I wanted to base this idea off a quote I heard about our lives being like drops in the ocean, and that without those drops, the ocean would be greatly lacking something. I kinda take that into consideration here with Serah's memories. Although a bit vague, I went about it with prose. There is a little bit of humor here, so be forewarned, caution yourself if you don't like humor.

Other than that, I hope I didn't get to sappy, as this is dramatic too. Enjoy! :)


A Margin of Repose

Compared to the 200 AF location, the future version of Oerba was rather serene and less disturbed temporally than its historical counterpart. The skies were clear and a crystalline blue, the sun unbarred by any remnant of precipitous clouds.

The bone-white sand below Serah's feet reflected its glistening light. Her eyes scanned the broad expanse of the tranquil water before her prior to locking with the phenomenal display of Cocoon in the distance.

Noel had dropped his twin-blades in a dusty dune, securing them firmly in a stout position. His eyes flickered promptly over Serah's prone frame, allowing himself a tangent of a minute to examine her beauty with excruciating detail. She had become more than an ally to him and greater than a friend in what seemed to be these past several weeks. And therein, her fate was alarmingly cognate to Yeul's, which disturbed and frightened the young Guardian.

I have to protect her, at ALL costs, his mind discreetly stated, though he could feel the lingering feelings of regret and shame creep into his heart at the memory of the seerress's death.

Serah slipped her hands around the crossbow/bow-sword contraption she had been using since Noel dawned in New Bodhum to give it to her. Apparently, Mog was asleep and didn't transform into true form upon her ginger touch.

A sleek wash towel was extracted from her pack clinging to her left thigh. The delicate cloth was feverishly draped over the dulling weapon, a sign that Mog hadn't recently bathed in some time.

He couldn't help himself any longer; the reticence was deliberately aching his restraint on breaking the silence. "Polishing your weapon, I see?" An affectionate smile was scribbled on his face.

His breath hitched when an errant breeze ruffled her wine-colored ponytail, sending it whipping past her shoulder blade. She shoved herself away from the ground, bowing to retrieve the weapon and whirling around to face him. "I feel a bit unnerved about Mog. Something is definitely bothering him," she added.

He crossed his arms, arching a brow. "How so?" His mouth compressed into a neutral line.

Her eyes flashed over his expression before lowering to the transformed Mog in her arms. "I...I'm not sure..." She crossed over to the place where Noel's twin-blades were laid to rest. "I think something terrible happened to him here in the past."

Noel immediately became grave as she uttered this. He tipped his head in acknowledgement. "This is his former home," he said too automatically, catching himself off-guard.

Serah sighed inwardly and failed to notice. Her nimble hands curved around the dwarfed knife of Noel's that acted as a stabbing device. She juggled the crossbow into her other hand and readjusted her grip on Noel's second weapon. She wistfully closed her eyes.

"That totally slipped my mind." Serah struggled to keep her sangfroid at a solid level. "Although, I wouldn't be surprised if Mog is intentionally not looking after himself..."

Noel sauntered over to Serah and knelt before her, swiftly seizing the bulkier weapon that was still protruding from the earth. He rose to her height, smiled fondly, and gently accepted the other blade she offered. He could almost sense her heart drumming in her chest a thousand times quicker when he grazed her shoulder with his one gauntleted hand.

"Everyone neglects something at some point in their life." He breezed past her, the tip of his Hunter's Knot brushing her forearm a little. His eyes closed as he reminisced over Yeul again. "...I know I did..."

Serah immediately turned around and knew that Noel was trying to dam his tears, but they began to uncontrollably streak down his face. "Noel..."

His heart clenched, so he forcibly swallowed his emotions before pacing over to the rancid carcass grilling over a meager fire. "The behemoth is taking a while to cook. Dinner will probably be ready in about an hour, if that's alright with you."

Serah smiled wryly at his back, but frowned faintly. She didn't want him to detect her ennui in him not disclosing his turmoil in its entirety, but Serah has come to accept that Noel kept his heart more stonewalled to preserve his sanity and outward mirth. He wished to be lighthearted to all and not heed to any cues of dolor that might lower the spirits of those around him.

He returned to twirling the spit that pierced a slab of shoulder meat. It sizzled softly as the brunette grounded its spinning motion with another branch. He slumped against a log and sunk onto a boulder being overshadowed by the abandoned schoolhouse beyond.

Serah returned to polishing her weapon, but Noel's dismissive demeanor was beginning to disturb her process. Eyes connected with deep onyx cloth once again before refocusing her attention on "cleansing" Mog of his smudges.


"How do you prefer your meat?" Noel asked kindly, amiably glazing Serah over with his sapphire eyes.

Serah budged from her bucolic position, having formerly entered a mode of meditation that seemed to appease her jittery nerves. Her eyes almost melted when Noel gazed at her with that...warmth...that endearing tenderness that only someone like him could show a girl like her.

I cannot think that way! She chided herself on musing about Noel in such a way, especially when the thought of her betrothal entered her mind. "I really don't care."

Noel flinched at her snappishness, not knowing if she deliberately spoke to him that way or not. "Alright, then." He dropped his chin and looked back at the revolving stick in the smoldering campfire. A tear crawled its way down his chin.

She selected a good second to pace back and forth anxiously, trying to distill the shivers that spiraled down her spine. But it did no apparent good at all.

"Noel, when did Caius become a threat?" she asked tentatively, ambling back and forth to temper her pounding heart rate. She paused to see a discrepant shift to darkness cloud his face.

He savagely poked at the meat slab on the spit. A dangerous growl began to bellow from his vocal cords, his voice sinisterly low. "Yeul and I...we became the only humans left to wander the dying world alone..."

Her eyes widened, feet falling into step as she sat beside him. "He abandoned you two? I thought he was trying to protect the seerress!"

He shifted nervously away from her, drawing out an expressive sigh. "Caius was a Guardian..." Serah could detect the acerbity that devoured his composure at this point. "Point being, he was...as in past tense."

"A Guardian?"

Noel's gaze flickered to the soles of his sandals muddled with granules of sand. Caius had an ardent loyalty in the period of time him, Yeul, and Noel were still considered family, but his venality had radically transformed him into defrauding villain whose sole wish was to destroy any semblance of time in this world.

"We swore by a pact to keep a peace between ourselves and the residents of the Farseer's Settlement, but..."

"He changed...didn't he, Noel?" Serah inquired cautiously, making sure she didn't touch upon a sorely sensitive spot for the man. A pang ripped through her heart when she witnessed his eyes glisten with unshed tears. "I...I'm sorry, I-I didn't mean-"

"Caius had a unique bond with Yeul...the Yeul of my era," he interrupted, interlocking his hands behind his head and lounging back. "I...I didn't know that with each one's passing, a new reincarnation of the same Yeul would rise up in her place."

Serah's eyes were preoccupied with the gyrating skewer as she tried to stay entranced with its swirling motion, but the overwhelming desire to ascertain his past conquered the best of her. "Does that mean Yeul's visions are a curse?"

Noel nodded somberly, desperately trying to avert her gaze. "Yes...and I didn't know any of this before I was swept away into Valhalla." His lip twitched as his eyes narrowed. "Caius chose to keep this secret from me."

When his voice was unleashed as a rasp, Serah comfortingly laid a hand on his shoulder. He jolted immediately from her crisp touch, shoulders sagging despondently. Despite the numerous battle encounters they had together with the monstrosities throughout time, Serah's hands were surprisingly soft and supple, pliable fingers cradling his shoulder. Then, blue aligned with blue, surreptitiously meeting each other's gaze.

His heart stopped in that instant, caught in the entrapment of affection and understanding. Serah was a very compassionate, caring person Noel was beginning to cherish more and more each day. If only she were to succumb to Yeul's exact fate-

"Noel, please promise me you won't give in to Caius..." Her hand caught his wrist. "...Just this once..."

The raw beauty of her adorable azure eyes entranced Noel. This woman, who so shockingly shared a parallel distinction with Yeul, had captured his heart, whether he intended it to or not. His voice faltered when he strived to say something, just anything that would prolong this magical moment between them.

The food hissed on the brochette, the flames scorching the skin of the cauterized meat a rust bronze. Smoke sizzled from the pockets of escaping air in the hide.

"L-Looks like it's done!" Noel stammered, jostling the stick momentarily before hoisting it off into the padded sand. Fetching his dual pair of blades from beside the stash of firewood behind his shoulder, he sliced the stocky wad of meat into disks, arranging them into an elegant pile.

Serah looked on amorously at the prolific performance of his actions and how skilled he was as a hunter. "Seems like you know a lot more than you let on about outdoors survival."

He offered her an enigmatic smile, the incinerating heat from his cheeks still not leaving him alone. He intently refocused on his cutting job, but Serah's allure and her gracefulness kept addling him. Even just sitting there in a ladylike fashion and watching him assiduously had his faced unremittingly flushed.

He gestured towards the collection of meat between them. "Go ahead. Help yourself."

Serah nodded and wrinkled her nose before grabbing her share. "I wonder who came up with the name for Gran Pulse," she blurted suddenly, crossing her legs and forking the food with a skewer. "I mean, it doesn't sound like a traditional name for a planet, you know."

Noel chortled at her query and by the nature of her inquisitiveness, relieved that she shifted the gears of this conversation. She really was cute when she pinched the bridge of her nose when embarrassed or half-smiled bashfully when issuing a comical retort to his questions.

"Our ancestors figured Pulse should be more than grand, like...say, spectacular," he joked, gnawing at his food portion. "But spectacular was too long-winded for them, so they agreed on 'Gran' for short."

Serah eyed him suspiciously before scarfing down more meat. "Nice comeback, Noel." She choked down laughter. "Like Lightning's Blitz Squadron, it seems everyone is inspired by name-alikes these days. You know, Thunder and Blitz. It amazes me, really."

Noel rubbed his scalp in consternation. "There has to be a pun associated with New Bodhum," he cracked, swallowing a morsel. "There just has to be."

She glowered at him and playfully kneed him in the shin. "Hey! Our wise founder invented the name. It wasn't my idea!" She reeled forward and drove her heels in the sand. "Even Lightning opposed it! Her and I argued our case, but Snow inevitably won!"

Noel's heart lurched in his throat as he froze. A wave of melancholy passed over him as he heard her mention that accursed name. He grumbled and pushed away from the boulder, impassiveness replacing his former friskiness. His mouth tightened with a trace of anger, vexation just bubbling beneath the surface.

Serah noticed this transformation too quickly. There was no way she could remove her gaze, though her heart became anguished by the sudden deterioration of his mood. She got up and stepped towards him, his distasteful scowl deepening. When she attempted to reach for his wrist again, Noel tore it away, opting for folding his arms over his chest.

"Don't touch me."

She grimaced at his harsh tone and didn't understand why he was being so cruel to her. She snarled at him in return, not fully comprehending what was going on. "I didn't do anything to you! Why are you treating me like this?"

Noel instantly regretted his trenchant words and bowed his head, remorse quickly chewing at his anger. His hands fisted at his sides. "I-I'm sorry...I didn't mean to..."

Serah peered at him deeply, her gaze unwavering, hands curling also. She took several steps forward. "This is about Snow, isn't it?" She harped louder, fiercely throwing her hands in the air. "Isn't it?"

Noel didn't respond.

"Look, I don't know what your problem is," she started accusingly, "but Snow is my fiancé, and I will not stand here and let you insult my prospective husband like that! I love him very much and nobody is allowed to badmouth him, do you understand?"

"Serah, he's-"

Serah jammed her foot, hard. "Do you understand me?"

Noel dropped his eyes, delimiting his anger to the best of his ability. "But he's not-"

"I said, 'Do you understand me'?"

That was it. He couldn't muzzle the chains of infuriation anymore. His entire body swiveled around to accost her, ferociously spewing anger from his lips. "Serah!" he snapped, needing to show her exactly who she was extolling. She was taken aback. "Snow neglected you and the only thing you can say is how wonderful he is? He betrayed his promise by leaving you alone!"

Tears welled up in her eyes at his explosive outburst, but the integrity with which it was stated was blindingly agonizing. The fortress of denial was crumbling beneath Noel's infallible conviction against Snow, and she inwardly cursed herself for allowing anyone but her beloved fiancé to rupture her barriers. This just simply was not right at all, the way he could dare arraign Snow for something that he never did in the first place!

How dare you...! Serah's face abruptly deviated away from his gaze, jaw and teeth clenched very tight. Her hands trembled in their balled fists beginning to draw blood from nails to skin. Her lips twitched frenetically, whimpers and light sobs escaping from her throat. Noel's radical contempt towards Snow was legitimate considering his own traumatic past and the one girl who left him behind years before calamity toppled Pulse's balance.

Stepping away from the fractious man, Serah shrinkingly turned on her heel and dashed away before he could explode at her like her sister did so many times before. For only a split second was Noel immobilized by her decampment, though it wasn't the first time since their trip to the Sunleth Waterscape that she had pushed him away.

His stupor was fractured as he realized the sheer magnitude of his actions. "Wait! Serah!"

He lurched forward and sprung after her, legs swiftly initiating the desired actions of his mind. He caught her by the elbow before she had the opportunity to completely flee, pulling her against him. His hands grasped both wrists and wrenched them away from her sides in order to stabilize her in front of him. She writhed as soon as his grip contracted harder around her.

"Let me go!" she commanded, trying to disengage herself from Noel's constricting hold. "Dammit, Noel!"

Noel's muscles clamped beneath his skin as his core became rigidified to steel Serah in one place while gently narrowing the distance between each other. "I will not." He cleared his throat to solidify his point. "I simply can't…"

Serah gasped at the drawl present in the last word, slamming her eyes shut when memories of Snow's plethora of failed promises flooded her brain. Her body quaked as her knees became fluctuant. "N-Noel…"

He pressed her to his chest, shielding from the vagrant breeze that shifted and fluttered the skirt of her dress. Noel cradled her tenderly to allay the tears stinging her cheeks. A flashback to a Yeul half his stature and being rocked in his embrace blazed in his mind. From that retrospection, Noel tightened his arms around her protectively.

"I won't let him hurt you anymore." His credence was earthshattering to her since it had been a long time someone's solicitous words had touched her ears like that. "You deserve…so much better, Serah."

She scoffed at his words, but sobs only further erupted from her core. His words frightened her beyond conviction, but it was his attitude towards her right now that affrighted her. She stopped him right there, renewing her vigor to push him away again.

"A-After this…I plan on…being Mrs. Villiers…" she quipped shakily, anger refueling her veins. But her voice dropped to barely a decibel below a whisper. "I-I love hi...m…"

Noel's stomach knotted at this and his features became disfigured. His hand landed lithely on her shoulder, his tenderheartedness returning fully with great resonance. "He abandoned you…just like that." He refolded her in his arms, stroking her hair gently. "Once we find Lightning, I'm damn assured she isn't going to pass on her blessings to the two of you anymore. I wouldn't put it past her to pummel Snow to a pulp for his living arrangement with you during her absence."

Serah's eyes broadened. "L-Lightning…? Who's that?"

He deadpanned and was nonplussed by that alarming statement. But then a mental sledgehammer struck him in the brain when he realized what she meant. In the fugacious seconds that passed in their poignant exchange of affection, Serah's mind had inexplicably dumped its load of contents onto the floor, and the memories of her sister had evaporated.

He crushed her against him, needing to revive her true character once again. "Serah…" His own sapphire orbs watered mercilessly. "Don't tell me…you forgot who your sister was..."

Her shoulders caved as she harshly jammed him away from her, her face blanched. Sniffles replaced the colossal yelling bout she had earlier. What excruciated Noel were her chapfallen eyes; as doe-like and wide as they were, he hated seeing sorrow consume them. It tore his heart to shreds.

She paced back towards her repose by the campfire and slumped into a different sitting position behind it. Her knees were tucked into her chest, fingers interlaced around them, and her head was buried in her lap. "We altered the future…" Her voice was faltering excessively, as observable by her sense of ineptitude. "That means we changed the past…"

Noel strode over to the inflamed campfire and knelt on one knee beside the fetal-positioned Serah. "Serah." When she didn't acquiesce, he leaned over and let his hand linger over her hairline. "Serah, look at me."

"No…I can't…"

"Serah, please," he persisted, twiddling his fingers with her thin pink strands.

She shook her head, but his hand became more tangled in hair as he lovingly caressed her scalp. This evoked another depressive response from her lips. "There's no point."

He wasn't one to capitulate to defeat. "Serah, I need you to tell me what you remember." He continued onward, joining both hands to tenderly massage her crown. "There's something seriously wrong if my memories of Yeul are returning as we clear the paradoxes but yours are fading."

She sniveled, trying to shy away from him. "M-My past is gone…Noel…"

He recoiled with a grimace and cringed, knowing full well the consequences of their dauntless escapade. In a forewarning, Caius had remarked in the former version of this locale that if they changed the future, they altered the past. And because their bold peregrination had progressed this far, there was no doubt in his mind that many allotments placed ideally throughout the timeline had either been transmuted or erased.

His hands fleetingly flew away from her head but returned to trace the tip of her jawline and tilt her chin to meet his gaze. "Serah, I promise you, we will get your memories back. I know that if we correct the whole timeline, everything will be returned to normal and you'll get to be with Lightning and Snow again."

Tears crawling down her cheeks in a torrent crushed him. The frangible little girl he met in New Bodhum had matured exponentially, but she still didn't deserve to languish from her traumas like she did. It broke his heart, and there had to be something he could do to remedy the situation.

Glancing at the thin, frail line of her beautiful lips, where a flimsy film of water trailed beneath them weightlessly, Noel quickly formulated a plan to halt her tears. But his lionhearted intentions failed when Serah uttered her next proclamation.

"Snow was the love of my life… A-And I wanted this one person…to be in my wedding…" Her head drooped as another wave of melancholy swelled through her. "But she's gone."

He crept closer to her and used his hands to urge her to extend her legs to her left side where she was leaning into her right hip. The fore of her body was entirely exposed and vulnerable, but she tipped her head up anyway and was ensnared by the strikingly blue eyes of her comrade. Their eyes locked, and Serah found herself incapable of breaking the gaze.

Her knees arced at sharp angle. "Noel…"

He cradled her face in his hands and wiped away the stray tears streaming down her face. But then the smooth tracing action of his fingers against her cheeks mesmerized him, and he was lost in her eyes, which almost sucked him in like a cerulean whirlpool.

Serah shivered at his ministrations, a wave of pleasure passing through her body at the explicit time one hand frugally grazed her thigh with timid fingers. Noel's hand completely encased her upper thigh while the other one caressed her right cheek.

And his voice…oh, his voice…it was so smooth… Serah was just hypnotized by the sheer huskiness and tenderness present. She saw how his face dipped downwards and descended slowly towards hers.

His face stopped midway, stunning her and leaving her speechless. "Serah," he said curtly. "Serah…" His voice cooed her name a second time extensively, his hand brushing along her thigh in a vertical motion.

"Noel, what are you-"

Pressing a finger against rose lips, Noel hushed her. "Shhh…" His hand came to nestle the back of her head, lips parting to verbalize one last sentence. "Everything is going to be alright now…"

"But I just-"

Her complaints were interrupted when Noel captured her lips with his. Upon immediate contact with the alarming suppleness of her lips, Noel deepened the kiss feverishly, his entire face and body torrid with an unfamiliar heat. He moaned her name as he wrapped his arms completely around her and crushed her body against his chest.

Serah was dumbstruck by his ardent display of passion, but was astounded by the formidable desire to kiss him back. His tongue probed her lips for entry, which she heatedly obliged allowed access. They tangled in a fervid dance of tongue warfare, relentlessly stabbing each other with their warm tongues. She craned her neck and positioned herself to mold into him, permitting him to envelop her body with a powerful embrace around her torso.

He kissed her over and over, mumbling her name in between kisses. "Serah." His hands darted to her cheeks as he cupped them in his hands, his mouth sliding down her face and neck in a flurry of kisses. When he found the pulse point at her nape, he salved it over with his tongue and lapped at it.

Serah wailed languidly when she felt suction from his lips. He ravaged her neck and collarbone repeatedly, dragging his lips across her bare upper chest to the other side, where he thoroughly sucked at her other pulse point. He returned to commandeering her lips with his own, tugging on the lower lip and nibbling on it hungrily. Their kissing augmented with passion as he laid her down gently on the sand and caressed her forearms with his fingertips. Making sure not to coerce Serah beyond her boundaries, Noel decelerated his assault and kissed her more tenderly, gently glossing her lips with heart-leaden kisses.

She was on fire, and her whole body ached…no, craved for this man to touch her everywhere. He was a masterful kisser and one hell of an aphrodisiac, as his ministrations on her searing mouth nearly drove her to the edge. But she also noted how genuine and sweet he was with her body, not pushing her past her comfort zone and clearly respecting her boundaries.

She briefly distanced his head with her hand. "Noel…"

Bemusement, as she predicted, colored his face red. "Serah? What's wrong? Did I hurt you?"

Her eyes betrayed the paradoxical battle in her heart, holding nothing but longing for the young man. "No…it's just that…" Tears rimmed her eyes once again, but she didn't dare avert his gaze because she wanted him to know all of her. "I…"

"Serah…"

"Please, let me finish." Her forehead creased and her face crumpled as the tears cascaded down her face, blotting the sand with moisture. "I…I'm still engaged to Snow…Noel…"

He started to back away, but shockingly, Serah stayed him. "I need to stop this, Serah. You can't be unfaithful…no, I can't cause you to break your engagement."

Noel couldn't muster the courage to face her, so he spun and ambled away from her in gaping steps. He didn't progress far, though, as Serah dragged him back with her miniscule hands. Her fingers spread outwards on his biceps.

"I can't ignore this." And to Noel's heartstopping surprise, the lissome girl stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips gently to his. His heart sped up in double-time, galloping quicker than a horse.

Her mouth left his momentarily, leaving him perplexed. Battle-scarred hands apprehensively covered her shoulders. "Serah, are you thinking clearly?" He squeezed them roughly. "After all this is over, you're going to get married! You can't possibly want this…" His voice softened, lowering drastically. "You just…can't…even if…"

When he trailed off, Serah locked eyes with him, taking her face in his hands. "My…My heart is torn…" She looked at him gravely, pushing into him a bit. "Nevertheless…Snow made a promise…a big promise…"

Extracting her hands, Serah backpedaled from him and gazed melancholically at the campfire for some time. Noel simply continued to survey her movements, standing there inertly and absorbing everything. "But…at the same time…he lied…He lied! To me of all people! How can we return to our normal lives after everything that's happened?"

As her eyes watered with emotion, Noel closed the distance between them again and embraced her. "So you understand what will happen to you if you decide to stay with Snow…" His voice was very strained, but he recognized the fact that Serah deserved more than she was receiving from her former fiancé. The man had already evanesced into the paradox after their trip to Sunleth, yet it almost seemed as if his spirit remained encapsulated in Serah's engagement necklace, never to disappear until she herself decided to stop pining for him in her heart.

Serah nodded solemnly, a tear dripping down her cheek and landing on Noel's shoulder, but he didn't mind. "Y-Yeah…but I can't shake this feeling like I'm supposed to be with him or something terrible will happen to me."

Noel's arms tightened around her. "I will protect you no matter what." He nudged her back slightly and gazed into her baby blues. "I swear by it on my life."

She wanted to immerse herself in his ocean eyes, but before she could, they slid shut as his lips landed on hers yet again, this time more gradually. His fingers drew tender lines across her cheeks and neck, finally settling at her waist as they crawled up the canvass of her back. Serah deepened the kiss and wrapped her arms around his neck, bracing herself against him as her knees buckled beneath her. Noel's arm caught her in time and scooped her up whilst kissing her. Serah clung to him desperately as her hands shot up to tousle his hair.

His breathing became spasmodic as he paced away from the bivouac. Noel knelt gingerly in the soft sand and stationed them both directly on the water's vertex. His lips were painfully swollen from the excessive kissing, but he wasn't going to stop, laying down Serah again and rolled on top of her carefully. This time, he allowed his hands to roam all over her body while he pillaged her body with kisses, descending down her neck and arms.

Since Serah's mouth was free at last, she was able to groan and moan Noel's name. "My…Guardian…Noel…"

His lips paved a path upwards again, sealing her mouth intensely. He broke away and paused, staring into her eyes. The starlight was twinkling vibrantly in their sapphire depths. "Serah…" He leaned back and grabbed Serah, clutching her close to him. "Beloved Etro…I love you, Serah…" he worded breathlessly, rocking her against his chest. "Gods, I love you with all my heart. More than Yeul, more than anyone else."

Her heart fluttered at his beautiful words, the sound very dulcet to her ears. "N-N-No-oel…"

There. She was ensnared just like he planned. Her beauty beneath the starlight was simply bewitching, so much that Noel couldn't hold back from stealing her lips again. He repeatedly kissed her and kissed her eyelids, sensing that tears were bound to spring sooner or later.

You're mine now, my love. His warm thoughts caused even him to blush profusely. That brute can't hurt you anymore. I won't let him.

They broke the kiss together, but as soon as they did, Noel's hand returned to her face. She closed her eyes and leaned into his touch. "I promise…I will be your Guardian…" he cooed, a sincere smile widening on his face as he stroked her cheek, "forever..."

Then Serah's eyes flared vibrantly. She shoved Noel inadvertently away and jumped to her feet. Noel shot upright and caught her in his arms. "I remember...I think-"

"Serah?" he called out worriedly, seizing both of her wrists and placing them on his chest. "What's the matter?"

She shook her head and smiled that angelic smile Noel clandestinely adored. He pressed his forehead against hers. "I think I finally know who Lightning is." She desisted, waited, and then beamed dazzlingly. "She's my sister, Noel! My sister! How could I have forgotten something so trivial as that?"

He blushed but returned the expression and kissed her on the nose. "Because sometimes when you save the timeline, not everything stays the same." His hands fell away as he stalked towards the fire, though he turned around for a split second. "And you're no exception. I admit, sometimes I would have a bit of a memory dump myself, especially when I was in that place before meeting Lightning."

Serah doubled over in laughter and joined him, intertwining their fingers together. "As long as you don't have a data dump from this night, I'll be fine." She tugged on his arm and dashed to the campground, leading the way. But she stopped in her tracks, causing Noel to bump into her back, when a befuddled Mog, fully risen and rejuvenated, hovered over their fire.

His feline-like features adorned an indignant expression as he batted his wand everywhere. "Kupo! Kupopopo!"

Serah and Noel both turned scarlet as they realized the implication of Mog possibly watching them from afar. Mog peered at them, unamused and swiftly flying to them, swatting them in the face with his baton.

"H-Hey!" They cried in unison, stumbling backwards as Mog continued to assault them.

"That's for leaving me all alone!" He flitted about their heads, aggressively swirling around Serah's for particular emphasis. "And you didn't finish cleaning me, kupo! Meanie Miss Farron, kupo!"

Serah waved her hands frantically, trying to rid of the angry Mog. "Okay, okay! I'm sorry! I didn't mean to neglect you." She shooed him away with a flick of the wrist. "I'm not Meanie Miss Farron!"

Mog glowered and darted way, but maintained a sketchy look. "You two were totally at it, kupo!" His "eyebrows" slanted while he pointed the wand accusingly at Serah. "You're going to be in soo much trouble with Snow, kupo!"

She frowned, shamelessly grabbing Noel's hand and holding it up for Mog to see. "He left me, Mog! What did you expect me to do? I was just-"

Noel untwined his hand and pressed a single finger to Serah's lips. "I got this, Serah," he muttered, taking a step towards Mog, who was anticipating his response. "Mog." He leaned in and whispered softly. "She's had it really rough…and…just take it easy with her… I had to cheer her up because…she forgot who Lightning was."

But then he obviously must have done another data dump and forgot that Serah was there honing in on every word he said. "Noel…Are you telling me that's the reason you…you know…"

Noel grabbed her chin and kissed her unabashedly in front of Mog. The poor levitating critter almost keeled over and died at the site, but sighed grievously and fluttered away. "Whatever. It's your death wish, kupo, not mine, kupo!" He accelerated towards the campfire, but before that, he twirled and sneered. "And by the way, I had no part in this, if Snow asks!"

They shrugged as they permitted the airborne creature to retire for the evening. Serah unleashed a muffled sigh and sunk in the sand, crossing her legs daintily. "I'm beginning to think Mog has a crush of his own."

He hunkered down next to her and draped his arm over her shoulder. "Hmm…" But he decided to rearrange their position and shuffle Serah into his lap. The pink-haired girl tilted back and rested her head against his chest, feeling the sturdy resonation of his heart thundering away. His arms effortlessly snaked around her waist, which ignited a vicious palpitation throughout her body. "Someone has a bigger crush."

Serah guffawed at his horrible attempt at a jest, playfully elbowing him in the stomach. "Yeah, with a certain death wish on their bed!"

She clambered away from him, but Noel kept his arms locked around her, restricting her movement. He trapped her to his chest and nearly squeezed the living life out of her. His lips graced the crown of her head. "At least I can be assured the angelic Farron can give me a decent funeral." He chuckled in spite of his terrible drollery, caressing Serah's hips with interwoven hands. "Am I right?"

Serah settled into his embrace and sighed in defeat, knowing that in the humor department, she couldn't flounce Noel in the slightest. "Ah, Noel, I'm sure Lightning can give you a better one than I can. After all, I'm nothing like my older sister, not in the least."

Noel laughed again and shook his head disapprovingly. Serah's head turned partly to apprehend his expression, which was his mouth tugged upwards in a grin. "Ha! You're like the splitting image of her!" Serah frowned, to which Noel responded by embracing her tighter and nuzzling her neck with his nose. "Remember when we were looking for those colorful miniflan in 400 AF? You didn't hesitate to explode at them then!"

Her face hardened, but just then, Noel spun her around in his arms and kissed her deeply. His forearm acted as a support for her head while her body dipped so that she fell into his arms bridal style. When he parted, a tender look crossed his face as he straightened Serah upright against his arm, holding her there while enjoying the spectacular beachfront under the cosmos.

"Are you comfortable?" Noel asked quietly, holding her close and purring in her ear.

She sighed and snuggled against him, gradually succumbing to a sanguine slumber. "Good night, Noel. I love you, too." She then closed her eyes and dozed off against him.

His head was propped on her shoulder, surmising he would provide a superintending position over her for the night. But there was nothing wrong with that because in fact, that was the thing he really wanted to do: be her Guardian for an eternity. For now, his eyes would staidly be engrossed in watching the ocean waves toss and turn from a vantage point on the Ashensand. Eyes curled downwards, Noel meditatively nodded off and snoozed in his sitting position, Serah in his lap and his hair tickling her forehead.

Our future is full of hope. Serah, please don't worry. I will stand by your side here to shelter you. Forever. Don't ever forget that.

~fin

"Our memories are like drops in the ocean. Each drop is miniscule but still significant because without it, the ocean would be bereft of one less intrigue that makes it special. Every memory is important, no matter how cursory our thoughts are."


Okay, it's been a LONG time since I've written anything, at least since high school, so please pardon the poor language and long-windedness of this one one-shot. I just wanted to capture the mood and integrity of Noel and Serah's tragic relationship. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I did writing it. Keep it light on the harsh criticisms and please review. I would greatly appreciate it. Toodles! :)