Author's Notes: First and foremost, this fic takes place after the end of the game. Read at your own risk. Secondly, it's been ages since I last wrote a full piece, let alone a full multi-chapter piece; let's see how long this urge to write again lasts and whether I can even finish this one (you can blame Xenoblade Chronicles' powerful story and wholly engaging characters for this return). Third, because it's been so long since I've done this I'm probably a bit rusty, but that doesn't mean I want you to go easy on me if you decide to read and review. And finally, I'd just like to reiterate once again that, because this takes place after the conclusion of Xenoblade Chronicles, you should not read this if you haven't finished the game or if you mind spoilers. Although, really, if you haven't finished the game, you should probably stop reading this right now and go play the damn thing already. Seriously. It's awesome.
By the way, yes, this story was just posted a few days ago; however, in my infinite stupidity I accidentally deleted it while I was trying to manage another of my stories. So it's been uploaded again, with a new name (this used to be "Some Things Never Change") and a completely new start.
And now, on with the show...
The giant, whirring Mechon with the slender, silver face and claws long enough to skewer half a dozen Homs at once emitted a low growl as it fixed its gaze more firmly on the source of the voice.
"You will know the pain you caused the Emperor and FIORA!" With that, Shulk raised his sword and ran as fast as he could towards his opponent. Trying his best to yell over the muffling blasts of the wind, he let out the mightiest battle cry he could muster. He had nearly approached enough to strike when he felt a force that slowed him down immediately, eventually halting and pushing him back completely. Before he knew it, he was flying backwards off the ground, uncontrollably and with barely any idea of what had just happened.
"Why...? Why can't I beat him?" he thought as he went sailing through the air. "Why am I so useless?"
It was then that he realized he was falling. Falling off of the peak of Prison Island? No...No, he couldn't let this happen to him! He had to get up and keep fighting! Had to!
And yet, he felt himself continue to descend, twisting and turning on his way down. Time seemed to slow down around him as he fell. He tried his hardest to right himself, but every muscle in his body resisted his brain's commands and his limbs moved as if he was sinking below the ocean's surface. "I have to get up! I have to keep fighting! Can't...fail...again...!"
"Shulk! Shulk, get up!" That voice...A faint one, but a familiar one...One that Shulk found himself wishing with all his might that he could find.
It continued. "Come on Shulk, it's really late, even for you!"
Feeling a sharp and sudden pain, Shulk shot up through the air.
"Hey, sleepyhead, wake up!" Another sharp pain and Shulk suddenly found himself in a crumpled heap on the ground.
"Ow...What...Fiora, was that really necessary?"
"You better believe it was," Shulk's longtime childhood friend replied. "Nothing like a good pinch to wake you up, right?" She reached her nearly closed thumb and forefinger out to Shulk's arm, but he swatted it away irritably.
"S-Stop it! I'm up, I'm up." Shulk groaned as he stood and stretched.
"So...Another late night in the lab, huh? And here I thought it wasn't possible for your workspace to get any messier," Fiora said as she gingerly stepped around the chair Shulk had been sleeping in and the piles of scrap and jars filled with various flora that surrounded it.
"Yeah...Sorry about that, and sorry if I made you worry." Shulk rubbed his heavy eyelids.
"It's okay..." Fiora looked around and tried her best to take in the boards and surfaces that had hastily written notes on them. Some of them even had sketches; these were her favorites, not because they were particularly profound or inventive as far as she could tell, but because she enjoyed giggling to herself at the left-brained Shulk's attempts at drawing. "So, um...You know you missed last night, right?"
"Huh? Last night? What was last night?" Shulk wondered aloud. Fiora raised an eyebrow at him. A realization hit him as fast as the opposing force in his dream. "Wait, you don't mean...It was our...?" Fiora nodded and Shulk's eyes widened. "Oh no, I...Fiora, I'm so sorry! I, I just lose track of the time when I'm studying this world and what it has to offer! Things have changed more than I could've ever imagined. I guess I must've fallen asleep before I realized what was going on."
Fiora, unsatisfied with Shulk's excuse, crossed her arms and turned her back to him. "Well, that's okay. I'm sure the other people watching the shooting stars more than made up for any loneliness they might've felt from your absence."
Shulk mentally berated himself. This was bad and he knew it. The tension was so thick that even someone like him noticed and became uncomfortable with it. He knew he had hurt Fiora's feelings before; she was usually quite good at letting him know when he did. But after all they had been through over the years, and after how close they had come not just because of their recent adventure that led to the creation of this new world, he knew his deep friendship with her was one of the most precious things he had in his possession. He would do anything to maintain it.
"Fiora...Look, I'm really sorry I missed it. Here, if it'll make you feel better, I'll show you some of what I've been working on!" Shulk smiled and picked up a small but haphazardly arranged pile of papers.
There was a brief silence from Fiora. "Is that really the best you can do?" she asked finally.
"Uh, well, let's see...Here, how about this? I promise I'll spend every night for the rest of my life with you if it means I won't lose you!"
More silence from Fiora, and then something Shulk did not expect to hear: a snort, followed by boisterous laughter.
"H-Huh? Was it something I said?"
"Heh heh..." Fiora turned, grinning from ear to ear. "Shulk, you know you're becoming almost as easy to tease as Reyn." Shulk blinked and stared blankly. "It's not a big deal, really. And I'd be a pretty awful friend if I didn't let you do the things you wanted to, don't you think?"
"But...So, all that stuff you were saying...It's not real?"
"No, silly," Fiora said with a giggle. "But I have to admit, I am a little curious about what it is exactly that you spend all your free time doing here."
"Er, well..." Flabbergasted but grateful, Shulk wondered where he should start. "Like I said, this world is filled with all kinds of things I've never seen before. Right now I'm...Are you really sure you're not mad?"
"Weren't you listening the first time? It's fine, I understand." Fiora leaned on Shulk and awaited further explanation of his recent work.
"It's just that I'm really worried...about losing you again."
At this, Fiora straightened up and looked at him with a serious expression. "Losing me? What do you mean? Like...if I died again?"
"Well, yeah, I guess," Shulk said quietly, his head drooping with heavy thoughts. "But even less serious than that. Sometimes I can't shake the feeling that I'm...I don't know, going to lose our friendship, or something? And I won't be able to do anything to stop it."
Fiora gasped. "Shulk! Look at me, Shulk...Do you have any idea how ridiculous you sound right now? You're my best friend in the whole world!"
"But I was powerless to save you, don't you remember?" Shulk could feel his fists clenching as he spoke. "And I couldn't save Melia's dad. I even tried saving that fiend Mumkhar, and failed there as well." He paused briefly when he felt Fiora's hand on his shoulder. "I guess it's something I never really got over, you know? So much guilt caused by my inaction..."
"Well, you found me eventually, right? And look, I'm here now, so you must've done something right." Fiora gave her friend a reassuring smile. "So, hey, quit being so down all right?"
She was right, of course, and Shulk knew it. He also knew from years of experience that there was no point in arguing with her, so he simply smiled and nodded.
"That's better," Fiora said. She rubbed his arm for a moment. "Oh! I almost forgot! I brought you some breakfast." She reached into the pouch slung across her shoulder and produced a square-shaped object wrapped in paper. "I'll, um...I'll just leave it here," she said, scanning and eventually finding a small, empty space on Shulk's desk. "Let me know how it is, and be honest for once! I mean it, I can only put up with your nonexistent sense of taste for so long."
Shulk smirked. "I'm always honest. Your food really is the best, Fiora."
"Yeah, yeah...Anyway, come over to the house later, and, um...Maybe we can talk some more about our next...date, if you want?" Shulk could have sworn he saw Fiora's cheeks turned a pinkish hue at these words. "Um...Anyway, see ya!" And with that, she ran off, leaving her friend to unwrap and enjoy his gift.
Author's Notes: Constructive criticism is most welcome. Excessive flaming with no specifics as to why, although I may deserve it, is not. If you have any comments or suggestions for improvement, I will gladly accept them.
The next chapter will be up shortly after I find time to put it together.