A new start should have been easy. The women of the old party: Lightning, Vanille, Fang, Serah, had adjusted to the cosmic reset post Bhunivelze. The men: Snow, Hope, Noel, Sazh, were having a harder time. They were centuries old. They'd all had to live through the kinds of changes that only turtles and trees had seen here.
There were inconsistencies in the way the chaos had changed Nova Chrysalia. Humans had never aged, but that had also rendered them infertile. This infertility hadn't applied to monsters. They'd happily bred and evolved over the years. Niblets had been both cute and delicious in Yusnaan. When Snow hadn't been hiding away in his palace, he'd sneak out to Seedy's and grab a snack.
The fuzzy floating bunnies hadn't been around back when he'd lived in Bodhum. Trying to keep track of every creature that had ever lived on Cocoon and Pulse would've been impossible for everyone except Hope. However, Serah seemed to think that those days of strolling on the beaches were just as fresh for everyone as they were for her. She became easily irritated when Snow couldn't remember one of the few memories they shared.
Sure, he remembered their proposal and the days leading up to and immediately after. His fiancé's becoming a l'Cie had set off the end of the world. What he couldn't remember were the particular monster pelts he'd gifted Serah after hunting with NORA.
If he couldn't remember those, how the hell was he supposed to know the entire evolution of this new world. The beginning of the end of the Snow-And-Serah-Inseparable-Star-crossed-Lovers-Duo began with a dinosaur.
The saviors of the universe had all gathered for Dajh's birthday. Finally, the boy was awake and aging. Straight from crystallized to an enchanted sleep, the kid had lost as much time as Serah had, though he'd at least been alive for it.
"Are dragons real and do they actually like tacos?" Dajh asked. He was flipping through a book Serah had picked out for him.
One of the teachers at the school she worked for had suggested the title. Unbeknownst to her, it would turn out to be a terrible choice.
"Course they're real," Snow said before scooping up the birthday boy and soaring him around the room. "Me and Lightning used to fight them all the time. She and Fang used to do this crazy thing where they would keep flipping and flipping up into the air until they reached them." He demonstrated by rolling the boy head over foot. "Up and up they'd go. Attacking and attacking while your pops and I would wait on the ground. As soon as it was stunned, it'd drop like a rock. Then it'd be our turn to get the job done." Snow laid Dajh on the ground and then drummed on his tummy. "Except Lightning would always gently drop down and deliver the finishing blow." He looked over to where the woman was serving Hope a slice of cake. "I never did understand how she did that. She always drifted like she were weightless. It was the scariest type of beautiful."
"I know exactly what you're talking about," Hope interrupted. "Last time I saw her do it was when we gathered to kick Bhunivelze's ass. She floated down, like an angel or something. I never thought I'd see that again. She didn't do it a single time in Nova Chrysalia."
"Of course, I didn't." It was Lightning's turn to cut it. "None of you carried around a manadrive. My grav-con unit changed my gravity field. You saw me use it a ton of times. It was only flashy and explosive when I was falling from more than 10 meters. I didn't exactly have my Guardian Corps gear when I woke up at the end." She glared at Hope. "And everyone was weightless in the god's realm, including you."
He shrugged and left to join Vanille on the couch.
"Will all of you stop talking about the Crystal Age," Serah said as she chose to stand directly between Snow and Lightning. "Dajh is asking about here. And there aren't any dragons here." Her arms were crossed and her foot was anxiously tapping the carpet. "You shouldn't be giving him any ideas. He actually has the chance to grow up without all the confusion."
"Actually," Lightning said as she walked past her sister to join Snow on the floor, "there were dragons here."
"No, there weren't." Serah refused to lose an argument that she'd started.
Lightning had pulled her phone from her pocket and already loaded a relevant webpage. "These are pterodactyls. They look a lot like the Wyverns, don't they?" she asked. When she showed the screen to Snow and Dajh, they nodded with excitement. They'd both become visibly disheartened when Serah had spoken.
"Dragons and dinosaurs are totally different," Serah said, still not giving up.
"I don't know why you are fighting with a kid," Lightning whispered in her sister's direction.
Snow and Serah had left the party almost immediately after that. No one had heard from either of them for weeks. Lightning had tried calling, but all she got in response was short, vague text messages. She assumed it was her sister when someone knocked on her front door.
"Hey. Can I come in?" Snow asked. He looked even more disheveled than he had in Yusnaan. His scruff had grown out and most of his hair was hanging in his face. He'd forgone the bandana he'd resumed wearing.
Lightning wordlessly led him to the living room. Once he was seated, she offered him a drink.
"Nah. We should talk," he answered.
"About?" Lightning sat down on the loveseat opposite him.
"Remember the pterodactyl thing?"
"Pretty sure everyone did. I think Serah scared Dajh off dinosaurs for life."
"Who knew that they'd be such a big di-no-subject. She completely lost it when we got home."
"She is studying to be a teacher. Maybe she just wants kids to only have the facts," Lightning suggested. She raised her leg and crossed it over the other.
Snow watched a large portion of her thigh become exposed. He started focusing on the coffee table. "She doesn't. Yeah, she wants to be a teacher, but no she doesn't want to be a hard-ass." He had a very difficult time not staring at the way her folded arms supported her cleavage. "The pterodactyl actually brought up this ptero-fying idea that she's been letting fester."
"Enough with the puns."
"I think Serah might be right. If I could, I'd rewrite my memories and completely pte-redact-yl it from history. Things would certainly be easier."
"How many of those do you have planned?" Lightning asked with gritted teeth.
"I know I'm dragon this along," He held up his hand and whispered, "last one I swear," before continuing at full volume. "But I don't know how to be tyranno-serious about this."
"Be serious, or get outta my house."
"I'm not in love with Serah anymore."
"What?" She stood up, unsure of what to do.
"I didn't cheat on her or anything. Calm down a second."
"Don't you ever tell me to calm down," she said as she took a step toward him. The coffee table was in the way, so she didn't get very far.
"I loved her. I swear I did. But I just kept loving, that I loved her. Because I didn't know what else to do. But I definitely have some baggage that I have not unpacked."
"Unpack it quickly."
Snow stood up. He towered over Lightning and for the first time in forever, she flinched. She was not always the tallest person in the room, but she tended to be the most intimidating. With Snow's hair grazing the light fixture overhead, the shadows cast on his face finally brought a mood to the room that silenced her.
"I spent the greatest, most heroic days of my life with you guys. You made yourself our leader. I followed you back in the glory days. And when you sent me that dream, proving that you were still alive, I needed to look for you. I left everything me and Serah had built for you. And I waited. For you. I never gave up and did what I had to until you came. Serah wasn't the Savior. Serah didn't come and convince me to hold out for thirteen more days. You did."
He slowly pulled the silver engagement necklace from his pocket and dropped it on the coffee table between them. Lightning had noticed he wasn't wearing it the second she'd opened the door but hadn't mentioned it.
"I didn't have anything of yours, but I did have the necklace I'd given your sister. And when I held it in my hand, I'd think of how you'd thrown us both out when we told you. I should've been thinking about the actual proposal. I really am the idiot you thought I was."
Snow easily stepped over the coffee table to stand next to Lightning. She turned until they were face to face.
"You could have asked anyone to come look for you. But you didn't. You didn't contact Hope or Sazh a single time. You waited years to call Serah." He poked her chest with his index finger. "You asked for my help because you knew I'd come." In a suddenly tender manner, he moved his hand slowly toward her cheek where he held it. "Lightning, who was the first person you tried to save? Whose party did you crash at the end of the world? Whose was the first soul that you needed to know would make it?"
"Why might that be?" he asked as he leaned in close.
"I did it for Serah."
"Bzzt. Wrong answer. Try again."
She looked up at him. His face bore the same longing it had when she'd charged through his palace. She'd clung to him then. Hope had been watching, so she'd squashed her impulse to do something more drastic. No one was watching today. Snow had a one-foot height advantage, but she knew he liked her jumps.