Healing. (Suggestion: If you have it handy, pop in the "Ending Theme" from the FFX soundtrack.)
Pale gold steam drifted in clumps and billows over the pool's surface, rising from reddened skin. Auron stood rooted in the shallows, arms loosely encircling Lulu's hips as she floated against him trailing kisses like fluttering leaves across his cheeks. The suspended coils of her braids circled around them. If Lulu did not wind up netting him it would be a wonder.
"Is that a problem?" the mage purred languidly at his ear.
Auron snorted and unwrapped his arm, swirling the water gently to swing the unravelling carpet of black tendrils behind her shoulderblades. "That depends on whether you mind calling someone to cut us loose. Tidus, for example?"
"Hm. Point taken."
Idle conversation faded as they feinted and bumped against each other, reconsecrating secrets that the stolen Fayth had defiled. Lulu kept one hand clamped on his shoulder to keep from sinking. The sorceress' amber eyes were half-closed. Hot steam clinging to her cheeks trickled downwards in rivulets, dripping from the black ribbons of hair across her face. She looked ravishing and ravishable, rising out of the water in a splash of pale moon-curves, her naked form glimmering below the waterline like Macalania blossoms. Yet Auron found himself clasping only her beauty, not /her/. More than her eyes were shuttered.
The swordsman eased his hand over her fingers digging into his shoulder. "Lulu. You're still fighting him."
"No!" A stormy scowl twisted her features. Steam rising from her inflamed skin served to emphasize her indignation. "Auron, don't you dare--"
Something in his strained expression, the tightness around his good eye, reminded Lulu of his stoic silence during the day's battle, persevering with bullets lodged in his side. She wilted abruptly. "I'm sorry." Stroking his jaw with a fingernail, she admitted in a guarded mutter, "I hate this."
"I know." Auron skipped a light kiss across her cheekbone. "Perhaps it would be wiser for you to rest. Do you want to go back?"
"To the others, Lulu." His arms tightened around her hips, unwittingly sending her a quite different signal.
"And lose our last chance?" Her hand snaked its way down his throat, tracing a meandering path until her fingers nestled over his heart where he had placed them during their last ill-fated encounter. "Zanarkand is only a few days away, and Yuna will require our full attention from here on. I assume you will be leaving us as soon as her business there is finished." She paused, steeling herself for his subtle nod. "I wanted to give you tonight, Auron."
"A gift for yourself as well?" he rumbled wryly.
"Of course. But--" she scaled his body to deposit another reverent kiss against his sealed eye-- "you've given so much. Please. Make the most of the time you have left."
"Hmph." Auron dropped his gaze, pleasantly distracted by the gleam of her white breasts and shoulders adorned with nothing more than clear ripples. "Braska said the same thing."
"Lord Braska was a wise man." With a melancholy smile, she twined her limbs around his chest and thighs, smooth skin gliding across scars as her fingers began to work his sore muscles with firm, deft strokes. Auron groaned and yielded to her sensuous ministrations, responding with ragged kisses lavished over every part of her that he could reach. Lulu tensed under the delicious bombardment but refused to shy away, chasing his lips when he straightened to give her a moment's respite.
"Are you sure you still trust me?" he queried bluntly.
Obstinate as ever, the sorceress laced her fingers with his and waited for her racing heart to subside. It was difficult to tell whether the hammering pulse between their hands was one heartbeat or two. She hesitated, then lowered her voice to a hypnotic whisper that seemed to emanate as much from the curling steam as her own slender frame. "Auron. Last night, just before Wakka revived me, I found myself in a vivid dream. We were back on the docks in Kilika, where Yuna performed a Sending a few days before you joined us." Her silken voice could not fully convey the swirling energies of a Summoner's dance bridging the gap between life and death, but Auron's grip tightened as she spoke. "You and I stood on the water's brink as if it were solid glass. Yuna danced the Sending around us. Our friends kept vigil, and white gulls were singing the Hymn of the Fayth. It was a celebration, Auron, although it was a farewell. Every color, every sound, every scent was richer and more vibrant than the deepest magic I know. We held each other just like this, and then--" The mage's last words melted into another ardent kiss that eclipsed mere dreams.
Eventually Auron wrenched himself away, regarding her with sober compassion. "You said there was nothing between us."
Violet lips curled into a rueful smile. "I suppose I may have been mistaken." Her fingertips teased the corner of his mouth until he succumbed to a smirk. "Does that trouble you?"
"It is... fine." Auron lifted her knuckles to his lips, capturing her gaze with a brooding intensity that belied his mild words. Lulu's breath caught in anticipation.
Shaking his head, he steered her into the shallows, leaning past her to retrieve a folded towel and place it on the pool's rim. Molding her with his hands, he coaxed her to lie back and stretch out with her head and shoulders pillowed on the simple cushion. Quietly he lifted her hair in dripping handfuls and arranged it on the polished stone flags, combing it smooth with his fingers. Finally, his palm slipped under the small of her back, steadying her. "Comfortable?"
"Mmm." Lulu's body swayed gently, cradled by warm water and the heel of his hand. She reached down to splay her fingers against the top step for extra balance. "I think so."
"Then relax." Unhurriedly he began to suckle her shoulder, her neck, the swell of one breast, breathing heavily against her wet skin between kisses. "Remember, Lulu, you're still in control."
She gasped as his teeth closed lightly around a nipple, tongue circling. "Thank you," she replied huskily.
The swordsman grazed her curves in a meandering path, allowing the movement of the water to carry her beneath him like a drifting raft of lilies. Fingers and lips glided across her heated skin with a delicacy that would once have astonished her. Occasionally he scooped hot water over her when her flesh began to cool. Above his bowed shoulders, the moon glided in and out of its dark cocoon of clouds until she felt as if she were flying instead of floating. Moonlight and the hot spring's faint luminescence painted the planes of his face and upper body like graven marble, and tiny silvered beads of water clung to his skin. Lulu lay gazing up at him with a weary smile, half expecting him to dissolve into pyreflies. A few intimate caresses over her breasts made her stiffen, but he was being so profoundly gentle that it was not long before she was rocking involuntarily, throat arched and body spread loosely in mute invitation, answering every touch with mewling sighs. Auron growled back, evidently enjoying the feast she was offering up to him.
There was a splash, and Lulu felt his tongue lapping at her from underneath for a moment before he stood up between her legs, draping them over his shoulders. "Maybe," he remarked with a feral chuckle that would have melted her knees had she been standing, "you're a little too relaxed." He paused to survey her voluptuous form, stubbled cheeks resting against her inner thighs.
The mage reached down, swept her fingers through his dripping ponytail and drew him against herself with a sultry whisper. "I believe you're right." Her eyes fluttered closed again with a moan when he nuzzled the wet fur between her legs, tongue burrowing inward. This field was new to him, and Auron quickly set about exploring. He was far from quiet, suckling her noisily as she shuddered against his mouth. Water sloshed over the sides of the pool, mimicking their movements. He might still be learning her hidden landscape by touch and by the pitch of her whimpers, but Lulu was soon far too aroused to notice any signs of inexperience. Suddenly she realized that his fingers had joined his tongue, working her within while his mouth ravished her. Their rolling, soothing strokes were very different from the fierce torture he had teased her with in the past.
She felt only the briefest surge of nausea. Yojimbo had been a brutal intruder, callously ignoring her resistance. Auron made love with the same dynamic knowledge of the body that served him in combat, responding to the most minute signals of panting breath or shifting hips.
Opening her eyes, she gazed downward, drinking in the sight of his dark head framed between her breasts. Some time ago, the hand that had been supporting her lower back had dropped away. From his harsh breathing and the rippling movements of his shoulder under her left knee, she guessed why.
"Auron." How many times had she moaned his name tonight? Another wracked cry overtook her as his tongue fluttered exquisitely just /there/. "Auron, wait. Don't you want more?"
A provocative lick made her squirm so much that she was in danger of slipping off his shoulders. "You are sure?"
"Absolutely," she whispered. "One last time. For both of us."
Auron's gruff rumble vibrating against her sex was enough to curl her toes. He raised her carefully, one hand sliding up her back to massage her neck as he pulled her towards him with a splash. Carrying her, Auron skipped back along the uneven bottom of the pool until they were in deeper water. Smiling, Lulu curled her arms and legs around him and allowed herself to sink downwards until she felt his erection pressing against her. She arched her eyebrows invitingly, fighting the urge to sheathe him with one wild thrust or twist away and lunge for the shore. There was so little margin sometimes between swimming and drowning.
Kissing her cheeks, Auron clung to her upper arms to steady her, then eased into her with a swallowed groan. Lulu bit her lip, fixing her gaze on his face, only his, taking deep breaths until her body relaxed. They began to rise and fall against each other, luxuriating in the slow glide of firm flesh sliding into flesh as lovers might drink in every subtle shift of color in a lyrical sunset. There was no rough play, no jockeying for power this time, no teasing challenge, only a rolling dance of pleasure to the timeless tune of soft murmurs, grunting breaths.
"No tears," he reminder her hoarsely, noticing that her cheeks were glistening from more than just steam.
How did he know? Lulu dissolved into breathless laughter, but it faded quickly-- their bodies were speaking in that profound communion where ordinary sounds seemed banal. She felt as if she were dreaming again. Gradually their plunging give-and-take quickened, until both were gasping on a river of upwelling rapture that slowly overwhelmed them. Neither one marked the moment when the cresting wave finally spilled over, when the duet of groans and cries reached a crescendo, or when it began to wane. They only knew that when at last they came back to their senses and their bodies wrapped around one another, they had somehow drifted to the far side of the pool. Time, for at least a little while, had hovered and slowed without magic's aid.
Prompted by sudden longing, Lulu looked up to capture and preserve an image of his face, yearning to memorize every last contour of bone and muscle, shadow, scar, and graying hair. She found Auron's gaze riveted on her features as if he was doing the same.
They were still rocking together slowly, suspended on each other's smiles and prolonging the last warm tinglings of lovemaking, when a jarring voice cut through the spell.
"Yo, Kimahri, have you seen Lulu?" Tidus was apparently speaking some distance off, but he sounded disconcertingly loud in the clear night air.
Lulu had to bite down on Auron's shoulder to muffle startled laughter. Besaid's fabric-sided huts meant that its inhabitants were used to ignoring sounds of intimacy that were sometimes inadvertently shared with half the village, but Auron's expression was shocked, disgruntled, and -- oh, Yevon, it was too dark to be sure, was he actually blushing?
"Lulu bathing," came the Ronso's curt reply.
"At this hour? Good grief."
There was a brief pause, followed by a muffled thump, a yelp, and Kimahri's blunt, "Go away."
"Brat," Lulu whispered, still fending off laughter. "I don't think I'm in any shape to aim a thunderbolt right now."
Auron cocked his head, listening for the faint crunch of snow and fading footfalls. "Kimahri seems to have taken care of him," he observed drily.
"Mmm." She snuggled against his neck, going limp again.
"Lulu." The sound of his voice washed over her like forest rain. "You told me not to ask you until tonight. How do you feel?"
Giddy, she bucked her hips and squeezed, watching raw pleasure flood his stern features for another split second. "Like a goddess," she confided fondly. "And you?"
Warm lips brushed against her ear. "Alive."
Auron kept glancing sourly towards the trail while Lulu towelled off her hair, but he pulled up his collar and fortified himself behind his glasses to accompany her back. Kimahri was crouched at the head of the dark stairwell keeping watch with a spear across his knees. Apart from a gleam in his eyes and a curt nod when Lulu mouthed /thank you/, he ignored them filing past.
They descended the spiral staircase hand in hand, Lulu leading, Auron following behind clutching his boots like a child gone wading on the beach. He need not have bothered; Wakka's snores echoing up the chimney would have drowned out an Iron Giant's approach. Reaching bottom, the mage stole ahead into the warm chamber. She found the other four sound asleep, Tidus and Yuna curled up side by side near the brazier and Rikku and Wakka sprawled in opposite corners of the room. Only a few of the oil lamps were still flickering in their niches. Stepping carefully over the Al Bhed girl's toolkit, the sorceress retrieved one and glided back to the stairwell to signal Auron.
Her gaze fell upon a fresh inscription chiselled into the glassy wall. Auron circled behind her, resting his hands on her shoulders to read it with her.
High Summoner Yunie (crossed out) Summoner Yuna of Besaid
Tidus, Zanarkand Abes
Rikku Al Bhed
Lulu, Scary Lady
Sir Auron the Great
They drew together for one final kiss and parted, Auron moving off to stretch out beside the doorsill, Lulu seeking the warmth of the fire near Yuna. Tomorrow belonged to the pilgrimage. Tonight had been theirs.