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"Marriage, even if you attempt to avoid it, it always seems to cause problems."

Auron stopped in mid drink and looked around slowly. The voice was soft, husky in a way that made one strain to hear it. He focused on the speaker; a man who was shorter than Auron was with soft eyes and an almost feminine face. Auron wanted to be ruffled when he responded. He wanted to be angry and dismissive but the words wouldn't come. "And you are?"

"I'm Summoner Braska." He offered a hand to Auron with a polite nod. "I could use your assistance, if you're inclined."

Some men, Auron had always believed, could change the world. He just didn't really assume any would be changing his.

-+-

"You're not serious, Lord Braska." Auron didn't like questioning Braska; even in the short period of time that they had met the other man had impressed with his sheer honesty. Braska moved with a purpose that was graceful and focused upon a singular goal. To question someone of such noble intent wasn't what Auron had ever set out to do. He did not wish to alienate the first man to seem worth believing in.

"Of course I am, Auron." He must have been rather focused at the man before them, as Braska wasn't correcting him on the use of 'Lord'. "You can't tell me you don't feel the least bit sorry for him?"

Auron crossed his arms and snorted. "I don't-" he made the mistake then, of glancing down at Braska.

Braska said nothing, he simply smiled in that sad, very human way that he had.

Auron's argument died in the air as quickly as it began. He felt humbled and chastised but not by Braska as much as by himself. The correct thing to do was follow what Braska advised. The man could read people at a glance and with an accuracy that would have been unsettling on anyone else. His honesty was contagious. "-I suppose another person wouldn't hurt to bring along."

-+-

Macalania was beautiful by all regards. There was something mystical about the way light played off the ice and added some sort of stimuli to the otherwise quiet surroundings. They had made camp and Jecht was huddled over the fire.

His banter had distracted Auron for a time. At first he didn't think that Jecht was worth his time, Auron had more than a little pride that he carried over from his time as a monk. It was perhaps a month or so into their trip that Auron realized Jecht wasn't stupid or useless. He simply liked to argue. By the time that the two of them had reached a point where their conversation was going to turn silly, Auron noticed Braska had slipped away.

Auron left Jecht by the fire. He wasn't in the mood to argue anymore that evening. Raised voices didn't fit with the setting. That was the reason he didn't raise his voice to call for Braska. There was something delicate about Macalania that Auron couldn't put his finger on and didn't want to risk destroying. Instead he made his way down to the lake where they had battled the Spherimorph.

Auron's hand lifted to push some of the plant-life away and he halted. Before him was a trail of rippling water, a path that had been melted through the frozen lake. It started at Braska's well worn boots and ended at the man himself. The summoner tilted back his head and breathed a moment before he began to move.

He had never seen a sending dance performed alone before. They had been events to mourn loss and celebrate life. Alone, Braska moved, his staff extended to where it nearly broke the surface of the water. The red tassels fanned out as he spun the staff, whirled it above his head in the same graceful movements he used when he was walking. Even at this distance, Auron could tell that Braska's blue eyes were closed in a way that reminded him of a musician lost in song.

As though to a Siren's call, small bursts of light and color began to gather around Braska. One brushed past Auron's chin, its tail curling up past his ear in a soft breath of heat. There were not many, but those that were there seemed as though they felt free. Their movements were fast, desperate in comparison to Braska's deliberate twirls.

He came to an end and pressed the lower end of his staff against his forehead. The lights flickered and then were gone; the only sound to be heard was the crack of the ice as it began to form across Braska's path. He looked over his shoulder then and smiled before he stepped to the ice.

Auron reached down for Braska's boots without a word. He was nervous of breaking the spell and kept his movements slow and measured. When he stood up, Braska was before him, barefoot and with that sad smile. Auron swallowed, unsure of what to do.

Braska stepped closer and put his hand over Auron's on his boots. He titled his chin up and met Auron's eyes before he reached out and ran his free hand over the shorter hairs at Auron's temple. His delicate fingers tucked them behind Auron's ear.

The boots were quickly relinquished. Auron had no idea what to say to a man who was so close to the dead. Part of him wanted to reach down, wrap his arms about Braska and hug him. To bury his head into the smaller man's shoulder and give him some form of comfort in return for the comfort Braska gave everyone around him. He opened his mouth to speak.

Braska's finger pressed softly against his lips. It was warm and he smelled of some sort of spice. Braska let his hand drop and took one more step forward. As slowly and deliberately as he did everything, Braska rocked up onto the balls of his feet and brushed his lips with Auron's.

Auron's eyes flew open and before he could react, Braska dropped back to his heels and nodded. With his boots in hand, the summoner started back up to the camp. Auron was left alone with a soft smile of his own.

-+-

He was dying. Dying. He was going. Auron couldn't think straight, that one fact burned deeply in his brain. Braska seemed so light and small in his arms. He tried to choke out words, something that resembled an apology but the words didn't come. They never came when Auron wanted them to.

The light had faded from Braska's left eye. His right hand reached up and pulled at Auron's collar. His right eye was the same soft focus it always had. It searched Auron's face a moment before it too, began to grey. His breathe came ragged and in shallow sorts of hisses. "This has to end, Auron."

Those last words hung in the air and clung to Auron stronger than death. Slowly, he stood and steadied himself. This chapter of the story was over, but Braska was right. Auron turned and willed himself to hold on, to find the hero and bring her back to this place. This had to end.