A short Vaan/Penelo piece, because they are just so cute.

Disclaimer: No, definitely not mine.

The night after they heard the news that Vaan's brother had been killed, Penelo went into the tiny room Vaan had shared with Reks. The pain she felt was too deep to express, too heavy to cry, too much to bear, and Vaan…he had dropped to his knees upon hearing about his brother's fate, the anguished cry that escaped his lips the manifestation of the agony Penelo felt but could not articulate. Her family had been gone for such a short time, and now this. Reks, who had seemed so invulnerable, who had promised to return--Penelo knew that such promises were futile, that anyone could die, but she had allowed herself to hope that he, at least, would return. He was the one who watched over Vaan, watched over her, and tried to keep them out of mischief (but usually ended up participating in it).

Vaan was lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, his eyes the only thing speaking of his suffering. They were bloodshot from suppressed tears, and they only flickered over to her briefly before roving back to the ceiling. She walked over and lay down next to him without saying anything, pressing close so she would fit on a bed so narrow it hardly held one of them. She hid her face in the curve of his neck and shoulder, breathing in his scent of fresh air and dirt, the outdoor smell speaking of the wind and sky that he wanted to be part of so badly.

He said nothing; he simply folded his arms around her and clung to her tightly, sharing in her pain and loneliness, the grief between them so horrible that she knew if either of them opened their mouths to talk, it would come spilling out in an inescapable torrent of tears and cries, and so they said nothing.

They fell asleep sometime in the middle of the night, and when Penelo woke in the morning, it was to find that she was still holding him, her legs tangled with his, his cheek resting on top of her head, stirring her hair with every breath he took. She didn't move, not wanting to let go of the only person left in her life, needing to feel him slowly and steadily breathing, so wonderfully alive beside her.

As she remained there, the shock of the previous day (because there had been a horrible, dreadful shock and numbness present, even if she had not realized it) started to wear off, and Reks' death hit her harder than ever. Unbidden, tears spilled down her cheeks, dripping onto Vaan's thin shirt. She didn't know whether he woke up because his shirt was slowly becoming soaked, or because she was shaking with suppressed sobs, but wake he did, and he was the one holding her and whispering, "We'll be okay, Penelo. I promise."

And she felt guilt on top of the pain, because she should be the one assuring him. She was stronger than this, and he should not have to be strong for her right now. She was the one who cheered everyone, who always had a laugh and a smile ready, and here he needed her optimism more than ever and all she could do was cry all over him.

The next night, it was Vaan who came into her room. Penelo simply shoved over against the wall and opened her arms, and Vaan collapsed into her bed, curling up against her and trembling like a frightened child.

It didn't take long before Penelo came to understand that they were strong for each other, and that was all right. It was okay for her to hurt sometimes, because this was Vaan, and he understood her more than anyone.

When the Imperials kicked them out of Penelo's family home and drove them to Lowtown, they managed to scrounge out a tiny, two-roomed space. What few possessions they had were stored in one room (including Vaan's stolen goods, kept there until he could sell or use them), and in the other room they shoved a large mat, which barely fit in the little area, and they shared this bed. The nights that Vaan was working (thieving) late, Penelo would lie in bed and stare at the low ceiling, worrying, until the key turned in the lock and Vaan came striding in, smirking and smug because of some treasure he had swiped off of some lord or other. And the mornings Penelo rose early to run errands for Migelo or round up the other orphans to get them doing productive work, Vaan would wake feeling cold and slightly lost.

Before long, she had a hard time falling asleep without him beside her, her warm body pressed against his cooler one. Desert nights were freezing, and he always said he didn't understand how her body could always be so hot during the night. She told him he could have her heat if he would just stop snoring, but she soon found she had trouble sleeping if she couldn't hear it.

They never talked about this arrangement; there was simply no need. There was never anything uncomfortable or strange about it. They had known each other forever, been through too much together, for it to ever be awkward.

It did cause a few raised eyebrows later on when they started journeying on their quest to save the world. Mostly on Ashe's part, since she was sharing a bunk with Penelo when they were traveling on board the Strahl. The look she had given them when she woke to find them squished on Penelo's bed had prompted Vaan to make a face at her. Princess or not, she was still Ashe, and he didn't care what she thought about where he slept. She had only sighed and rolled her eyes at his immature expression.

As they got older and matured, as their relationship began to change, to grow into something more than friendship, they still took refuge in each other's arms. She was lying in his arms on their airship the first time she whispered words that she didn't even need to speak, because she knew it, and he knew it, but it was good to say anyway. "I love you."

To which he smirked and replied, "What's not to love?" eliciting a sharp poke from her. He quickly remedied his impertinence by kissing her, warm and sweet and delicious, reminding her of sun and sand, of home long ago, a beautiful swirl of her past and promise for the future.

She was lying in his arms under the desert stars, during the middle of another treasure hunt, when he said, "Let's get married, Penelo," and she sighed contentedly and replied, "All right," because he was her best friend, her only love, her sky pirate. He dragged her on every adventure because he couldn't be without her. He was oblivious but so very smart, cocky but undyingly faithful, and sometimes he drove her to the brink of insanity. He was her joy and her exasperation, the reason she could still smile, and she loved the expression on his face when he watched her dance.

She loved him for everything he was and everything he wasn't, and she never, ever wanted to be in anyone else's arms.


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