Break Free Chapter 1

The Game

By ???

The locker room was completely abandoned except for the lone blitzball player who sat dejectedly on the low bench. Bright lights illuminated the room, one of them flickering annoyingly above him. Row upon row of empty lockers filled the space, their dull grayness reflecting his attitude perfectly.

They had lost the game in overtime. A game that they should have won, and would have, had it not been for his foolish mistake. He remembered how shocked he had been when it happened, the look on his teammates' faces, and the boos of the crowd when he lost the home team the championship that was rightly theirs.

But more had been lost than just a game, and everybody knew it. The Cup of the Fayth was a favorite for scouts, and with that last play he had lost not only the win, the MVP and his pride, but also any chance of his making the pros this year. And it was so important that he get drafted this time. If he got passed up a second time they'd start comparing him to his old man again, only this time in a negative way.

The year was divided into two blitzball seasons. The minors played during the winter in smaller, indoor arenas and held their championship in early spring, just before the drafts. For a player like Tidus, if you played well in the post-season there was a good chance you'd be invited to training camp in mid-spring.

He had been the star of the tournament, had scored nine goals in the last two games and had practically guaranteed himself Tournament MVP. But there was no room in the sport for screw-ups. And nobody wants a player who would do something stupid like that on their team, he thought to himself.

Suddenly furious at the situation he had gotten himself into, Tidus stood up and violently kicked one of the lockers, shaking the whole row. Pulling his bag out from underneath the bench, he stormed angrily towards the door. When he reached it however, the door unexpectedly swung open, hitting him in the head.

Even more aggravated than before, Tidus slammed the door shut and turned to face his foe. He scowled when it turned out to be Alextra who had come in to look for him.

The moment his teammate saw his face she burst out laughing. Flinging a stray braid over her shoulder she leaned against a locker and grinned at him. "Have you been sulking in here the whole time?" she asked, playing with one of the locker doors.

"I was not sulking!" he retorted, rubbing the growing bump on his forehead.

"Could've fooled me."

"What did you come back in here for anyway?" he asked, annoyed with the sudden intrusion.

"Auron's looking for you, you know."

Tidus groaned. "What does he want?"

"Well chances are he saw the game, so I would guess that-"

"I know what he wants Alex!"

"Then why did you ask?" She blinked prettily, putting on her best innocent face and laughing when he rolled his eyes. Then her expression changed rapidly, the playful smile leaving her face. "Seriously though Tidus, you shouldn't take it so hard. So we lost the championship, big deal! There's always next year. And who knows, maybe you'll still get drafted; I bet the Abes would love to have Jecht's son on their team."

"I see you got over it fast," he muttered, kicking the tiled floor half-heartedly.

Alex shrugged. "I only dwell on the things I can change."

He snorted, dropped his black duffel bag and sat down next to her, his eyes fixed on the floor.

Sighing, Alextra closed the locker door. "Suit yourself. Just don't become a big crybaby on me," she said mockingly, leaving the room. She started to close the door, then stopped and poked her head back inside. "Oh, and don't forget to call Auron."

He waved her away, his mind still consumed by her previous comment.

Stop crying…
He'll cry if you don't…
Always crying…

"SHUT UP!" he yelled, jumping to his feet and hitting one of the empty lockers with a powerful punch.

He stood there for a bit, breathing heavily, his tanned face glistening in the light. Finally he picked up his bag, wiped the tears away with his sleeve, and left the room, rubbing his forehead from where the door had hit him.

Pulling the door to the arena shut behind him, Tidus breathed in, filling his lungs with the crisp night air. He wandered along the overpass towards his house, his downcast eyes staring at the cracks that lined the pavement.

The cool march air blew about him, its sharp bite cold in the night. Murky puddles from the morning's rainstorm dotted the road, the wind sending gentle ripples across their surface. The bright lights of Zanarkand lit the world around him. Billboards competed for the attention of the passerbys, only to find themselves ignored by their audience. One poster caught his eye however; a smaller one attached to one of the streetlights. Its bold red letters advertised for the Cup of the Fayth, and pointed back to where he had been, towards the arena.

Scowling, Tidus ripped it down and threw it over the railing. Satisfied, he returned his attention back to the cracks and puddles. He wandered along aimlessly, unaware of the people he passed or the sounds of traffic below him. Walking around one of the larger puddles, Tidus accidentally bumped right into someone.

"Sorry," he said, not even looking up.

"It was a bad call," the man said, turning around.

Tidus stopped and rolled his eyes before turning to face him. "Hey Auron."

"Your team lost because of you."

"You think I don't know that?" he shouted, waving his arms in the air.

"Mark III, wasn't it?"

Tidus turned around and looked down the road. Advertisements for the game greeted him on every street lamp; it was impossible to escape their cries for attention. He closed his eyes for a moment, trying to wipe the image from his mind. "Just shut up Auron."

"Stupid piece of shit," he muttered, struggling with the lock. Pulling back on the door with all his weight, Tidus forced the key to turn to the left. Finally, he heard a click and pulled his key out of the door. Pushing it open he walked inside and flicked on the lights.

Shutting the door behind him, he dropped his bag and walked over to the fridge. Taking an old note off the door, he crumpled the grocery list in his hand and threw it in the garbage. Tidus smiled to himself when it went in, then turned back and opened the fridge. Removing a half-empty jug of orange juice, he reached over and pulled out a tall glass from the cupboard. Closing the door with his foot, he headed over to the counter while filling the glass and taking a drink.

Setting it down on the counter, his gaze drifted over to the answering machine by the wall. The white light was flashing, telling him he had a message. Pressing the button, he went back to his orange juice.

"You have, three, new messages. First Message; 3:48 PM."

"Hey Tidus!" Alextra's cheery voice greeted him. "It's 3:45, I'm just calling to remind you that warm-up is at six o'clock, so don't be late like last time! We're gonna kick some serious ass tonight man! See ya!"

"End of message."

Tidus shook his head and poured himself another glass of orange juice. "Your clock's wrong Alex."

"Second Message; 8:57 PM."

"You have a chemistry lab due tomorrow."

"End of message."

Groaning, Tidus looked over to the coffee table where a large pile of homework sat waiting for him.

"Third message; 10:53 PM."

"Huh. I thought you'd be home by now, but I guess you're still crying cuz you're not as good as your old man. You lost the game for us Mcraye. Show up tomorrow if you still think you're worthy. Four o'clock sharp."

"End of message."

Tidus scowled at the sound of his rival's voice. Randy Dejean was Tidus' closest competition, and the only one on the team who seemed to hate Jecht as much as he did. But with that hatred came an even stronger one for Tidus, who had beaten him two years ago for the position of captain on the Dragons. They'd been competing since they were kids, and Randy knew each and every one of Tidus' weak spots; including Alextra. Randy had been after her as soon he discovered Tidus was. The two had broken up just before the tournament, but the sharp-tongued blitzball player was still trying to get her back.

He had challenged Tidus to a one-on-one match early last week, when they had beaten the Fiends to make it into the semi-finals. Their coach had found out about it though and told them that it could wait 'till they were done with the tournament; and if it couldn't, then they wouldn't be playing period.

Tidus erased the messages and sadly looked at his empty glass. Putting the orange juice back in the fridge, he walked over to the couch where The Great Pile of Homework sat in front of him.

This isn't fair, he thought. I should be out celebrating, not sitting here doing homework! He reached for his chemistry textbook and turned it to the page his lab was on. He sat there for about fifteen minutes reading it before giving up, deciding that he would never understand something as tiny as an atom. Reaching for the remote control, he turned the TV on and sank into the couch.

"In sports tonight, The Cup of the Fayth finished in overtime with the Blasters taking home the cup to a score of 2-1. Allan Trebor recovered a botched shot by Minor League superstar Tidus Mcraye for the winner with seventeen seconds remaining. For complete coverage, stay tuned for the 11:30 broadcast of The Blitzer Report, next on TSC."

Tidus scrambled for the remote, which had fallen onto the floor when he had tossed it on the table. Fumbling with the batteries, he quickly popped them back into place and sat on the ground mashing the on/off button until it finally turned off.

Tidus turned when he heard a key in the lock. The door opened effortlessly and Auron walked in. Shaking the rain off of his umbrella he placed it in a corner and left the hallway, closing the door behind him.

Tidus, who was used to Auron's lack of difficulty with the door, simply said, "Where'd you get the umbrella?"

"I bought it from a man on the street."

"Those guys just rip people off y'know," he said, turning back to the black TV screen.

"I know." Sitting down on the couch, Auron opened the abandoned chemistry book and looked at it for a bit before closing it again without saying a word. He sat there for a moment, looking at Tidus; the teenager's back still turned to him. Finding himself unable to say what it was that he wanted to, the grim warrior merely said, "Is there something wrong with this couch that made you sit on the floor?"

"Huh? Oh, no, I just lost the control. And I had to turn the TV off," he answered, half turning to look at him.

"And the power button on the actual television set doesn't work anymore?"

"It does, I just… forgot about it is all."

"Evidently. Did you get my message?"

Tidus looked away, suddenly fascinated by the threads of the carpet. "Yeah, I got it."


"All finished!" he said, looking up to meet Auron eye-to-eye.

"Good. Were you planning on going to bed sometime today?"

"I'm not a kid anymore Auron!"

"I know."

"I can go to bed whenever I want."

"Of course."

Giving in, Tidus put the remote back on the table, stood up and walked into his bedroom. "Don't wake me up in the morning, I don't care if it makes me late."

"I wouldn't even dream of it."

Tidus looked at him skeptically for a moment before closing the door.

Auron waited a little bit before reaching for the remote and turning the TV on. He set it on mute, not wanting Tidus to know that he was watching The Blitzer Report. The last thing that kid needed was to see replay after replay of him losing the game.

As far as Auron could tell, the man, who the station seemed to have named Blitz, was leading up to the game footage with the usual assault of witty remarks and criticism that you expected from an all-day sports network.

He listened carefully as the water turned on in the ensuite bathroom, trying to determine whether or not Tidus would be coming back out for something. The water turned off and Auron heard the door to the bathroom close. Turning around he watched as the light shining out from underneath the door disappeared. He stayed like that for a moment, watching. When the door did not open he turned back to the television.

The replays had started and the Dragons' first goal was being shown. Auron recognized the scorer as Alextra, that girl who Tidus had been spending more time with lately. Why was she on his line again? She didn't use to be…

The replay ended and Blitz began talking again. It seemed as if the whole show was going to be about the game. Not surprising, Auron thought grimly. There's nothing else going on in the leagues and without Blitzball the fayth might actually have to start dreaming up some thoughts for them.

It was weird to think of it that way. Despite the fact that he constantly reminded himself of it, it always got him that this city, these people, weren't real. Jecht had been real enough. No, not been real. He was still real, just… different. Tidus wasn't though, no matter how easy it was to think of him that way. He had to remember that none of this mattered; that it was all just a dream.

No, of all the people in this dream world, Tidus was probably the most important of all of them. He wondered if the fayth knew what was going to happen; if they knew that Sin was coming for him.

Auron watched the Blasters first goal that was being shown. The blue and white ball cut straight through the defense and into the top right corner of the net. They skipped the talking this time and cut straight to a spectacular save made by the Dragons' goalie. The ball had somehow made its way behind him, but before any player could pounce on it, Theo had leapt up and caught it behind his back. They showed that from a couple different angles (the most spectacular was the overhead shot), before going into overtime.

It had been a fantastic five minutes of play; that was for sure. The station seemed to know this and showed the entire thing, uninterrupted. Even the refs didn't interrupt very much. The two teams were predominately offensive, but had both opted for a tight defensive strategy heading into overtime. It took two minutes before either team got a shot on net, which was soft anyway, and easily stopped by Theo.

The minutes ticked away until finally play was stopped. The ref called for a blitz off just inside the Blasters' zone. Alex won it, and passed it over to Tidus, who was six feet away from the net. Auron leaned forward as Tidus dove for the pass, practically jumping over the two players who were covering him in order to catch the ball. A loud beep sounded; there was less than a minute to go now, and something had to be done. Reaching for the remote, Auron didn't take his eyes off the screen as Tidus looked around for someone to pass to. But there wasn't anybody, and now they only had forty-five seconds.

Had he known what he was going to do then? There was no real way to know except to ask him, and Auron certainly wasn't about to do that. One blocker out, then the other. The ball went up and so did Tidus, spinning in the air just like his father used to do.

He missed. The ball got kicked to one of the Blasters and he was soon on a breakaway, closing in on the net with less than thirty seconds to go. The first shot was blocked, but Trebor caught his own rebound and put it in the net with little difficulty.

And that was the end of it. The Blasters started celebrating and were slowly making their way out of the sphere pool to claim the cup. The camera zoomed in on Tidus, floating in front of the net, his expression unreadable but his thoughts as clear as day.

It went back to Blitz, who had been joined by someone else at the desk. The two were obviously talking about the last minute, just like everyone else was. Auron leant back, tossing the control up and down.

The door closed, causing Auron to sit up suddenly and look behind him. He squinted for a moment before shifting back around and turning the TV off. He hadn't meant for him to see that tonight. Not that he was trying to protect him; it would be impossible for the kid to avoid it forever, but because, well… because he didn't need to see it so soon afterwards. Later maybe, when he could think about it rationally, if that ever happened. Auron knew Tidus well enough to know that the generally happy sixteen year-old may never get over it, especially if he wasn't drafted this year.

Well, there was nothing that could be done about it now. So he'd seen it, big deal! He'd said it himself, he wasn't a kid anymore and he had to learn how to deal with this sort of thing.

Propping a pillow up, Auron lay down on the couch and went to sleep.

Author's Notes: Nothing much here. Don't you think Tidus could so be the poster boy for orange juice? Oh and just so you know, Alextra is the girl who plays for the Duggles in the blitzball FMV.

Cold Fusion

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