AN: After re-watching all the skits and seeing the following line that is said by Guy, I just had to write this. I hope you all like it!
Disclaimer: I do now own Tales of the Abyss. Namco does.
"Special condition, huh...? Well, maybe I just need a special lady to condition me."-Guy
It was a brush of the hand that started it, a simple gesture between friends mourning for their losses that, at the time, neither thought much of. There had been a hundred other times when they had almost come into contact with each other, their skin separated by a hair's width, the closest his condition had ever allowed them to be. So, that moment when they finally, finally, touched, seemed like nothing more then the natural evolution of the bond between the two that current events had been denying them. That feeling of ease, combined with the presumed death of their friends, something that devastated her and that he refused to believe, had caused the touch to be quickly forgotten as the world demanded their attentions, leaving it to be a thought for another time.
For both of them, that thought came almost exactly six months after the initial contact.
For him, it had happened when one of his maids brushed past him as she hurried to save the meal she had carelessly allowed to begin to burn, her shoulder knocking against his in a touch that had sent him scurrying to the other side of the kitchen, his body trembling beyond control at the surprised contact he hadn't been prepared for. It had taken a few minutes before he had been able to calm himself enough to regain control, and in that time the blackened remains of his supper had been thrown into a bucket that one of the grooms had brought and the maid had knelt to the floor before him, her head bowed as she apologized profusely for both the food and the touch. The fear and worry that she might lose her job had been clear in her voice, for her transgressions were such that any other noble would have fired her right then and there, as would have been his right, but at that moment, his mind had become distracted by the way her pale hair caught the light to turn it golden, and the worry in her voice was not for a single job, but for an entire world full of people. It had become locked on a single memory that for so long had eluded him, but that now stood out in his mind as clear as day. Thus distracted, it had been with just a slight wave of his hand and a dual command to clean up and not let it happen again that Guy retired to his room, his hands once again shaking even as his smile began to widen.
For her, it had taken no more than a brush of the fingers as a servant handed her a basket to bring the memory to mind, a memory that was a little bit fuzzy in the details, for the thousand of other things that had happened since then had dulled it a bit, but still swimming with the emotions that she hadn't even realized she had felt that day. The remembered flutter of her heart when their bare skin brushed, his fingers against the bit of flesh that showed between her glove and her cuff after she had fired her bow, the heat that had risen in her face and stomach that had gone all but unacknowledged, had caught her so off guard that, for the first time in months, perhaps for the first time since before they had gone to Eldrant, Natalia had laughed, a joyful ringing that had put smiles on the faces of the people that had heard her, glad that their princess had finally seemed to have found some happiness in her life once more. Thanking the servant for the basket, she had hurried back to the castle, almost skipping in a very unladylike way, as she headed back to her room before the council meeting that would occupy the rest of her day.
Seven months after their first touch, over a dozen letters had been sent between the Princess and the Duke, drawing out a plan both of them hoped within the depths of their heart might just work.
The next time they saw each other, they had spent weeks planning it, going over every detail down to the very last second they would need. It was at a political meeting in Yulia City between the heads of both countries and the New Order, which had been temporarily headed by Tritheim until a new Fon Master was chosen, to discuss both the final steps of getting rid of lingering reliance amongst the people on the Score and what role the Order was to play in the new world they were building. Surprisingly, much of their planning was for naught, for it had merely taken Guy asking Emperor Peony if he could accompany him for them both to end up in the city at the same time, and once they were there, finding time alone had been merely a matter of stepping out of the sleeping chambers they had been given and finding one another. With permission gained from an absent Tear by letter, they quickly made use of her home, glad for the privacy it lent to them.
It was there that, for the second time, they touched.
For many, it would have been nothing, just the tips of their fingers pressing together for a moment or two before his hands started to tremble too much for them to maintain contact, but for them, it was everything. In the hours that followed that touch, as he forced himself to calm down and she waited with almost baited breath for him to answer each of the questions she asked, they, amazingly, came to a certain understanding about the bond that they both had felt growing between them during their time traveling together, a bond that was more then the easy friendship they had experienced with the others in their group, but yet something that, at the same time, was less then more. Were they to leave it alone, it would slowly fall back into its former position, without a doubt making their lives much easier, but it was clear to both of them that that wasn't what either of them wanted. So, unable to make any other decision that both could agree on, they had decided to just shrug and see where fate might take them.
Fate, of course, had a lot of help by their own two hands.
After the meeting had been resolved, a decision having been reached that all seemed to have found acceptable, it was no longer uncommon for the two young adults to find themselves in the same city at the same time, one or the other pulling strings so that they could see each other every few weeks, if not days. Whether or not anyone else had guessed at the fact that the time they were able to spend together wasn't just a simple luck of the draw or at their true intentions, neither was sure, for although Peony and her father always wore knowing smiles when they granted their respective charges permission to go to a town where it was known that the other was headed, if either objected, neither said nor did anything to stop them.
To be honest, both of them were glad, for if either of their rulers had tried to stop them, both of them would have quickly been tried with treason, for they would have gone anyway.
It was amazing, really, to watch as their relationship grew, the strengthening of their bond marked by the ways it became easier for them to touch. What had once been the tips of fingers pressed together for the briefest of moments before his phobia took over soon became intertwined hands that lasted throughout their time together as they walked along the shore or through the streets after night, finally alone to express their growing feelings without having to worry about what others might think or react. Handshakes eventually grew into brief hugs that quickly evolved into cuddles, long hours of just lying in each other's arms with the remains of a picnic lunch around them. What progress they had was admittedly slow, with each stage hard won and quickly lost if they spent too long away from each other, but during the two and a half years they played this little game of theirs, every victory was cherished, for it marked another chance to be closer to each other.
Then Luke returned.
In the chaos that followed his reappearance as the world tried to find a way for him to fit back into the society it had created, they all but lost touch, their time spent together dwindling away into weekly, impersonal letters that did nothing more then let the other know they were alive. They both knew that the Kimlascan council wanted her to marry Luke, despite both noble's obvious displeasure to the plan, and for the most part, they were at a loss. For months the two cousins pooled their resources and influence to work, noble by noble, to bring those who were for the forced marriage to the side of marriage for love, an idea that the people, at least, would accept without a second thought and with much rejoicing. Caught up in the rush of the procedures that would hopefully lead to both her and Luke being free to live their lives as they were suppose to, free of a promise made between two young children, one of whom wasn't even alive anymore, it was a shock when, one night, the crack of a pebble hitting her window from the garden awoke her.
At first Natalia had been cautious, well aware of the fact that, while most of the people, if only under half of the nobles, were on her and Luke's side, there were still those who were not and who were not above tormentation to get what they wished. Her bow, which even after all this time still held a place close to the side of her bed, well within reach, in hand, she had sat there silently for what seemed like hours, holding her breath as she waited to see if the sound had just been some unfortunate monster hitting the glass. When the second crack of stone against glass had come, she had been quick in her movements to reach the sill, an arrow already poised and ready to be shot from her bow at whatever intruder had somehow managed to slip past the numerous guards into the gardens right below her rooms. Opening the window the slightest bit, just enough for her arrow to pass through should it be needed, it had been with narrowed eyes and a deep frown carved onto her face that she heard the voice whispering her name, calling to her from the darkness.
Without thinking, she ran him.
"Natalia," Guy whispered as he folded his arms around her, burying his face into her hair as she pressed herself to him, the multitude of emotions that surrounded him that she had been repressing for the past few months flooding through her as she finally saw him. "I missed you."
"What are you doing here Guy," Natalia asked as she slightly pulled away from him to get a better look, only just now taking in his travel-weary appearance and stained clothes. "Are you alright? You look exhausted, when did you get here? I've heard nothing from neither you nor Father about you coming, and it looks as if you made the journey on foot. What-"
"Natalia, stop." Guy voice was hoarse as he pressed as gloved finger against her lips, his hand trembling slightly as he slowly untangled himself from her grasp, the shivers that were running down his spine despite the warm mid-summer's air clear in the silvery moonlight. "Emperor Peony thinks I'm in Cassadonia," he answered after a moment, his breathing once more under control as he half turned to look at the garden around him. "As for why I'm here," here he paused to shrug, as if the answer should have been obvious from the start. Perhaps it had been, and she hadn't just thought about it properly. "As for why I'm here, well, I had to see you. I had to ask you something."
"What is it," she asked softly, her eyes scanning his haggard appearance that spoke of more hardships than a two week easy walk from Cassadonia to Batical could create. It looked almost as if he had been sick, an illness that had lasted for more then a long while and that only just now was beginning to abate, leaving sunken cheeks and a great deal of weight loss in its wake. Stepping forward to place her hand on his arm, hurt pierces her chest as he shivered in terror once again, though he did nothing to remove the offending appendage. Had it really been so long since they had last touched, so long that the fear that had once been driven back for hours could now take hold in just a few seconds of contact?
The thought both saddened and angered her.
"Do you want to marry Luke?"
"What?" To say that the question had startled her would be an understatement, though it was obvious by the look in his eyes that her answer angered Guy. Shrugging off her hand, he ran his hands through his hair and narrowed his eyes before beginning to pace.
"Do you want to marry Luke," Gut repeated, his footsteps heavy as he walked in a circle, his eyes never leaving her for more then a second or two as he found his pace. "These past few months, I've been hoping, praying, doing anything and everything I could think of, that was asked of me, to help you and Luke gain the council support that you need to be free. I've been waiting for something, anything, that would let me know what was going on, whether or not we were succeeding or if this entire ploy has been nothing more then us building up our hopes for nothing." His steps slowing, Guy lowered his voice as he drew close to her, his hand rising to almost brush against her cheek in a careful caress. "Please Natalia, I need to know. Has this all been for nothing?"
"I wouldn't blame you if it was," Guy said quickly as he twirled away, not giving her any time to process his question or even begin to think of an answer. "You were engaged to Luke for most of your life, and even if this is a different Luke then the one you originally made the promise with, you would still be marrying Luke fon Fabre. To most, you would be the perfect princess, doing the duty she was raised from birth knowing would be her life. The royal family would keep the pure-blooded lineage the council is so concerned about, and not a single person would be able to say a thing against it. Except you." Almost skidding to a halt, Guy reached forward to grab Natalia's hands in his, his body half hunched so they were eye level as he spoke to her.
"Tell me that you want to marry Luke, Natalia, that you would be perfectly happy living the rest of your life doing your duty to your people according to how the council sees fit, and I will leave right now, go back to Cassadonia, and we'll never speak of this again. I'll smile and be happy for the two of you, be everything the world thinks a supporting friend should be, and we can leave things at that. But damn it Natalia," he swore, his head bowing over her hands so that the tips of her fingers brushed against his forehead, "say the word, and I will fight to my very last breath to help you get free of the council. Even if its for the sole purpose of you being with someone else..." Here his tongue seemed to fail him as his words faded into the night, his body trembling as he fought against the urge to release her and move away. Her heart pounding in her chest, Natalia stood there with wide eyes as, finally, Guy found the will to voice his thoughts.
"Natalia, no matter what you tell me, right here, right now, to do, if it will make you happy, I'll do it, because I do believe I have fallen in love with you."
A gasp tore itself from Natalia's lips as she stared at the man before her in surprise, her face heating at the confession that Guy had just given to her. Gently pulling her hands from between his, she self consciously crossed her arms across her chest, turning her head slightly away from the still hunched figure of the man who claimed to love her that was before her. Sinking her teeth into her bottom lip, a wince crossed her face as she bit too hard into the tender flesh, almost breaking through the soft skin to bring the slight taste of copper and salt to her tongue. The dilemma, no matter how she was to look at it, whether in the light of day or the darkness of the night, was still the same: her country, or her heart?
Although she had tried to deny it many times over, Natalia, despite being a bit dense and gullible in some areas of life, had lived long enough to know when emotions were real and when she had fabricated them, twisting reality to fit the version of events she most approved of. For seven years she had done a similar disservice to Luke, writing off his memory loss and the changes in his personality as results of the kidnapping, refusing to look farther or dig deeper to find the bigger picture of what was truly wrong with her childhood friend. Since then, life had not been kind in forcing her to face reality, nor had the lessons been any easier to accept once the class teaching them was over.
If she was to marry Luke, was to do her duty and preserve the royal line, becoming Queen of Kimlasca in the process, spending the rest of her life doing anything and everything she could to help her people, then her duty would have been fulfilled, hopefully bringing about an era of peace in which her descendants could live happily. But if she was to follow her heart...
Abruptly turning so she was facing Guy, Natalia gently forced him to raise his eyes to look at her, one hand on either cheek so he couldn't refuse to meet her gaze. Standing there for a long moment, a thousand thoughts racing through her head at once, each one leading in circles that would take her a lifetime to sort through, it was with a very un-princess-like resolve that Natalia finally made her choice.
"What would make me happy," Natalia said softly, her eyes staring into Guys' as she spoke, her hands cupping his cheeks to keep his head steady, "is if you, Gailardia Galan Gardios, Duke of the Empire of Malkuth, would you do me, Princess Natalia Luzu Kimlasca-Lanvaldear of the Kingdom of Kimlasca-Lanvaldear, the honor of fighting with me against the council for the chance to become my husband."
It was only after a long, silent moment that, with a wild, joyful light in his eyes, the only response Guy gave was to, for the first, but definitely not the last, time, kiss her.