Chapter 6: Believe

Evening had descended, though the horizon was as dark as ever, on the small house that still served as an outpost for members of NORA. The acronym – meaning "no obligations, rules or authority" – no longer applied to the group of people that were working the hardest to find a way to save the world. The "barbeque" had only just officially started when Snow sauntered in to the sitting area, where Sazh, Noel and Hope were already assembled.

"So I invited all of you here to discuss Serah," said Sazh, anticipating surprise from everyone, and was disappointed when no one even gasped. "I think if we grant her wish, she'll be able to pass on to the next life."

"Why are we so sure she's come back? That she even had a wish?" grumbled Snow.

"Well, she appeared to Noel…" Sazh said, not wanting to encourage a conflict.

The former hunter just sat there, making eye contact with the wall. He didn't want to involve everyone like this. The only reason he'd come tonight was to appease Serah. She'd been insistent. If her wish did involve the others, he didn't want to risk missing the chance to grant it. However, as a safety measure, he'd made Serah promise to watch quietly from the kitchen.

"Earth to Noel…" Snow called, waving his hand. When he didn't respond, Snow asked, "So why do we trust the word of this social reject again?"

Hope piped up. "It's not just Noel," he said, pulling something out of his pocket. Everyone gasped then. They hadn't seen Serah's necklace since the funeral.

"You!" Snow shouted angrily, raising a fist.

Sazh held him back, while giving Hope a curious glance. Even Noel had raised his head in surprise. The sight filled him with dread. He was sure that Hope was going to expose him as the culprit who stole the necklace.

When everyone had quieted down, Hope continued. "I found this in my briefcase last night. It wasn't there when I left the office, but when I returned home, it had mysteriously appeared."

Snow slumped against Sazh, his rage under control for now. Hope passed the pendant into Snow's hands for inspection.

"I believe this is Serah's necklace," to which Snow nodded once. "Furthermore, I believe that Serah herself put it there."

Sazh nodded enthusiastically. "Noel said she could move things!" Then he added to Snow, "What do you think? Proof enough?"

Snow declined to comment.

Noel gave Hope a questioning glance. It wasn't Hope's explanation that was puzzling him but the outright omission of where the necklace had been for the last five years before showing up in his briefcase. Why was he protecting him?

Clapping his hands, Sazh addressed the group. "So, now that we've settled that matter, on to the next point of business: her wish. Does anyone have an idea of what it could be?"

Still bitter about the exchange, especially because everyone had sided with Noel, Snow muttered under his breath, "She probably wished that Noel hadn't killed the goddess."

Having heard this complaint from Snow one time too many, Noel snapped.

"What is your problem?" he shouted, jumping to his feet. "For the last time, I didn't kill the goddess! Caius stabbed himself with my sword." Then out of spite he added, "Serah was with me. She saw it, so she never would have made such a backwards wish."

Again, Snow surged with aggressive energy, but Sazh hadn't given up being the mediator.

To diffuse the situation, Hope considered Sazh's question thoughtfully before answering.

"I think she would have wished to save the world." Holding his chin in one hand, he paced around the small sitting area. "From what I know, she had been willing to risk her own life to restore the timeline. But right after she did, the world descended into chaos, through no fault of her own. So her dying wish must have been that her sacrifice would free the timeline of chaos."

The idea was a good one, and definitely something Serah would want. However, it was something that Hope had been working on since day 1, and they were no closer to the solution after 5 years. Serah's appearance would give the operation a well-needed surge of enthusiasm, but why hadn't she come sooner?

The group grew silent at the suggestion. Even Snow calmed down enough to give it some thought. Hope stopped pacing to lean against the wall.

Sazh agreed with Hope. "That definitely fits with Serah's personality. She always tried to help everyone."

Both Noel and Snow nodded. It was such a simple gesture, but it suggested that they agreed on one thing, at least. His confidence bolstered, Sazh continued.

"Alright, it's agreed. We'll try our best to get rid of the chaos. But, in the meantime," he added, aware of the daunting task ahead of them, "maybe we should consider if there was anything else Serah could have wished for."

Aware that the spirit of cooperation might suffer by his next statement, Snow took his time choosing his words. As much as he didn't want to believe that Serah had come back only to appear to Noel, there was enough evidence to convince him to play along, for a while at least.

In an uncharacteristically quiet voice he said, "The only thing I can think of that she wanted to do but never got the chance… was our wedding."

An irritated Noel shot Snow a glance and snorted at the concept. He had to go there, he fumed. Always trying to mark his territory. As if Serah would come back from the dead for something as silly as a wedding that never occurred. A wedding to the man she loved... A wedding that was postponed time and again, due to their separation by crystal slumber, time travel and many other hardships. When Noel seriously considered it, it wasn't so silly after all.

Instead of rising to the bait, Noel took the higher ground. "That could be the case," he allowed, finally looking at Snow properly. The larger man flinched. "Your wedding was always on her mind. But there are a few considerations."

Snow had been looking triumphant, but now his brow furrowed. "What do you mean?"

"Well, the reason you didn't get married after she was freed from crystal stasis was because Lightning had disappeared, right?" Noel stated, again, trying hard not to let his emotions take over.

"But now Lightning is a crystal. I don't think Serah would want her wedding to go on without her sister," Noel continued. The others nodded in agreement. "and that brings me to my next point: how are you supposed to marry a ghost whom you can't even see?"

Hope chuckled, and Snow fumed.

"If you were just going to rip apart my argument, why'd you agree with me?"

Hope jumped in, "Well you brought up another excellent possibility," he said, trying to placate Snow. "Maybe Serah wished that Light would be freed from crystal stasis."

As much as Sazh was impressed by the progress of the meeting, every solution seemed well out of their reach. Though they were used to facing the impossible, he didn't want them to get discouraged. That was especially true for Noel, who'd been depressed and nearly inconsolable until just recently. He knew that if nothing good came of their efforts in the short term, that the boy would probably just give up.

"Ok," he said, as the impromptu leader of the meeting. "But what about fireworks?"

The change in direction was too abrupt for the others to follow.

"What?" Hope dead-panned.

Sazh tried again. "Well, we agreed that Serah might have wanted to fix the timeline, eliminate the chaos, and revive Lightning. But what if she wanted something simple, like watching the Bodhum Fireworks festival one last time before she passes on?"

At this point, even Noel gave Sazh a funny look. "Why would she come back for something so frivolous?"

Shaking his head, Sazh clarified. "I'll explain it to you, since you weren't there." Noel backed down, a little offended.

"At the beginning, before the crystallization and fall of Cocoon, there was the Purge. It was a few days after the Bodhum Fireworks festival. As fate would have it, Serah, Snow, Lightning, Hope and his mom, Vanille and Fang, and myself and Dajh were all in attendance. It was the last normal moment of her life, Noel. She'd just become a l'Cie – the first of all of us – and Snow had proposed to her, promising to help her in her focus, no matter the cost. That night, under the fireworks, was the last time she was able to ignore her fate. Ever since then, she'd been running from one disaster to the next, being crystallized, losing her sister, and traveling through time," Sazh finished his lecture with a thought. "Maybe Serah realizes that, in order to achieve the impossible, we have to first sit down and enjoy the little things in life that we are trying to protect."

Having been wandering around the house, finding her room exactly as she had left it, Serah returned just in time to hear Sazh's words. They were so inspiring, she couldn't help but agree.

"Sazh, when did you get to know me so well?" she wondered, leaning against the counter. By fluke, she managed to bump a large pot over the edge.

The loud crash it made as it hit the floor made the men jump. Noel looked over and saw Serah's sheepish grin. She shrugged, mouthing "oops".

Though they were all startled by the noise, it was only Snow who bolted upright and ran out of the room. His gaze darted around the kitchen, briefly alighting on Serah, but without seeing her, he jogged out of the house. Someone had been listening in on their conversation, he was sure of it. He didn't want to be seen as weak, as unable to move on, unable to lead the NORA gang, so he needed to set the records straight. And that meant clearing up any misunderstanding the eavesdropper had overheard.

He'd almost been coaxed by the others to play along in this futile exercise. Shaking his head, he scoffed as much at himself as the others he'd just left. Maybe they need to do this to ease their consciences, but Snow didn't need that. He and Serah had an unspoken bond, and he knew that she would have told him not to brood over her five years later. She would have wanted them all to move on.

That was when an idea came to him. He continued to run well into the wilderness behind the house, out of sight of the others.

Sazh, Hope and Noel made their way out onto the beach. They had no idea what had made Snow suddenly run away, but they thought it best to let him cool off for a moment. Hope started up a fire, while Sazh carried armfuls of firewood over from the shed. Noel and Serah sat on the edge of the dock, overlooking the water.

"How'd the meeting go?" Serah asked, cautiously.

Noel scratched the back of his head. He didn't want to worry her about Snow or his angry outbursts. "Well, we agreed on a couple of things, and we have some solid plans… so I guess it went ok."

"That's great!" she said, smiling.

Just then, heavy footfalls behind them let them know that Snow was back. At the campfire he stopped, out of breath as if he'd run the entire way. When everyone joined him, Snow grinned.

"You'll never guess what I just saw!" he shouted, raising his hands in the air. "Serah appeared to me, too!"

His words hit Noel with amazing force, enough that he took a step back. The brunette looked wearily over to Serah, who had been by his side the whole time.

The others looked jovial, especially Sazh.

"Yeah, she said that we can forget about this wish thing. She doesn't want us to be fussing over her anymore."

With a wink that suggested a challenge, Snow added to Noel, "Guess you aren't the only one."