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She Blooms in Tears

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Rain crawls down the skin of Lulu's hut like the fingers she's using to coax you awake. You smile up at her sleepily, then bury your nose in the pillow.

"To think we once broke camp at dawn," the mage chuckles.

You open the green eye. "That's because your braids took an hour, Lulu," you say, reaching out to tickle the black fuzz at the nape of her neck.

Lulu smiles down, stroking your cheek. "You asked me to wake you, Lady Bed-hair."

"Oh!" You glance towards the triangle of gray light at the door, and notice wistfully, "It's raining."

"Mm?" Lulu kisses your forehead, making simple words sinful with that husky purr. "We could stay in."

Almost you succumb. Lulu's hand on your cheek has left the skin tingling, although the mage will protest that she needed no magic for that particular spell. "Yes, but," you stammer, arguing with yourself, "it may not be there tomorrow."

"It?"

"That's right." You pry yourself out of bed, encircling Lulu's waist with your arms and spiralling around her before moving to the clothes chests. "You'd better get dressed," you tell her "Someone might see us!"

"In that case," Lulu says, "don't wear white this time."

Soon, hand in hand, you are walking through Besaid's dark jungle, rain-slicked and pulsing with all the brooding colors of green, gray, and earth. The few fiends about soon aren't. You walk through pyreflies almost absently. Lulu is efficient.

She follows your footsteps, clears the way. It has ever been so.

A grove. A freshet of warm water tumbling down. You push her under it, giggling; Lulu pulls you after. Kisses turn to splutters as Lulu lifts you. Your feet scrabble for the yielding bottom of soft silt.

Once the waves would have risen under you. You remember how pyreflies tickled, drawing up invisible lashes of water beneath your feet.

Lulu is so alive now. She laughs as she never used to, sharing in your own bubbling spirit without reserve. "Is this what you wanted to wake me so early for?" she says.

"No, it's...look, there." You point to a flower at the top of the bank: white, broad, luminous, a fan of translucent petals with pyrefly's gleam within the pistil. Not a moon lily. Rarer by far.

Lulu's breath catches. "I haven't seen one since..."

"Chappu." You squeeze her hand. "I was almost afraid to show you. But it's the very same plant. Look. There's that stone."

"But that's impossible. Tafa plants bloom but once, a single day--"

"--and die."

She reaches out, deftly catches a drop just falling from one jeweled petal, and paints your lips. The rain is in her eyes, and something else.

"No tears, this time," you say, standing on tiptoe to kiss each lid. You cannot banish all shadows, but...

Lulu draws you close, fierce as the guardian she was when she steeled herself to let you go. She kisses you for all that blooms in tears.