Title: Ways of Walking.
Setting: Pre-canon, mostly.
Theme + Number: #50, In the middle.
Pairing/Character/Friendship: Wakka, Lulu, and Chappu.
Warnings: I hereby declare 'implied character death' redundant, because if you know all the characters exist, you know who's dead.
Summary: When they were little, the three of them walked everywhere together. Some traditions are never left behind.
When they were little, the three of them left their fingerprints on every road, track, footpath, and hunting trail on Besaid Island. They explored even when the grown-ups said it was too dangerous, because of the fiends. None of them should have lived to their tenth year, rightly speaking, but the children of Besaid were resilient and knew the fiends of their home like the best of friends. Maybe what they would become was already there, written in the hearts of two boys and a girl who were not afraid.
They always walked side-by-side, even on trails meant only for one, even after they had grown too big to fit comfortably that way. It would have been more practical to walk single-file, but that wasn't the point. The point was that they were going nowhere-in-particular, and they were going there together.
As children do, they built a complicated tradition around it without speaking a word:
Wakka walked in the middle, because he was the oldest ("By six months!" Lulu complained bitterly) and supposed to be taking care of them ("I can take care of myself!" Chappu moaned when the priests told him to stay with his brother). There might have been another reason, once, but they had forgotten it. Sometimes he would start running, grabbing the other two by the hands and pulling them along after him. Then Lulu would squeak in surprise (so would Chappu, though he always insisted otherwise), and he would stop and tease them both about having such short legs, even after Chappu could run at least as fast as he could.
Chappu walked on the left, the way he had done since he had been a toddler clinging to his older brother's hand. He liked to pick up things, leaves and flowers and stones, and would often end up spinning around as he walked to he could grab one drifting feather. He stuck them in his hair, or Wakka's or Lulu's. When he started wearing a sword sometimes, it turned out to be convenient that he walked on the left, because he could draw his sword without hitting either of the others. That wasn't why, though. It just was.
Lulu walked on the right, because she had to. That was where she belonged, where she could elbow Wakka in the side if she thought he wasn't giving her enough room to walk. She was the one who left the path most often, to climb a rock or a tree and look down at the boys smugly from a branch they were too heavy to sit on. That was where she belonged, next to Wakka next to Chappu. Much later, when she and Chappu walked just the two of them, there was always that space between them as long as they kept moving. They were used to Wakka between them.
Though they called it walking, the three of them got from place to place most often in a strange combination of a run and a meander, full of pauses to climb on, chase each other around, or crane their necks to see whatever they found most interesting at the time. All children walk this way, before they know about a time not marked by the sun and waves.
Now they truly walk, adult-fashion, a slower pace that they can keep up all day or until they get wherever it is they're going. Wakka doesn't break into a run for no reason except that he can, and Lulu doesn't vanish to reappear at the top of a tree. They've grown up now, and that's the way it is when you're grown up.
But Wakka walks down the middle of the path, no matter how narrow it is and how uncomfortable for Lulu, walking on his right. She will never ask him to move further over, and he will never offer.
Neither of them mentions the empty space on the left, but it will always be there. Wakka walks in the middle, Lulu walks on the right, and Chappu walks on the left. That's the way it has always been and the way it will always be.
No matter what.