a/n: First I would like to apologize to the Tales of Symphonia community; I've never played this game before in my life and Wikipedia was only so helpful.

Now, onto something much more cheerful: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DIVINE WOLFE. I'm glad to have met you - er, on the internet and stuff - because you're such a great friend. I hope this doesn't fail too much for you~! ^^ Enjoy your freedom, Ang~!

-RV


Three Steps Behind You

She's just a couple steps away from entering the house, and he tells her to smile. "I'm not a monster, not for today, at least."

EmilxMarta


When she walked into the room, the rays of Luin's summer sun still glowing in her lightly tanned skin, and looked at who was waiting, her lips formed a tight-lipped scowl. Her aquatic gaze flickered, like a bad storm at sea. She crossed her arms over her white tunic-covered chest, and stood there, still as a stone. His lips quirked into a toothy grin, and she resisted the urge to smile back, attempting to keep her icy distance until further notice.

So she waited.

"Hiya, Marta."

"Hello." She answered him curtly, eyed him warily, unsure of whether or not to trust the little voice in her mind screaming 'run, Marta, run for your life, this boy is completely insane, sprint away, sprint away!' or wait for an explanation to why Emil Castagnier was doing inside her home in Luin. He wasn't usually the one to stand still for so long, and she usually resented it when she constantly left, but...

Today was an exception, because today, she didn't want to see him.

His bright green eyes flashed with something Marta wouldn't like to believe was hurt. His lips curled into a pout. She ignored the symptoms of a sure temper-tantrum, and continued staring him down. She wouldn't allow herself to forget who this boy really was; she wouldn't be able to forget the way he killed, the way blood spilled...

"Are you angry, or something?" His eyebrows knitted together, a crease protruding in his forehead, the universal symbol of confusion and wonderment. On a different day, Marta would've thought he looked adorable with that look on his face, how young and innocent he looked, nothing like the boy that saved her from the Vanguard weeks ago.

Nothing like the malevolent monster he was hiding behind those pretty smiles and glowing viridian eyes.

"No, not at all." Marta said airily, because, contrary to popular belief, she wasn't angry. She was...concerned, yes, that was the word she wanted to use. She was concerned over her once-knight in shining armor, the picture of perfection, the type of boy she would dream about when she was so much younger and still believed in fairytales and princes that would travel a world away to save the one they loved.

Emil wasn't that kind of boy anymore. He was a murderer, blood-thirsty and filled with rage, his green eyes would turn like burgundy, a rose-red burgundy and his voice would change into the softest velvet midnight tone that simply beckoned her to come to him...

She wasn't angry with him.

She was completely terrified of him.

"Oh. Then what's up?" Emil tilted his head slightly, his lips turning up at the edges, and his eyes flickered with what seemed to look like understanding. After a moment's pause, after the birds outside ended their somber song, he finally let out a comment into the atmosphere. "Ah."

'Ah?' Marta arched a blonde eyebrow and tucked a strand of long, honey-blonde hair behind her ear, waiting for the blonde boy to elaborate his quiet epiphany. Emil's lips twitched into a cat-like grin as he let out a short chuckle.

Marta Lualdi was confused, and she hated being confused. She would've crossed her arms again if it wasn't for the fact she was already crossing her arms. The blonde cursed under her breath and let out an irritated sigh.

"Are you going to explain what's so funny anytime soon?" Marta's scowl deepened and Emil simply rolled his vibrant eyes before finally revealing what had been dancing around in his usually hyper-active mind. He ran a hand through his combed back hair, before answering the obviously-annoyed girl's question.

"You know, I'm not a monster. Not for today, at least." He took a couple of steps closer and wrapped his arms around the girl's shoulders, causing Marta to stiffen at the contact, arms suddenly straightened out at her sides. Emil laughed quietly to himself and buried his face in the girl's shiny, long hair. "So smile, all right?"

He let her go and turned on his heel, exiting the girl's home. Marta blinked, once, twice, before running after him, calling out his name.

"Emil, you idiot, you don't just leave a girl alone after that! EMIIIIL!"

Emil laughed as he ran through the streets of Luin, with Marta on his heel, leading her in circles, a game of tag, so to say.

As the streets of Luin passed them by, as the summer sun bathed them in it's warm glory, and as the wind licked at their exposed skin, Marta ran around and around, always three steps behind him. Even through everything the blond boy put her through, all the challenges and guessing games, seeing him now, with that bright smile on his face, she couldn't help but smile.

And that was worth the risks, the dangers, it was worth everything. Emil was her knight in shining armor and that wasn't going to change anytime soon.