Rydia: Daughter of Mist
Authors Note: Edge and Rydias relationship in Final Fantasy II (IVj) always intrigued me. Here was this couple who ditched dirt and attitude at each other, and yet we knew that Edge had been instantly overcome by Rydias beauty and spunk. She seemed to be the perfect match for his rebellious attitude. Not only that, they were both orphans. So, I decided to put down on paper what I believed would be a very passionate relationship. Why passionate? Look at how full of life these two were. When Cecil first met Rydia she was just a little squirt, but she was plucky! After all, she took these two grown men on! Edge took on an Elemental (Rubicant) all by himself because hed killed Edges parents. These are a couple of very zealous young people and I figured that passion would encompass all they were and all they felt.
Rydia stared off into the distance, watching the sun sink lower beneath its ocean bed as she sat with legs outstretched on the lush grass of the hillside, her hands positioned just behind her to tickle the lush greenery. Another day alone. Another day without her mothers gentle voice teaching and guiding her. She took in a deep breath and released it slowly, closing her eyes as the slight breeze tickled the hair at her temples. Her time with the summoned monsters had made it easier. They had made her feel like she belonged somewhere. They had made her realize that she was special because of what she could do for the world her mother had loved so much. That, in turn, had helped her remember who her mother had wanted her to be.
A sense of a familiar presence made Rydia open her eyes slowly, a smile tickling her lips as she lowered her gaze. Hello, Edge. She cocked her head and glanced up at him as he stared down at her from the branch of the tree beside her. I thought you were supposed to be in Baron with Rosa and Cecil.
Edge, Prince of Eblan, dangled his foot as he nonchalantly looked at the nails of his long fingers. They didnt say it was important. I figured it could wait a day or two.
She smirked and looked away, leaning backward onto her elbows to watch the sun disappear the remaining way into the ocean. Oh. Last time I knew, a request from the king was pretty important. At least, thats what my mother always told me. You, being a prince, should know better I guess.
Is that why youre here, Dee? Thinking about your mother again?
Rydia smiled at the use of the nickname hed decided to give her one day. He was the only one who she let use it. Yeah. What about you? She looked over at him again, his silver-blue hair waving in the slight breeze as his crisp, clear eyes stared out at the sunset. Lately, youre out here as much as I am.
I get to thinking how it could have been different.
Rydia nodded and changed her gaze back out to the ocean. I know the feeling. A lot of things could have been different. Id have my friends and family. Id have my home. Id have a lot of things. She sighed. Yeah. A lot of things could have been different. But Rydia looked over at Edge again. Like usual, he was watching her. But then I wouldnt have met you, or Rosa, or Cecil, or anyone else. I wouldnt have found out what it meant to really be a part of something. Thats the one thing that keeps me going. I dont want to give up my new friends for anything.
Edge dropped down from the tree and came to stretch out beside her. I know the feeling.
Rydia cast him a sidelong glance. Something was bothering him. She could tell by the dark look in his eyes and the way he wasnt really saying much. One thing that Edge was not was quiet. He usually always had a smile for her, too.
She nudged him. Edge, why the long face? Youve barely said anything. Are you okay?
He shrugged and looked down at the toes of his soft shoes. Dont know. Just feel like being quiet.
She examined his face for a little longer and then scooted a little closer to wrap her arm around him. She rest her head on his shoulder. Hey. No problem. You can be as quiet as you like.
He took in a deep breath. Dee, you ever thought of getting married?
Rydia chuckled. Shed never expected to hear that from him. Nope.
Really? His statement caught her by surprise and she pushed away a little twinge. To who?
This girl Ive known a little while.
Do I know her?
He paused. Probably.
Rydia sat up and looked over at Edge, fighting back the questions as to the identity of the girl. Whats the problem? Why dont you? Maybe shell be just the person to help you with your project of building up Eblan.
Edge examined her face for a moment. His eyes held an unreadable expression. You think I should?
He frowned slightly. No. Get married.
Rydia frowned playfully back at him. Of course you should. How else are you going to get anything done?
He looked away at the slowly disappearing colors of the sunset and then stood. Thanks. Ill talk to you later. Ive got to go to Baron.
Rydia watched him go, the smile slowly fading from her face. I hope she makes you happy.
She turned away and ignored the tear on her cheek. She supposed she should have told him that her friendship for him had turned to something else, but shed wanted to wait a little bit. To learn more about the mysterious Prince of Eblan who had become an orphan just like her and then fought the evil that had made it happen. Their light-hearted bantering had been fun; his flirting had helped her feel better about herself; and their long talks about the past, present, and future had made her notice a change in her feelings. Those talks had encouraged a stirring in her heart that had grown into something more. She had fallen in love with him.
It had been easy. What hadnt been so easy was getting him to say the same for her.
After the battle with Zeromus, he had changed a little. Hed get all serious and somber when he was talking about his future plans for Eblan. How he wanted to get it ready for his future generations. Hed never mentioned anything about who he wanted to have involved, or about his plans for their friendship. She hadnt wanted to bring it up, either. Didnt know how. Now hes going to marry some girl Ive known a little while?
She cocked her head at the ocean and then stood, turning to hurry after him. Edge! Wait! Since when had she given up anything without a fight?
He turned and watched her approach. What?
She stopped in front of him and looked up at his serious expression with a smile. Can I go?
Of course. I havent seen Cecil and Rosa in a little while. Its not very far from here and Id love the walk.
Its at least 3 or 4 days, Dee.
She wrinkled her nose at him as she tried to hide her disappointment. He doesnt want to explain me to his girlfriend. Come on. Thats nothing to a pair of war-hardened veterans like us. She flexed her muscles with a smile. See? Ive got big muscles.
He shook his head with a laugh. Okay. You can come, but dont expect me to fall over myself to wrestle with you.
Why not? Afraid youd lose?
Afraid Id enjoy it too much.
Rydia laughed and pushed at him as they turned to walk down the path toward town, her hopes raising. So, any idea what the king wants?
Edge shook his head. Not a clue. Probably wants to know how things are going with Eblan.
How are things going?
We have a lot of the materials gathered. Now were waiting for more workers to show up. The few that weve got have already started doing what they can, but progress has been slow.
At least youre making progress. Right?
Rydia creased her forehead in thought. Maybe he wants to give you some workers from Baron?
Edge nodded. That would be nice, but Im not going to ask.
Because Because I want to do this myself. As much as possible, anyway.
I guess I can understand that, but if your friends want to help Youre not going to keep them from doing that, are you?
He glanced down at her for a brief moment. No.
Good. Rydia hesitated. Edge, is there anything I could do? Ive been afraid to ask because I thought youd say Id just get in the way.
He stopped and looked down at her with an almost anxious expression. I wouldnt say that, he protested.
Rydia smirked as she caught his eyes. Sure you would. Just to give me a hard time. Remember?
His eyes twinkled with his smile. You did your fair share.
Of course. If you cant take it, dont dish it. I can take it, so I dished it with the best of them.
I still wouldnt say it.
Rydias smile softened and she pulled at his arm to get him moving. Okay, so you wouldnt say it. Now Im asking you for something that I can do.
What do you want to do?
Get my hands dirty, she laughed.
Oh, therell be plenty of that. Edge looked over at her with a crooked smile. Come on, Dee. Youve got to give me a little more to go on than that.
Rydia focused her gaze on the trail in front of them. I just want to help. I dont care what it is. I could use my magic to break down walls or burn away rubble or something. I could cook food for the workers. I could watch the kids. Just tell me what to do.
He was quiet for a long time before he wrapped his arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. Well think of something.
She glanced over at him with a smile. Thanks.
Hey, no problem. You know thats why Ive been out here so much in the first place, dont you? I just hadnt figured out how to get you duped into volunteering.
Well why do you think I was being so difficult? I liked having you around so much. She smiled up at him. Im crazy about you, dontcha know?
He looked away with a weird smile. Likewise, Dee.
Her eyes twinkled. Just wait, Edge. Youll find out one way or the other.
* * *
Edge stared at her as she slept. She was just as pretty now as she was when hed first met her after Rubicant had beaten the crap out of him under Eblan. She was just as plucky. Just as smart. Just as perfect for him now as she had been then.
He looked down at his hands with a deep breath. Was he going to have the nerve to propose when he was done in Baron? Was he going to put it off until after Eblan was finished? Or was he going to listen to Rosa and tell Rydia how he felt? Edge looked up at the twinkling stars for a long moment before he stood to move just out of sight of the campfire. He knew he was going to propose. Hed never been a patient kid and he didnt want to wait any longer. They had fun together, just like they always had. She took his teasing in stride, like no other person ever had, and then shot it right back at him. No, he wasnt going to wait.
They were friends. Couldnt they be more than that?
He released a deep breath and went back to the camp to sit on the log again. When he looked over at Rydia, her eyes were open and she was watching him with a strange expression.
You okay? Her voice was warm with concern.
Just thinking about some stuff, he told her. She sat up, wrapped her arms around her legs, and then tilted her head at him as she had a tendency of doing. He dropped his gaze to his hands. Go back to sleep.
You sure you dont need to talk about something?
Not right now. Edge heard Rydia sigh as she laid back down. He could tell she was still watching him, though. He lifted his eyes and sent her a smile. Im okay, Dee. Really. Go to sleep.
I will. Eventually, she said with a smirk. All your moving around makes it hard.
He chuckled. Ill keep that in mind.
Goodnight, Edge, she told him softly. She closed her eyes and drifted off, the smile still tickling her lips.
Edge watched her for a while after that and then stood with a stretch, running a hand through his hair. He moved to his bedding beside her and sat, staring down at her face for another moment before turning on his side and closing his eyes to go to sleep.
* * *
Rydia was up first.
She padded barefoot around the camp for a little while, arms wrapped around herself as she desperately tried to plan out what she would say that day and the next and the next until the duo arrived at Baron. I dont want anything to go wrong. I want everything to be perfect. And that was what was driving her nuts. They had such a long history of flirting with each other that she was afraid thats all hed see. So, how do I tell him that I really am crazy about him?
She had no idea.
Rydia released a slow breath and sat on the log across from the long since dead embers of the fire. Edge was still sleeping. She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees to place her chin on her hands as she watched him. His face was relaxed, making him look younger than he was. His hair was tousled and shimmered in the growing sunlight, its soft feel beckoning her to touch it just once.
Rydia sighed again and covered her face with her hands. It shouldnt be this hard. Should it? Shouldnt I just be able to tell him that I really, really care about him? That Im nuts about everything hes involved in? That I love the way hes dedicated his life to rebuilding his familys kingdom? She just didnt know if it was okay. She didnt know enough about love. I should talk to Rosa. She and Cecil would know.
He stirred, rolling over onto his side and smacking his lips with a funny frown. She parted her fingers as they covered her face and watched him with a smile, her eyes twinkling. He was such a kick to be around. Such a true friend. Such a man of deep, heart-wrenching insight. He was perfect for her and she wanted to be perfect for him. Were friends. Cant that grow to be something more? Isnt it possible? Sometimes she felt as if they were already a couple. The way they stood by each other. The way they helped each other through decisions by being there as a venting board. The way they were true to each other at all times.
I guess its time to be true on a different level.
Rydia sighed and dropped her hands from her face, still watching him and each emotion that flickered across his expression. Her heart stirred and her eyes crinkled with another smile. She would really love to feel his lips on hers at least once. To have him take her hand in his and give it a good old squeeze and know that he did it as more than a friend. To have him touch her face like shed seen Cecil do to Rosa when he didnt know how to show her how much she meant to him. She wanted all that and she couldnt see herself doing that with anyone but Edge.
Her reluctant knight or ninja, rather.
A chocobo cooed somewhere in the distance and she slipped into her shoes and stood, reluctantly moving to his side to wake him. They had a long way to go yet and she was eager to get moving. Rydia knelt down beside him and reached out a hand to nudge him awake She hesitated, tilting her head to examine his face. Tentatively, she stretched out toward his tousled hair, hesitating scant inches from his curls before moving slightly closer. She took in a deep breath and held it, then tenderly brushed the hairs from his forehead.
It was as soft as silk
Edge opened his eyes and caught her gaze. She smiled and dropped her hand to her lap. Her cheeks flamed, but she kept her voice calm. Good morning, sleepy head, she said in a soft, warm voice.
He smiled briefly and then sat up with a clearing of his throat to stretch and rub his hands across his scalp. Morning.
Did you sleep okay?
He nodded and moved to roll up his bedding, noticing that hers was already neatly rolled away. Been up long?
Edge sent her a glance, but she couldnt tell what he was thinking from the quick look. You okay?
Tears jumped to the surface - but she couldnt understand why - and she swallowed them back. Im okay. Her voice sounded a little watery, though.
She stood with a tight smile and moved to grab her bedroll. No, but its still early. Im not a morning person.
Rydia looked over at him, her hands tightening on the strap of her bedroll. Yeah?
You need to talk about something?
Yes and no.
Like usual, he understood her meaning. Okay. You just let me know when youre ready. Deal?
She nodded and absently kicked some dirt over the much-dead coals of the fire as she picked up her whip from where it rested on the log. I will. Promise.
He was quiet and still a moment longer and then stood, putting his bedroll over his shoulder and then checking his own gear. That done, he stepped closer and rest his hand gently on her shoulder. She looked up in mild surprise and returned his smile after a slight hesitation.
Come on, he said softly. Lets go.
She nodded and fell into step beside him, still feeling the warmth of his touch through the fabric of her dress long after hed dropped his hand to his side. Had he done that before? No. No, he hadnt. Did it mean anything? Sure. Why not? Edge wasnt one to do something like that without meaning anything by it was he? Then again, what about all the flirtation they did on a regular basis? Maybe it all meant something, then. Rydia took in a calming breath and adjusted the death grip on her coiled whip.
You expecting trouble?
Rydia glanced over at Edge in surprise. What?
He gestured to her white knuckled clasp on her whip. You look like youre getting ready to fight someone. I hope I didnt do something. Its a little early for a fight.
She smiled slightly and tied the whip to her belt. No. Sorry. Just a little tense this morning.
Lots of stuff to think about.
Edge nodded. I noticed that too.
Youve been noticing a lot of things this morning. Rydia sent him a quick glance to try and gauge his reaction. Like usual, she couldnt tell what he was thinking or what he was feeling. Congratulations.
He smirked. Nah. Dont bother. Im just not as dense this morning, is all. I slept good.
You certainly did Thats good. Its always nice when we can have a restful nights sleep.
His smile faded as he looked over at her. Didnt you?
Edges question was laced with concern. She caught his gaze and smiled, silently reassuring him there was no need to worry. He returned her smile before looking back down the trail.
Just checking, he said.
I always sleep good when youre around, she said with a chuckle. It was the truth, too.
He raised an eyebrow, but didnt look over at her. And what is that supposed to mean?
Just what I said.
She pushed at him with her shoulder, laughter tickling the air. Oh stop it, you big goof ball.
He pushed back, his hand lingering on her arm. Im not a goof ball, he protested with laughter in his eyes. Just misunderstood.
Her expression changed to warm seriousness. I understand you, Edge. Almost always have.
One side of his lips tilted upward as he gently nudged her arm with his elbow. I know, Dee, and I like that about us.
Rydia took in a deep breath to give herself courage and wrapped her arms around the one closest to her. Shed seen Rosa do it once So do I.
You think that will change? Ever? His voice was quiet and thoughtful as he brought his hand across to gently stroke hers.
She shook her head as she dropped her gaze to the path at her feet. I hope not. He nodded in silent agreement and Rydia tightened her arms around his. I want us to be close forever. I like being able to talk to you. I like how we can be honest and and real around each other. I like how we understand each other.
Rydia glanced up at him and caught his gaze when he looked over at her. She stopped walking. I guess Ive never told you that, Edge. I really treasure your friendship. You know? Every hard thing youve ever said which got me to admit something to myself. Every silent night you spent listening to me vent about something that was really bothering me. Every time you seemed to know when to say something and when to just be quiet. Youve been more of a friend to me than anyone Ive ever known and I just want to say thank you.
Rydia stared up at him for a long, silent moment examining his face and eyes. Wishing that hed somehow let her know what he thought about her. Give her some clue as to whether she had a single hope of being an important part of his life. He didnt say a word. He just stared down at her, examining her face as closely as she did his. Finally, she gave him a hesitant smile and took in a deep breath before standing on tip-toes and giving him a slight kiss on the cheek.
His cheeks flushed slightly after shed pulled away. Thanks, Dee. And, well, youre welcome. He paused, regarding her with an odd and guarded expression. Nobodys ever said anything like that to me before. Not like that. I I dont know what to say.
Tell me how you feel Rydia gnawed on her lower lip a moment and then dropped her eyes. No. No, she couldnt say that yet. She couldnt drop it on him yet. Give him some time. Just keep being courageous. You can do this. Just go a little bit at a time.
Actually, yes I do.
Rydia looked up and caught those crisp eyes. You do?
Yeah. Edge smirked. Believe it or not, I didnt ever have a lot of friends while growing up. They said I had a bad attitude and a bunch of other things.
I remember, she said quietly.
Edge turned away, looping his thumbs on his belt as he looked down at the ground. I guess I do have an attitude, but He looked over at her. But you never let that bother you. You accepted it, like Cecil, Cid, and the others. I learned a lot about life from you and the others, but I learned what it meant to be friends from you. Rydia flushed and he continued. I got through my parents death because you, of all people, understood. I guess the others did too, but not like you. You seemed to know what to say and when to say it. Idiot that I am, I never said thank you.
Well, we were kind of busy.
He chuckled with a nod. Yes. I guess we were. Edges smile wavered and his expression became oddly serious. But you were never too busy to be there. You were never too busy to make sure I was all right with everything. Rydia lowered her eyes and kicked at a pebble as Edge went on. Thanks. For everything. Dont change. Okay?
She raised her eyes and gave him a big smile. I never knew what Cecil and Rosa saw in all this mushy stuff until now. It makes a person feel good all over.
Edge returned her smile. Yeah, I guess so. He took her hand and gave it a little squeeze. Come on. Lets get going.
Rydia almost said no she was so afraid the moment would be lost if they turned away. But, when they turned and began walking toward Baron, Edge continued to hold her hand. He even gave it another squeeze every once and a while, as if he needed to prove to himself that it was still there. In his grasp. Rydia gnawed on her lower lip, staring at the lush grass and fragrant flowers that tickled her ankles as she walked past them. Okay. What am I supposed to think? What step am I supposed to take now?
She had no idea.
* * *
Edge didnt know what to do. He didnt know what to say. For the first time in his life he was at a loss for words. He knew that whatever he did choose to say wouldnt be taken the wrong way, because she wasnt like that. If she didnt understand what he meant, shed ask. Point blank. If she thought hed gone too far in his teasing, shed tell him. Straight out. She was feisty. She always had been.
Edge felt the warmth in his right hand increase and squeezed. Oh yeah. I still have her hand. Should I let go? But he didnt want to. He liked how it felt. Liked how it made him feel to have it. He couldnt explain it. Didnt even want to try. What if she wants it back? He cleared his throat, but didnt risk a glance. He figured that if she wanted it back, shed take it. Hadnt he just told himself that was the type of girl she was.
Edge shook his head, noticed Rydias glance and clenched his jaw. No. She was no girl. She was a beautiful young woman who made him feel like a real person. Hed tell her, when the moment was right. Hed kiss her, too. Hed always wanted to, but the moment had never been never been right. He didnt want her to slap his face. Of course, shed just kissed him Hadnt she?
He squeezed her hand again, without really meaning to, and felt a little better when her little hand squeezed back. She could probably tell that he was thinking about something, hard. Shed always been like that. Seemed to read his mind sometimes. It was unnerving, but but he liked it. It made it easier to talk to her. Of course, from the first moment hed seen her hed seemed to trip over his tongue to have a reason to speak to her. Always saying stupid things to get her to smile. Or plucking at her temper so that he could have those flashing eyes aimed at him and that cute mouth lashing him with so many words
Edge cleared his throat and felt the heat rising to his ears. Cool it. Youre going to make a fool of yourself. But he didnt really care. Hed made a fool of himself plenty of times, always in front of her and those eyes that didnt miss a thing. He was damned lucky to have her there and he didnt want to lose that. Ill propose in Baron. Ill have Cecil be best man. Rosa can help Rydia well, help her do whatever shell need help with.
Edge gave a jump and stopped walking to look down at Rydia. She was rubbing her hand that hed finally released. Im sorry. Are you okay? Here, let me see. He took her hand in both of his and gently touched the red sections where hed squeezed too hard. No bones seemed to be broken, but shed be bruised. Man, Dee. Im really sorry.
She smiled hesitantly and rubbed at his arm with her free hand. Hey, its all right. No blood. No broken bones. Rydia examined her hand still clasped in his. Makes me wonder what you were thinking about.
She peeked at him out of the corner of her eyes, but he couldnt meet her gaze. All he could do was stare down at her little hand, at all the red marks hed given her, and wonder what in the world he was doing there with her. A little spark of panic scorched his insides as he continued to stare at the marks. It was the first time hed hurt her. He didnt like how it felt. What if he did it again? Hed never wanted to do that.
Edge dropped her hand suddenly and turned away to stride toward Baron. He could feel Rydias shocked gaze on his back and then heard her call out to him to stop. He did without thinking. Edge clenched his jaw and balled his fists. Shed ask. He knew she would. Shed ask what was wrong. Shed look at him with those big eyes, stare right into who he was, and ask what was going on. Shed see it. Shed see the terror that hed hurt her again.
He felt her hand on his arm and tensed. She noticed that too. Somehow he could tell.
Edge, whats going on?
He took in several deep breaths before answering. Sorry, Dee. I panicked. Ive never done anything like that before. It kind of freaked me out.
Never done what before? Hurt me? She turned him around, her hands clasping his arms as she looked up at him. Edge, it was an accident. I know that. Come on. Its all right.
He clenched and unclenched his hands as he stared down at her, her lips tilted upward in a reassuring smile. All he could do was focus on that smile. Her lips glistening in the sunlight. Soft. Slightly pink
Edge blinked and cleared his throat as he turned his head away. Yeah. Okay. Sure.
Rydia turned him back to the trail toward Baron and wrapped an arm around his waist to give him a squeeze as they began walking. Ive been hurt worse, Edge. Besides, I didnt mind so much. You seemed to feel better after you gave it a squeeze. It felt nice.
Edge released a slow breath and allowed himself to drape an arm across her shoulders. Why didnt he just tell her and get it over with? Why didnt he just kiss her and let the chocobo-feathers hit the fan? But something kept telling him that it wasnt the right time. Something assured him that this trip was important. That they were both taking steps forward toward something that would make sense soon enough. He needed to be patient a little longer.
* * *
Somehow - Rydia still didnt know how - she got him to relax and start to laugh. When the disturbed and panicky expression had faded from his eyes and the tension had left his body, Rydia had almost given an audible sigh of relief. Shed never seen him like that before. Of course, hed never accidentally hurt her, either. Shed been hurt worse, close to death a couple of times, so the pain hadnt really been a problem. The feel of his hand holding hers and the weird things it did to her insides had been all shed focused on.
She hadnt meant to say ouch.
Now, hours later, as they laughed and joked about the memories of their shared pasts, she began to wonder if their relationship was changing. It seemed obvious, but she didnt want to get her hopes up. Then again, what was life without hope? She smiled slightly, enjoying the feel of him beside her, especially when he would touch her arm with a lingering stroke as he told her something hed heard about someone they both knew.
The past two weeks she had known they were changing. Walking toward one another. Looking at each other in different ways. Looking at the future and seeing something different than what theyd seen just the month before. She didnt know how she knew, it was just something she felt. Maybe it was the way he looked at her. Maybe it was the way she looked at him. Maybe it was how they seemed to take more interest in the little things than they had before.
Everything seemed to matter. Wasnt love like that?
This looks a good place to set camp.
Edges voice broke in on her mind like a gentle whisper of a cooling spring breeze. Goosebumps rose on her arms and she looked around them with eyes that seemed to view their surroundings for the first time. Youre right.
You hungry? He set their bedrolls down and looked around them. I think I remember seeing some tracks leading off in that direction.
You want me to go with you? She knew hed say no.
He smiled. Nah. You stay here and set up the fire. Ill be back in a few minutes with some dinner.
She nodded with a slight smile. Okay. Be careful.
He grinned. Im always careful.
Edge turned and strode away, whistling some melody hed heard somewhere. Rydia watched him go and then sighed, moving away to start gathering wood for the fire. So, what hurdle am I going to climb over this evening? She had no idea. Shed kissed him - true, it had only been on the cheek, but that was better than nothing. Shed held his hand. Shed been honest about how she enjoyed his company and his friendship The only thing left was what? Again, she had no idea.
She could only follow her instincts.
Rydia cleared her throat and made her way back to the campsite. She set up the stone circle and then set up the small pile of twigs and moss before casting a low-level fire spell to ignite it. It smoked to life immediately. She coaxed it to a stronger flame, placing gradually larger pieces of wood on it as it grew. Once she thought it was strong enough to take care of itself, she sat back and crossed her arms, staring at the ground at the base of the flames.
Could she coax Edge in the same way? She shivered and rubbed her arms, looking away from the ground toward the area shed seen him last. Did she want to do that? Yes, she did. Yet, she didnt. After all, she didnt know what to expect. She knew what she wanted, and she was scared of that at the same time. This was all so new. So different from the friendship shed grown comfortable with. Yet, it was the obvious step forward.
One that, after all was said and done, she wanted to take.
She cleared her throat again, startled and a little afraid of the feelings welling up within her young heart. They were strong, new, and more real than anything shed known. She wanted to protect these feelings. Stay true to them. She didnt want to betray them, just as she didnt want to betray Edges friendship. Rydia brushed a stray hair from her face and stood to move just out of the firelight. No. That was one thing she wouldnt do.
Hey there, you. Where are you going?
She smiled as he came into view. Nowhere. Just walking around a bit. Ive got a nice fire going.
Looks like it. He gave her a wink. Cheated, didnt you?
Of course. I dont rub sticks together. I use what I have.
He chuckled and she fell into step beside him. I guess youve got a point. Dont blame you, anyway. It takes too long to do it the old-fashioned way.
My point exactly. She noticed that he gave her an odd look. Uh-oh. It isnt that obvious what I was thinking about, is it? When he didnt say anything, she had to keep herself from giving a sigh of relief. So, how many more days until Baron?
Two, more than likely. Unless we catch a chocobo.
Is there a chocobo forest around here?
He gestured to the forest west of their position. There. Its not exactly in our planned route, but if we caught one wed make up the difference in no time.
Did she want to lose a day with him all to herself? Oh.
Im not too crazy about the idea myself, he told her after a slight pause.
He glanced over at her with a slight smile, his eyes twinkling. Catching a chocobo is hard work. Catching two? I dont know if its worth the trouble. Weve been making pretty good time and its been fun.
I couldnt have said it better myself. She smiled back at him. It has, hasnt it? So, you dont mind if we just keep walking?
He shook his head. Nah. Good exercise.
She nodded agreement and sat in front of the fire, a little surprised when he sat close beside her. They prepared their meal, talked about how good it was going to be to see Cecil and Rosa again while it cooked, and then ate in content silence, occasionally catching the others gaze and giving them a smile. Then they cleaned up, buried the garbage so it wouldnt attract scavengers, and went about setting up their bedrolls. Edge set up his first and then let her know that he was going to gather some more wood for the fire.
Rydia was left alone to stare down at his unrolled bedding. Well, do I set up mine beside his, like I did before? She hadnt thought about it the night before, shed just done it. After all, shed been used to having everyone gathered around the fire and sleeping next to whoever had a space free. Was it wise to do that now? When she was trying to coax feelings from Edge that were deeper than friendship? She frowned suddenly and set up the bedroll beside his. Youre thinking too much. Calm down.
She shivered and laid down to cover herself with her thin blanket, staring up at the shimmering stars that seemed to stare down at her just as intently. As if they were waiting for her next decision. Rydia closed her eyes and put her arm over them with a deep breath.
You okay? His voice was mildly concerned as he stacked the wood at the head of his bedroll.
Just tired, I guess. Its been a long couple of days.
Tell me about it. He stretched out on the mat and nudged her. Tell me if you get too cold. Ill let you use my blanket.
She smiled, but didnt drop her arm from her eyes. At that particular moment she didnt want to meet his gaze. It was bad enough that she could smell him and feel the warmth of him right there Thanks, Edge. Im sure Ill be fine.
Yeah. As long as he stayed close, shed be just fine.
* * *
Her breathing deepened and she turned onto her side, her arm finally moving to reveal her face. She wrinkled her nose as she slept, a slight frown lowering her eyebrows, and Edge smiled as he watched her. Her hand was just a few inches from him and he changed his gaze to stare at her delicate fingers, studying them and wondering how such dainty things could manifest the power hed seen her use. It was her natural gift. A gift that she knew how to use wisely.
Answering an urge that welled up within him, he reached out and tenderly caressed her palm with a single finger. Her fingers twitched and then closed, pulling back toward her. His eyes twinkled and he rest his temple against his fist as he examined her face, her lips slightly parted as a lock of hair rested on her lower lip. He carefully stretched out a hand and brushed it off, tucking it behind her ear as he had so often seen her do. Much to his surprise, his touch didnt wake her.
Had he wanted it to?
He pressed his lips together and lay back, staring up at the stars which blinked soundlessly back at him. What would he have done had she opened her eyes? Did he believe they were ready for that step? No. Not yet. She didnt know how he felt, yet. Then and only then would be the right time for that. Maybe. Probably? Edge closed his eyes for a moment and then turned onto his side once more, facing Rydia and watching her. He liked watching her. Always had. Always would. There was something dramatic about her. Something innocent yet sophisticated. She was fragile, yet had a tough spirit that didnt shirk responsibility. She was gorgeous, yet seemingly oblivious to the fact. Rydia was intriguing, inside and out. That was what hed always felt about her.
He probably always would.
She adjusted her position, her hand stretching out in front of her again. Edges gaze drifted to it and he hesitantly reached out and took it in a gentle grasp. Her fingers tightened around his hand, but she didnt pull away. Neither did she open her eyes or give any hint that she knew what was happening. Her frown lessened and her lips tilted upward slightly, but her breathing remained deep and steady.
Edge sighed and caressed her hand with his thumb. He felt guilty stealing snatches of touches like this. Without her knowledge. Without her consent. It was just so hard to resist. It was hard enough to stay where he was and not wrap her up in his arms and just hold her close. He was proud of the fact that all he held was her hand. Cecil had warned him that hed get like this. Edge had believed him, too. Maybe thats why he wasnt shocked or terrified of what he was doing. Of what he was planning to do. Hed spoken to Cecil about it almost a month before. Asked his advice. Asked for suggestions. Asked for things to say that wouldnt give her the wrong idea.
Cecil, like usual, had been understanding and eager to help.
Now, as he felt her beside him and could smell the fresh scent of innocence that seemed to follow her everywhere she went The next 2 days would be a challenge. A challenge to keep his distance, yet step closer when the time was right. It was happening. He could feel it. Their friendship was growing. Blossoming into something he wanted more than a rebirth of Eblan. He wanted her.
Her grip on his hand tightened and she took in a quick breath, softly whispering his name as she released a long sigh.
His eyes twinkled and his smile widened. Shh, he whispered back. Im right here.
Her lips smiled briefly and her face glowed. Edge watched it with quiet amazement, fighting the desperate need to hold her much closer. No. Not unless shes awake. Not unless she says its okay. Im no thief. I wont take something she doesnt know shes giving. He wanted it to mean something to both of them.
Edge released a slow breath and closed his eyes, her hand in his calming him to sleep.
* * *
Rydia opened her eyes with a yawn and turned onto her back to stretch as long as she could.
Good morning, sleeping beauty. You awake enough for breakfast?
She rolled over onto her side and gave Edge a sleepy smile. He was finishing up their breakfast. Morning, Edge. Give me another couple of minutes.
Edge nodded with a smile over at her. Sure. What are you going to do?
Just lay here, she told him with another yawn.
Sorry. Not acceptable. Youve got to get up and get the blood flowing. He stood and came to stand over her, offering her a hand to help her stand. Come on. Ill help.
She smiled and put off the blanket before reaching up and taking his hand. He pulled her up without a problem and vigorously rubbed her upper arms. Rydia laughed and pushed at his chest. Stop, you goof.
He chuckled and pulled her into a hug when she tried to push away. Stop what? Im trying to get your blood going.
Rydia swallowed hard, her face burning as he continued to embrace her so tight that she could feel the strong, powerful rhythm of his heartbeat. After another long moment, he pulled back and examined her face.
She smiled hesitantly and stepped backward. Thanks.
She could feel him watching her as she knelt to roll up her bedding. Then, after a slight pause, he moved back over to their breakfast and pulled it out of the dying embers. Rydia brushed at her eyebrow and released a slow breath. Her heart was going about a million miles a minute and she couldnt get over how good it had felt to be that close to him. To feel his heart beating. To have his breath tickling her hair. She cleared her throat and tied the bedroll secure, before putting it aside. He handed her the stick of breakfast and she took it with a smile.
She nodded and took an absent bite. Yes. Thank you. Of course shed slept well. Shed dreamt about him. From the moment her eyes had closed. What about you? She glanced toward him and noticed a silly half-smile.
Rydia arched an eyebrow and looked him full in the face. Whats the silly smile for?
He chuckled and took another bite of breakfast. Silly smile? Me?
Edge shook his head. It wasnt a silly smile, Dee. It was a content one. I slept great.
He laughed. Just eat your breakfast.
Rydia smiled. She liked his laugh. Always had. It was deep and genuine, bubbling up from inside him as if it came straight from his heart. It tickled her insides with affection and twinkled in her eyes. Yes. She liked his laugh. It was genuinely contagious.
Im glad you slept good.
He looked over at her, his smile still twinkling in his eyes. Oh. I was up earlier this morning and noticed a little pond just a little ways from here. I thought you might like to take a swim before we get going.
She nodded enthusiastically. That would be wonderful. I feel as if I have a second skin.
Edge laughed again and licked his fingers. Okay. Well lets hurry and clean up. Then Ill take you over there.
Rydia finished her last bite and then stood with an eager smile twinkling in her eyes. Im done. Lets go.
Edge stood, kicked some dirt over the last of the embers, and then reached out and took her hand. Come on. Its over here.
They hurried through the high grass that separated the well-traveled trail to Baron from the rest of the wilderness and entered a wooded grove. Birds cooed and called, greeting the duo with beautiful songs of welcome and happiness. Rydia looked around her with a content smile as she allowed Edge to gently pull her along through the woods. After a couple minutes, they entered a slight clearing with a pond in the center.
Here it is.
Its gorgeous, she exclaimed. Rydia rushed to the rim of the pond, slipped off her shoes, and stepped in a little ways. She shivered and looked back at Edge with a smile, her eyes twinkling with laughter. Its perfect. She stepped back from the rim and began stripping out of her dress. This is going to feel so good.
What are you doing?
Im going in, she told him without turning. Rydia stripped down to her full-body slip, carefully set her dress and shoes aside where they wouldnt get wet, and then turned to look over her shoulder at Edge. He had a strange expression on his face. Whats the matter? Arent you coming?
In a minute, he mumbled.
His ears seemed a little pink, but Rydia shrugged it off. She hadnt had a swim in days! Okay. Well, dont wait too long. She hurried into the water and gave a shriek. Brrr. Its freezing.
She rubbed at her upper arms and then dived under the glass-like surface of the water, enjoying the crisp feel of it against her skin. It was refreshing and seemed to wake every single part of her. It felt glorious! After a few moments of swimming as deep as she could without coming up for air, she bobbed to the surface to find Edge sitting at the rim of the pond watching her with a slight smile.
You look like a mermaid.
Dont they have scales? Rydia asked with a laugh. She pushed onto her back and floated around. And a tail?
I dont think its called a tail.
Close enough. She rolled over and swam toward him, hovering just far enough out that her feet couldnt touch the floor of the pond. I thought you wanted to swim?
I do, but you He hesitated. You said it was cold.
She laughed. Oh brother. You know its going to be cold this early in the morning. Come on. It feels great!
He cleared his throat and leisurely stood, slowly pulling his shirt over the top of his head to place it on her dress and shoes. Okay. If you insist.
Rydias eyes widened, taking in his smooth chest and the well-defined muscles of his torso and arms with a quick intake of breath. When he began untying the belt at his waist, she dove under water. Shed never seen him out of his clothes before Well, you wanted him to go swimming. How did you expect him to do it? Didnt you strip down to your almost-nothings? Didnt you know he was going to do the same thing? She supposed she hadnt really thought about it.
Now that she knew, what was she going to do?
I have to relax, thats what I have to do. I know he feels uncomfortable as it is. Why else would he try and talk himself out of it? She pushed toward the surface, careful to keep her eyes away from the shore, and floated onto her back. He was her friend. She could trust him. She was his friend. He could trust her. To do what? Youre not making sense! And she knew it. She just felt so strange all of a sudden and she knew why.
Criminy! It is cold, he yelped.
She couldnt help but laugh. Just swim around a bit. Youll get used to it.
Rydia heard the splash as he dove beneath the surface and took in a slow breath as she guided herself around the small pond. This could be a really fun time with him if she just calmed down and let herself enjoy it. What happened, happened. She closed her eyes and smiled. Yeah. She could do that. Shed done it so far. Right?
Hands grabbed her ankles and pulled her under. She squealed and took in a quick breath before her head submerged. Rydia kicked as she desperately tried to pull herself back to the surface. The hands wouldnt release her. They pulled her deeper. She finally gave up the fight, turning toward Edge with a playful frown as he grinned up at her. She doubled over and pulled at his hair. Bubbles escaped his mouth and she felt his hands release her ankles. She immediately pushed away from him and pulled toward the surface to get a quick breath of air.
Rydia knew hed be up after her.
He cleared the surface of the water with a gasp and then his hands enclosed her waist and pushed her downward. She gripped them and tried to focus enough to cast a fire spell in order to singe them, but all she could feel was the spark in her abdomen at the firm pressure and warmth of his hands through her slip. Rydia wriggled, but his grip was too secure. She couldnt get free. He dove deeper, closer and closer to the floor of the pond, her body held tight against him. She clenched her jaw and forced her mind to focus. A moment later, his hands left her waist and she was once again swimming swiftly toward the surface, this time aiming more for the shore.
She could hear him pulling at the water just behind her.
Her feet touched the pond floor and she lunged forward, desperately fighting against the resistance of the water as she hurried for the shore. Almost there. Almost there. Her feet touched the shoreline, but before she could hit full speed, she felt an arm encircle her waist and pull her off balance. She squealed his name and the next thing she knew she was on top of him and he was looking up at her with a strange expression on his face.
Gotcha, he said huskily.
Rydia stared down at him in silence, watching the droplets of water as they twinkled lazy trails down the sides of his face. Enraptured with the strange, sensual look of wet hair and eyelashes. Captivated by the crisp expression in his eyes as they held hers. She swallowed hard, her hands squeezing his shoulders to keep herself from doing what seemed to be the thing to do.
Y-yes, you do, she whispered.
His gaze focused on her lips and then back to her eyes. Dee
Edge paused for a long, excruciatingly drawn out moment, and then he rolled her over onto her back. Air was forced from her lungs as his weight bore down on her and she took in a quick breath of surprise, her gaze unable to pull away from his as he pressed himself against her hands yet resting on his chest. Oh gods. Its happening. Its happening. His head lowered slightly and his breath tickled her face as she stared up at him, staring at those lips, focusing on those eyes, not knowing what to feel or what to want, yet knowing she felt as if she belonged in this exact position. Close to him. A part of him.
Dee His lips brushed against hers for the briefest moment. Dee, Im sorry.
To her vanishing sense, the statement didnt fit with their passionate embrace. It confused her and her mind couldnt grab onto the words she needed to say in order to confront the misplaced statement. All she could focus on was the warmth of his chest against her hands and the weight of his muscular body on hers. That was it. Nothing more. She didnt know what to do next. Didnt know what to feel next. Didnt know what to think about anything that had happened before or what would happen after Her thoughts scattered as Edges lips touched hers again, teasing them with a velvety kiss that lasted barely a second. Then they moved slowly across her cheek, each touch a mere instant in length, as if he fought within himself. Fought against what he was doing.
Edges lips paused at her ear, his breath labored. I didnt mean this to happen. Not like this.
Rydias eyes fluttered closed as she desperately attempted to struggle through the fog. Something important was happening. Think! Wh-whats happening? Please, she pleaded in a faint, barely audible whisper. Her hands slipped from his chest and wrapped around him, drawing herself closer. Looking to him for protection from something she didnt understand. Please tell me whats happening. Edge, please.
He caressed her cheek with his. I want you so bad, Dee, but Im afraid. Afraid that if this happens If this happens, we wont be friends. Not like we were.
He wants me He wants me? The phrase faded in and out of her mind with each wave of emotion, lost and forgotten in each torrent of pleasure and contentment.
I know I should push away now. To walk away and let you keep your innocence. Let you keep your pure view of me and your determination to be my friend. But But I cant. I cant do this anymore, Dee.
His whispers tickled her ear, beckoning to her sense and helping it find its way through the fog of emotion.
I love you. Ive loved you since that first moment that I opened my eyes and saw you standing there, just behind Rosas shoulder. Youre my best and closest friend, Dee. But I need more than that. Edge pulled her closer against him, so close that the warmth of him seemed to radiate clear through her He pulled away suddenly. Oh gods. I cant.
Edge rolled free of her arms with a groan and struggled to his feet to stumble several feet away from her. Rydia reached out for him with a sob, but he was too quick. She shivered violently, helpless to do anything as her wits bombarded her only to be scattered with the realization of what hed said. He loved her.
Edge, wait, she called in a choked voice. She scrambled to her feet and hurried forward, taking hold of his arm when he seemed ready to move further away from her. He gazed down at her with a pained expression, his body tense, as if he were ready to run. You cant just go like that. You cant just leave me here like this.
He backed away from her, his hand trying to free his arm from her grasp. I have to. Its not fair to you. I Dammit, Rydia, I love you! I have to back off. If I dont, Ill do something that I might regret, and you deserve more than that.
Tears ran freely down her face as she tightened her grip on his arm. Im not going to let you leave, Edge! I dont care what you think I deserve. I want you. Youre the best thing thats happened to me! Do you think Im going to give that up?
Im not asking you to give anything up, he pleaded. Edge finally freed her hands from his arm. Just let me walk away. I need to cool off. I need to get control.
He turned and began hurrying toward the forest with quick strides. Panic welled within Rydia with a surprising wave of force and focus. She lifted her hands and a charge of blood-red fire streamed from her hands, igniting the trees and grass just in front of him. He skidded to a halt, collapsing to his knees a few feet from the blaze. Rydia stumbled forward, tears clouding her vision as the sobs broke forth from her burning lungs.
She fell to her knees beside him, knocking him over as she threw herself into his arms, her arms wrapping themselves around his neck. I love you, Edge. Dont leave me like this. Please!
Flames roared around her, but she couldnt differentiate the sound of the flames with the sound of her blood rushing through her ears as his arms encircled her and his lips found hers. Then, his weight was bearing down on her again and his lips were trailing a path of fire across her throat, his arms pulling her tight against him. Her eyelids fluttered and she desperately tried to breathe through the rampaging emotions, her fingers submerging themselves into the silk of his hair. One of his hands stroked its way up her leg, caressing and fondling trails of mind-numbing passion through the dampness of her slip as his mouth once again found hers.
Rydia was carried along on the waves of fervor and pleasure. Not knowing where she was or what was happening. All she knew was that she felt more alive than she had ever felt in her life. Edge seemed to be a very part of her soul. An intricate part of who she was. She couldnt let it go.
No, he said against her mouth. I cant. Dee, dont let me do this Oh gods. He pulled her closer. Always closer.
Edges desperate cry for help broke through her own desire and gripped her. His heart would be broken and she couldnt allow that. If they were destined to be together, they would have many years of this same passion. Those years, however, would be at the right time. When they were both ready. Thats what hed meant. Thats what hed tried to do when he had walked away before. He had desperately tried to give them time to get ready for this. She had to help. Before it was too late.
Rydia fought against the pleasure and passion. Wrestled against the overwhelming desire to let him take her all the way. Struggled to remember that he had admitted he loved her and that would be enough for now. She pushed through the heady emotions and pressed her hands against his chest.
Edge, she whispered against his mouth. Edge. Stop. Edge, we need to stop.
I know, he groaned against her mouth. I know, Dee. Please. Help me. You just feel so good
Rydia didnt know what to do. Her control was fading and if she didnt Her arms wrapped themselves around his neck and she succumbed for the briefest moment, then his groan of misery and despair at what was happening broke through and she steeled herself against it, slipping her hands between them to push against his chest once again. He used the inertia and rolled away, covering his face with his hands to keep from looking at her disheveled form.
Im sorry, he said again. Edges voice was tight with tears of regret. I didnt mean for that to happen.
Rydia desperately wanted to comfort him, but knew their emotions were still dangerously high to do so with anything but words. Edge, she said in a choked voice. Edge, you dont need to say youre sorry for any of this. Cant you see that I wanted it as much as you did? Youre not to blame.
I could have done a lot of things differently, Dee. You know I could have. It was my choices which brought us here. Choices that I shouldnt have made. He risked a glance over at her and quickly looked away. Please. Go back to camp and wait there.
No, she said firmly. Im not going to leave you here like this.
He looked over at her sharply, his eyes dark and filled with pain at what he knew he was asking. Rydia, please. Let me have a second to get myself centered. We can talk about this in a minute.
Rydia gnawed her lower lip, frantically trying to think of some reason to stay with him. To help him. Some part of her knew, though, that what would help him the most right now was time away from her. A tear dripped down her cheek and he turned away from her, balling his hands into fists.
All right, she said in a tight voice. Ill go back to camp and wait for you there.
He nodded. Thank you. Ill only be a minute. I promise.
Rydia staggered to her feet and turned to face the blazing wall of flame. She lifted her hands again, this time a streak of blue ice instantly killed the heat and quieted the roar. Then she stumbled forward, tears streaming down her face and blurring her vision. She wasnt sure if they were tears of happiness or misery, but she knew that they were definite tears of loss. Her friendship with him would be forever changed.
* * *
Edge swore and pounded his fist against the ground, enraged at his actions. Now there was no going back. No turning back the clock in order to retrieve their friendship. His weakness had forever taken that away from them both. Had she been ready for that? Had he? Edge shook his head as he struggled to his feet. His body ached from toe to hairline. He had grass cuts on his knees and legs. And hed have a nasty bruise in the small of his back from the stone hed landed on when Rydia had thrown herself into his arms.
Damn, shed felt good against him.
Edge strode toward the ponds rim and took up his clothes, slipping into them as quick as possible without falling over. Then, he picked up her dress and shoes and turned back for the camp. A step was taken that he hadnt been ready for. A step that he hadnt planned on taking for at least two days. Now he didnt know what to do. She probably didnt either. Hed told her how he felt. Now what? He had no idea. He wanted to marry her, that went without saying, but his love for her did not guarantee that shed agree to marry him. Edge rubbed at his scalp, once again cursing his stupid idea of taking her swimming.
It hadnt been so stupid when hed stumbled upon the pond. Hed known that the little early morning adventure would make her happy. Why he didnt realize that shed have to strip down to her under-things was beyond him. Maybe he hadnt wanted to realize it. Maybe hed wanted to see if she actually would do something like that in front of him. Well, its too late to worry about it now. Whats done is done and everythings different now!
Realization and wonder passed through the anger and his step faltered and ceased. She loved him? He thought back to the passionate moments theyd shared and fell to his knees, his hands limp at his sides. I love you, Edge. Dont leave me like this. Please!... I dont care what you think I deserve. I want you. Youre the best thing thats happened to me... Cant you see that I wanted it as much as you did? She did love him. Shed said it and shed shown it in a way hed never thought possible. Oh gods. It happened. It really happened!
He struggled to his feet and rushed forward, hurrying for the camp with a surprising feeling of elation and worry. The woman of his dreams had just told him that she loved him and hed sent her off to the campsite by herself?! Why didnt it dawn on me what she said? Dont worry about it! Just go and be with her, you blasted idiot!
Edge approached the camp at a dead run, clutching her dress and shoes in a fist. He saw her sitting on the ground, morosely staring at a freshly built fire. Dee!
She looked up at his shout, saw him running toward her, and leaped to her feet to hurry forward. He tossed her clothes aside and took her in his arms, kissing her face as he lifted her off the ground. He stumbled over his own feet and landed on the grass with a thud, careful to use himself as insulation from the fall. He rolled her over onto her back, caressing her hair away from her face as he stared down at her with a smile, his eyes twinkling.
Im an idiot, Dee. He kissed her. I was so caught up in the fact that everything was going all wrong, that I didnt hear what you said. Im sorry, Dee. He kissed her again and again, pulling her closer. I cant believe this is happening, he mumbled against her lips. You love me. You love me.
She burst into tears against his lips, her mouth moving against his as if it had always belonged there. Her arms snaking themselves around his neck and pulling him closer still. I love you so much, Edge. Dont marry anyone! Please dont leave me alone! I dont want to lose my friend.
Edge pulled back and held her face in both hands, caressing her cheeks with his thumbs. You wont, Dee. Im not going to marry anyone but the girl Ive known a little while. You. Dont you know that? He tenderly kissed away her tears and then wrapped his arms around her, nuzzling his lips against his neck. Her sobs deepened, shaking her shoulders and wetting his shirt as she pressed her face against him. Shh. Shh. Please dont cry.
Edge carefully sat up, cradling her against him as he rocked back and forth, stroking her hair and tenderly massaging her back. As her sobs quieted and they continued to hold each other, he smiled and closed his eyes. This was where he wanted to be. Baron would wait. Eblan would still be there in the morning. For right now, he wanted to be there. With her. Everything else just didnt matter.
Her trembling didnt lessen and he realized that the early morning breeze on her still damp skin was chilling her to the bone. He reached behind him for the bedroll, carefully unwrapped his blanket from it, and then wrapped her up in it.
He pressed his lips against her forehead. Were both not very bright, are we? We should have just told each other months ago, instead of dancing around the issue like a bunch of moogles.
Her arms tightened around him. I didnt know how. I didnt want to make you think that you had to feel the same way.
Dee, didnt you know Id been wild about you from the first? Why else would I say all those things? Im not a flirt. Did you see me like that with anyone else? Ever?
I didnt know what to think about anything. Id been raised by summon monsters, Edge. What did I know about men and what they did when they liked someone? I didnt even know when I liked someone.
Edge gazed down at her with a smile and then motioned to her pile of crumpled clothes with a tilt of his head. You better get dressed.
She reached up and caressed his cheek, and then snuggling in closer. I want to stay here. Like this.
You want to catch your death?
Im warm enough.
Edge chuckled and then stood, lifting her in his arms. Im sure of that, but we need to talk about some things. Id rather do that with your clothes on. That way I can focus better. He set her on her feet, made sure the blanket was securely fastened around her, and then pushed her gently toward her clothes. Please, Dee. Get dressed.
She flushed, hurried into her dress (as much as was possible under a frumpy blanket), and then turned to face him. He was sitting on the ground facing away from her. She smiled and then went to sit beside him. He had his hands tightly clasped on his knees as he sat cross legged.
Rydia, I was going to ask you to marry me when I was done talking to Cecil in Baron.
Rydias eyes twinkled and she made a motion to throw her arms around him. He instantly had his hands firmly on her shoulders, keeping her at arms length.
No, he told her gently. Not yet.
I know, but let me finish. He took in a deep breath and then hesitantly released his hands from her shoulders. Then, when he saw she wasnt going to vault into his arms, he faced away from her as before and continued. I think it would be good to be married, Rydia, but I dont know I dont know if I should wait or not.
Wait? Why? For what?
For Eblan to be built. Right now its just a bunch of ruined rooms thats barely recognizable as a castle. It wouldnt be right to have a new bride there. He looked toward her again, his eyes seemingly begging her to understand. I guess I know you wouldnt care one way or the other because I know that if you did, youd let me know right between the eyes. But Id care. Eblan isnt fit to be the home I want it to be for you. When I take you home, I want it to actually be home for you and for me.
Rydia dropped her eyes and faced forward, absently tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. Anywhere you are would be enough, Edge. You know that.
Yes, I do.
I want to help you fix it. You know that too.
Edge nodded and looked at the trees in the far distance. Yep.
What you probably dont know, is that I havent had a home since I was a child. Understandably, that makes me want yours no matter what it looks like. She met Edges gaze. The last home I had was Mist. It was destroyed and I dont think Ive ever been back there. It might have been fixed up, but I dont want to find out. The memory of my mother being murdered there is too much.
Edges face darkened with pain as she continued. I want to help you build your home again, Edge, because I want it to be mine too. But Cant I do that as your wife? Please? Building a home is going to be hard because youre going to have to face death. Youre going to have to face good memories and bad memories. I dont want you to do that alone. I want to be there each night for you to hold. I want to be there to give you strength for another day of facing memories.
Edge smiled at her for a long silent moment and then reached out to take her hand. You know, when you say it like that Well, well talk about it more as we head for Baron. All right?
She nodded, still holding his gaze. I want to get married in Eblan, Edge. In the little chapel. Just you and me and Cecil and Rosa. Please? Ive always dreamed thats where itd happen.
For you? Edge pulled her into a tight embrace. For you, anything.
Edge and Rydia had written their own vows.
It wasnt done very often, sometimes frowned upon by the church, but they had been adamant. They had specific things which needed to be said and who better to say it then them? So, the small group of 4 had gathered in the church amidst the scaffolds and tarps, waiting in front of the cleric who had been chosen to perform the ceremony as he reiterated the blessings of life-bonding.
Rydia was wearing a simple gown of the palest green (her favorite color, after all). Ivory and green ribbons as well as intricately woven garlands of pale flowers decorated her hair and matched the decorations woven into the hem and cuffs of her dress. Edge was dressed in full Eblan regalia. Pale gray with red and dark-blue highlights, tassels hanging from the end of his sheathed weapons. The couple, as they stood so silent and awe-struck, was beautiful. Cecil and Rosa held tightly onto the others hand as they watched their friends blossomed feelings come full-circle.
Edge recited his vows first.
When I first saw you, you were standing just behind Rosas shoulder. You looked a little scared. Concerned, more than anything else. That grabbed my attention more than the fact that you were so pretty. Later, after I got to know you a little better, I noticed something else about you. You were real. You listened. You heard. You were compassionate. Yet you were open about what you thought, especially when I was out of line.
He paused, taking in a deep breath as he looked down at her hands in his. It made me feel special. It made me care about something besides revenge. I wanted to protect you. Id never felt that about anyone before. Edge raised his gaze from her hands and looked into her eyes. Ive never been more sure of anything in my life: I love you. I want to take care of you.
The cleric smiled in approval and then changed his gaze to Rydia. Silence was her only response to Edges vows. She simply gazed up at him in amazement and wonder, an occasional tear dripping from the corner of her eye. After another silent moment, the cleric cleared his throat and pulled a kerchief from the sleeve of his tunic. He handed it to her with an understanding smile. Rydia looked over at the cleric with a sudden glance of realization and took the kerchief with a hesitant reach.
She dabbed at the corner of her eyes and then looked back toward Edge, reaching up to caress his cheek. I love you so much Her voice drifted.
There they stood. Silence carrying their vows one to the other. Promises spoken soul to soul. The cleric watched their expressions for a moment and then placed his hand on each of their shoulders. They blinked as one and then changed their eyes to him.
I now pronounce you husband and wife. Soul-mates. Life-bonded. You may kiss the bride.
Edge pulled her tenderly into his arms, his lips touching first one cheek and then the other. Then their eyes met and they shared a caress of a smile.