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Bonds of Family

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20 years ago

Sabin was nervous. It was the first time in his life when he had been singled out, to do something that Edgar didn't need to do. He was a Special Case. Part of the nervousness was apprehension, sure, but another part was excitement -- whatever happened, he'd be able to tell Edgar about it later, who was sure to be curious.

Sabin and his father came up to the dojo on the outskirts of South Figaro and were greeted by a man with a slate grey beard and a row of students around Sabin's age, some even younger. After introducing himself as Duncan, the master also introduced his son, Vargas, who looked to be at the upper end of the age range of the young students.

Sabin remembered thinking during the first few practices that Vargas was intimidating. There was a kind of meanness to his expression that reminded him of castle bullies. But then one day he had Vargas as his practice partner, and that was when he realized his initial impression had been off. Aside from the way Vargas's eyebrows knit together and a deep frown appeared on his face when he was concentrating (which was almost always the case, as serious as he was), there was really nothing at all intimidating about the master's son. His job was to help the other students learn the techniques, and this he did dutifully and with an abundance of patience (even if perhaps not any particular enthusiasm or warmth), pointing out correct or incorrect technique in a quiet voice.

And as Sabin continued taking lessons at Duncan's dojo, he found that even Vargas could be made to smile and laugh, with some prodding.


15 years ago

Sabin and Vargas stood by the gates of the dojo, waiting for the chocobos that would take Sabin the long way back to the castle.

"How long have you been practicing?" Sabin asked Vargas. "You're really good." Sabin felt he had started practicing pretty young, but from what he'd seen of the other boy from sparring matches and demonstrations, Vargas seemed to be in another league entirely.

Vargas shrugged. "Don't know. I've been doing it for as long as I can remember. I'm sure as soon as Duncan took me in, he wanted to teach me."

Sabin glanced over at the other boy, puzzled by the bitter tone with which Vargas had said those words, as he'd always thought that martial arts must have been a passion for Vargas, and that the time he spent training with his father was a kind of bonding activity, similar to when Sabin's father would sit down and teach him chess.

Vargas clasped his hands behind his head and began pacing around the gate absent-mindedly. "Sometimes I wish I could quit. I mean, it's not like it was my decision to do martial arts in the first place, and it's hard work." He scuffed the dirt with a bare foot. "But it's not like I'm good at anything else."

12 years ago

11 years ago

Freedom.

With his father's cremation over with, Sabin was free. The world was open to him now. He knew where he would go eventually. But for now he would travel to places he'd never been before. Shouldering his bag of belongings, Sabin turned his back on Figaro Castle.

====================

Vargas was eating dinner with his parents when a knock came at the door. He opened it, and was greeted with the sight of Sabin, tanned and grinning. It had been over two months since Sabin had come to the dojo, and here he was, dropping by as casually and unannounced as if he had been here last week.

Vargas's mother, when she saw who was at the door, held out her arms and pulled Sabin into a gentle hug. "We were so sorry to hear about your father," she said.

Vargas supposed that was the right thing to say in situations like this, but it must always be awkward for the person receiving condolences. Sabin gave a small smile, eyes glassy, thanked her, and explained that he was no longer a prince of Figaro, and as such had a favor to ask of Master Duncan. "I would like to train in the dojo full-time," he said.

"Very well," Duncan said, looking pleased. "I'll work you hard."

6 years ago

Vargas peered into the fire, feeling relaxed with the sound of its crackle and the chirping of insects around them. He and Sabin were on one of their regular trips up Mount Kolts. Monsters roamed the forests in this area but the two of them together made quick work of them. Sabin had certainly come a long way from the sickly boy taking lessons in order to improve his constitution to the self-sufficient man who could fend for himself in the wilderness. Going from two lessons a week to living and breathing the life of a monk had certainly been a large force behind that change.

And in that time, he and Sabin had become close as brothers. There were other students who boarded with Duncan and trained full-time, but Sabin was the one Vargas spent the most time with, and there was no one else with whom he'd rather trek up Mount Kolts.

"You look happy," Sabin said as they ate.

"Do I?" He was happy. The calm of nature had that effect; but ultimately the main reason for his peace was the thought that his father was far away. "It's nice to have a break from my old man for once," he said to Sabin. Training with his father had begun to grate on Vargas's nerves in recent months. When teaching new techniques, the old man had little patience if Vargas didn't get it immediately, especially when Sabin did. In fact, just before leaving for this trip, Vargas had gotten into a shouting match with his father when Duncan's harshly-worded criticism had pushed him past his limit.

Sabin seemed to be recalling the same incident, because he said, "I know Master Duncan is hard to get along with, but he really does love you."

"He has a fine way of showing it," Vargas said moodily.

"I can tell, though. He's certainly harder on you than he is on me because he trusts you and he knows you can take the criticism."

Could Vargas really take the criticism, though? He stared into the fire as he thought to himself that Sabin, although he was trying to be reassuring, wasn't helping much. The problem was, if this was the way his old man expressed his love, then Vargas was better off without it.

Whenever Sabin failed to get something, Duncan was polite and patient. Sabin believed that politeness was because, in Duncan's mind, Sabin was still a prince of Figaro. But Vargas knew otherwise. His father wasn't the type to hold titles more important than merit. He was patient because he knew Sabin would get it eventually. Vargas, on the other hand...

"Hopeless... How many times have I told you... Focus!"

1 year ago

Vargas opened his eyes, saw Sabin's face, still and calm as a stone, and then closed his eyes again. He didn't understand how everything came so easily to the other man.

Ten years they'd been training full-time and Sabin had already caught up with -- no, surpassed -- him. They were going to have a match tomorrow, and Vargas suspected that the dojo would be passed on to the victor. If the dojo didn't pass to him, then what had it all been for? All the training since before he could remember, all the grueling sessions that only a handful of Duncan's other students had gone through, and none for as many years as he had, all the time he could have spent... learning... anything. Anything else.

He'd put his whole life into learning his father's craft and yet he was so easily replaced.

Next to him, Sabin stood up and stretched. "Ah that was relaxing. Ready to head back?"

Vargas opened his eyes again, taking in the bright sunlight filtering through the trees. He was supposed to have been meditating but all he'd found within himself was tension, and more anger. No, it hadn't been relaxing. Not at all.

Epilogue: Present

The others left, and as Sabin turned to follow them, he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Sabin, one more thing," Master Duncan said. "My son... Have you seen Vargas?"

Sabin scratched the back of his head, a look of guilt on his face. "In this world? No, I'm sorry."

Duncan nodded. He looked very old, and very tired all of a sudden. "If you see him, tell him where I am."

"I will. I'm sure he's out there."

Duncan's mouth twisted up into a wry smile. "Yes, he must have survived, that stubborn fool. He is my son after all."