I'm a little nervous about this one, so feedback would be great. Even if it's just a one-liner - tell me if you like it or not!
It had been on his mind all day, a little tug of alarm and curiosity, right from the first touch of her hand, warm and solid and gloriously real.
"You've changed," he'd told her, and she had. No longer did she wear long, heavy skirts, no matter what the weather. No longer did she carry a pretty, sleek, decorated staff. There were pistols thrust into the belt of her dangerously small shorts – guns, he saw, when they encountered fiends on the road back to the village, that she could use. Her hair was shorter, with an odd cloth-wrapped tail. Her body, always slender and soft, was now toned – lined with impressive muscles. Her skin was a little tanned, he was surprised to find, and she said it was from digging in the desert.
The funny thing was, none of this surprised him quite as much as it should have. What surprised him the most was the calluses on the palm of her hand. It was a strange sensation, holding her once-soft hand, feeling the rasp of toughened skin on his.
He remembered his first night on Yuna's pilgrimage, sitting at the fire and staring at his hands. They were angry and red, with small white patches that he knew were blisters. His hands had always been soft – Blitzball did nothing to toughen them, and he did little else. They burned like fire when he picked up his sword again the next morning, and he gritted his teeth each time he struck a fiend – the twist of the hilt against his hands was almost too much.
He jumped when she tugged his arm, and the world crashed back to him: sitting on Besaid beach, sand cool under his bare feet, water lapping at his toes – and Yuna's head on his shoulder, her body curled into his side and her breath warm on the side of his neck.
"You've been staring at my hands all day," Yuna said, sitting up and turning to look at him. Her eyes, too, were tougher, but right then he could see a spark of vulnerability in them – just a little flash. She blinked and it was gone. "Does it bother you?"
She took his hand, turned it over to look at his palms, and touched her fingertips to his calluses. "You have them, too, you know," she said. "I like them. They're not very ladylike, but they… they're good. They remind me that I'll never again be the kind of girl who gets kidnapped or manipulated or taken advantage of. They tell me I'm stronger than that." She looked up and met his eyes and he swallowed hard, struck by how very beautiful she was. "We're stronger than that."
Words stuck in his throat as she turned back to stare out across the ocean at the rising moon. "So, I don't think you should be bothered by them. I… I'm not going to give any of this up, my new life. I think you should know that. I'd like you to stay with me, but I'm not sacrificing the person I've become to have… I just can't. I like who I am, now. And my calluses are part of that—" Yuna broke off with a startled noise as he pulled her into his arms, burying his nose in her hair. She smelt of campfire smoke and gunpowder and salt from the ocean.
"I love them," he informed her, and pushed her down to the sand, where she lay, laughing. He took one of her hands and mimicked her earlier actions, turning it over to trace the rough patches of her palm, and then he kissed each callus.
"I love you."He hovered over her and kissed her mouth, sinking into the warmth and remembering. With his lips against hers for the first time in two years, he swore he could almost feel the cold spring water lapping around his stomach; hear the rustling of the breeze filtering through the woods; see the ethereal sparkle of the lights in the trees, burned into his eyelids.
Only this time, when her hands rose to cup his face and pull him closer, they weren't silky-soft. He reveled in the rasp of her calluses on his cheeks, because she was right. It showed she was stronger. They were stronger. Strong enough that this wasn't an end, it was a beginning – they would not be torn apart again.
Tidus smiled against her mouth. I'd like to see them try.