A/N: Well, because I am apparently completely off my rocker, I have taken on the challenge of a Vaan/Penelo prompt table for the fanfic50 LJ community. I have fifty prompts that I'm supposed to do, so I figured I'd just post them all in one story. This will be a series of unrelated one-shots. (This is the part where I wonder, again, what in the world I'm doing. Fifty one-shots? I don't think I've written fifty one-shots in my entire writing career!) Some of them will be longer, and some may be short. Very, very short. We shall see what I come up with for each prompt.

Disclaimer: Seriously, not mine. FFXII belongs to Square Enix.


Prompt #40 - Dream

Dreams were funny things. They could take you to places unseen, to corners of the world only heard about in whispers, all without stepping foot outside your door. They could plant hope in souls withering of despair, breathe life into plans long left for dead by the side of the road.

Dreams could also crush you with the weight of uncertainty, shattering possibilities that had been long growing in the corners of weary minds. They could snatch away expectations and kill any desire to step foot onto the road at all, for fear that even more hopes would fall by the wayside.

Dreams were both beautiful and frightening, and Penelo had seen both sides of them. She had watched as some dreams came true, and others were stamped out with the heavy foot of oppression. She had rejoiced when the possibilities became tangible and cried when life seemed to laugh in her face. As the years wore on and death one by one stole away those she loved, her dreams began to fade.

Perhaps fade wasn't quite the right word. It was more as though they were ripped from her hands, then thrown on the ground and stomped on for good measure. With each broken dream, Penelo began to grow more unwilling to allow any more hopes to take hold of her. There was a large, loud part of her that wanted nothing more than to give up on dreams entirely. What good did they do? They hadn't saved her family, or her city, or her country. They didn't put food in her stomach or give her a warm place to sleep during the cold desert nights. They weren't practical, and practicality was just a part of the life she now had to live. She couldn't afford to dream. Not anymore. Not only because she had to stay alive, but because her heart couldn't take scavenging any more shattered pieces. She had enough to pick up and try to put back together as it was.

Still, there was a smaller, much quieter part of her that refused to stop dreaming. She got glimpses of it, sometimes, like a pocket in her heart that held all the most sacred and special dreams that had escaped the pain and loss and disappointment. One day, they whispered. One day she would have a home again. One day she would have a family. One day she would have peace.

She tried not to listen to that voice, so that if those dreams burned to ash, she wouldn't have to suffer their loss. Instead, she continued to carry out her daily life, running errands for Migelo, working in his shop, watching over the younger orphans, and trying to keep Vaan out of trouble. Her Vaan, who sometimes seemed to do nothing but dream.

"One day I'm going to be a sky pirate! Just watch, Penelo! One day I'm going to have an airship. One day…"

Vaan was full of one days, and unlike Penelo, he said them aloud. Anyone who did not know him well would say it was his endless optimism, and they would be impressed that he had such tenacity to hold onto those hopes after everything he had lost. Penelo knew that this was partly true about Vaan; he was optimistic, he was tenacious. He was also scared, and angry, and trying desperately to run away from his pain. They were really not so different. Penelo dealt with it by trying so hard not to dream, but Vaan dealt with it by endlessly dreaming. Maybe that was one of the reasons she loved him so much.

Then out of nowhere, one day really did happen, and suddenly she and Vaan were fighting for the hope that had once seemed as elusive as water in the desert. And oh, she fought. She fought, she bled, she laughed, she cried…and she slowly found that she could still dream. That she still wanted to dream. That maybe, just maybe, dreaming was still worth the risk of utter failure and disappointment.

"Penelo? Penelo. Penelo!"

Penelo blinked, finally realizing that Vaan had been trying to get her attention. "What?"

"Are you going to stand there staring at the airship or are you actually going to get in it?" Vaan waved very pointedly (and proudly) at his brand new airship. At their brand new airship. "We have to meet Balthier and Fran."

"I know, I know."

"Did you get the food?"

"No, Vaan, I didn't. I'm completely incompetent and can't be counted on even to remember to grab some food for the trip."

Vaan had already spotted the bag she had set down on the floor of the aerodome, and was rolling his eyes at her as he went to pick it up. She turned back to the airship, a faint smile flitting across her face.

"You're staring again," Vaan commented, the bag hefted in one arm. He looked between her and the airship, and there was a grin on his own face as he grabbed her arm and tugged her toward it. "Come on, you've got to check this out."

She allowed herself to be pulled on board. Vaan unceremoniously dumped the food next to the door and took her through the small vessel, showing her each nook and cranny, including getting her to slide under the engine so she could marvel at its "total win…just look how big it is!" It really just looked like a hunk of machinery to her, but she could not deny Vaan his enthusiasm.

He finally allowed her to settle in the navigator's chair while he took the pilot's seat. Penelo ran her hands over the console; it was fashioned much the same as the one on the Strahl, but there was something different about sitting on a borrowed airship and sitting on one that she knew was theirs. One that was proof that some dreams really were fulfilled.

The ship hummed underneath her as Vaan powered it up, his hands moving to grasp the controls. She clutched her seat reflexively as the airship lifted off the ground, fighting down the nervousness that always tried to take hold of her whenever she was flying…raising up higher and higher…the ground so far below…

She gazed down at the city as they zoomed over it and out toward the desert. Even with it so terrifyingly far down, it was beautiful. Beautiful because she knew it was being restored, because she knew it was becoming what it had been when she was younger. It was what her family had fought and died for, what Vaan's brother had died for. It was going to continue to grow and change for the better. She really believed that now--she had to believe that now. She wasn't under any illusions. She knew things could change in a heartbeat, but somewhere along the way, amidst the battles she had fought and the friendships she had forged, in the middle of traveling the world, she had made the decision to open that little pocket of dreams locked away, and she couldn't close it again. She didn't want to close it again.

Vaan waved a hand in front of her face. "What's wrong with you? You're never this distracted!"

"Hm?" Penelo looked over at him.

"Coordinates, Penelo," Vaan said, tapping her screen. "I need some navigation from my navigator."

"Oh, right. Sorry. I'm just thinking."

"About what?"

"Dreams."

Vaan raised his eyebrows at her. "Dreams, huh? You know, I had a really weird dream last night. You turned into a Pumpkin Head and--"

"Not that kind of dream," Penelo said dryly. "Though I'm certainly flattered that you're dreaming about me as a Pumpkin Head. I'm sure I was very attractive." She looked out at the endless expanse of sky. "I never really thought this day would come," she whispered, half to herself.

She felt pressure on her hand as Vaan took it and squeezed it. "Neither did I."

They smiled at each other, and then she set about to charting their course while Vaan set about to following it. They swooped off toward the horizon, toward another adventure in their life together…toward a wide open future of hopes and dreams.