Title: Loyalty Only To Me (chapter 2)
Characters: Lulu, Yuna, Auron(?!)
Summary: An extremly dark AU inspired by the Lulu's Lullaby fanvid and "Mordred's Lullaby" by [Lady Marian of] Heather Dale.
Note: The acid trip half of this chapter was triggered by a snippet from the video crossed with the song's chorus: "Darkness will rise from the deep / Carry you down into sleep." This is what happens when I write while listening to the same song over and over at 2AM.
Word Count: 1930
Sun shone down on Besaid Island, and Eternal Calm's blessings continued to unfold like a moist butterfly's wings emerging from a chrysalis. But daylight and shadow still kept well apart; Tidus to the sun and beaches, Lulu to home or forest or the temple's dim chambers. Sooner or later, their friends were bound to notice the chasm of silence that had opened between former Guardians, but Lulu would leave that for Tidus to sort out as he might. She had a son to raise and a doting husband to watch over.
Yuna, perceptive as ever, made the first and only attempt to smooth things over between lover and friend. A week after Tidus had dropped the stone on her, Lulu was ambushed by the younger woman at the village well. Yuna was unusually insistent in offering to help her carry the pair of large round-bellied jars back to Wakka's hut.
Four hands halved the work, after all. Besides, Lulu was not about to let the awkwardness with Tidus spoil her bond with Yuna, even if she could sense awkward questions coming like Sin's approach half a mile off-shore.
"I've never understood why you can't just conjure up your cooking water," Yuna teased innocently as they started off.
"I've tried," Lulu said, adjusting her load's balance with care and lowering her hands. "But the pot always explodes like one of Rikku's experiments."
Yuna chuckled. "Oh, I should have guessed." Stooping under a heavy amphora balanced across her back and shoulders, she stole an envious glance at the older woman. Not only was Lulu able to balance a heavy jar on her head, but somehow she managed to do it without disturbing her bun. "How's Little Hands today?"
"Vidina," his mother said crisply, "is being a handful to Papa and his ham-handed teammates out on the beach. It's his first time seeing the ocean. The Aurochs are going to try and teach Wakka Jr. how to catch a ball."
Yuna giggled and sloshed. "Well, if he figures it out, maybe he can show them."
Lulu smiled faintly. "Ever the dreamer, my dear."
"Hey, my dreams come true, you know!" she shot back with a touch of spirit. Seeing the mage's eyes flutter half-closed at some inner thought, she eased towards her target cautiously as they made their way back through the trees. "Lulu. You've barely spoken to Tidus since he got here. I won't be jealous if you still want to boss him around. I can share."
Lulu abruptly missed a step, catching her shoe against a root. With a faint "ah!" she went right down. Her amphora tipped sideways and fell to the forest floor with a thunderbolt crash, bursting into hundreds of clay shards swept out in a spray pattern by the outrushing water. Yuna could not put the other jug down quickly enough to catch her, and knelt over her wringing her hands.
The mage averted her face, concealing a grimace. "Well, so much for that pot."
"You--" Yuna clucked her tongue and smiled, supposing at first that the woman had sprained nothing worse than her dignity. "You lost a hair-stick," she amended, knowing how much the mage disliked fuss.
"So I did." Lulu retrieved it and tucked it back into place, surveying the potsherds scattered around them and circling her foot gingerly. That ankle was going to need ice soon. As if reading her mind, Yuna bent and gathered Lulu's heel into her lap, gently cupping her hands around the joint. The mage relaxed, admiring her friend's talent: as soon as the ex-summoner breathed out, the pain vanished.
Like the pot, however, there were certain things that could not be so easily mended. Yuna was going to keep asking, and Lulu did not feel up to this dance for long. Her hand closed tightly around her friend's as the younger woman helped her up. "Yes, I'm afraid that Tidus and I had an... argument. I assure you, I am only a little irked with him, but it may be best if we leave each other alone for a while."
Yuna gave her a severe look. "After all we've been through, Lulu, I can't believe you two can't just sit down and talk it out. But... he can be wooden-headed sometimes." Her scowl softened as she stepped back. "And you can be so stubborn. Would you like me to talk to him?"
Yuna sighed and retrieved the remaining water jar, recognizing that tone of finality.
"Yuna," the mage said more gently, "I won't often say this to you, but -- it's not your business. You are no longer obligated to bring or make peace between everyone in Spira."
"Hmph." Yuna grunted as she hoisted the jar to her hip. "How about between my friends?"
"Not this time, dear heart. It is not a matter he or I wish to discuss. In fact, the sooner we put it behind us, the better."
Moving carefully, Yuna turned back and gave her a long look. "All right." She nodded, then shifted subjects abruptly. "So, when does Vidina start magic lessons?"
That drew an arrogant smile. "At the breast. Mother's milk, you know."
Yuna's cheeks colored. "Oh."
Lulu fell into step beside her, touching her elbow in quiet thanks. "Don't worry, he won't be setting anyone's tail on fire until he's learned to speak in complete sentences."
The younger girl laughed at the old memory. "Okay. I'll warn Kimahri the next time we talk: if he wants to come visit us, he'd better do it soon."
Soon. Wakka, Tidus and Vidina would be returning from the beach in a few hours. Excusing herself for a nap, Lulu shooed Yuna away as quickly as she dared without making her wise friend suspicious. Being tucked in by a clucking High Summoner was a rare privilege, she supposed, but she chafed impatiently until she heard the soft thump of the door-flap falling against the mat below. After a discreet interval, Lulu rose and rolled a few blankets into a bundle, hurried to her magic items cabinet and selected a blue sphere from the bottom drawer, and slipped back out to the forest.
Summoners healed, brought light and life, gave death only to that which was already well past death: Fiends and Sin. Black mages -- or maybe just Lulu, for she had not seen a true mage in two decades, since she considered dresspheres counterfeits -- were summoners' opposites. Death they could deal in many forms. But where summoners could gently send, black mages could sternly summon. It was not Aeons they called forth.
It was a secret they had kept for centuries. If Spirans realized that powerful black mages could call on the dead without the trouble of going to Guadosalam, everyone would be petitioning them as a messenger service. The ritual was too much of a strain to be used so frivolously.
Sitting cross-legged on a riverbank in the darkest part of the jungle, Lulu cupped the empty memory sphere in her white fingers, watching the blue light play over her pale skin. With each breath, her focus circled more tightly around that small knot of power. Finally, she looked up and flipped a hand absently towards the river's surface to send a quick jolt followed by a freeze to deal with any nearby piranas.
The mage addressed the waters in clear, crisp tones. "I come to you."
She clenched her teeth and pressed the heels of her palms together with all her strength. There was a crunch. Sphere fragments cut into her hands, and she had to move quickly to turn the most intact part and catch some of the blue liquid dripping through her fingers mixed with blood. Pressing lips and teeth together to avoid swallowing any glass, she drew the eggshell-cup to her mouth, tipped her head back, and drank every drop she had been able to save.
Burning cold, freezing hot: she had never made up her mind about the oily liquid one way or the other, but the taste was bitter saltwater. Pyreflies began to spiral before her darkened vision almost at once. Easing herself over the edge of the muddy bank, she lowered her bare feet to the muddy bottom of the stream. Then she waded out.
"Therefore," she hissed, as the biting cold began to make her legs go numb, "you come to me."
Yuna's graceful dances over the surface of lake and sea had been airy, light, of a piece with the sky. The black mage felt her feet sinking into the murky silt, hidden in the depths. She raised her arms and began to dance in a sluggish moon-wise spiral, braids leaving furrows in the icy water behind her. Darkness began to rise from below as her feet kicked up mud from the bottom. She fought drowsiness, which could be lethal under the circumstances.
Slowly the blackness bubbled up and over her outer vision. She sank down, down, and down for a dreary eternity lit only by the occasional pyrefly streamer, until she had lost any sense of time or her own body. At long last, a searing blue light sprang up around her, enveloping her. She could make out no forms, lines, or shapes. Staggering, she reached out and groped blindly until her knuckles rapped against a cold, hard, polished surface. She flinched when strong calloused hands suddenly closed around her wrists.
"Lost something?" a male voice asked testily.
"Auron." Well, that was luck. She made out a blood-red shape through the blue glare. "Good of you to come."
"Hmph." He eased his grip, allowing her to cling to his stiff belt to steady herself. "The dead should be allowed to rest."
"You didn't have to answer me."
He laughed grimly. "Your intrusion made me curious. I thought you had sense enough not to go chasing memories on the Farplane."
"Then I'm afraid I must disappoint you. I came seeking answers about the past." She blanched as another wave of nausea rolled by. "Jecht."
"Ah." He grunted. "Tidus told you."
"That depends on what he told you. And no, Jecht's not here."
"Just as well, I suppose. I'm not sure what thundaga would do in this place." She shuddered and collected her thoughts once more. Focus, Lulu. "I have a very trivial question. Nevertheless, I should like an answer. Tidus named my father, but not my mother. Do you happen to know--"
"I don't track other people's genealogies." Same old Auron. "Does it matter?"
"I suppose not," she said, disappointed. "Kiera is my mother, however she came by me. Wakka is Vidina's father, after all."
That dry snort deserved some sort of retribution, but as she'd noted, it was hard to predict thundaga's effect down here. "What do you intend to do about it?" he asked.
"Nothing. What's done is done."
"I see," he said skeptically. "You came here for nothing. Then why call me?"
"Just sometimes," she retorted, "I miss having someone intelligent to talk to."
"We never talked." His gruff whisper sounded amused. "Take care, Lulu."
Lulu drew in a sharp breath to try and squeeze in one more question, but her time had run out. She found her mouth and throat filled with cold water. Choking and sputtering, she thrashed her way to the surface and heaved herself weakly onto the bank. Bundling into the blankets she had brought, she lay shivering, staring up into the dark canopy of leaves for several minutes. Finally, enough life rushed back into her hands to let her conjure a weak heat spell. It had come in handy on Gagazet.
"Damn you, Jecht," she whispered. Tidus' words, time and again.
She understood a little better, now.