Spoilers: For Maechen's backstory, and (really indirectly) the end of FFX.
Notes: Written for muggy_mountain's request in the Alphabet Fic meme (which still has lots of open slots, if anyone is interested). She gave me the pairing "Maechen/books" and two prompt words, "herbs" and "wonder", and I mashed them all together into two kinda-related ficbits. My interpretation may be somewhat more liberal than was intended; if so, I can only beg your indulgence. (Can you tell I've been writing Maechen?)
It was a beautiful summer day in Zanarkand, and Maechen was, as usual, in the library. He loved being surrounded by his beloved dusty tomes, researching the history of Spira, of his home Zanarkand and its rival Bevelle, of the machina that powered the cities and the leaders that ruled them. Reading about the past made him feel connected to the world in a way that being out in the busy city streets, jostled by people and their messy emotions never did. He much preferred to read about life after the fact, when someone else had put all the facts in order and made sense of them.
"Dr. Maechen?" Quiet as the intruder was, the sound of her voice pierced the silence, and Maechen winced at the noise. Reluctantly, he turned toward the sound and saw one of his students walking across the reading room. She pulled out the chair across from him, and he winced at the scraping of its legs over the flagstone floor.
Maechen sat back in his chair, resting his hands flat on the tabletop. "Alyce. How may I be of assistance? Do you have questions about your final exam?"
Alyce shook her head. "Not at all. Actually, I'm here to thank you." She leaned across the table, and her fair hair swung forward, catching one of the sunbeams that streamed into the dark hall. "You're a great teacher, Dr. Maechen. I never knew that the history of Spira could be so interesting. I was dreading that class, but it turned out to be one of my very favorites. So, I wanted to give you something." Turning to the bag at her side, she pulled out a scrap of paper and laid it on the table. "It's a ticket for Lenne's big show tonight. It's just general admission -- the good seats sold out ages ago -- but my boyfriend has some friends who work at the stadium, and he worked things out so you can also use it as a backstage pass!"
Picking up the ticket, Maechen turned it around in his hands, frowning. "A very kind gesture, but...."
Her face fell. "You don't like Lenne? Aw, nuts. I knew I should have gotten you tickets to the blitz tournament instead."
Maechen shook his head. "No, no. You were correct; I do enjoy Lenne's singing, a great deal. She is one of the great songstresses of our age, and it would be an honor to meet her and to see her perform. But truly, Alyce, this was not necessary. I do appreciate the efforts, but I fear that I will not be able to make the best use of it." He glanced up at her. "I dislike crowds, you see, and I have a great deal of reading to do to prepare for the next university session. You should use this yourself, or give it to one of your friends."
He set the ticket down on the table. Alyce looked at it for a long moment, then met his eyes again with a decisive headshake. "Keep it," she said. "In case you change your mind." She stood up. "There's a whole real world out there, yeah? Only so much you can learn about it from books. You might be surprised." She smiled at him. "Anyway, thanks again."
"And I thank you." Maechen also rose from his seat and bowed his head. "Enjoy your evening." He remained standing until she was gone, then sat, reaching for the next book in his stack: a detailed history of the design and construction of Moonflow City. As he opened to the table of contents, he noticed something slip out of the pages in the middle -- not the old bookmark he would have expected, but a small moonlily, its pale pink petals flattened and perfectly preserved.
He picked up the flower and looked at it for a moment, Alyce's last words resounding in his thoughts. He knew everything there was to know about moonlilies, of course: the mechanism of their life cycle, their affinity for pyreflies, how building over the Moonflow had pushed them nearly to extinction. But he'd never seen a real one before.
"I will consider it," he said to the empty room before setting the dried flower on the ticket and returning to his reading.
It is a thousand years later, although Maechen does not always remember this. He knows that he is very old, and that he has seen many things, but he can no longer be certain which stories he is recounting from his own memories and which he read in a book, or learned from travelers on the road. But one thing he always remembers: the Great Library at Bevelle. Whenever he steps through the door and into its hallowed halls, he takes a deep breath, reveling in the scent of books, dust, mold -- the scent of knowledge. It never fails to fill him with pleasure to look up the endlessly tall shelves and marvel at the worlds they contain.
No one has ever tried to deny Maechen access to the library, but it is not a secret that the maesters of Yevon do not encourage visitors. So it is a surprise to him when, on his first visit after the final defeat of Sin, the stacks are bustling with people -- priests, nuns, acolytes, even a few warrior monks. He pauses in the doorway to marvel at the hum of activity, his gaze falling on a reading table, full of researchers, flipping through books and watching spheres.
"Spira's true history, open to anyone who cares to look," he murmurs to himself. And with a smile, he moves to join them. Perhaps here he will find his kindred spirits at last, ready to rediscover the past and help spread knowledge throughout the world.