A/N You know, I know that Souldin's ending the contest any day now, from what I heard, yesterday, and so to hype myself I reread Paradigms- I printed out a copy and keep it with me, because I think it's my best work of fiction I've written yet. I like Beautiful Imperfections more, but frankly, that 75% nonfiction. Oh insert bleeping noise here. My worst enemies are going to demand its removal now.

Anyway, on a lighter note, I realized there was a plot point that would have rounded the story out that I didn't go for, and shame on me for it. I wouldn't have had time to fit it into the contest, but I really think it's a good conclusion. I was hesitant about putting this attached to Paradigms, but with indirect advice from Araceli, I will. This isn't capitalization on it being in the ending any day now Souldin contest (it's not like it was a box office hit or anything) just sort of fulfilling my idea and getting back into the groove, as tribute to my personal favorite fanfiction work... of my own.

The first part two prologue and chapter will probably be overwhelmingly Advance Wars based- I don't think anyone outside of AW's Hawke and Lash will be featured. The story will probably be full length to get me back into writing again. The truth is, when I first tried to write more, I was giddy. Paradigms is very close to my heart and I felt excited to continue off of it. Never felt that before.

And I know, I'm still slacking off on the other stuff. I should state this- Audience of One is the only work ongoing at the moment I'm going to continue, and then Strings will start again. My other ongoing fics will probably bite the dust unless I get really bored- Stranger was a bust, but Down to Earth got fans out of some big influences... I wonder if I can get some help. The commission will update should I get a fic inspiration for it.

In all honesty, this is mostly for me, Foxpilot, Lays, AvidAkiraReader, and anyone else who read the first one- as in, not that many people.

Disclaimer: I own nothing, regret nothing, and let them forget nothing.

Let's do this!

Part Two



Jet lag plagued him as he stepped into the park. He had no idea he would be so worn out from such simple travel, but he had a feeling that it was more from everything that had gone on in the last month than it was from the commercial airline.

After all, a month ago, we was a different man. A month afterward, he was in the midst of a metamorphosis. He wasn't expecting to come out of it as a butterfly. He didn't want to come out of it a butterfly. He wanted to come out a human being.

And he was getting there. He was an unusual human being. His best friend was a six year old ninja. The person he looked up to the most was a six year old ninja, and close behind, a fox who piloted spacecraft. The man he wanted to emulate the most was an overweight, fatherly game creator. His former rival turned tenative ally was a mythical princess who had a thing for wanting to be in control. He was training an idealistic, responsible teenage mountain climber and her brother, whom he was barely getting to know. And that was just as a start.

It was as if his life was being constructed as a puzzle, but all the pieces were different colors and picture fragments. And he rather liked the mashup of nonsense that it was creating- like a piece of modern art that somehow, made sense in its madness.

It was missing an essential piece, however. And that was why he was here in Verdant, a large city in Orange Star. A place he didn't expect to be in. A place he had traded his trenchcoat in for more normal clothes and had put a fedora over his graying hair in order to not be noticed, whether as hero or villain. It was just drama he didn't want to deal with.

"Taxi," he shouted at no one in particular, except someone who'd listen. A taxi driver with a gray golf cap and a short beard slowed down for him, letting him in the taxi. Him and his one bag. Not really much of a bag. More like a backpack. It had... a change of clothes and some hygenic products. And the Iris.

Ah, yes. The iris. Ana's last gift before he left for Verdant. And a way to show the girl he was here to see that settling into any type of relationship with her, even as just a penpal, he was going to do right.

As the taxi driver cruised the streets, not making a scene, he sat there, in the back, seeming calm but tumultuous inside. This was such a huge risk. He knew what he wanted, even if it was subconscious. He considered this just a visit with an old friend, although he had already stated otherwise with shaky confidence teetering like deconstructed Jenga. How could it ever be anything different from that? She hadn't seen him in a long time. Things could have changed rapidly.

But she answered his call. She knew his exact coffee habits down to the decimal. She repeated an astonished, thrilled 'wow' in every sentence of their phone conversation. She sounded like herself, and it seemed like there was hope. And hope was still something foreign to him- he had confidence, he knew that he would succeed, because he never failed. Now he had hope, and that told him he may not succeed. But it also told him he could.

It was confounding, being a human again.

The taxi driver stopped and asked "...where did you want to go again?"

"Hm?" His passenger asked, raising an eyebrow.

"...I don't believe you stated where you wanted to go."

"Oh, pardon me, sir. It was a long flight."

"Understandable. I'd still like to know where you're headed to."

"Of course." He glanced down at the paper that was atop his bag. "Uhm, Starlight City Park, if you will."

"A nice place. Very nice. And we're here."

The man jerked his head out the window to see a city plaza was, indeed, present. He nodded, thanking the taxi driver and stepped out with his bag. The taxi driver nodded and drove away.

And there he was.

Standing on a cobblestone walkway of earthy reds and oranges, which led in a clear, open path through the plaza, three blocks by one block. There were patches of grass and trees and other pleasant foliage. It was not as lively as the clearing with the downed log, but the subtlety was welcome. He didn't want a fanfare welcoming. Just a kind, cordial greeting.

Even in the welcoming aura of the park, he felt as if he was in a battlefield. It was scary on a different level. The stakes were high, even if the fight was simple, nonexistent even. But to him everything was a battle. Even to fight for something more trivial, was still a battle.

He took a step further into the plaza, gingerly and nervously as if the stones would fall away and ensnare him in a bottomless pit. He convinced himself to walk through the park, ashamed at his antics. Slowly, and step by step, he walked until he found an outdoor bar with nice patio chairs in front of a food cart, with a bold sign reading "Laurie's Coffee!"

He decided to take a seat next to a young woman with slicked back black hair, dressed in a short skirt and a tank top. She had a trace of eyeliner across her lids and a dark red lipstick on. Her boots didn't quite reach the ground but that gave them a way to move quickly back and forth in her seat.

"Mind if I take a seat?" He asked.

"Well, you're already sitting," she giggled. "But I don't have a problem, sir."

He nodded with a nervous smile as he signaled a perky waiter with a smile that suggested that she owned the cart and loved every minute of it. She got a cup out and approached him, asking "What can I get you?"

"House coffee," he replied. "Black and strong, if you will."

"Mmhmm," she giggled lithely, tossing her blond hair over her shoulder. "Just like my man. Yo, hon!"

A man in the back, indeed with black skin and noticeable muscle, replied "Yeah, babe?"

"Get this man a coffee! Black and strong as you can."

"Will do, babe."

"Thanks, hon."

The woman with the black hair giggled. "I love their dynamic. It's optimistic, ya know, that, hey, maybe I'll find a guy like that."

The man next to her nodded. "I've come to find that watching people teaches you a lot."

She nodded, twirling her spoon in her drink. A large cup of steamed milk, filled to the brim. She took a spoonful out, observing the foam on its cup. "I really like the first spoonfuls, it's like eating a cloud while the rest is just pleasant but normal milk and all that jazz."

He nodded. "Interesting."

She reached across the counter to grab a small jar, and then poured a gratuitous amount of cinnamon into her drink. "That's why I always sit next to the spices, it helps make the drink better and more interesting. Spice up my life, you know?"

He nodded again. "I'm... learning little things like that. To be honest, I've changed a lot in a very short amount of time. It's taking quite a toll."

She gently put her hand on his wrist, blushing a bit. "I totally empathize with you, man. I mean, a year ago, I thought I had myself figured out. And then, bam, a bit at a time, I start changing. I attend less punk parties. I decide to tend to my hair. Wear less makeup. Get a new job. Explore my city. I start... acting more... dammit, I start acting more... mature." She sighed, still smiling. "And to think I thought that if I wanted to grow up, I'd have done it before 23. And I'm 25 now."

He took a risk and put his hand on hers, which was on his right wrist. He stated "Sometimes change is good. Just don't lose yourself." With a deep breath, she added "Promise me that, Lash?"

She nodded with a smile, her eyes misty. "I will, Hawke."

A/N ...I've still got it. This made me happy to be so comfortable at writing again. It really is fulfilling.

Not sure too much where I'll go from here. Perhaps tying up loose ends. I don't think Souldin will mind me adding more to this fic, but if he does, let me know and I'll make a separate story for it. The name may also be extended soon.

I'm very eager to write more. Hope you're eager to read more, friends.