Notes: Written for wallwalker
Summary: Morning always comes.
Lulu picked her way carefully along the rocky trail that wound within the vast bulk of Mt. Gagazet. The air was warm and dense with steam from the hot springs, a welcome relief after the knife-blade chill of the winds off the mountain. She passed Kimahri, who had planted himself at the base of the tunnel that led up to the spring in the manner of a sentinel. He gave a quiet nod as though to assure her that her bathing would not be disturbed. Lulu wondered if he knew that Auron had already gone up to the spring. She suspected that he did; Kimahri rarely missed any detail. Still, she knew he would not speak of it to the others.
She could hear the quiet lapping of water echo off the cavern walls as she climbed. Spheres tucked into niches in the walls shed a faint light, just enough to see by. The path had been worn smooth by the passage of many feet. She followed it upward until she could feel the strain in her legs. Ahead, she could see flickering light, as of sphere-light reflected off water.
Her shoe scraped on the rock. She heard the faintest scrape of metal on stone in the cavern ahead. "It's me," she called softly, hoping to avoid being mistaken for a fiend.
"Hmph." She heard the scrape of metal again, as though he was sheathing his weapon, and judged it safe to enter.
She had heard of the famous hot springs of Mt. Gagazet, but her prior pilgrimages had not reached this far, so she had never had an opportunity to experience them for herself. She paused in the entrance and looked around, careful not to look too closely at Auron.
The cavern was enormous, its walls and floor of rough, unworked stone. Dense clouds of steam drifted on unseen air currents and shimmered in the sphere-light. The spring itself was an irregular pool, vaguely oval in shape, and smelled strongly of mineral waters.
Auron stood waist-deep near the edge of the spring, his right hand still resting on the stone lip near his sword. His upper torso bore a variety of scars, some old, and some still new and pink, the last remains of wounds knit by Yuna's magic.
"Well?" he said, and under his gruff tone she thought she heard amusement.
She only smiled in response and wound her long braids around her head to keep them out of the water. She plucked the hair-sticks from her bun and used them to hold the braids in place. His eyes followed her hands as she began unfastening the belts that formed the front of her skirt, and unlaced the bodice.
When she let the dress slide down to the stone floor, his gaze followed it, then traced her motions as she bent to fold it neatly. She left the rest of her clothing in the same pile and approached the edge of the spring.
Auron reached up and grasped her hips firmly, lifting her off her feet and down into the pool with him. He kept his hold until she found her footing on the slick rocks. "We leave in the morning," he said.
"All the more reason to take advantage of the time we have," she answered.
He made an amused sound, and she bent her knees so that she sank lower in the pool. Water lapped against her ribcage and then rose to cover her breasts. She closed her eyes and let the heat sink into her skin, warming away the mountain's chill.
Water sloshed and lapped as Auron moved in the pool. She kept her eyes closed, and heard him move behind her. "Where is Yuna?" he asked, and she smiled faintly. He was ever the Legendary Guardian, focused on the summoner's safety.
"With Tidus, Rikku, and Wakka, huddled close to the fire and talking to Maester Kelk," she said.
Water lapped and sloshed as he ran his hands up her arms and onto her shoulders. Even in the warm cavern, the air seemed chilly against her damp skin. Auron leaned closer and she shivered when his breath caressed the back of her neck.
She opened her eyes and turned to face him, water lapping silkily against her skin. His hands settled on her hips and tugged her closer for a kiss.
Tomorrow, they would resume their climb of Mt. Gagazet, to the broken and abandoned city that lay beyond it. When they reached Zanarkand, Yuna would receive the Final Aeon, and Auron would finally be free of the obligations that bound his spirit here on Spira instead of on the Farplane.
It was inevitable that morning would come, and with it, the struggles of their journey. She could no more stop the passage of time than she could have stopped Yuna becoming a summoner. Lulu had long ago learned to accept that there were things she could not change. Yet, though she could not change tomorrow, still she had tonight.
She recalled herself to the present, and smiled at him. "In other words," she said, "we won't be disturbed."
The corner of Auron's mouth quirked. "Then let us not waste this opportunity," he said, and lifted her out of the water to set her on the rocky edge of the pool.