When friend turns foe and lover into stranger, there are painful choices to make.
Lulu's hands in his hair went still. Between one moment and the next, ecstasy had turned to frantic revulsion. It was Auron's body, his hands, his face, his beautiful voice, and dear Yevon it was his strong forceful thrusts driving into her, but the rhythm was all wrong, speeding up to a ragged, violent tempo that jarred her from her toes to her teeth. When she opened her mouth to protest, she found his features twisted into a cruel, heartless grin, distorted by the throes of lust. The leer in his eye was that of an utter stranger.
"Auron!" she gasped.
Contemptuous laughter was the only answer. Lulu tried to twist her way free, but the warrior's powerful hands clamped around her waist and held her anchored against the stone pedestal. That same strength she so admired was suddenly her worst enemy. He continued to pump into her mercilessly, and the sounds and sensations were so vile that she had to bite back the overwhelming urge to blast him with every magic she possessed. At this range she might kill them both. Then again, it might be preferable. Bile rose in the back of her throat as she struggled not to scream.
The sorceress' outrage trumped her panic, barely. "Leave him alone! He owes you nothing!"
The face that looked like Auron's smiled coolly and patronizingly. "Only your life." He thrust his tongue between her teeth, and she wanted to bite right through it. But Auron's body would pay the price.
Lulu fought and spat and finally managed to push his tongue out of her mouth, jerking her head aside. Auron's name hammered inside her mind in a frantic summons, but she would not let herself cry out again, despite the alien creature lunging between her thighs with savage lust as if she were a ragdoll caught in the jaws of a beast. Worse still, her body did not recognize betrayal, and the heat of her arousal was threatening to overtake her. The double thrill of horror and pleasure was excrutiating, and she found herself trembling with the effort of trying to hold back her climax.
Her heart was screaming, angry and afraid. Where was Auron? What had the Fayth done with him? Surely he had not been Sent so easily, after all he had endured?
Her assailant was pawing at her, squeezing her breasts, yanking her nipples brutally, barely giving her a chance to breathe, let alone think. She was not about to yield him any more satisfaction than she could help, however. Her face went cold and stark, and her body limp: the intruder might as well be the one fucking a corpse.
Auron-- no, Yojimbo, curse him-- gripped her chin and wrenched her face back towards him. He was breathing in harsh, hungry gasps like a predator closing on its kill. A wicked gleam of triumph was in his eyes. Yojimbo reared his head back, and she felt his horrible thrusts growing more intense, pushing her thighs apart and driving into her as hard as Auron had that night when she had teased him to a frenzy.
The sorceress breathed out, skimming a hand up the side of his neck. She mustered every ounce of will to block out what he was doing to her, inside of her. She had cast spells before with poison raging in her veins. This, too, was poison.
And she was death.
The dark mage cupped her hand, nails pricking just where his pulse should have been. The ghastly gleam in his eye winked out as his body went limp and boneless against her. She shoved at him desperately, and he toppled, falling away and out of her like a collapsing sail ripped from its stays. Auron's body hit the ground hard and lay still.
Lulu crumpled, rolled onto her side and drew her knees against herself, burying her face in her arms and taking great gulping breaths. She could smell Auron's scent on the fabric of his coat beneath her, but that was hardly reassuring right now. Her whole body seethed with pain and nausea.
"Impressive," said a disinterested voice near her shoulder. "That's the second time you've killed someone dear to you outside my cave. Although your Summoner's death was mere carelessness."
Lulu jerked upright, hands curling defensively, although she had no power to affect the Fayth's native guise. Yojimbo's ghostly form was hovering at her elbow, and Auron lay below her in a painful sprawl of limbs. Sick with dread, Lulu slid off the shelf and knelt at the warrior's side, setting a white hand against his cheek. He was cold and stiff as if he had lain there for hours. She struggled to heave him onto his back, then reached for her discarded gown and fumbled in the sleeve. What had Yojimbo done to him, and for that matter, what had she done? She did not know what spell she had used: new magic usually came to her by discipline's mastery, not fury and despair. Would phoenix down be enough to call him back?
Her fingers closed over a small glass vial. She drew it out and carefully snapped off the cap, willing her hands not to shake.
Yojimbo watched with arms folded. "Suppose I ask for that instead?" he laughed.
Chilled, pale, and naked before the spirit's contemptuous gaze, Lulu raised her chin and fixed him with a marrow-curdling glare. "Suppose I bring down the mountainside over your cave and seal you to fester in your own filth, alone for all eternity?"
"I'll grant you one thing, girl, you're more honest than most who come fawning to me for favors. So, are you forfeiting the bargain?" He sounded indifferent. "Your life for his? Rather pointless under the circumstances, don't you think?"
"I am in no mood for your games," she hissed, turning her attention back to Auron. Carefully she shook the wispy golden fibers within the vial onto her open palm and breathed on them. They glowed and crackled to life like liquid flame, the hot molten shimmer of a furnace. Quickly she scattered the burning filaments across his face, praying silently to a god whom the ex-monk did not seem to care for. The minute strands of fire instantly burned away to ash, clinging to the stubble on his grey cheeks.
The seconds dragged out. Lulu kissed the dark scar over his brow, cursing herself for ever dragging them to Yojimbo's lair. Finally Auron's eye snapped open. She flinched again, for there was no sign of recognition in his face, only fiendlike rage. Rolling away from her, he shoved off from the ground, staggered to his feet, and wrenched his sword from the earth, lumbering towards Yojimbo like a beserk Ronso. Insubstantial or not, the Fayth retreated before the warrior's wrath. Yojimbo raised his arm in what Lulu recognized as a summons.
"No!" Lulu gripped the stony wall and pushed herself to her feet, putting every ounce of will she could into her voice. "Auron, wait."
The swordsman halted, chest heaving, blade balanced above and behind his shoulders for a swing. On another night Lulu might have been able to enjoy the image: muscles in his back straining, his whole physique a lean thunderclap of muscle and sinew, the hair streaming down his neck and shoulders where it had come unmoored from the thong that usually kept it pinned back. Right now it was all she could do not to yield to the boiling horror in her gut telling her to bolt and run.
"Sir Auron. Do you hear me? Yuna needs you. Don't slip away." Her voice cracked. "Please."
Yojimbo gave a derisive snort. "Your bitch has you lapping out of her hands. Some comedown for the legendary hero."
Auron's shoulders shifted subtly, and he straightened. "Check a mirror," he rasped.
Lulu sagged against the wall. However, there was still Yojimbo to deal with. She regarded him balefully, her voice thin and shrill to her ears as she spat out, "Sir Auron is excluded from this exchange. Your business is with /me/. You had what you asked for, until you violated the terms."
"Don't presume to lecture me, girl," Yojimbo said ominously. "You named no such terms."
His cold voice nearly cost her what few scraps of self-possession she had left; she could still feel Auron's body battering her without mercy. The real Sir Auron was tensing for a spring: she saw the muscles of his shoulders and back bunching and knew she must act. "Are you sure you should not be called /faithless/? Name your price. Anything I have with me... save Auron." She had a sinking feeling she knew what the capricious spirit would ask for next. Right now, she almost thought it would be easier.
Yojimbo laughed. "Then I will take what you are carrying now. That would be sufficient."
Lulu blinked in confused astonishment and looked down at the empty bottle in her hands.
A spasm of utter fury erupted from Auron's throat. He launched himself at Yojimbo. However, at the last second, he flung the black sword to the ground with a clang. "Take it."
Lulu's mouth dropped open. "Sir Auron!"
Auron thundered onwards as if he had not heard. "This ends /now/. Yojimbo, that is our final offer. That sword has cut Sin's dying flesh and bathed in the the lights of lost Zanarkand. It shielded Lord Braska's life a dozen times over before his journey's end. More than sufficient for guarding a wretched girl for a single night."
Yojimbo's eyes gleamed behind the birdlike mask. "The sword of Sir Auron, legendary hero. Yes. Yes, that, I think, will do." He set a dim shadowy hand across the hilts, caressing it. "I had a sword like this."
Lulu slipped towards Sir Auron shakily, setting a hand against his elbow. "Are you sure?" she breathed.
"No," he snarled irritably, "but I promised Yuna I'd bring you back. Get dressed. We're leaving."
Reeling at the rebuke, Lulu let her hand fall. She returned to collect her clothes and donned them in numb silence, feeling the sordid marks of his hands on her body as she laced her bodice over her bruises. She did not raise her eyes as Auron re-girt himself in his cuirass and coat, nor did she ask how they were to survive the return trip without Yojimbo's hateful aid or Auron's trusty blade. Numbly she rose to her feet and planted herself beside the warrior, who stood waiting for her with arms folded and barely spared her a glance.
Yojimbo chuckled softly behind them as they moved off. "You think me cruel. But you are far more cruel, hero. Do you really think that child is strong enough to survive your Sending, when the time comes?"
"I am no child," Lulu said through gritted teeth.
Auron's face was cold.