Disclaimer: I do not own Square Enix's Final Fantasy XII, nor am I making any money off this fanfiction.
Just a short one-shot. I hope everyone enjoys.
A Dangerous Leap
He would always remember the wind, scented with salt, tossing Penelo's long blonde curls about her face as it whistled past. He would always taste it on his tongue, would hear the screech of gulls in his ears as they scavenged around for something to eat—would hear the crash of waves below as they collided against the cliff face. He'd see the dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon, making the wind buffet harder.
Penelo stepped to the edge of the cliff. The wind came again, bursting against her, catching hold of streamers of gold and casting them about everywhere. She didn't seem to mind it as she kneeled, her fingertips touching against stalks of blunted grass and tiny granules of sand. Her bangles clanked around her wrist when she did so, when she pushed her hair back off her face almost idly.
"It's gone now," Larsa called to her. "Penelo, get away from there, it's dangerous."
"But it was precious to you," she returned. She stood, though, and came back toward him. "You're just going to let it go like that?"
Larsa sighed. Didn't she understand that she was more important to him than a trinket from his mother from ages ago? "It was precious—but it's gone now. There's nothing to be done about it. The water swallowed it."
He blinked when she kept walking, passing him. She did so almost casually, her fingers toying with curls near her ear, tugging on them before releasing them, so that they'd spring back into place. He loved her hair and was glad she'd left it down for this trip, but he wondered how difficult it was going to be to brush later. His own hair was straight, and he knew that would be a nightmare whenever they settled back into their tent.
"Penelo—what are you doing?" It was difficult not to sigh at her, something he was nearly always inclined to do. She always had some inane idea of what "fun" was—he preferred to curl up with a nice game of chess and a cozy blanket, whereas Penelo much enjoyed taking snow and pushing it down the collar of his shirt when he wasn't looking. She always had some terrible story to tell about some latest adventure, never mind that he would be biting his nails worriedly as he waited for the happy ending (didn't she know that he did not enjoy hearing about how she'd almost killed herself?).
And she always, always, always insisted on going about things without telling him what, exactly, she had planned. She often left him to dangle along for the ride, no matter how incessantly he questioned her. It was utterly mind-boggling, and now was no different.
"Penelo?" he prodded again.
When she suddenly started to strip off her dress, he grew alarmed.
"PENELO!" he blustered, already advancing toward her to yank it back over her shoulders. They had an audience! His Judge Magisters were waiting nearby—two of them; at least, the ones that had come along for this trip—and not to mention a handful of servants. Even he hadn't seen much of her without a dress in quite some time! And what he'd seen before had only come from the fact that she had liked to parade around in next to nothing when she was visiting him.
She ignored him.
"Penelo—" He reached for her gown, but she pushed him off and started walking determinedly back toward the cliff face. He stared after her, her discarded gown in his hands, his mouth slack with shock.
But he could tell, as she stood hovering at the edge, that she was.
"NO!" he shouted, throwing the dress to the winds and hurrying after her. "Penelo, it's gone now, don't—"
Then she was gone, a golden figure leaping over the edge of the cliff and disappearing.
He was so stunned, he couldn't even breathe a cry of her name. It was locked on his lips as he raced to the edge and looked down, just in time to see the waves come over her head and swallow her whole.
And then he was running.
He was running to where she'd taken off her dress, then past it, down the slope, away from his guards, and to the shore. He heard them shouting after him as he splashed into the water, the cold wet spraying against his shirt and soaking through his boots and pants immediately. He stared out to the vast horizon, the coming storm, the wind that stole the breath from him as it hit against his damp skin.
She'd really done it—she'd gone and jumped off the ledge of that cliff after a necklace, and nothing more.
Panting, dread finally wearing past the shock to worm its way into his heart and sink creeping fingers down his stomach, he looked over to said cliff. It wasn't nearly as high as the others around here. But it was still a cliff, and that was discomforting in itself.
Larsa placed a hand over his mouth, tears stinging hot on his lashes.
She was so—gods damned stupid—and she wasn't resurfacing, she wasn't showing, she'd gone and killed herself over a damn necklace—
He could still barely believe it.
Penelo, gone like that? In just a handful of seconds, before he could stop her?
It didn't make sense. He didn't want it to make sense.
And then the impossible—or a downright miracle—happened before his very eyes.
Another wave began to crest to wash up against the strip of beach, and with it came Penelo, hair damp and in her face as she scrambled to stand. She pushed the wet mop back out of her eyes, shook the rest of it free over her shoulders, and smiled at him. And in her hand, as she raised it, was clutched a silver chain, from which a pendant dangled at its end.
They watched one another for the space of several seconds. Larsa was finding it hard to restart his heart. He'd just lost her and gained her back, all in the span of a few minutes. Was that even possible? Was he imagining things? Was she really standing before him, corset and stockings plastered to her skin? Had she even jumped off the cliff to begin with, on a suicidal mission to recover what she carried in her hand?
When he said nothing, her smile faltered just slightly. "You—you jump… after you hear the waves crash," she said. "And it wasn't too high up. I mean, it hurt a little when I hit it, and it was kind of cold, but I was going for the necklace, so I—" She stopped when she saw the tears glazing his eyes. "Larsa?"
He promptly whirled, leaving her and the pendant in the water as he stomped off to their shared tent.
"Larsa!" she cried. The water splashed around her as she rushed after him, or so he gathered from what he heard behind him. "Larsa, why are you mad?! I got the necklace!"
He waited until he'd ducked his head under the tent's entrance and Penelo had scrambled in after him to turn to her. When she saw the dark fury that glittered in his eyes, she staggered back despite herself.
"Um—Larsa—" He'd always been insanely taller than her, at least after he'd hit his growth spurt, but when he was angry, he towered over her. It was like all the dark clouds rumbling outside, ready to rain hell upon the waiting earth, were suddenly compacted into his slender frame. Six feet four inches became seven feet, and she had nowhere to go, nowhere to run.
Her foot snagged on a throw pillow in her haste to put space between them, and she toppled over and thudded against even more pillows and soft blankets. Her elbow knocked into the jar of shells she had been collecting, and with a rattle, they spilled out in a colorful river of bits and pieces, some whole, some broken. But she couldn't care about that, not as he came to a stop just before her, his hands clenched into fists at his sides.
"Are you an idiot?!" he thundered just when she thought his body couldn't possibly hold all that anger anymore before it exploded.
"N-No?" she stuttered. What the hell was he so mad about? "What's wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with—?!" He cut himself off before he could yell at her again and turned away, fisting his fingers into his hair. She stared at his back, swallowing and fighting back a shiver. She was sopping wet still, and it was becoming cold just sitting here in barely any clothes.
She just hoped she could take off her corset soon. Her ribs ached from the swim she'd taken.
He didn't say anything for a long while. His shoulders trembled, but other than that, he remained unmoving. She hesitated. She wanted to go to him, slip her arms around him and say she was sorry. It was clear to her now that she'd obviously scared him—but honestly, she'd been so sure she'd be fine, she didn't see a need for him to react like this. Why would she have done something reckless without thinking it through first?
Didn't he know her?
"I love you," she whispered.
Larsa finally looked to her at that, his gaze sliding over his shoulder.
His eyes were red and puffy. But a smile, however fragile and trembling like the rest of him, slowly crossed the line of his mouth.
"I love you, too," he said, the words a hoarse whisper. "So much."
He didn't want to lose her, like he had lost everyone else.
Penelo lowered her eyes. Outside, she could hear the call of the gulls as they flew nearby; followed by that was the soft thunder of waves meeting the shoreline as the tide came in, and the clank of armor as one of the Judges patrolled the perimeter. Or maybe he was just moving to talk to his partner. She didn't know—she didn't want to glance up to watch his shadow move along the front of the tent.
She heard thunder again, but its source wasn't from the waves. A wind shook the confines of their tents more steadily than before. It was growing darker outside. They would need to leave soon—have the servants gather up camp, and then they would move to where the imperial airship was hidden. From there, they would go back to Archades. Their trip at Phon Coast was going to be cut short by a storm, but there was nothing they could do about it.
She looked at the shells still spilled across the blankets. Some of them Larsa had found; some of them he'd scooped up from the water where they glinted when the tide was low.
"You know I'll always be here for you, Larsa," she whispered. "I would never leave you alone."
Not when she could help it.
Short of an inescapable death, she would remain firmly rooted by his side. It was what he wanted, and what she had come to want, too. To imagine them separated now, after all the hard work it had taken to get where they were, was almost impossible. It just wasn't something she could fathom. But Larsa still had those doubts, it seemed. He still feared that she would be snatched away from him.
Gods, but not so recklessly. She would never do that to him.
She glanced up to him. Did he?
"Come, Penelo." He turned to face her fully and held out his hand to her to help her up. "I will retrieve your dress, and then you will change, and we will go on a walk together before the storm hits, so they may pack our things. And then we will head back to Archades. How does that sound?"
Perfect, since it meant getting a clean set of clothes.
"That sounds fine," she acknowledged with a gentle smile and a tilt of her head.
When her hand slipped over his, she knew they would be all right. And if Larsa still doubted, she would just have to keep convincing him until he believed her.