Author's Notes: Dedicated to theBESTsithlord because Guy/Noelle is her favorite ToA pairing. Set post game, but before Luke's coming-of-age ceremony (if you don't know what I'm talking about, this will probably spoil you).

Being afraid of women would have been difficult enough if he'd been interested in men, but Guy was most certainly interested in women. He'd imagined himself going on dates, getting married, and having children, but the idea of hugging was just too frightening to attempt. Forget sex; Guy would just be happy to hold a girl's hand without screaming and running in the opposite direction.

And lately, getting over his fear enough to touch a woman—actually, one woman in particular—had been on his mind lately.

He was walking Emperor Peony's rappigs (a job he enjoyed much more than he would admit) when Jade came up behind him.

"Why, hello, Guy," Jade said in an unusually sinister tone, making Guy jump.

"Whoa! Jade, you shouldn't sneak up on people like that…"

"Right," Jade replied, the usual fake smile re-plastered on his face. "Well, Emperor Peony is receiving a few visitors from Sheridan, so I thought it best to tell you." His grin widened. "You smell truly awful, you know."

"Thanks for telling me," Guy said quickly. "See you later, Jade!"

He quickly began walking the rappigs back to the palace.

After he went into the palace and safely returned the rappigs, he ran out towards the main chamber, hoping to get a chance to clean up when a shrill female voice stopped him in his tracks.

"Guy, you look a mess!" cried Natalia from the top of the stairs. Guy cringed; Natalia was the last person he wanted to see right now, even if she was wearing a top that gave him a very nice…view.

"Natalia…what are you doing here in Malkuth?" Guy asked. "I thought you weren't supposed to visit until next week."

"I…ah…had some important business to attend to," Natalia mumbled, obviously flustered. Business…yeah, right, Guy thought. Unless that business is one of the Emperor's guards…or even Peony himself.

With both Luke and Asch dead, Natalia had no prospects for a future husband and was now desperately playing the field. She'd tried to turn her "charms" on Guy, but, due to his fear, he was willing to only look (and oh, did he look) from afar. Lately, however, Natalia had had a taste for men from Malkuth, claiming that their darker skin had a "pleasing effect on her eyes," which was Natalia-speak for "dead sexy."

Guy, meanwhile, was still sweaty and dirty from his chores and was trying to discreetly leave when the door opened and the visitors from Sheridan came out.

Guy was torn: run for it and risk snubbing them, or be caught looking (and smelling) like a rappig boy?

"Oh, Guy!" Ginji said, raising a hand in greeting. "How's it going?" Guy froze; it was too late.

Noelle turned as well.

"Guy!" she said, sounding a little out-of-breath. "It's so good to see you!" She moved towards him then stopped.

"What on earth have you been doing?" she asked. "You smell like you've been on a farm."

Guy smiled sheepishly and scratched the back of his head. "Haha…about that…"

Ginji wisely chose that moment to slip away unnoticed.

The sun was setting when Noelle and Guy finally made it back to the palace. Guy was a lot cleaner, due to an unexpected swim in the harbor, but even if he hadn't, he and Noelle were too deep in conversation to really care about things like dirt.

Noelle was quite giddy; she was convinced Guy had been flirting with her all day. He'd even leaned close to her to brush something off her shoulder, but she's made the mistake of stepping forward; he'd spooked and ran backwards into the ocean.

They'd had a good laugh about it. The laughter was good for Noelle; it helped her calm her down. She was extremely nervous trying to get closer to Guy, but at the same time, she was desperate for physical contact. Guy had never even shaken her hand because his fear was so bad.

This is ridiculous, she thought when suddenly she noticed Guy had stopped talking.

"Noelle, is everything OK?"

Noelle blushed a little. "Huh? Oh…yeah…"

Guy turned back and resumed telling his story.

Noelle, in a sudden burst of courage, reached out and grabbed his hand.

Guy hadn't held someone's hand in years. He recognized the gentle pressure, the feeling of fingers wrapping around his own.

Then the fear began to kick in.

No! Hold on! Guy thought furiously. We're both wearing gloves; I'm technically not even touching her!

Guy opened his eyes; he didn't remember shutting them. He still had Noelle's hand clasped in his.

He let out a shaky breath; the adrenaline was still giving him a stomachache, but the worst part was over.

Then he realized that he was still holding Noelle's hand.

They were both blushing so hard that their faces were almost glowing.

Noelle broke the silence. "Is this OK?"

Guy nodded. "Yeah," he said softly. "I've wanted to hold your hand for a long time."

Noelle smiled shyly. "Of course, it would be better if we weren't wearing our gloves."

Guy let go of her hand in shock.

"Uh…um," he started, but they were suddenly interrupted, by a polite cough and a not-so-polite sound of disgust.

"Well, well," Jade said, observing the couple, "what are you young ones doing this evening?"

Guy laughed to hide his embarrassment.

"We're just enjoying the fresh sea air," he replied. "Though I should ask the same question to you," he said, looking pointedly at the colonel and his companion.

"Humph," said the companion, none other than Dist the Reaper, now going by his former name, Saphir. "I don't see how that is any of your business."

"Quiet, you," Jade said, lightly smacking Saphir on the head. "You don't want to end up in jail again now."

Saphir immediately changed his attitude. "Sorry, Guy," he muttered.

"No problems," Guy said. "Hey, are you still coming over next Gnomeday to work on our game system?"

"Yes, that would be nice," Saphir said; this time, the politeness wasn't forced.

"Anyways," Jade said, putting an arm around Saphir to lead him away, "we shouldn't bother these young lovers." He smirked at the blush spreading across Guy's face. "Have a good night, you two."

As Jade and Saphir walked off together, Guy noticed that Jade still had his arm around Saphir.

"Those two…I wonder when they…" Guy shook his head when he felt Noelle gently brush his hand.

He had to go through the entire process of calming himself down. He forced himself to think about happy things, about the new fon machine he and Saphir were building, about Noelle's smile, about Anise's birthday present he'd been working on…

A long moment passed, Noelle's hand still clasped in Guy's.

"I'm OK now," he said suddenly, squeezing her hand.

"Good," she said, smiling. "Think we could take our gloves off then?"

Guy shivered.

"I…I suppose we could make it like an experiment," he said slowly. "We could try ten seconds of contact, then take a break; then maybe twenty seconds…that way, I could gradually build up a tolerance and—mmf!"

He was cut off by Noelle's mouth pressing very hard against his own. His immediate reaction was to push her away, but Noelle was too smart for that and had her arms tightly holding down his. His stomach churned; inside his gloves, his palms were slick with sweat.

Don't think about it…don't think about it…

Emperor Peony's face randomly popped into Guy's head, and Guy almost laughed, but then he had another pressing realization.

Noelle is…

The next five seconds were very slow in Guy's mind, but he managed to break Noelle's grasp and wrap his arms around her.

They stayed like that for a long time before Noelle pulled away and stared at Guy, blushing fiercely.

"Wow," Guy managed to squeak out.

"Yeah," Noelle sighed. "You're a pretty good kisser, Guy."

"You are too," Guy mumbled back, wondering who Noelle had been practicing on to get that good.

"Really? I've never kissed anyone before," Noelle said, answering the unasked question. "Well, except Ginji."

Guy burst out laughing.

"Ginji?" he managed to gasp out in between fits of laughter.

"Well, he is my brother; I'm sure you occasionally kissed your…" Noelle stopped, remembering what she was saying.

There was another awkward moment.

"Um," Noelle started, but Guy grabbed her hand again.

"It's OK, Noelle," he said softly. He really liked the feel of her hand in his.

"Well, one good thing came out of this," Noelle said happily. "It looks like your fear of women has been cured!"

Guy thought about it; he wasn't having any anxious thoughts…maybe Noelle's kiss had been the cure.

"I think you might be right," he said shyly.

Suddenly, a high-pitched squeal of "Guuuuuuuuy!" broke though the night, and Guy suddenly felt a huge ball of energy hit him from behind.

Anise's pigtailed head nuzzled against his back.

"Guy, did you miss me?" she cried. Guy, however, was too busy shaking her off and running away.

Noelle laughed.

So much for that experiment…