n. The branch of mechanics dealing with the study of the motion of a body or a system of bodies without consideration given to its mass or the forces acting on it.

It was only a moment of nervousness before Maqui managed to raise his hand to push the doorbell.

He shifted from foot to foot while waiting for someone to answer, fidgeting with his goggles and making double sure that his hands were clean of all engine grease and dirt. Yuj had laughed when he had been frantically cleaning his hands, but even he agreed that taking extra steps to make a good impression on Lightning would be a plus. The woman was scary and the way she constantly beat Snow down didn't do anything for his frayed nerves.

Hearing the even staccato of footsteps coming toward him, Maqui nervously shoved his hands in his pockets (easier to hide his hands rather than risk having missed a spot in his frantic cleaning, right?) and forced a cheerful grin as the door opened, revealing a suspicious looking Lightning.

"Hi!" he said brightly, and then recalled his manners. "Good morning, Miss Lightning. Is Hope here?"

"Maqui," she greeted evenly, her eyes narrowed. She took a second to give him a look, making the teenager nearly twitch violently. "How is it that you manage to show up at my door every time Hope visits." The words were not a question, rather more a suspicious statement. Maqui laughed nervously, struggling not to scratch the back of his head and slump his shoulders like a scolded child.

"Just asking if he'd like to come out and play, ma'am," Maqui supplied in an careful tone, despite his cracking resolve. That's right. It's a play date. Surely Lightning wanted Hope to have more friends? He took his hands from his pockets to wipe his sweaty palms on his pants, rocking on his heels. He was a part of Team NORA, dammit! The army was no match for NORA... but then, the army was no match for Lightning, either. And despite his leader's protests, Maqui and the rest of NORA were pretty sure Lightning could single-handedly kick Snow's ass from Gran Pulse to Cocoon, and then back again. "I was going to show him around the garage, see if he wanted to help with the new airbike."

Lightning stayed silent a moment, although her eyes darted down. "Your hands are miraculously clean for a day in the garage."


"Slept in late today," Maqui scrambled to lie. "Haven't started on today's project yet."

Lightning didn't look convinced, but was interrupted as more footsteps resounded down the hall and Serah peeped out from behind her older sister. The younger Farron looked delighted when she saw him, letting out a, "Good morning, Maqui! What brings you here today?"

Maqui dared to breathe a sigh of relief as he thanked the Maker for Serah's presence. She was an absolute angel. An angel, and Snow was damned lucky she had agreed to marry him because Maqui was sure she had to be the prettiest girl in all of Cocoon (and now Gran Pulse as well) and the nicest and sweetest and kindest...

Serah's smile was infinitely sweet as she tugged on Lightning's arm. "You have such amazing timing, too! Hope just arrived a few hours ago to visit, and I'm sure he'd love to have someone closer to his age to talk to. Last I saw, he seemed a little tired of babysitting Dahj."

Maqui let out a grin. "Dahj is here, too? Does that mean Sazh is around?"

Of all the former l'Cie, Maqui was the most pleasantly surprised by Sazh, who had so much to teach the teenager. Maqui had never met anyone that knowledgeable about mechanics and flying before, but apparently Sazh had been flying as a Sanctum pilot for years before his wife had died. It was because of that experience that he was able to fly all the l'Cie away from danger so easily.

Serah nodded. "He's off talking with Snow about something. I'm not sure what it is, I'm afraid they lost me only a few words into the conversation." She had a guilty grin, but that only spurred Maqui's bravery. Serah tugged on Lightning's arm, grabbing her sister's attention. "Haven't you had Hope studying the past several hours before babysitting Dahj? I'm sure he should take a break now."

Maqui was nodding vigorously. "I'll look after him, I promise! Just thought he might want to do something other than... studying..." He shrank back from the older sister's glare, suddenly realizing he might have said the wrong thing. He backpedaled quickly. "Not that it's a bad thing, of course! Studying is good. It never hurts to study more."

Serah let out a light string of laughter, and then turned to look at her sister with a smile. "I'm sure you'll have more time with Hope later, sis." She patted her sister's arm reassuringly. "You could be spending more time with me right now while Snow's gone."

Lightning sighed at the combined pleading looks from both her younger sister and the youngest member of Team NORA, but then relented, opening the door further to allow Maqui entrance. The teenager gave a mental whoop before making sure to clean the bottom of his shoes against the mat, and then stepping into the house.

"Don't think I haven't noticed," Lightning said lowly as he passed, and Maqui gave a nervous laugh.

It wasn't that he had any ulterior motives, Maqui thought as he scrambled after Serah. It was just... nice to not be the baby of the group anymore. Yeah. At seventeen, Maqui had always been the youngest, the slowest, and the one to grumble the loudest in situations. It was expected of him, and he liked to think that he was voicing what the others wouldn't. So the first time Hope had darted in front of the group before Snow to speak to Team NORA in Eden, Maqui had been curious. It was obvious the silver-haired boy was years younger than himself, and more than a bit awkward with speaking to a crowd of people. But his voice had no hesitation and no complaints, and his awkward demeanor had surprisingly instilled confidence in Team NORA... even Snow had been smiling by the end of the short interruption, despite the hopeless situation.

When he had asked about Hope later on, he had been informed that the boy had been at the Hanging Edge, that he and the orange-haired girl had been the ones to steal the airbike from right under Gadot's nose. Maqui didn't even remember him. He certainly would have remembered someone with that air about them, especially within a group of confused, terrified citizens.

Serah knocked gently on a closed door before she turned the knob, and smiled brilliantly at the two boys in the room who looked up at her. Maqui peeked in to see Hope sitting next to Dahj on the couch, a pop-up book on Chocobos propped up in his lap.

"Hey, Dahj!" Maqui called out, making sure to greet the little boy first. His eyes wandered over and he slipped into an easy grin. "Hey, Hope."

Dahj gave a cheerful wave, swinging his legs off the edge of the couch excitedly, and Hope merely smiled in greeting. Maqui felt his grin grow a bit sillier when he saw the light green handkerchief Hope was still wearing around his neck. It was actually the first thing Maqui had noticed about him other than that air of confidence and optimism; not the bright orange cape-let or his unusually fair coloring or impossibly light green eyes, but the fact that the patterns on the handkerchief had a heart on the bottom. Maqui remembered thinking that was somewhat childish and... endearing.

"I was wondering if you wanted to see the new airbike!" Maqui said after he swallowed his hesitation, a hand on the back of his neck. It was a nervous habit he had managed to pick up from Snow, back when he had first joined Team NORA. Yuj had always told him it made him look ridiculously immature, but Maqui had never minded. "I managed to get some new parts for it, and it should run this time..."

Hope glanced over at Serah, who smiled and nodded, before looking back at Maqui. "Sure, if you don't mind me around..."

Maqui nearly jumped at how easy it was. The last several times he tried to ask Hope over, it was only with the accompaniment of either Lightning or Snow, and neither of them would ever allow either Hope or Maqui on an unfinished airbike. Maqui wasn't lying when he said that he had new parts and that the bike should work... it just hadn't been tested yet, that was all.

"Of course I don't mind!" he spoke up quickly. "It'd be awesome to have someone else around... Yuj refuses to get his clothes dirty and Lebreau doesn't like working with machines..." Maqui forced his mouth shut in a grin, as he realized he was rambling. "It'd be great to have you there."

Dahj patted Hope on the arm in a childish manner and drew the teenager's attention to him. "It's okay, big brother Hope, we can read another time, okay?"

Serah stepped into the room. "I can read with you if you'd like, Dahj! It's been a while since I read up on Chocobos!"

Dahj cheered as Hope transferred both his seat and the book over to Serah, who patted the teen on the head before snuggling closer to the six year old, flipping the pages of the book to start at the beginning again.

Maqui bounced on his heels as Hope walked over, the younger boy smiling excitedly now that he was off babysitting duty.

"You think it'll fly this time?" Hope asked as they stepped out of the room, glancing up at the older boy. Maqui grinned despite his own doubts and jerked a thumb toward himself in another mannerism that he had managed to learn from Snow.

"Of course it will! It's me we're talking about; I can make any machine work."

Honestly, the airbike had originally just been an old piece of junk that Maqui managed to find in Bodhum, and had never really bothered with because the original reason he had kept it was for spare parts for other bikes. When everything got relocated to Gran Pulse, Maqui had pleaded incessantly with both Gadot and Lebreau until they agreed to find all his toys and transport it over as well. They had taken the old thing because they thought he still wanted it... Maqui hadn't even thought about it, until he saw the old gaudy sea-foam green airbike again.

That was when he knew he just had to make it run again.

Maqui tried to tread quietly past the kitchen and tensed as Hope called out a loud goodbye to Lightning, saying he'd be back later. The younger boy gave him a confused look as he saw Maqui's panic, and the NORA member gave a nervous laugh before grabbing Hope's wrist and just making a run for it out the house.

He might have overreacted as they weren't chased by sounds of gunshots or broken glass, but Maqui thought it was better safe than sorry.

Maqui only stopped running after they were nearly an entire block away from the house, huffing to himself and leaning against the side of a building, not exactly breathless but his heart still racing. Lightning may be nicer now, but Maqui still remembered her before the whole l'Cie incident, and he had told himself back then that he never wanted to get on her bad side.

A tug on his arm made him realize that he still had Hope's wrist in his grasp. He dropped it reluctantly, belatedly wishing he hadn't been wearing a glove on that hand, and that Hope would stop wearing his gloves as well. He glanced up to Hope's amused eyes as the boy asked, "So why were we running?"

"Just wanted to stay alive." Maqui replied honestly. "Miss Lightning can be a scary lady sometimes."

Hope scuffed his shoe on the ground as the two of them continued on their way to the garage, this time at a more reasonable pace. "I'm pretty sure she's gotten over any grudges she might have had against Team NORA," he said. "Considering how often Snow is over now..."

Maqui shook his head. That wasn't what he meant. He was pretty sure that Lightning was starting to develop a grudge against him specifically, but he wasn't going to voice that suspicion aloud. It might have helped that most of the residents of Cocoon wanted to stay close to each other. The residential areas were all tightly-knit and close together, but Hope and his dad still lived an hour away by transport and the boy only visited a few times a week. All the former l'Cie were very close now, seemingly knowing without a word where they all were at all times.

Sometimes, Maqui felt... well, he didn't know how he felt about that. It was certainly strange, odd in a way that he was glad he wasn't a part of, but sometimes it felt as if Snow was drifting far away from Team NORA. That they had lost their leader.

But Snow was happy, and he was soon to be getting married to Serah, and he still managed to make time for them... Maqui cleared his head of those thoughts. It should be Team NORA's responsibility to get to know the former l'Cie as well, not Snow's responsibility to choose between them. And that's what Maqui was intent on doing. Making sure that he got to know everyone his leader was close to.

Well. He was still scared of Lightning. But Sazh was awesome, and Maqui looked up to the older man in a way he hadn't looked up to anyone before. Sazh was smart and brave, and while he wasn't the charismatic leader that Snow was, he was still an amazing mechanic and pilot. And wherever he went, Dahj was as well, although Lebreau seemed to have taken more of a liking to the little boy than anyone else, always volunteering to babysit if needed.

He had heard plenty of stories from both Sazh and Snow about the l'Cie who were not with them... stories about Fang and Vanille, the two Pulse l'Cie who had been alive hundreds of years ago. He marveled at the idea of being a crystal and being granted eternal life... sometimes Maqui looked at the former l'Cie and wondered if that gift was still with them... if in a few years, people would start to notice that Dahj and Hope weren't growing any older.

But that was a childish thought. Surely the immortality was only for when they were crystallized. And while Maqui was burning with questions on how it felt to be a crystal, he wisely refrained from asking any of that. Who knew what bad memories could be associated with it?

...And then there was Hope. What a strange name for a boy, but Maqui understood how aptly he was named from that very first meeting in Eden. Hope and his silly bandanna. Hope and his quiet optimism. Although Maqui admired Sazh the most and idolized Snow the most and feared Lightning the most... he always found himself coming back to Hope. Probably because he was the closest in age to Hope; Maqui was the second youngest now. It wasn't that he admired or idolized or feared Hope... it was something else entirely.

It wasn't long before they reached the bar and garage that housed Team NORA, and Maqui snapped out of his thoughts at Hope's questioning look, grinning at the younger boy. "Sorry, sorry. Just a bit distracted. What was that?"

"I was just asking if you were going to open the door any time soon," Hope said dryly, although there was an amused twitch to his lips. "Wasn't there an airbike you claimed to have finished?"

"Hey now," Maqui drawled in a tone akin to Snow's as he entered the code to the garage, slightly berated by the pause in his upper brain functions. "It's not a claim. I worked a while to have it all clean and shiny, you know!"

"Clean and shiny, but does it work?" Hope asked, peeking into the darkened garage. The strong smell of oil and machinery assaulted their senses the moment they took a step inside, and Maqui flicked on the lights to reveal the mess he had left his garage in, with its multiple airbikes and engines, spare parts and tools scattered on all of the tables that littered the edge of the room.

Maqui watched Hope closely as the other boy looked around, his eyes finally fixed on the antique airbike that he had picked up, refurbished and repainted to shiny chrome and green. He found himself holding his breath as the younger examined the machine carefully, and breathed out when Hope turned back to him with a grin.

The older teen grinned back in response, "What do you think?"

Hope took a while to hmm-haw over it, walking over to it with a contemplative look and then ran a gloved hand over the smooth surface. "I think it looks great... don't know if it looks like it would work, though."

Maqui wasn't very sure about that either, but seeing the challenging gleam in Hope's eye, he couldn't help but say, "Well, we could go for a test run if you're so doubtful. This one runs smooth as silk." He gave the airbike an affectionate pat.

Hope startled, clearly not expecting Maqui to be that confident about it. Truth was that Maqui wasn't that confident himself, but he wasn't going to back down now that he had put the offer on the table. There had been a few more things he wanted to tweak, and had hoped that the younger boy would be interested in helping, and that maybe he would think Maqui was kind of cool for knowing how to work the machines...

Maqui adjusted his goggles nervously and gave a confident grin to mask his doubts, and then stepped up closer to Hope. Lebreau wasn't expecting him to help out anytime soon, since he had informed both her and Yuj that morning that he would be spending the day with Hope, and Gadot had been busy with some secretive business for the past several days already, so he was sure that the older man wouldn't come looking for him just because.

"Anywhere you'd want to go?" Maqui offered brightly. "We're in Gran Pulse now, the area of the unexplored!"

Hope looked unsure now, probably wondering if Maqui was serious, probably thinking that a joyride was a terrible idea. But the blond wasn't about to give up, the idea of offering the younger boy a view of the new settlements, of the open sky and mountains sounding more and more appealing by the second. Most vehicles had been commandeered lately for the transferring of valuables and essentials between Cocoon and Pulse, with some people who wanted to stay on Cocoon despite the lack of help from the fal'Cie, and the people who had braved their fears and settled on Gran Pulse to start new lives in the sunshine.

He didn't really need to install the third converter or the particle generator. Those were just to make landing smoother, and Maqui wondered if Hope would be startled by the rough landing.

"You probably know the area better than me," Maqui admitted. He gave the airbike another pat and leaned closer to the other teen, feeling a rush in Hope's widened eyes. "You can test for yourself how smooth this bike rides." Making sure the silver-haired boy's attention was completely on him, Maqui climbed into the bike and cocked his head in question. "Well?"

The younger teen looked startled, but as he blinked, Maqui kept up that confident grin. Hope finally nodded, and climbed in behind him.

"...Lightning's not going to hear about this?"

Of course not. She would probably kill him if she knew that Maqui was taking Hope on a joyride. She'd never let him near Hope again.

"No way. Promise." Maqui nearly squeaked as pale arms wrapped around his middle and the blond felt his face heat up. He coughed nervously and started up the engines, taking relief in the steady rumble of the engine underneath him, dangerously aware of how warm Hope was behind him.

He pulled his goggles over his eyes and tightened his hands on the controls as he asked, his voice slightly higher than it had been a second ago, "Anywhere you want to go?"

The bike had already lifted off and was hovering gently in the air before Hope replied, "...There's this place we went when we first came down here. The settlements haven't gotten that far yet, probably because it's still dangerous, but it's a little beyond the Mah'habara underground and called the Sulyya Springs."

END 1/3

AN: Okay, this was written for the LJ FFXIII kinkmeme when I found out that I wasn't the only person on the internet who wanted to see Maqui and Hope interacting. XD This was supposed to be a oneshot, but I found that it was better if I separated it into three parts- yes, I've actually finished this entire thing. I may write more as well, since I enjoyed writing this so much.

A MILLION THANKS to Zerrat, who edited this story for me~ I'm pretty sure this is the only story that exists on the internet that has even the slightest him of a Maqui/Hope pairing. I'm hoping to change that with this story, although I'm crossing my fingers on that. (Please tell me there aren't only, like, two people in the entire world who are curious about how this pairing would turn out?)

Next up! Hope and Maqui get into a little... accident. ^^;;