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Dead Man's Thirst

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Wakka lay on his back staring blankly at the fluttering awning overhead. His skin was clammy despite the mid-day heat, and he seemed oblivious even when Lulu planted a hand against his chest. Kimahri panted at the corner of the lean-to, propping his head up with the butt of his spear. The blitzer was too dazed now to heap curses upon the Al Bhed (who had to be to blame somehow for this Yevon-forsaken desert), and the Ronso was busy being stoic, as usual.

Tidus paced, rocking his blue sword restlessly from edge to edge. Its polished surface glistened wetly, taunting them.

Auron's hand shot out and clamped down on his shoulder. "Stop. Save your strength."

"Yuna's out there somewhere!" the boy fretted. "We can't stop now!"

Lulu looked up. "So is Rikku. They know how to handle themselves here. We don't." She sighed and sat back from the chest propped against the central post. "Same as the last. Healing supplies, dried rations, but someone's smashed holes in the water-jug."

"Curse them Al--" Wakka trailed off with a cough. A visit to a sand worm's gullet before they cut him out had not improved his temper.

Lulu shook her head slightly, meeting Sir Auron's eyes. Surely he, at least, must recognize that a third party was at work here: whatever the Al Bhed were up to, they had more sense than to sabotage their own emergency shelters.

"We return to the oasis," Auron said crisply.

"What?" Tidus wheeled, starting to build up a head of steam on the spot.

"Wait." Lulu began removing all the supplies from the chest and setting them in the ground. "Sir Auron, can you lift this?"

He raised an eyebrow. She flexed her fingers in a silent pantomime. The swordsman's face relaxed, although his collar hid the smile. Wordlessly he moved in and tossed the last few items out of the chest, then heaved it onto his shoulder and carried it out into the blazing sun.

The mage followed, pointing with her chin. "A little downhill from us, please."

Auron set it down with a huff and churned his way back up the dune to join her.

The sand was dry on Lulu's lips, the sky sere. How could she coax an element not native to this land? She attuned herself to the soil, felt Spira's pulse. The sea was miles away. However, locked within their myriad grains, the dunes held the memory of long-lost storms. She could hear the rush of water in her ears, sense the drumbeat glory of the cloudburst that came once in ten years. All she had to do was make the desert dream.

Eyes drifting half-closed in concentration, the sorceress reached for the sky.

The rain came. Wild and roaring, pouring down and down, it struck the awning and sluiced over the sides in a fleeting waterfall. The rain came in rivulets that rushed like snakes down the sandy slope. Lulu and Auron were engulfed in a full-fledged shower like the thundering cataracts of Besaid, battering her so fiercely that she could barely stand. For ten glorious seconds, the world was water. Lulu was drunk in it, laughing at Auron's dour expression as he stood there dumbfounded getting soaked. Her control had cracked: some deep-seated longing for the sea and Besaid's freshwater arteries had overwhelmed her, but she did not care. Let the rain come feed the greedy sands! Who knew what flowers might bloom with fleeting beauty where she had kissed the earth alive? Yuna, if only you were here, you would be smiling and it would be no lie.

Abruptly it was over. The sands steamed. The chest was full to the brim, its watery treasure smoothing out and mirroring the sky. Excited and awed exclamations behind her told her that Tidus and Wakka, at least, had stumbled out into the brief downpour.

Lulu glanced sidelong at Auron, who was still staring at her. She realized that her hair was dripping, slick against her face and trickling down over her shoulders. His was the gaze of a dying man in the desert stumbling into an oasis. An instant later, the steel mask was back on Auron's face, and he was sloshing down the dune in wet boots to retrieve the precious casket. Yet she felt a strange pang of triumph. Lulu knew which desert had tasted rain that day.