mt2 Noah and the King sat in the ballroom, chatting away as the party ensued.

"So... if you don't mind my asking, miss Noah... just how old are you anyway?"
"Well... I mean, if you really want to know..." she giggled, "I'm 47."
"I am 47 years of age."
"Miss Noah," he said, laughing a little, "What is your real age?"
"I'm 47 years old."
"Miss Noah," he said sternly, "I don't appreciate being lied to." He was serious.
"I'm not lying. I'm 47."
"Yes, 47."
"You don't look a day over 30."
"Oh... aww... I don't look young..."
"I honestly thought you were Crono's sister."
"Oh..." she said, giggling. "Thanks..."
"I feel somewhat uncomfortable... I mean..."
"No..." she said, understanding what he was getting at. "I'm not married. Not anymore."
"It was him. He left, a long time ago, back when Crono was just a baby..."
"Ah... it must've been tough raising Crono alone."
"You should know, you had to raise your daughter alone."
"Yes, I did have to... It was very difficult dealing with my wife's death..."
"Yes, it was awful when the news got out... she was a terrific queen."
"I'm glad her memory is still alive."

A sudden announcement came from the front of the room, being yelled out by the chancellor.

"And now it's time for the dance to take place, everyone up and to the dance floor! Tonight's selection was made by the princess, who strangely isn't in attendance... (ahem) but she has chosen... the Time Warp?"

The crowd uttered signs of confusion. One young lad yelled out "We don't know this dance!"

"Well, I suppose we'll have the king demonstrate it for us!"

The crowd sat and applauded as the king stood.

"Miss Noah, would you like to dance?"
"But King... I... I don't know this dance..."
"Neither do I... just follow my lead."

She stood, and he took her hand to walk her to the center of the dance floor. As they arrived, the band was to start playing, but they had no idea of what song to produce. The king nodded suggestively, and the band started to play a simple slow song, and the king led Crono's mother into a simple slow dance. Eventually, as the crowd realized it was just a simple movement, they joined in. And Noah, in the arms of the king, was having the time of her life.

* * *

"No. I refuse to go down and dance with him!"
"My lady..."
"No. I don't like him. He's a snob and an outright spoiled brat! And you could tell him I said that."
"Miss, it is important that you go."
"No means no! I'm going for a walk, and Crono's going with me!"
"But my lady, you have to! It was by request!"
"No. I'm going outside, to take a nice walk along the shores, and that's it. No buts!"
"But please..."
"What, do you want me to get like my father now? Because I won't hesitate to fire you."
"Yes my lady. Allow me to open the door for you..."
"No. Out! You too, Crono, I have to change into something more suitable. Out!"

Marle pushed Crono and the servant out the door, where she then threw off her dress and changed into her regular white outfit. She left the room and walked with Crono outside, stealthily avoiding any contact with any of the guests in the main room. When they exited the castle, they relaxed some, and started to walk at a normal pace.

"Christ... they are all so fake! It's disgusting!" Marle said, angry. Crono only sunk his head.
"What's wrong, Crono?" she said, worriedly.

Silence hung in the air, as Crono walked solemnly aside Marle.

"Why did you break up with me, Marle?"
"Crono? Where's your accent?"
"Why did you break up with me?"
"Crono, we talked about this--"
"No we didn't."
"Marle, it was perfect! Me and you... It was just a week after we went home from the Poyozo Palace... and it was so perfect..."
"And I told you I wanted to be with you, Marle, that I really wanted to be together with you, for real."
"Yeah... It was nice--"
"Nice? It was like... like pure bliss for me, Marle! I loved you! I still do!"
"I know..."
"So why did you break up with me after that night?"
"It still hurts, Marle..."
"I... I didn't know..."

They walked silently along the shores. Marle, slumped over, kept remembering that day... how he told her what he was feeling, how she agreed, and how they spent practically the entire day kissing and hugging, an actual couple...

And then there was that night, when Marle agreed to allow Crono to... to...

And how she laid there in his arms afterwards, totally unsure of what she had just done, and wondering what Crono was thinking at the same exact time... and the confusion got her thinking... was Crono going to expect it constantly? Was THAT all he was looking for? Did he really care for her, or were his intentions going to be like all the others... and then she saw that glint in his eyes, and how he just smiled...

"Are you going to answer me, Marle?"
"Quit saying my name and tell me! Was that your plan? Were you just going to let me screw you and leave, happily fulfilled? Hmm?"
"No! No! I mean... That wasn't what I was trying to do, Crono..."
"So explain. Is there another guy? Like that Prince you talked about? Or wait..."
"No, there's nobody else..."
"Magus? Do you have a thing for him?"
"No, no, definitely not..."
"Yes you do. That's why you were raving about him all the time, how he looked with his clothes off... how you'd 'jump at the chance' to spend the night with him..."
"I didn't say that!"
"Yes you did, those were your exact words to Lucca, remember? Remember, after the first night of the concert?"
"Yeah... I guess."
"So it's him. That asshole... I thought he had become better..."
"No, it's not him. He's just very attractive, but I don't feel that way toward him, not like I felt for you!"
"So what on Earth is your problem?"
"I was afraid, Crono..."
"Of what?"
"That it was all you wanted. I remember the way your eyes looked back after we... spent the night... and it seemed like that was it, just that...."
"What? You could honestly think such a thing?"
"Well... I mean... you know all of those guys, the ones that come year after year to the castle for parties like the ones tonight... how they all want to dance with me, and charm me with their little fake accents and pretty jewels and all that gaudy crap... while the only thing they wanted to do was just land me. And I never let them, I mean, I may act stupid sometimes, but I could see straight through them all, right down to their greedy hearts..."
"And you thought I was the same, that I was so happy that night because I nailed you. As if it was meaningless."
"I mean, you had that weird smile--"
"Like I was smiling because it felt good..."
"Yeah! Like that!"
"Like it was just sex, just any random affair... which it wasn't. I was smiling because I was with you... I was closer to you than anyone else ever could be... it was just peaceful, and I felt just so content... all because I was so close to you, and it was so warm, to be naked beside the girl I love, to feel every part of you, to touch you..."
"Marle, I wouldn't care a damn if I couldn't make love to you. All I wanted was just to be as close to you as possible, to be so content with you... and to prove to you just how close I wanted to be. And for you to make an assumption like it was all worthless is insulting."
"Yes! Really! And then at the palace... 'Once doesn't count...' yeah, it really didn't count to you, did it... It really didn't mean anything to you, it didn't show you how much I wanted to be with you, how close I wanted to be, so close I could even be inside you... not even for the sake of pleasure but just the warmth..."
"And I still love you, and I still want to feel that warmth again."

He stood there silent, releasing the few choking tears that he was holding back until he had said his peace. And he did. Marle couldn't face him at all, she just slumped to the sand below, and banged her fists on the soft mounds of sand that lined the beach.

"Stupid, stupid, stupid! How could I have been so dumb? How could I have mistaken you for one of those greedy perverts, Crono? How? I don't understand it... what made me act so stupid?"
"You're not stupid, Marle..."
"Yes I am, I'm as dumb as a stinking brick! I can't believe myself! ERRRR!"

She growled in anger and pounded her fists into the sand as tears started to come from her eyes.

"I'm a fucking idiot..."
"No, you're not, don't say that..."
"Yes, I am. I can't believe this..." she said, choking on her tears. Crono, as if on instinct, fell to his knees and crawled to her, grasping her in his arms and pulling her head to his shoulder. She put her arms around his waist and hugged him back, as she cried.

"It's moments like these that are so warm, Marle..."
"I'm so sorry, Crono... I just can't believe myself..."
"It's okay... I can forgive you, it was an honest mistake."
"It was a stupid mistake. And I hate it now..."
"You're not stupid."
"Would... would you have me again, Crono?"
"You'd want to get back together?"
"Do you still love me?"
"Yes, I love you..."
"Then yes, Marle... I'll take you back, but you will always have to be honest with me, and tell me if you feel wary..."
"I promise. I won't be dumb enough to make stupid assumptions again. I promise."

Marle reached up and kissed his waiting lips, feeling his touch as he grasped her tightly, tasting his mouth eagerly. And he kissed her back just as strongly, barely breathing as he pushed his tongue along with hers. But then she pulled away.

"Make love to me, Crono, right here."
"Right now. Right here."
"But you said..."
"I have no more reason to be worried. I'm not a virgin now, for one thing, and now I know you're not looking for a good time."
"I mean..."
"And you said you liked to be that close, because it was warm. So come on!"
"...God, Marle..."

Crono helped her to the soft sand below, and began to kiss her savagely, the warmth of her arms around him making him truly content as he made her.

* * *

The party was dying down quietly, as guests were leaving the party. But Crono's mother and the king still sat together, talking, drinking, and laughing.

"So it took Crono, my daughter, and some other blonde girl to come and kill that monster, and to prevent me from going away to my own jail for selling a relic that's been in my family for hundreds of years."
"That is absolutely insane. My son really did that?"
"Your son did a lot of things. He's a very courageous boy."
"And so is your daughter, after all, she was with him the whole time."
"I really wonder what had happened that whole time, when they were away..."
"I really have no clue either."

Noah took a drink from her wineglass, and then put it down on the table, suddenly realizing that was her third.

"Oh my... I've had way too much to drink..."
"Oh, relax. Sometimes fine wines are hard to resist!"
"This has been such a wonderful night, King..."
"It has been, hasn't it."
"Yeah... I think I should get going..."
"The party isn't over yet, there are still some guests around, still some music playing..."
"I mean… I don't want to overstay my welcome…"
"Miss Noah, you are always welcome here at the castle."
"Yes, really. It would be wonderful if you came to visit…"
"Oh… that's sweet, King…" She took his hand in hers, and gazed into his eyes.
"Would you like to dance again?"
"Oh… please… my legs are killing me."
"We're getting old, what do you expect?" he said, laughing.
"Miss Noah, would you take a walk with me? I'd like to show you something."
"Come on. You'll love it."

He stood and took her hand, and led her out of the main room and down the halls of the castle, leading her all the way down to the royal treasury. He walked her all the way down the hall, to where there was a sheet hung from the ceiling, which blocked off the last few feet of the room…

"Take a look." He said, as he pulled back the sheet. There was the gigantic Rainbow Shell, shining its prismatic colors with all its glory. She was taken aback by the beautiful, although somewhat holographic sight.
"It's beautiful."
"Its beauty pales in the presence of you, Miss Noah…"
"Oh… he he he…" she giggled. "Thanks…"

The king left her, and walked over to a table in the back, where several shining items were placed on the table. He lifted up a shining necklace, a chain made of pure silver with a rainbow colored pendant hanging from it.

"We decided to use some of the Rainbow Shell for jewelry. Its value is more than that of diamonds twice its size. And it's certainly more beautiful." He said, walking to Crono's mother. "It may not be worthy of such an elegant woman, but perhaps you may enjoy having it, as a gift from me."

She could barely breathe as the king unclasped her sapphire necklace and placed the Rainbow Shell pendant around her neck. She fixed the round bit so that its shiniest portion was outward, and fixed the clasp so it was hidden behind her hair.

"It's beautiful…"
"Not as beautiful as its bearer…"
"Oh… Th-thank you! It's… wonderful… but I mean, I have nothing to offer in return…"
"It's a gift. You need not return the favor."
"But I can't… I mean, this is awfully generous, but I hate taking things unless I've earned them…"
"Maybe… this generous king might be worthy… of a kiss?"

Noah giggled nervously as the king approached her and put his hands on her shoulders, drawing her into a slight kiss on her nervous lips. Just as their mouths met, she pulled away and giggled endlessly, itching the area between her nose and mouth.

"Your mustache tickles…"
"Certainly that wasn't all… it was barely a true kiss!" he said, laughing somewhat. She kept on giggling as she went to him and kissed him again, ignoring his facial hair. She clasped her arms around his shoulders and kissed him more…
"Mmm… Miss."
"Let us not let this go too far…"
"You know, King, there's nobody around…"
"I would certainly like to be with you, Miss Noah, but I don't feel like ruining this terrific evening…"
"Oh… eh… sorry… It's the alcohol… I just feel like a teenager again…"
"And you look it."
"Aww… King, you are just so charming…"
"And you, my lady, are just irresistible…"
"It's getting late, you know."
"Yes, it is… why don't we go upstairs and wait until your son returns, and I will have a carriage escort you home? And you can meet my daughter."
"I already met your daughter, she is such a sweet girl… although she was very sluggish the last time I saw her…"
"Yes, after their latest escapade, she seemed to be incredibly lethargic."
"Yes, my son also, and their friend, too."
"Now, was it just me, or were our children dating for some time?"
"I really have no clue. I mean, from what I saw, they were just good friends…"

* * *

Marle rested her hand on Crono's chest as his arm held her close to him. She gazed upward at the twinkling stars that dotted the almost black sky above. She sighed, and shut her eyes, resting on Crono's warm skin. He reached down and kissed her forehead, as he gripped her.

"This couldn't be more romantic, Crono…"
"I know."

She sighed and moved on top of him, so she could reach up and kiss him, face to face.

"So Crono…"
"Yes, Marle?"
"You know, I'm just kinda wondering… what was with your voice?"
"Jesus, Marle…" he said, sighing. "I… I'd rather not get into it."
"Oh, okay." She said, sighing, resting her head under Crono's chin.
"Do you really want to know?" he said, after a while.
"I'm interested in knowing…"
"It's a long story…"
"We have time."
"Well, I used to talk a lot, you know… back when I was really little. And I can remember way, way back when I was about two… my mother and I had just been talking, and then she told me to go and sit with Lucca and play with her while she talked to Lucca's mom."
"I was a mighty big talker… but then I remembered there was one thing I forgot to tell my mother, and I left Lucca for a second to go into the kitchen, and I heard her crying with Lara. And then I heard her mention how I talked a lot, just like my father."
"Who was your father?"
"She never told me much about him, but when I was about thirteen, I managed to weed out of Lucca's mother that he was a man, two years older than my mom. And from what I understood, he was really controlling… he would never let her go out, he always bought her clothes for her, and he made sure she was always dressed conservatively. He wouldn't trust her, he always thought that if she got a chance to go on her own she would cheat on him. But even I know my mother was a faithful woman. And my dad was just an asshole."
"That sucks…"
"And for some reason, he got really pissed off one day and left her, when I was still just a baby."
"But… what would that have to do with you not speaking for most of your life?"
"I remember that day clearly, and I realized that I reminded her of him… and I kinda felt bad about it."
"So that's why you stopped talking."
"Well, not immediately. I would always keep that day in mind, remembering just how my mother felt… and then there was a winter, a few years later, that was really cold."
"I remember that! There was a blizzard."
"Yeah. I got sick during that, and I got laryngitis. And I couldn't talk at all. And I remember how even though my mother tried not to show it, she was really… kind of… happy that I couldn't talk. So I just kept it up."
"For fourteen years?"
"Yeah… I mean, just to keep myself sane, I would talk to myself in my room, but nobody else…"
"But I thought the cough drops cured you."
"Well, actually, a year later, I had gotten another killer cold, and lost my voice again, permanently. I would whisper to myself, but other than that I had no voice. And the cough drops cured me."
"But what about the Jar Jar accent?"
"I… I didn't want to hear my real voice… so I faked the accent based on what I saw of the movie."
"Oh… wow… you do have a cute voice, though, Crono…"
"But I'll only talk to you, Marle, everyone else I talk to with the accent, and around my mother, I just won't talk. Promise me that you won't tell anyone."
"I promise. I can keep secrets. I already have a ton of them that I'm keeping safely locked away."
"Like what?"
"Can't tell."

Crono laughed and sighed, staring at the sky. And then Marle gasped.

"Crono! How long have we been out here?"
"I don't know…"
"We have to get back to the castle… my dad's probably wondering where we are! The party is probably over…"
"You haven't seen my mother, have you…"
"It's your loss, she was very pretty!"
"No kidding. Come on! Get dressed!"

Marle jumped up and grabbed for her clothes, throwing them on after shaking the sand from her skin. She also shook out her hair, and tied up the tousled locks. Crono took his own clothes and put them on recklessly. They ran away from the shores towards the castle, each step releasing a spray of sand from Crono's bouncing spikes…

"There's the castle!"

Crono had no answer.

"Ah… making sure nobody hears you… wait! Oh no… our clothes are all covered with sand…"

Crono started wiping off his clothes, to no avail.

"Ooh… maybe our parents wont notice…"

They walked carefully inside the castle, wary of any other guests…

"Hey, Crono, look… I think that's my dad in there, he's dancing with someone. Probably another woman looking for some funds… listen Crono, before my father sees me, I'd better run to my room and wash off… I'll see you later, alright?"

Marle kissed Crono on his cheek, and ran off, carefully avoiding any contact with her father. Crono himself decided to wait for his mother outside. As he waited on the front steps, one of the guards approached him, carrying the list of the invited people.

"Are you waiting for someone?"

Crono walked to the man and looked on his list. Someone had added a "+1" next to his name. He pointed to the mark, and the man left to search for the guest.

* * *

"Your Majesty, Miss… umm, your presence is requested by a young red haired boy…" the guard said, quietly.
"Crono must have come back. Where is Miss Nadia though?" Crono's mother asked.
"She probably ran off into the castle somewhere. She hates these parties, because I make her dance with a certain man who I was hoping would become her husband."
"Well, you can't force her into it, you know…"
"Yeah. And honestly, I was sort of eyeing the behavior of that particular guest, and I must say, I'm not thrilled."
"Why don't you just stop making your daughter go with him? It obviously isn't a match."
"You're quite right, Miss Noah. I think I'll tell her that."
"I suppose I should be leaving."
"Miss Noah, don't hesitate to visit. You will always be welcome around the castle."
"Thank you, King…"

She smiled meekly and backed away, gazing into the king's eyes. Sighing, she turned and left. Behind her, the king called for a carriage, to be sent to the front, to deliver two guests.