Characters: Jecht, Braska, Auron
Spoilers: not really
Notes: For muggy_mountain, who requested Jecht, Braska, and Auron, as friends, with a theme of love. I am not certain this is quite what was expected with this theme, but this is where the story took me.
The fire popped and crackled as stars shone down from the skies over the Moonflow, augmenting the gentle colors of the pyreflies that drifted above the nearby river, an occasional escapee floating through the camp. The three travelers rested in their by-now accustomed places -- Jecht sprawling on his back and looking up into the distance, Braska with a cup of tea and a meditative air, and Auron staring pensively into the flames. Some nights they would chat around the fire, more often on this return journey than they had on the way from Bevelle to Besaid, but tonight a companionable silence had ruled for most of the evening until, with an almost inaudible sigh, Auron shifted and turned his head. "My lord? We will reach Guadosalam tomorrow. Did you wish to make a stop?"
Braska shook his head. "There is no need. If all goes well, I will be with her soon enough."
"Wish I could be sure of that," Jecht muttered from his side of the fire. "Damn, I miss her." The other two men looked at him in surprise as he sat up. "What?" he asked, stretching and scratching the back of his neck.
"I presume you refer to your wife?" There was a smile in Braska's voice. "You speak of your son often, but I don't think you even mentioned your wife's name."
"Licia." Jecht shrugged. "Guess there ain't much to say. I..." He paused and leaned back on his hands, looking to the sky again. "It's hard to talk about her. She was just always there and now she's not. Never even knew how much I would miss havin' her around 'til she wasn't there."
"It's as if a part of you is gone," Braska said softly. "Like an arm, or an eye. You took it for granted while it was there, but now that it's missing you notice its absence, every minute of every day. And you will never feel whole again without it."
Jecht nodded. "Yeah. Yeah, it really is like that. 'Spose you would know."
"I wouldn't," Auron mumbled under his breath. He hadn't really intended for his companions to hear, but they both had -- Braska smiled into his tea, while Jecht actually laughed, an abrupt chuckle that startled Auron into a glare.
"Never been in love, eh? Man! That explains a lot."
Auron's glare turned icy. "You understand nothing," he snapped, half rising to his feet.
"Auron." Braska set the mug back on the ground and adopted the calming tone he'd learned to adopt when his two guardians squabbled. They were less often at one another's throats these days, but he suspected that they were different enough that they would always find something to fight about. When possible, changing the subject was best. The man in red looked at his summoner, the sudden flare of anger in his eyes already fading as he sat back down. "So you were always meant for Yevon then?"
Auron returned his eyes to the fire. "Yes. I cannot remember a time when I didn't dream of being a warrior monk." His words took on a dreamlike quality as he slipped into his memories, pyreflies gathering behind him and completing the effect. " Serving the temples was all I ever wanted to do. I would sit in front of our cottage in Bevelle and watch the monks march by, uniforms neat, weapons gleaming, and I knew that I would be one of them someday. As soon as I was old enough, I left my mother and never looked back. I drilled with the sword and I studied the teachings. And I was where I belonged. For nine years, Yevon was my life, the other warrior monks my family. And then--" He stopped abruptly, dropping his eyes. Braska and Jecht sat quietly, waiting for their comrade to continue, but he did not, lost in thought, his eyes cast into dark shadow.
Then Jecht stood, reaching his arms high to stretch with a yawn. "Well, ain't we a cheerful bunch! I'm goin' to bed. Maybe life'll look brighter in the morning." He sauntered toward their tent, then paused, looking back over his shoulder. "Y'know, Auron, I think you're wrong. Sounds to me like you have been in love." And with that pronouncement, he disappeared inside the tent, Auron staring after him.
Once again silence reigned, for what felt to Braska like a very long time. Finally Auron stirred and spoke. "My lord, did I ever tell you why I rejected the marriage that had been arranged for me?"
Braska nodded. "You said that you resented being judged on anything other than your merits, that your record and abilities should speak for themselves."
"That was part of it," Auron agreed. "But also, I felt that to marry would be a betrayal of my vows to Yevon. The priests assured me that there would be no conflict, that I could serve both Yevon and a wife, but in my heart I knew that I could not. My loyalty was to Yevon, so I could not pledge myself to a woman. I had no choice but to refuse." He grunted, almost a chuckle. "Jecht may see more clearly than anyone realizes."
"Perhaps so. " Braska sighed. "I am sorry that Yevon repaid your devotion by casting you out. You deserved a much better fate." He laid a hand on Auron's robed shoulder.
"We all did," Auron replied quietly. He half-smiled at his summoner and covered the other man's hand with his own. "But thank you, my lord."
Braska glanced at the stars, then the dying fire, and slipped his hand free as he stood. "The hour grows late, my friend. Shall we join Jecht in the tent?"
Auron responded with a shake of his head. "Go ahead, my lord. I will stand watch until the fire goes out."
"All right." Even in the few weeks they had known each other, Braska had already learned that Auron would not be argued out of a pensive mood. "Good night." The summoner made his way to the tent and Jecht's snores. As he crawled inside and let the tent flap fall, he took one look back outside at Auron, who had not moved, his features lit and shadowed by the flickering fire, pyreflies swarming lazily in the background.