Author's Notes: This story contains spoilers for the entire game. If you haven't finished it and at least most of the side quests, I would highly suggest not reading this story until you do it will spoil you all kinds of rotten. Also, this story will contain shounen ai/yaoi implications. If that's not your thing you probably shouldn't be here. Standard Disclaimers apply as usual. ^_^
Castle in Spain
Chapter Four - Revelations of the Day
For so slim a creature, Seymour Guado was surprisingly heavy.
"This sucks," Tidus grumbled as the summoner continued to doze away in his arms, oblivious to the difficulties Tidus was suffering. Shortly after he'd lost consciousness, Seymour's hair had come loose from it's tails once more to curve and curl around Tidus' leg, clinging to him as surely as it's master did. He had tried unsuccessfully to pull the hair from his skin more then once, but every time he managed it, the long strands would swing loosely for only a precious few moments before curling about his leg once more. After three attempts with the same result, he'd just given up rather then waste anymore time with it. He was now thoroughly convinced that the silky threads were not only possessed, but also nearly as contrary as the half-Guado to whom they were attached.
He had reached the foot of the mountain without hearing so much as a whimper from the phantoms. Either they had been destroyed by Seymour's power or were so frightened by it that they had no intention of returning to their places near the foot of the mountains while Seymour was still around. Yet, there was still the problem of the snakes...
Tidus starred at them through narrowed eyes, standing a few mere feet from the closest of them. They were horrible looking things, their skins a putrid green dashed with black stripes and their heads were painted over with red and black dashes. The hissing seemed so loud now that Tidus doubted he'd have been able to hear anything else even if there was something else to hear. Yet, the snakes for all their hissing didn't seem to notice him at all. Most lay quietly against the earth beneath them, wound in tight coils like so much rope, their square red and black marked heads resting against their bodies, too-large fangs glittering dangerously in the dying light of day. "O-kay..." Tidus murmured, worrying his lip with his teeth as he tried to figure a good way up a mountain, which was literally covered in snakes.
There was no visible path, hell; there was no visible anything beneath all those snakes. If there was any way to get past the nasty serpentine swarm, he wasn't seeing it. Tidus sighed and shook his head, glaring at the snakes. "Couldn't you guys just find somewhere else to sleep today?"
As if in answer to his question, the hissing quieted and a voice breached the newly quiet air. "Do you wish to crossss the mountainssss?"
"Huh?!" Tidus exclaimed, his gaze darting about wildly in search of the source of that voice. "Where..."
"You are different from the phantomssss," the voice stated and a snake separated itself from the mass and slithered down the mountain. It was larger then the others, with the width and length of a fire hose. Its fangs were about the size of small ice picks. It's eyes the color of an oil slick, black with rainbow reflections of color darting across the surface. It seemed to smile as it slipped away from the mountain and wound it's way towards Tidus.
"Shit. Talking snakes. Great," Tidus grumbled, taking a few quick steps back to keep some distance between himself and the snake. "Hey, um... yeah. I need to get across these mountains."
"Interessssting. What have you to offer me in exchange for your ssssafe passssage?" The snake inquired, coiling around itself a few feet from where Tidus stood.
"What do you want?" Tidus replied carefully, still trying to figure out how he'd ended up negotiating terms with a snake like it was the most normal thing.
"We will take the baggage you carry in exchange for your ssssafe passssage."
"Baggage? What are you talking about?" Tidus began, but even as he spoke he realized that he was only carrying one thing.
"The cold being that you carry with you. Give it to us and you may pass in ssssafety."
Tidus shook his head quickly, taking another step backwards and tightening his hold on Seymour. "No way. That's not happening."
"Then you sssshall not passss," the snake responded and Tidus had the almost irresistible urge to kick the creature. "What does the fate of this creature matter to you?"
"This creature is a friend of mine. Did you really I'd just let you eat him? Just hand him over and say 'bon appetite'? I don't think so," Tidus spat.
"Friend? How sssstrange. Don't you wish to escape this place? This creature's fate has little to do with you."
"Doesn't matter. He helped me and I'm sure as hell not going to repay him by letting him become snake chow."
The snake chuckled, "Foolish human."
"Stupid snake," Tidus replied, glaring down at the chuckling serpent.
"Do you understand what you are protecting, human? That creature is our natural enemy. The only thing which can harm ussss. We have sensed its power, felt that power like a cool wind against our skin. It is dangerous and we shall destroy it. If you cooperate and give it to us willingly then you shall have ssssafe passssage over the mountain. If you do not then we shall devour you along with it. The choice is yours, but know this: If it is not destroyed while it is still weak then it will destroy us all."
Tidus swallowed hard, trying to read the truth of the snake's words. He remembered Seymour's cryptic comments earlier and the awesome display of power that had gotten rid of the phantoms, but he still couldn't see the blue-haired summoner as dangerous. "I can't. I won't. He's isn't what you think he is."
"Tidus? What's going on?" Seymour murmured sleepily, turning his face from Tidus' chest to glance down at the snake.
The snake turned its attention to Seymour and Tidus took another wary step backwards as the serpent spoke. "Cold Child, will you give us payment for safe crossing?"
Tidus watched a sleepy smile play across Seymour's lips, "You will receive no payment from me, Red Serpent. I owe you no payment."
"You have frightened away our dinner. You owe us great payment, Cold Child."
A soft chuckle sounded deep in Seymour's throat and he dropped one arm from its place around Tidus' neck to point one long nailed finger in the serpent's direction. "I have nothing you desire, Red Serpent. You know that well enough. Whatever have you been trying to talk my pretty companion into while I've been sleeping."
"We desire the creature. We will have the creature," the snake responded.
"Who's stopping you? Take it," Seymour responded, pulling his arm back and curling it around Tidus' neck once more. "Give them what they want, Tidus. If you don't the snakes really are going to eat you."
"Don't they want you?" Tidus asked, feeling like he'd somehow missed some very important fact as Seymour laughed softly.
"No. I am not a fit meal for them, Tidus. They desire something... warmer."
"All right. I give up. I have no idea what you or the snake are talking about. What's going on?"
"Just tell the bastard 'yes' and you'll see. Trust me, Tidus. I'm too tired to explain," Seymour murmured, pressing his pale forehead against Tidus' shoulder. "Trust me."
Tidus sighed as he felt Seymour go limp in his arms once more and he turned his attention reluctantly back to the snake. "All right. You win. Take it and let us go."
"Ssssmart boy to listen to the Cold Child," the snake replied and Tidus closed his eyes tightly as the snake slithered across the ground towards him. If the snakes really were going to eat him he sure as hell didn't want to see it coming. A few moments later, he felt the brush of scales against his ankles and tightened his grip on Seymour's body as a sudden high-pitched screaming erupted from behind him. He shivered violently as a warm breeze rushed across his spine and the screaming grew louder. He tasted blood on his tongue and realized that he'd bitten into his lip as the screaming grew ever louder. He didn't want to know what was making that sound, he really didn't want to know.
Another warm blast of wind burst across his bare skin and Tidus felt an answering scream well up in his own throat. How he wanted to scream, to shout. Anything to drown out those piteous cries. Then, quite as suddenly as it had begun, the scream was gone and silence crashed down around him. Somehow the silence was almost worse then the screams that had proceeded it.
Tidus opened his eyes slowly as the snake slithered in front of him once more, "Wh-what was that?"
"The creature. There are others, but you will have to face those on your own. We have done our part. You will pass the mountains without harm from us." The snake turned away from Tidus towards the mountain and a hiss as loud as a lion's roar echoed across the mountains. The snakes that covered the mountains erupted into movement, parting to reveal a steep path. Tidus watched the mass exodus in awe as the snakes continued to retreat until they were only vague shapes in the distance and the hissing had died off into the distance until it was only a soft buzzing like static against the silence left in its wake. Tidus starred at the deep rich brown earth of the mountain before him for a long moment before turning his gaze downwards once more to thank the large snake, only to find that it too was gone.
A slightly hysterical giggle escaped Tidus' lips and he clutched Seymour's slim body tighter as he stood shivering before the mountain, which looked barren without its covering of snakes. "Well, that was fun," he commented finally, as the last shiver shook free of his body. He swallowed hard and felt Seymour's wayward hair give his leg what he assumed was a reassuring squeeze. "I'm okay," he murmured, not quite sure who or what he was trying to convince as he took his first unsteady step towards the mountain path.
The mountain, as it turned out, was just as steep as it had appeared and the path was littered with jutting edges, which acted like steps for Tidus' uncertain feet. He was certain that without those edges he'd never have been able to make it up the mountain at all, because he wouldn't have been able to carry Seymour and he sure as hell couldn't leave the summoner behind. Of course, he had to admit to himself that he wasn't merely taking Seymour along with him because it was the right thing to do. After the incident with the snakes, he wasn't really thrilled with the idea of being alone and even if he was sleeping, just the soft sound of Seymour's breathing was comforting.
He'd managed to struggle almost halfway up the mountain when the sky began to fade to the dark purple that signified night in this place. His arms ached something terrible and the path was becoming progressively steeper to the point where it was becoming almost impossible to climb with only his feet to grip the rough earth. Tidus winced as he stumbled off the third time, wincing as his bare knee contacted the ground. "Damn it!" Tidus yelped, gritting his teeth and stumbling back to his feet once more. "This would be easier if you'd hurry up and wake up so I wouldn't have to carry you," Tidus cast a glare down at the summoner clutched tight against his chest.
"I am awake. Awful hard to sleep with you jostling me about. Can't you be a bit more careful?" Seymour replied coldly, turning his face towards Tidus to return the glare the blond was giving him.
Tidus fought the urge to toss the ungrateful summoner right back down the mountain. "Yes, your majesty. Sorry to wake you from your beauty rest," Tidus grumbled, leaping across a small gap to land on a relatively large patch of flat ground several feet away. "Can you walk?"
"I can barely hold on to you, what do you think?" Seymour responded, dropping his head to Tidus' shoulder once more.
"Yet you still feel well enough to complain. Why don't I find that surprising? Well, do you think you can ride on my back for a while? I'm having a rough time here and it would help if I could use my hands."
Seymour frowned, "Ride on your back? Hmph. Fine."
Tidus nodded and allowed Seymour to slip from his arms. The moment the blue-haired summoner's feet hit the ground, the rest of his body tried to follow them and Tidus found himself holding almost all Seymour's weight in his arms once more. "Woah, hey, you sure you're okay enough for this?"
"Perhaps not. Perhaps you should just leave me here," Seymour's fingers curled tight around Tidus' arms, his long fingernails digging painfully into the blond boy's tan skin. "You really should have left me at the base of the mountain."
"Maybe, but I didn't. Stupid human, remember? If you can't ride on my back then we'll just have to figure something else out, because I'm not leaving you anywhere. We're in this together, Seymour." Tidus smiled as Seymour dropped his head back enough to glare up at him.
"We are not in anything together, human."
"Fine, have it your way," Tidus shrugged amiably, still smiling. "Want to sleep here for the night then?"
"Don't be stupid. We can't rest on the mountain's side. It's not safe," Seymour sighed, biting his lip and using Tidus' arms to push himself unsteadily to his feet. "I'll ride on your back, but you'll have to help me."
"Okay, can you stand on your own a second?"
"I think so," Seymour took a deep breath and released his death grip on Tidus' arms long enough for the blond to turn around and drop into a crouch. Seymour slipped his arms around the blond's neck once more and Tidus lifted him onto his back as he stood.
"Lock your legs around my waist, okay?"
"Yeah." Seymour wound his black-clad legs tight around Tidus' waist and clung to the blond boy's back. "Is this right?"
"Yep, you got it. Hold on tight," Tidus replied, flexing his now free arms before he began scrambling up the mountain path once more. "Hey, since you're awake and all, you mind answering a couple of questions for me?"
"Fair enough. Okay, so why did the snake keep calling you Cold Child? It said it like it was your name or something."
"That's what the snakes call me."
"Okay, yeah, I got that part, but I didn't quite catch the why."
"Everything in this place as a name. Phantoms, snakes, Cold Children. Phantoms are made up of little deaths. I thought they were like the unsent of Spira when I first arrived, but they are not. When a person is disillusioned or their feelings are hurt in some way they sometimes die a little death. A piece of them dies and this is where it goes. Over time, if a person has enough little deaths, those little deaths will form a full-fledged Phantom. The snakes are like enforcers. Things that keep the phantoms from getting out of line. They keep the phantoms restrained to one area. They have always been here."
Tidus frowned, remaining silent for a long moment as he continued to scramble up the path. When he finally spoke it was to ask one question: "How long have you known all this?"
"Since the last time I crossed the mountains," Seymour responded.
Tidus let out a bitter, surprised laugh; "You've crossed the mountains before?"
"Why didn't you tell me that? Why did you tell me it was impossible to cross the mountains?"
"I didn't tell you it was impossible."
"Yeah, but you sure did try and talk me out of it, didn't you?"
"That's my job."
"You heard me the first time, Tidus. I am one of the cold children. It was my job to test you."
"Do you have any idea how much I want to drop-kick you down the mountain right now?"
Seymour chuckled softly, "Some."
"Right, just so long as you know. So why are you telling me all this now?"
"Because you passed the trials. I'm allowed to aid you if I wish."
"Great. So, everything up to now was just an act?"
"Hardly. I have my own motives in this business as well. Though I truly had hoped you would leave me behind at the base of the mountains. I have no desire to cross the Black Forest again."
"The Black Forest? What the hell is the Black Forest?"
"You'll see soon enough. It is just past the mountains. The Mountains of Snakes towers above the perils of the Black Forest, which you must pass through to find the Great River. You must cross the Great River to reach the Stairs of Truth which will lead you at last to the End," Seymour recited it as if it were something he said or heard many times before.
"I can leave you here if you want," Tidus replied, too exhausted to be truly shocked by these latest revelations. "You don't have to go with me."
Seymour shook his head quickly, "No. No. I will go with you."
"Don't ask me that." Seymour replied quickly, tightening his grip around Tidus' neck. "Please don't ask me that."
Tidus sighed, "Okay, I'm too tired to fight with you. Is it safe to take a break when we reach the top of the mountain?"
Neither Tidus nor Seymour spoke again until they had reached the top of the mountain and Tidus and all but collapsed on the relatively flat plateau that made up the mountaintop. Seymour slipped away from him then, apparently strong enough now to clamor away to lie down on the ground a few feet away. "Damn, my arms are killing me," Tidus commented, starring up blankly into the dark purple sky above. He turned his gaze slowly to the blue-haired summoner lying a few feet away, "Seymour."
"How long have you been here?"
"A long, long time. Over ten years if your memories of me are any indication."
"You said you were a Cold Child. What is a Cold Child?"
"I told you that Phantoms are constructs formed from little deaths, right? From what I've been told, a Cold Child comes into being when a large part of the soul dies. It's usually triggered by some overwhelming tragedy of some kind or other," Seymour murmured, his face suspiciously devoid of emotion.
Tidus wanted to ask what had happened to Seymour. He wanted desperately to know what event had turned the boy before him into the monster he had known during his time in Spira. He even opened his mouth to ask the question, but in the end he couldn't do it. So instead he turned his attention to other matters, "Before you did your little light show for the phantoms you said something about not being afraid of things in the dark. What did you mean?"
Blue eyes washed gray by darkness closed and a soft sigh escaped Seymour's lips. "Why do you always ask me questions I don't wish to answer?"
"Talent. What'd you mean?"
"I don't have to answer that, you know."
Tidus let out an exasperated sigh, rolling onto his back to stare up at the sky. "Fine."
"Can I sleep next to you?"
Tidus started at that, rolling over to face the summoner once more, "Huh?!"
"Forget it," Seymour grumbled, rolling over to face the opposite direction.
Tidus starred at the summoner's back for a long moment before slipping across the distance between them and flinging an arm across the blue-haired boy's body, "Probably safer this way, right? If something happens to one of us then the other one will know right away, right?"
"Yes," Seymour whispered, closing the last distance between them so that his body was pressed firmly against Tidus' chest, "... thank you."
"Good night, Seymour."
It was still dark when Tidus awoke with his face buried against Seymour's neck, the summoner's hair draped like a dark curtain across his cheek. He noted absently that the boy smelled a bit like the flowers he'd run across while in Besaid which was kinda weird, but not in a bad way. In fact, it was kinda nice because that smell reminded him of Yuna.
What was she doing now? She'd said that she'd loved him before he'd left, but surely she'd gone on with her life. Still, it would be good to see her again, to see them all again. Yuna, Lulu, Wakka, Rikku, Kimarai... how he missed them. His father and Auron, too. Maybe if he went to live on Spira for the remainder of his days he'd get to see Auron and Jecht again someday. Tidus smiled sadly, sighing against Seymour's neck as he thought of all those he loved. He was just beginning to drift back off when he was startled to full awareness once more by... something. Tidus frowned, straining his ears for anything out of the ordinary, but all he could hear was the soft rhythmic sound of Seymour's breathing.
A chill clawed up his spine and he jerked to full awareness, bolting into a sitting position and starring blindly into the dark. Now that was weird. It was way too dark. The sky overhead, which should have been a dark purple, was instead the deepest black. The black of the night seemed to surround him, pulling tight against him, and there was something out there. He couldn't hear it or see it, but he knew it was there. He could feel it like the cool chill of fear upon his skin.
His breath was coming in deep, panicked gasps as he lay back down besides Seymour, pulling the summoner tight against him. "Seymour. Wake up," he rasped, aware that he was practically clinging to the boy and not really caring.
"I am awake. I feel it too." Seymour whispered, raising a hand to touch Tidus' arm where it curled around his chest. "Calm down. It can't hurt you, Tidus."
"That's so comforting. It's too dark here. Way, way too dark."
"I know. It's always like this," Seymour murmured and Tidus could hear the undercurrent of fear in the summoner's voice. "Always. I am not afraid of the things in the dark. I am not afraid of things in the dark."
"Hey, you okay? I thought you said it couldn't hurt us. If it can't hurt us, why are you freaking out?"
"I am not freaking out. I am perfectly fine, but no I did not say that it could not hurt us. I said that it could not hurt you, nitwit. Pay attention for Yevon's sake."
"Right. Okay. It, whatever it is, can't hurt me, but it can hurt you. So, what should we do?"
"I don't know. I don't know," Seymour murmured, his voice betraying his panic. "I'm so cold. I hate this place. I really, really hate this place. I am not afraid of the things in the dark. I just don't want to be here. I really, really don't want to be here."
Tidus grimaced, shoving his free arm beneath Seymour's body so that he could hold the summoner more firmly as the blue-haired boy curled tighter against him. He curled his body around Seymour's, shielding and cradling the summoner as best he could. "Hey, it's okay. I'm not going to let anything hurt you."
"Tidus. Don't say things like that. Words have power in this place." Seymour whispered harshly, his fingernails biting into Tidus' abused arms.
"No. You can't protect me from this. If you try then you'll just make yourself vulnerable to it."
"I don't care. I'm gonna protect you. I won't let anything hurt you."
"Tidus... you shouldn't..." Seymour turned in Tidus' embrace, cuddling against his chest, his breath strangely warm against Tidus' cheek. It felt almost good.
"Doesn't matter. You've helped me more than once. You're staying here with me even though you're scared. You're... you're my friend, Seymour, even if you don't want to be. Friends help each other."
"You're human. I'm no friend of yours," Seymour replied, the bitterness in his voice overriding the fear.
"Would you quit it with the human thing already? We're both people, Seymour."
"Fine. What is it that you want from me in exchange for your protection?"
"Lies. You must want something or why else would you wish to help me? Do you want information?"
"Then perhaps you want something more substantial." Seymour lowered his lips to Tidus' neck, licking a quick path across the skin and blowing warm air against it. Tidus gasped as things low in his body jerked in response to that warm breath.
"Wh-what are you..."
"This is what you want, isn't it?" Seymour questioned, his voice almost angry as he lowered his lips against Tidus' neck once more. He sucked a bit of skin into his mouth pulling hard enough that Tidus knew that it would probably bruise, but it still felt horrifyingly good.
"Okay, okay. Stop that," Tidus murmured, his voice sounding far softer and more intimate then he'd intended. He took a deep breath as Seymour chose a new part of his neck to suck on and spoke again, far more firmly this time. "Seymour. Stop. I don't want anything like this from you, okay?"
"Your body makes a liar of you, human." Seymour replied, pushing his own body tighter against Tidus' until there wasn't a single inch of skin from chest to thigh that wasn't touching. He bit Tidus' shoulder gently before drawing back enough to touch their lips together, it wasn't quite a kiss yet, just a mere touching of lips, but that was almost more intimate then any kiss Tidus had ever shared.
Tidus inhaled sharply, but didn't move away from the touch of Seymour's lips as he spoke, "I haven't really been touched by anyone like that in a while, Seymour. I'm a guy, it's not a big surprise that my body leaps to attention when someone starts licking and sucking on my neck."
He felt Seymour relax against him and he could feel the boy's smile playing against his lips, "You really don't want anything from me, do you?"
"Well," Tidus couldn't help the smile that came over his own lips as Seymour twisted in his embrace to put his back to his chest once more. "I would like you to quit with the 'let's see if Tidus really is jerk' tests. That would be nice."
"Hm. Perhaps you're right. I just find it strange that you want nothing from me."
"S'okay. Are you all right now?"
"I've been better," Seymour replied, his voice sounding a bit shaky. "I hate this place."
"Well, that makes two of us. Let's just try and get some more sleep, huh? Whatever that thing was, I think it's gone now."
"Yes. I can't feel it anymore either. It will be back, but not tonight. It will wait until we are within the Black Forest, I think." A hint of fear had worked its way into Seymour's voice once more. "We'll both need to be well-rested for that."
"Is it that bad? The Black Forest, I mean."
"However bad you think it is just from hearing my reluctance and fear, the reality of the place is actually far worse."
"Great. Just so long as there aren't any snakes there."
"No, there aren't any snakes there."
"Seymour? Did you really think the snakes were going to eat me?"
"Good night, Tidus."
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