was suddenly interested in his work again. "She doesn't look like the type to be impressed by that."
"Aw, C'mon, Chappu. All the girls like you. Hey, want me to go ask where she's from?"
"No!" Chappu hissed, reaching up to stall Gatta, who was half standing. "Gatta, don't you dare!"
Gatta folded his arms. "she's not staying at the Crusader's lodge. She's renting a place from old lady Vrinn. That means she's staying. I betcha she's taking a break from being a guardian."
"She came back awfully quickly," Chappu sighed. "I wonder what happened to the summoner she was with?"
"Bet she got killed," Gatta said, shrewdly. "That's rough on a guardian."
"She looks so sad," Chappu said, watching the young woman as she walked across the plaza.
"You should ask her if she needs a guide around the island." Gatta waggled an eyebrow. "You know, some native hospitality. Island comfort."
Chappu's face went nearly as red as his hair. "You got to be kidding! She must be five years older than me. No way she'd go for a punk kid." Chappu returned to his work with a vengeance, but finding net-mending too delicate for his emotion, he picked up a targe from Gatta's armor pile and began to buff it enthusiastically.
"I've already done that one," Gatta said, reaching for a helmet.
"Wakka'll have her dangling from his arm by the end of the week." Chappu looked practically green. "He always gets to the girls first. Either that or you," Chappu added, fixing Gatta with a glare and stopping whatever the other boy had been about to say. "which is a real laugh since we all know who you're after--"
"Shhhhht!" Gatta was too dark to blush, but the blind panic in his eyes was enough. "You keep your big mouth shut--"
Gatta and Chappu blinked, and scrambled to their feet. Luzzu looked curiously at the targe dangling from Chappu's fingers. "If you're going to do the work, Chappu, you might as well join the ranks."
Chappu blinked at the targe as if wondering how it had gotten there. "Yeah, well, I'm happier as a blitz-- er..." The object of his desire had just stepped out from behind the Crusader, and glanced at him curiously with mahogany colored eyes. "Which, ah, isn't , um, you know, that, ah, I'd be afraid to join, or nothing. I um, I, I think I might, someday. Er, after we win the cup. Or something."
Luzzu glanced sideways at the young woman, and then at Gatta, who was struggling not to grin. He obviously figured out the connection and it was with a small smile that he gestured to Chappu's crush. "Ah. this is Lulu. She came through a few months ago with the summoner Ginnem, as you might recall? She's returned to make Besaid her home--" Luzzu looked at the pile of armor, all of which was obviously finished, and frowned. "Gatta, I had hoped that you would be done with this, so that you could show her around the island."
Gatta's mouth twitched. "Sorry, Sir, I'll work harder."
"See that you do, soldier. Meanwhile--" Luzzu looked over Chappu's head as though there was a great crowd behind him, and finally smiled at the Blitzer as if he had only just appeared. "Right! Chappu, I don't suppose you'd be so kind as to give lady Lulu the lie of the land? I realize you are probably busy--"
"I think I can find the time." Chappu's voice arched and cracked like it had not since he turned fifteen, and he coughed. "Sir."
The Lady Lulu might have smiled, her impressive cleavage moving as though with a laugh. She inclined her head, beads rattling. "Well then I am in your hands, Chappu."
She had a voice like toffee, dark and rich and sweet. Chappu was obviously a lost man. "Uh. Right, well. Let me show you to the harbor--"
"I can hear his heart racing from here," Luzzu grinned, as Chappu and Lulu set off across the village square.
Gatta thought it wasn't Chappu's heart Luzzu was hearing.
"Right." Luzzu turned back to his subordinate. "Well, get this back in the lodge, Gatta. It's almost time for dinner."
"Aye, sir." Gatta knelt to pick up the armor out of the sand, and made a point of not watching his commanding officer go.
"Well? Well, Let me see it!"
Chappu drew the leather pouch out of his pocket. "I ordered it all the way from Bevelle, I thought it would never get here." Into his palm bounced a glittering silver ring, set with a deep purple stone. "Here. What do you think? Cost enough gil to sink a shoopuf."
"It's perfect." Gatta picked up the ring and examined it. "Nothing in the shop here is near so nice."
"She couldn't have some Besaid junk," Chappu muttered, taking the ring back and holding it to the fading sunset light. "She's better than that."
"Well." Gatta kicked a pebble and watched it bounce down the beach. "You gonna ask her after the tournament this year?"
Chappu very slowly drew the leather drawstring, running his thumb over the shape the ring made in the bag. "I'm... I'm not going to the tournament this year."
Gatta stopped short. "You're not? How come?" His eyes went wide. "Hey, you didn't give her a baby, did you?"
"No!" Chappu shot back. Even after a year he had not managed to control his blush.
"So?" Gatta put his hands on his hips. "Why are you skipping the tournament?"
Chappu lifted his head, looking out at the ocean. "Gatta. I love Lulu."
Gatta smiled. "Yeah. I know, pal."
Chappu's hand clenched around the ring. "I can't protect her by being a Blitz player. Not even a champion, which you have to admit, the Aurochs are not." He swallowed hard. "I joined the Crusaders."
Gatta's mouth hung open. "But-- but the game! Your brother! /Lulu/!"
Chappu smiled, unconcerned. "You just rattled off my top three reasons for doing this."
"Chappu," Gatta took his best friend by the shoulders. "We ship out tomorrow for Djose!" He shook his head. "Crusaders have a three out of five mortality rate. Chappu, stay in Besaid. Play Blitzball. Marry your girl."
Chappu's eyes darkened. "So, it's okay for you to go, but not me?"
Gatta looked away, having no answer.
"I thought so. Gatta. I've thought this out. I've been thinking all year. I'm doing it. It's already done. I spoke to Luzzu this morning."
"I wondered why I was packing extra supplies." Gatta murmured.
"Listen, Gatta. Djose is a clean-up operation. It won't be anything, you'll see. We'll come back and Wakka'll get back from the game, and then you guys can throw me a big party before the wedding. Right? If we time it right maybe us'n the team'll get the same ferry from Luca. C'mon. Trust me."
That lopsided smile had gotten them both into more than enough trouble, and Gatta could no more resist it now than he could when he was ten. "All right."
"Great!" Chappu swung an arm around Gatta's shoulders. "C'mon. I gotta go tell Wakka, and I need somebody to mop me up off the floor when he's done."
They walked along in companionable silence, and night insects chirred softly in the grasses.
They were right outside the village, the warm firelight just touching Chappu's toes. "Listen, just in case, you know, in case something happens... could you make sure Lulu gets her ring?"
Gatta swallowed. It would seem, by agreeing, that his friend was already doomed. "I'll-- I'll do my best, Chappu."
"Great." Chappu grinned, and it seemed a weight had come off his shoulders. "I feel better about that, then. Now let's see how many of my bones Wakka can break in one blow."
Chappu was right, it was supposed to be a simple operation. Sin made a landing at Djose Beach, and left behind a considerable amount of spawn. There were few casualties in the remote location, one of the most unpopulated places Sin had ever attacked. Crusaders were mustered up from all over, to dispatch the spawn, protect the temple, and prevent a second attack.
Looking back on it, I could almost swear it was a trap.
"Guard the supply train." Chappu slumped back, making a face. "I'm not going to have a damn thing to brag to Wakka about."
"You could brag about how much you helped me," Gatta grunted, heaving a heavy crate onto the wagon. "If you really wanted to have something to be proud of."
"Uh, no thanks, gotta keep watch, ya?" Chappu was twirling his Al Bhed rifle on one finger, Gatta could hear the click and whirl of the gun strap. "Wakka's gonna get his butt whomped even more than usual at the tournament without me, and I didn't even get to take down one spawn. That's pretty damn... pathetic..." Chappu trailed off.
"Chappu?" Gatta leaned over to pick up the next crate, and started. Small pebbles were shaking on the packed earth of the cliff top, dancing around his sandals.
"Gatta." Chappu said, with remarkable calm. "Run."
"But--" Gatta looked up in time to see that the sky was gone. In its place was a wall of muscle, barnacles and trailing seaweed. It made a noise, like some beached cetacean, as agonized and threatening as distant thunder on the horizon.
"Run!" Chappu repeated, as cries of alarm echoed over the beach. Chappu flung out an arm to shove Gatta away, just as one arching fin descended, ponderous and terrible. Gatta staggered a few steps, and Chappu's weapon going off was tinny in the roar of tearing air. The impact of the fin landing threw Gatta into the air like a rag doll, the earth flowing under him like water in a tidal wave as he rushed down to meet it. He flung his arms in front of his face. He did not remember landing.
Gatta blinked away darkness, his vision blurry, wind still out of his lungs. He must not have blacked out long. Someone was lying on top of him, an arm curled protectively around his head. At any other time, Gatta might have been glad for that weight on top of him, but now he struggled against it, one arm flailing out as if that could recover his friend.
"Down!" Luzzu ordered, and pressed him flat against the ground as an explosion ripped across the beach, and the ground shook. Sin roared, and Luzzu picked Gatta up, slung him over one shoulder and ran with him, twenty yards into the haven of a rock outcropping. He deposited Gatta with little care in his haste, and reached into his jacket for another grenade. The pin clattered on the stone and the small missile hummed as he hurled it.
"Cover your face!" Luzzu went to his knees and pulled Gatta against his chest. The grenade went off with the force of a dozen spells, and Gatta heard the echo of it in his breastbone, catching in the rocks, followed by the sound of rifle-fire. He pressed his cheek harder into his Captain's shoulder, and tried not to think of Chappu. Luzzu was dripping seawater, blood that could not be his own spattered on his clothes.
"I think Sin is retreating." Luzzu was breathing hard, the cadence of it and the staccato of his heartbeat were solidly reassuring. He stood, Gatta sliding away from his arms, and looked back out over the beach. "They're driving it back out to sea. It'll all be over in a minute."
"Are-- are you wounded, sir?"
Luzzu blinked, noticing Gatta's stare. "My chocobo," he said regretfully, and perhaps a bit shaken. "Ripped right out from underneath me."
Gatta's face stung, and he put one trembling hand to his cheek, fingers coming away sticky and red. Small pains were making themselves known. His ears were ringing, and there was a considerable knot on the back of his head. "Sir, what happened to Chappu and the others? Evin? Tolver?" His voice shook, and he hoped Luzzu would think it was with adrenaline, and not utter terror.
Luzzu continued to watch, as though reluctant to answer. Soon there were calls for medics and reports, voices screaming names and waiting for answers. The dim roar of Sin had died away. "It's over," Luzzu said at last, and Gatta, legs shaking, leaned past him to look over the rock ledge.
It took him a moment to realize why he could see the beach so much better than before. The cliff top where he had been standing, the wagons, six chocobos, and four crusaders had vanished into a pile of debris, leaving a wide swatch of destruction over the beach. He thought he saw driftwood along the waterline where there had been none before, dark and twisted. Unwillingly his eyes registered familiar shapes, insignia, helmets, torn feathered masses that did not move. He had time to understand what he was seeing before the dark edges of his vision closed in, and he knew no more.
The ring, after a long journey, did eventually make it onto Lulu's hand.
But that is not my story.
Gatta woke to murmured voices and torchlight. He was in his tent at the encampment, and the shadows thrown on the canvas wall were unfamiliar, dancing in the light of the fire.
"All of them? Are you sure?"
"I'm sorry, Captain Luzzu. The entire unit, save the boy you got out. They're under a hundred feet of rubble, I'd say. I saw it from my post. They were dead before the cave-in." He recognized Luzzu's voice, and thought he heard Al Bhed in the other man's accent, probably an aide de camp.
Luzzu's shadow seemed to droop. "I had hoped-- for a miracle, I suppose." Luzzu's tone was that of a man giving up his last hope.
"You got one, which is more than most of us can say. Right now we need all the miracles we can muster. How is he, anyway?"
The tent moved, as if Luzzu was touching it. "Asleep, right now. Probably for the best. I have no heart to tell him. He and Chappu were inseparable their whole lives."
"He will have to know sometime, Captain. This world does not permit innocence. Damn shame. He's a young one, isn't he?"
"Maybe." Luzzu considered. "But he's tougher than he looks."
Gatta, through the tightening in his chest, felt a small swell of pride.
"Mmm. Well, I hope he's on his feet tomorrow, Captain Luzzu. The spawn have been dispatched, We break camp at dawn."
"Right, Sir." The torchlight receded, and Luzzu ducked into the tent, the flap swinging closed behind him.
Gatta closed his eyes, hunching down in his blanket. Luzzu was silent a long time, and Gatta had to bite his lip to keep the sob from escaping.
Chappu was dead.
The cot dipped with Luzzu's weight, and through the blanket Gatta could feel the weight of his Captain's hand on his head. "I know you aren't sleeping." Luzzu sighed, heavily. "I am sorry, Gatta. If you want to blame someone. Blame me. I convinced Chappu to--"
Luzzu blinked down at the crusader who was clinging to him like a shipwrecked man, fingers curled in the straps of his tunic. "Gatta--"
"What was it for?" Gatta whimpered, breath hitching, his entire body shaking with sobs. "what the hell was any of it for? Wakka, Lulu, they..." words failed him, and he could only weep.
Luzzu picked up the abandoned blanket and wrapped it around Gatta's shoulders.
"Don't let me go." Gatta whispered. "Never let me go."
Luzzu was for a moment uncertain, but at last he put his arms around the crying boy, rocking him a little. After some time Gatta fell asleep again, body shutting down despite his sorrow. And still Luzzu held him, staring into the darkness, his hand unconsciously smoothing Gatta's hair.
He made no promises.
I am not sure if it was Chappu's death, exactly, that made the difference. I had always been teased for being a serious young man, but in the weeks afterwards I devoted myself wholly to my duty, such that I seemed to exist for little else. You were the one who told me, Captain, that hard work is the best cure for a grieving heart, and those words have never failed me. I would have lived my life from that point on as a man married to his rank, except that I think Chappu's death changed you as well. Perhaps on the beach at Djose you saw a shadow of your own future, or maybe you only realized how uncertain lives in Spira are.
Surely you had always known I loved you. I was always artless when it came to concealing my emotion, young as I was. Nevertheless, I don't think you would have acted on it, risking our positions and my respect of you. You would say often how you valued me, how no man could wish for a better officer. Your praise was my love sonnet, and I expected no other endearments from you.
I never thought you would make me your lover.
"Three levels down." Gatta slapped his hand on his fist sharply, echoing the number. "under the red-metal arch. Bring it back up for me, okay? How many levels?"
the dolphin smacked his tail on the water three times, giving Gatta a good splash on the last one as though to say, I can count to three, you legged dummy, can't you?
"All right, All right." Gatta wiped his forearm across his face, shaking off seawater and laughing. "Just making sure. Got some of the dartfish you like, once you bring that cask up for me." He ran his hand over the sleek silver head as the dolphin dove effortlessly.
"Which one was that?"
Gatta looked up at the pier and shielded his eyes from the late afternoon sunlight that bounced like diamonds on the blue water. "Captain! I thought you were still at the lodge."
"It's too hot anywhere but by the water." Luzzu sat down and wrinkled his nose at the bucket of dartfish. He shed his tunic with a relieved noise, and reached down to scoop some water over his bare chest. "Paperwork is worse in a stifling tent; I'm tempted to sleep outside tonight." He nodded at the ripples the dolphin left behind. "that one was...Spark, wasn't it? With the spotted belly? What's he after?"
Gatta folded his arms on the edge of the pier, swishing his legs in the water. "The storm two days ago took some casks off the /Liki/, he's gone to bring them up."
Gatta raised an eyebrow. "Those should all be in your diving range, and I thought you and Wakka got them all up this morning. That's what he said."
"Well," Gatta stalled, as Luzzu drummed his fingers on the weathered dock. Gatta looked around to make sure they were unobserved, but they were well away from the main area of the pier and most everyone had gone in for the day. "You see Sir, when I was diving with Wakka, I saw something, in the ruins. It's too far down for me to get."
"What have I told you about poking in the ruins, Gatta?"
"It's only one cask, sir!" Gatta chewed his lip. "It might have potions, or weapons, something we can use to defeat--"
"All right, all right, Gatta, relax." Luzzu held up his hands in surrender. "You act as if I would court-martial you for curiosity."
"Wakka would." Gatta grumbled. "I had to wait till he left. We used to raid ruins all the time, before--" He stopped abruptly.
"I'm sure Wakka has his reasons," Luzzu murmured.
"Doesn't give him an excuse to be a pain in the ass." Gatta said, and added a hasty, "Sir."
Luzzu might have responded but Spark surfaced with the commotion only a smug dolphin can make, slapping his fins and nosing a barnacle-encrusted barrel to keep it afloat.
"Hey! Good job, Spark! Give it here--Oof, No! this is not a game of keep away, ugh, no don't let it go! Gack! -koff- Stupid dolphin!"
Spark chittered, unperturbed, continuing to spray Gatta with water. Luzzu managed to stop laughing long enough to jump in alongside, and between the two of them they were able to haul the cask to the pier, heaving it up and pulling themselves up out of the water after it. Luzzu prodded at the rusted clasps while Gatta flung fish out for Spark to catch.
"Well?" Gatta rinsed his fishy hands in the water, and Spark went belly up under his fingers, hoping for a rub just like a fat finned puppy. Gatta obligingly ran his palm over the spotted skin. "What have we got?
"Looks like those storage barrels we found on the west side of the island. Wish I knew how they made this metal." Luzzu rapped the hinge with the heel of his hand. "Waterproof and airtight, even after a thousand years. Ah."
There was a pop and a hiss, the lid irised open but jammed halfway, and would neither open further nor close.
Spark, seeing that no more fish were forthcoming and Gatta was quite occupied, swam off for more interesting company.
"I guess after a thousand years even the ancient machina can fail." Gatta peered in the dark hole of the container, and with an oh-well shrug slipped his arm inside. "Hope it's not poison."
"So do I."
Gatta groped for a moment, and made a face. "Aw, damn. I think it's empty. "
Luzzu sighed. "Oh well ,they can't all be full of megalixrs."
"Still." Gatta shook his head. I had hoped it would at least--" His breath caught. "Wait. There's something here." He pulled his treasure into the sunlight for the first time in a millennium, and examined it with trembling fingers. Cold and clammy but dry, and the material it was crafted out of must be remarkable, far beyond anything Spira was capable of producing now. Only the covers were spotted with age, the pages grey on the corners. "A book." Gatta said, staring at it. "It's someone's journal."
"Merciful Yevon," Luzzu breathed. "From before Sin."
"And maybe during." Gatta shook his head. "I can't read it."
"It's ancient writing." Luzzu ran a careful finger along the script. "Perhaps someone at the temple could decipher it."
Gatta stared at the book a long moment. "No," He said, slowly. "I think they might take it away. You know how they are about the past." He flipped to the end, to the blank pages left unwritten. "This is someone's life, it shouldn't be hidden. It was left for a reason."
Luzzu stared at the unreadable pages. "I think you're right, Gatta." He thumped the empty cask. "Too bad this is broken, or we could put it back in. "
"Sir, why don't you keep it?" Gatta held out the book. "You know lots of Al Bhed, maybe one of them could read it?"
Luzzu considered. "Perhaps. But I'm not sure it's a good idea. The temple isn't fond of us to begin with, if they find we're concealing ancient artifacts--"
"What will they do? Excommunicate us again?" Gatta offered the book again. "Please, Sir. I want to know what it says. Someone went though all the trouble to make sure it was safe. We owe it to whomever wrote it."
"All right." Luzzu took the small journal and wrapped his tunic carefully around it. "I know just the man to give it to; but I'll keep it until then."
"Thank you, Sir."
"Right." Luzzu shoved the cask into the water, and went in after it. "We'd better sink this, it might cause questions if it's found lying about empty."
Gatta slipped off the pier and into the water with only a little more ripple than a dolphin, and they both leaned on the cask to flood it with water, making sure it would stay down.
"Right," Gatta said, watching it drift to the bottom with a small pouf of debris, "That should do it, Sir."
"Damn this feels good." Luzzu lay back on the water, letting the it buoy him up. "I envy your dolphins, Gatta. Open sea, no hot stuffy tents, no Sin to come destroy them--"
"I've wished I could just stay with them." Gatta watched the reddening sunlight reflecting around his captain. Twilight would come soon. "You've never seen creatures so content with what they are. I suppose they have to fight off water fiends now and then, but they're tough, and fast. You'd think all they do is eat and sleep and play."
"Mmm. No journals to tell of the past, though."
Gatta spread his hands on the surface of the water. "they sing all the time, Sir. I don't think they forget anything. It can't all be speech." Gatta laughed. "Although, I don't think they recite their history when they--" He caught Luzzu looking at him curiously, and became deeply interested in the water sloshing around his chest. "Nevermind."
"When they what, Soldier?" Luzzu seemed bemused. "Or do you think me too innocent for your discussions of dolphin nature?"
"I just didn't think it was the sort of thing you cared to hear, Sir." Gatta tread water slowly, watching a small school of tropical fish dart by his toes. "I know in Luca there are some things you don't discuss, and--" Gatta lifted his head, and blinked. "Captain?" The pier was truly abandoned with sundown, the water stretched unbroken to the shore. Gatta struck out towards the last place he'd seen Luzzu floating. "Captain!" Something caught his ankle and he yelped as he was drug backwards, fighting furiously for a moment before realizing that most water fiends did not attempt to tickle their prey. "Capt-ain!"
There was a splash, and arms came from behind and caught him around the middle. "Boo."
Gatta was perfectly and predictably scandalized, a combination of panic and relief. "Sir! Aren't you ever serious? I thought you'd been gotten by a Fiend or pulled under or--"
"Gatta," Luzzu said, and Gatta went very still, there in the water with his Captain's arms around him, water dripping from the ends of his hair and onto Gatta's shoulder. "Are you ever not serious, my boy?"
"You told me," Gatta scolded, but painfully aware of the warmth of breath against his cheek, the fingers trailing through the water to lightly brush his stomach. "To never let your guard down, in the water. That it's not safe--"
Their legs were tangling together, Luzzu's thigh moving between Gatta's treading knees. "this world isn't safe, Gatta." He leaned back and Gatta found himself floating against Luzzu, looking up at a sky purpling with oncoming night, spangled with stars like a dancer's veil. "But I'm tired of holding my breath. Sin will kill me or it won't, and either way, I'm tired of being careful so much that I don't live."
"Captain." Gatta shivered, even in the warm water, even with the heat of the body beneath him. "I'm always afraid."
Luzzu's arms tightened, and Gatta did not have to swim now, caught against Luzzu like a minnow seeking shelter in drifting seaweed. "Gatta." Luzzu's mouth was open against Gatta's ear, and his fingers dipped lower with a ripple of water. "Tell me about the dolphins."
There was nothing so much to tell as to show, in the way that they would swim against each other and linger, join and drift apart and do it again. Gravity held no sway and the stars were echoed in the water, their whispers lost in the constant wind in the palm trees. Gatta's dolphins found them and stirred the water with their own dancing, swirling around them until Luzzu and Gatta were in their own calm, suspended and entwined in the eye of the storm.
"mmm?" He was floating on his back, Gatta curled up beside him, drifting in the calm water of the harbor. It was well past dark, but neither one of the was ready to walk back to the village. The dolphins, contented with their joining, had swum away to sleep in the shadows of sunken towers and quiet reefs.
"Is this worth the risk?"
Luzzu reached up a dripping finger and traced the cross scar on Gatta's cheek, a memento from Djose. "what do you think?"
Gatta rested his face against Luzzu's chest, his palm pressed wonderingly to Luzzu's heartbeat. "Sin could come for us now, and I'd only be sorry we wouldn't get to do it again."
"There isn't any other way to live." Luzzu sank, keeping his shoulders above water and nuzzling Gatta's temple. "This is all we have, right now."
"I don't want to think," Gatta whispered fiercely, lifting his face for Luzzu to kiss, his fingers greedy for the soft wet burr of Luzzu's hair. "Touch me some more," he murmured, sliding his body along Luzzu's thigh.
"So hungry, Gatta?" Luzzu was already doing as he was asked, pale hands like phantoms on Gatta's dark skin.
Gatta pushed playfully at the older man's shoulders. "You kept me from dinner, you know." He reached down and brought Luzzu's legs up easily, something he could never have done on land, considering his superior's bulk. "How well can you float?"
"Not as well as you," Luzzu said, obviously remembering something pleasant.
"Mmm." Gatta's smirk was dangerous as he bobbed in the water, his hands on Luzzu's waist. "We'll, see, Sir. Lie back." Gatta dipped his head down. "I'll show you how long I can hold my breath."
There were not many nights, that summer, that we actually slept inside the lodge. I cannot count the sunrises we watched from the sand, the sunsets we spent in the water. I let myself dream, for the first time in my life, of a life without Sin, of a life with only you. There was a lifetime in those short months. I think you knew it too.
The journal we found that day was finally translated into the modern tongue. Rin said he worked at it for a time after you gave it to him, and then passed the work on to then Chief Scholar Meechen, who finished the job before his death. It belonged to a simple peddler, a refugee from Bevelle during the Machina War. Much of what we know about our past is based on it, and it is considered one of the most valuable historical documents ever recovered.
You used to keep it in your trunk, wrapped up in a spare tunic. The translated edition is available throughout Spira. Rin asked me what I would like for the dedication; I only wrote in your name.
Luzzu was not a man who often lost his temper. In fact, he barely ever raised his voice, and his easy-going persuasion did more for Gatta's obedience than shouting ever would have. Some might have said that he was too soft for an officer, but Gatta had always found his attitude to be one that inspired confidence, trust.
"Idiot! What in the hell were you thinking?"
"I'm sorry, Sir."
"Sorry?" Luzzu's voice was shaking, and even his fingers had a tremor as they wrapped the bandage around Gatta's palm. "I'll give you sorry. Direct disobedience of an order! Putting yourself in danger! Taking on a fire flan with your bare hands-- I should have you flogged for general stupidity, if not for a complete absence of thought! What in the name of Yevon possessed you to--"
"Begging the Captain's pardon," Gatta said, miserable to the point of insolence, his stomach like a cold iron weight in his belly. "Next time I'll just let my commanding officer die, instead. I'm sure he'd rather that than me disobeying my orders!" Gatta snatched his half-bandaged hands from Luzzu's, and flung himself onto his cot, glaring at the wall. He felt like he was going to be sick, or burst into tears, and either way he didn't want Luzzu seeing him. He had not expected thanks, but this... "Just leave me alone."
Silence in the small tent, except for the night insects outside. Gatta pulled his knees to his belly and bit his lip.
Luzzu's voice was strained. "It might have killed you."
Gatta rubbed his nose on his arm. "Save you the trouble of doing it later." He shied away from the touch on his shoulder. "what?"
"Gatta." Luzzu withdrew his hand, and looked away. "I'm not worth it."
That persuaded Gatta to look at him, and he was stunned silent. He had never seen Luzzu weep. "Captain?"
Luzzu knelt and drew him into his arms so hard that it hurt, as if doubting his solidity. "I thought you were dead, Gatta," he whispered. "You ran out in front of me and it hit you--" He kissed him, gratitude from his lips. "My beautiful, foolish, brave Gatta, I thought you were dead."
Gatta ran a hastily-bandaged thumb across Luzzu's cheek, wiping away the wet heat of tears. "Sir... I'm sorry."
Luzzu lifted his head, his eyes intense as he took Gatta by the shoulders. "No. No, don't be sorry. I didn't mean to yell at you, I just--" he paused. "Gatta. Don't die on me. No matter what, you stay alive."
"I'm no more important than you are," Gatta murmured, pressing his face to Luzzu's hair, feeling the shudders in his frame. He had never seen Luzzu terrified, either.
"You are." Luzzu ran his lips over Gatta's eyebrow. "I don't care what happens to me, just as long as you're all right. When I order you to stay back, soldier, I expect you to obey." He took Gatta's hands in his and kissed each burned finger, gently.
"No promises, Captain." Gatta tugged gently at his hands in Luzzu's, and lay back on his cot. "I'm not much of a soldier where you're concerned."
Luzzu hesitated, as if he was not done with his rare moment of seriousness, but his smile was creeping past his eyes to his mouth. The cot creaked with the addition of Luzzu's weight, his body pressing Gatta down into the thin mattress. "Then I'd best teach you some discipline, boy."
It's strange, of all the times we made love, it's that one I remember the most, the one that springs most vividly to mind when I think of you. It is not, I think, so much for being the first time hearing that you loved me as it was the first time I ever talked back to you, that I questioned your orders. Any other officer would have given me demerits for disobedience.
You told me you respected me.
But then, you also told me if I did a damn fool thing like that again, I'd be polishing armor from then until the next Calm.
So the next time you ordered me back, at operation Mi'ihen, I complained, I argued, but I stayed. I watched you turn your back, I said things I would regret, feeling left out, wanting to be near you. I did not tell you goodbye.
But I stayed, Captain.
"Funny little creatures, aren't they?"
Gatta's head felt heavy as stone, but he lifted it to see Lulu, standing and watching bemusedly as a small furred creature bounced disrespectfully on a praying statue just outside the temple door. "I wonder what they're called."
Gatta put his head back on his knees, in no state to discuss the fauna local to Djose Temple. "They've made a tomb out of one of the caves in the cliffside. The Al Bhed helped excavate it, and our dead lie together."
Lulu arched an eyebrow. "So I had heard. Luzzu is buried in good company, then."
"I wish I was lying beside him." Gatta said roughly, hands curled into useless fists. "Where I belong."
Lulu considered a long moment, then lifted one elegant shoulder. "Fine, then." She rummaged in her belts and drew out a knife, single-edged and glittering and sharp. It fell to the stones with an unmusical sound. "I would suggest that you make the cut along your wrist lengthwise, to best open up the vein. You needn't use much pressure, it's close to the surface, and should be over quickly." Her voice was dispassionate, clinical. "And you might want to move outside of the temple proper, here. I think it would be disrespectful to bleed all over the place. Besides, all these men fighting for life really don't need to see someone give up right in front of them."
Gatta stared at Lulu in horror. "What?"
Lulu put her hand on her hip. "Go ahead. Dying is the easiest thing you can do. I'll be your witness." She tilted her head with a rattle of beads. "I can't do it for you, you know. I don't go in for that."
Gatta looked hard at the knife, and then reached out and picked it up. It was cold to the touch, heavier than it looked. The hairs on his forearm rose as he ghosted the tip over the shadow of blue vein in his wrist, leaving a thin white scratch that only beaded with tiny gems of blood.
"But before you throw away your life, perhaps there are some things you should consider." Lulu examined her nails. "For example, the fact that it was your name on the roster to be on the front line, and that Luzzu forged a few signatures and traded places with you. He might have been expelled from the ranks, if he'd been caught."
Gatta's eyes went wide with disbelief, but he knew Lulu would not lie. "Then it should have been me," he whispered, lifting the knife again. "It should have been me."
"You might also want to consider," Lulu said lowly, "What would compel a man as honorable as Luzzu to lie about something so serious. In doing so, you might deduce that your safety meant more to him than his honor, his life, or his rank. Think about that, and then think what he might say if you were to turn up on the farplane tonight."
"I don't care!" Gatta yelled, his voice shattering the night, but he did not bring the knife down. "I don't care, Lulu! Just leave me be and let me die!"
Lulu's eyes hardened. "As you wish. I suppose you don't mind waiting until morning for Yuna to send you? She's already gone to bed, and I'd hate to wake her up for one selfish little boy. She can send you with the next batch."
Gatta grit his teeth, his fingers white on the knife-handle. "Be quiet."
"Oh, of course. After all, it's only fitting that you be allowed to take your life in peace. Wouldn't be fair, really, since everybody only gets to die once. I suppose you'd like a memorable moment. You might want to wait another week or so, though, if you want to be remembered on an individual basis. There've been so many today already." She turned her back. "Give my love to Chappu. Tell him I'm doing fine." Her braids rattled as she took a step away. "Farewell. I hope Luzzu forgives you. I do not think I would."
Gatta held the knife, the tip wavering over his wrist, blinking away tears that slid down his face and made small wet circles in the dirt. "Damn you, woman!" he cried finally, and hurled the blade away. It chimed across the temple path and sparkled in the grass, at some distance. Several small creatures hopped forward to sniff it curiously. Gatta pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and sobbed, quietly at first, leading into great racking ones that shook his entire body. He wept as he had not for his mother, or for his best friend, but for the lover torn soul from body on the cold beach, blood washed into the ocean, green eyes lifeless on the sky.
Lulu sighed, very softly, her expression gentling. She knelt, held out her hands. Gatta flung himself into her arms as if it was the only refuge he had, taking the embrace she offered, weeping into the fur of her collar. "There, there," she whispered, long hands smoothing his ponytail, moving down his back. "Cry, love. Go ahead. Cry all you can."
"I close my eyes and I see him, like I can't think of him any other way, except--" He shuddered. "I wanted Sin to take my memory, but it wouldn't even give me that. The bastard wouldn't even give me that!" His breath hitched, and he looked at Lulu's face. He had not expected to see sympathy there, or her own tears. "I love him, Lulu." Gatta choked, fisting his hands in her sleeves. "I can't stop."
"No one expects you to stop, darling." Lulu rocked him as if he were a much younger boy, petting his hair. "Love him. Never stop loving him. But you have to live, Gatta. He gave his life for yours, and in this world of death that is no small offering."
"I can't." Gatta's voice caught. "How can I go on? What-- what am I going to do?"
"You are going to live, is what you are going to do." Lulu lifted her head, to the sky glittering with stars. "Gatta, you are going to go on. It will always hurt, I won't lie to you." She smiled at the heavens, and it made her look much younger, softer somehow. "But the pain... sweetens, for lack of a better word. It becomes an ache. It will not always be so sharp. You can only heal by living, Gatta. By facing every day, by picking up and going on. By living your life."
Gatta had stilled, grief welling up in him, too great to cry. "Alone," he murmured.
Lulu's arm tightened around Gatta's shoulders. "None of us are alone, Gatta. Least of all you. Luzzu believed you were strong enough, that you were worth his life. Will you prove him wrong?"
Gatta looked at his hands, folded in his lap. The scratch on his wrist had dried, leaving only a faint brown smear. "I'll try, Lulu," he said, very softly. "I don't know if I can, but I'll try."
"Good boy." Lulu squeezed his shoulder. "He would not as for more." She smiled. "And I'll try too."
"Do you--" Gatta wet dry lips, "do you think about Chappu?"
"Every day, Gatta." Lulu bowed her head. "Every hour. And I cry sometimes, too, as we all do, for the rest of our lives. But I don't always think of his death." She lifted Gatta's face, raising one stern finger before him. "There was more to Chappu than his death, as there was more to Luzzu than his giving his life for you. To cling to only that would do him a disservice. Do not dwell on what is lost. Your task now is to remember everything, not just this one day in all your days." Lulu touched a tear drying on his cheek. "Keep the memory of him at your back. He will always be there." She sighed, as if concluding a duty. "But that is for later, when the first pain is past. Now, do the only thing you can do." She drew her cool fingers across his eyes, incantation on her lips. "/Sleep/."
Gatta went instantly limp against her, slumber deep and dreamless. She eased him down. "Gatta. You have a long road ahead," she whispered. "But anyone who has been loved so much, no matter how briefly, is a fortunate soul." Lulu kissed his forehead. "Know that, and go on." For a long moment she watched him, her thoughts her own. After a time a small herd of the temple creatures hurried over, warm bodies nestling around him like a furry blanket. Lulu, content to leave Gatta in their care, left him. She walked into the night towards the temple, the click of her glass beads sounding long after the darkness had claimed her.
I recall little of the journey home. I had, in my possession, few of your effects I did not wish to entomb with you, the woven bracelet of ship rigging I made for you, traded for its mate I always wore. I kept little else, your hip dagger, a lock of your hair. I cut a strand of my own to leave in your hand, some part of me to stay with you, to lie beside you.
I was too weary to be angry at those quick to repent, most likely a good thing. I was not fond of Yevon on my journey home, and bitter at those who thought our sacrifice to be useless, I might have gotten myself in trouble. I did, before leaving, offer prayers to the high summoners, who I felt had always aided me better. I hoped, too, that you would look after me.
On the Mi'ihen Highroad I stopped at Rin's agency for the night, and he came out to meet me. I could see his eyes travel up the road beyond me, looking for you. When you did not appear, he shook his head, his hand to his face. I think, even now after knowing him for years, that that was the most emotion I've ever seen on the man. He told me that he had been too busy to look much at the journal you'd given him on the way up, but that it was doubtless a great treasure. I think, also, he might have slipped something into my food, for I slept for ten hours straight that night. Rin is nothing if not a shrewd businessman, so he took my gil for the bed. But I think he was more your friend than you would ever say, or indeed, than he has ever told me, because when morning came he put me on a chocobo to Luca and would accept no fee for it.
I did not sleep on the ferry ride home. I found in my belongings some loose paper, some with your handwriting, and began to write down everything I could remember of you. It kept me occupied.
There comes a point when everything hurts so much that you stop actively feeling it. I always thought 'numb' was a bad description. Numbness, by definition, is a state of no sensation. When I stepped onto Besaid's dock it was as if every grain of sand was a harsh blow, but the constant barrage of memory and grief and regret had become a blur of static in my mind. I was feeling so much that the added pain of seeing home without you was barely even noticeable.
It took me four hours to get from the harbor to the village. Each step was a memory, and I had begun to dread the view from the ridge. I hoped, if I delayed enough, that fatigue would catch up with me and I could collapse senseless into our cold bed at the abandoned Crusader's lodge, and sleep away both afternoon and night until morning.
One more day, one more step away from you.
One more step towards you.
But what I found there was not what I expected.
Gatta glanced over his shoulder, on instinct. Luzzu was not standing there to acknowledge the greeting, nor would he ever be again. And while the edge of that was still sharp, Gatta's surprise made for unusually thick armor.
Two men and one woman, and a boy younger than Gatta himself had been when he joined the ranks. All of them, standing by the table at attention. The lamps were all lit, the armor they'd left behind was gleaming with new polish.
Gatta thought he knew the woman speaking, she might have ridden with them to Luca--
His laughter, standing on the upper deck, wind in his hair, sunlight on his shoulders, ocean in his kiss--
"You are Captain Gatta, aren't you?" The woman passed him a slip of paper. "We're your command, Sir. Wyn told us your ferry was due in today."
Gatta stared at the message in his hand, and felt his rucksack slip from his shoulder, landing on the floor with a muffled thump.
Luzzu's handwriting. A request regarding his subordinate, in the event of his own death during operation Mi'ihen. No one knows the island better, or is a more loyal soldier. Should I fall, I request that he be promoted in my place, and take over Crusader operations in Besaid...
Below it, hastily written by someone, was a confirmation of field promotion. The officer granting the request had probably been sworn in less than ten minutes before writing it; the crusaders had lost most of their commanding officers during the failed mission.
"Captain Gatta, Sir. We await your orders."
Captain. Luzzu had left him his rank.
"Uh," Gatta said, with authority, while he folded the slip of paper and tucked it into his belt. He looked around the lodge, which had never been neater. "Well, since there are only four of you--"
"Nine, sir!" the little boy piped. "The other five are on patrol!"
"/Nine/?" There was no disguising the rampant disbelief in Gatta's voice. Even at most, Besaid had never had more than six crusaders.
"Most of them we picked up on the way," one of the men explained. "I'm not sure how it happened, but we wound up with a crowd, Sir. "
Gatta, for the first time in his life, felt the need for a very stiff drink. He wondered if Luzzu had left anything behind. "Well, in that case, ah, we'd better get a patrol schedule going. If there are that many of you we can rotate shifts, have a patrol at all times. I'll need your names, for starters, and when the others get back from patrol we can have a briefing as to what needs getting done." He stopped. They were all looking at him expectantly. "Is that all clear?" It was less of a request for confirmation than sincerely asking if he'd done all right; Gatta had never issued an order in his life.
"Sir!" Heels snapped, fists went to chests in salute.
You'll be fine.
Gatta started, but there was only himself and three and a half Crusaders, at attention and expectant. What else would Luzzu say?
"At ease." Gatta found himself close to smiling, as if the words were really his own. "You look like a cadet review."
They relaxed, and if they had doubts as to having a commander not yet twenty, they did not show it. Wyn, the little boy, was proud as anything to carry his Captain's rucksack to his bunk. The young woman, Reen, seemed to know the most, and Gatta had her explain in more detail the current state of the island. It was well past midnight when he made it to his bed, a fresh pair of crusaders standing watch at the gate, training and patrol slated for tomorrow morning, and Gatta wondering what weapon would suit Isac best, since he was obviously nearsighted. He paused, staring at a bed that had never been big enough for two, but was always more than enough. Wyn had carefully moved any belongings Luzzu had left behind, the battered trunk sitting at the end of Gatta's bunk.
Gatta shook his head, and fell gratefully onto his belly, knowing morning would come soon, and Captains did not yawn in front of their men.
/They don't cry, either. But sometimes they do fall in love/.
Those days, thick with work, went more quickly than I could ever expected. I think you knew that, forcing me to keep a strong face towards my men, responsible for keeping their morale high. I might cry for my own sake, but I could not for theirs. If I faltered for what to say, I fell back on my memory of you. I found, at times, that I would use your turns of phrase, such that my accent of a young Besaid blitzer faded, and I began to sound like I had grown up in Luca, trained at the academy. I needed to reference my memory less, and it became easier to know what to say. I recognized my own flaws as a spearman in Wyn, and could tell him with ease how to correct his technique.
I never realized how much I had learned from you until I was required to pass it on. Fiends were thick on the ground and violent, and even with Sin occupied, we had no time to be idle. There was news of turmoil in Bevelle, and Lady Yuna was a traitor and then not again, though we always knew her, and when she stopped in Besaid on some desperate errand, my men were very much occupied with running interference.
The remains of the chocobo mounted forces found their way to Besaid, in their search for good breeding grounds to restore their flocks. They brought news of a fierce battle with Sin in Bevelle, the mythical machina ship and summoner Yuna working hand in hand.
We lit bonfires, and we watched the sky. I was on my way out for last shift patrol when I saw the entire village out in the square, faces strained upwards. I thought, myself, that there would be little to watch from here. Reen had some strange Al Bhed device she called a radio, which was transmitting news from the cockpit of the airship, no doubt to anyone capable of receiving the signal. Even in his native language I recognized Rin's voice, if nothing so much for his deadly calm in the midst of apocalypse. Reen struggled with her knowledge of Al Bhed to translate what was happening in the skies above the capital.
And we waited for a sign, not even knowing what it would be. From the radio there was a moment of ominous silence, and we thought it was over.
The sky caught fire. It was as if the sun had burst, or ten thousand comets collided in the sky, exploding in a great golden canopy of light that arched over us like sunrise. Pyreflies. Millions upon millions of them as if every fiend on Spira had been slain at once. Rushing to freedom across the heavens, shedding golden light on the surface of our world, they poured out our freedom. The village erupted in cheers and song; I was certain Alma and Lucille were hugging each other, in tears. The noise from the radio needed no translation; rejoicing is the same in any language.
"/Sin! Sin ec kuha! Sin ec tayt! Fa yna vnaa!" /
I could not find it in me to cheer with them, my voice seemed to have taken leave of my throat. I felt as if my legs would give way, and there was nothing that would convince me that you were not watching with me. And so I brought my hand to my chest and saluted you, one last time.
For the first time since Mi'ihen, I believed the things Lulu had told me, and thought I might make it after all.
Fifty years ago, now. Men have been born and grown old without the shadow of Sin upon them, though Spira sometimes has small troubles, and there are fiends now and then. Some time after Sin (our dates began anew, that night, today is the 217th day of 48 A.S.), it became clear to me the political motivations behind Operation Mi'ihen. I was furious, to find that your life and the lives of so many were spent in a ploy to tighten the grip of Yevon. However, when word spread to the ranks, it threw the name of the Second Battle of Djose into hallowed light. Never were men spoken of with such honor as those who went and fought that day, those who gave their lives in a cause they believed in, even if no one else did. There is a monument at Djose now, a single fin of black marble, jutting out of the ocean, inscribed with the names of those who fell. I have seen children look up at it in awe, imagining it as a living thing, a terror that nearly consumed us. But after a time they play in the water, and it is no monster there but a magical tower, or an island, and they borrow the names and mock-fight on the beach.
You are a legend, Captain. Who would have thought? You're laughing over that one, I am sure. I suppose, in part, that this sphere is as much your story as mine, the truth of you, of all those not here to tell their own stories. Dolphins sing without ceasing, Captain, each taking up the melody. But someone must write the song.
And so I pass it on.
To High Summoner Atlatid, Palace St. Bevelle, from Summoner Trelli, Besaid Temple.
346, 48 A.S.
I am grieved to inform you of the loss of possibly the greatest general ever to lead men into battle, and one of the dearest friends I have ever known. General Gatta passed to the Farplane in the night a day past, as the tide went out one last time before morning. Captain Wyn and I were in attendance, and bore witness to his request to be buried alongside the fallen at Djose Beach. The 46th Gold Unit, stationed in Besaid, has taken the task of delivering him there.
This sphere, among his few belongings, is apparently intended for the Spira Archives in Bevelle, to be made available to the public. I need give him no epitaph, for there is no one in our world who does not know his name. He brought the Crusaders back from the brink of extinction, he led the fabled charge on Mount Gagazet against the Fiend invasion of 22 A.S., he created the Coast Patrol Division and the Dragoon Corps who guard Spira's seas and skies, and more, indeed, than I could list here. Under his hand the ranks of the Crusaders have grown, and no one in Spira need sleep in fear while they are on watch. In this his memoir, he has given us humanity instead of heroism, and a treasure of memory that should never be forgotten.
The citizens and troops of Besaid would like to put in a formal request to have his image in the Temple, surely uncommon as I know of no non-summoner to receive such an honor. I leave it to your wisdom to decide, Sir, but Gatta was ever Besaid's darling and I fear he will stand there, your will or no.
The troops and civilians in Besaid have taken to wearing a black band on their sleeves, in mourning. However, after viewing this sphere, I cannot help but feel our grief is only for ourselves. In the years I knew Gatta, he seemed always to have a patience about him, a sense of waiting. I cannot help but feel he is a man who has accomplished a great task, and gone at last to the reward he has waited for. I performed the sending for him myself, at sunrise, although never in my years as summoner have I ever felt so much that I was dispensing formality, for surely there was nothing there for me to send. The General has gone willingly, and I wish him goodspeed.
Please extend my sympathy and support to General Pacce, and to all the citizens of Bevelle.
May Yuna's Light be with you, my friend.