No Wish To Be Alone Chapter 4

The Valley

By Chocobo Goddess

They had left the village and the inn two days ago. His face was only a bit sore now. He’d finally decided that the best way to deal with her was to act as though nothing had happened. Of course, nothing had happened...right? That thought caused a slight furrowing of his brow. What did happen? And why am I treating her like this? I didn't want to hurt her. Gods, I am a bastard, aren't I? He glanced at her surreptitiously. She appeared to be lost in her own thoughts. He looked back at the path.

She had been avoiding his gaze, face flaming every time she thought about his words, and the intense kiss they had shared. That self-assured smirk that told her he knew it was just a matter of time before she gave in. She hated him and was attracted in the same breath. Damn him anyway, she thought, I have more important things to think about. Like the Planet’s behavior. She stole a sideways glance at him. Thankfully, he seemed to have his attention on the road ahead of him. She breathed a sigh of relief, then inwardly cursed when she felt his eyes on her again, questioning. He offered his hand to help her over a scattering of boulders on the mountainside.

"What are you thinking about?" He grinned, knowing very well what it was.

"None of your business," she said peevishly. How did he get under her skin? "Where are we going to rest for the night? You know this area much better than I do."

All right, so he at least knew that, despite her anger at him, she still wanted him.

He heard the fatigue in her voice, though he knew she’d never actually complain. The smirk softened into a real smile. "I want to get us over this ridge. Not far from here, on the other side, there is a stream and a good place to sleep." Once over the boulders, he released her hand. He felt the loss of warmth as her fingertips left his grasp, had to fight the urge to take it back and press it to his cheek. He knew she was angry with him and also knew exactly why. The memory of her taste still lingered on his lips. He tried to keep his mind on the path. He wondered why he couldn’t concentrate on anything when she was around.

They topped the ridge, and she let out a little gasp of delight. The ground dropped away steeply from where they stood, revealing a small, hidden valley. The place looked completely untouched; no towns, no Mako reactors, no sign of anything living there but the native animals. A stream wound through the trees, looking like a golden ribbon as the last rays of the sun caught it before disappearing behind one of the mountains.

"I thought you’d like it," he said, his deep voice soft and only inches from her ear. She jumped a little, and swore she could hear him smile at her discomfiture. "Let’s head down." He indicated the path to their right and stepped away, motioning for her to precede him. His eyes glowed, narrowed in mirth. She was glad of the semi-darkness, hiding the blush in her cheeks from him. With a very unladylike snort, she stalked past him and began the descent to the floor of the valley. He chuckled and started after her.

They made camp not far from the stream. She couldn’t see it from her place by the fire, but she heard its comforting voice, lightly babbling over the smooth stones. She prepared something for them to eat as he set out their bedrolls and hung up their gear. Every night they did this; it was becoming a ritual. Out here, in the cool night air, their feelings for each other weren’t important. It was as if they could be friends, so long as they weren’t thinking about being lovers. He entertained her with stories about his life with SOLDIER, and she told him about the Planet. Later, they ate the trail rations in companiable silence, drinking the cool water from the stream.

When she was done, she stood, brushing the crumbs from her skirt. "You said there were no monsters in this area, right?"

He nodded. "This place is untouched by ShinRa."

"Good. I’m going to wade in the stream. My feet are killing me." As soon as she said it, she wanted to take the words back. She had been determined not to complain.

He grinned, his teeth flashing white in the dark. "Don’t be long. We’re going to rest here for tomorrow and tomorrow night, then we’ll have a much more difficult path through the mountains." He was certain she didn’t realize how pathetically her face fell. She looked for a moment like she was going to cry, then the steel came back to her eyes. He saw the determined set of her jaw and hid his amusement behind a yawn. "Go on, before you get too tired. I’m going to rest for a moment. I’ll take the first watch when you get back."

As she walked the short distance to the water, she prayed he hadn’t noticed her reaction. For some reason, it was very important to make sure she didn’t appear helpless and frail in front of him. Actually, I know the reason, she thought, It’s that before all this happened, everyone went out of their ways to protect me, to keep me safe. No one ever gave me a chance to learn things for myself, or to fight for myself. She sighed. She had been traveling with him for three days now. The time before that, the events leading up to her failed sacrifice seemed like stories out of an old book of tales. It was like being reborn as an adult, with her memories intact, to live a different path than the one she had chosen before. Besides, despite his sudden unexplained coldness to her, she still saw glimpses of...something in him. She knew he watched her when he thought she was unaware; that twice he had come and crouched by her bedroll as she slept, brushing an errant strand of hair away from her face. He confused her immensely.

She sat by the water’s edge and pulled off her boots, then grabbed the edge of her skirt to keep it dry and waded in. The water was cold, but not numbing; the stones beneath her feet smooth. She stood in the middle of the stream, turned her face upward, and closed her eyes. A smile played across her lips as she Listened, humming softly in tune with the music of the Planet’s voice. Peace washed over her. A light breeze played with a tendril of her hair.

An hour later, he found her like that. She had taken long enough that he worried about her, though he knew he could never tell her that. He was walking toward the stream when he saw her. She looked...beautiful. No, more than that, because she always looked beautiful. She was ethereal, her chestnut hair loosed from its braid and flowing down past her hips, her face smiling softly, her body swaying gently as if to some music he could not hear. She looked like she was waiting for a lover.

He whirled away, suddenly breathing hard. He willed his heart to slow its beating, every muscle taut. He thought he had finally broken free of the spell she unknowingly cast upon him when he heard her laugh softly. He looked back over his shoulder to see her, eyes still closed, brushing her hair back over her ear and smiling, presumably at something the Planet said to her. His will crumbled away and he moved toward her, shedding his black leather coat as he went. He strode into the stream, ignoring the shock of the cold water rushing over the tops of his boots. He stopped just inches away from her, waiting for her to look at him.

She didn’t realize how close he was standing. She had heard him drop his coat on the shore and enter the water, but when she opened her eyes, her vision was filled by his own glowing green ones just in front of her. She gasped, and he raised a hand to cup her face. An expression of infinite tenderness crossed his handsome face, easing its normally harsh lines. To hell with hiding my feelings, he thought as he lowered his mouth to hers, claiming it in a kiss.

Her first reaction was to pull away, but his hand was at her waist, dragging her closer. The other threaded its way through her hair, tilting her head back and to the side so he could deepen the kiss. Her hands pulled at his arms, halfheartedly protesting, then went around him. His long hair tickled her arms, lifted by a breeze to form a billowing silver curtain around them.

The Planet’s voice sang in her mind. Yes, yes, this is right, it said, No longer alone, you will no longer be lonely...

But how can this be? Her mind cried. Why him? Her mind was becoming overwhelmed by his presence, and she felt her resistance fading. Why...

Her body answered, why not?

He could feel the moment she stopped resisting and began responding. He adjusted his hold on her, arms surrounding her gently instead of trying to prevent her escape.

Neither of them noticed the faint tendrils of the Lifestream slowly spiraling up around them from the ground. It bathed their skin in its soft green glow and glinted in his hair. The Lifestream thickened, its glow intensifying, responding to the emotions and thoughts of the two people it surrounded. When they opened their eyes, it was swirling in a silent torrent about them, wisps of the stream floating between and around them, caressing their faces and drawing them back to each other.

He found himself picking her up and carrying her to shore, placing her carefully on the soft grass. She brought her hands up to wander over his chest and shoulders, wonderingly, as though she’d never actually touched a man before. He lay beside her, leaning over her on one arm as he stroked her face. He smiled down at the beautiful woman, then lowered his head to nuzzle her neck.

"How did this happen?" he murmured, teeth lightly grazing her ear, "When did we go from being enemies to this?"

She sighed. "I don’t know...but the Planet is very happy right now. It seems to think we are following the right path." Her arms circled him, drawing him down to her.

"And do you trust the Planet’s judgement?" he asked, smiling. Then, more softly, "What is your judgement?"

"I fell in love with you a long time ago." She tried to ignore the way her heart fluttered when she heard his sharp intake of breath. "I just...well, I never liked the way everyone just assumed you were evil. Maybe the Planet helped me understand? I don’t know. But you know what? I was so afraid to go to the City," her eyes widened in memory, her voice dropping to a whisper, "Even as prepared as I was, I was still afraid to die. I didn’t want you to kill me."

He pulled back so he could look directly into her eyes. "I’m so sorry. Jenova had me completely under her control. You know now that I will never, ever hurt you?" At her trusting nod, he bowed his head, clenching his eyes tightly. "Love, I need to apologize for something else. My—behavior, since the inn."

Her heart leapt. "Are you going to tell me you didn’t mean the words you said that day?"

He kissed her softly. "I have felt so lost since then."

She ran a finger down his face, tilting his chin up to look at her again. "But you are found now. I found you."

Do I deserve this? He thought, disbelieving the forgiveness she had offered him. No matter...I need this. He brushed a wayward strand of hair from her forehead. Her lips were parted just slightly, her eyes half-closed and shining deep green in the light of the Lifestream. He lowered his face to hers and kissed her, vowing in that moment to protect her forever. This time, when her hands urged him down to her, he didn’t pull away.

They remained on the grass together for a long time, oblivious to the Lifestream’s gentle green glow around them.

Chapter 5

Final Fantasy 7 Fanfic