The beach was awash in that brilliant, cutting, liquid sunlight that one could taste and smell and breathe and hear; it was the blue-sky heady tranquility of wind, spray, wheeling gulls, moving surf and baked sand that was utterly impermeable to shadows or shades of gray. Chappu used to thrive in this light, and he'd drawn her out into it. It burned.
Lulu stood with arms folded, watching tanned bodies leaping, diving, twisting after a blue-and-white ball. Wakka's orange crest bobbed over the heads of the others. At least he was losing himself in the game again instead of moping. Yuna, too, had found renewed passion in her studies, as if to atone for Chappu's absence. It was a sad irony, but Lulu knew better than to blame anything except Sin. Yuna's apprenticeship and Lulu's ill-fated first attempt as a Guardian had inspired Chappu to trade his waves and blitzball for battlefields on distant shores. Idiot. He should have stayed in the sun and left fighting Sin to those with the right talents.
No point in dwelling on it. Chappu's bright grin and flash of sun were no longer a part of Lulu's world, and she would not stand on the beach staring out to sea waiting for him to come home like the hollow-eyed wives of lost fishermen.
A blitzball winged past her ear and bounced off the sandstone cliff behind her. She stopped it with a toe, bent and lifted it in both hands, feeling the soft, sticky sand clinging to her white fingers. Halfway down the beach, Yuna's bright laughter shook itself out of her tiny frame. Wakka's "good shot, Yuna!" was probably exaggeration. Raising her head to look for them, Lulu spotted Datto picking himself up and scuffling towards her with his arms pressed against his sides and his feet digging into the sand as if he were trying to burrow under it.
"Sorry, Ma'am," he mumbled, not meeting the mage's eyes as she tilted her palms and let the ball roll into his hands. Nevermind that she was only a few years his senior. Wakka called her that too now, sometimes. She doubted it was simply a token of respect for a failed Guardian. They feared her.
Lulu turned without a word and swept away towards the edge of the forest, brushing past Kimahri. His was the only other dark-clad figure in the bright sunshine, watching over Yuna from afar despite a few dozen athletes and hardy fishermen mending nets a short distance away. Mage and guardian exchanged professional nods. Then Lulu slipped into the shadows of the trees at a brisk stride, intent on clearing the path right back to the village. It was the sleepy, sultry part of the afternoon when most of the fiends were dormant, but she might find a few targets to practice her skills.
Several fiends later, the mage was in a mellow mood, sitting in the jungle with her back propped against a tree and the damp, cool shadows nuzzling her arms and neck. Her hair dripped down across her eyes, thanks to the humidity and a flan's recent death-throes. Her hands drifted ldly across her body and through the webbing of straps in the lower half of her gown, taking care of business. No one else on the island was likely to do it any time soon, for all that many of them followed her with hungry eyes.
She scowled again. Chappu was dead. She most certainly was not, whatever they might whisper behind her back. It annoyed her having to shape the empty air before her, filling in a tanned back, flame-colored hair tickling her white thighs, his soft mouth just there...
A shadow had fallen across the lush orchids spilling over the toppled tree-trunk opposite her sheltered nook. Lulu whipped out her hand and pulled fire into it, face flushed as she leapt to her feet. Her skirts dropped back into place with a swish. "Show yourself," she commanded through clenched teeth.
Silently, the blue-black giant stepped around the tree and leaned upon his spear, gazing down at her with unblinking gold eyes.
"Let me guess," the sorceress snapped witheringly as she let the fire-spell lapse. "'It's not safe to enter the jungle alone.'" She had mostly ignored common wisdom since her return, perhaps a little recklessly since Chappu's death.
"Kimahri bored." He rolled his shoulders in a wide shrug. "Felt like hunting."
Her eyes glittered. "Well, you'll have to hunt somewhere else; I've killed everything in the vicinity," the sorceress said haughtily. Bless him, Kimahri of all people might understand. Entering the jungle was not instant death. One simply did not have an automatic right to life here; you had to earn it. Risk made it interesting.
"Kimahri noticed." His muzzle eased into an odd grimace that was probably an attempt at a smile. "Kimahri not feel like hunting now."
Lulu laughed and started to shake her head, braids rustling behind her. She halted as his words sank in. "Excuse me?" she snapped, cheeks reddening. How long had he been watching her?
Before she could summon sparks into her open palm, the laconic Ronso cupped a paw under her hand and lifted it towards his muzzle, licking her skin from her fingertips to forearm. It tickled, making her stomach flip-flop strangely. Kimahri's nostrils flared and he licked his lips, pink tongue sliding over white teeth and black gums.
Dumbfounded, it took the mage that long to collect her wits and her fury into a scathing glare. She did not bother with a verbal warning, oh, no, the Ronso knew perfectly well what it meant when she yanked her hand back with fingers curled into loose claws--
"Kimahri sorry," he said, unperturbed. "Misunderstood." The Ronso turned away and hopped up onto the huge fallen log, tail swishing through the orchids as he padded off as quietly as he had arrived.
Red-faced, Lulu stared after him with her jaw hanging open. Of course, there were jokes around the village about his horn that the Ronso probably did not appreciate in the slightest. There had been a few nights when she had mentally catalogued her options with growing digust, pronounced every one of them pathetic, and mirthlessly concluded that--
"Wait." Her whisper, her voice. Had she really spoken?
Kimahri turned slowly on the far side of the foliage, eyes gleaming and wary. He crouched with a certain resigned hunch to his shoulders as if expecting a parting blast.
"You must be joking," Lulu said flatly, probably to herself.
Kimahri tilted his head. "Lulu a friend. Smell nice." He watched her carefully, and she could see his nose twitching.
Feeling strangely naked under his olfactory scrutiny, the mage shot him another glowering look. "If Kimahri Ronso is starting to have the slightest urge to pine after Lulu, he had better get himself back to Gagazet before she rips his heart out to save him the embarrassment."
An ear twitched. "Lulu just a friend," he said patiently. "Love different."
"Very," she agreed, eyes slitted.
There was a good chance that the outrageous proposition jangling in her loins wasn't against the Teachings only because the stuffy priests in the temple hadn't thought of it. Then again, she was not entirely innocent when it came to priests. And Lord Jyscal was the new darling of Spira. Maybe...
Sometimes, Lulu realized abruptly, she got in her own way by over-thinking. The sorceress raised her chin with mute authority, conveying a quite different command.
Her stomach fluttered with fear and excitement as the hulking Ronso prowled towards her unhurriedly, perhaps giving her one more clear shot if she changed her mind. He came to crouch at her feet. So to speak. The burly Ronso was practically on eye level. Dear Yevon, was she mad? She stood straight-backed and still as he began to lick her fingers again, slowly moving up her arm with soft, wide strokes, his braids and whiskers tickling. The texture was just raspy enough to make her tingle with inevitable speculation. When he reached the sensitive skin of her inner elbow, Lulu mercifully stopped thinking at all, sagging back against the tree behind her with a drawn-out sigh.
"Have you ever done this before?" she asked hoarsely, trying to maintain some grip on her mind via speech.
Kimahri shook his head. No. Apparently, he was just following raw instincts and tracking the sweat trickling down her flesh.
Lulu sank against the smooth bark of the tree and basked in his insistent, overpowering lick, lick, lick, until he had turned the corner of her shoulder and was starting to drift across her collarbones, muzzle snuffling over her throat and breasts. She realized that if she wanted to stop this, she had better make her mind up quickly. Instead, she wrapped her arms around his head and tentatively began to scratch him behind the ears, stroking his luxurious mane. A soft thrumming sounded deep in his chest. Startled, Lulu found herself laughing breathlessly, even though the delicious vibration against her skin was no laughing matter. Kimahri was purring!
He began licking her face, cheeks and hair, grooming her thoroughly. Caught off-balance again, Lulu found herself responding to the whispery noises he was making with gulping, panting breaths. Lulu's dress was suddenly too tight; she needed to breathe. Her hands stole towards the ties between her shoulders, but his paws were in the way, kneading her back. She was startled when he began to untie the laces using his claws.
Lulu gazed up at his wise feline face and deep-set eyes. No, even when she tried to imagine what another Ronso might see, she could not tell whether Kimahri was handsome. He was just Kimahri, that self-contained, towering presence that was all muscle and flesh and tufted fur. Looks became a non-issue, however, when his tongue glided down between her breasts. Hot, purring breaths beat against her damp skin. She arched her neck and winced as the back of her head thumped against the tree behind her with a clunk. Kimahri nudged her away from the trunk, then knelt to work on peeling her dress away, movements clumsy and eager as a teenager's. Come to think of it, how old was he? And why was she wondering about it when the swipe of his paws up her calves was making it difficult to stand?
Kimahri got tangled up around her hips, puzzled by her belts. Breathless and giddy, Lulu batted his huge hands away with a curt, "Oh, let me do that," and flung the sweaty garment aside, exhaling with heady satisfaction as the cool breath of the trees wafted across her suddenly exposed flesh. She stripped quickly and completely, before her galloping heart could paralyze her fingers, and stepped forward with arms wide to embrace the Ronso's broad chest. She rubbed her face against his fluffy pelt: a little scratchy, but still deliciously sensuous against her bare skin. Unfortunately, the straps and medallions of his harness bit into her flesh awkwardly, and that meant opening her eyes again in order to divest him. It was a little unnerving seeing his blue-furred hide inches from her face, at least when he was touching her that way.
"So what do you think?" she asked, arching her spine as his paws kneaded her lower back pleasantly.
"Lulu pretty," Kimahri rumbled. "Smells even better now."
The sorceress laughed raggedly, blushing, and set to work removing his odd harness of bones, leather, and fur. The latter tickled. So did his own pelt, but she was more than willing to put up with that.
Kimahri shifted from foot to foot restlessly, stooping over her as his outer kilt and the last of the straps came free. No, not the last. She was not quite brave enough to touch his loincloth. Her imagination was just a little too vivid, and a rude reality check might bring this pleasant moment to a panicky halt.
Lulu gave a soft moan as he began to lick her again. Shyness was cast aside now. The mage rubbed against him, reveling in his fur until finally he gathered her close and lowered her gently to the forest floor, petting and nuzzling her as he rolled her onto her side. Lulu twined her hands in his shaggy mane, helpless and wriggling while his hot tongue shamelessly searched and explored every curve and fold of her body. The whimpers in her chest matched the jungle's strange cries.
Drowning in her senses, pliant to his touches, feeling tiny between his heavy paws, she lay with a leg draped over his shoulder, heel digging into his back, and oh Yevon he was purring again. His teeth vibrated against her sex while his tongue licked deeper, faster, but still too slow for her liking as he began to probe her daringly. The strangely fuzzy texture burned slightly against her tender flesh, but the sorceress was far beyond caring. Losing the last vestiges of dignity, she started grinding against him, begging, whimpering, fingers dragging at his fur. The curling edges of his flickering tongue were answered by the squirming of her hips. Finally the mad tingling rush built until she seemed to be tangled somewhere up at treetop-level, writhing under the pleasurable assault. Abruptly her nails dug into his ears and she let go with a hoarse scream.
Her body convulsed again as his tongue slipped out. Kimahri nosed her stomach anxiously. "Lulu hurt?"
She shook her head vehemently from side to side, trembling and mute, eyes glazed. Quietly he began to groom her again, cleaning away the sweat and bits of leaves. Slowly she sank back into her body, stupid and sated and lustily aware that the experience had been far more intense than anything she'd ever felt before. Her whole body was singing with the force of it.
Had she really let a Ronso down there? Lulu squeezed her eyes shut again, but his musky scent was filling her senses, and it wasn't like any human could possibly be touching her this way. There was no getting around Kimahri crouched over her slim body; there was too much of him to shut out. Not that she really wanted to, but she felt light-headed and strange and inside-out.
He was being more than solicitous, after all. Lulu reached down and scritched her nails through the fur of his shoulders and upper back, since that was all she could reach, and gingerly allowed herself to sink back into the whispery gliding strokes of his tongue over her stomach and thighs.
"Is that what you wanted?" she asked quietly.
Lick, lick, lick. With a thrill, she realized that the tingling was beginning to throb between her legs once more, and she yearned to feel his tongue plunging into her again.
Kimahri didn't answer.
"Or did you want more?" the sorceress whispered, with a burst of sheer primal lust and guts and terror.
He rumbled quietly, moving over her. His teeth prickled around her breast, not quite hard enough to hurt, but enough to remind her exactly what danger she was flirting with: a gentle giant who could rip her to pieces. Then he drew his tongue across her throat, and she moaned again. "Kimahri not want to hurt Lulu," he said, muffled and almost shy.
So there it was. Lulu's heart was pounding. But the mage had never backed down from a dare or challenge, even if this time she could not possibly boast to anyone, I did it, I survived. She rubbed the softer fur under his chin. "I'll stop you if it hurts," she whispered, eyes a little too wide.
Brave as she was, Lulu was afraid to look when he licked the side of her face and sat up, rising to his knees. Turning her face so that her dark hair spilled across her eyes, she heard the creak of a belt being unfastened, folds of heavy cloth being laid against leaves. She flinched when his shaggy arms slid under her, lifting her from the ground with leaves and twigs clinging to her back. He licked them away, purring against her skin. Carefully, gently, the Ronso stretched out beneath her and lowered her across his chest. His warm muscular torso stretched her thighs wide as she straddled him, tickling the inside of her legs. The pads of his paws glided over her skin, soothing, stroking, petting.
Realizing the Ronso was waiting for her to make the first move, Lulu opened her eyes and looked down to find Kimahri watching her with eyes squinting like a Couerl contemplating its next meal. His tongue hung out of his mouth at an angle, panting. Gingerly she eased her hips backwards until she hit something that made him jerk sharply.
Not trusting herself to speak lest a tremor in her voice give the lie to her too-smug smile, the mage reached back and touched him tentatively. He shuddered under her and held still as her hands explored his length and girth. He felt like a man, and not so large that--
"Lulu sure?" Kimahri growled softly. Despite the gentle question, the interruption was urgent, strained. With another flutter of fear, Lulu realized that the hunter's every muscle was tensed, poised for a pounce. Probably he was holding himself still by colossal effort. She nodded, let out a long quivering sigh, and hoisted herself upwards, using her hands to steady him between her thighs. Cautiously she centered herself above him, lust beginning to overwhelm her anxieties as she felt his firmness pressing into her warmth, stretching her open and beginning to drive her frantic with greedy want. She wished she could simply sink down onto him. Instead she began to lower herself by slow, slow degrees, taking deep breaths to help herself relax. It hurt, but not badly, and the mad, insane thrill of wrongness was beginning to turn into rightness as she adjusted to his size.
Kimahri's self-control was almost eerie. He tensed under her and emitted a bone-shaking deep growl that thrilled and terrified her, but despite his claws digging into her waist, he was not forcing her in any way. She shivered violently as something soft brushed against the small of her back. The mage let out a faint moaning chuckle, suddenly recognizing the tuft of his tail.
Lulu could not quite get all the way down. It didn't matter. The burning tightness inside was divine. Stretched, filled, speared, she began to move up and down over him. At first her body clung so tightly that she felt her swollen sex dragged along with his, but as her arousal built she began to slide wetly around him. Kimahri gave a primal groan, a long shuddering sound that penetrated her from below. Lulu rose and fell with groaning breaths, upper body supple and boneless as she rode him.
They danced. Somewhere along the way Kimahri began to meet her gently, striking deep. Lulu wept and hissed and cried out, squeezing him, driven to the edge of madness and held there by the too muchness of it all. Maybe she lasted much longer because it ached, because there was no way to relax and let go when filled to the brim and straining. Suddenly Kimahri's lips were pulled back from his teeth in a guttural snarl, he really was hurting her, and if she'd begged him to hold back from those jerking, deep thrusts, he would not have been able to stop. Crying out, she felt his slippery heat spilling into her. She felt the pain. And over all of it a wild euphoria began to build. Her inner walls were quivering, trembling, straining in abused outrage until finally she shuddered around him with wild shrieks, writhing and insensate as she squirmed over him, bearing down forcefully to take every last moment that she could endure and just a little more.
When it was over she lowered herself across him limply. She gritted her teeth with a faint hiss when he pulled free and wrapped his arms around her. She lay there trembling weakly, half dazed, thoroughly spent, painfully bruised, and wickedly sated.
"I can't believe we just did that," she mumbled, clutching at his chest.
"Lulu feel okay?"
She breathed out with a feeble chuckle, rubbing her face against him. "Sore. Wonderful. Glorious. I don't think I can walk."
He scratched her back very lightly, his claws practically spanning her hips. "Lulu rest. Kimahri keep watch."
~ * ~
The mage uttered several choice blasphemies and opened her eyes. The bright colors of the orchids reassembled themselves into coherent shapes, along with the sloping blue curve of Kimahri's chest. It would be just her luck if Wakka, of all people, stumbled across them like this.
With a heavy sigh Lulu raised her head, gave his ribcage a pat, and staggered to her feet. Backing away, she summoned a shower of water, wiping herself off hastily with her hands and shaking drops away. She picked up her dress and bundled herself back into it with eyes averted while Kimahri groomed himself.
"Shut up," she grumbled under her breath as the blitzball player bellowed her name again, disturbing the jungle's subtle music. When they had made themselves as presentable as possible, they trekked back towards the forest path. Along the way, the mage amused herself imagining the expression on Father Ira's face if she ever should tell him what she had used that last healing potion for.
Lulu was too relaxed to be properly irked as she stepped out onto the trail with a casual, "I'm right here, Wakka. There's no need to shout."
Wakka and the other players registered various degrees of shock as she materialized in their midst, followed by the stealthy hunter a few moments later. Lulu tilted her head towards the burly Ronso without meeting his eyes. "Thanks for the help, Kimahri," she said briskly as he dropped into place at Yuna's side and nudged the girl gently to take the lead. The apprentice summoner giggled, glancing over her shoulder. "Lulu, you're all wet!"
"It happens," the mage said demurely, arching an eyebrow.
Yuna grinned, waved, and flitted off, cheerfully oblivious to the jaunty swing of her guardian's tail.
Fighting a smirk, Lulu hung back with arms folded while the Aurochs gawked at her covertly, until Yuna and Kimahri had proceeded some distance up the trail. "Well?" she said crisply to Wakka. "Shall we go?" She glided forward without waiting for a reply.
"Uh, ya," he said, rubbing the back of his neck in bewilderment and falling into step with her, keeping to the opposite side of the path. "Hey, Lu--" he broke off, apparently backpedalling and changing the subject in mid-thought when she glanced his way-- "like, did you two get attacked or something?"
"Of course not, Wakka," she said coolly. "We were having wild passionate sex in the jungle."
"Sorry," he stammered, turning bright crimson along with several of the Aurochs while Letty and Jassu guffawed. "Dumb question. Glad you're okay."
She nodded. "Was there something you wanted to say?"
Wakka snapped his mouth shut and looked helpless while a few none-too-subtle nudges were exchanged between his teammates. They affected to amble faster so that he and Lulu fell behind. "Well," the captain said awkwardly as his teammates abandoned him, "I just wondered if mebbe, you know, we could go out after dinner."
"Go out... exactly... where?" she queried icily. She knew she was being cruel and toying with her prey, but sometimes she just couldn't help it.
"Uh. The beach?" he floundered, caught off-guard.
She planted a palm against her forehead and shook her head with a sigh. Dear Yevon, I have got to get myself on another pilgrimage.
"Nevermind, Lu," Wakka mumbled apologetically.
Lulu felt a very agreeable wobbliness about the knees as she swept past him. Just another boring day in Besaid.