sexychocobo ([personal profile] sexychocobo) wrote in [community profile] fuckyeahfinalfantasy2010-09-27 01:43 am


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Friendships: Jecht & Auron & Braska

(Anonymous) 2010-09-29 11:30 am (UTC)(link)
Jecht, Braska and young Auron encounter an unsent. Auron has interesting thoughts.

Coward Heart (FFX) (Auron & Braska & Jecht) (PG) (3,700 words) [1/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-09-30 02:50 am (UTC)(link)
The caves cast light back at them, fractured reflections and the rock's own native glow: the water was still and star-littered, pinpricks of light beneath a surface so motionless that Auron could barely tell where water ended and the pressing dark of the caverns began. All the light should have illumed the air, but the icy breath of the place seemed nearly solid, swallowing the light before it could reveal more than it hid. Auron had drawn his sword long ago, its rasp loud and echo-inhaled. Even the fiends glowed, here, great gelid flans with galaxies glittering inside them, dissolving into pyreflies like gentle novas.

Auron's gaze slid to Braska. In the gloaming, Braska's eyes seemed wide and white, his robes silver-edged black, all the careful distinctions of colour — red, for mourning; purple, for hope; blue, for seas and skies — lost in the half-light. Jecht was a suffocated flame beside him, the leaping fish on his sarong like the empty spaces between licks of fire as he shrugged off the wool-lined jacket Braska had finally convinced him to wear.

Braska's hand came up to touch the rock blocking their path. He murmured under his breath, and Auron strained to hear over the slither of Jecht's disrobing and muttered curses. He drifted closer.

Hearing his approach, Braska turned his head briefly before resuming his examination. "A cave-in, or a deliberate obstacle? I wonder." His voice seemed to loud in the unmoving air.

Something extremely bad-tempered about summoners and crazy pilgrimages drifted over from where Jecht was hopping on one foot, trying to remove the other boot — he'd looked ridiculous in his too-small jacket, baggy shorts, and snow boots, and Auron suspected it had not helped his mood, whatever its intended effect on impending frostbite. He turned his attention back to his summoner. "Obstacle?"

"I would not be surprised if this place is meant to test us."

"Come on." Jecht, grumpy in the dark and cold, joined them and glared at the obstruction. "After everything they're asking, they'd—" Jecht bit the rest of the sentence off — and this was new, Jecht swallowing down his words, and it clotted Auron's throat: sympathy and his own helplessness. Braska turned to watch Jecht, quietly, the spaces between them still awkward and half-angry and thick with Braska's solemn gratitude for Jecht's efforts. Jecht met Braska's eyes and Auron had to look away from the intensity of their shared gaze — say these things for me, Jecht, tell him what I can't... Jecht huffed, sharp exhale of breath. "Yeah. Of course they would," and by the time Auron looked at them again the stare was broken, and Jecht had gone over to the water's edge where the cavern's other branching lay submerged, sword left behind and blitzball in hand.

Jecht poked the water with his toe.

"FUCKING HELL—" and a hiss of indrawn breath, three quick round-cheeked blows of exhalation, and Jecht sank into the freezing water, imprecations echoing continuously across the cave until his black hair was swallowed under the surface. Auron was left by Braska's side, alone with the dense dark and the water that stilled too quickly.

Auron blew out a long breath, empathy and released tension.

"Well," Braska said, and stopped a moment before continuing. "Let's have some warmth ready for him when he returns. And," he set down his pack and rummaged within, drawing out a fire gem, "it would not hurt us, either, I think, if we're to be here a while." He looked at Auron over the gem's faint internal glow, like a small beating heart in his hand: sad-smile on his face, and tired eyes. Auron wanted to look away, again, his own heart clenching like that was what Braska's palm held — so many silences between them all now, after Jecht had learned of their journey's end, and Auron's faith crumbling too soon to stop Jecht's desperation infecting him. His jaw clenched unhappily, but he nodded, and cleared some ground with sweeps of his foot as Braska sank to the cavern floor.

Braska fiddled with the gem a moment — some Al Bhed trickery he'd learned; Auron surely had no idea how Braska used half the things they picked up and traded for — then set it down in the cleared space. It burst into silent flame, burning without apparent source; the heat it threw on Auron's face felt like a flush of anger, or shame— and Auron realized it was no illusion as the fever filled his veins, sluggish and poisonous and— "My lord—"

"Auron." The gentlest interruption, firm as stone. Auron's jaw snapped shut in automatic obedience. Braska put his head in his hands for a moment, drew them slowly down his face and looked up at Auron and he looked so tired and— old, and Auron's heart beat thick and hard and fast at the thought. Braska's voice was soft in the dark. "I'm sorry. But... please, don't." He looked steadily up at Auron, like a supplicant: it felt so wrong, observing this moment of weakness seemed obscene, and Braska kneeling before him, sacrilege.

Auron fell to his knees. Braska's words had done nothing to stop the thick roil in his blood, his belly — not as they once had, wisdom and kindness balming his spirit and his teeth ached, breath hissing between them: did he demand consolation from this man, like a child? It was Auron's duty to give — and Braska's also, but not to him.

He stared into the fire and the silence. "I don't know what to believe anymore. My lord."

A touch, on his hair, and he nearly flinched — but it was Braska's fingers, a light brush that made Auron think of the way Braska comforted Yuna. He swallowed, torn between contempt at himself for deserving this child-comfort — and yearning for it, for some shred of relief, of belief, of Braska, selfish wants in this late hour. Auron sat stiffly, not leaning into Braska's touch but not recoiling from it.

Braska drew in breath, to answer—

A splash jarred through the quiet and Auron was on his feet, turning with sword in hand — only Jecht, returning too soon, dripping and shivering and calling, "Br-assk-ka," teeth clattering across the consonants. Auron tore off his belt and robe, throwing the garment around Jecht's shoulders as the cold crept in across his own; Jecht jerked a nod of thanks. Braska had risen too, fingers aglow with healing magic at the ready, but Jecht waved it away, huddling over the fire and trying to talk. "Braska— think you need to come see this."

"Did you find a clear passage?"

"Maybe, but there's someone— something there. Hell if I know. I didn't like the look of it." Jecht frowned down into the flames, the flickering light turning his fierce glower ugly, leaping across his scars.

Auron didn't like the way this sounded — nor the way Jecht hadn't stopped to joke or brag, bring back tales of brashly tackling the threat himself. "My lord. If there's chance of passage, we should all go." His grip tightened on his sword.

Jecht's eyes flicked to him with a grimace of agreement. "Yeah. Bring everything. We're getting outta here."



Coward Heart [2/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-09-30 02:52 am (UTC)(link)

Braska took longer than necessary to pack his heavy robes away, such that Jecht was dry and nearly warm by the time everyone was ready: swords in oiled wrappings, heavy fabrics stripped away for swimming, more fire gems stored within easy reach.

The delay seemed somewhat in vain as Jecht plopped back into the water, apparently immune to it after his first exposure. Braska made no sound as he stepped into it, in breeches and undershirt, but Auron hissed at the cold: it bit at his bones, like all his muscles had turned to cutting shards, ice in his veins. He waded in, dragging all their packs behind them: the worst swimmer, he was relegated to ferrying their baggage and staying close to the surface while Jecht and Braska cleared the way.

Jecht knifed through the water like one of the fish on his wrap — the bright fabric streamed alongside him in the currents but Auron was in no mood to appreciate that it looked alive, underwater: he was up to his chin now, and, with a purely internal sigh, set to the laborious task of swimming. The sound of his splashing echoed hollow from the cavern walls; underwater, when the low ceiling turned entirely to tunnel, it was all distorted and thick and even darker. The sense of isolation seemed utterly complete within the pressing depths.

Auron swam on, determined discipline keeping his limbs moving in the cold — it left no room for thought. He was grateful.

He could not know what time had passed when Braska swam up to him in one of the completely submerged stretches, a ghostly shape in his off-white undergarments: they bloomed around him in the slow currents. Braska motioned him on: just a little farther, and a jab of his fingers upwards, a tap to his chest, air up above just ahead. Auron nodded and pulled harder against the stubborn resistance of their dragging packs, fighting for calm against the tightness of his lungs. There had been so little time; he'd barely learned anything from Jecht and Braska on Besaid before they'd had to leave.

Air came like daggers to his lungs, freezing on wet skin, and then Jecht was beside him, taking the packs, shoving him along to shore where Braska had another fire, and this time it was Jecht throwing Auron's robe around him from inside the waterproof bag. Auron's numb fingers scrabbled at the tie in his hair until it came loose and he could wring it out, shivering over the fire. Braska was already merely damp, short-sheared hair drying faster than either of theirs — it had not stopped being strange, seeing Braska like this, bare-headed and without his summoner's surplice. Auron finger-combed his hair apart for something else to concentrate on. "Jecht," he called, his voice feeling overloud as the cavern walls threw it back at him. "Where did you see it?"

Jecht was unwrapping his sword and just indicated the direction with a jerk of his head, down where the passage continued. Braska turned to look and Auron squinted into the distance — and realized he could see far, too far in the dark. He hadn't noted it at first, disguised in the cave's glow, but something spilled a faint light far down the passage.

It was utterly motionless. Auron's bones hollowed with the knowledge that it was watching them.

Jecht stood up, sword cocked over his shoulder in the way that so irritated Auron, and joined them in observing the faint smudge of light. He handed Auron his own sword; Auron took it without looking.

They were stepping forward when Braska flung out a hand.

Silence ticked by before Braska spoke.

"My staff, please."

Auron's stomach sank.

Jecht threw them a confused look as Auron hurried to obey. "What the hell is that thing? Braska," more sharply as Braska stepped ahead of them, "what are you doing?" Old habit prickled up Auron's spine in offense at addressing a summoner in that tone; he ignored it.

"Nothing to endanger myself, do not worry," Braska murmured, absently accepting his staff, and Auron understood belatedly why Jecht's tone had turned so sharp.

"Great, but what is it?"

"An unsent," Auron bit out.

"What?" Jecht's brows drew together, voice heavy with puzzlement; Auron saw him shift his sword to the ready.

"One who died but has stayed on, without a Sending." Braska's voice was quiet; he had not stopped watching the distant creature. It had not stopped watching them.

"You have got to be kidding me." Jecht shuffled his feet apart into a wary stance, starting to advance. Auron touched his arm, stopping him in exchange for a thin-lipped look. But Jecht nodded reluctant assent, stilling. "How the hell does that happen?"

"Sometimes, if the will is strong enough, and a purpose remains..." Braska trailed off, and took another step forward; Auron stirred. Braska seemed to contemplate the unsent for a long empty moment— the hair on Auron's arms rose in the silence, all memory of cold washed away by wariness. Braska's hands shifted on his staff, firming into a solid grip. "Follow close, please, but make no threat. I want to see... if this can be done quietly."

He stepped towards the unsent.

Auron swallowed thick and bitter like bile, and followed, sword held low but ready, Jecht at his side. The tassels on Braska's staff swayed with his slow, steady steps; Jecht's feet, still bare after their swim, rasped against the stone. The unsent made no move as they approached, still as stone, and Auron's heart beat thready-hollow: its face seemed blurred, like it was forgotten. Pyreflies misted off its shoulders, its head, like living steam in the cold. Utterly silent under the discordant shuffle of their steps.

Its eyes were blank and black and empty as it regarded them, hazy behind the pyreflies and its slipping sense of self.

Braska came within a few yards of it, and stopped.

"Oh." It escaped him, a soft accident, out of place and vulnerable and Auron's heart clenched.

Braska simply looked at it, and Auron was suddenly filled with a wild need to see what was on his face, capture the play of emotion, clutch every last moment to his chest. His feet were rooted to the ground.

"Braskaaa..." Jecht drew it out, question laden with impatient wariness.

Braska took another step forward, one hand coming free of his staff like a halting greeting.

"She was a summoner," he said.

Auron felt it like a blow, the sympathy in Braska's voice for this unholy creature of cowardice and selfishness, the tone soft and sad; words boiled up inside him — and he bit them down because he could not interrupt this for the world, could not intrude on the way Braska looked and sounded, so many things Auron could not name held in the moment: raw and open like the secrets of their long silences spilling out at last.

Braska bowed to the thing — Auron could see the faint half-forgotten flutters of summoner's robes around it, now, this close — Braska sank to his knees before it and tension thrummed through Auron's body at this reckless abandonment of battle-readiness — at this show of supplication before such a thing, and an ugly though fluttered across his mind: was this how Braska knelt before the fayth?

"My lady." Braska's voice was solemn with respect, the title entirely sincere. "Did you mean to finish your pilgrimage? Is that what kept you from the Farplane's peace?" The words were dry in the sound-still air; Auron swallowed and tasted metallic-wet thickness, like tears, and blinked at himself.

The unsent stirred.

Auron watched its face with a horrid fascination: it pulsated faintly, emotions stealing across it, features fading in and out like clouds scudding over sky, memories flickering to the surface and then lost — fear, loss, anguish, puzzled curiousity, and pain pain pain—

Its hand rose — Auron's nape tightened in alarm — and then a nauseous roil of confusion, as the unsent's hand came up to its chest, blurred face surprised and the gesture was like a mirror-echo of Braska's soft exhaled "oh" of an identity recognized; Auron breathed, breathed, shallow.

And then the unsent nodded, face a mask of grief, and the summoner's robes bloomed bright, vividly remembered — and Auron thought, bitter: where are your guardians, then? why did they not stay with you in this damned existence?

Braska's head bowed; the nape of his neck looked obscenely vulnerable in the cold dimness as he knelt, the unsent's light like a touch upon it: unholy, wrong.

When Braska looked up again, it was with another question quiet on his lips. "Was it a rockfall?" Auron remembered the blocked passage that had sidetracked them here, and Braska's fingers pale upon the rock.

The unsent nodded.

"How cruel," Braska whispered.

And the unsent sank her face into her hands and wept, soundless, and Auron's throat clotted in unwelcome sympathy, dry and sick-sweet in his heart and he could not look away.

Braska allowed her her bitter grief, now while some echo of her could still feel it, before Braska Sent her away, and Auron breathed in the silence, too loud and traitorously unsteady, Jecht's breaths deeper and lower beside him and the moment was so naked, this intimacy between summoners that was beyond Auron's understanding: Braska's eyes were on the unsent like a sharp thirst was suffocating him and Auron thought, no, no, my lord, if you search for dignity in the face of death do not look there — do not look at me— and shame flooded him, up his neck and into his fingers and he was too close to weeping and didn't know who for.

The unsent summoner's garments fluttered, sudden like a gasp of wind — but the air was still, and Auron's attention snapped sharp, tripping over the muddle of his mind— Jecht was already alert and fierce beside him and Auron's heart thudded with confused fear — would she turn, after this? give in to hatred at her cruel fate— was the shudder of her shoulders pain or—

"Wait," Braska's voice cut soft across the small flurry of their movements and Auron jerked to a halt, Jecht settling slower and more reluctant at his side. "She will not turn. Watch." An edge of something like tired laughter in his voice, shared understanding Auron could not read; he watched the unsent warily. But the shivering flutters settled into a slow transformation, and when she looked up, Auron saw her face, clear and remembered, for the first time.

She had been so young.

Auron stared — a round face, like the villagers' near the Moonflow, almond eyes — he shivered at the memory of seeing them black and hollow, holes of empty depth, bottomless.

"Are you ready?" Braska's voice rasped — Auron didn't know why, but it still seared across his heart.

The girl nodded.

Braska rose, and held up his staff. His back was straight and tall — and it did not matter that his robe was drying by the fire behind them, that he stood barefoot and in breeches, that no mourners crowded beside them: honesty breathed out of the dark, and appearances fell away. Auron felt sick.

A creak: the wrappings on the hilt of Jecht's sword, under Jecht's clenching fist. "This is messed up. I can't watch this." His voice scraped the silence.

Neither of them moved as Braska began his dance.



Coward Heart [3/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-09-30 02:54 am (UTC)(link)

The cavern felt empty without the smudge of unsent light. They huddled around the fire, renewed by another gem. Auron's back prickled, exposed to the open places the unsent girl had tread; nothing haunted them here. Not anymore.

Braska had said nothing since the Sending.

Jecht was restless nearby, sitting with his knees up, hands clasped loose around them, fists clenching and unclenching as he hunched over his half-bent legs. His foot tapped. The fire animated his set face as he scowled at it.

"Are there lots of those things?" he asked at last. Auron looked up, head swiveling towards Braska.

"I'm not sure," Braska said, quietly. "More than Bevelle would like to admit, I think." He smiled to himself, a small sharp edge in it.

"More, huh." Jecht seemed to chew this over; Auron said nothing. The tapping of Jecht's foot stilled. "Why?"

"Some choose to stay. Some," Braska closed his eyes, "want to stay."

"Like that?" and it was Jecht speaking Auron's words for him, things he could not say — and another part of him twisted with a sick counterpoint of hope: yes, like that, my lord, my lord... "It's dangerous, right? Turn into a fiend? Isn't that what all the fuss was about?"

"I think... it's like politics." Braska smiled; Jecht raised an eyebrow. "Best reserved for those who are not tempted by it." He paused; it felt thick, in the air between them. His eyes slid closed again, and open. Braska's hand came up to his chest. His fingers fanned out, palm flat across his breast. "My coward heart," he said, a smile hovering in his lips, in his eyes, sad and pure, the joke at himself entirely sincere, "is too tempted."

Jecht looked away, and Auron couldn't.

The admission of reluctance that Jecht had so sought in all his half-swallowed anger, the need that had cowered in Auron's heart, uncertain and desperate with the faltering of his faith — the words, spoken, at last, cruel and kind at once: it dropped between them like a stone in water, like the caverns' glow, permeating the air, touching their skins like a soft weight. Like a whisper of truth, finally, in their stilted silences, the honesty begun when Braska spoke to the unsent now spilling over to them, a cup overflowing in the dark.

"Coward heart, my ass," Jecht muttered.

Braska snorted, and it turned into a real laugh for a moment and Auron's heart warmed, helplessly. Braska sobered to a chuckle. "It's all right to miss me when I'm gone, you know." And he looked at Auron.

Auron swallowed, and met his lord's eyes.

"Course it is," Jecht huffed.

"Yes," Braska continued softly. "But not before."

My lord...

His breath was loud in his ears. Jecht looked up at him as if startled, understanding flashing in his face.

"My lord..."

Braska shook his head, his voice gentle when he spoke. "Don't apologize. Just—" and Braska swallowed — fear, Auron realized, another gift of honest vulnerability, however bitter to Auron's taste, confessions flowing free between them again "—just... be with me. Here. Now." Braska's voice went dry. "I believe I need it."

Jecht's hand landed on Braska's shoulder. "'Course."

And, "Always," Auron said, his fingers tentative on Braska's arm.

He felt wrung dry.


I hope for always, still.

Forgive me, my lord, when my heart is not as strong as yours.

Re: Coward Heart [3/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-09-30 03:21 pm (UTC)(link)
Not the prompter, but I really liked this! Love the descriptions of the cave, and the swimming, and the Fire Gem, and Auron's emotions so close to the surface, Braska reading him even though he tries so hard to be opaque.

Auron wondering where the unsent summoner's guardians were.... brr!

Re: Coward Heart [3/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-10-01 12:58 am (UTC)(link)
Writer here: Thank you SO much for the feedback! I really really appreciate it ♥

Re: Coward Heart [3/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-10-21 06:53 am (UTC)(link)
Prompter here. I forgot about this meme, sorry.

This made me cry and I wish you'd tell me who you are so that I can follow your fics because


Re: Coward Heart [3/3]

(Anonymous) 2010-10-23 02:31 am (UTC)(link)
Wow. Um. I don't know what to say! Thank you so much for this amazing comment!

I have been pretty nervous/reluctant to de-anon on this one but... you have definitely given me more confidence to do it. So, I'm going to polish this up a little bit, and I'll put it up sometime this weekend -- I hope you will see it then! I'll put a notice in the parent thread of this, too :)

Again, thank you so much. This really meant a lot to me.

De-anon =)

[personal profile] justira 2010-10-25 01:32 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks again ♥

I've posted this to my own journal.