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.

There was a group of the frog-like creatures at the entrance of the Springs, three fanged monsters lounging in such a manner that there was no possible way to get around them without alerting them to the boys' presence. Maqui had stared long and hard at them, wishing once again that he had at least remembered to bring a gun with him, or some sort of weapon, but then remembered that his surroundings could be used as a weapon. He just had to draw their attention away from Hope so that younger teen would be able to get away- Maqui was fast; he prided himself in being fast, actually, and he was sure he would be able to outrun those slimy creatures after making sure that Hope had gotten away safely-

Hope's dark grin had other ideas, though, as he pulled out his collapse-able boomerang from his waist pouch, and whispered, "Pre-emptive strike. Ready?"

Maqui stared for a quick second, mind wandering as to how that boomerang managed to fit in the tiny pouch, and just why Hope would have it on him, before he centered himself and gave a quick nod. "Yeah. Attack the left?"

"Alright. Left to right." Hope sounded amused as he drew back and threw the boomerang with all his strength, hitting each of the monsters in succession and inciting indignant squawks from the creatures as they slowly turned to face them, teeth and claws bared. Within moments, Maqui had gathered a handful of rocks and was pelting them at the monsters in succession, even as Hope took the time to raise shields around them before summoning a maelstrom of lightning and water.

Maqui nearly dropped his handful of stones in shock as he watched, wide-eyed, as the frog-like monsters yelped and were all caught up in the twister of lightning and summoned water, suspending them in mid-air where they couldn't retaliate and electrocuting all of them almost immediately.

It was...

He had never seem a l'Cie in fight before, only heard stories. Stories of destruction and city-wide rampages. He had always dismissed the stories as exaggerations- obviously the destruction and rampages were caused by the Sanctum trying to hunt the l'Cie down, and even if they did have magic powers and Eidolons... the Eidolons could only be summoned for a small period of time and Maqui had only ever seen the magic that manadrives could imitate: healing, shields, haste, ruin orbs, poison... devastating, yes, but only on a person to person basis or to a small group of people.

Seeing Hope effortlessly summon elements to his bidding, the entire area crackling with electricity and dangerously controlled water to enhance the damaging effects, made Maqui realize that maybe, just maybe, the original stories had been right.

All three of the creatures were dead before they hit the ground again, with no time to call upon allies to help them.

The younger teen didn't bat an eye as he shoved the boomerang back into his pouch, and then climbed onto the last ledge, giving Maqui a smile as he successfully ignored the smoking and half disintegrated bodies. "C'mon."

Magic, Maqui was coming to realize as he waiting patiently for Hope to ponder over which flowers to pick, was a dangerous thing.

And Hope was very good at it. It was a stunning revelation to the blond boy, as he had always imagined the other to be a lot like him, always pushed to the back of the battle where the adults were willing to take over and not quite as powerful as everyone else. He had never seen this side of Hope before... it had always been the shy, quiet smile that drew Maqui close and made the older boy want to protect the youngest of the former l'Cie. It was that awkward, lopsided smile combined with the ridiculously childish scarf and the bright optimism that Hope generally exuded. Maqui had imagined that Hope would be squeamish with corpses, monsters or not, and hesitant in battle. He had imagined himself to be some kind of hero, the kind that Team NORA were supposed to represent.

He had never thought that Hope wouldn't really even need him in battle; that the younger boy really wasn't the slightest bit scared of their situation, and didn't care two wits about the fact that he had taken several monsters out and left their steaming corpses behind as they walked, or that he could be... that powerful.

Maqui was starting to realize that even the most powerful of manadrives equipped by the military didn't compare to the natural power that a l'Cie could generate.

It was a... stunning discovery. One he wasn't sure what to make of yet. On the one hand, he had a new admiration for the quiet and unassuming boy, but on the other... power like that was dangerous. Dangerous the surrounding people if it got out of hand, and dangerous to Hope if the wrong people found out that he could wield such power.

"Think those would go with these?" Hope was pointing at a patch of flowers just a few meters off, resting in a bush of what looked like Baby's Breath. The green-eyed boy was completely oblivious to Maqui's tsunami of thoughts, skin just the slightest tint of red from having been outside under the sun for too long. He had a fistful of pink flowers in his hands, different sizes and looking a bit mangled from where he had torn them from the stem.

Maqui squinted against the sunlight, a hand trying in vain to shield his eyes from the brightness. "Looks good. Don't know much about flowers, though."

"Yeah, me neither," Hope confided, stepping over to the bush. "Feels like something I should know, though. My mom used to tell me all about what different flowers meant, but I never really paid attention."

The blond boy didn't really remember his mother, only Lebreau struggling to wake him up in the mornings.

"Maybe we shouldn't touch it, then," Maqui commented, eying the flowers warily now. "What if they're poisonous?" Or tried to bite their faces off? That had happened to him once when he was out on a scouting trip with Gadot, where one of the pretty flowers had risen from the ground and chased after them when he had leaned in too close. It was Gran Pulse- he wouldn't put it past the land to have poisonous flowers everywhere.

All the prettier to kill you with, right?

"Unless they start emitting poison gas, I think I'm pretty safe," Hope said, amused, as he turned and wiggled his gloved fingers at Maqui. The older boy colored in realization, and then coughed to try and cover his lack of higher thinking. Well, it was always a possibility!

Maqui fidgeted from where he was seated atop a boulder, tapping his heels against the stone. He glanced up at the sky, noting that while it was still bright out, the sun would soon be setting. Give it another two hours, maybe. How long did it take for them to get there in the first place? He wasn't very sure, as the entire ride felt more like a dream to him now. "Think we'll have to spend the night here?"

It was safer than in the Springs, anyway. But more open. And that could be dangerous if something faster than them were to find the two boys. If they had to spend the night out, then maybe they should head back to the relative safety of the darkened cave.

"Not really." Hope was turned away, on his toes and carefully balancing his weight against another boulder to reach the higher flowers in the bush without falling in himself. Maqui watched him struggle for a while, trying to figure out whether he should offer his own help, before realizing that Hope was doing perfectly fine without him there. "I'm sure the others have already noticed that we're missing and are searching for us right now."

The older teen winced. Miss Lightning was going to kill him, and Yuj and Lebreau were probably going to stand back and shake their heads sadly, talking about how they would say something nice at his funeral. Unless he could plead to Serah first to shield him from her sister's wrath.

Maqui half debated running away and hiding out in the Mah'habara for a few days until the soldier calmed down a bit, but then realized he had a poor chance for survival there, and Lightning was likely to get angrier the longer he was missing. But honestly, he couldn't decide which was worse: facing a pissed off Lightning or having to fend for himself in a land full of monsters.

"They're going to kill me," Maqui moaned pitifully to himself, curling up on his seat to sink his face into his hands. "And I lost my bike!"

He spent a few moments feeling sorry for himself and wondering if there was any way to fake his death before they were found again when he heard Hope's footsteps in front of him. The blond peeked from behind his fingers and pouted miserably to see Hope smiling; that shy, lopsided smile that he had just been thinking about. The least the other teen could do was sympathize with him before he died! Or pretend to, anyway.

"Here." A large pink blossom was shoved in front of his face, and Maqui leaned back, his hands coming down to brace himself against the rock. "If I've learned anything, it's that people are much more forgiving when you convince them that you were thinking about them." Hope paused, looking a bit embarrassed. "Well. Girls, anyway."

Maqui reached out and accepted the blossom gingerly, closing his fingers over Hope's and feeling the rough texture of the stem digging through his glove and into the skin of his fingertips. "Thanks." He stared at the bright pink petals. "I'm not a girl, though."

Hope chuckled. "I meant, you could give it away if you think it'll help. Or you could keep it. To remember this trip."

Maqui didn't think that Lebreau would appreciate a flower that was so rough on the hands, and possibly poisonous. He did, however, like the idea of keeping that flower. It was a nice thought, to have gotten a flower from Hope.

Hope smiled again, and Maqui had to remind his rapid heartbeat that the younger boy really wasn't just the sweetness and innocence that he looked (and with a fallen heart, also had to remind himself that he wasn't as much the hero he wanted to be, either).

They pulled away, and Maqui twirled the flower between his fingers for a moment, feeling the rough texture and glad that he at least had a glove on that hand. His gaze was eventually drawn back to Hope, though, who was picking and discarding more flowers, littering the ground behind him in petals.

It had been a pretty disastrous day, overall. From his overconfidence concerning the airbike, the crash-landing, getting injured, stuck in a cave, battling monsters, and now out under the burning sun picking flowers of all things... It was hard to believe that it had probably barely been an hour or two ago when he had prepared himself to knock on Miss Lightning's door in order to hang out with Hope.

How had this happened? It was supposed to be a normal day in the garage, hopefully explaining things to the younger teen who had always been curious about... well, just about everything. Maqui had almost cleaned up the garage in his eagerness, until Yuj had started laughing at him. He had been so eager to see Hope's shy, slightly awkward smile that he had almost left the house without his headphones, which he always had on him.

But then he had learned that Hope had different smiles as well... the nostalgic one and the grin full of confidence, nothing awkward at all in his ability to fight and his belief in himself. He had learned about Eidolons and had an epiphany about magic.

And amongst that, he had discovered that the shy and awkward lopsided smile, although precious, wasn't the only smile he wanted to see.

And there was the fact that Hope wasn't in the least bothered by carnage. And he was really picky about flowers, but really couldn't make a bouquet. The fact that he didn't really need anyone to protect him.

Maqui froze on that thought as Hope cursed quite loudly as he stumbled, face-first against the bush, having lost his balance trying to pick the brightest flower facing the sun. It was almost instinct that had him off his seat and crossing the few meters almost instantly to help the younger teen back up, even if it meant pulling the back of his collar until Hope was flush against him, standing straight up again.

"Thank you." The silver-haired boy's face was flushed adorably, the red stain adding to the beginnings of sunburn. Maqui found himself grinning back, feeling extremely silly and developing a new appreciation for the sweet and shy side of Hope now that he knew the younger boy was also very much a warrior. "I just... kind of lost my balance."

"I noticed," the blond replied teasingly, and then reached out, still clasping the silver-haired boy to him, and pulled at the flower at the very top of the bush. "This the one you were going for?"

Hope looked mildly irritated that Maqui had no trouble reaching something he had struggled to even brush his fingers against, and Maqui felt his chest puff up in the certitude of knowing that at least he was still a good half head taller than the younger boy. Same height as Lebreau now, much to the woman's extreme consternation. Almost as tall as Yuj now, and he was still waiting for that last growth spurt to kick in.

A good tug got the flower off, and Maqui noticed that this one was much softer, the petals a brilliant white with a smooth stem and tiny budded leaves. He reached down and tucked the flower behind Hope's ear, laughing as the younger boy scowled and batted him away.

"Cut that out," Hope grumbled, a hand reaching up to tug the flower away, a few strands of his hair clinging to the soft budded leaves. "Now you're just showing off."

"It suits you," Maqui teased. And it really did. The flower blended almost perfectly with the fall of Hope's silver-white hair, and he could almost say he was saddened when Hope had taken it off.

Hope narrowed his eyes. "You're making fun of me."

"I'm not, I'm not!" Maqui's grin broke into a smile as he took the flower back from Hope's hands and tucked it back in the boy's hair. "I think you should really keep this one."

And it was at that moment, his hands twined in Hope's silvery hair and the younger boy glaring at him under his sunburn, arms crossed in consternation and looking so very cute in that sea-foam green scarf wrapped around his neck and a brilliant white flower in his hair, that Maqui had a very startling epiphany.

Despite the injury, despite the stress, the monsters, his broken airbike and the dread of facing everyone again, Maqui was very glad for today. He wanted nothing more than to be where he was at that moment, giving Hope a baffled stare as the boy glared up at him even as they were lost in the wilderness and could be ambushed by monsters and die at any moment. He was glad to have seen Hope's smile, to have heard him talk about his Eidolon, to be trusted with the secret that the former l'Cie had kept their magic. He was glad to have found out that the younger boy was a good fighter, an amazing magic user, and had so much more to him that the awkward optimism that had drawn Maqui in the first place. He wanted to know more about the teen who had been thoughtful enough to give him a flower so that he wouldn't get so thoroughly chewed out later, and had healed his injuries as though an everyday thing.

He hadn't been going to Miss Lightning's house on a regular basis because he wanted the younger boy to have more friends, or just to show off his mechanic skills to someone who might appreciate it, or even because Hope was curious about everything. He realized that he hadn't saved the old airbike just because he wanted it to work again, but because the gaudy sea-foam green had reminded him of someone.

He liked Hope.

Oh, Maqui thought as his hands lingered in Hope's hair, the shorter boy now giving him a puzzled expression. Miss Lightning's going to kill me.

"Maybe it is poisonous," Hope commented dryly, "If it can daze you like that."

"Huh?" The response was less than intelligent, but Maqui was quite proud he had managed to respond at all after that revelation.

"The flower." The younger teen brushed Maqui's hands away from his hair, much to the other's disappointment. "You said it could be poisonous, remember?"

The blond wondered if he could blame his epiphany on the flower, wondered if that startling clarity would disappear once he washed his hands again and realized that he was just... that he just liked Hope as a friend. He doubted it.

"Shouldn't you be affected as well, then?" He asked, catching his bearings. He was still reeling, trying to see all his own actions from a different point of view. Was this what Miss Lightning meant when she had said that she knew what was going on? When Yuj had been snickering at him for scrubbing his hands clean and frantically running around the garage? Lebreau's knowing look when he asked for the day off to spend with Hope?

"Maybe I'm immune." The teen's voice was smug and teasing, and drew Maqui back into the present. "Maybe you missed the last series of inoculation shots."

That drew up the image of the giant honking needles that doctors had loaded with various vaccines and immunizations. Cocoon had been completely protected from all the bacteria and diseases of Gran Pulse, and even pollen had been a pretty new experience for most of the citizens that had moved down. Maqui had been sick for a solid week after taking his shots, complaining about why they had to be subjected to the giant needles of pain if it was going to make them sick anyway. He knew for a fact that even Hope had to take the inoculations, as he had previously been protected because he was a l'Cie, but now needed to boost his immune system like everyone else.

He cringed slightly at the thought of having to face those needles again, and the subsequent week of nausea. "Those make you sick, not better."

"They prevent you from catching the full disease. That would make you feel worse than the shots." Hope stopped, and then looked toward the sky suddenly. Maqui followed his gaze, quiet as well now, suddenly anxious to know if they were about to be attacked or not. Now knowing what he did, Maqui wasn't surprised by the instinctive urge to push Hope behind him, to keep the other safe.

"What?" Maqui asked, although his voice was low as he surveyed for danger. Hope just shook his head and didn't respond, as if listening for something.

A moment of silence passed between them, their eyes to the sky, when a piercing shriek was heard in the distance.

"There!" Hope had that grin again, the same one he had right before their last fight (albeit sillier with a flower in his hair), and took off running into the open field, Maqui cursing loudly as he realized just a little too late and missed grabbing the younger teen's shirt to keep him behind.

"Hope- wait!" The blond took half a second to tuck the bright pink flower that Hope had given him into a back pocket before breaking into a run after the other boy, knowing that it was an extremely bad idea to be out in the open so defenseless like that (and a bad idea to place the flower in his back pocket, Maqui realized belatedly. The texture of it had been rough enough to pierce through his work gloves; his pants certainly wasn't offering much in terms of protection)... and people usually ran away from the creepy sounds, not towards it!

He stumbled over a pebble for a moment before he regained his bearings and ran full speed, surprised at how fast the younger teen was. It wasn't long (although it felt like an eternity on his lungs) before they broke into an area away from the Springs in sight of the tower that Hope had talked about earlier. The view was breath-taking with its cliffs and rugged landscapes, dire wolves prowling the lands and amphisbaena circling the skies...

Maqui did a double-take as he realized that the cry had come from one of the amphisbaena, who was struggling to stay in flight as it was attacked by a group of people in... airbikes?

He swallowed heavily as he recognized Snow, Lightning, and Lebreau. Great, now he was going to get chewed out by Snow for being reckless, by Lebreau for having to close to bar to come looking for him, and by Lightning for... well, everything, he supposed.

Hope was a bit closer to them (although he stayed a careful distance away from the wolves as to not draw their attention) a threw a spell towards the amphisbaena which seemed the last straw to stagger the beast, as it drew back with a shriek just as Lightning jumped off her airbike to attack the beast mid-air.

Another spell from Hope covered Lightning's blade with purple lightning, and the flying beast was given no time to defend itself before Lightning slashed its throat open and it fell to the earth, howling as its blood soaked the thirsty ground. Lightning landed gracefully next to the creature, managing to avoid the blood. By now the wolves in the vicinity were getting curious and, scenting the blood, was starting to wander toward the area of the battle.

Maqui watched as Lightning shook off the blood on her blade and sheathed it, giving directions up to Snow and Lebreau (who were still on their bikes), although he couldn't hear what she was saying. He did notice with heavy dread, though, when she started walking quite calmly over to him and Hope.

Hope must have noticed his dread, as the younger boy stepped over and patted him on the arm reassuringly. "Don't worry about it, okay? It's not your fault. I really wanted to come out here as well."

Easy for you to say, Maqui thought with fond exasperation, No one's going to kill you for this.

With a smile and a last pat, Hope turned and ran over to meet Lightning mid-way, stopping just a step away and not looking the least bit guilty at all for their trip. He said something to her that Maqui couldn't hear, although the soldier did not look amused as she responded. Maqui took a deep breath as he watched the airbikes approach, and decided it was probably best to face this head on. Better than prolonging his torture by waiting, right?

Trying to gather his courage and at least appear as confident as Hope, Maqui waved the airbikes over, sticking on an admonished grin to appear more disarming.

Surprisingly, it was Lebreau who landed first and stepped off her bike before it had even powered down properly, stomping over to Maqui to whap him over the head. The blond teen winced, although it was exaggerated to placate the other NORA member. He could tell by the strength of her hit that she had actually been more worried than mad, and that made him feel significantly more guilty.

"Ow!" Maqui whined, holding his head in both hands and ducking below her height so he could look up at her with widened puppy eyes. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry! But that really hurt, Lebreau!"

"You!" The only female member of NORA ground out, hands clenched and by her sides to refrain from hitting him again, expression thunderous. "You could have at the very least told me that you were going to head out! And are you crazy? Civilians aren't allowed beyond the townships for a reason, brat! You of all people should know that!"

"I'm not exactly a civilian-" Maqui tried to interject, but Lebreau would hear nothing of it.

"And even soldiers are required to head out in groups and with the right equipment! You know that Gran Pulse is dangerous! Just what in the world were you thinking?"

Maqui cringed back, with half a thought to hand over the flower in his pocket and try to calm her down, but he had never been able to lie to Lebreau before, and he didn't think he would be able to start now. "I... I really thought that the airbike would work." His words grew meeker and meeker as she glared. He barely registered Snow jogging up as well, his large figure dwarfed by Lebreau's rage. "...I just wanted to take Hope out to see the skies," he mumbled weakly, eyes downward.

Lebreau huffed, but it was Snow's laughter that grew Maqui's gaze again.

"Sounds like something I did," Snow reminisced with a grin. "Did you crash just like I did?"

Maqui perked up. Snow had crashed before and he hadn't heard about it? He had speculated, of course, but to actually hear about that...

"That's nothing something you should be proud of," Lebreau snapped at Snow, and Maqui ducked his head again before she could turn her gaze to him. He peeked up, though, intrigued by the story. And it wasn't everyday that Lebreau got worked up about something. She was usually extremely calm and composed, never worked up about anything in general. She had laughed when he first asked about it years ago, complaining that all the girls he knew were moody and scary but she had always been so calm. She had explained then that it was what was expected for barkeeps, to be the calm and unbiased side while people spilled their life stories.

Snow didn't appear worried, though, and ruffled Maqui's hair. "Must have been that particle generator. I never thought it was very useful, really, but nothing seemed to work without it..."

"I'm really sorry?" Maqui offered up meekly under the weight of Snow's hand. "I won't do it again?"

"Was that supposed to be a question?" Lebreau asked dangerously, and Maqui ducked out from under Snow's hand and around the larger man to avoid another swipe from Lebreau.

"Not a question!" he amended, his voice pitched higher than he would have liked, "I mean, I won't do it again! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

Lebreau still looked irritated, but not as furious as she had been before. "You are so lucky that you're okay. If you have the slightest scratch on you, I'll make sure the injury's bad enough to send you to the hospital. If Hope had gotten hurt... well, I won't be able to help you out there."

Maqui remembered the bite he got from the monsters in the Springs and gave a weak laugh, trying very discretely to hide the bandages that Hope had wrapped around his arm. At least it would take a while before the bruises he must have gotten in the crash to show up. He'd just have to remember to cover up more skin tomorrow.

"How was your little trip, then?" Snow asked, still with the grin on his face. "I'll assume you crashed your bike as well."

Maqui deflated. "Yeah. It's still in the Springs..."

"You flew into Sulyya Springs?" Snow sounded impressed. "Must have been some flying."

"Or some crashing." Lebreau offered dryly.

Footsteps resounded, and Lightning spoke, "We can worry about the bike later. What's important is getting these two back into town. We don't want to be stuck here after nightfall."

Maqui glanced up from where he had ducked behind Snow to avoid Lebreau, to see a similarly sheepish Hope behind Lightning, looking quite embarrassed. For a moment, he wondered how their conversation must have went, as Lightning still had a terse frown on her face, although she didn't look like she was going to lose her temper anytime soon.

Lebreau was glancing between the group (Maqui was hoping that she was keeping an eye out so Miss Lightning didn't kill him), but when her gaze finally settled on the youngest of NORA again, her expression was intrigued and curious. She gestured faintly to Hope, and then pointed to above her ear, and Maqui's gaze followed until he realized that Hope still had the large white flower stuck behind his ear. The younger teen had probably forgotten all about the fact that it was still there.

He couldn't help the wide grin on his face, seeing that.

"Now that Sis has given you that good talking to; good to see you're okay, too, kid!" Snow called to Hope, and reached to ruffle his hair in the same fashion as he had done to Maqui, but then stopped with a blink as he saw the flower.

"'m not a kid." Hope mumbled, batting Snow's hand away.

Lightning was giving Maqui a very pointed stare and the boy laughed nervously, trying to hide behind the female NORA member.

"No more joyrides," Lightning said, and Maqui and Hope both nodded vigorously. "Next time you feel a need to come out, make sure to talk to either Snow or me about it."

"Okay," Hope agreed meekly, and the group started over to the two functioning airbikes before Hope tugged on Lightning's shirt.

She stopped, and Maqui struggled to continue forward and pretend that he wasn't eavesdropping. He could tell that Lebreau and Snow were doing the same.

"This is for you," Hope's voice was quiet and slightly embarrassed, and Maqui could see the hint of sunburn on the boy's cheeks as he pulled out the hastily tied bouquet of flowers from his side pouch. It didn't look as pretty as it did several minutes ago straight off the bush- in fact, it was a bit wilted and crushed and bruised, but Lightning didn't seem to mind as she reached for it with a small smile on her lips. "I'm really sorry I made you worry, Light."

The rest of the conversation was lost as Lebreau fired up the engines of the airbike, and gestured Maqui over to sit with her. Maqui scrambled over quickly, hopping onto the bike with a sense of relief knowing that he was about to leave the dangerous wastelands he thought he was going to be trapped in.

"How come you don't bring me flowers, huh?" Lebreau grumbled, and Maqui grinned over her shoulder, feeling the comfortable weight of the one blossom in his pocket.

"If I got you flowers, you'd think I had just murdered someone or something," Maqui responded. "And that I needed you to bail me out of jail."

"...Yeah, I probably would."

By now, Snow had gotten his bike in the air, and Hope was seated behind Lightning as she started up the last bike, which had auto-landed during her battle. The silver-haired boy was talking with her about something, and she appeared more amused than anything else, the make-shift bundle of flowers sticking out of her red side pouch. He turned his face to the side as the bike lifted into the air and Maqui grinned at him, lifting a hand to wave, receiving that shy and lopsided smile in return.

The blond boy turned back to see Lebreau grinning wickedly at him. "Looks like the two of you had a good time."

Maqui reddened.

"Playing a bit of a dangerous game, though," she continued, although she had turned away from him to drive the airbike. "We don't want Sergeant Farron hating us forever now. Sure about it?"

Maqui had half a mind to snap at her in annoyance for knowing before he did... but then he glanced over to where Hope was riding with Lightning, the younger teen talking animatedly with the soldier, words unheard due to the distance and the faint whir of the airbikes. He thought about the revelations he had in the previous few hours, about how he had been drawn to the younger boy even before that. He thought about Hope's smiles and the quiet admissions about his Eidolon, and the cool healing magic on his arm. He thought about the shock in realizing how powerful and destructive magic could be, and then understanding that Hope, shy and awkward Hope who would spend hours reading a book on Chocobos to Dahj, was able to control it effortlessly. Then he thought about Hope pressed against his back during the ride over, of the younger boy's breath in his ear, and the feel of his fingers under his when Hope had given him the pink blossom.

"I don't know," Maqui admitted softly, although he was smiling. "But I think I'm sure enough to try."

Lebreau hummed her acknowledgment and Maqui turned to see Hope already staring at him, still oblivious to the white flower in his hair. The younger teen grinned at him and Maqui knew that, yeah, he was willing to brave Miss Lightning to see that smile again.

Maqui just grinned back and leaned into Lebreau, already planning out the next time he would be waking up early in the morning to scrub his hands clean and (this time) ask if Hope wanted to help disassemble the new Velocycle he got instead.


END 3/3


AN: And that's it. Just a quickie story written on request for the ffxiiikink challenges, and I hope those of you who made it through to the end enjoyed it. How did the others know where Hope and Maqui were? That's something that Maqui will certainly be wondering about soon, since they hadn't even been gone that long. XD A million thanks again to Zerrat! She looked through the entire thing for me and had it back within a day, so all the delays were just my Life coming into play.

Would anyone be interested in seeing more of Maqui and Hope, though? I had a bit of a hard time trying to capture Lebreau's character (she might be completely wrong), but I think I'm starting to get a hang of Maqui, and I really liked writing from his POV. I felt a little silly writing a pairing that no one had even heard of, but ultimately they're really starting to grow on me.

...But yeah. I hope you guys enjoyed it, and at least now there is a Maqui/Hope story on the internet. XD Hopefully it might lead to more? This challenge really got to me- I can't unsee this pairing! XD