Scene XIII. Seven Wonders
((It was just a part of him))
It was his no-nonsense manner that usually took people aback. For him, sugar coating were a waste; he always delivered the cold, hard truth. He never bothered why people took long, winding discussions to avoid unthinkable topics that usually could have been cut with a simple, maybe unpleasant solution that few people could possibly agree or confront with but hey, that was that.
Even with her during battle, he gave it straight. He berated Snow for his tactics and threw her back to safety of the floor after charging for her when she was intent on slaying Adam. She remembered that during their early battles, she had landed on him, from him came an irritated "Hey!" she quickly got up just when he tossed her to another part of the invisible giant where she landed on her hip. She walked away from the fights with a limp and a smile.
When people encountered his frank approach, they usually looked to Serah who they assumed smoothed things over. But she would only smile and let him be.
Noel would give them his full divided attention, scrutinizing and letting them chat until he figured out their character. Men usually met his measured look with testosterone-filled aggression whenever Noel said something challenging that Serah had to clear the air between them. Then there was always a threat lingering beneath his words when he spoke lightly to strangers who presented an unknown status in his world.
'Nice guess. How'd you know?"
Even when he made a joke, it was so sarcastic, flustering the person on the receiving end that started it that it was longer was funny. "...somehow I doubt it." They saw how Serah laughed it off easily when he warily countered it.
They looked on with a mixture of doubt... ((How she managed to put up with him was beyond them))
((Because she cared))
His brows furrowed, trying to understand. Occasionally, he'd ask Serah questions. Serah scooted closer and pointed out a symbol, gesturing fully with hands while Noel kept his attentive gaze towards her.
"Ah, so this was about the time when the Pulse Fal'Cie and fal'Cie created Cocoon."
"That's right!" Serah beamed, "I keep forgetting you're from the future. Of course you'd know this."
He shrugged, "We weren't taught as much as what you teach in your educational system. It was just about preservation. We were given the basics of everything and from there, it was just about survival." Serah was quiet soon after and he almost regretted revealing that piece of information. While he continued on studying what was laid out, Serah stood up and left.
Later, he began to wonder where she went. But she was a grown woman and there was no point in worrying. There was a sudden hiss of metal and Noel looked up to see Serah emerge with plentiful books. Her face was smudged with dirt, no doubt from dust. He caught the bottom pile just when she was about to drop it all, lifted it from her and set it down. "What's this for?'
She was wordless when she grabbed him and led him through various hallways and ended up in a room made of glass with a clear view of the night sky. "I wanted to show you this before but we've been busy lately so I thought might as well now. See, Noel, this is where you can see the stars, planets, space! There are worlds beyond us so don't go thinking your only use is fighting! We have places to go!" Then she dragged him back to the room as she poured over the long gone history of their world and beyond excitedly.
She forced his hand, literally with an iron grip that surprised him, to follow along the maps. When Noel stood to take a break, she dragged him back down and shoved a sandwhich, that he was pretty sure was homecooked, in his mouth. That's how they ended up with a mess of things. Books laid out in a pile and scrolls unrolled, artistic sketches drawn and the floor barely seen.
But when he looked at her and she stared right back in simplicity, he questioned her actions... ((Why go through all this trouble for something so simple for him?))
((She already did))
To the whole world, they were extremely close friends, if not; being in an intimate relationship if not for the fact one was in an exclusive relationship. It didn't stop people, who didn't know who they were, from observing them. In the busy streets of Academia, they were just two people lounging by the side among the mass of people.
They saw the man smile easily down at the young woman who proceeded to push him playfully. He held up a hand that looked like he conceded to her because the woman lit up and dragged him to a nearby ice cream vendor. "Noel, you promised! Just this once please!"
The young man looked completely clueless and amazed at the variation of colors. The woman only ordered ice cream and they resided back, still chatting. The man's face was curious as he looked down. "...maybe should have..."
He took hold of her wrist, bringing her cone up to his mouth as he swiped his tongue over the sweet mound. They held their breath. He straightened, a thumb wiping the side of his lip as he nodded and they heard him say, "Huh, never tasted anything this sweet before. Not bad."
They swooned. They couldn't see her face, but her head was down before tilting to the side to look up at him. She must have said something because surprise widened the man's eyes as he ruffled his hair. "...Really? Well, sure if..."
They left their space and moved on. But apparently it wasn't a typical date. And apparently they weren't together. Because they walked apart, hands weren't held and they seemed fine with it. They walked the same path with the man occasionally looking over his shoulder while the woman would sometimes clutch his sleeve to slow his pace.
The group saw the woman grasp a beautiful pendant wrapped around her neck and look up at the sky, eyes distant. Well that said everything, they whispered. But she dropped it when the man turned to face her, saying something about, "...been doing a lot of sky watching lately."
His eyes briefly flickered down and he gestured her forward. They nearly exclaimed in warning when the woman was about to step on a large puddle, unnoticed but she was wearing boots so it should be okay...The young man looped an arm around her waist to hoist her over to his side and set her back on her feet. She bent forward to look at his side where the puddle was and thanked him. He waved her off and ushered her forward yet again.
His hand briefly rested on her back as he ducked to swipe another taste of her ice cream. He laughed, evading her reach as they turned the corner and disappeared from sight.
And the girls wondered ... ((How can she not fall a little in love?))
((For her, he would throw it away))
He said it all so casually.
That he'd protect her, be by her side while allowing her freedom.
The little things from the way ((they)) locked eyes in unsaid agreement or how ((they)) moved in sync, ((he)) adjusting their position to lean into each other or how much they ((she)) began to rely on each other or how ((they)) just accept the outlook of their relationship as something more even though it wasn't or from the way how laid back ((they)) carried themselves around each other, the tension when they ((he)) weren't.
They'd seen it all.
She forgets it all so easily.
And as Serah looked at her fiancé with the world in her eyes, seeing him trapped and looking so damaged, it renewed her love for him yet again. Noel was facing away from their second private reunion but hearing it all with a conflicting expression.
Just when Serah was clueing something about her future relationship with Snow, Lightning caught the little movement of Noel's head turning to her as she said, "If I get tired of all this waiting," then Serah turned with a bright smile that Lightning saw pained him as he turned around to wipe the emotion off his face when Serah finished with, "I'm coming to get you."
Leaving the coliseum, Serah was furtively worked up to build a better future so Snow, Vanille and Fang wouldn't have to suffer alone, that they could be all together again with Lightning. Noel readily agreed and Hope, who watched the battle, was struck with startlingly clarity at how Noel could think to exclude himself while sacrificing everything for the world, for her while Serah missed out on it in her determination for the past.
Hope began with, "Serah listen, you're–"
But Noel cut him off. "Don't let things like this get you down. Remember, you'll see them soon enough in a better future."
"Yes, you're right. Let's do this, Noel!"
And there was nothing else Hope could say because they unknowingly shut him out when they went into their little conversations. From her place, Lightning frowned her disapproval.
And they shake their heads and think... ((Where was his pride?))
Caius swiped his blade, air unfolding into waves as he sheathed his blade. Serah Farron's eyes were blank, closing slowly as she was engulfed into the darkness and fell into her dream world of bliss.
Good. Her heart was easily pleased and he had dealt with both. As he stood, he watched the flow of the timeline. It needed to be definite that they were trapped.
He governed the worlds beside the seeress and he looked into hers.
She was surrounded by false creations and he thought her content. But the world wavered when she looked out in the distance and he would tighten its leash by pushing forward those people precious to her. Yet sometimes she would walk past them, eyes concentrating on a figure she no longer knew. The world obeyed her wishes and formed a shadow of Noel Kreiss.
Just when she was trying to grasp its identity, Caius vanquished the shadow and directed her to look at the mirror where she backed away in terror.
It was incomplete. He needed to keep watch of Serah Farron's dream or she'd awaken. They did anyway. They were doing this for the future to be with their loved ones in a stable world, yet Caius knew everything.
Caius scoffed... ((Who are they fooling?))
((No one would believe them capable of it))
"Are you two...?"
Serah merely narrowed her eyes with her lips set. Noel shifted on his feet and raised a brow, a hand going to his hip.
"Well, it's just you know there's a rumor going 'round..."
Noel asserted dominance over the conversation with a quirk of his lips, not counting that his hand moved to his blades or that the look in his eyes invited a fight. Serah huffed in response.
"It'll help a lot if you guys would just talk instead. The things going on in my head when I saw you guys other the day–"
Serah scowled at the indecency while beside her, there was a slide of metal being unsheathed.
"Uhm, I mean, they sell good ice cream, right? Forget what I said! There's a lot of misunderstandings so I hought I could clear it up for you guys. Travelling alone with no chaperon other than a moogle? That's a big No No."
Serah's shoulders slumped as if this was replayed over and over and that there was no point in talking anymore. Noel, who was wiping his blade when Serah suspiciously looked at him, angled it toward him in a swift swing then rested it openly on his shoulder.
"T-that was dangerous. I'm, uh, sorry. I guess it must be tiring to be accused of it so many times. You guys know what you're doing!"
Serah brightened considerably, finally smiling. Noel, with the point conceded to him, turned his attentions elsewhere. He grimaced when her elbow hit as he put away his weapon.
"So yeah, uh huh, got it. Crystal, understood, clear as the sky."
"We're just friends," Serah said gently, staying a hand on Noel's who hesitated the slightest bit on completely sheathing his blade upon hearing the other continue the tirade. Her hand pressed down and there was a click of metal being cased.
He went to see for himself because they told him, 'As if those two would do that. They're really not like that, trust me.'
Sazh was watching the hand that could stop the young man who ventured through the timeline, in spite of the misery befalling him that he fought many in return and risk his life in exchange for the world, from a simple smile and he was in awe of their ignorance... ((Is it really what they say?))
((Only they will know))
Hope found them, dread clawing at him, as he dropped down to the airship where Noel's head was bowed as he held Serah's motionless body. Ashen white skin peeked from around his shoulder where Serah's eyes were closed and Hope held back his anguish.
Noel cradled her body and weaved his fingers carefully through pink tresses. He was mumbling, "I thought she was safe..."
Everyone couldn't believe it... ((What will happen next?))
Scene XIV. Runway
Going through the Historia Crux always had been pleasant. Going out, always made Serah flush.
Golden light radiated from their bodies, leaving her body humming as they materialized. In that moment, she always caught glimpses of tight muscles if she ever faced Noel. While her clothes merely shed to show little or darkened to meld with her skin, it never completely disappeared as Noel's did when he emerged with only small patches of his top visible. Thank Etro his pants were always there. Then clothes quickly drew over their skins as they entered a new timeline, recognizing their alien presence in its plane as they set foot.
She saw his toned body, tan skin momentarily wiring her brain to vacancy and flashing decadent images of things she shouldn't even be thinking of. Even without the glimpses, he really had a defined body. Noel never seemed to take notice. "Hmm, ruins, empty skies and monsters; not really my thing but who am I to decide. You up for it, Serah?"
His pants made it impossible for her to imagine how he looked from the waist below and maybe she was a little relieved because she was distracted enough. "It led us here so I'm prepared for anything."
Noel nodded and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Going by the look of things, looks like we'll have to go digging around. Ready?"
Serah thought at least it was his hand. There was a slight pressure on her shoulder, not that she could feel anything. Her armor was too compact to feel anything warm. "This is making me feel prickly." She knocked her own arm. "It's too sturdy to move around in."
"I know what you mean. But it's not like we can change back." Noel gave her a pointed look. "After all, we left what we had in the last timeline."
Serah smiled sheepishly. "Well, I thought that there's no point in carrying extra items. We have what we have so it's all we need, right?"
"Right. And didn't you just say you wanted to change?"
"It can't be helped," she fidgeted, growing almost annoyed. "I mean, how am I supposed to move around freely like this? I can't always rely on you pushing me out of the way instead of moving myself!"
"If you put it like that..."
"I should have kept my old clothes," she sulked, "at least I can move around without a hunk of metal weighing me down."
"And change back to that swimsuit of yours?" Noel drawled, stretching an arm. For some reason, she flushed. Noel saw it and raised a brow. "What, it just hit you now? Well, it doesn't matter. It wasn't suitable for battle anyway. At least this is the good stuff." But he looked down at his armor and scowled.
"It attracts too much attention, I think," Serah said. "Oh, Noel! Why don't we –"
"I was planning to do that anyway."
"But you didn't even let me finish."
"Didn't need to. You were like that when you got that swimsuit and I'm getting tired of dragging this on me."
It annoyed her for reasons she didn't want to further elaborate on. The first time she had changed because her outfit had been ineffective from overuse so she chose a fitting tribal pattern. It was comfortable to move around in and she liked the colour designs. When Noel first saw her in it, his long glance down and up made her twitch; his lips curved in a bemusing fashion. "It suits you," was all he said.
She tried to ignore it but it warmed her. "Noel, I think you need to change too," she started.
Noel shook his head. "I can still work in this."
"We need to be more prepared," she reasoned.
Noel cracked his neck, side to side. He rolled his shoulders, sighing as they yet again waited for another costume change. While he was content with what he had – it did its job, after all – Serah was less than enthusiastic. Her armor had been damaged to the point that he was dragged back to that store she rushed to.
She spun, looking this way and that. Serah nodded. The black long, sleeveless coat had an attached shield over her arm to better defend her while exposing her to the elements. It wasn't suffocating as her last changes and she was beginning to adore this outfit. She was almost eager to see Noel because he was annoyed at their last attires.
She guessed she should stop hoping because every time he stepped out, he was covered more than last.
She spun and her smile was forced once he was in her sight. Forget it. He was covered head to toe, literally. She couldn't even see those blue eyes underneath the hood. "How is it?"
He shrugged, "It'll do for now, I guess."
"Right," was all she managed.
Just as they were passing through Academia, Serah caught sight of two armors on display. Noel was yawning as far as she could tell with his face covered. He absentmindedly continued on without her while she stood facing the window shop. With a quick glance at him, she sneaked into the store. Mog flew back and forth in a sweat. He tugged at Noel's hood. "Serah's gone, kupo!"
With the hood falling back down, Mog could see how alert Noel's eyes became. "She was just right there. For the love of... Oh no, don't tell me." He shook his head. He spied a familiar store. "Not again."
Pink hair flashed in the glass window and she waved at him to come in before disappearing behind a curtain. Noel looked up at the sky for guidance, finding none and trudged back into the tiresome shop. He noted that they had a new male employee behind the counter. Crossing his arms, he warded away curious eyes. "Noel, are you there?"
"Right here. Do I really have to ask, Serah?"
"Nope," she chirped.
"We talked about this."
She ignored him. The curtain whipped back and Noel prepared himself.
He eyed her, seeing how pleasing it was on her. Not as well as her Summoners garb, but it was one of her better ones. Some green cloth was partially wrapped around her front, beneath a long white sweater just reached above her slim thighs and black stockings still covered what peeked between the sweater and high boots embedded with knee caps. It was very form-fitting, he noticed, which was not unpleasant.
"Noel, what do you think?" She stopped, a bit breathless at seeing those blue eyes again that she couldn't help smiling.
"I found something for you too!"
Noel stiffened, wearily eyeing the male employee who kept changing expressions as he ogled Serah, holding his new threads. He challenged the employee –' You wanna start something?' – a fierce glare that said it all as he snatched the garment and disappeared. "This will be the last time, you hear me?" Noel called out.
"Maybe," she replied. Her heart beat fast when she heard the drop of garments to the floor.
"I'll run off before you get me back in here, you'll see," she heard him mutter. He grunted and she could hear the stretch of fabric. Serah rolled her eyes. Time ticked pass and she pulled the curtain aside when it sounded like he wasn't moving. Noel didn't even react, taking stride of her routine behaviour.
He looked uncertain as he looked down at himself and Serah had to step closer. While he was busy angling his arm to better look at it, she fussed over. Her palm smoothed over his lapel, down to the hem of the dress shirt. She finished, laying her hands on his shoulder. So when she looked up to see his approval, he was looking down at her with an unreadable expression. "Do you like it?"
Noel shrugged. He reached to take hold of her ponytail, slung lazily over her shoulder, "It's strange, I never see you wear it like this."
She observed her hair in his hand, pink tendrils rubbing between his fingers, "It got caught when I was changing so I put it down. It's tiresome to keep fixing my hair."
"Really? Well, I wouldn't know." With a last feel he pulled away, feeling silk slide against his hand. He waited for her to step back but when she continued to examine her hair with a hand while the other still rested on him, he nudged with, "You know, I need to change, so why don't you step back and let me–"
"Hmm, what for? We're getting these."
He opened his mouth to retort but when she was began to fix his lopsided belt, his mind blanked and this time, he truly gave up. He ran a hand through his hair and kept it there in frustration. The fact she always managed to get him into these things were mind boggling. The male employee was shot with a demanding glare, "You there. We'll take these."
"Yes sir! Thank you for your purchase. Come again!"
'Over my dead body,' Noel thought.
Scene XV. Masquerade.
It all started with a dream and their adventure began. But now, there was a strange air between them that neither acknowledged but kept challenging that boundary with casual touches here and there that both never outwardly expressed too much on it. So it was perfectly fine with Noel whenever Serah kept clutching his bicep be it instinctively or not; he didn't really care. And Serah didn't mind at all when his hands were on her, from a simple touch to guide her to encouragement. There was never a need to speak of it.
Mog cowered beneath the thick leaves of the large tree as light rain poured from above. Already anticipating Serah's grab, he flew and disappeared into the canopy. It was cowardly of him leaving them on the ground, but he was too frightened to think. After an encounter with rather large monster appeared in a rift, Mog already knew the deaths of his companions if they engaged. He urgently yelled for them to run as he flew off. Noel immediately turned back and grasped Serah's arm as they ran like hell back to the wilderness before they were forced to fight.
Serah sighed, looking up and saw the resemblance of Mog's plush body, "I promise I won't hold onto you, Mog. Will you come down?"
When the moogle peeked, the first thing he caught was a flash of brown hair overhead of Serah's pink head then her eyes. Sun-tanned arms caged her against the tree and Mog suddenly felt like disappearing when Noel's gaze rose above as well.
Judging by the space between their bodies, they weren't totally pressed up against each other. Noel shielded her from the onslaught of rain as he studied pathways to climb while Serah worriedly pushed hair out of his face. When it still fell to his eyes, she untied her hair, made a quick movement and twist that a short ponytail sat atop his head that made Noel did a double-take in the midst of her motions.
He stared incredulously. His head was bent close to hers so she quietly admired the myriad specks of cobalt of his eyes. She smiled opposed to his dumbstruck frown. "Let's get climbing. I'm getting nervous with the monsters close by." She quickly presented her back to him when he opened his mouth, noting how defined his arms were. "Give me a push will you?"
Noel gritted his teeth then pushed her up. She latched onto a branch, trying to find a footing while he kept her balanced. She crawled to a near branch while he talked her through, "Yeah, that's right, nice and easy. No, the other branch. Mog, stay right there." He was frighteningly powerful, hair drenched with a fierce expression that made his eyes brighter as he heaved himself up. They sat in the dark.
Serah held her knees close, wearily eyeing the ground below them. Noel was completely relaxed, resting an arm on a knee with the other leg stretched out. Sometime along the night, the distance shortened until she fitted herself into his space. While he maintained his posture, he had to widen his legs to accommodate her body between them.
She tensed when a low growl resounded below. When Noel didn't say anything, she checked on him. His chest was still steadily breathing behind her back. Her pink head bumped his chin as she raised her gaze to his. Noel clutched her palm when she thought to prod him playfully and blue eyes reminded her of a coming storm. She didn't protest when he caught her chin and angled her head for his viewing.
His eyes were narrowed and Serah knew that meant he was in deep thought. Maybe Noel didn't even realize what he was doing so she waited. Her lips were parted with a tug of her chin with his fingers and his gaze went straight down.
If anyone accused her of betrayal because her heart was pounding for somebody else, she couldn't deny it. It was easier looking at him now because the intensity of his stare wasn't on her eyes but her mouth. Serah swallowed and he felt it against his hand. Noel briefly glanced at her again and made a small movement and she felt something soft and sweet slide in her mouth. Her eyes widened. His fingers pushed her mouth closed as he leaned back against the tree bark. "Chew, Serah."
And she did. "Mmph, it's so sweet."
"Yes please." She opened her mouth when he popped another fruit straight in. "Aren't you going to eat too, Noel?"
She ate in contentment, licking the juice on her lips and Noel wondered why he was drawn to the action. He leaned his head back, his other arm holding onto another branch to keep them steady and blamed it on the fatigue. "I'll keep watch."
After the tiring night, they leapt down. Noel was frowning when he undid his short ponytail, tossing it back to her when the wind crumpled her hair to her face. "Here, use this."
"I think we're done here."
She found him sprawled on the sofa, arms outstretched and legs spread. His head was laid back and he lifted it to glance at her. "Oh, it's you. What're you doing here?"
Serah stepped in and he made no move to straighten his posture. Noel was lazily watching her under those bangs as she made her way towards him. "I'm just a little tired." Serah didn't hesitate the slightest bit to collapse beside him, their knees bumping and thighs touching. He was a bit unnerved at how relaxed they were and the fact that she intruded in his territory. "Finally we've made it back. I'm so exhausted."
"I don't want to do anything tomorrow," she sighed, letting her head fall back and rest on his arm, "I want to relax."
"I'll probably be in bed all day."
That conjured images in his head that Noel decided was not appropriate so he said, "Me too." He was conscious of her movement when she breathed in deep. She scented the essence of him, heady oak, and rich of air after a storm. He didn't budge when she tried pushing at him, "Noel, move."
"Go back to your room."
"But I'm tired."
"I'm not carrying you back."
"That's why; move!"
"I was here first." Their eyes locked in battle. "Serah, I've always made sure you were comfortable. Now we're at a place with multiple rooms with furnishing and a shower. And you chose to stay in my room instead of yours? Telling me to move off my couch?"
"That's what I'm telling you," Serah said solemnly.
"I'm not moving," he told her gravely.
Serah tried nudging his legs close for more leg space but he was stubborn. He reached out to grab her shoulder when she tipped to the side after rebounding by force. Noel kept it there, grip light if she chose to stay and closed his eyes. He could easily just pin her down to stop her from squirming. He amended that, knowing she would never be still.
Noel tested that thought by tightening his hold that brought her closer, her breasts meshing against him. He looked down at bright blue eyes, brimming with energy, "I'm going to use what energy I have left to cart you outta here to your bed so you can have all the space you want but if I get too tired, don't complain if I'll collapse as well."
"We'll still be fighting for space."
Noel thought about that, banishing it when it came to them being tangled in all sorts of position. He cleared his throat. "True," he agreed, "But at least it's more comfy." She scoffed but kept quiet. "Quit moving," he mumbled and she stilled. Noel filed the information away, releasing his grip.
"Aren't you going to sleep in your bed?"
He smoothly dodged with, "There's an idea; why don't you rest there instead?" For once, she was quiet and just when Noel was drifting off to the sound of her steady breathing, she spoke. "I'm alright here." Then her head fell onto his shoulder, curling into him.
They dozed off, still muttering nonsense for the last word until sleep claimed them.
((Noel & Serah))
Maybe it was Mog that disturbed them, but the aching muscles and cramps told him the couch was no longer suitable to sleep in. Noel grunted, feeling no blood rushing through his left arm, a clear sign that Serah had fallen asleep on it again. He carefully took his arm back, swaying when he stood and cracked his body. Noel was about to leave when he forgot his partner was still a predicament. No doubt she'd be hurting for this when she woke up too. "Serah," Noel murmured, nudging her shoulder. When she didn't respond, he sighed, reaching to adjust her instead. As soon as Serah was in his arms for him to position her to lay down, she latched onto his neck, gripping him in a dead lock.
Noel didn't want to think too much on what to do because his back was beginning to hurt at the extra weight so he scooped her up and went to the bedroom. Navigating in the dark resulted in a hit in the knee and a crushed toe. 'It was supposed to be only me,' Noel sulked; already knowing two bodies would be fighting for space in sleep in his bed. He was tempted to drop Serah unceremoniously but his upbringing bitched back. He dropped onto the bed, thanking the gods for inventions of pillows.
Noel untangled her grip successfully then froze when she started to move around. "Nngh," he tried to look innocent when she looked at him. "S'my bed."
He bit back an explosive groan when she slid down against him to find blankets. Serah didn't seem to notice his ridged disposition, instead blearily felt around for the sheets. She mumbled something about the chill and Noel murmured back some nonsense in an attempt to distract his current state. He wildly thought about what to do with his hands because he was pulled to drag her back and slant his mouth over hers. "Mm... where is it..."
He decided to cross his hands behind his head. Noel gritted his teeth when her hands accidently petted his hips on the search for those damn sheets. "I think it fell to the floor," he managed to sound somewhat normal.
When Serah started to tilt off the bed to reach for it, he sat up, muscles bunching under her soft thighs and he missed the moment when her eyes regained awareness. He sighed tiredly as he threw it around her shoulders to encase her in a cocoon, more for his benefit to deny himself the feel of her. "There you go," he spoke softly, adjusting it around her head to tuck loose strands.
"Thank you, Noel." He laid back as she started to move off, her cheeks flushed, feeling the ridged outline of abs under her hand as she used him to hold her weight. Looking under her lashes, she saw the tense outline of his eyes. She quickened her movement as she lay back beside him. Great, she was probably heavy. Sleep disappeared completely. Noel's breathing was regular. "Aren't you cold?"
She struggled to sit up in her cocoon, Noel lending a hand. "How long did we sleep?"
"Probably a couple of hours; its past midnight."
Maybe it should have felt strange considering their circumstances but it no longer did. It was natural as going through the day. As usual, his warmth left an imprint on her skin through the layers of clothes. Noel grunted when she fell back onto his arm. He tried to establish his space. Serah wouldn't have any of it. "My bed, my rules," he shot back. When she made another move to sit up, his arm pinned her down on her chest. "You'll get lost and hurt trying to find your way back in the dark. That's why I told you to go back to your room earlier."
She turned her head to him, finding spiked hair in a tousled mess with the pillow behind his head. It was rather endearing."You wouldn't shut up about it and I was tired."
He whipped his head to look back at her, not bothering to conceal his smile at her grumbled face with the sheets cushioning her face. "Do you really want to get started on that again?"
Scene XVI. Essential.
((Serah)) & ((Noel))
She envies Fang and Vanille. In her drifting psyche, she longs for companionship. It is a human need. Even though she shouldn't have thought it, not wanting another to suffer as she is.
She is all alone in the dark, air so chill that a thin layer of ice coats her skin. But she is blind even to her own colours. Her body is light and drifts along a stream of nothingness.
She does not regret it.
On their journey, they had found hidden messages near the stone rocks in New Bodhum 700 A.F.
It had taken awhile until the grief faded to a numbing pain and his mind cleared to at least understand what he had to do next. He had to find her. From the future, she had written that message. Somewhere, she still existed. His instincts stirred, functioning his body to its agility as he readied for his long journey.
Misery whispered that he wasn't worthy of being her guardian. He found her once and he'll do it again. So he went to search.
Once in a while, she wonders if she can project herself in people's dream but as hard as she tries she remains in the dark. How does Lightning do it... Her mood drops. Her last words to her sister was to never forget her then Lightning encasing herself in crystal, sitting upon the empty throne.
She tugs insistently at her clothes. It makes her feel like a child again, just known as Lightning's younger sister and Snow's fiancée. It is significant during her talk with her sister because she will always remain that way but now is the time to get out. She has her own identity and it nearly suffocates her remaining in her old skin. There will always be a bond no matter how much they change.
Serah questions if she will always been seen as being taken care of. She shakes her head. It is no time for pity, her friends will always think well of her. Then her mind begins to wander to the faces she knows well and there is a familiar face of dark hair and electric blue eyes that lingers.
He remembered this plane. Serah favoured the breeze and little creatures stumbling past. Its vastness was full of life, something that evaded her throughout the journey aside from their companionship. Until they stumbled upon more life that was doomed until they fixed the paradoxes. Heck, their partnership was one. Even knowing the end, it was something she embraced. He wanted to give back what she truly craved, something that he didn't recognize until then.
But that didn't matter and he shook it off. He stepped back to travel into the Historia Crux.
Her thoughts constantly drift in no order.
She only catches a glimpse of Bhunivelze. She wonders what else is there. She sighs and twists in her psyche. In her endless drifting, she wants a bed. Something still and solid, soft and unmovable that she feels safe in, curled. There is no comfortable position to be in.
It didn't even have to be a bed, she tries to reason with whatever divinity that is listening. There is no answer and she wants to scream, then she does because no one can hear. Noel enters her thoughts because sometimes he does serve as a form of pillow. It is better than the hard earth, ragged trees and cold stone slabs so he lets her.
Now she wants a blanket.
Noel fought off another monster, disappearing into the night.
He wiped off the sweat with a shrug of his shoulder, still gripping his blades. It was much harder hunting by himself. He was used to Serah anchoring the other sides of the wave of monsters at bay. This wasn't going well and he needed to retreat.
There was too many in his way to go through the gate so he opted for another route.
A thought strikes her. She lifts herself. Or she think she does because she can't tell left and right or which ways anymore. But it does not matter because everyone is in a safe future; that future at the cost of her life. She died in Noel's arms! Oh Etro, just when things were going so well and everyone...
And since she is no longer there, she thinks of how her friends puts the blame on Noel. They didn't know Noel like she knows him. How will he explain her death?
Panic races through her and she struggles even harder to escape, to shatter from this eternal reality and go back because he needs her.
Noel looked on with a blank expression at the empty throne. His hands come up and he knew it was his fault the goddess no longer sat on her throne. Unknowingly playing into Caius's warped plans to bring back the seeress, he should've fought harder to not let the blade sink into flesh.
There was no point thinking about it.
He climbed the steps, tempted to kneel before the crystal throne to beg for Serah Farron to return.
The goddess denied fate once and it cost them the future. But that was done and dusted, humans still carrying on past the once bleak, now forgotten, future that he only held the memories of. Perhaps she would reward him even in death. There was a low chuckle, so deep and ambiguous, that Noel instinctively reached for his blades. "The goddess was weak. Does she grant wishes to the chosen few? It is what caused this disaster."
"Am I mistaken? Perhaps I shall prove to you how I have transcended. Consider this small gift as a token of our brief companionship."
There was a bright light that blinded him.
There is a grumble and a ripping sound and she wildly looks around. Her eyes opens wide in the darkness and something pulls her.
She is falling –!
Warmth seeped through her and there was a blow of fresh air as gravity pulled her down. Sunlight streamed beneath her lids and she didn't dare to open her eyes. Serah tried to get used to her bearings, feeling alien and unused to living. Noises drifted noisily like a blur, static hurting her ears.
But Noel was around her, soothing her. She registered strong arms holding her delicately but a hand had gripped her fabric so tightly as if it was the only comfort he could draw from her, his heartbeat erratically drumming between them. In her weak state, she heard Noel's choked whisper, "There you are, Serah...I've been looking for you."
Words were dried and raspy as she spoke, "I...I-I'm back."
Scene XVII. Investigation
((Noel & Serah))
It all started with Mog innocently asking, "What is that thing on your arm, kupo?"
"It's a band," Serah explained, gripping the golden band locked around her bicep.
"For what, kupo?"
"Oh, I didn't think about it really."
"Ooh kupo. Noel, why are there are so many circles around your neck?"
"It's a necklace from my village."
And sometime along the conversation with Mog flying in between them, their curiosity for each other's worn accessory grew and they found themselves drawn closer. Serah brushed strands away from his ear to peek if he wore any earrings while Noel examined the golden band's intricate design. "I thought for sure you'd wear one," she said while he answered with, "I don't plan to."
Then she moved onto holding onto his necklace to look at the ornaments; he nearly pulled away when he felt her breathing close. Noel steered clear of her necklace, choosing to ignore her choker in favor of the straps that looked like held up her top and leaned over her shoulder to see that the straps intersected at the back. He let his head fall forward when she tugged on his necklace closer. He pulled one strap and let it smack down on her skin making her jump. "Ouch! Noel!"
She glared at him while he massaged her back with his fingers. "Sorry, couldn't resist."
There was a momentary silence and they reached again.
Next, she held his right hand where black chords wrapped the length of his arm and was thrilled to see more ornaments rooted onto it on his wrist, where the chord finally joined as a single ring around his middle finger. With her head bowed, he used his free hand to awkwardly maneuver where a tie held her hair up. He twisted the round adornment. "This is beautiful, Noel," Serah whispered and he felt her caress the rings and skin. "What's this for?"
He shrugged, "To keep my arm steady. I'm good with both hands but I rely too much on my right for attacking so I make sure I don't waver an inch in battle."
"So that metal bracer on your left is kind of a defense? I saw that you have bandaged your arm underneath."
"You can say it like that."
He only let go to turn when the small creature said, "Wow, you guys have so much on you, kupo!"
Noel canted a look at Mog. "That's how we like it. I have no problem with you going as you are,"
Something in his voice made Mog defensive. "I'm a moogle, kupo! You aren't dressing me in those things, kupo!"
"Didn't say a thing about it, buddy." All the while, Serah was tracing the angel wings on his back. Curiously, there was script written below it and she smoothed his shirt and felt his muscles tense up while she tried to decipher the small writing. There was a whoosh of air on her face and she straightened when he turned back. Catching a glimpse of more tribal designs on his belt and sash, she went for it, hearing him sigh as he looked over her. He raised a brow when he discovered the cut out fashion of her attire at the waist. She was showing skin there too; just when he was about to investigate further, there was a small crisis.
"Whoa, careful there," he said taking a small step back when she started to fiddle with the large silver rings of his belts a little too closely and he felt his body react. He tensed to keep himself controlled while Serah's mouth was turned down in dismay at the interruption of her inspection. "Just watch your hands, alright?" She rolled her eyes and he tugged her back closer to look at her earrings while Serah grumbled at his shoulder.
She twitched then relaxed when he lightly traced her ear. Serah wondered, "Is all this I see a culture from your time?"
"Never really thought about it. I guess it is."
She squirmed when his fingers brushed the shell of her ear to move away the hair that blocked his vision of her paired earrings. A shiver went down her spine when he sighed deeply as her hair tangled with his fingers. To distract herself, she spied the storage pack resting behind him and his weapon holster. "Don't even think about it."
"I was just looking. Are you done?"
He let her hair fall back. They eyed each other. Serah played with the hanging belt on his pants then made it swing back where it made a dull sound before picking it up again. In turn, Noel curved his hand on her hip, thumb resting on her midriff, wondering, "What's this design you got here?"
"It's the emblem of Lightning's shield." Noel tilted his head, lightly tracing the symbols. "On the back, I think there's something like a throne."
Blue eyes looked up at her at that, "No, really? Let me see that." She nearly jumped when she felt his palms on the bare skin of her waist as Noel turned her himself. "You do have it there. Are those script I see? It's too small for me to read."
"I kind of just woke up with this on me the night you appeared so I wouldn't know."
His hands dropped and she faced back. There was a curious silence.
"You hungry?" he finally said.
Scene XVIII. Battlefield
Given their many encounters with danger, Serah reached a revelation. Life was too short and she had enough of this – this confusing dynamic. She didn't know what to call it. There was no outright declaration. Noel wasn't like that. That didn't stop her from indulging him, dragging him from his firm belief on whatever they were doing and holding him to her.
So while watching him scour the never ending land, miles away from the village, Serah decided. His strong back was facing her and she was reminded how she clung onto them. She shook herself. "Noel, how do you feel about me?"
She saw Noel tense. He swung his gaze to her over his shoulder. He rubbed his neck, breaking their stare and shifted his stance to face her. He took a few moments, and as expected, she could never rattle him. "What brought this on?" She waited patiently. Noel let out a long breath, the heel of his hand rubbing his eye. "Snow wouldn't like this."
Her temper rose but she chained it down. "I thought we talked about this already. He doesn't have anything to do with your commitment," Serah said simply.
"He has everything to do with this," Noel countered.
"Maybe." She looked intently into his eyes, saw him shake. "This decision is ours, Noel."
"I won't say anything carelessly."
"Oh Etro, Serah, I didn't mean –"
"You think what I'm asking is careless?" Serah said in disbelief. The hurt in her tone made him flinch. "I'm being serious. After all we've done, I didn't think you'd brush it away so carelessly."
"That's not it," Noel raised his voice, taking few steps forward. Her heart thundered. "You have no idea how much I want to admit it. You're asking me right now? I'll give you answer when we're free because if I do it right now, Serah, I'll show the world that you choose to be with me, that it's not only me that that's feeling this." His gaze strayed to her pendant. "And that nothing stands between us anymore. But I can't. Not until it's over."
The frustration and longing burned in those deep blue eyes, expression so fierce that it took her breath away. If only she knew. The way her sky blue eyes shone, aching for an unfulfilled wish, made him want to give her everything.
It had been so coveted, once terrifying and unforgivable that they were torn from each other in the space of time. But when she found her way back to him, every rule had been broken. Everything had become a meaningless blur in their continued discovery of each other. The day was fast approaching and Noel couldn't stand it. She soothed him as he engulfed her form. "I'm right here, Noel," Serah murmured.
His grip tightened. She waited patiently while he sorted his thoughts. Noel sighed. When he released her, Serah leaned up to give a quick kiss to the tense line of his mouth. They stepped out of the shadows and walked the path. The doors were open, celebration sounding out.
Noel trailed behind Serah even as they entered. All eyes turned to them and shouts rang out. "The heroes are back!"
"Serah! I'm missed you so much!"
People he didn't know surrounded her, hugging and yanking her to the next. He stood, isolated. A few clapped him on the shoulder; he welcomed it. They followed to Serah's side soon after. He crossed his arms. A man sidled beside him. "Great job on the whole saving the world, kid."
"Wasn't just me," Noel said.
He laughed. "You sure a modest one!"
Noel nodded absentmindedly, tracking Serah's movements. In the midst of things, she looked over her shoulder to glance at him. He gave her a small salute. Lebreau joined him. "You're not so bad after all, Noel."
"Is that right? Well I guess there was no helping how you thought."
As things quieted down, Snow made himself known. "Serah!" The crowd parted for him as people detached themselves from Serah's side at his approach. Serah shifted so Noel would be in her line of vision. She gave Snow a small smile, fingers nervously twisting her hem. "Hello, Snow."
As he snatched her up in his big arms and swung her, Serah caught Noel's frown. She hugged him back and patted his arm to bring her back down. "I'm so glad you're alright! The things you did." He looked down at her, adoration shining in his eyes. "Etro, you're an amazing woman Serah. I'm happy you're to be my –"
"It wasn't all me," Serah interrupted, knowing how tense Noel was as the crowd cheered. "Everyone helped us and it was Noel that defeated Caius in Valhalla."
He tried to bring her closer and she was pretty sure Noel was about to snap. Serah stopped him and stepped out of his embrace. Snow looked confused but recovered fast. "There's a lot to catch up on, Serah. What Hope made is unbelievable. I'll show you around after this is over. The wedding is –"
"Actually, Snow, I need to talk to you."
He glanced down, seeing the absence of the pendant.
In the ensuing silence, the quiet became a thick tension. People began stepping out, while Snow stared silently, while Serah looked elsewhere. Among them was Hope who looked back, shaking his head and walking away when Lebreau tried to remove Noel as well. He stood still. Lebreau's lips parted, glanced at the trio and left.
Snow turned his attention to Noel; heart beating as understanding came through. "Don't tell me, Serah..."
"We need to talk about this."
"Don't tell me that!"
Noel immediately reacted, walking forward. "Don't shout at her like that."
Snow growled, meeting the younger man. "I'll be the hell whoever I want to be when I just found out that the woman I love is leaving me!" Snow grabbed Noel's collar and yanked him up. "You! I trusted you to take care of her! Not steal her away!"
Noel shoved him off, aggression taking over. "I did! I kept watch of her. I was there when she lost hope, when she worried for her sister and absent fiancé, when she couldn't stand the pressure of saving the future, her life. Everything! Where were you?"
"She understood! I had to leave! I promised to find Lightning –"
"And that's where you screwed up. Let you do everything, huh? What about what she wanted? You couldn't even give her credit for taking care of herself! No, you had your friends take care of her too."
Snow pulled back his fist, furious. Noel caught it, but didn't expect the knee to the stomach. He grunted, falling to a knee. Snow dragged him back up. Noel tried to push away the pain, snarling. Serah rushed between them. "Don't hurt him, Snow! Listen to me, just listen!"
His angry attention focused on her. Noel warned, "Don't you even dare, Snow. I swear to Etro, I will have you on your knees."
Snow stepped back. "No... I would never do that."
Noel dropped to the floor, still hurting from the blow. Serah tried tending to Noel but he gently pushed her hands away. "I'm alright, Serah. Took even worse hits than this." Snow paced, occasionally throwing them a furious look and whipping his hands in the air. He wanted to pummel the boy hero.
They stood, Noel shifting away from her. "Snow, I'm really sorry," Serah began, "I appreciate everything you've done for me."
Snow scrubbed a hand down his face, "It was all for you Serah. I wanted you to be happy."
"I was happy, but I realized how selfish I was. This relationship we had was always me relying on you. That wasn't healthy. It wasn't fair to you," she told him.
"I didn't care! I don't give a damn as long are you were with me –"
"No, listen to me. During my journey, there were so many things I've learned and experienced and you weren't there. I'm not blaming you for that."
"We're together now."
"But we didn't make it together. I never once regretted what we had, Snow. You're still important to me."
"Just tell me this. Why him?"
Serah glanced at Noel, finding strength in his presence. "He helped me find myself." There was more to say but it would only enrage the man even more. "That's all you need to know."
Snow bowed his head and collapsed against the wall. "I just... I can't believe it. That kid, are you sure Serah?"
Noel stiffened, his frame becoming a hulk of tension. "He isn't a kid, Snow."
"Just as old as I was when we got engaged," Serah bit her tongue, immediately regretting the reminder. "Age doesn't define him with what he went through. Snow, just understand that."
The silence broke her heart. Serah knew it was hard, the years they had together before them would make it difficult to maintain their friendship with their history. Noel spoke, "Snow, I never intended to do something like this."
"Just as I promised Lightning too. Except looks like I failed, didn't I."
"There were a lot of things going on; you can't handle them all."
Snow chuckled. "That's about right. I did what Lightning told me to do. I should have known the moment Serah told me Lightning sent you." There was nothing Noel could say. "You have no idea how much I want to beat you kid. It's because of Serah that I'm not doing it. You know how many years I've known her? The things I went through for her?" the bitter sound in his voice sent Serah into despair. "Longer than your time travels!"
"I don't care how you mark it," Noel said. "I know her, too."
Snow said, "Go." There was a split second of tension when no one moved until Noel turned around and left, brushing his arm against hers in comfort. Alone, Serah quietly took out the pendant in her pouch and approached him who watched her. She knelt, passing it on his hand and closing it with her palm. "Thank you for everything, Snow. I wish you every happiness." They stared, memories passing over until Serah broke it when it ventured too long and before Snow could reach for her, she left.
"I don't know what your problem is," Noel said, waving his hand between them, "so why don't you just rest easy and back off?"
Gadot, once again, was in his face. "Mind telling me what that was about, kid?"
"Not really," he said offhandedly.
The bigger man cracked his knuckles. "Oh yeah?"
"Stop it," Serah said tiredly, quietly shutting the door. "Leave him alone, Gadot." When she passed Noel, her fingers reached for a light touch and he faithfully followed her into the night.
"What the hell just happened?" Gadot exploded.
"It's not any of our business," Sazh told them.
"Do you know something about this?" Yuj asked. Maqui turned with him, hands deep in pockets as the blond glowered under his goggles. Sazh suspiciously eyed them, inching away.
"It's more than you think." Hope sighed, preparing to leave. "Look, Sazh is correct. It will do anyone of you no good." And left them contemplating on the changes in the dark.
Scene XVIV. Behind the Scenes
Alternate opening of Scene IV – Seek
Noel landed painfully on the ground. He shook his head and looked for Serah. He panicked until a weight shoved him back down. His head slammed back to the earth. "Was looking for you," he mumbled in the dirt. Noel pushed himself up on his arms, patiently waiting until she rolled off. "You know, I don't mind, but we should really stop how we end up like this with my face on the ground. You hurt?"
He felt the trembling on his back when she groaned, "I think I bumped my head bounced on your back several times."
"That explains why I'm numb. Other than that, do you need a moment?" He wanted to search her himself but he didn't want to move her. He was getting used to this.
"Just a bit, Noel." She sighed and he felt the cool air brush his neck.
He collapsed again. "Take your time."
Stream scene in Scene XII – Glass Part 2
Serah puffed her cheeks to keep in her laughter. Maybe she shouldn't have dragged Noel.
His harem pants made it difficult for him to navigate so he stood completely still, irritation lining his mouth. He directed his darkened gaze to her. "You. If you had the littlest bit of patience, this wouldn't happen. What were you thinking just dragging me here? I'm soaked, Serah."
"But Noel, this is fun!"
"What's fun for you doesn't mean it's fun for me."
He endured humiliation when even Mog started splashing him. Serah took pity and tried to keep Mog away from Noel. But when Mog repeatedly kept dodging her, Serah chased after him. Her foot hit a rock and she fell.
She heard him curse just as she hit the water. The ground shook and water splashed just as hands lifted her out of the stream and brought her back to land. "You keep doing this and I'll be thinking you're out to get me." She saw his frown when he parted strands stuck on her face. "There, that's better. Looked like you took a nasty fall but I don't see anything wrong. How are you feeling?"
She beamed and felt his grip tighten. "I got you to move!"
Roaming around Academia sometime after in Scene XIV – Runway.
He flipped her hood up to hide the familiar armor shop showing new displays. Serah kept chatting as they passed by and he relaxed. He smiled down at her as she laughed. When Noel realized he couldn't see her face, he frowned and tugged the hood back down. Serah looked at him questionably and he shook his head in response.
"You were saying something about 'hoops?'"
Peek at Serah's slyness in Scene III – Unforgivable
They were doing it again.
Noel halted when Serah suddenly turned back towards him, that calculating glint in her eyes. He quirked a brow at her in question, resting his hands on his hips. "You know, there's always this voice in my head that tries to warn me about something when you look at me like that."
"I don't know what you mean," Serah said with wide eyes.
"Oh really? Huh, must be all in my head then." Just on cue, a group of uniformed women approached him, flyers in their hands. He politely took one as they lingered a little too long. Serah had positioned herself to his front, a hand gripping his sleeve as their heads touched to view the flyer.
"We should check this out, Noel." Serah said, tilting to look up at him. Her lips brushed his jaw and he was tempted to turn to her.
"If you want," he began and she looped an arm around his arm to pull him. "Thanks for the heads up," Noel said in parting to the women before Serah yanked him away. "You're in a rush today," he said carefully, noting how her nails dug in.
"I don't know what you mean," Serah said again, slowing their pace.
Another night, another possible accident in Scene XV. Masquerade
Serah was limping past Sazh who stopped her in concern. "Hey there! What's going on with your leg?"
Serah smiled, "It's not a big deal. I just landed on it when I fell out of bed."
His boom of laughter filled the air. "I know how that is! Looks like we need to get a bigger bed!"
"No, no," Serah said quickly. "It's just a one time thing. It won't be me next," Serah muttered. "Noel pushed me off." Well, not technically but she put the blame on him anyway. Fine, she may have jumped and tackled him to the bed when they were fighting about something little, they kept wrestling, although more accurately, keeping her claws off his face. They rolled around in the bed until the last roll ended with her in the air and straight to the floor. Noel miserably tried to avert it and carried her back to the bed as she bit on his shirt to keep from crying. And when she was about to verbally mouth the words, it suddenly struck that it didn't sound right at all. "Er..."
The older man locked his eyes on the incoming target. "Hey, Sazh. How's it – Whoa!" and tackled him on sight.