Disclaimer: Final Fantasy XIII and its respected characters are the property of Square Enix, Inc. This is a work of fanfiction, and no profit has or will be made off of the work. By stating this disclaimer, I refuse to be hold liable of violating copyrights.
Warning(?): This work features the pairing of Snow x Light, and contains adult situations in the future. The game only takes place in Final Fantasy XIII and will not consider XIII-2 at all. The story was actually conceptualized before XIII-2, but since there are elements that coincidentally collided, I just borrowed the names. ^^
“When prayers turn to promises, not even fate can stand in their way.”
Blocking the hard kick barely in time, I grunted when the large brute sent me flying at least a good three feet before I dug my heels into the ground. Panting, I looked up at the blonde, his eyes burning in desire to close the distance between us and deliver more damage than the defensive kick. I stood, schooling my expression while I tried to ignore the stress my movement caused my body, and readied my stance. Intense azure studied me, and suddenly gloved hands holding a large training pad lowered.
Snow shook his head at me, “No more.”
“I can take it!” I argued, tightening my fists as I glared at the man.
“It’s been two hours, Claire,” he reasoned, setting the oversized mittens on the ground, signaling the end of the training session with a resolute finality. Hissing under my breath, I dashed forward, determined to wipe the insufferable smile he had on his lips off. My punch missed, and the world went dark for a moment, before I felt the strong arm around my waist. Looking up in a daze, the only thing that made any sense was cerulean eyes frowning in concern before I realized that my feet weren’t touching the ground. I scowled at the blonde for lifting me into his arms as he began walking to the resting area of the Elite Training Center, but after being promptly ignored, I rested my head against the firm shoulder in a huff of resignation. The walk was a quiet one. With no synthetic fiends blocking our way, we eventually made it to the room with a wall of lockers, assortment of benches and sofa, a wall-mounted television set, and a shower room in a far corner, a privilege only available for the select few allowed in the Elite Training Center. When it came time to design proper training areas within the Academy, a decision was ultimately made to have three training areas for different skill sets. Low Training Center was used for class demonstrations for greenhorn cadets, Advanced Training Center often housed graduated Guardians looking to hone their skills, and Elite Training Center was reserved for those that fought through the war since general fiends would no longer be challenging enough. While technically open to all who had access, Snow managed to convince me to abuse my power as the Commander to preserve our privacy when we trained. Since his return, the man had become my exclusive sparring partner while I worked to regain my stamina and strength, and monitored my progress with expertise, adjusting different routines when he saw fit. How the man became adept at swordsmanship and gunblade within a year baffled me. Unfortunately, my physical therapist agreed with him, which meant my beloved blade continued to elude my grasp.
Snow walked directly to the lounge chair in the corner, and gently deposited his cargo onto the chair. Immediately I hated this favorite chair of mine, the cushion and pillows too comfortable for my liking. A gift from Hope, it was generally left alone after Snow made it known that not touching the chair was an excellent idea. Such an obsessive idiot.
The burning desire to train for another two hours lost, I sighed, adjusting on the chair while Snow returned from his designated locker and sat down by my feet.
“Here.” Handed a bottle of his most recent creation, I squinted at the oddly-colored concoction. “Sip on this while I go retrieve our gear.” When I took the bottle, he stood, but not before casting a warning glare at me, “Slowly.”
I watched the large man walk out of the room, fighting the desire to stick my tongue out at his overprotectiveness. Sipping the juice slowly as instructed, I relaxed with my eyes closed in bliss, the drink both sweet and tangy with an aroma that I did not recognize. It wasn’t until three sips later that my body began to complain about the excessive training regime I’ve forced myself to undergo this afternoon. While declared physically well, my strength and speed still had not returned to the conditions of the past, which frustrated me to no end. Omega Weapon sat in my apartment on its stand, and I was only allowed to clean it three times the past week. The fact I still could not wield my trusted blade irritated me endlessly, even though I understood the pointlessness in carrying the weapon without the ability to use it properly. The lack of my blade by my side was the last sign of my weakness, and my fingers twitched every time I felt my body unbalanced from the absence of my holster and weapon on my hip.
I glared at the almost-invisible wounds on my wrists, wishing I could will my body restored to its previous strength. While finally viewing the entire ordeal as a challenge that Fate decided to throw my way for shits and giggles, I found myself asking the mythical fal’Cie why couldn’t they just love me a little less and let me blend into the background amidst millions of faceless humans so I could finally enjoy some peace in life.
The door hissed when Snow came back with the practice blades and cushioned gloves in hand. He smiled at my obedience in resting on the lounge chair, and began putting the practice gear into the cleaning machine. Finished with the settings, the soft hum filled the small room while he strode over to retake his seat by my legs. Shifting, I turned to my side and curved around his larger body, finding my own amusement with the ease of him resting against me. I watched his physique with appreciation, my eyes inevitably drawn to certain parts of him that attracted me throughout the day. Each day I find a different attraction, and today it was the way his shoulder connected to his neck perfectly, the tanned muscles glistened with sweat were absolutely fascinating.
“Did you like it?” his question interrupted my thoughts, and it took me another longing minute before I could tear my eyes away from my obsession and look into mesmerizing blues filled with amusement. It only took me another two seconds to figure out that he meant the drink in my hand, though I wouldn’t doubt he was asking about his body as well.
“… …” I shrugged, taking another large sip of the sweet drink for my answer.
He grinned, taking my hand into his, his thumb drawing circles on the back lazily. “It’s a blend of blueberries, banana, mangoes, aloe, and syrup. Supposed to give you some energy and recovery from the work out. I took out the bitter melon and substituted it with ginseng, but the fruit should mask it well.”
My nose crinkled at the thought of bitter melon, more than grateful that he knew about my dislikes well enough to take the cursed fruit out. While extremely nutritious, I refused to subject myself to such taste bud torture unless it was a life or death situation. Since when did I become so pampered?
“Claire,” Snow waited another minute before he began, and I found myself pouting slightly at the lecturing tone. “You really shouldn’t push yourself that much. Training could turn disastrous if you’re exhausted to the point that you passed out.”
“It was only a second and I’m fine,” I argued, and he sighed at my defensive nature.
“I know you want to wield Omega Weapon soon, but considering you just had another surgery a couple months ago to take out the pins in your wrists, you need rest and allow your body to repair. Doctor K did say you are doing remarkably well, but you can’t rush these things.”
I scowled with my lips around the straw, but otherwise kept my silence. Knowing how devastated I would be if I was decommissioned from the field indefinitely, Hope chose a more old-school method of surgery by setting the crushed bones with specialized metal pins, which would require surgical removal after the joints healed. The only downside was that it would take longer for me to recover, but the odds of returning to my soldier self were much higher. Snow shook his head at my continued defiance, something that nearly drove both Dr. Kadowaki and Hope insane, and reached over to put his hand on my cheek. I couldn’t help but lean into his touch, nuzzling the warmth and closing my eyes.
“Promise me not to overexert yourself next time?”
I opened my eyes slightly to glare at him, “You just want me to have enough strength for nighttime activities.”
He grinned, “You say that as if it’s a problem.”
“Hmph,” I sucked on the straw harder twice, the sound of empty bottle my response to the smiling blonde. Taking the bottle away from me, he stood, pulling me to my feet and promptly slapped my ass once, an action that would have cost him his hand if there had been an observer nearby.
“Come on, let’s get you cleaned up while you decide if we should have dinner at the cafeteria or at home. There’s a tub full of hot water with your name on it waiting upstairs.”
Curling up on the sofa, I put my tablet on bent knees while I studied the curriculum proposal sent by Quistis Trepe, the woman working way too hard in my opinion. A former instructor of PSICOM, Quistis never received credit for her intelligence and leadership in combat training for the sole reason that she was not a man. When Sazh and I recruited her for Academy, she was wary to put her trust in the system that had once overlooked her abilities and denied her the rank she deserved, until Sazh promised that she would work under my purview while able to submit any suggestions for the Scholars program. Quistis has only surpassed our expectations thus far. Now the sneaky afro-wearing man lurked in the proverbial darkness, always looking for a chance to steal her away from me. As if that would happen.
“Teriyaki salmon sound good?” Snow asked, and took my noncommittal sound as his answer. The man’s off-tune hum was quickly drowned by the kitchen exhaust fan, and I simply couldn’t resist the upward curve of my lips. Biting the tip of my stylus, my eyes drifted from the finely-crafted proposal, the thought of the shared bath earlier came into mind. Only that idiot can turn bath salt into an erotic tool. For months since his return, Snow has been relentless in making me become comfortable with him. While I didn’t think I would ever fear the large blonde, since I was more than receptive the morning after, he was tenacious in making me remember his body. It was both embarrassing and exciting for the games he played that drew me to him before taking me like he should. I never knew that many ways of using chocolate. Thanks to his antics, it was difficult for me to even associate sex with anything other than the conniving blonde.
The sudden ring of the phone startled me out of lustful thoughts, and I glared at the remote control before picking it up. A downcast face of an irritated man dressed in nondescript uniform filled the screen, and before I could say a word, he asked, “Mr. Snow Villiers?”
I turned to look at Snow and debated whether or not I should let the man handle his own call, something that shouldn’t have come to the apartment land line in the first place. Deciding that my perfectly prepared dinner was more important, I answered, “He’s busy. I can relay the message.”
Apparently stunned by the unexpected voice, the man looked up at the screen, his eyes widened in recognition once he focused. “C… Commander Farron! I… I’m sorry, I must have the wrong number!”
“You didn’t,” I said, the ease of the answer came too naturally for my own good.
“Oh,” the man said, before a more gossip-y, “Oh.” He tried to school his expression into one of professionalism, but by the way he jittered on the screen, I winced at the thought of being the topic of whatever office he called from for the next week or so. “Well,” he cleared his voice, “Please tell Mr. Villiers that his container from Cocoon is arriving tomorrow, and we will need him to come in and sign for Customs before he can take the container. He can bring his own transport, but our office also provides trucks if needed.”
“He’ll be there,” I answered, and before the man thought of any damning questions to ask, I cut off the phone.
“You know, we’ll probably be the headline of the Pulsian News within the next forty-eight hours,” the deep baritone sounded behind me, the man finding too much amusement in my inadvertent ‘outing’ of our relationship. Two plates of wonderfully smelling food in hand, Snow grinned once I got up and eagerly followed him to the breakfast table. Putting the food down, he pulled me into his arms such that my back was to his chest, his lips soon kneaded against my neck.
I sighed softly in contentment. “… That’s not the problem right now.”
“Oh? And what is?”
“You’re in between me and my dinner.”
The man laughed lowly at that, and I felt a dull pain from his sucking and marking my shoulder before he turned me around. Lips meeting mine, I closed my eyes and savored the taste of home made teriyaki sauce in the kiss. He took his time before releasing me just far enough for our lips to part, “Are you sure that won’t be a problem?”
I frowned, hating the fact that his kisses always made my mind work slower than usual. Chewing my lower lip while pondering his question, I came to the conclusion that while I will never hide my relationship with him, the thought of vultures following us would be too bothersome. “I’ll call Selphie after dinner.”
He smiled, his arms tightened before he stole another chaste kiss. “Come, try my newest recipe and tell me what you think.”
Leaning against the service counter, I tap my foot in random rhythm while waiting for the munchkin to come back with another tablet full of necessary documents to sign. I took the time to study my lovely Commander, still amazed at the enigma who sat on the waiting bench against the wall reading her tablet, looking more like a fashion model than a soldier. Dressed in a casual off-shoulder top that went all the way to her hips, she showed off her impossibly long legs with her denim shorts hidden beneath her form-fitting shirt. I almost didn’t make it out the door when she walked into the living room this morning. I highly doubt she knew what a sight she made, the woman oblivious to the numerous men and even some women drooling at her during our short trip here. And she wondered why I always wanted to ravage her regardless of time and place.
It had been nearly six months since our first night, yet the passion and need for this gorgeous woman only increased with time. I could never have enough of her, whether simply wrapping my arms around her when she rested against me on the sofa, or having her under me gasping out my name. While I’d like to think I’m not at all clingy, I think Claire has gotten used to my desperate need to have her in my sight whenever possible. Sazh certainly enjoyed teasing me about how I hovered over our dear Commander, which I shamelessly took pride in. But what really made this love deeper was how comfortable we were with each other, that we were both equals in the relationship, a delicate but solid equilibrium that we found through exploration and experiments. Neither of us tried to control or change the other, and we treasure each day as if it was our last. It was a mature type of relationship, where we knew not to take each other for granted. Life was simply too short and brittle, and the war taught us that harshly. The fact was, we both wanted this to last, and we had a tacit agreement that we would not give up trying.
Watching as she sat and waited through the boring process of getting the container through Customs with such grace, my eyes inevitably traveled to soft but calloused fingers gliding on the keyboard attached to the tablet. A surely goofy grin tugged at my lips, as I remembered the first time we walked down the hall of the Academy together. After noticing how she had slowed her pace to match my leisurely one on a weekend, I gave into my desire and took her hand into mine shamelessly. Azure eyes looked up in surprise, and after a testing slight tug, she gave into my persistence, though her ears pinked as she looked away from me. She was so adorable that I had to pull her into an empty classroom, and I—
“Ahem,” a loud cough jolted me out of my reverie, and nearly made me jump. I turned sheepishly to face an irate man, who thrust an official tablet in my face. “If you can sign it today, Mr. Villiers?”
“Oh, y-yes.” I grabbed the stylus and tried to focus on the words on the screen, all the while seeing my beloved take a quick, amused glance at me before looking back down at whatever document she’s working on. A ghost of a smile on her lips, she unconsciously bit her lower lip in trying to suppress the awe-inspiring look. I swear I saw a little tip of her tongue that’s making my breath hitch, and—
“Ah, yes, signature, right.” Forcing myself to turn my back to Claire, I read over the document and began painstakingly scribbling my signature on the pages. The man was none-too-polite when he pointed out several blanks that I missed because of my distracted state, and I swore that I did not hear Claire chuckling at my idiocy.
With the last line signed, the man was more than happy to snag the tablet from my hands, waving me off so he could get back to his nap or his liquor, whichever he preferred. “Dock 6.”
I turned, in time to see Claire put the tablet away into the brown leather messenger bag. She looked years younger without the constant worry of others on her mind, something I was proud to say was my accomplishment. Able to relax, my beloved finally looked her age when she peered up at me with eyes that spoke more than her words. Taking her hand in mine, I squeezed the nimble digits in silent declaration of love as I led her towards the dock. The minute the dingy double door swung closed, I gave into temptation and pull her close to savor a chaste kiss to tide my desire over.
Seeing my container up ahead, I waved at the man who led the small moving crew to signal the okay. While the man barked orders at his men, Claire pulled away from me to take a seat on my hoverbike, work unfinished and all. Seeing how I ruined her Friday evening with an overextended dinner when she had planned to work, I could only blame myself for her desertion. I approached the man I knew from a lifetime ago with a wide smile. Shaking his hand, I pulled the burly man into a half hug, “It’s been too long, Barret.”
“Good to see ya too, kid,” the dark-skinned brute grinned while shoving me with his shoulder in jest, though it felt like a bruise was forming. “Ringin’ outta nowhere after years? I’m hurt, ya brat.”
I smirked, “Sorry, I didn’t move to Pulse until a couple years ago, and settled only recently. Wasn’t even sure you were alive, so imagine my surprise when I heard about a bar named 7th Heaven in Academia. You seemed to do well.”
He laughed, “Eh, a couple of trucks and some good men, I can’t complain, ya know? Though,” he grinned lecherously as he looked behind me, “Seems ya did better, ya lady killer. Is that…?”
“Yeah,” I couldn’t help but pump my chest out in pride when I followed his glance. “That’s my beloved right there.”
“Fuck,” Barret scoffed, punching me on the bruised shoulder, “That’s Commander Farron, ain’t it?”
“That she is.”
“Holy—” the muscled man looked ready to run over and tackle Claire, but after my slid out foot stopped him, he sneered at me before a broad smile almost tore open his ugly scarred face. “Kid, bring her to the bar next week. I wanna buy her a drink for saving Marlene.”
I lifted an eyebrow in curiosity, and he shrugged, beginning his tale in a hushed voice. “It was right after the Fall, ya know, and Marlene got lost in those damn flower fields around New Bodhum. So I gone look for her and found her cryin’ in da Commander’s bleeding arms, and a giant son-of-a-gun adamantoise was dead! She never gave me a chance to thank her and I ain’t likin’ that, ya know?”
Recalling the incident all too well, I smiled fondly at my lover, who was absorbed in her studies. Fine brows knit in concentration, Claire had an adorable pout that I dared not mention to her for fear of never seeing it again while she pondered the information. “Yeah, I’ll bring her,” I said distractedly. “Just text me the address.”
The move was an easy one, since all of the items came boxed. With three men on the job, the contents of the container were transported to the storage locker that I leased a week prior. The boxes were arranged on the shelves that I had set up when I wasn’t teaching and Light was too busy for me to harass her. The stoic woman disappeared with my hoverbike sometime during the move, and reappeared with warm lunches and cold drinks for all, much to the movers’ appreciation. When introduced, Claire didn’t recognize Barret, and only nodded politely when the man gushed his gratefulness to the Commander. I swore if I wasn’t there he would have hugged Claire to death for saving his precious daughter.
When the movers eventually left, I tossed a set of work gloves and a box cutter to the clueless yet tolerating beauty. “Come on, let’s open some boxes.”
“What are these?”
I grinned while pulling down a box and set it onto a work table in the middle of the large locker. “When Serah and I first moved to Cocoon, she wanted to remodel the house. I convinced her to put all the stuff she didn’t want into boxes and stored it away.” It seemed almost unreal how calm I could be when talking about my ex-wife, and how Claire’s eyes finally stopped dimming in guilt whenever her little sister came up in our conversation. The Commander had worked hard in overcoming the desertion of Serah, and she had eventually learned to move on in life and take what she deserves, while still caring for her little sister. I suspected that the monthly report she receives about Serah’s well-being also helped ease her mind. Last we heard, Serah had began dating Marqui, who moved in with her recently. Good for him to claim his childhood idol as his own. I only wish the boy good luck – he’s gonna need it.
Claire’s eyes widened in curiosity, and a gleam of what I suspected to be giddiness shined in them when she studied the shelves full of boxes. Looking at the writing on each box carefully, she tried to decode my script on most of the boxes, though some were unlabeled. I smiled when she walked around, her hand trailing and touching the rows of cardboard as one would artwork, and went outside to drag in a large trash can. Having selected a box, Claire put it next to the one already on the table, and cut it open with more enthusiasm than I thought possible. I grinned at her disappointed pout when the box turned out to be past bills and receipts before I opened my own box.
We began sorting through different boxes, stopping occasionally to laugh at the contents. Most notable was when I teased her mercilessly after uncovering a box of her underwear, which earned me a nice bruise to my ribs after she punched me hard to grab the box and toss it in the trash can. The blush on her face was too adorable and totally made up for the pain I willingly suffered.
Halfway through the boxes, I heard a soft gasp from the typically quiet Goddess. Looking up, I saw the impossible sight of vulnerable childish wonder on her face when she picked up a stuffed animal and ran a finger along an oval ear lovingly. A brown, hand-sewn toy, it vaguely resembled a bunny with brown and white oval ears, two round brown eyes, and an inverted triangle brown nose. As Claire studied the doll, I took off my gloves and wrapped my arms around the lithe torso. The rabbit had an off-white belly, and short arms and legs. It was a fluff of cuteness, despite a couple of holes with its stuffing sticking out. The fact that Claire couldn’t stop rubbing its cheek with a finger forced me to nibble her ear, as if I ever needed an excuse for tasting my love. She leaned against me with a sigh, her eyes glued to the doll in her hand.
“My grandmother made this for me,” she whispered. “I was five and Serah was two… She was going to make one for Serah too, but her health failed her before she could finish.”
I stayed quiet, swaying slightly to coax the stubborn Commander to join me in a slow dance. We stayed silent for a while, but I knew better than to interrupt her while she gathered her thoughts. Eventually, she continued, “Serah didn’t know our grandmother… So she wanted her when she got older, and I gave in. But I missed her.”
It took me a while to realize the ‘her’ Claire was referring to was the doll. I couldn’t tell by looking at it, but if she said it’s a girl, I would go for it. When it seemed that the woman was done with talking, I prodded, “So what’s her name?”
Claire stiffened slightly, her ears took on a captivating hue of pink. “…You’ll laugh at me.”
“You know I won’t,” I licked at the blush. “Tell me.”
Claire shivered, and after some pause, she finally relented, “… Lil’ Bun.”
I buried my face in pink mane, kissing her head to hide my growing smile at such a cute little name spoken by her seductive voice. I got an elbow to my stomach, but I tightened my hold on the slender waist and chewed on the junction of neck and shoulder until a lovely mark formed. She whimpered softly in annoyance, the woman never forgave me for marring her neck with a mess of bite marks and forgetting to tell her about them. She was completely embarrassed when Hope and Sazh saw them, and more so when I slapped away the healing hands of the Director.
Satisfied with the new mark, I gave a final kiss to Claire’s temple as I pulled away. Grabbing the box we used for “take home” items, I smiled at the pouting Commander. “Come on, let’s take Lil’ Bun home.”
Closing my eyes, I took off the computer glasses and put them on the desk, massaging the bridge of my nose in exhaustion. Having just sent off another terabyte-worth of reports to Hope and Sazh, I felt like I just went five rounds with a ceratoraptor. Even though I knew this was a job that needed to be done, I questioned daily whether I was best suited for the work. Sitting around staring at a screen all-day made my body ache for action, the soldier in me was restless during paperwork. At least I had returned to teaching classes and administering field tests which kept me away from the desk enough to keep my sanity.
My office door opened abruptly, but I didn’t bother to react, knowing only one person who dared to enter without the common decency of knocking. Looking up lazily, my eyes widened at the sight of Snow coddling Lil’ Bun in his massive arm as one would a child, and I felt the corner of my lips curl upwards when the man rounded my desk. Turning my chair to face him, Snow straddled me, pressing Lil’ Bun’s nose to my cheek in a kiss before dropping her onto my lap. I played with her chubby arms and stretched to meet Snow for a kiss. Studying the chiseled chin and intense cerulean eyes, I knew there had to be a reason for the idiotic blonde to shamelessly walk through the campus hallway holding a stuffed bunny.
“You’re done, right?” Snow asked, his voice hoarse with desire.
Licking my lips at the faint chocolate flavor, I shrugged. “…I was planning to read the post-op reports this afternoon.”
“Well, you don’t have class or meetings, so I count that as done for the day.”
Silencing me with his finger, he grinned, “Let’s go on a date. I found this craft shop that might know how to repair Lil’ Bun. We’ll grab a quick lunch, then go to the shop, and go to Barret’s for dinner. He mentioned his friend is a great cook.”
Torn, I cast a glance at my computer, debating whether I should give in to his spontaneous date, a dereliction of duty. He blocked my sight immediately, his finger putting pressure to my lips until I gave in and sucked the digit teasingly. Groaning, Snow pulled me up and began to herd me out, with Selphie waving good-bye on our way. I really should be disturbed that my lover already has my secretary in his pocket.
After lunch at a small cafe, I trailed behind Snow and entered a modest store hidden in between large buildings. A quiet institution with soft music playing in the background, the brightly-lit place had rows of material for crafts stored in interesting displays. Snow walked up to the store owner who was, of all things, a talking moogle floating behind the counter that greeted us with a hearty “Kupo!”
Soon the blonde was laying on the charm sweet talking to the female moogle called Gurdy, the magical creature giggling and occassionally back-flipping when being tickled or pet. Watching Snow like that, I couldn’t help but smile at the way his eyes brightened in amusement, his full lips curved in a gentle smirk, and his deep voice cooed while talking to the moogle. Maybe I should be jealous of the girl he was charming, but it was hard to hold any negative thoughts when Gurdy’s little wings fluttered happily as she flew over to kiss Snow on the cheek. I was somewhat surprised, however, when Gurdy flew over and kissed me on the cheek after hearing the story of Lil’ Bun.
“Gurdy said she could make Lil’ Bun all better and good as new,” Snow said happily when I followed the moogle to the counter, his arm wrapped around my waist possessively. “But there’s a little issue…”
“We don’t have enough material, kupo!” Gurdy explained, and the sight of a small moogle holding my bunny that is almost the same size as her easily made my smile wider. “The fabric is a blend of chocobo feathers and coeurl fur, and you can only find coeurls in Cocoon. They’re not hunted often ’cause fiend hunters only look for high-priced leather, you know? And not a lot of fabric makers are making these old styles of fabric anymore…”
“But if we bring you the material you need, can you make the fabric, Gurdy?” Snow asked while scratching the moogle behind her long ears, earning him a purr.
“Of course, kupo!”
Snow nodded, and with a promise that we’ll go fiend hunting next time we visit Cocoon, I wandered off deeper into the store while the man wanted to “preserve his masculinity” by waiting next to the counter and continuing to charm the smitten moogle. I chuckled at his idiocy, but silently agreed that it would make the browsing trip much easier without him whining or pouting next to me. It had been years since I stepped foot into a craft store, having a vague memory of my mother holding my hand while I picked the color of the lace to go on our dresses. The kind-hearted woman may not have had a lot of money raising two girls by herself, but she tried to make something special for Serah and me all the time by decorating clothes purchased from second-hand stores with her unique designs.
Fingering the fabric samples, a thought abruptly entered my mind of the bloodstained trenchcoat that Snow had burned shortly after returning from Mah’habara. The man had yet to purchase another one, the heated weather never warranted the heavy covering, but I can tell he missed his signature outfit. Picking out the colors, I soon had a good inventory of what I needed before I approached Gurdy again. Snow was nowhere to be seen, the adorable ball of fur informed me that the man went to get some ice cream for all while she rung me up.
Soon I was walking down to Sector Seven while enjoying a soft serve cone that was simply irresistable. Snow didn’t help when he declared that manners were meant for children and that adults earned the right to do whatever they wish to as long as it didn’t bother anyone else. Where he came up with these ridiculous claims I had no idea. But it did feel good with the setting sun warming my skin while licking the chilling sweetness.
Stopping just before the bar, Snow turned and waited while I finished the treat. He chuckled, much to my confusion, and leaned down to lick some ice cream off my nose. I blushed furiously while he opened the door and guided me into the quiet restaurant. Small and nondescript, the Seventh Heaven had a nicely kept bar on one side, while tables and chairs aligned the other wall. Snow guided me directly to the bar, where the man, Barret, greeted us with a holler.
After declining the offer of alcohol, I settled into a comfortable position, listening to the stories they exchanged as the two men caught up on life after the Fall. Snow explained his time with Barret at a summer job in Palumpolum was what gave him and the N.O.R.A. gang the idea of opening their own bar in Bodhum to fund their conquest, and jested about besting his teacher in both business and bartending. The burly man growled before explaining that his group, AVALANCHE, had been dormant since the Fall. They felt that Neo Sanctum was doing a decent job so far, and they were more than happy to be law-abiding citizens.
“But the minute Neo Sanctum starts to be like the old Sanctum, we definitely won’t be quiet,” Barret said with a grin, though the undercurrent of seriousness was clear.
“We’ll try to keep them in check.” I smiled, feeling honored to have the trust of this man who divulged such a secret to someone he barely knew. It was ironic how the old me would frown at the thought of a government resistance under my watch, the present me actually felt relieved about their existence and that residents of this new planet weren’t passively letting a select few dictate their way of life.
The dinner continued with Snow and Barret swapping stories of the war leading to the Fall, the old man having an active role in protecting the people in Palumpolum from Pulse fiends. I sat next to an animated Snow, sipping my tea while listening to the men talk. It had been a secret indulgence of mine, having no pressure to speak or participate in their activities while accompanying Snow to spend time with his friends. I could simply enjoy being in the background studying Snow’s features – his expressive face when he paid attention to the discussion at hand, his hypnotic eyes sparkling while he laughed, and the sound of his deep voice reverberating around me in a soothing manner. What I savored the most was his subtle, unconscious gestures which reminded me of his love – how he never broke away from his conversation yet found the right moment to feed me newly discovered morsels, which I loved, the arm around my waist squeezed in silent caress of adoration, and his immediate attention if I showed any sign of exhaustion. Hope and Selphie never understood how I could spend hours with Snow and his friends while seemingly lost in my own little world and not get irritated, and I never bothered sharing my little secret.
With alcohol involved, the conversation inevitably turned lewd and rambunctious. Several times I blushed when either man discussed the latest fantasized women on television, but thankfully the two knew to draw the line at discussing each other’s romances. I only had to glare at Snow once to have them sober up enough to change the topic when it became too much. Barret shared numerous anecdotes of Snow’s idiocy in his youth, and my lover tried his best to return the favor. Typical men. Only once did the conversation stop when a patron came in whom I recognized from the Academy. Cloud Strife seemed as surprised as I, but he merely nodded his greeting and I returned it before he settled in a dark corner. Barret explained that the spikey-haired blonde was an old friend, and the fact that his business partner, Tifa, hovered over the man seemed to solidify that.
It was close to midnight while Snow leaned heavily against me that I realized the slurring words had tapered off. The dark-skinned brute had his head on the counter, somehow achieving the impossible feat of sleeping while standing. Shaking my head, I tried to pay for our tab, only to have Tifa decline with a warm smile. “A small thanks for saving our angel, Marlene,” she explained. After getting reassurance that such a gesture would not happen again, I began the trek of going back home with the large blonde draped over me. The idiot should be thankful I had my strength back, or he’d be sleeping in a dingy corner of Seventh Heaven until daybreak.
Halfway through the silent city of Academia, Snow seemed to wake only enough to become a nuisance. He hummed some random song in that off-key tone of his, which was cute until he started singing. Loudly. I winced when someone shouted from their apartment for him to shut the fuck up, and hurried along to drag him towards the Academy. The idiot seemed unfazed by his critic, continuing his performance and forcing me to stop and wait at the courtyard in front of campus until he finishes. Watching the imbecile with arms across my chest, I seriously debated the pros and cons of knocking him unconscious and carrying his ass back to our room. It would be great for strength training, wouldn’t it?
As abruptly as it started, the performance ended with the blonde throwing his arms around me, pulling my body to his in a tight embrace. After struggling slightly to free at least my trapped arms, I glared upwards toward the sky veiled by his wild mane. At least it would be Saturday tomorrow.
“…I’m sorry, Claire,” he whispered.
Turning my head as best I could beneath my human restraint, I asked in bewilderment, “For what?”
“I never told you. I’m sorry.”
Not having a clue what he was talking about, I decided it must not be too important. If it was something that truly bothered him, I would have noticed by Snow’s demeanor already. He was never one to hold any secrets in. “It’s all right,” I said, patting his head like one would a puppy. “You can tell me when you’re ready.”
“No… No!” Having pushed me away far as his arm could extend, the drunk man glared at me with his inebriated eyes. “It’s not okay! I haven’t told you I love you because I’m a coward!”
My eyes widened when the words sunk in, my body stiffened in disbelief. In truth, I never thought about how mere words could have such an impact on me. I knew of his love through his actions, and that was more than I could ever dream of already. Never had I questioned why he never vocally expressed his love for me, and I didn’t think it was important. But hearing the words now made me realize the ache in my heart. It should be a sin to feel so complete with those three simple words.
“Snow…” I struggled, “I… You don’t…”
“No,” he growled, his fingers tightening around my arms. “I have to say it… I wanted to. I just didn’t want… you to think… to dis..dis…” words caught on his tongue, he shook his head, trying to clear his head enough to complete his sentence. “After Serah… it was so fast… I didn’t think you’d… I was afraid you wouldn’t take me seriously. That I wasn’t good enough.”
Strangely, it was because of his marriage with Serah that I knew he was taking our relationship seriously. When will it get through his thick head that he is more than ‘good enough’ for me? Not feeling like defending myself, I merely glared at Snow with the clear meaning that I would never dismiss him for anything he says. It took him a moment to understand my silent declaration. He smiled widely before pitching forward, his sudden outburst had proved too much for him. Supporting the blonde with my body, I sighed softly with my fingers buried deep into his hair, massaging his scalp. He moaned, nuzzling my neck while leaning heavily against me, a soft snore soon followed. Dragging the too-tall man towards the entrance, I whispered to his ear a quiet promise, “I’ll forgive you only if you say it again when you’re sober.”
Somehow, I think I felt him smile.
Dumping another bowl of bloody water at least a mile away from my tent, I glared at any curious fiends who even looked at me funny. After the sixth trip, I was more than ready to pummel some fiends just for the fun of it. ‘It’s easy, kupo!’ the vermin had said. ‘Just make sure you wash out the blood right after the kill so the fur doesn’t stain, kupo!’ What Gurdy failed to mention was that it was extremely difficult to clean a coeurl fur completely of blood, and after scrubbing the skin for the past three hours, I felt like whining about how my hands are raw and in need of lotion like a school girl. Ah, what we do in the name of love.
Holding up the white skin of the elusive cat, I examined my work of the third animal I cleaned, knowing that Gurdy would need at least four to be certain she could make enough fabric from the fur. The adorable moogle explained, at length, why she needed a certain amount of material, but my mind shut down after the third sentence out of her mouth. I did an admirable job of nodding and smiling to the chirpy moogle, however. Never let a girl know you weren’t listening, if you know what’s good for your health. Finding no more blood on the white fluffiness, I hung the skin on a wire at the other side of the tent, letting it dry over night. I should be able to find another white coeurl tomorrow before noon; one more night of wilderness, then I would be on my way home.
Wiping my hand dry, I took a sip of the whiskey I brought with me. The night was quiet and serene, the snapping of kindling from the fire I started accompanied the random chirps of night creatures only sounds I hear. A sudden chirp of my tablet interrupted the silence, and I chuckled at the grumpy message from Zell about covering me for the week. The shorter soldier never let me forget what I owed him or vice versa, and I guess subjecting him to several classes of hyperactive primary cadets could be considered cruel and unusual punishment. There was a reason why I never got to teach the upperclassmen.
After finishing my daily limit of liquor, I couldn’t help but check my messages for what possibly was the thirtieth time of the night. Still no message from my beloved Goddess. Unsuccessfully resisting the urge to pout, I scowled at my phone as if it’s at fault. I shouldn’t really be surprised – Claire did say she might not remember to call before she left for the week-long conference at New Eden. The oblivious Commander had no idea what she was entitled to in a relationship, such as checking on her boyfriend when she was out of town. The last time she went off for a three-day conference, I received one call on the third day to ask me if I wanted to have dinner in town since she was ten minutes away from home. When I whined about how I missed her and she should’ve called so I wouldn’t worry, she simply looked at me in confusion and reminded me that she was away at a meeting, not a mission. I really had the urge to bang my head on a wall then.
So engrossed in my self-loathing, I nearly dropped the phone in my hand when it rang, the special ring tone surprised me while I fumbled to answer. The gorgeous face filled the screen immediately, her hair down and wet, framing her delicate face as Claire tried adjusting her phone on the bed. “Well, hello there, beautiful,” I said with a grin. “My girlfriend’s out of town this week. Care for some phone sex with me while she’s gone?”
Claire glared at me half-heartedly before settling in a position where she could relax and talk to me on the phone… or simply just be her quiet self while she studied me through the vid screen. Lying down on my sleeping bag, I took in her features longingly. Her bangs fell into her eyes, her lips curled slightly only when she looked at me, her gaze soft and relaxed. Absolutely radiant. Knowing that she could hold her thoughts in for as long the phone call was, I asked, “So, how was the conference?”
Claire shrugged, and I chuckled. “That boring, was it? What do you guys do there, anyway?”
She sighed, pulling a pillow close to rest her chin, “Politicians love hearing themselves talk. Press love seeing people together.”
“And in all that ruckus, Hope Estheim worked magic with his two partners-in-crime to get money and power for the Academy,” I grinned, and by her roll of eyes, knew I hit the truth in one. Why else would Hope have wanted both Sazh and Claire there if not to use their presence as leverage to get what would most benefit the Academy? That boy was too smart and dangerous for his own good; thankfully he felt taking over the world was too bothersome.
As she shifted her perch on the bed, I knew something was bothering her. Despite being more open to sharing her feelings and thoughts, Claire still hadn’t learnt how to properly complain about mundane issues to her boyfriend. “What happened, love?”
She bit her lower lip, fidgeted slightly before she shrugged.
Sighing, Claire looked away uncomfortably, “Senator Seymour took us out to dinner.”
Somehow the name set off the warning bells in my mind. The memory of Selphie cursing at the phone and complaining about horny senators suddenly popped into mind. I narrowed my eyes, my blood began to boil while I thought about the best way to get away with murder, until I realized Claire said… “Us?”
Nodding, Claire glanced at me warily, trying to gauge just how upset I was. “I dodged him so many times before that he wouldn’t take no for an answer tonight. I couldn’t kill him,” she said so wistfully, “but thankfully Hope and Sazh joined us.”
Which meant Hope probably talked the senator into giving up his blackened soul, while Sazh would just use his idiocy as a front to put distance between my beloved and the perv. Good men. I need to remember to get those two something special this Yule.
“Claire,” despite knowing our friends kept the oblivious beauty safe from evil senators touching what’s mine, I was still restless. “Promise me you won’t go anywhere with him, or any other senators, alone.”
The temperature in the tent dropped ten degrees with the glare she sent through the vid screen, but I held my ground until she relented with a sigh and a nod. Happy to have gotten my way, I watched as Claire settled into a comfortable position with the phone, lying down and still facing me. I found myself humming some random lullaby that my Matron used to sing, my finger tracing her face on the screen. Even though we were a planet away, it was as if we were lying in our bed, my arms her pillow while her supple body pressed against mine. Maker, I missed her so much. How did I ever survive without her in the past?
“You need vocal lessons,” she whispered before closing her eyes, a small smile on her lips.
I smirked before bidding her goodnight, and watched until her breathes evened out into sleep. Such pure loveliness.
Sipping the cooled coffee, I stared out the large viewing window of the airport, the lights on the runway illuminating the late night darkness. Impatient, I counted the seconds before the Academy airship lands, agitated from a week of Claire-deprivation. And I couldn’t wait to see her reaction when she finds the little surprise I have waiting for her at home.
Home. A simple word that took on another meaning in the past months. A place to rest and relax, where there wasn’t a project every weekend for me to worry, whether it was about money or just being a good handyman. There wasn’t any expectation of me from my lover other than to be myself, and I was thankful for that. Claire was more than happy to let me plan our weekends, and I’ve gotten good at determining whether she felt up to something or not by simply looking at her. It was an addictive game of mine, and the prize upon winning was beyond pleasurable. Lately, she had been learning how to cook from me, and was giving me shooting lessons in return. We’ve hit the shooting range on campus the past couple of weekends, and I succeeded in making a fool of myself in front of my lover and students. The sparkle in Claire’s eyes as she laughed at me in her quiet way was worth my bruised ego.
Hearing the approaching noise of an airship, I stood, and tossed the empty coffee cup in the trash. By the time I walked to the gate, the airship had landed smoothly. The cabin door opened, and I strode to the private airship just in time to pull the pink-haired beauty into my arms. She gasped and clutched my jacket, her feet not touching the ground when I kissed her hungrily. Drawing her tongue into my mouth, I trailed a hand up her back, the feel of her flesh soothing my possessiveness. Her hands tightened around my arms in a warning to not undress her in public, I released her reluctantly with a slight pout before stealing another chaste kiss. “I missed you.”
She smiled shyly, her eyes downcast while I set her down, her expression told me of her reciprocating thoughts. Kissing the corner of her lips, I took her bag in hand and wrapped my arm around her waist, guiding her away from the airship. “C’mon, let’s go home.”
“Well, gee, thanks, Snow! You didn’t have to come pick us up! You shoulnd’t have!” barked the black man as he jumped off the airship, waving his hand dramatically while sneering at me. After Hope exited the airship behind Sazh, I turned and grinned smugly at the men.
“I don’t know if my car is big enough for your fat ass, old man.”
“Oh, hardy har har,” growled Sazh. “Tell me you brought the SUV.”
“For your convenience? Why?” I winced when Claire slapped my chest with the back of her hand, a signal to stop playing with the easily-flustered man. “Yeah, yeah. Of course I did. I’m hurt you’d think otherwise.”
“That you’re an obsessive idiot?” Hope scoffed while walking past us to the SUV parked not too far away. “Constantly.”
“Whatever happened to respecting your elders?!” I cried, falling into step behind Hope with Claire leaning against me, the quiet woman enjoying our banter and tolerating my desire to be close to her.
“That requires someone who’s older both physically and mentally,” the cheeky boy replied, his bland expression contradicting the enjoyment shown through his eyes.
On the way back to the Academy, I got an earful about the conference from my two friends, Claire only chiming in once to remind all present that we still had to work with politicians and press no matter how annoying they were. To change the conversation, I gave the old man updates on his son. Dajh had just started formal courses at the Academy and moved into the dorm, much to the over-protective father’s dismay. Had Hope not put a restraining order on the man, he probably would’ve moved into the cadet’s dorm with the boy. I could only imagine how traumatizing it’d be for Dajh if that happened.
Finally returned to the sanctuary of our home, I slapped the tight ass of my Commander playfully. “Why don’t you go take a shower while I heat up some dinner for you? I’ll put your clothes into the washer.”
Claire turned to glare at me half-heartedly, with exhaustion from the long-hour flight and her distaste of airship food clear in her expression. She looked over at the luggage in my hand hesitantly, before moving towards the bedroom with the instruction to leave the luggage for later. Once she disappeared into our bedroom and the bathroom door closed, I smiled and began my task of heating up some hearty soup for her late night snack.
Once the sound of water was turned off, I lowered the flame on the stove before approaching our bedroom where my surprise for Claire waited. Dressed in a shirt of mine, Claire exited the bathroom with a towel, drying her hair absent-mindedly. It took all of my power to not pounce on her, the woman too relaxed to notice me hidden just beyond the threshold. Lowering the towel, Claire looked ready to fall asleep on the bed, before something caught her eyes as she stilled.
Sitting between pillows, the newly repaired Lil’ Bun had a cleaner look, while never losing her well-loved presence. Holes patched, the bunny now wore a tiny, simple dress sewn by Gurdy. I felt my smile broaden when Claire couldn’t tear her widened eyes away from the small, open box that the doll was holding, one with a ring nestled in cushions. The ring was exactly what I had pictured – a while gold band with two silver-diamond covered loops cradling the setting simulating a symbol of eternity, a rose diamond sat in the middle, a precious gem newly discovered in Gran Pulse. Simple in design, the ring told the promises I never could find the right words to say to her, that I would cherish and protect her for eternity. When I was browsing through catalogues of design at the jewelry shop, I simply couldn’t get the idea of Claire accepting me for who I am out of my mind, and the decision came quickly with what our rings would be. It may be cliche, but that’s how I felt about her. When trembling hands finally picked up the box, I sidled up behind my lover and wrapped my arm around the lithe waist, kissing the skin behind her ear tenderly. Her breath hitched, Claire kept her silence in expectation, waiting for me to explain myself.
I reached up to wrap my hand around hers, feeling the slight, almost undetectable tremor from her. Keeping my voice soft, I tightened the arm around her waist in reassurance. “Claire… I know we haven’t been together for very long, but…” Why were the words that I had rehearsed the whole week so hard to get out now? Gritting my teeth, I said whatever came to my blank mind. “I can’t imagine a life without you, Claire. I know I sound corny, but you know I’m not the smartest man in the world. I just… I just want to wake up every day, and go to bed every night with you.” Picking up the ring from the box, I held it in front of her, my throat parched in nervousness. Why couldn’t I have done this with more class and style? I swallowed hard, trying my best to finish my question. “Claire Farron… Would you… Would you marry me?”
Time seemed to have stopped. There wasn’t a sound in the world except for my heavy breathing, and I couldn’t believe how stupid I had sounded. That wasn’t what I had written down and wanted to say. Sure, it was the truth, and it was what I had in mind, but it didn’t go well like I had planned. I wanted this to be smooth, and flawless, but I sounded like a douche bag. Hell, Claire must be laughing her ass off inside right now. How could I recover from this? Or, rather, how do I grovel so she could see past my idiocy?
I kept kicking myself in my head, the sound of my heart pounding so thunderous that I almost missed the very subtle movement from the very still woman. Her finger slowly extended until the tip touched the ring, and suddenly I could breathe again. I slid the ring onto her left ring finger, admiring how right it felt to have the symbol of our relationship resting on her elegant digit. I felt like bursting at the seams with happiness, the feeling incomparable. Had I not been holding her in my arms, I probably would be singing and dancing ridiculously on the roof of the Academy to announce to the world how elated I was.
My reverie was interrupted abruptly by a single droplet on our joined hands. Chest constricted, I turned my beloved around, and gazed upon the unbelievable sight of my beautiful Goddess’ tears. Thumbing away another escaped tear, I looked into bright sapphire filled with emotions of love, happiness, and disbelief. It was amazing to see how my feelings were echoed in her. Bending down, I kissed the moist eyes, trailing my lips until I found hers, sealing the soft whimper into a slow kiss. I felt her hand raked into my hair, the feel of the ring clear and right beyond words. Parting only when breathing became difficult, I rested my forehead on hers as I gazed into half-lidded eyes. There was so much I wanted to say, yet nothing sounded right. I held the woman that I unbelievably fell in love with tight in my arms, the way her body contoured fitted me so perfectly. It took me so long, with too many detours, mistakes, and lost time along the way, but finally I found her by my side. Maker above, I am one lucky son of a bitch.
“I promise I will always be with you, love you, and support you,” I repeated my question in a whisper, “So please, Claire… Would you marry me?”
It seemed an eternity had passed before she responded, her voice quiet yet firm. She was giving me her promise as well, and I knew that once she spoke the words, she would held onto them, and nothing could make her change her mind. It was that strong will that guided us through the war, and now would guide us through our lives. Together.
– To Be Continued
Author’s Note: Wow, I can’t believe that it’s been almost six months since I updated. The idea of a deadline completely went out the window when life and work got the better of you. Thank you to those who reviewed and asked “What happened?” My work got super hectic in September, then I spent the entire month of November preparing an application for grad school. Needless to say, this story wasn’t on my top priority list. Even though I finished writing the chapter already, I just never had time to edit. Kudos to my beta Espaa who kept asking me to post this chapter, because neither she nor I wanted what happened to my Weiss Kreuz fic to happen to this story.
Please continue to review!! After such a long delay, I do hope those of you I have the pleasure of meeting in this journey to continue reading! Heavens know I need your support since I’m rather stuck on Chapter 7… T_T So thank you in advance for more reviews! Also, major love to those who have been checking my website – I will try to keep it updated! ^___^And lastly, a belated Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and an early Happy New Year to all! Consider this chapter my New Year’s gift for you all. ^_~