A/N: Long-overdue present for Moondrophime over at DA. I've got no (decent) excuse; just an apology! Again, I didn't know whether to use FFX Yuna or X-2 Yuna, so bear with me. I'd like to credit Thien, who enlightened me with another avenue to bring these two brunettes together.

I'll be trying yet another style, one I hope to incorporate in LTRA so you readers will more easily distinguish thoughts between characters.


(Yuna's thougts)

Squall's thoughts

Guardian Force's thoughts

His gaze was always stern and she couldn't help but laugh softly behind her dainty fist whenever a question would be raised and his brows would furrow, emotions playing across his expressive blue-grey orbs as his thoughts would shop around for answers- Squall always thought too much, and Yuna always asked a lot.

"I wouldn't know." His voice came out as a disgruntled breath, eyeing the curious Summoner in annoyance. "Go ask someone else."

"But there is no one else that would know." Heterochromatic eyes twinkled. Yuna sat beside the man with her legs tucked neatly underneath her, dainty hands clasped together in a pleading gesture. Sweat pooled at the back of Squall's neck when she tilted her head and shot him another disarming smile. "Please?"

Once upon a time, Squall and Yuna wouldn't be sitting side-by-side as friends. Once upon a time, Squall would have brushed the Summoner's inquisitiveness away with a cold shoulder. Once upon a time, Yuna wouldn't have expected Squall to answer.

But that was once upon a time.

"…Just this once, Yuna." Squall stood up and patted his clothing free of the dirt and leaves that clung onto the black leather and white fur, before looking down at Yuna and, after a sigh, promptly deposited his jacket on her brown head.

Her brows scrunched up underneath the weight of the jacket, a flush making its way across her lovely cheeks as she unintentionally basked in the lingering warmth surrounding her before she raised her own arms to pry the article away as she peeked up at him from beneath it. "Squall?"

A gust of wind raced through the clearing, picking up the man's brown hair as he now stood out of the tree's cool shade and instead was bathing under the radiant sun's light. As she regained her breath, she wondered if the light of amusement shimmering in his eyes was real, and settled the warm jacket around her frame, inhaling the scent of leather and something else, when he spoke with less resignation than before.

"Just this once."

(Was his voice always this warm?)

Bowing his head, Squall's eyes were closed in concentration, his palm pointing towards his head as he reached inside the recesses of his consciousness for the one Guardian that had always stayed loyal at his side.

You realize you can just call me? She reached back, words spoken coolly but not patronizingly. Call, and I shall come.

Squall couldn't help the smirk from forming if he tried. Dramatic, much?

The image of his Shiva appeared in his mind, her features clear as the crystal of her transport as the woman of ice slowly raised her hand, beckoning towards him. It is the truth.

I know. In the waking world, Squall's eyes shot open and Yuna belatedly realized the mist escaping with each of her breaths and subconsciously pulled Squall's jacket tighter around her shoulders.

"Come forth, Shiva!"

Squall thrust his palm forwards and the frost rapidly radiated past the grassy ground around the brunet, leaving a sheet of ice in its wake before a swirl of white mist descended in front of him, coalescing and thickening before it dispersed, revealing a coffin of ice.

Glacial blue eyes suddenly opened from inside the shard before it suddenly broke, cold fragments scattering around the naked woman as she shook her head with a queen's dignity before shooting an amused smirk behind her at the still form of her contractor. "We still need to rectify this problem."

I know. Squall's annoyance was palpable even in his thoughts.

The woman's gaze left her contractor's and instead, settled on the seated Summoner, who, realizing Squall had just answered her curiosity quickly raised to her feet with a stammer, unprepared for the sudden encounter, engrossed as she was at Squall's display. "H-hello I'm! Yuna!" She respectfully bowed deeply out of habit.

Shiva raised an amused brow at the gesture. "Yes, I know." Her voice was warmer than Yuna expected despite the words she spoke with. "What is it you want to speak of?"

Hands clasped tightly around her staff, Yuna looked uncertain for a moment- a look that made the Guardian Force approach, bringing frost and ice with her every step- before she took a brave step forward. "I want to know how you feel, being used for battle as you are."

"Used?" Shiva stopped in her approach with a hand on her blue hip. Yuna looked puzzled at the amusement now directed in her stead by the blue-skinned woman, who continued in a thoughtful, if slightly haughty tone that relayed the mirth she felt at the Summoner's naïve question. "Our bond is of mutual gain."

Shiva… Her host projected warningly at her, and she could feel the blue-grey eyes behind her boring into her posterior.

A brief pause, where Shiva heeded Squall's tone- the brunette in front of her didn't know her the way her contractor did- and she continued in a matter-of-fact tone. "My contractor does not control me and neither is my blessing bestowed in absence of my consent."

The edges of Yuna's pink lips drooped in a worried frown at the factual reply. "I… see."

Shiva studied the Summoner's countenance meticulously before closing her eyes in thought as she spoke to her contractor through the telepathic link they shared. Something is unsettling her.

I can see that.

Do you not want to know?


She'll speak when she's ready.

You are not… concerned?

Squall observed the Summoner, despite his inability to move his extremities with Shiva's physical manifestation standing on the solid, if frozen, ground. Yuna had been inquisitive in her own way, occasionally prodding him with question about Shiva's existence, yet not too forceful that he would brush her off in annoyance. She would smile warmly; would smile with a smile that wouldn't reach her eyes as she asked time and again, in the same earnest speech that held an undercurrent of need.

-"You're bonded to Shiva, aren't you?" Yuna questioned casually and Squall, for once not deadening himself to the feelings of others, noticed the slight strain in her voice but still offered no reply as he looked at her calculatingly.

"Can I speak with her?"-

A sliver of a smile made its way through the blue-skinned woman's face, making the Summoner stare at her in puzzlement. "My contractor wishes to know what bothers you."

She could feel Squall facepalm through their link.

Blinking slowly, Yuna's eyes widened before she shook her head with a smile on her lips and a blush on her cheeks, waving their concerns dismissingly. "It's nothing. You both don't need to worry yourselves over it."

Yuna… Squall frowned at the Summoner's knee-jerk reaction.

"We do not buy your lies." Sharp and cold, Shiva's words had an immediate effect on the Summoner, who suddenly tensed. Yuna pulled Squall's jacket tighter around her shoulders when the Guardian Force approached to stand eye-to-eye with her, the blue-skinned elemental's sapphire eyes piercing deep into Yuna's blue and green. "Tell us, Summoner. Your evasiveness only brings forth more worries."

The Summoner chewed on her lower lip nervously, her two front teeth kneading the succulent flesh as her thoughts raced from suddenly being put under such pressuring scrutiny.

Noticing the discomfort his Guardian Force was causing on the young Summoner, Squall issued his command. That's enough, Shiva.

Shiva threw her head over her shoulder, raising a brow at the frozen Squall. Are you not curious?

Yuna… will tell us when she's ready.

This time, it was Shiva's turn to frown. You have to be firm with this one. Returning her gaze back to the nervous Summoner, Shiva continued. She is much like you that she does not speak her thoughts, though for a different reason entirely.

I know.

And Shiva knew he did.

"Very well." Yuna looked on in slight apprehension when the Guardian Force withdrew. "I have my suspicion as to what it is that troubles you." Shiva spoke thoughtfully as she retreated, approaching the still form of her contractor with a steady grace."You needn't fret, Summoner."

Noticing what was happening, Yuna called out to the leaving woman. "Shiva..!" The Guardian Force glanced over her shoulder and was met by the Summoner's bow. "Thank you for coming."

Shiva shook her head with a wry smile. Such respect. A pity that these are the shackles that binds her.

Squall chose to ignore the Guardian Force's comment as the woman of ice vanished from the physical world. Immediately, the frost coating the ground and the arctic breeze that ran through the clearing began to thaw, returning the forest floor back to its original, albeit slightly more damp state. Yuna watched with a darkened mood as Squall blinked, lowering his outstretched arm before shaking his head. Soft thuds on the damp ground heralded his approach and Yuna couldn't help the small smile from stretching her lips at the squishy sounds his boots made and the annoyed glare he shot at the ground beneath his feet.

There was a pregnant pause between them, in which Squall studied the Summoner and Yuna wondered nervously if the SeeD Commander would pick up where his Guardian Force left off. She unconsciously released a breath of relief when he turned his head to the side, in the direction of their main camp. "It's getting late. Let's go."

She ignored the solemn tone at which he spoke, a part of her feeling a pang of guilt for she could clearly see that he, too, wanted to know just as the ice elemental said but her stubbornness had sealed her lips. "Yes…" she replied, small even to her own ears.

Squall glanced at her again, taking into account her lowered shoulders and bowed head, her entire stance screaming at him to comfort her. But he was Squall Leonhart, and he rapidly brainstormed what he could do to raise the Summoner's spirits. Another time, Squall wouldn't have bothered, dismissing the mood as not his fault and thusly shouldn't have to do anything to rectify the situation; it was Yuna's insistence that brought Shiva out, and Yuna's self-sacrificing stubbornness that kept her mouth shut. Shiva had also cautioned Yuna that whatever ailed her thoughts didn't merit such focus so the brunette needn't be so needlessly stalwart with her silence.

His blue-grey eyes spied her dainty hands peeking from beneath his jacket, grasping the black article closely towards her frame despite Shiva's disappearance. The action made her seem small and frail and Squall belatedly realised that maybe, Yuna, too, was stewing in her guilt.

Damn Yuna. Squall grumbled internally. There's nothing to be guilty about.

Not entirely sure what he was doing, Squall roughly grabbed her hand right hand with his own, momentarily surprised when her fingers intertwined with his. He felt heat build-up in his face and he turned away, wondering exactly why such a reaction made its presence known- was he embarrassed?- and spoke pointedly. "There's nothing for you to worry about."

He could feel Yuna's eyes boring into his back, though it wasn't out of anger or discomfort- two emotions he usually associated with such a feeling- but something else entirely. It was something warm and he was half-tempted to turn around, but feared knowing, for the awareness would make it that much harder when the time came for them to part.

Feeling his voice return to him, he continued speaking with words unsure, only knowing that Yuna needed strength. "I promised you." He looked upwards, searching the blue skies for the words that would comfort the Summoner but found none. "Didn't I?"

Yuna watched the man, stunned at his actions and his act of comfort. It warmed her inside, seeing the socially awkward Squall trying his best to help her and made her realize that maybe she needn't carry her burden alone. With his promise mentioned, a fond smile made its way to her across her countenance before she closed her eyes, thoughts briefly drifting back to that fateful past when the man had helped her weather her internal storm.

-"I will protect you." Squall's voice was resolute against the crown of her head. Her body was held in his strong embrace, her eyes dampening his white shirt with her tears. "You are not alone."

There was a confidence in his voice as if he spoke from experience, the way he spoke delivering his words as if it was a simple truth.

And as she listened to the comforting drum in his chest, she felt that it truly was.

"That's a promise."-

The brunet felt the weight of her head press against his shoulder blades, followed by the rest of her body moulding against his back, her arms snaking their way around his waist before her hands met. He stared downwards at the junction of her hands, noticing how her appendages still clasped firmly around his before he brought his other hand to cup hers in a gesture he hoped was comforting.

"Thank you, Squall."

Squall nodded once, staying in place as Yuna continued to draw something from him with her tender words and embrace.

She felt his heart and basked in his warmth, and savoured in the raw emotions that swayed in his voice.

Holding him closer, Yuna ghosted her lips against his spine, inwardly smiling at knowing that Squall wouldn't feel or be able to interpret such an intimacy, before drawing her head back as she spoke determinedly.

"I'm ready to speak now."

So she did.

(I can continue being myself with you here… Squall...)

A/N: o.o… yeah o/

Hope this was satisfactory to your appetites xD I extend my apologies again to Moondrophime and Thien for the wait :'D

As for people raving about Squall's OOCness with his "You are not alone" line, please reread that short segment so you can decide at which point in time this Squall is ^_^

My poll is still open and, currently, the Harem is leading despite efforts by a certain someone to keep it as a three-way tie o_- I kid, I kid XD

Assuming I have time to write tonight, SCE theme 17 should be posted tomorrow, signifying the poll's closure (since there seems to be a winner now) and the beginning of a new one. xD

On another note, Traingham's here in the Dissidia section 0_0 *terminal myocardial infarction* Go, go read his "Scents & Spices", tell him what you think, and keep him here 8D! I kid, again, since everyone still wants to see what other wonders Stalker's Log and Fate Alternate Routes will venture through xD

My parting words: Jokes are half-meant. 8D