Disclaimer: Wish I owned Final Fantasy, but I don't. Meh, that's life!
Yuna's lips curled in a small frown as she watched the silent interplay between the two cool members of the gathered party as they went about slicing and dicing and the slab of meat Bartz and Zidane had provided.
A dull ache from her palms reminded her of the task she had volunteered for- gathering fresh water from the nearby stream- that she had accomplished. Yuna clenched her heterochromatic eyes shut and, with fingers clenched tightly against the pail's metal handle, her courage mustered in one deep breath, made to re-enter the clearing at which the party had made camp when Lightning suddenly smacked Squall on the shoulder, the sudden action between the two chefs momentarily causing her to stall and hesitate.
Squall merely stared back as if daring the older warrior to challenge whatever he had just spoken, and Yuna knew she disliked the embers that lighted the strawberry blonde woman's cheeks as she pointedly ignored the man's gaze, and the young Summoner even further wished she couldn't see the way Squall's eyes shimmered for but the briefest of moments before he, too, resumed working on the feast.
Inwardly pumping herself up, Yuna exited the foliage.
A smile, always a smile.
The two Warriors of Cosmos looked up at the brunette's appearance, Squall merely offering a curt nod as Lightning replied, the warmth that just previously coloured her cheeks now gone. "Good. Can you start the fire? We'll be done soon." Squall shot the pink-haired sergeant a look and Lightning refused to let it unnerve her. "Very. Soon."
Another dull ache echoed by the pain in her palms reminded her to set the pail down.
"I see..." Yuna spoke softly, her gaze remained transfixed on the two before her.
There must have been something in her tone for Squall chose that moment to speak up.
"What's bothering you?"
Lightning glanced briefly at the man. Ever blunt.
Unprepared for such a question, Yuna nervously waved him off quickly. "Nothing! I mean, there's nothing wrong." She quickly set the pail of water down and turned away so that neither of the two could scrutinize her countenance further, and briskly paced towards the gathered dry twigs and branches. The brunette crouched, her back still facing both warriors, and recognized a change of focus. "Did you two gather these?"
She could still feel Squall's gaze burrow a hole into her, and she was rather thankful they couldn't see the way a certain warmth flooded her cheeks.
"It was Bartz and Zidane." Lightning acknowledged, aloof to what was going on with the Summoner as she focused back on the task at hand.
Squall's gaze lingered while Yuna sorted out the firewood before he dismissed whatever was wrong with the brunette for later. The young Summoner snuck a glance back at the pair and gave a hefty sigh at how they flowed harmoniously before turning back to the pile and poking them a tad too harshly with her the wooden branch in her grasp.
Unheard by the sulking Summoner, Lightning had elbowed the dark mercenary sharply in the ribs and drawing an annoyed scowl from him.
"Yuna's still out of it." The strawberry blonde spoke confidently, her blue eyes briefly flickering towards the woman in question before refocusing back on Squall's.
Squall's eyes twitched as he tapped his rib- That's going to be sore soon.- and questioned half-heartedly. "Out of what?" Lightning's eyes narrowed dangerously and the brunet swallowed his pride. "Right. That guy." He wracked his brain for a name. "Tidus."
"Right." Lightning's tone gave no hint that she forgot the blond ex-Warrior of Chaos' name.
Steel blue eyes shifted briefly towards the brunette staring at the burning fire- Huh, that was fast.- before locking stares back with Lightning, who had folded her arms at him expectantly. "Well?"
Squall grasped the knife's handle and resumed the staccato paced cutting of the herbs he had gathered, inwardly hoping that Lightning would drop the subject if he ignored her.
A firm hand clasped around his wrist on his down stroke, drawing his attention.
His lips twitched.
"I asked you a question, Leonhart."
Her tone cut off all his chances at escape, and his gaze drifted to the side in annoyance.
"What do you expect me to do?"
Lightning reflexively followed his stare before realizing he wasn't studying anything in particular. Her grip tightened. "Cheer her up. Or something. Look at me when I'm talking!"
He did, though the annoyance he felt still hadn't left his irises. "She can take care of herself."
The strawberry blonde scowled. "Are you her friend or not?"
"Aren't you, too?" He retorted.
They both glared at each other, challenging the other to look away.
With an exasperated sigh, Lightning let go of his wrist.
"Yuna doesn't really listen to me." Despite her tone, Squall could tell this displeased her. "Not in the same way she listens to you, anyway." It was her gaze that drifted now. "Look, Squall-"
"You don't know how to cheer her up either." He cut her off.
Her gaze snapped back at him, burning blue orbs narrowed. She opened her mouth to lash out with a retort but he held up a hand nonchalantly.
"Fine. I'll deal with this."
The mercenary was already making plans to track the wandering Blitzball star, tie him up, and drag him back to Yuna. With any luck, the blond would put up a fight; he needed an outlet for the annoyance he caused.
Lightning must have read his thoughts because she immediately fisted his collar and pulled him down to eye level. "Don't do anything stupid." She warned him dangerously. "And don't screw this up."
She pushed him back and Squall straightened his shirt.
"Is everything alright?" A worried tone cut in.
Both warriors turned to meet the Summoner's inquiring gaze.
"Yes." Both of them replied at the same time.
Lightning's eyes quickly shifted towards Squall and elbowed him again to get his attention. "I'm going."
"H-huh?" Yuna looked bewildered at the older woman's sudden declaration.
On the other hand, Squall inwardly groaned.
"Light." The brunet drawled tiredly.
The sergeant ignored his call and strode off with a purpose, throwing one last meaningful glance back at him- Settle this.- before disappearing into the forest.
An awkward silence settled upon the remaining pair as Squall finished off seasoning the meat and prepared them for roasting, Yuna's gaze shifting carefully back and forth between where Lightning had vanished and Squall.
"U-um…" Yuna cleared her throat. Her voice momentarily faltered when Squall didn't look. "Sorry!" She suddenly bowed before cautiously peeking upwards at him.
Squall looked at her blankly before sighing. "It has nothing to do with you." He reassured, thinking back to the task Lightning had pushed on him. That woman enjoys making my life miserable.
Really, ever since first partnering up with Lightning Farron, he'd been subjected to forceful commands that he had half the mind to disobey, if Lightning wasn't right half the time she issued them.
Their synergy was odd in how it operated; both were capable of getting whatever task done, individually, and both knew it, which was why they distributed duties to each other. As it turned out, Lightning was more stubborn than him, and Squall eventually found himself carrying out more and more menial tasks.
What irked the SeeD Commander in all of this was that he found himself not too bothered at complying with the strawberry blonde sergeant's whims and he wasn't really sure why; he'd been subconsciously dodging that question for fear of the answer he'd find.
Steel blue eyes blinked out of its thoughts when it noticed a pair of emerald and aquamarine still watching it. Squall pursed his lips at Yuna's silence.
He inwardly frowned at himself when he spied Yuna's hand tense at his voice. Lightning's words echoed warningly in his mind.
"Don't screw this up."
"…Help me set this over the fire." The mercenary motioned to the slices of meat ready to be roasted.
Yuna's eyes lit up. "Y-yes!"
A small frown, but Squall had time before Lightning returned from who knows where, so he could patiently figure out how to bring the Summoner back from whatever depressing place her thoughts decided to wander through.
"Um…" Squall tilted his head at Yuna's hesitant call from her crouch beside him. "You're…really good at this. Cooking."
She blushed at how her voice wavered when his eyes pierced through hers.
His eyes trailed downwards, his nose already picking up the beginnings of a promising meal. The SeeD Commander resisted the urge to bluntly ask her why she was feeling down and decided to humor her musings instead. "I had a good teacher."
Yuna blinked wonderingly, not actually expecting a response beyond a grunt of acknowledgement from the brunet. She mentally slapped herself on the forehead for thinking that; Squall wasn't that hard to talk to...
"Your teacher must have been amazing."
Squall paused in setting down the skewered meat before resuming a bit tensely, drawing another questioning gaze from the Summoner. He mentally counted down from five.
"Squall?" Yuna voiced her curiosity immediately after his countdown finished.
A small smirk formed on his lips; the fact that Yuna responded when he expected her to meant that her mood was lifting.
"It's a matter of perspective." He informed, lightly clapping his palms together to clean them before standing, his task finished. The brunette's eyes trailed upwards at him and he smirked at the innocent curiosity brimming in those warm orbs. "My teacher always had his knife pointed at my back as he steadily inched towards me." Confusion; he smirked. "It's amazing how quickly you learn when your life is in the hands of a little green man."
Recognition dawned in her eyes and she giggled melodiously. Yuna had wondered what kind of character can teach the stubborn mercenary how to cook. She could just imagine what those sessions must have looked like; Tonberry inching slowly with his lantern on one hand while the other had its Chef's Knife poised as Squall rapidly chopped ahead of it.
A small smile formed on Squall's lips as he observed the Summoner.
"How was that like?" Yuna asked breathlessly.
Squall shrugged his shoulders before deadpanning. "There was never a dull moment."
Another fit of giggles.
Feeling that the young woman in front of him had enough of laughing at his expense, he extended a hand to help her up. Yuna looked at his outstretched palm with eyes slightly wider than normal- Squall?- before smiling fondly in acceptance, grasping it firmly- It's warm.- as she allowed herself to be pulled up.
Yuna blinked before realizing what Squall was trying to do and a frown marred her face when she realized why Lightning had abruptly left- I'm burdening everyone again. "Mhm!"
She nodded cheerfully with a smile.
His cutting word tore through her act bearing the unease reflecting from her irises for her sole audience.
"We're back!" A loud shout came from behind the mercenary, drawing the attention of both warriors as Bartz and Zidane entered the clearing. "You wouldn't believe today's haul!"
"Yeah! Can you believe there was an underground sewage system around here? !" Zidane cheerfully added as he raised his loot.
Squall spared them an annoyed glance. "I can see that."
"Yeah- wait a sec, hey!" Zidane crossed his arms with a pout. "That's not very nice, Squall! We went through all the trouble of-" It was then he noticed Yuna looking away from the confrontation. "… is something wrong?"
"Hey, Yuna? Is everything alright?" Bartz quickly tried to approach Yuna.
Squall narrowed his eyes when Yuna took a step back and immediately blocked Bartz's path.
"We're getting water." He glowered meaningfully, hoping the wanderer would take the hint.
"Huh? But isn't there water in that-"
The mercenary kicked the pail.
"…OH!" Bartz scratched the back of his head sheepishly. "Right, um, we'll watch over the food."
Zidane nodded. "Right. Food."
"Good. Don't start until we get back." Squall warned as he picked up the fallen bucket. He strode past the Summoner and stopped a few paces behind, noticing she remained in place. "Yuna." He called in an even tone.
She fidgeted under his gaze. "I'll sta-"
"Let's go." He spoke forcefully, leaving no room for compromise.
With a weary sigh, Yuna followed after the dark mercenary out of the clearing, leaving the two treasure hunters to fall onto their knees.
"Wow that was tense!"
Squall heard Zidane exclaim as he delved deeper into the woods, Yuna trailing a few steps behind him. He threw another glance behind him before palming his head exasperatedly- This is all your fault, Lightning.
He cleared his throat.
"You don't have to tell me what's bothering you." His words drew the brunette's attention. "But I need you to snap out of it."
Yuna flinched from his reprimand. "I'm sorry."
His brows knitted painfully- That came out harsher than intended.
Another tense silence as the Summoner continued to follow after the SeeD.
"… I need you to focus, Yuna."
His voice was softer this time.
She knew. Focus. That's what her life bottled down to, right? Focus on her training for she was High Summoner Braska's daughter and had to prepare for Sin's eventual return. Focus on the Pilgrimage, the scriptures, the people, Spira, the world's hopes, the Fayth's dreams, the lives of her people, the sacrifice of her Guardians-
"I need you to focus, Yuna, so that you will survive."
Her footsteps faltered into an abrupt stop, her head rising in surprise only to suddenly turn around; lost in her thoughts as she were, she had managed to walk past the tall brunet.
"I don't care about what's bothering you." His baritone was firm yet warm. Sincere. "Frankly, if you don't want to talk about it, that's fine, as long as you don't let it interfere during battle." His eyes found the trees to her right interesting. "We're doing our best to keep each other alive and you're just going to make it that much more difficult if you zone out in the middle of a fight."
He blinked once before locking gazes with her startled own. "What I mean is, we'll have to fight that much harder to protect you. Which we will."
The last bit he added almost as an afterthought.
Yuna shook her head with a small smile- It's nice to know he cares that much. "Thanks, Squ-"
"Besides," He absently cut her off, not hearing her soft voice. "we're going to hunt down Jecht and Tidus soon." A calculating smirk- They have this coming for running off on their own. "And when we do, we'll tie them up and force them to listen to you."
Lightning's temper be damned.
Blue and green orbs blinked in confusion. "Oh, um, there's no need." She smiled meekly when he glared at her. "I mean… they're not the full problem."
That wiped the smirk of Squall's face as he blinked owlishly. "… Come again?"
They weren't? His brows furrowed in thought. Then what was?
Yuna absently rubbed her elbow as she debated whether or not to tell Squall the truth- He did say that he didn't really care about the reason, right?- and wondered how the brunet would react, and how Lightning would retaliate, should she voice her inner thoughts.
Her mind drifted back to Squall and Lightning's relationship. Truthfully, she didn't know when exactly she started to fall for the silent mercenary, though if she were to hazard a guess, it was because of the man's attentiveness, strength, and patience. Despite seemingly distancing himself, Squall was always there to turn to whenever there was a hurdle to overcome. And then there were moments like this, when her own hesitance and reticence dampened her spirits, the brown-haired mercenary would pick up on her mood and try, in his own way, to cheer her up.
But before she knew it, Lightning was at his side.
Yuna wasn't blind, wasn't lacking in empathy to see the way Squall and Lightning interacted, to see the way Lightning hovered around Squall. Even if they didn't know it themselves, the Summoner could feel that it was only a matter of time before something happened and Squall would be forever lost to her.
And yet, she couldn't bring herself to give action to her feelings.
Lightning was her dear friend and Squall was her dear companion. She treasured both of them equally and it would be too selfish on her part to interrupt what was to come; their happiness.
"Yuna." Squall's voice cut through her thoughts and the hand rubbing her elbow remained in place. "Stop thinking."
She pursed her lips shut at his command and the two warriors resumed their walk towards the river. "Squall, is it alright for me to be selfish?"
The man threw her an odd glance- Where did that come from?- before mulling over her words and concluding that this was the reason that underlay the Summoner's troubled feelings.
"It's all a matter of perspective." He echoed his earlier statement. "It's not wrong to want to be happy, and it's not wrong to pursue it." Yuna watched as Squall's gaze shot further than she could see.
There was a small smile on his face and Yuna felt herself drowning in that rare expression now conveyed by his normally stoic features.
He looks wistful.
"And if that's called selfish, then so be it." His eyes were alight with determination. "I'll fight if I have to."
A hesitant nod; Squall could see she was still anxious.
"But what if my happiness will make someone else sad?" Yuna questioned worriedly.
All her life she had sacrificed her happiness for the sake of others' that she had no qualms about laying down her life if it meant the ones she cared for would survive. She felt that was the only way to live, until she came to this world and was surrounded by comrades that fought further than their bodies could handle just to keep each other alive.
It made her happy when Squall held her hand and taught her how to be less of a burden to her valued friends, Vaan and Laguna at their side telling her that she could never weigh them down as Lightning nodded her approval from the sides.
"That's the way the world works, Yuna." There was a bitterness in his smile that reminded her of the first time they met. "In order for people to live, others must die. Even still, I'll never give up fighting for what I believe in."
Resolution and determination.
She smiled more confidently now, and Squall realized he had managed to get through to her.
"Thank you… Squall." For giving me strength.
The brunet shrugged his shoulders with a grunt. "You should try doing something crazy."
Mismatched eyes blinked in surprise. "Wh-what do you mean?"
"Do something that'd make you happy."
Yuna quickly palmed her flaming cheeks. "Now? !"
Another shrug. "Doesn't have to be." He noticed that they were almost out of the forest. "Just stop putting others before yourself for once. It gets really annoying when you're so self-sacrificing." She returned his piercing stare with a sheepish smile. "I don't like it. You're a person too."
It was those words that triggered something within her and she made up her mind.
He tilted his head to the side while she balled her fists against her clothing, her irises shimmering with blue and green fire.
"I- I'll do something crazy!" She stammered out, willing her embarrassment away.
A frown formed on his lips and Yuna's confidence faltered until he spoke.
"Just do it already."
"Uhm!" She nodded. "Watch me!"
Squall raised a questioning brow when she stepped forward.
"Watch me, Squall." Yuna half-whispered and Squall found himself mesmerised by her glistening eyes.
He was unprepared when the Summoner drew his collar downwards and smashed her lips against his.
Their kiss was rough and hard as Yuna released all the passion that welled inside of her frame in this brief moment where she was just Yuna.
The cold grip of dread wrought her heart when their kiss was cut painfully short; Squall suddenly pulled away not too long since it started. "Squ-"
"Ugh." The man stumbled backwards in pain, eyes shut tightly as he clutched his nose.
It was then that she felt her own eyes tear up reflexively; in her haste to steal a bit of pleasure, she had accidentally bashed their noses together.
"Argh!" Squall grunted when he tripped on a stay root and fell backwards out of the foliage. His arms quickly shot out to stabilize himself on the ground.
"Skuwal!" Hands pressing against her sore nose, Yuna rushed out the forest after the fallen mercenary worriedly-
-and froze at the familiar icy tone.
Squall looked backwards and was treated to the sight of Lightning clad only in her moist skin as her arms froze from washing herself in the river.
They stared at each other coolly.
"… Yesh?" He found himself answering.
Yuna chose that moment to stay silent, her survival instincts screaming at her as the two warriors continued their deadlock stares.
Lightning's brow twitched when she noticed something about the brunet.
"… Your nose is bleeding."
Squall absently wiped his thumb across his upper lip and, sure enough, it was covered in the red liquid.
If anything, Lightning's glower intensified.
Moments later, Yuna reflected that it was fun to do something crazy; Squall was sat with his legs folded underneath him while Lightning, thankfully dressed in her underwear, continued to berate him.
The Summoner didn't mind the way embers scorched the strawberry blonde's cheeks; instead she smiled genuinely.
Her eyes twinkled with new-found determination.
I'll fight, too.
A/N: Wow this took a long time to write :/ This is a random piece inspired by a cutscene between Melia and Shulk in Xenoblade Chronicles. I heart Melia soooo much xD
Anyways, hope this was enjoyable. I tried to portray Squall differently, where he has already broken out of his shell (thanks in no small part to Lightning, as hinted throughout the oneshot), and how Squall views his comrades, and as a consequence, Yuna developed feelings for him. This can be seen as a 012AU I guess, since I mentioned that Tidus was an ex-Warrior of Chaos.
In other news, Eirlys-Tylluan has graciously provided a VIII/XIII Doodle Dump, so everyone go check it out; I'm sure they'd also appreciate whatever comments you have to spare! The link is in my profile, as always.
ET's also working on an Omake for SCE Theme 19, so everyone keep your eyes peeled for it, too! ;D
Not yet proofread so typos galore~ Point them out if you see one and I'll correct them as soon as I can.