Disclaimer:I do not own Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.

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Author's Notes…

Eh heh… Wow, that took a long time to post up? I'm terribly sorry! Half of this was already done, and I don't know why I didn't finish the thing sooner. Ah, well. Though this is the end of Choice of Words, I plan on having a sequel type fic for them in the future. How does that sound? Yay, nay?

At any rate, thanks for all of you who have stood with me on this story from the beginning. You know, it's really a refreshing feeling to finish something!

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Choice of Words

Epilogue

And Now Our Time Alone Together Ends

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Larsa fished around in one of the pouches at his hip, finally withdrawing with a type of green. After a moment of scrutinizing it carefully, Penelo realized that it was a gysahl green. When he offered her half, she took it and turned to the chocobo she was tending to. It bowed its head with a soft "kweh", nipping gently at her fingers with its hard beak until she relented and gave up the treat. The golden bird immediately gobbled it up, cooing contentedly afterwards, and Penelo didn't stop a giggle that bubbled up from her throat.

"Wow, Larsa, you really do have just about everything ready to go, don't you?" she commented wryly, nudging him with her elbow. Larsa still wasn't really meeting her gaze, apparently embarrassed by what had transpired minutes ago. He kept himself busy with tending to the other chocobo, one that had a bit of brown flecks along its tail feathers. Which was odd, considering that chocobos—at least, not yellow ones—rarely ever looked mottled like that.

"It's kind of cute," Penelo hummed. Almost as if it had understood her, the chocobo fluffed its feathers and rose up high on its legs. Larsa was dismayed. He wasn't quite tall enough yet to reach the bird's beak when the chocobo was at its full height. "Oh, Larsa. Here." Taking the last half of the green from the prince, she held it up to the chocobo. It lowered its neck again, sniffing curiously at it before carefully extending its beak and then—

CHOMP!

She barely pulled her fingers back in time to avoid having them turned into a bloody mess. The chocobo eyed her beadily, its jaws moving as it munched on its treat, and Penelo scowled back at it. Planting her fists on her hips and huffing, she amended her earlier observation. "All right, all right! I'm sorry I called you cute. You're quite—er—handsome!"

The chocobo stopped looking at her so resentfully after that, and it began to search the ground and Larsa's pockets for any more tasty treats, of which it found none. The prince smiled, ruffling his fingers through the bird's golden feathers as his gaze grew distant. Penelo watched him for a long moment. She wondered if she should say something, after all, but nothing was coming to mind. Although it had been her idea to concede to a kiss, Larsa was the one who had initially started the whole situation… So why was he so quiet now? If anything, sheshould have been the one in a mental state of panic, worrying and fretting over what the hell had happened. Oh, wait. She had already.

"What are you thinking about, Larsa?" she ventured to ask, not sure if she wanted to know but figuring it was polite.

"Oh…" Her companion's cheeks were turning a suspicious shade of pink, and he busied himself like the chocobo had by tugging at his pouches to make sure they were properly in place. "Well… It embarrasses me to admit this, but—I cannot stop thinking of how warm your mouth was, Penelo."

Surprised at his honesty—and dismayed to find her own face flushing again—she quickly looked away and grasped onto the second chocobo. Why did it make her feel so flustered to hear that? It wasn't like she had lost anything when she had allowed Larsa to kiss her. He was twelve, so it should hardly matter. But… she was discovering more and more as the minutes passed that she was just as flustered and desperately awkward as he was. She tried to feel dirty about this revelation (shameful, at the least), and found that she couldn't. Faram, but what was wrong with her?

"Is that so?" she said at last, and rather lamely at that. What else was there to say, though?

"Yes," Larsa replied, and Penelo felt his hand touch her elbow. "I know I said this but moments ago, but—I thank you. Really. It means a lot to me that you would allow me to share such an experience with you." He hesitated before his gaze lowered. "This whole night has been wonderful, Penelo. And I know that you feel as if I am just a boy—and perhaps I am—but… still. Words cannot express the amount of happiness you have bestowed upon me tonight."

"Oh, uhm—no problem," she said awkwardly. Then, with her heart speaking without any consultation with her brain, "I—I've enjoyed myself tonight, too, Larsa. I know I've said that you're only twelve, and that, you know… we probably shouldn't have done that, but… I—I'm not sorry it happened." What was she saying? "I…" She sighed, her shoulders slumping in defeat, and meekly peered down at Larsa, who was eyeing her intently. "I can't stop thinking about the feel of your mouth, either…"

Those green eyes widened just slightly around the edges, as if in soft wonder. "Truly?" he whispered. His hand slid down Penelo's forearm to grasp onto her hand. "Penelo…" He smiled and hugged her close to bury his face in her neck, and she tentatively slipped her arms around him in return. Her fingers found a curious path into his hair, stroking the silky strands of ebony, while she stared at the far wall of the cave and wondered just what she had gotten herself into. Oh, she was definitely going to hell, that much was for certain.

"Thank you…" he said again, his voice a soft murmur against her neck.

"Why do you keep thanking me?" she asked. She laughed hollowly, and it faded as quickly as it had come. "You're welcome, Larsa."

"I keep thanking you because… you gave me the opportunity to experience this, as I've told you," he replied. He turned his head and rested his cheek against her shoulder instead. "I will be forever grateful."

"Nah, you'll just kiss the next girl and say the same thing to her," Penelo teased, trying to lighten the mood a little. She didn't want to admit herself just yet that she was as nervous as the prince was.

Larsa said nothing to that, however, and Penelo got the sinking feeling that he was no doubt plotting in that Plot-Easy mind of his. Manipulative, that's what that Solidor boy was, and Penelo regretted that she had allowed herself to forget it, time and time again. And now look where she was! Robbing babies from the cradle.

It was just a kiss, she told herself firmly. And a peck on the mouth at that, nothing too action-y. Why do you keep wigging out? It's not like you did the Dastardly Deed with the boy! In which case, if that had happened, you would most certainly, yes, be going to hell. As it stands, however… a peck on the lips? Nothing to worry about. Keep your cool, Penelo. Keep your cool.

"We should be getting back," Penelo said again. It was hard to ignore how Larsa's body felt against her own, a solid line of warmth to offer her comfort against the chilly night. As if the fire wasn't enough to do that for her. "I'm sure the others are probably worrying."

"You're right." He blessedly withdrew from his embrace and walked back to the moody chocobo. "Penelo, are you any good at riding a chocobo?"

"Actually… not really, no," she confessed, laughing and rubbing a hand over the back of her neck. "I'm much better with my feet on the ground." Flying around on the airships hadn't been so bad—but, for some reason, chocobos were another thing entirely. She had never quite been able to get the knack of riding them properly.

"Then we shall ride back on one together," Larsa said simply enough. He was already hauling himself up onto the bird's back as it bowed down for him. "Did you know that the yellow chocobos are the only ones that are able to be tamed?"

"That would explain why the black ones attacked us," she muttered. She took Larsa's proffered hand and used it to help pull her up behind him on the chocobo. It was harder than he had made it look, leaving her gasping for breath as she dutifully hooked her hands around his slim hips. "Larsa, why does everything you do seem so easy?"

"I haven't the faintest idea of what you're talking about," he replied, but the smirk he sent over his shoulder made his eyes twinkle with mischief.

"Right, uh huh."

It was a short trip back to Jahara. The two didn't say much on the way. Their time alone together was drawing to a close, and it was difficult to say anything when there was nothing to say at all. Their journey wasn't over, no. They still had to make it to the holy mountain. But what could be said outside of grounds they had already covered, again and again? Larsa was in love with Penelo. He intended to keep her by his side forever. Penelo knew that he was young and naïve in the ways of his infatuation, and that in time it would pass. She wished it wouldn't, deep inside—she wished that Larsa would go on loving her forever.

Such things were not meant to last, she'd learned. Perhaps if Larsa was an ordinary boy from the streets of Rabanastre, then maybe in the future—maybe… Well. It didn't do to speculate on it. Larsawasn'tan ordinary boy, and as soon as this journey was over, he'd be heading back to his country to take care of business there if the situation with Vayne could not be remedied. In time, he would be swamped with politics. In time, he would choose a wife worthy of Archadia. In time, he would forget Penelo.

And that was that.

-o-o-

"So why'd he take you alone?" Vaan's eyebrows arched in suspicion, and he nudged Penelo's side with his elbow as the rest of the party gained steps ahead of them. The day was cloudy, and Basch had already warned them not to stray too far lest a sylphi entite fell upon them.

"I don't know," Penelo lied. "You knew that we grew somewhat close after he saved me in Bhujerba. He doesn't know the rest of you as well, and he was worrying that he wouldn't fit in. You know, that Ashe would find it hard to be nonbiased toward him. I assured him that things were just fine." She shrugged. "It's really pretty simple."

"And that took the whole night?"

"Well, you know that we grabbed those chocobos he'd found earlier, too." When she saw the skeptical look Vaan was giving her, she frowned. "What? What do you thinkhappened, Vaan? Why don't you tell me, since you don't seem to believe therealstory?"

Vaan chuckled and ducked a swipe to his head. "I'm just saying that I think he likes you, is all. He keeps staring all stray-eyed at you. It's kind of gross as much as it is funny."

"He is not." She gestured to where the prince was conversing with Ashe. They were enthralled with whatever it was they were talking about, and neitherof them was sparing a glance in Vaan and Penelo's direction. "See?"

"I meant this morning, when we were packing up after breakfast."

He had been, but she wasn't going to let Vaan knew that she knew that. "So what? I doubt it's because he likes me."

"Mmm, I don't know—he's probably thinking, 'Oh, Penelo—show me how to—' OW!! What the hell was thatfor, Penelo?!" Her friend clutched at his sandy hair and darted murderous looks in her direction as he dodged several paces to the side.

"Stop acting so jealous, Vaan, you look like an idiot."

"Me?Jealous of Larsa? He's what, ten?"

"Twelve," Penelo corrected. "And if you don't drop this subject, I'm going to hit you again."

"All right, all right," he griped. "I'll let it drop."

They were silent for maybe fifty feet before Vaan brought it up again, and the rest of the party had to jump out of the way as Penelo barreled through them with her mace raised, hot on Vaan's heels. No one really had a fair idea of what was going on, but they didknow that Penelo planned on doing at least several brutal things to Vaan once she got her hands on him based on the curses she was laying on him.

It wasn't until they both headed back for their comrades before Vaan stopped picking the leaves out of his hair and Penelo let the steam stop gushing out of her ears. Everyone pretended that nothing out of the ordinary had happened. After all, the two often got in spats, so it wasn't like this was anything unusual. Still, though—Larsa managed to quit staring at Penelo in awe once Vaan gave him a light pop over the back of the head.

"First things first," he whispered for the prince's ears alone, "stop staring at her if you don't want your eyes gouged out. She hates it. Secondly? It also makes her feel good, so be sure to do it enough, just not enough to get hit."

Larsa blinked. "How am I to know when that is?"

Vaan's grin made Larsa swallow. "Through trial and error, of course."

The young prince of Archadia lowered his head, his eyes on his feet as he gave this some thought. He couldn't picture Penelo chasing him as she had just done with Vaan, but then again, he didn't particularly do anything to give her cause to. Not that that was enough reassurance… He would definitely have to be on his toes if he wanted to keep Penelo happy. After all, they had many years together ahead of them. He had better start bracing himself for the inevitable battles now.

He smiled to himself.

He was really going to love those battles.

"Larsa!" Penelo called. "Come on, slow poke!"

"Ah, I'll be right there!"

And he would be. Every step of the way, until Penelo realized that she loved him as well. He was bound and determined to have a happy ending. Penelo would just have to see, in time, that he was the one she wanted.

He only hoped that she realized it soon because he was tired of waiting already, and their journey together had only just begun.