Description: It all began with a desire to hold a certain girl's hand. HopexVanille.

Hope took off his shoes and carelessly let them fall onto the warm, cream-colored sand. As he silently walked closer to the water's edge, he studied the footprints as he left them in the sand. His feet were bigger. He was bigger, and still growing. He was sixteen- and in that awkward transitional stage between boy and man. As he stared at his reflection in the ocean's surface, he noticed that his shoulders were broader and his arms and chest were a bit more muscular than he remembered. He was still short- barely five foot five, but he figured he would probably always be shorter than most guys his age. He ran his hand along the short, platinum-colored stubble that now stuck out, making his face itch. He had been too busy to shave again, and he already regretted letting the tiny bit of facial hair grow out.

He kicked the image of himself in the water's surface. He was changing too much, too fast. Would Vanille and Fang even recognize him, if they could see him now? A part of him wished that he had already been older when he'd met them. He hated that he would continue to grow and change, while they couldn't.

He did his best to look the same as he had two years ago. He still wore the bandana around his neck, and he never took off his yellow wristband, but unfortunately he had outgrown his old clothes within a few months of Cocoon's fall. He kept this face clean shaven as often as he could, and he kept his hair at just the same length. He didn't want to change. His biggest fear was that Vanille wouldn't like the changes. He wanted to be the same boy that she had played with on the fields of Gran Pulse. He wanted her to know him in a moment, should she happen to come out of crystal stasis.

As the water around his ankles stilled, and he stared at his reflection once again, he had a thought. Vanille this, and Vanille that. Every time he thought about anything, he always wondered what she would think about it. He realized that he'd been thinking that way for two whole years now. He wondered what would make her smile, what would make her laugh, and what would make her blush. He'd only seen it once before, but he admired the shade of pink that had grazed her cheeks in that moment. It had been surprisingly easy to make her blush. All he did was tell her that he liked her smile, and suddenly she was completely pink.

Their conversation that day had led to even more smiles though. After that moment, they had become nearly inseparable. She went one way, he followed. If he needed some quiet time to think, she sat there in silence, right beside him. When they rested, she always leaned on his shoulder. When they walked around, he always took hold of her hand. He missed being able to hold her hand. It was as easy as breathing. It was just natural.

He peered down at his gloved palms. His hands were bigger, just like the rest of him. Would Vanille's hands still fit inside his? Then something caught his eye.

He turned his head to find a young couple, walking toward him through the sand. They looked to be about Snow and Serah's ages. His aquamarine eyes were drawn to their hands. The young man's hands were quite a bit larger than the young woman's, but their fingers still managed to intertwine just fine. Suddenly they stopped. The man pulled the woman closer, and leaned his face down, closer to hers. She stood up onto her tip toes. Their lips met. A moment later, they both smiled at one another.

Hope immediately stared back down at his own hand. That was what he wanted. Suddenly, he saw everything- the past, the present, the future- in a different light. Every look, every touch, every word…

He was in love with Vanille.

All of a sudden, he wanted to grow up. His eyes flew up toward the crystal pillar in the sky. He wanted to hold Vanille's hand while walking along a beach. He wanted to be able to look down and see her standing up on her tiptoes while she waited for him to kiss her. He wanted to become a man. He wanted to become a man who could give Vanille everything she could ever dream of. He wanted her to have the life that was taken away from her when she became a l'Cie. He wanted marriage, and babies, and white picket fences, and, hell, maybe even dogs as the cherry on top. Most of all though, he wanted to come home to Vanille's smiling face every day.

His body fell into the soft sand, and he didn't even care that his shorts were getting soaked in the ocean water.

He was definitely different from most boys his age- and it all began with a desire to hold a certain girl's hand.