TITLE: Running Away From The Sky

AUTHOR: Cerebral Seductress (Fallon D)

DESCRIPTION: She was running away from life itself, and he was along for the ride.

RATING: Um, PG? Just to be safe.

THEME: "Warrior," Katie Griffin.

A/N: I'm trying to refrain from inserting meaningless romance into my other fic, Darkest Shades, and therefore felt the need to write a shamelessly sappy vignette. I think I'll keep adding to this as the mood strikes me.

……………………..

CHAPTER 1

He was never quite sure how or when they had begun traveling together. It seemed that in one moment, he was alone in Gongaga with his thoughts, and in the next she was there, her countenance a good deal more somber than it had been a year ago, her attitude lacking its usual careless disdain.

"You missed me," she stated with a small, quirky smile. A less observant man may not have noticed the hesitation in her voice, the doubt that flashed in her eyes and belied her bold words.

At night she would sit and gaze into the firelight, pensive and moody. Unreachable. Once she looked up at him and found him studying her. "What's wrong, old man?" she asked, her voice tinged bitterly. "Worried that I might usurp your throne as King of the Brooding Stare?" Despite her brave tone, she shivered, the fire doing nothing to ward off the winter chill.

Hardly acknowledging that she was angry or pondering why he wanted so badly to see her smile again, he stood and moved around the flames, settling at last beside her so that his cloak would cover them both. She leaned into him and he let his arm drape across her shoulders, not at all surprised to find that they were shaking with silent sobs.

They continued like this for weeks, months- it must have been years, though he didn't keep tally. She certainly changed, but he remained much the same, and as the years shrank between them he found himself wondering- about her family, her friends. He knew that she maintained contact with neither. Of anyone from AVALANCHE, he above all must have seemed the most unlikely candidate to become her companion, and yet here she was, far beyond her teenage years and showing no signs of parting from his company.

They were in a forgotten corner of the Mythril Mine on the eastern continent, having taken shelter from the raging storm outside, when she first spoke to him of her reason for seclusion. They were both leaning against the cold stone wall, legs stretched out in front of them, hips touching, shoulders brushing. Their clothes were laid out to dry beside the fire, and their skin brushed each time he moved, but they were far past modesty now, and his cloak covered as much of them as needed.

"I'm sorry," she said suddenly.

He glanced at her, noting the way the firelight danced across the planes of her face. "Whatever for?"

"For not understanding." Her eyes met his, her chin rising slightly. "Before. Not just about, you know, the coffin and all, but…about…about Lucrecia." The last bit she said in a rush, and then she switched her gaze back to the fire, lips pursed as if expecting him to rebuff her apology.

Truthfully, he had all but forgotten her offhanded comments when they had traveled with AVALANCHE. He wasn't the type to hold grudges against anyone but himself, and she had been little more than a child then, unable to comprehend a lost love, a stolen lifetime, the curse of eternity.

"Thank you." There was nothing else to say.

She nodded, poked her toes out from underneath his cape, pushing her bare feet closer to the fire.

"I tried to change," she said at length. "I tried to be a lady. He…wanted a lady."

He said nothing. After a pause she wound her right arm around his claw, intertwining her delicate fingers with his tarnished gold ones.

"I'll never change for anyone again," she murmured, turning her face into his shoulder. Her breath felt warm on his skin, his body cold from nearly four decades of loneliness.

That night was a rare occurrence, because she never spoke to him again of what had driven her away from her her future as Lady of Wutai.

She was different since they'd met, and the changes were not just in her demeanor. Her hair was longer- but not much- brushing her shoulders in blue-black waves every time she turned her head. Her lips were fuller, her features lean and secretive. She was more woman than child. He had hardly taken the pains to notice until he glanced up one day to see her standing on a boulder overlooking the Cosmo plains. One hand was drawn up to shield her stormy eyes from the setting sun, the other braced against her hip. Her stance was casual, the outline of her form against the pink/orange sky anything but innocent.

When she hopped down and looked up at him with a smile on her face that didn't quite reach her eyes, he returned the stare unflinchingly, wondering why he hadn't noticed before. When she closed the distance between them, her gaze holding his, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to let her pull him down to her.

Mouth on mouth, breaths mingling, her hands fisting in his shirt as she pulled him closer and collapsed against him in the same instant. It was as though they'd kissed a thousand times before, and he couldn't remember a time when he'd felt so right about his actions instead of shrouding himself in guilt.

When she finally broke away, she was tottering on a rock in front of him, balancing out their considerable height difference the only way she could. She tossed her head, flipping an errant lock of hair out of her eyes.

"It's getting dark," was all she said. She brushed her lips against his once more before stepping back onto solid ground and hauling her pack over her shoulders.

He was never quite sure how or when they began traveling together, but he knew, down to the instant, when it was that he fell in love with her.