Late afternoon. Tidus is sprawled on the nearest soft surface, still damp and salty from practice, blitzball on his belly, dozing golden and snoring in a sunbeam. Yuna sits in baggy leggings and nothing else in the dappled light of their hut in Besaid, reads, fans herself with banana leaves; after the Gullwings and everything else, she has decided to try being quiet again, and so far it's comforting.
Someone taps on the doorframe. Tidus doesn't stir. Yuna shifts, worries for a moment, then leans back and waits for whoever it is to go away. Trying to be quiet.
Instead, another knock. And another.
Yuna sets aside her book, sighs, finds a spare bit of weaving to wrap herself in, and pads to the door, wondering if it's Rikku.
Instead, when she pulls aside the curtain, she freezes for a moment, feels like the whole world freezes for a moment.
"You didn't send me," says Yunalesca, sounding more bewildered than anything else.
Yuna blinks, finds her voice.
"No," she says. "No, I didn't. I...well, it's been three years. You took your time to register the complaint."
"Three years?" Yunalesca blinks, unruffled. "Well, then. An eyeblink, for me."
"Sin's gone," says Yuna flatly. "It's over."
"Are you here to hurt us?"
Yunalesca pauses, as if considering it, then shakes her head slightly, shifting her hair that all but cloaks her. "No."
"Well, then. Come in."
She steps back, lets the ancient unsent slink into the hut, drops the curtain behind her.
"Ah," says Yunalesca softly, noticing the dozing man on the pile of blankets in the corner. "The last living son of Zanarkand. I heard the fayth had sent him back..."
Tidus stirs, grumbles, rolls the ball off him, and opens one eye.
"Shit!" he yelps, jolting up and lurching to his feet in protective panic, trying to shake away the bangs plastered to his face. "Yuna--that's--"
"It's all right," says Yuna. "She's not here to hurt us."
Tidus subsides, slowly. Yunalesca looks at him like he's not quite there. "Yes," she says, as if only just remembering. "We had quite a fight last we met, didn't we?"
Tidus scrubs hair out of his eyes, looking rather offended. "We killed you!"
"Well, dissolved me, for a time."
"But," says Tidus, "you didn't even care if you killed us then. I mean, you were as crazy as Seymour. Why?"
Yunalesca looks away, face hidden in her hair. "Because I had no hope." Her voice is low, strangled, barely audible. "Because I murdered my husband and pulled out his soul by the roots and it killed me to do it and even that wasn't enough."
Tidus just bites his lip, looks away, and says nothing.
"You lived alone at the end of the world for a thousand years," says Yuna softly, "and yet still you endured, intact, not just a mindless fiend." She steps a little closer, ventures a smile. "You must have had some hope."
Yunalesca laughs, bitter and dark. "No, just my part to play in the spiral, never changing." She shrugs. "I thought it was hope. Hope for a respite, the same hope every summoner has, because we'll get nothing more. I thought that was all hope could be. But I didn't even know what hope was, not 'til I met you. Not 'til I saw you take down Sin." She's silent for a long moment, looking at Yuna like she hasn't quite seen her before. "You destroyed my father at last. You killed him, after all these years."
Yuna closes her eyes and bows her head. "I'm sorry. It was...necessary."
Yunalesca looks to Tidus, cocks her head as if realizing something. "And your father as well. We are the last survivors of Zanarkand, and our fathers were Sin."
"Yeah," says Tidus, hoarse.
Yunalesca turns, all lithe, bitter arrogance, and paces.
Yuna takes a long, deep breath, looks at her staff where it's hanging in a corner, looks back--not quite at the floor, but close.
"I'll have to do it soon," she says quietly, with all the calm she can muster.
"I know," says Yunalesca.
"Do--" Tidus starts, then realizes. "Oh," he says softly. "I'm sorry."
"Why didn't you send me then?" Yunalesca asks. "Lay me to rest?"
"I...I'm sorry." Yuna bows in apology. "I knew you would be dissolved for some time, but not for too long. I thought--if we failed, if Sin truly couldn't be defeated without the Final Aeon--"
"You would have come back to me," Yunalesca murmurs. "Even after all you said, you would have come back to me, and sacrificed one of your friends, and done it after all."
"I would have done anything for the Calm. Endless or otherwise. Anything."
"You have a sacred duty to perform, summoner," says Yunalesca at last, drawing herself up. "But before you do, I would make a last request."
"As you said." Yunalesca looks wry. "I have lived alone at the end of the world for a thousand years. I have not known human touch...since my husband. I am not even sure I remember what it is like." She's silent for a moment, aching want showing in her eyes. "Please."
She's looking at Tidus.
"No," says Yuna calmly.
Yunalesca looks at her with a flash of desperate rage.
"Not him," Yuna says, with neither fear nor anger, merely absolute confidence. "I won him back from the fayth. He's mine."
Tidus blinks, flushes a little, opens his mouth as if to say something, seems to think better of it.
Yuna takes three silent steps forward, and very slowly, very gently, slides her arms round Yunalesca's shoulders. The unsent freezes for a moment, as if in pure surprise, then closes her eyes, almost as if in pain.
"You're so thin," Yuna murmurs, almost without thinking.
Yunalesca lets out a little wordless whine and suddenly clings to her, plastering herself against her like a puppy, almost shaking. Yuna closes her eyes, holds her tight through all that extravagant silky hair, gives solace and rest to the dead. Holds the thousand-year-old daughter of Yevon and rocks her until she stops trembling, relaxes, goes almost limp; when you live too long without comfort, Yuna knows, just a hug can feel so good that it hurts.
When they're just holding each other gently, Yuna lifts a hand to stroke her cheek, lift her chin a little to look her in the eye. The sheer relief in her is overwhelming. Yuna pauses a moment, slides fingers into her hair, and kisses her. Her lips are cold; she tastes like wind from far out amongst the stars.
The kiss lasts a long, long time, deepening, slow, blissful passion. The cloth she'd thrown on to answer the door has slipped; she's pressed half-naked against Yunalesca's cold skin. Her fingers slip a little on her shoulder where her skin dissolves into a pyrefly. But it's peaceful, and right; she lays the dead to rest.
"Thank you," says Yunalesca hoarsely, breaking the kiss at last. "Go, child. Live. Thank you."
Yuna blinks, eyes watering, at the haze of pyreflies, and lets go of her, and steps away. Tidus is holding out her staff, not quite looking at her; she takes it, runs fingers over the worn painted wood, and, at last, begins to dance.
She hasn't done it since Sin. Since sending Yevon, and Auron and Jecht, and her fayth, and all of Zanarkand. She'd imagined she'd be rusty, somehow, but she isn't; the power spirals around her, familiar as ever, sweeping through the world in a great wheel with her as the hub, tugging, cleaning, sweeping away that which should not be.
She risks a glance at Tidus, halfway through. He's intact, unstrained, just as the living are; his expression is indescribable. Her concentration wavers; she takes an extra turn to focus herself. Closes the circle. Turns the staff down.
Yunalesca's sigh of relief fades with the last of her terrible light.
Yuna's still for a long moment, then lets the staff fall to the floor.
"Yuna," Tidus says softly. "Are...you all right?"
She looks up after a moment, gathering a faint smile. "Yes. You?"
He just gives a little wry smile and holds out his arms.
They hold each other close. She rests his cheek on his shoulder, basks in his warmth, for she feels very cold in the hot afternoon. He strokes her hair.
"Did you mean it?" he asks softly.
"I...yes," she whispers. "I couldn't bear to send her then. She was so old, and only she knew...we'd defeated her so thoroughly, it would be a while before she could gather herself again, and." She looks up at him, urgent. "I believed we could defeat Sin ourselves. I truly did. Don't think I didn't have faith in us. But--if we failed--I had to leave some hope. I'm sorry."
"I understand." He squeezes her tight, sways with her. They're silent a long while; the chill fades; he squeezes her again, hard enough that she squeaks. "I actually meant about the--being yours bit."
She laughs softly, pulls back enough to look up at him. "Well, you are, you know."
"Let's do what she wanted, then." A slow smile spreads over his face. "Let's live."