Author's Note/Disclaimer: This is my first entry into the wonderful realm of Final Fantasy. I couldn't help but write it, since there's no Sazh/Vanille around these parts (and they are too cute not to have fic!). I encourage any constructive criticism because this is a totally new scene for me. Also, this is the start to my FFXIII 100 word challenge, so hopefully there will be more in the future.

As always, I don't own anything even half as cool as Final Fantasy. Happy reading.

(016. Run)

Sazh dipped his head lazily, letting Vanille run ahead through the old growth.

There were so many thoughts racing through his mind that it almost made him sick to his stomach. He felt as though he was running away from everything – his Focus, his newfound comrades, and most importantly, he was running away from saving Dajh. Or was he? He wasn't sure of anything anymore, and it seemed almost ironic to him that the girl trotting along the path ahead seemed to have absolutely no cares in the world.

"You coming, pops?"

A smile tugged at his lips.

It was strange, almost scary really, how much trust he put in her. This little girl seemed to have so much more wisdom than someone her age should, a calm resolve that let Sazh take a deep breath when it was needed. He jogged a few paces to catch up.

"Yeah, slowly but surely. That don't seem to slow you down much, though."

He laughed, and so did she. As she sprinted off again, Sazh momentarily forgot his better judgment – the little voice in his head that said soldiers, monsters, nearly anything could be hiding around the corner – and chased after her.

The scenery flew past him as streaks of green dabbled with color, laughter echoing as he forgot all about the constant aching in his legs. Vanille quickly looked over her shoulder, letting out a playful shriek as she realized that Sazh was closing in on her. She splashed through a puddle, nearly skidding into some underbrush while turning a corner. "No!" she squealed through laughter. Her pace quickened, and in her haste to escape his now outstretched arms, she tripped over a stray vine and went tumbling.

"Vanille!" he shouted worriedly, skidding to a stop beside her. She was grinning up at him, yet he was still concerned. After all, he reasoned, she was just a tiny thing. He knelt down next to her. "Are you alright?"

"Mhm," came her response, short and sweet, that familiar giggle of hers escaping her lips.

He brushed a stray wave of hair away from her face, leaning in closer. It was as though something strange possessed him, and he couldn't quite figure out what. "You sure?"

Her face inched closer to his, a nod again. His hand rested on her cheek, and that's when it all suddenly processed – this was not about to happen, he wouldn't let it, she was just a kid. Sazh stood more quickly than ever, offering a hand to help her up.

"Up-sy daisy," he said, forcing a smile.

She grabbed his hand and popped up, brushing off her skirt. "Good as new," she promised.

As Sazh looked down, he noticed Vanille's hand was still in his. The faintest hint of a smirk lit up his face. It was obvious. They both knew what the other was thinking, and each had their own motives for not letting the encounter linger on. Vanille pulled away with little warning and began skipping along the path once more.

She turned to him, now skipping backwards. "Wanna race?"

Sazh shook his head. "I'm tired of all this running."

Her reply was a mere shrug, then it was back to Vanille leading the charge and Sazh stumbling along behind. His breath had somehow quickened without him even noticing it, and he had to take a few deep breaths to calm down. That girl, he thought to himself, is too much trouble. It was ironic, really. As much as she wore Sazh out, she was keeping him going too. And as Sazh saw it in that moment, she did it all without a care in the world.