Auron sat awake.
Hardly unusual of him, these days, but tonight had an extra edge. Despite being fugitives, they had set up camp for the night in a small clearing—hidden, but practically on Bevelle’s doorstep. The day’s events had been so utterly draining that it had been better to seek refuge in the woods than risk being caught, exhausted, somewhere out in the open. Still, logic made for a lousy pillow, and it had taken some time for the others to settle down into less fitful slumber.
As for him, he found himself… preoccupied, his thoughts chasing each other in endless spirals. Once more, they were very near the spring where they’d first recovered one of Jecht’s spheres. For Tidus and Yuna, it had been the first glimpse of their fathers they’d had in ten years. Not as statues and billboards, perfectly presented for the public eye, but as mere men—men uniting for a common cause, men with shaky camera hands. He’d been determined not to let that opportunity pass by, for all their sakes.
And it was the same for him, wasn’t it? It’d been just as long since he’d seen the spheres, the faces of his friends. Even if he could bring himself to face Braska on the Farplane, with Jecht still— waiting, Auron knew well enough that it wouldn’t give him his voice, his smile.
He had to swallow back the guilt welling up inside him as he slipped a sphere from Tidus’ belongings. He was in these spheres. Didn’t that, Auron tried to tell himself, give him just as much right to view them? Even so, stealing glances in the dead of night was different from Tidus sharing them with the rest of the party. But the temptation was too great.
Ten years he’d spent with nothing but memories. Now he held his youth again, in the palm of his hand.
Seeking a quiet corner for himself, he strode a little ways away from camp—still within sight of the others, but far enough that he could view the sphere in peace, if he kept the sound low. Kimahri kept silent sentinel, but he, Auron knew, could keep a secret.
Switching on the sphere, he found he'd grabbed the one from this very spring. As they leave Bevelle, he and Jecht are bickering, unsurprisingly. The camera moves to Braska, along with Jecht’s attention. He turns to face Jecht with his impossibly blue eyes, nearly too much for the gamut of the sphere camera, and Auron felt an old flutter in his chest. Maybe, he thought mirthlessly, the pyreflies were restless.
Braska chuckles at one of Jecht’s ignorant, yet arrogant, comments—Auron smirked, almost fondly—and the next scene begins shortly thereafter, now with Braska behind the camera, trying to frame a good shot of his quarrelsome guardians.
He had to suppress an annoyed groan at his own petulance. Auron hated seeing himself like this, young and stupid and (his younger self turns his gaze toward Braska, his dour expression softening for a split second) so, so, painfully in love.
Was it just ten years of regret that made him now shake his head at how obviously he’d worshipped the ground Braska walked on? Or had it always been this clear?
Closing his eye, Auron shut the sphere off. That was enough for tonight.
As he rose to return the sphere to Tidus, he felt a gentle touch on his bare arm. To his shame, Auron realized he’d been so wrapped up in the past that Yuna had snuck right up on him.
May I? she mouthed, gesturing at the sphere. He handed it over. After all, she had just as much right to it as Tidus.
Yuna switched it on— and fumbled to mute it for a few seconds, until Auron guided her hand to the volume controls. After that he didn’t know quite what to do, so he sidled awkwardly aside until he could only see her, face bathed in blue light, from the corner of his eye. As a guardian, this was the most privacy he could offer her for now, on the run from Yevon and in the dead of night.
When Yuna spoke, her voice was so low he could barely hear her over the hum of the sphere, still running. “You loved him.”
He made a vague… noise, and kept his answer the same. “Your father was… a dear friend.”
“Sir Auron.” Though soft, her voice was halfway between stern and pleading. It was hauntingly familiar.
Auron breathed, not quite sure whether it was to steady himself or so he could let out a sigh. “Yes,” he said at last. He’d never spoken it aloud before, but Yuna, like Braska, could be preternaturally perceptive and persuasive. It seemed the things she had in common with her father cropped up at the worst times as well as the best ones.
“Even though you couldn’t stop him?”
That had always felt like his own failing, not Braska’s. But he’d already bared too much of his soul for tonight, so instead he recited Braska’s reasoning, as faithfully as he could. “Braska wanted what was best for all of us. He thought the best he had to offer was a world free from fear.” And if Auron thought that was folly—that the cycle was insurmountable, that the man had been worth more than the sacrifice—there was no longer any point in saying so.
“Yes,” said Yuna, distantly. “I know.”
“After the loss of your mother, he wanted to give you the most peaceful future he could.” Perhaps it was something an unwed warrior monk would never understand, always an outsider to the conversation when Jecht and Braska turned the topic to family. But now, he was the only one left to speak on their behalf, to defend them as he had in life.
“That’s not it.” She shook her head. “Tidus and I… we…” She tried again, rallying her flagging voice. “Earlier tonight—”
Auron nodded. “No need to explain.” Certain suspicions from earlier in the evening had been confirmed. Kimahri, thought Auron once again (but more testily), could keep a secret.
Behind him came the hushed jingle of zippers and Abes-branded jewelry. He didn’t even bother turning around. “Tidus. What are you doing up?”
“What am I doing up?” he teased. “What are you two doing up?”
Yuna softly shushed them both, then handed the sphere to Tidus with a sheepish bow of her head. “So sorry, we borrowed your sphere.”
“Huh? Hey, that’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”
Tidus’ tone was far too casual, Auron realized. “How much did you hear,” he said flatly, already resigned to the answer.
“Me? Oh, you know…”
“I was just telling Sir Auron—” Yuna moved to Tidus’ side, taking him by the hand before addressing Auron again, standing straight. “Tidus and I are together, now.”
Grinning, Tidus hoisted their linked hands in the air for a quiet cheer. “Yeah!”
Even as he wondered how much of their “carefree teenagers” act was for show… all he could do was laugh. “Should we double the watch?”
“Hey...” Tidus couldn’t keep a straight enough face to pull off that warning tone.
Carefully, Yuna interrupted their banter. “Is this… all right?”
“Huh? Not like we need his permission,” Tidus snarked.
“Or my blessing,” agreed Auron. It wasn’t his place.
“I mean, do you think it’s a good idea?”
“‘As long as it doesn’t interfere with your pilgrimage’, right?” Tidus’ impersonation of him was atrocious.
It wouldn't. Both of them knew Yuna well enough by now that it wasn't even a question. “Treasure your time together," he said with a shrug. "It’ll have to be enough.”
Yuna nodded, familiar with the aphorism—but Tidus wasn't. “Wow, Auron, that’s… actually kind of sweet. Thanks.”
Snorting, Auron rolled his eye. “It’s the same old saw of advice every young couple in Spira gets. Or so I’ve heard. Never been in one, myself." He'd been... preoccupied, by his devotion to a widower and his promise to a father, and his youth had slipped away. Truthfully, he wasn't yet sure if it had been worth it or not, or even if he could make it worth it.
“So, uh… Braska didn’t…? Ow!” Auron wasn’t quite able to tell, from Yuna’s motions, whether she’d elbowed Tidus or stepped on his foot. Maybe both, for good measure.
“I wasn’t his type. Anyway, I guess he and his wife were quite the lovebirds,” he said, deliberately meeting Tidus’ gaze.
In Zanarkand, he’d done his best not to meddle in Tidus’ personal affairs too much, so Auron had never pried past the childish belief that his mother had simply died of a broken heart.
He hoped Tidus and Yuna weren’t that serious. He hoped it wouldn’t come to that, or losing them both, and that the cycle would end.
But hope, he knew now, was Spira's prison. Hope was little comfort to Auron, anymore.