benediction

. o .

this is a beauty of dissonance

this resonance of stony strand…

like a broken

and wind-battered branch

when the wind bends the top of the pines

and curdles the sky

from the north

. o .

He blames what he calls this foolishness on the rumours that had surrounded her, or the way that time had started to fade once again, and he cites an old debt, sliding away from her from where they sit on the dock's edge.

She knows it is something more than that, looking over at the grey that is just starting – maybe – to gild the cerulean of his hair, and the way his shoulders have relaxed, if only a little. She's lived long enough to know that it was more than a silly rumour that had pulled him down from his empty fortress after nearly a century of living little better than a recluse, frozen willingly in the past, but she also has learned just to keep her silence and smile.

He loves her smiles, she's learned. Even if he denies it vehemently, calls her silly child and twists his lips sardonically in response, she knows. So she tries to smile for him when he comes around, still the warrior-spy that she'd met so long ago, scarred from a terrible love and a greater sacrifice from a time even before her birth. She knows she'll never have his love.

She's not sure she wants it; his is not the only heart that waits for someone. And though it has been fifty years… seventy, perhaps, maybe ninety; time does not blur only for the man at her side… since she has seen the one she fell in love with, she still hopes with the ardency of the young. Imprudent, perhaps, this wishing that the man she loves can either achieve the impossible once again and win back a father he never had the chance to know, or come home to her with shadowed eyes and fractured wings to be warmed and loved… but it is either that or give into despair.

And if there was anything she had learned from her swordsman in red, it was the power of hope.

. o .

Hope was something she had been short on when he'd found her, slipping into her tent as if he belonged there and absently smoothing the desert sand out of his long hair.

"So it was you,"he noted, completely disregarding her flustered stare. "Interesting. I don't suppose you actually know how to do that fortune mumbo-jumbo, do you?"

She'd shot right out of shock at his sudden appearance and into anger with his words, bristling. "And if I do? Why are you here?"

He only smirked at her distress and the glass of water she had knocked over as she stumbled to her feet. "Efreet's hair, girl, I'm not here to kill you; if I had wanted to, you would be deceased already. Put those ridiculous rings of yours down."

Looking down with no little surprise, she gasped. She hadn't even remembered seizing her chakrams from their hooks under her table, but sure enough, she held them loosely. Considering that he had tried to kill her on more than one occasion, perhaps her instinct wasn't that far off… that had to have been sixty, seventy years ago, but he looked the same; long blue hair in a ponytail slung over one shoulder, crisp, multihued armor, imperious bearing a hair short of arrogance… Absently, she wondered where his massive butterfly sword was, blushing slightly as she remembered that the electricity crackling under his skin likely rendered the former to the status of flashy accessory by comparison.

He coughed quietly, and as she placed one of her chakrams on the table, she pulled herself out of her thoughts.

Trying not to smile, she cocked her head inquisitively. "So…?"

Pursing his lips, he sighed impatiently. "I do not see why it is any of your concern, but I was merely in the area. I was returning to the Base when I recognized your mana signature, could not place it, and thought to investigate. Now that I have…" Nodding brusquely and turning to leave, he lifted the tent's curtain.

She still wasn't sure what force caused her to place the second chakram by the first, and speak to his turned back. "Wait…"

To her astonishment, he did, surprise warring with annoyance in his expression as he spun around. "What is it, girl?"

Wondering when she had moved to defense, she pulled her hair behind her ears, but met his eyes evenly. "You must be tired; flying sure takes it out of you, doesn't it? The inn in town has a great hot chocolate, and I know it helps me wake up again after a long flight…" Trailing off as the full effect of his withering glance hit her, she looked down and scuffed her toe. "Talking too much… right."

From the door, he chuckled dryly. "Indeed." But he did not dissuade her as she lifted her winter cloak from the hook by the tent's opening, and held the heavy fabric aside for her as he followed her out into the night.

Maybe curiosity would actually succeed in killing him this time, but it wasn't as if he had anywhere else to be…

. o .

It had been years since she had seen anyone; perhaps her heart should have hardened, but it was not in her nature to forget those whose lives had tangled with hers so long ago. Remembering those who had passed and those who remained was a painful bliss. Her memories became fragmented, trying and failing to envy those who could grow, love, change as she could not. She was frozen; forever beautiful, forever sweet-sixteen, forever alone. It was especially hard for her when winter bled into spring. Her love had left her then, full of youth and bright promises to be back with his father before she could even think of missing him.

She'd believed it; he was her savior, and as he flew away, his twin swords glinting in the sun, she was sure he could do anything, then.

How he'd known her time of weakness she'd never fathom, and she knew he'd never reveal why, but blue eyes found her as she winged her way out of the desert town one morning in early spring. He called her name, and she reacted as if she was drowning, flying blindly for him. Caught by surprise, he only hovered as she reached him. Beating her hands against a chest imprisoned by red and blue armor, frightened cries slipped through her lips.

Unimpressed, he circled one arm about her and descended with her in tow. Upon contact with the ground, he stepped back, seized her still-flailing fists, and sighed. Once she had raised her head to look at him, he cocked a vaguely disapproving eyebrow at her distraught expression and tangled blonde hair, and coolly asked her why she felt the need to rush at and beat his person so ineffectively.

Oh, she hated him then... and she'd snapped. "…I guess it doesn't get easier, then, does it?"

If his sword had been at hand, she knew he would have killed her. Realizing he was too shocked to think of his magic, thankfully, she recoiled as he threw her hands down like the contact had burned him.

All too grateful for the release, she stepped back, her blue eyes wide with fear and shame, shaking her head in denial. If she could have taken back the words, she would have; anything to erase that almost-invisible, soft little smile that curved the edges of his lips and shoved daggers into her heart as she spoke. To deny the expression telling her better than any words could that no, no it doesn't…

But her shout hung in the air between them, heavy and barbed, and she flinched as he stepped forward. A breathless murmur was her apology, and to her surprise, he stopped to place a hand on her shoulder, carefully, as if either of them might break.

"It doesn't, but you continue to live anyways, don't you, girl?" His whisper was bitter, and she was buffeted away by unfurling violet wings before he ascended.

She watched him fly until he was a fading star, and pulled up her cloak as the first rain of spring descended on the desert oasis. He was gone again; perhaps it was time to return to her life and the fortune-teller's tent that she had somehow inherited along the way.

. o .

A funny pair they made; one, fascinated with the future, hoping that in reading the fates of giggling children and blushing lovers, she might find a little of the man she had lost; the other, whose love story had become the stuff of legend.

If he'd been someone else, if it had been in another life, she might have teased him for this, if only to watch him sulk. He didn't scare her anymore… most of the time. But it wasn't until the peak of summer in the lake country of Umacy that she saw him next; she'd come at the behest of the mage siblings, who planned to meet her the next day.

She was halfway into her walk around the lake when a flash of navy caught her eye, and there he was, sitting on a fallen tree that extended over the water. His head was cradled in his hands, and his shoulders were slumped… enough to tell her that he didn't know she was there. Compassion welled up in her heart – he had been an enemy, true enough, but that had never stopped her before – but her noisy approach and half-stifled call was enough to bring him out of his daze. She still wasn't sure how he managed it, much less how he made it look easy, but he whirled around at the noise, somehow picking up the blade at his side and settling into a ready stance… before sighing impatiently and lowering the sword, his lips quirking just the slightest as he recognized her. "Hmmph. You again…"

Giggling nervously, she took a step back. "I'm sorry… I'll leave." Another step backwards, and her heel impacted with a rock, sending her tumbling backwards with a cry of surprise.

Muttering something she couldn't quite hear about stupid fates and foolish girls, he jumped off of the tree and walked over, extending a chivalrous hand to help her up, a sardonic smile playing about his lips as he did. And as much to his surprise as her own, she accepted it, letting him pull her to her feet.

"Thanks…"

He didn't reply, only inclining his head slightly and turned to return to his post. Instead of watching him this time, she turned as well, intending to return to the path, but his voice halted her. "I had forgotten what a terrible klutz you were, girl; perhaps you had better stay where someone can keep an eye on you…"

It was more than she expected from him, and she grinned fiercely before spinning around, golden hair swirling about her shoulders as she did. She might have been beautiful, stunning even, but she could tell that he saw another in her brilliance; another, whose voice and heart she'd been entangled with once, a very, very long time ago. Her own little piece of the Goddess that she claimed everyone had; but her piece had been literal. Possession. Duality. Deity and supplicant, coexisting in one fragile form...

Maybe it was why he was still looking at her as if she was something not quite of this earth.

Maybe it was why she didn't retreat this time as he stepped towards her, and tangled one hand into her hair, bending his head to kiss her with a desperate hope.

Unconsciously, she leant into him, and slipped her arms under his cape and around his shoulders, returning the misplaced affection willingly. He tasted of apples; his hair smelled of the summer pines that surrounded them, and of frankincense. Absently, she wondered if he had been burning the holy incense for his memory-girl as his other arm wrapped around her waist and drew her nearer. Releasing one arm to tease her fingers through his long bangs, she started a little as he drew away, breaking the kiss, his blue eyes shocked and vaguely repulsed.

He tried to pull away, but she was stronger than she looked, and didn't let go. "You've been running for four thousand years," she whispered, looking carefully up at him through her bangs. "Aren't you tired?"

He laughed bitterly, his hand sliding out of her hair and gripping her shoulder. "You don't understand, do you? That wasn't you I was…"

"I know," she replied softly, interrupting his words. "I know it wasn't…"

For the first time, a quiet respect lights his eyes as he looks down at her, and the hand that he'd dropped slipped slowly, carefully over her back. "It wasn't really me, either, was it?"

Her laugh was a little nervous, but she shook her head slightly. "Not completely…"

And he laughed a little at this too, wondering just how they had come to this point, much less together, but brushed a kiss against her forehead before releasing her. Call it benediction, call it forgiveness… he'd lived too long to want to hold a grudge against her, and he knew she wouldn't let him, anyways. "This changes nothing, you know."

Stepping around him, she walked for the water, her expression softening as she noticed the tiny pyre of frankincense at the lake's edge. "I know," she tossed over her shoulder. As he joined her, she looked pointedly at the incense, and asked quietly if she could burn a little, too. He nodded, and she took two of the small spheres he offered her, settling and alighting them beside his pyre; one for the swordsman, another for the girl who had walked on water with her in this place so long ago, who had since passed on, and whose grand-daughter now ruled the mystical village, the living double of her grandmother, but with mischievous blue eyes.

Ifhis eyebrows raised inquisitively at her choice, and they did, she responded only with a cryptic smile as she settled beside him on the fallen tree. He wasn't the only one with cherished memories…

. o .

This time, it is autumn, and he waits for her to be done with the daily stream of fortune-seekers before offering her his arm with a formality that still prompts a giggle sometimes, which he pretends not to hear, his expression pure put-upon grievance. This time, they drift through the town together aimlessly, buying two apples at the fruit stand before turning around and walking towards the tiny pond that made up the oasis itself.

Leaning against opposite support poles at the end of the dock, she swings her legs over the edge and smiles at his distracted silence, which she has somehow grown accustomed to. And as he tips a puzzled look towards her for her childishness, she ignores the stern set of his mouth to grin over the spark of warmth she can see in his eyes.

Hiding her smile, she takes another bite of the apple he's bought her; he'll never admit it, and she knows he'll never let her say the same, but she's starting to feel comfortable around him, too.

. o .

this is a beauty

of dissonance…

this is the beauty

of strength

broken by strength

and still strong.

. o .

…finis…

. o .

Disclaimer: Neither Yuan nor Colette belong to me, nor do any of the other trademarks of "Tales of Symphonia" – these are Namco's. I just like to borrow them and twist them around for my own enjoyment every so often… Additionally, the excerpts are from Arthur Smith's lyric poem, "The Lonely Land."

Sabriel's Scribbles: In many ways, this is for angel white, who didn't shoot down the plot-bunny fast enough, and who welcomed me warmly into the fandom, for which I thank her kindly.

So why these two? I've always liked a challenge, and the concept of residual (notably, Colette's temporary possession by Martel) put an interesting spin on things. Not to mention the world post-ending would be a very interesting place; I don't envy her, being stuck eternally at sixteen… So, reason it out as reaching for something that's still familiar, call it a slow-burn romance, call it sheer boredom and curiosity on Yuan's part; there are many different types of love, and these two would be anything but conventional… (As an aside, I loff Lloyd to pieces, but I can also see him being so focused on something – in this case, bringing Kratos back – that he would lose sight of everything else around him…) Whew. That's enough from the peanut gallery!

Thoughts are always appreciated; in the meanwhile, Cheers, and Starry Nights!