He's not coming back. They had all said it with clucking sympathy and aggravating certainty. Each time, the thorns of despair had bitten deeper, and Yuna's denials had grown more stubborn. She was High Summoner. She'd defeated Sin. She'd defeated Yevon. She'd changed the world. Why not this? But the truth was that he'd never even existed. Dreaming differently couldn't change reality.
One person had never pressed that truth upon her, however. Lulu had let her digest it at her own pace, let her pour out hopes and defiance for as long as she needed to cling to them. Lulu, who had her own reasons to be bitter nowadays, reasons with spiral green eyes and a bubbly laugh.
Not that the mage had blamed Rikku. No, poor Wakka, as usual, had borne the brunt of her disdain. After a few halfhearted apologies, he'd fled on an Al Bhed airship, leaving behind a wake of gossip.
Yuna had heard from him and Rikku a few times since then, and it was so clear that they'd found their own dream, the happiness the Calm was supposed to bring, that she'd stopped being indignant on Lulu's behalf. The mage had let him go with only a few stinging words. Maybe Rikku had been right, after all: Wakka needed wings, not a leash.
Their last commsphere had mentioned Cid's wrath and pleaded for Yuna to attend the wedding, which they seemed to be planning with some urgency. Lulu had taken the news calmly, remarking that she was less of a dragon than they imagined, and she hoped they would let her see Vidina when he was born.
The fiends of the jungle had taken a thorough drubbing, however, during her weekly hunt with Besaid's resident gunner. Yuna had joked that they could have saved themselves a lot of grief by falling in love with each other instead. She'd laughed when she said it. Lulu hadn't, and her cryptic smile had shattered a half-dozen assumptions.
It had taken Yuna just one day to sift through the wreckage and figure out what to do about it. Maybe she hadn't been joking after all. Or maybe she'd learned to make up her mind quickly in self-defense, since others had tried to make her mind up for her so many times.
All she knew was that she was suddenly glad Tidus wasn't coming back, glad that her hotheaded cousin had screwed up Wakka's engagement with one exuberant kiss during the Auroch's post-season victory party, and shyly grateful to Paine for teaching her a few things that Summoner's training had not covered.
Like how to reduce the most powerful mage in Spira to trembling helplessness using three fingers.
"Why didn't you tell me, Lulu?" she'd asked afterwards, drowsy and tingling in the gray-blue light before dawn.
"Oh, Yuna. Haven't you noticed, after all this time?" The mage's lips grazed her cheek. "I stopped trying to tell you anything when you became a Summoner. You follow your heart. I... follow."