~*Don't Let Go*~
"Ugh sometimes I wish Senny would stop being so clueless!" – Norma Beatty
Birds chirped somewhere close by, wheeling high above the trees, their feathers catching the strong golden sunlight. The sky was a flawless blue, and there were white, fluffy clouds floating serenely across its infinite extent. Summer on the Legacy was in full swing, and the great boat was sailing smoothly across perfect cerulean waves. Nerifes seemed calm today.
Lumen Spring gurgled softly as it flowed with its ever constant supply of freshwater. Its surface glittered with white and yellow, a stained glass mural come to rippling life. The spring was lukewarm, but felt deliciously cool against her skin.
That didn't mean that she wasn't terrified of it still.
Chloe Valens of the noble House of Valens, an esteemed knight and the head of the Valens House (or what was left of it) was certainly looking anything but like a savior of the world at that moment. She was wearing a one-piece swimming suit of elastic black spandex, made out of the same material as her usual outfit, and her eyes were flung wide, the size of dinner plates.
"Don't let go, Coolidge, don't let go!" She murmured feverishly, her hands gripping his shoulders as they stood there in the water up to their chins. Or, at least, her chin. It was only up to the base of Senel's neck.
Senel Coolidge, an ex-Alliance Marine, was beside her wearing nothing but a pair of white swim trunks as pale as his wild hair. He was trying hard not to laugh, and also he was trying hard not to grimace, since her nails were leaving indents in his skin. "I won't let go Chloe, I promise."
His hand was on her back, gloveless for once, reminding her of their close proximity. The knight felt her face redden, embarrassed and somewhat ashamed, but Senel's reassuring presence and words was already beginning to calm her heart. She took a deep breath.
"We're going to step past this point now, and I won't let go," Senel said in a calm, low tone. "Okay?"
Why, oh why, had she asked for swimming lessons? "O-Okay," she replied, hating the stutter in her voice and yet, not hating it. If it had been anyone else but Coolidge…with him she could be herself. He knew her weaknesses, her fears. He was one of her best friends.
And he belonged to Shirley.
She couldn't bring herself to hate the other girl for that, though.
"Did you hear me, Chloe?"
"Ah…um…" Shaking her head to clear it, Chloe stammered an affirmative.
"Okay…" He drew each word out slowly, as if he was leading a child by the hand. "Here we go…"
They stepped out some more, and the water licked at her lower face. Chloe fought off the first rising tides of her usual panic. Coolidge is here, Coolidge is right here…She repeated the mantra like a life-saving prayer.
They were on one side of the pool. She found she could still breathe through her nose, but the deep water was making her feel lighter than she ought to have been. Senel looked down at her, and his blue-green eyes were warm and calming. "You're going to have to put your head underwater, but hang on to me, alright?"
Chloe nodded mutely, too petrified to speak. She tightened her grip but readjusted her hold so that she was clinging to his arm instead. And then she put her head underneath the water, and all of her senses screamed at her to pull up. They had gone over this a thousand times before they had even attempted this, and Senel had even been patient enough to swim a few laps so she could observe his movements.
It was easy in theory.
Then why was she so absolutely freaked out?
His voice reached her ears, muffled due to the water but still there. "Chloe, remember, put your legs out."
The water was pressing against her eyes, making them feel strange, but it was clear and clean. It was almost beautiful…She did as she was told though, and forced herself to begin the necessary leg motions. At first it seemed to be okay, and then a fish touched her chest and she shot upward with a yelp, water spraying everywhere and catching the sunlight like droplets of gold.
Her girly and totally undignified shriek apparently scared the living crap out of Senel, because he, too, shouted in shock as she careened into him and they both went down into the water. Senel didn't seem bothered at all by the sudden submersion, he just caught her hands as she thrashed in blind fear, water clogging her senses, and she opened her eyes to see his fingers pressed through hers, intertwined.
His white hair floated around his face, some of it mixing with her dark brown strands. His gaze was even, and the quiet he exuded helped her to relax as well. Her lungs should have been screaming for air, but they weren't.
He pulled them back to the surface, leading them to a point in the spring where she could stand again without too much difficulty. Chloe was so horrified at her own weakness that she wished she could withdraw within herself and never show her face again. Hunching her shoulders, she said bleakly, "S-Sorry Coolidge, there was a fish and—"
"It's fine." He smiled, pushing wet bangs out of his eyes. "You were surprised, and we all know how you take surprises."
Chloe wondered distantly if she could possibly just kill herself now while she had some dignity left. Oh why did she have to do something that stupid in front of Coolidge? "I'll try again." She turned to wade back out into the water, but he put his hand on her shoulder, causing her to halt.
"Relax," he told her kindly. "You're doing fine."
She swallowed nervously without turning around, giving a hurried nod.
It was really too bad, that he belonged to Shirley…
It actually took quite a number of times for her to get the hang of it. The first time she had begun to swim, she actually hadn't noticed it, since she had been too busy saying such things as "Maybe we should come back another day" or "Let's just do something else". Senel had had to actually tell her, "Chloe, you're swimming!" before she noticed that she was way past her height in water and she wasn't somewhere beneath the surface turning blue in the face.
The thought had promptly caused her to lose her concentration, and she almost plunged down beneath the surface for the umpteenth time.
They had come here in the early afternoon, and now they came out in the late. Chloe sat beside her neatly folded clothes in the grass, running a white towel through her hair, the fabric coarse beneath her fingers. Her limbs felt a bit shaky, but Coolidge assured her that this was only because of the water.
"It's normal," he said.
Chloe peeked at Senel out of the corner of her eye, noticing the muscles across his shoulders and back as he put his shirt on. She caught herself looking and immediately made a big show out of straightening her hat, tying her cape around her shoulders with absent movements. She grimaced upon spotting the ridged scar in his torso where her sword had bitten clear through.
Schwartz's influence had done that to her. Made her stab Senel. And her own weakness had given in.
She could still hear his quiet voice in her ears, feel the patter of the cold rain against her skin, see his blood mix with the dirt in the mud. "Don't go, Chloe. Don't go…"
"Do you think you need any more practice?" Senel's voice intruded in on her dark musings, and she shook her head to clear it.
She blinked. "You tell me."
He tugged his gloves on with a careless shrug. "You're no expert, but you'll do. Ready to head back?"
"Yes, let's go." Chloe strapped her sword on and followed Senel down the path as butterflies fluttered across green fields painted with wildflowers. Grune would have loved it, she knew. As always, the memory of the Goddess made her heart ache with sadness for their lost friend.
They may never see her again.
Senel was silent at her side, but the hush between them wasn't uncomfortable. She glanced at him, noted the way his strong air affected her and others. Coolidge was an inspiring figure. She wondered if he knew.
"What is it?"
He crossed his arms and sighed. "I…um…so Shirley's birthday is coming up soon."
"Yeah it is, isn't it?"
"What did you get her?"
She smiled at his curiosity. "I got her a paint brush made from unicorn hair." It really hadn't cost a dime, since the knight had gone out hunting for a unicorn and had acquired some tail hair all on her own. "She likes to paint, and fights with art supplies, so…"
"How can I top that?" Senel complained good-naturedly.
"You can't," was her lofty response.
"I'll just wallow in my inadequacy I guess."
She was surprised he knew that word. It must have shown because he laughed. "I do learn a few things from Will."
The path continued its gentle curl, and the scenic view spread out to display Werites Beacon, not far from their current position. They'd be there before the sun set. An unexpected wind blew and a million pink cherry blossom petals soared by on the breeze, brushing their faces. The scent was sweet and intoxicating, and the traveling twosome stopped on a grassy rise to inhale the fresh aroma.
"Things seem…prettier ever since Grune's Summon Spirits woke up."
Chloe had to agree with him there, the Legacy had never been more gorgeous. The Spirits also proved to be protectors of the ship—it would be even harder for any of the kingdoms and empires to use it for their own ends now. "Indeed," was all she said.
They continued on.
Another surprise soon occurred in the form of a slippery slope. Coolidge placed his foot down and some dirt immediately slid, causing them both to careen down the side of the hill. Fortunately, not into the water, but in the direction of the emerald forest. They tumbled down the side and came to a breathless halt once the grass smoothed out again.
Chloe found she had lost her hat. It was to the right of her, lying not far from her sword. Coolidge was above her, lying in the grass on his back, trying to catch the breath he had lost once he hit the ground. Their eyes met and she couldn't help it. Neither could he.
The pair of them broke into laughter.
She laughed until her sides hurt, and she could feel the grin on her face, knew he was smiling too, and they both continued to laugh until they couldn't sustain their mirth any longer and fell silent. Senel turned onto his side, still smiling, his eyes closed as the shadow of a far-reaching tree branch wiped the sunny gleam off of the metal on his shoulders.
Chloe stared up at the sky, watching the clouds, which seemed no different than they had when she was a child, a knight-in-training, an estranged vigilante, an adventurer with all the friends in the world she'd ever need. Chloe Valens gazed thoughtfully at the heavens and marveled at how much had changed in such a short time.
A year and a half ago, she had been a lone warrior on a path for her own special brand of "justice". Now she was a law enforcer for Werites Beacon, and a monster hunter to boot, with everything she had ever wanted and more that she had never dreamed of. How the world could change in such a time.
She shifted to look up at him. Coolidge seemed unnaturally solemn.
"I'm glad I could be here with you." He turned onto his back as well. "I really am."
She blushed, thinking it would be easier not to love him if he didn't always say such sweet things. "Me too."
"So, I hear you and Norma are going to get a place together?"
"I won't be home often, but yes."
"Did she force you into it, or…?"
Making a face at his confused tone, she remarked somewhat sarcastically, "I could have worse roommates than Norma."
She could hear his grin in his voice. "Be prepared to pay rent."
That was probably true. Something struck her at that instant and Chloe moved so that she could lean over him and look into his eyes. "Are you and Shirley going to ever move in together like you used to be?"
"Um…" Senel placed his hand on his face and sighed. "It's still kind of…"
"Yes. Why, though? We've done this before, damn it." He slammed a fist onto the ground, teeth set on edge.
She shook her head. "Don't try to make something work that won't."
His eyes narrowed. "What does that mean?"
Realizing how he could have interpreted her choice of words, she put her hands up in surrender. "I didn't mean it like that. Really."
Coolidge studied her as if he could see the truth somehow just by staring really hard. Then he sighed and muttered so softly she could scarcely hear, "Maybe you're right."
They were silent for a little while longer, and during this time, Chloe picked some grass blades and examined them absently. She made to rise and collect her hat and sword, but Senel caught her wrist. "Don't go," he murmured. "Just…stay here, for a bit."
She wanted to ask why, but opted not to. After all, and here she smiled to herself, she could think of worse ways to spend an afternoon than cloud-watching with Senel.
Norma, at least, had remained true to her word. She had picked a color scheme and decorating style that wasn't too far out there for Chloe's taste. The house was a two story, very pretty, with a nice view of the Fountain Plaza. Much of the furniture had been gifts from friends that had come to their house party, and Harriet was walking around trying to get some poor, unfortunate soul to eat her latest dish.
The celebration had gone on late into the night, since that was just how the friends liked it, with Moses and Jay arguing like usual, Chloe, Elsa, Shirley, and Norma all poking fun at the boys as they arm-wrestled, and Senel, Alcott, and Will tried to guess whatever nonsensical creature Norma was attempting to reenact during a Charades game.
"It's a Grand Gaet, duh!" Norma fumed, glowering fiercely at the gang.
"Last time I checked," Moses scoffed. "Grand Gaets didn't hop around like little rabbits."
Chloe and Norma saw their friends off from the doorway, but at Norma's sly look towards Senel, the knight gulped and went off to say good bye to her friend.
"Good night, Coolidge. Thanks for coming."
"No problem, Chloe. Good night."
They stared at each other for a few seconds, and the streetlights of Werites Beacon turned his eyes to gold. Out of the blue, Senel pulled her into a one armed hug, the kind he used with Moses and even Jay on some days.
She suddenly wished he would just hold her tight and never let go.
But when he pulled away, she found the smile on her face was genuine. She waved at Shirley, too, as the Ferines girl looked at them inquisitively. But there was no hostility in her blue eyes. She followed Senel down the road, probably deciding to take the long way home so she could have some time alone with her big brother.
Chloe, gazing after them, had almost forgotten that Norma was still in the doorway.
"Would you two just kiss already? Jeesh!"
Author's Note: Sorry in advance for typos, it's really late at night here. Just a random Legendia one-shot I did, probably not all that good since it's my first. Expect something to do with SenelxStella or SenelxShirley at one point. Review if you'd like.