Author's Note: As I write this (10/4/10), I am not quite done with ARF. (Does anybody actually use that acronym, or is it just me?) I am currently doing some sidequests before entering the Holy Land of Noire. I might be missing something, but I think I have enough knowledge to write this fic, since it takes place before/in the middle of the game. Oh, and I would like to announce to all those who may be interested (read: nobody) that I am in love with Alf! So, on that note, enjoy my fic! :)


As he looks down at the hand in his, he is brought back to an easier time. The particular moment that he remembers only happened a few years ago, but then and now might as well be centuries apart.

He distinctly remembers the stray pink hairs dancing around her face in the wind, her nose red from the chilly weather. Her then-smaller hand rested in his own in the same manner. Just like now, he was the one holding her hand, as hers lay limp in his palm.

He had been helping her clip dead branches off of her grandfather's trees. Both of them shared the same ambitious attitude, so they were naturally doing a thorough job. And because of her overachieving ways, she refused to leave that one especially hard-to-reach branch alone, despite his offers to do it for her. (He was taller, so the task would be easier for him.) After some exchanges of, "I'll do it!" "No, I insist, I'll do it!" she rushed into the job and accidentally pinched her own left thumb instead of the targeted branch.

She insisted that it was no big deal, that the cut wasn't that deep, but various layers of torn skin were visible, and he could see her biting her lip to hold back audible signs of discomfort. Waterfalls of crimson leaked onto his hand as he struggled to clean the cut with a wet cloth and delicately wrap the bandage around her thumb without causing her any additional pain. She did not look away from the injury as many would; she observed with curious, somewhat frightened eyes and apologized for dripping blood onto him. He smiled gently and said that it was no problem. (There was no shortage of soap, after all.) Somehow, he didn't find the thought of her blood staining his skin unpleasant; he paid this no mind. He was simply pleased to care for her, to have her hand in his, even if he knew deep down that she didn't really need him.

He was elated to hear her send the words, "Thank you," in his direction, and so he focused on the pleasure of hearing those two words rather than the excitement apparent on her face when his best friend walked past her. He told himself that the way she chased after him, energetically calling his name, was meaningless. He knew on a subconscious level that he was lying to himself, but he had no intentions of putting his mental fabrications to a halt. Delusions, after all, tend to be the sole providers of bliss.

The present situation is entirely different. All innocent traits have left her. She is now willing to kill without hesitation, and it was not long ago that she slapped him across the face. She is not even pretending to rely on him now. He isn't even sure why she allows him to hold her hand, but he is thankful that she does. He is thankful just to be in her presence.

Because even if she isn't angelic, even if she is arguably insane, even if most of her dialogue toward him now consists of requests to kill his own best friend, he hasn't stopped loving her, nor does he have any desire to do so. As he massages her hand with his thumb, he can still feel that scar. And he knows full well that he will remain by her side until she breathes her last, even if his company is unwanted.