A/N: Yup, so this is going to be a ten part collection of small fics about Colette and Presea falling in love. Maybe a little unlikely, or maybe not, but I wanted to try something a bit different and more challenging...well, that and the fact that the pairing is soooo sweet, hehe.
I don't own Tales, or any relevant characters, locations, etc., etc. I believe that honour belongs to Namco.
Oh, and also – yeah, I love getting reviews and it really doesn't bother me if they are good, bad, constructive, whatever. The only exception I have is that I don't want people posting reviews as a way to rant on about how much they hate the pairing. Comment on the story, or the characterisation, etc. as much as you want, but I've already had enough of unpleasant emails from hardened GenisxPresea fans regarding my PreseaxLloyd fics, without any more being added from this one too. Cheers, and hope you enjoy.
The modest sized inn appeared to have been constructed under the guidance of an architect with a keen eye for natural beauty. Surrounded by a wide circle of Alder, the tiny red and yellow catkins that grew on the trees complimented the worn sandstone walls of the building, which had been painted a blue pale enough to match the clearest of summer skies. Clusters of small, neatly trimmed bushes stood on patrol around the thinly cobbled path, which led down the gently inclining hill from the inn towards the well travelled road at its base. Between the building itself and the nearby small orchid ran a thin stream, which provided tranquil ambience by way of its gentle bubbling.
Colette felt her eyelids lower drowsily as she sat under the heat of the sun, which penetrated the protective shade of the trees in small, thin pillars. Turning her head upward to bask in the warmth, she leaned herself against the rough inn wall and caught the sweet smell of the Alder on the gentle, humid breeze. The heady scent reminded her of Iselia when she was young; of long summer nights spent playing with Lloyd and Genis, or of languid afternoons where they would lie on the sun-baked grassy hills and look for shapes in the solitary clouds that rolled by. So many summers had passed in such a way, and this was one of the first where she hadn't had a chance to spend her all of her time in such a pleasantly wasteful manner.
The old memories made her smile, and Colette allowed herself to relive them in her mind, hoping absently that the indulgence would raise her flagging spirits and dilute the hurtful ferocity of the words directed at her when they had passed the nearby House of Salvation. What the man had said had been fuelled by grief, frustration and anger, she knew that, but they had hurt her regardless. Even when Lloyd and Presea had tried to defend her, what the man had said had been directed solely at herself, not them, and she couldn't shake off the feelings of isolation that had arisen since the incident. No matter what happened, it would be herself that people criticised – that they hated – not the others, although Colette knew that her friends couldn't help that.
The Chosen opened her eyes at the creaking sound of the inn door opening, and looked to her right to see Presea step out of the building – blinking against the bright sunlight as she did so. The small girl was wearing a long, beautiful dress, which flowed almost hypnotically in the soft breeze, and her axe was slung casually over one of her exposed shoulders. The thin-strapped dress was made from light, overlapping layers of silk and cotton, each one a different height and shade of yellow, and the topmost level had tiny little flowers embroidered onto it in blue thread. A pleated headband, similarly coloured and decorated, could be seen just below the fringe of her hair – which had been tinted auburn, like everything else, by the late afternoon sun. Colette smiled, remembering how she had gone shopping with Presea during their recent visit to Meltokio, and had helped her choose some new clothes. The small girl had listened intently to Colette's preferences as she explored the variety of wares, her head cocked gently to one side in confusion at the concept of accessories. Eventually, though, she had nodded and returned having purchased all of the items Colette had liked, seemingly content to wear the clothing simply because it had earned her friend's seal of approval. The combinations of items she wore now often looked quite eccentric on Presea, but Colette thought it always somehow suited the small girl rather than looking comical.
The small girl was looking inquisitively about the locality of the inn until, on seeing Colette, she nodded and approached the Chosen with a look of concern subtly etched on her features.
"Colette," she said, her voice soft and deliberate and barely audible over the gently rustling trees around them. "I have been meaning to ask you…does something trouble you? I have noticed that you have been spending significant quantities of time by yourself recently."
Colette shook her head, wondering if it was really that obvious. Even so, she didn't want her friends to worry about something they couldn't help. "No," she replied, and smiled as brightly as she could. "Nothing's wrong…I'm fine."
Presea studied Colette's face for a moment, her own expressionless. "But I am feeling some concern," she said, her cautious tone betraying some of the element of her admission. "I have…noticed that your sleep patterns have become fractured, and your food consumption has decreased."
Colette looked down at the ground, hoping that the tint of the sun hid her blush. She hadn't realised that Presea had been worried about her to the point of observing her eating and sleeping habits, but felt touched by the thought. The small girl sat down beside her, laying her axe to one side, and the pleasant scent of the lavender soap she used when bathing surrounded her like an aura. The aroma was light and subtle, but Colette felt her head go giddy as it reached her on the breeze. Presea cocked her head to one side as she looked at Colette, and the Chosen realised that she was probably seeking some kind of reply.
"I…appreciate my food preparation skills are below average," she added. "But surely that is not the reason for your reduced food intake."
"Huh?" Colette came sharply to her senses, feeling concern that her friend thought she didn't like her cooking. "No, the food you make is always nice," she protested.
Presea's expression didn't change, although a slight rosy tint formed on her cheeks. "T-that was supposed to be…a joke. But, t-thank you for the compliment."
Colette watched Presea as the small girl thought the joke back over in her head, presumably wondering if she had phrased it incorrectly. Her young face had browned from the continual clear, sunny days, although it still remained tempered by those mature blue eyes, which were now sparkling in the light.
Running a hand through her warm, loose hair, and allowing it to tumble over her bare shoulders, Colette grinned apologetically.
"Heh, I'm sorry", she replied. "I guess…my thoughts have been elsewhere…"
Presea nodded, apparently satisfied with the confession, and looked up at the sky.
"You are referring to the incident at the House of Salvation."
"Ah, yeah…" Colette's gaze dropped down to the soft grass as she ran her hands through it. The more she thought about it, the more she realised that she really enjoyed talking to Presea, and was glad that they had become such good friends since the Chosen's rescue from the Dragon's Nest. It sometimes appeared that the small girl had trouble expressing her thoughts and feelings, but Presea often spoke with a directness that Colette found refreshing – having spent a lifetime with people who trod so lightly around her.
Resting her head back against the wall of the inn, she gave a fraction of a nod. "Hmm. I guess it just bothered me more than I thought it would."
The voices of Lloyd and the others could be heard from inside the inn, and Colette guessed that they must have finished eating.
Presea glanced over at the door. "I do not think you should let that man's words affect you," she replied, fiddling with the embroidery on her dress.
Colette looked up at the orange rays penetrating through every tiny gap between the leaves and trees. "I guess," she replied, wondering if it would be as easy as that.
Presea closed her eyes as the gentle breeze tugged at her hair, carrying long pink threads of it up in a transparent embrace. "I note that the issue still troubles you," she observed, and looked across. "I…I am going for a walk whilst there is little to do. Would you like to come? It may help you resolve the issues you are concerned about."
Colette met the small girl's gaze and smiled, feeling genuine warmth and appreciation at the sentiment behind the question. She had actually come outside to have some time to herself, but found the prospect of spending it with Presea desirable. "Sure," she replied, "That sounds like fun."
Presea nodded, looking relieved, and the smile that lit her face was so sweet it made Colette's stomach flutter pleasantly.
The pair left the tranquil tree encircled hill and walked a small distance down the incline to where the stream twisted its way between a dense cluster of thick oaks and cedars. The sun above felt hot, and Colette began to wish she had worn a top that covered more of her shoulders and arms so they wouldn't burn from the intense heat. She wiped strands of blonde hair from her sticky brow as they entered the shelter afforded by the tall trees and sighed with relief. The temperature had dropped almost instantly to a more comfortable level and the young Chosen joined Presea beside the clear stream, crouching down to splash some of the delightfully cool water across her face.
"It's so hot," she remarked cheerfully, her earlier low spirits temporarily forgotten in the beauty of the environment.
Presea studied the water she held in her cupped hands for a moment before washing it over her face. She looked up, the liquid glistening on her soft features. "Affirmative. I…find it unpleasant at times."
"Hehe, really?" Colette grinned, and looked up at the sky through the canopy of trees. "I really like it, but I bet I get bad sunburn…I always do."
The small girl sat down beside the stream, leaning her back against a tree. "It would be preferable to make use of the shade then," she remarked absently. "It…is nice here."
"Yeah," Colette agreed, and looked around as she lay beside Presea – kicking off her sandals as she did so. Stretching out on the warm, tickly grass, she caught sight of the small girl watching her, and smiled brightly. "I like places like this – they're so beautiful."
Presea shifted her attention to the stream. "Yes…places like this…remind me of Ozette."
Colette nodded, closing her eyes as the scent of lavender drifted by on the wind again. "I can see how it would. Do you…miss it?"
The small girl fell silent for a few moments; her gaze fixed on a tiny fish swimming through the shimmering water. "I…think so," she replied. "I can remember pleasant memories there, but also ones that are…not so pleasant, and after the attack…
The earlier feelings penetrated Colette's drowsiness at Presea's mention of the destruction Ozette suffered, and she opened her eyes to look back at her friend.
"He was right, wasn't he…" she whispered, only realising what she was saying after the words had left her mouth.
Presea shifted her gaze to Colette. "I do not understand what you mean," she confessed.
Colette smiled at the small girl's expression, and how she always cocked her head like a puppy when confused. It was a very endearing quality and it never failed in making Colette want to sweep her friend up in a tight hug.
"What that man said at the House of Salvation," she expanded, rolling onto her side to face Presea. "…He was right."
Presea considered this for a moment, then shook her head. "I…I do not think that statement is entirely correct," she replied. "His words mixed facts with the emotional need to blame someone for his misfortune."
Misfortune. It wasn't as if the man had lost money or anything like that. He had lost his son – to Desians. It was more than simple misfortune, and something that she was supposed to be preventing. Colette closed her eyes against the glare of the sun above, and shook her head. "I have let others down," she whispered, feeling her voice tremble at the admission. "And people…people have suffered because I quit the journey of regeneration. Like those at Ozette…"
The statement seemed to enforce her feelings of guilt but, at the same time, other sensations began to emerge from beneath her sorrow – elements of frustration, and anger, at the unfairness of the position she had been put in.
Presea frowned. "Ozette was not your fault. You are not even the Chosen of Tethe'alla, so you bear neither blame nor responsibility."
"I know but…everywhere I go I see people suffering…and when they know I'm the Chosen they just – I can see it in the way they look at me and…"
Colette halted the fractured sentence and swallowed, trying to prevent her lip from trembling. On seeing the concern on Presea's face though, the young Chosen shook her head and sat upright, a sudden rage burning through her body.
"I mean, what do these people want from me?" she spat bitterly, and slapped at the tree beside her with her hand. It was a weak effort, and under the anger, Colette felt a small burst of pain erupt across her palm. "I…I'm trying my best…I really really am, and…and I know I shouldn't have quit the journey…but…but…"
She trailed off as the passion left her almost as suddenly as it had arrived, leaving only guilt and shame as reminders that it had ever existed at all. Flopping back down, Colette rolled over to face away from her friend, feeling awful at her outburst. It taken her completely by surprise, but she wondered if the cause was just the man's words, or something else – something that had been building up within her over time. The young Chosen scrubbed at her eyes, feeling the warm rays of the sun dry the escaping tears, and exhaled deeply.
She heard the sound of movement beside her, and a tentative hand placed itself on her shoulder.
The Chosen lay still for a moment, allowing the contact to give her strength and comfort, then nodded and sat up, rubbing at her eyes one last time. She turned, shamefaced, to Presea, who was staring at her with wide-eyed concern, and tried to smile as best she could.
"I'm sorry," she said. "I don't know where that came from…I'm just being really selfish, I guess."
Presea shook her head, and withdrew her hand to fiddle awkwardly with a pigtail. "N-negative," she replied, her voice a whisper. "Please do not apologise. I do not think you have any reason to." The small girl regarded Colette as the young Chosen looked at her hand. "Have you sustained an injury?"
Colette squinted against the sunlight as she examined the thin brown spot on the palm of the hand. "Heh…not really, I think I got a splinter. I don't think the tree liked me hitting it. Sorry," she added, directing the apology at the old oak beside her.
Presea shuffled closer on her knees so that she was beside Colette. "Let me see it," she said, and took the hand in her own to examine it. "The splinter should be extracted," she advised, "Or else infection could occur."
Colette shuddered at the word 'extract', as well as thoughts of how much it would hurt to do so. "Ah…well, I think Raine said once that the body expels things like splinters over time. It'll probably just come out on its own."
Presea shook her head. "It is quite large though, and any delay will allow it to become embedded further into the skin. I shall remove it."
The young Chosen shook her head lightly, feeling awkward. "You d-don't have to."
Presea met her gaze, and smiled in a reassuring manner. "Do not be concerned. I have removed splinters on numerous occasions before."
"Oh…okay, heh, I'm sorry to be a nuisance." Colette resisted the urge to look away and watched Presea's hands as they moved deftly to work free the splinter. She was surprised how light and delicate the fingers of her friend were, betraying not a trace of the physical hardship she had endured over the years.
Presea worked in silence for a few moments, before looking up. "About what you were saying earlier…I do not think you are a selfish person, nor should you label yourself as such."
Colette felt herself smile out of embarrassment and shame. "Oh, thank you for saying so, but…I guess I just can't help feeling that way. I mean, I did quit the journey of regeneration. I put myself before the world, so I can't blame them for disliking me."
Presea returned her attention to the splinter and Colette felt a slight twinge of pain as she located the tip of it and began to work it loose.
"You are still searching for a way to save the world – both worlds in fact. I think it is admirable the way you try to help others, despite the hardships you suffer yourself."
Colette shrugged, feeling awkward at the praise and not really knowing what to say. Despite that, she noticed the feeling of ease she always got when talking to Presea about such issues. Normally she would just keep them inside herself and smile, but there was something comfortable and safe about the small girl's company that allowed Colette to voice her thoughts without feeling judged.
"Well, it is what I born to do."
Presea frowned, although it was hard to decide if it was due to her friend's words or from 'extracting' the splinter. "I do not understand you," she said quietly, her tone almost apologetic.
Colette rubbed the back of her head with her free hand and flushed with embarrassment. "Oh…heh, sorry."
Presea looked up sharply at that, her eyes wide. "N-no…I did not mean that in a negative way," she protested. "It is just that your selflessness always amazes me."
The small girl went back to work on the splinter and, with a nod, removed the surprisingly long fragment of wood from Colette's hand. The young Chosen smiled in appreciation and massaged her palm. "Wow, that was really big," she said excitedly. "Thanks Presea!"
The small girl fidgeted awkwardly, and adjusted position so she was sitting rather than kneeling. "Ah…it was nothing. I frequently acquired splinters when I chopped wood or carved, so I became skilled at removing them." She paused for a moment before regarding Colette. "Can I say something on the matter we were discussing earlier?"
"Yeah, sure!" Colette joined her friend, feeling the grass tickle the skin on her legs that wasn't covered by her dress. "I value your opinion."
"Well…I know I have had no experience in being in your position, but I do not think you should worry about everyone as much as you do."
It was an unusual statement, and Colette wasn't sure what her friend meant by it. "Ah, I'm sorry. What do you mean?"
Presea looked awkwardly at the ground. "Forgive me, I probably did not phrase that correctly. People who live their lives with the expectation that it is somebody else's duty to ensure their well-being become weak. You are the Chosen, and people thus believe you are responsible for regenerating the world and can therefore be blamed when things go wrong." The small girl sighed as she met Colette's gaze. "People appear more able to deal with their problems if they have someone or something to blame."
Colette swallowed, not quite sure as to what she was feeling at Presea's words. What the small girl had said rung true, although Colette felt guilty for admitting it. "…You think?"
Presea nodded. "Yes. You are their strength as well as their hopes, and some people become ineffectual and incapable of doing things themselves because of this. Like that man at the House of Salvation, they then blame you." She dropped her gaze to the floor, as if embarrassed at her outburst. "It is not fair…and the burden on yourself must be great."
The young Chosen laughed, although she wasn't really sure why; for there was no humour contained within it. It was true; there had been times when all she could do was lie in bed at night feeling scared, lonely, betrayed and confused. In a way it was funny for, despite not always being the best at understand them, Presea was terribly good at noticing and exploring people's emotions and thoughts. Looking back up at the sky, whose orange hues were beginning to taint pink, Colette smiled.
"I understand what you're saying, but I can't really help how I feel."
"Affirmative," Presea nodded, a ghost of a smile on her lips. "I expected you to say such a thing. The point I wanted to make was that if you wish to take on such responsibility, then please allow us to share the burden with you." Her eyes flashed in the light as she spoke, reflecting the passion in her voice. "If you are feeling sorrow, then talk to us and let us help."
"I do!" Colette protested, although she knew her argument was weak. Presea merely shook her head.
"Negative, you do not." Presea tilted her head slightly as she regarded the Chosen, and for a moment her features looked slightly vulnerable. "Colette…although I cannot make you confide in me…you are my friend, and I want to help. Please, allow me to share your burden."
"Presea..." Colette paused, feeling overwhelmed by her friend's admission. She wanted to put into words how touched the request made her feel but instead found herself pulling Presea into a sudden embrace. The small girl stiffened the way she always did when the contact was initiated, although it had become less noticeable recently, and tentatively returned the gesture – her hands insecure and clumsy.
"Thank you so much," Colette whispered, feeling her friend's hair tickle as it brushed past her cheek. She kept Presea's hands in her own for a moment as they returned back to a sitting position and smiled.
"If…if that's what you want then I'll try my best," she said, "but you have to do the same too, okay?"
The small girl swallowed and nodded, her face studying Colette's. "U-understood."
The young Chosen shifted position and the pair sat quietly side by side for a few minutes, just watching the hues of orange and pink and purple filter through the trees, bathing everything in a surreal light. She smiled as she looked over at her friend and, when she noticed, Presea did the same – her eyes shimmering beautifully in the light.
The sound of Zelos' voice penetrating the silence startled both Colette and Presea, and the Chosen wondered why they both jumped so hastily apart. Turning around, she saw the young man enter the shade of the small cluster of trees, wearing an amused look on his tanned face.
"So this is where my two favourite hunnies got to," he said coyly. "Oh…heh, did I interrupt something?"
Colette felt her cheeks burn, although she had no idea why Zelos' comment provoked such a response. Presea, her cheeks also tinted despite her tan, shook her head.
"Zelos, you're awful."
The young man laughed. "Hehe, I know. You can hardly talk though my little sunflower. You skipped off out without doing the washing up – it was your turn today, remember?"
Presea's gaze dropped to the floor. "Ah, I apologise. I…forgot."
Zelos shook his head and smiled mischievously. "Well, not to worry, your little admirer has already done it, so make sure you thankhim in a…suitable way."
"Zelos!" Colette spoke so fiercely that she surprised even herself, and she couldn't understand why she had done so. The young man cocked his head, an innocent expression suddenly on his face.
"What? I meant by doing the washing up when it's his turn. Sheesh, you've got a dirty mind for someone so pure."
"Ah…I, but…" Colette trailed off and shook her head, her face on fire.
Presea sensed her friend's awkwardness and looked across at Zelos. "I shall thank Genis, and take his turn next time." Glancing back across at Colette. "We should return to the inn," she added. "Before we become too fatigued from the sun."
"Yeah," Colette looked around the clearing before picking up her sandals. They would probably be departing from this region come morning, but Colette hoped that wherever they headed next, there would be somewhere where she could spend more idle time with Presea.
Meeting the small girl's gaze, Colette returned her friend's smile and sighed happily. She really did miss having those lazy summers.
A/N: Hehe, I know not much really happened but, at 10 parts, this is going to be a somewhat leisurely romance – so if you like this chapter then bear with it; it's going to be soooo sweet. :)Anyways, cheers for reading – leave a review if you want – and I'll see ya next time!