Author's Note: I'm trying something new here. I haven't seen all that many Yeul/Caius stories on here, so I thought I'd throw one in here and see how it goes. This was another difficult story for me to write (for some reason), so I'd appreciate feedback to see if it seems realistic, or if everyone's still in-character.
And without further ado...
There was something bothering Caius.
It was often hard to tell. Caius was very good at disguising his emotions with a carefully flat expression. His somber nature made him appear withdrawn and stiff at first glance, and his reluctance to speak about himself used to put off all the villagers who tried to strike up a conversation.
But Yeul, who had known him all her life, could recognize the difference between Caius's normal subdued character and this new unease in his eyes.
Yeul sat on one of the large boulders on the hill above the settlement. Below her, Noel ran in frenzied, circular motions; he was trying to coerce the domesticated gold chocobos into the fence for the coming night. She smiled a little, watching him. The giant birds didn't seem impressed with his amateur herding abilities.
Caius was nowhere to be seen.
This absence was, itself, strange: he usually stayed with her like a shadow, always beside or behind Yeul when she was out in the open. She knew that Caius didn't entirely trust Noel to protect her all alone - something Noel lamented to her when Caius went hunting for the evening - and that he preferred to hear about her visions immediately, just after she'd seen them.
Yeul mentally counted other instances that Caius had not been himself recently.
Three days ago he was gone, suddenly, without telling her where he was going. Then he was back again the next day, acting as if nothing had happened. Yeul had been worried; she had wondered if he would come back. When she asked him why he left, Caius had murmured a vague reply and stepped out of the room, citing a task that needed doing.
Yesterday he had abruptly walked away from the seeress statue, just as she was walking up the hill toward him. He had nodded and murmured, "Yeul," but avoided eye contact altogether.
And now today he was gone again. Up before the sun rose.
What is wrong? Yeul wondered. Her small hands tugged at a long strand of her silver hair and she twisted it between her fingers. Is he mad? At... me? She tried to think of something she had done to offend Caius. Perhaps it was the new recipe she had tried, or all those times she had forgotten to hang the clothes to dry. Maybe he was still annoyed about the time she sprained her ankle while playing tag with Noel. Not even a week ago he had caught her staring at him, looking appalled when she blushed and looked away, flustered. Perhaps that was it.
Did I alienate him? This thought made her feel uncomfortable and guilty. Yeul pulled her legs up to her chest and wrapped her arms tightly around them. She looked up into the setting sun and pressed her cheek unhappily against her knees. He must be angry, she concluded. To him, I am still a young girl. I am not old enough to understand the stirrings of the heart.
She pictured Caius's face in her mind: the strong, chiseled features of his nose and chin. The dark eyebrows that arched when he was amused or surprised. The eyes that spoke of his bottled emotions that he showed, like a secret, only to her. The thin, unforgiving mouth that became beautiful when he allowed himself to smile.
Surely I am not the only Yeul to think he is handsome, she told herself. Surely I am not the only one to look at him with affection.
But he was not here with her.
"I must have... offended him," she murmured.
Yeul knew that repairing her companionable relationship with Caius was more important to her than her slowly-emerging feelings toward him. She sighed a little and pushed herself to her feet. "I should go apologize."
She slowly made her way down the hill, her soft boots sliding quietly against the white sand. Noel, who had only managed to push one chocobo into the fence, looked up when she approached. "Oh, hey Yeul," he said amiably. "Sorry this is taking so long. I thought I'd try a different approach this time, but..." He glanced at the giant birds and shrugged. "...it doesn't seem to be working well, does it?"
Yeul smiled. "No, I guess not. But I liked watching you try."
Noel laughed heartily. "Well, at least it made somebody happy."
She stepped close to him and pressed a hand on his bicep. "I'm going inside," she told him. "I'm - I'm tired."
"Already?" Grinning, he gently tugged on a lock of her hair. "Maybe it's because you're getting older. Your birthday's in a few weeks - maybe it's all that growing that's making you tired."
Yeul shook her head, her lips curving helplessly. "Your stories are always so silly, Noel. Good night."
Yeul trotted to the clusters of ramshackle buildings that lined the two dirt roads in the silent village. She started towards Caius's rooms but stopped, wondering if he might not instead be in one of the more obvious places; at this time of night, Caius was usually in the storehouse salting the remains of the dinner to prepare it for drying.
She walked to the storehouse and stepped inside, her eyes automatically following the shelves of dehydrated fruit and cured meat. There, at the rear of the shadowy room, was Caius. He stood with his back to her; he hadn't heard her come in.
"Caius," she said quietly.
She watched his shoulders tense. Slowly he turned to face her, his light eyes almost luminous in the darkness. "Yeul," he greeted her, equally quietly.
"Caius, I..." She blinked and looked down. More of her hair had made its way into her hands and she twisted the silver strands around and around her index finger. "I wanted to tell you that I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you uneasy or to make light of our relationship. I will always treasure our friendship." Even if it never turns into anything more, her mind added.
Caius didn't reply. Yeul looked up in time to see the expression of misery on his face before he quickly wiped it away. "I was not offended," he said slowly.
"You weren't?" She couldn't stop the smile of relief from lighting her face. "I'm glad. You acted so distant, and I thought..."
Her words trailed away when she caught sight of what he was holding: long strips of bahamut jerky, half-wrapped in oilskin to guard against the weather. She glanced at his travel bags, which lay open on the table behind him.
"You are... leaving," she whispered.
Her realization triggered a vision: Caius, leaving through a shining gate, the dying moon hanging above him in the sky. Caius, traveling through a shifting golden corridor. Caius, in a world of sun. Caius, in a world of rain. Caius, Caius, Caius -
Yeul swayed on her feet. Caius crossed the distance between them in two strides and caught her as her knees buckled beneath her. He swore quietly and lowered her to the ground, kneeling at her side. "I'm sorry, Yeul."
After a few moments her sight cleared. Yeul blinked at Caius, her green eyes bright. "You are leaving."
His eyes flickered away. "Soon," he admitted.
He only shut his eyes.
"Caius. Don't leave." She pressed a hand on his chest. "Please, I..." How could she describe the cold claws of fear and panic that were squeezing her heart? If he would only look at her, then he could see the pleading horror behind her eyes. "I - I need you."
"I cannot stay." Caius pulled away and stood, towering over her. "I... I can't. Not this time."
"But..." Yeul watched as Caius walked back to the table and purposefully continued preparing travel rations. I can't let him leave, she thought. Her heart was beating wildly in her chest. I have to make him see. "But you can't leave," she said in a rush. "I - I think I love you."
Caius stilled. Yeul waited, but he didn't turn. The seconds turned into minutes as she stared at his back. She thought he would at least turn to raise his eyebrows incredulously, or smile at her, or - or something. But he didn't. He was still as rigid as the moment she had confessed.
Yeul took a slow breath, her eyes filling with tears at Caius's silent rejection. How can he say nothing? How can he simply stand there-
Suddenly she knew. "Another Yeul told you she loved you," she said quietly, her raspy voice giving an oddly dreamy quality to her words.
"Yes." Caius bowed his head. "You did, many years ago. I have loved you in every lifetime, but only once did you say you loved me in return."
"I do not remember," she said softly. "Sometimes I wish I did. I have lived an eternity with you, but this life is the only one I know."
Yeul was filled with an irrational jealousy for her past lives. It was unfair that Caius could remember each one of her lives with perfect clarity while she had no recollection. I want to remember this, she told herself fiercely. In my next life, I want to remember this moment, when I told Caius how I felt. I want to remember the emotions inside me and how he said-
"You - you love me," she echoed faintly. Hope rose in her chest.
"Yes." He still didn't turn. "But perhaps not in the same way that you do."
Yeul slowly pulled herself to her feet. "You don't need to leave because of me - "
"I do," he said firmly, his tone allowing for no further discussion.
Yeul winced slightly. Her eyes slowly filled with tears and she looked up at the ceiling, preventing even a single drop to slide down her cheeks. "Will I ever see you again?"
He paused. "Not as you are now."
"And what will you remember about me?" She tried to make her voice sound detached and uncaring, but a slight waver of emotion ruined the effect. "When you are traveling the timeline, what will distinguish me from all the others?"
Caius turned to her, but she continued to stare resolutely at the ceiling above his head. "What do you want me to remember?" He questioned softly.
"I..." Yeul was at a loss. Clever word-play didn't come easily to her and Caius had already shredded the reasonings of her heart. Surely he saw through her bravado; what was the point of continuing her charade? "I... don't know," Yeul said miserably. She shut her eyes. Twin tears slid down her pale cheeks. "I don't know what to say."
She heard the snap of the buckles as Caius secured his bag. His feet crunched quietly against the sandy floor as he came to stand before her. "Yeul," he said gently.
She refused to open her eyes.
There was a brief silence, then Yeul felt Caius's large hand press tenderly against the back of her head. He wove his fingers between her silken strands, his thumb slowly rubbing back and forth against her temple. Yeul opened her eyes as Caius bent down to kiss her forehead. "I'm sorry," he murmured against her hair.
Yeul blinked, her long lashes brushing the hair that hung over Caius's shoulder. She only nodded, unsure if she could keep the hurt from her voice.
Caius's hand tightened on her hair and, very gently, he pressed his lips against Yeul's. "Goodbye, Yeul," he whispered. Then he straightened and walked past her. Yeul turned to see him disappearing through the open door and into the night.
Then he was gone.
Noel found her sitting on the roof twenty minutes later, her head turned up to watch the stars. "Tired but can't sleep?" He asked wryly, his hands on his hips.
She looked down at him. "Noel... no, I... I can't sleep."
He grinned knowingly. "Mind if I join you?"
Yeul shook her head and Noel climbed up the ladder leaning against the eves. He plopped himself down beside her. "Well, I finally got all the chocobos inside the fence," he said conversationally. "Took me a while, but I finally did it. I'll get Caius to do it tomorrow; I don't think any of the chocobos like me much." He laughed a little. "Hey, speaking of. Did you ever find Caius? I know you were looking for him earlier today."
"No," she lied softly. "I... didn't find him."
"Well, he's bound to turn up sometime, right?" He leaned back on his arms, staring at the sky. "Don't worry about it, Yeul."
Yeul looked over at him. She was grateful for his natural ability to distract her mind with optimistic frivolities. "Yes," she said slowly. "Thank you... for reminding me."
"Anytime, Yeul." He pointed up at a small circle of stars. "Did I ever tell you about the Summoner constellation? That's the end of her staff right there, and the two stars on either side are her hands..."
A small smile slipped onto Yeul's face. "Yes, you've told me." She looked up at the sky as Noel began to tell about another collection of stars. Noel is right, she thought. Caius is alive somewhere, beneath these stars. The same as me. As long as I know that, then... I don't need to worry.
I won't be entirely lonely.