Hop Skip

Chapter 8

Round about

"Deal!" Colette chirped, and her almost avian show of happiness made Yuan reflect on the protozoan. He had developed an almost sociopathic hate for all birds after Noishe had joined them during the Kharlan war.

Perhaps after suffering from multiple curry thefts did lead to psychological damage after all.

Lip curling in one corner, the half elf considered the enthusiastic, happy, Chosen before him.

"So, who goes first?" Yuan asked, leaning back, and then caving into the "what the hell" form of thinking he kicked his feet up and set them on the desk. To the undignified gesture Colette actually snapped out of her giggles and looked confused. But the confusion was off of her face in a flash, as she considered his words.

"Well, you should go first I think."

"Why?" Yuan countered, deciding to drag this out as much as he could. After all, it was rare he got to actually talk to someone, to talk of something non-life death, crisis scenario, the world's ending, type of talk.

"Why not?"

"Aggravating little human, aren't you?" Yuan quipped. She glared at that, and he smirked at her. "Please, you've been called worse during your journey. Hell, I've called you and Lloyd far worse and meant it at the time too."

"At the time?" Colette asked.

"My anger is much like Lloyd's, in forum, but not in expression. I hold my temper in check, but when I do give it a free leash I mean exactly what I say… at the moment. When it passes my humor generally changes and I retract my statements and apologize."

Colette raised an eyebrow. "So when you called Lloyd a back stabbing little thief…"

"He stole my Reihards, he stabbed me in the back during our fight in the Reihard chamber, and he is shorter than me. It all still qualifies- unless he's had a growth spurt recently. I'll apologize when I get my ship back."

"Kratos said the red one was his." Colette countered.

"No, my dear, they're all mine. I can fish out the contract if you'd like. We swap the duties of ownership, maintenance, and the like, ever few centuries. And more to the point this century they are mine."

"You're as bad as Kratos."

"I'd agree, but you'd best define "bad". There are many type of crime, sin, and the like."

Colette stared at him, and then let her gaze drift down to the steel plate boots on the desk. Yuan lowered the hand he'd waved to emphasize his drawl, and then tapped his toes together. The boots rang out with an off tune "ding", and Colette lifted her gaze to look him in the eye.

"You're as greedy as Kratos." She corrected, and Yuan snorted, waved a hand.

"I was a thief, before this all began. All thieves are made greedy."

"Really?"

"Hazard of the profession." Yuan explained with a shrug. "And after all, I've not only my needs to tend to –few as they are-, but the needs of those around me. Raising this base, maintaining it, and its now not-so-secret mate in Tethe'alla, was not a simple, cost free, endeavor."

"Oh..." Colette considered the boots one more time, and Yuan rose a 'brow at the girl's staring.

"Problem, Chosen?"

"Even if I explain the rules, how are you going to play, sitting like that?"

"…I'll move." Yuan, said. He barely managed to not snap in exasperation at such a simple question.

Perhaps the sudden neutrality in his voice was damning, because Colette blushed and looked ashamed.

"I'm sorry…"

"For what?" Yuan flinched despite himself. He leaned back into his chair, cringing away from the source of pain he'd unintentionally caused in the child. "For asking? Had most thought to have done so and not merely followed, things wouldn't have come to this."

"Maybe… I think if too many people asked Yggdrasil wouldn't have allowed people to stay alive this long for us to change things."

Yuan grimaced, nodded. To that show of purely mortal distaste, Colette giggled.

"You look so strange when you do that."

"Lack of practice." Yuan admitted with a shrug, his features settling into their customary mask of placidity.

"Do you know you cross your eyes when you grimace?"

"I do not!" Yuan snarled, his expression twisting to show the anger that flashed across his eyes.

"Yep. You wrinkle your nose and cross your eyes."

"Shut up!" Yuan snapped. Feeling irked, he sunk into the chair, his blue eyebrows lowering like hoods over his burning eyes. Slowly the anger drained out of him, and he lifted his gaze and looked to the Chosen in a meek, unseraph-ish manner. "I do not… do I?"

"No, not really, it's just funny when you get mad."

"Stop yanking my chain, girl. This old war hawk doesn't have all his talons pulled."

Colette cocked her head to the side, her sky blue eyes clouded with confusion.

"Nevermind." Yuan sighed. "It's a saying from before your time and it would take far too long to explain."

Colette opened her mouth to protest, and then snapped it shut. Whatever had made her decide to hold her peace, to forbear from insisting, was a mystery. An appreciated mystery, but a mystery all the same.

Finally, the girl composed her expression into a mock ferocity, a false somberness, and then she extended her hand.

"Your list."

Yuan smirked, let his eyes slide to mere slits, and let a arrogant chuckle to slide past his lips. "Why? Why should I give first, it seems to my benefit that you explain the rules of "Dash" to me first."

"No, it's agreed, your list first."

"When did we reach this agreement?"

"Now." When he moved to counter that lame argument, Colette narrowed her eyes, and a hammer appeared in her hands. As her fingers tightened their grip, the weapon made a comical "squeakity" noise

"A very impressive argument." Yuan conceded, as Colette turned the hammer so its gaudy red head was facing him. "Alas I didn't write it down."

"You can talk, you seem to like doing that."

"Be unable to do so for ten years, you'll love to talk afterwards. Fifty's overkill however, there are times I think Kratos hasn't regained his ability to talk."

"He talks to Lloyd." Colette said as banished the hammer with a lazy tossing gesture.

Thinking it was an attack, then realizing it wasn't, Yuan barely managed to quell the instinct to throw himself out of the chair and out of harms way. Still the fact that the harm was in truth non-existent was enough to keep him in his chair.

And it allowed him to keep his shattered dignity intact.

"Alright… the subject is this…." Reaching up with a hand he twined the eye obscuring lock of azure between two fingers. "The world's worst barbers in Tethe'alla and Sylvarant."

"Seriously?"

"Seriously, you think we do this to ourselves?" Yuan grumbled, letting the lock fall from his fingers with a mock sigh. "Well I've fulfilled my end of the bargain. Now, how do you play this "Rabbit's Dash"?"

For her credit, Colette managed to keep a straight face… for all of ten seconds, and Yuan cracked a small genuine smile as the girl laughed.