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Awake

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He dreamed of beginnings.

Zanarkand, the city of lights. It'd all started here, he thought as he wove his way through the streets in the last hour before dawn. Around him, the city shimmered with the warp and weft of the fayth's dreaming, pyreflies gathering to him like moths to a flame. Did they know he intended to end them? He considered the question, then dismissed the thought from his mind. It didn't matter if they knew, only that he'd come.

He found him on the pier: a young boy, perhaps eight years old, juggling a blitzball beneath the bruised sky. His hair was still wet from an early morning swim, and his motions frantic as he struggled to keep the ball airborne with only his feet and legs. Six, seven, eight passes he managed from foot to foot before he fumbled, and the ball fell to the ground with a dull thud. A few seconds passed as the boy stood there, shoulders rigid and quaking. Then he dragged an arm over his eyes, picked up the ball, and began again.

He watched the boy from the other end of the pier. Ten more years, he thought, before Sin returned. Would it be enough?

He sensed, suddenly, a presence behind him. An unsent; he recognized the distortions in the dreamscape long before he heard the steps of its passage.

"So you've come."

He did not need to turn; he knew that voice. The latest of their casualties -- a victim, he may have said once upon a time, were they not all victims of Yu Yevon's dreaming.

"I'd thought you might," Auron continued, coming up beside him. His pyreflies danced about the two of them, casting a ghostly light over the streets, visible only to his aeon eyes. For a moment, they simply stood there beneath the dusky sky and watched.

He broke the spell first. "You should prepare him for the final battle."

There was a sound as Auron shifted beside him; the hem of his haori fluttered in the morning breeze. "I promised Jecht I'd watch over him."

"Jecht would've wanted it."

A silence in the air, disturbed only by the lapping of the dark waves against the pier. "So that's what this is all about," Auron said. His voice was tinged with amusement and a hint of sadness.

"Rest," he said, "and sleep."

The pyreflies drifted lazily about them in a never-ending whirl of color. "How long have you aeons been planning this?" Auron asked. There was no anger in his voice; perhaps it had left him when he'd died so many miles away in the ruins of Zanarkand. Perhaps it simply lurked.

"Lifetimes. An eternity."

"Since you realized it would never end."

He did not answer.

Auron made a sound in the back of his throat. "You're right," he said. "Jecht wanted it to be this way. But you knew that when you brought him to Spira to meet Braska and me. You knew it would end like this."

Was there accusation in his voice? He shrugged and witnessed the boy missing another pass. The ball soared through the air, bounced, then fell into the sea with a splash. "He will stop this."

"Or die trying," Auron said. "Your efforts might fail. He may become Sin. The cycle may simply begin again."

"We've all made sacrifices, hoping that this will end. This is just one more."

"For peace?"

"For sleep," he said.

Auron snorted but said nothing more. Across the pier, the boy reached down to fish the ball, still dripping, from the water. As he straightened, his eyes found the two of them, and his face darkened. He spun away.

Auron chuckled quietly. "Just like Jecht," he said, then left his side.

Overhead, the sky thinned and lightened with the coming of dawn. He felt the tug of a summons on the chains of his soul as he watched the boy punt the ball over the water. It fell a distance away, floated, bobbed, then disappeared among the waves. The boy's fist crashed into the railing. Anger, though at himself or his father, it was impossible to say.

Soon, he thought.

The seas caught fire as the sun rose over the horizon, tinting the sky a pale rose. Around him, the lights of Zanarkand began to dim, one by one, flickering out like stars at the end of their days.

He closed his eyes and dreamed of endings -- and of dragons taking flight.