Spoilers: Very minor.
Notes: Written for renay, for the Alphabet Meme. Prompt was "Beclem/Yuna" favorite. Like most of my Beclem-related stories, this is based on the Aftermath continuity, but knowledge of that story is not required. I had hoped to get this ready in time to be a birthday gift, but she'll have to settle for it being in honor of her first day of school instead.
Beclem stood on the dock, listening to the gulls and the waves and trying not to sweat too much. Coming back to Besaid had not exactly been at the top of his to-do list, but Nooj needed him here, and so here he was, making another attempt to drill some sense of discipline into the Aurochs. He hadn't argued -- in general, one didn't argue with Nooj, not without good reason -- but his private doubts as to his chances for success had begun the moment he'd stepped onto the boat, and his first day back had given him no reason to let go of them.
He'd started off the morning in drills, running the men up and down the beach, then moved into target practice. At the memory of the latter, he sighed, pulling off his helm and rolling his eyes. How could anyone whose living depended on making accurate blitzball throws have aim as bad as Letty's? And their lack of stamina! They'd started wiping out on the sand after less than an hour. These guys were supposed to be athletes. Beclem snorted, restraining himself from hurling his helm to the dock. He didn't understand why Nooj would send him back here, not after he'd made it so clear that Wakka was nothing like Chappu and therefore not worth Nooj's time to cultivate as an ally. But the Meyvn must have his reasons. Beclem set the helm down on the planks before divesting himself of his jacket and undershirt. He bent his knees, put his hands together, and dove off the dock, closing his eyes as he hit the glorious water.
Never a fan of hot weather -- a fact that had become abundantly clear to him when he'd worked on the Kilika rebuilding project -- Beclem had only survived his first tour on Besaid by coming down to the beach every night for a quick swim. At least the place had an excellent deep-water beach, much more pleasant than Kilika's busy harbor or the rough seas off Mushroom Rock. He kicked deeper, let the water surround him and wash away the sweat and tensions of the day. Down, down he went, reaching out with his fingers to touch the white sand at the bottom; then he executed a quick flip and headed back for the surface. His head broke into the air, and he breathed deep, shaking the water out his hair and eyes. His vision cleared, and he saw that he was not alone -- a figure stood a few feet away on the dock, shading her eyes against the late afternoon sun: the Lady Yuna.
"Beclem?" She peered out over the water, leaning forward, then smiled and waved. "How's the ocean?"
"Fine." Beclem blinked again, clearing the last of the salt spray from his eyes, then began treading water.
"I bet it's a nice change from all this heat." She bent her knees, brining her eyes closer to . "Do you like to swim? Oh, of course." She tipped her head sideways. "If you play blitz, you'd have to, wouldn't you? And from that move we saw the last time we were here, I can't imagine that you aren't a blitzer."
"I never played professionally." Beclem kicked just enough to keep his head steady over the gentle waves. "I probably could have, but I joined the Crusaders instead. I've kept it up as a hobby, though." Then he stopped himself. Why was he explaining himself to Yuna, of all people.
She nodded, solemn, then lowered herself to sit on the wooden slats of the docks. Her feet dangled in the water; he noticed that they were bare. "Did you ever play with Chappu?"
"Sometimes." Beclem pressed his lips together, reluctant to share his memories of Chappu with this girl, still not much more than a stranger. But it was tempting. Especially since he had found himself so unable to relate to Wakka. And he could always shut himself up if things got out of hand. "Whenever we had free time, and were close enough to water to manage it, we'd go swimming, kick around the blitzball. Not just to keep him sharp, although that was important, too. But he always said it was his favorite way to relax." He looked up at Yuna. "And you?"
Yuna dipped her head, a light blush staining her cheeks. "Oh, I'm no blitzer, really. I wasn't even much of a swimmer until recently. Not until-- recently. "
"Because-- oh." Belatedly, Beclem remembered the stories about her former guardian, the mysterious blitzer who supposedly came from Zanarkand -- not that he believed that story for a minute, there had to be a less fantastical explanation -- and who had been... close with the summoner. What an idiot he was, to bring that up.
If Yuna noticed his embarrassment, she didn't let it show. Instead, she looked back up with him with a slight smile. "But I've improved! Quite a bit. Wakka even says so. I started by learning to hold my breath, and then practiced the basic moves: blocking, passing and so forth. I really enjoyed playing in that tournament a few months ago." She shaded her eyes again, blinked into the sky. "The water does look inviting. Do you mind if I join you?"
"Um." Beclem tried not to looked shocked. "I... suppose. If you like?"
"Okay!" Yuna's expression brightened. "I'll be right back!" She jumped to her feet and ran back toward the beach, her light footsteps thumping against the wood. Beclem watched her go, unsure what to expect from her return. Was she going to change? To fetch her friends? But then, seconds later, she re-emerged, still wearing her shirt and shorts but with her skirt removed, a blitzball under her arm. "I thought we could play a little bit," she said as she approached the end of the dock. "Here, catch!" She tossed him the ball, a light throw that he caught with one hand. Then she jumped straight down into the water; her head disappeared beneath the surface and emerged a second later, her hair plastered to the sides of her head. She turned toward Beclem with a smile. "Ready?"
"Ready." Beclem balanced the ball in his right palm and lifted it over his head, then tossed it, a lazy throw with a high arc. Yuna caught it in both hands, then without missing a beat fired back with a wicked side-arm toss; the ball skipped across the water a couple of times before landing in Beclem's hands with a satisfying smack. He shook his head and chuckled to himself -- when would he learn to stop underestimating the Lady Yuna? "How long can you dive?"
Yuna considered for a moment. "Three minutes? Maybe four. I can go a little longer in the blitz sphere, but it's harder in regular seawater."
Beclem nodded. "Fair enough," he said. "I'll try to track the time, but give me a nudge if you need to surface. Follow me, there's deeper water out that way." Tucking the ball against his side, he turned his back on the coast and started to swim; he could hear Yuna splashing behind him. When he reached the spot he was aiming for, he took a quick breath, then plunged beneath the waves without giving any warning. He glided down for a moment before turning around to see if Yuna had followed him into the depths.
She had; she was, in fact, right behind him, almost close enough to touch, eyes open, her cheeks slightly puffed, the sure sign of an amateur working hard not to breathe. Beclem suppressed a smile -- he couldn't remember the last time he'd seen anyone over the age of five do that. He waited for her to settle upright before sending the ball to her. Too late, he realized that they hadn't discussed what kind of one-on-one they might play: passing drills, kicking the ball back and forth, or setting the ground rules for competitive play; as she caught the ball in both hands, she pulled it into the side of her body, then turned around and began to swim away from him, apparently heading for a large boulder in the distance -- a boulder, he now saw, surrounded by Aurochs and Gullwings. Beclem cursed his stupidity and propelled himself forward, kicking furiously in an attempt to catch her.
It took a moment -- Yuna was clearly swimming for all she was worth, her legs kicking up such a stream of bubbles that Beclem could hardly see her -- but she was overmatched, and soon he was tackling her from behind. Yuna curled up on herself in an attempt to protect the ball as Beclem's arms came around her waist and he groped for the ball with a free hand. For a moment, he wondered if it might not be inappropriate for him to put hands on the High Summoner like this, but then his blitz instincts kicked back in, and soon they were wrestling for the ball. Yuna turned around, probably an attempt to worm free of his grip, but she loosened her hold on the ball, and he yanked it free with a triumphant grin. Then he headed for the surface, hoping that Yuna would follow -- it had probably not even been a minute, but beginners always underestimated the amount of breath this kind of hard swimming would take.
He broke the surface; Yuna was two seconds behind him, gasping for air. Beclem reached out, balanced her elbow in his palm, holding her up so she could breathe freely without having to work to stay afloat. Her hand curled around his forearm as she sucked down air, wiping the water from her eyes with her free hand. Beclem's fingered tightened around her elbow as he felt the warm muscles of her arm and noted the gunner's calluses on her palm. He had seen her shoot, knew of her skill with the gun, but the physical evidence still came as a surprise. Not an unpleasant one, though. Not unpleasant at all. Beclem decided he'd better not think about that part too deeply.
For a moment, he propped her up, just until she could breathe freely again; as soon as she seemed in control of herself again, Beclem let go and swum backwards a pace. "Brought yourself a team, did you?" He nodded toward the Aurochs, Rikku, and Paine, who had all surfaced as well; they watched from their distance with expressions that seemed to run the gamut from amusement to concern -- in Paine's case, both.
Yuna bit her lip, but she smiled too. "The team wants so much to play with you," she said. "It can't hurt to give them a few minutes, could it? And I thought that Rikku, Paine and I could balance things out a little."
"Just when I think I might understand you," Beclem muttered. He looked over toward the Aurochs, then back at Yuna. "Well. All right. For a few minutes, then." Raising his head, he caught Letty's eye, then tossed the ball into their midst. "Shall we play a little four on five?"
The Aurochs cheered as Letty caught the ball, and Yuna laughed. "Maybe we should give them Rikku, too; even the odds a little."
Beclem found himself smiling in return. "Never fear, I'll go easy on them. Well, into the fray, then."