Categories > Games > Final Fantasy X-2 > Unwavering Symphony

Chapter 12

by animeangelash 0 reviews

No regrets, Lenne. No regrets.

Category: Final Fantasy X-2 - Rating: PG-13 - Genres: Angst, Drama, Romance - Characters: Lenne, Shuyin - Warnings: [X] - Published: 2006-08-25 - Updated: 2006-08-26 - 10512 words

Disclaimer: All characters and settings belong to Square-Enix. I'm merely borrowing them for a bit.


There was water running somewhere, Shuyin realized groggily as the sound rumbled gently in his ear. It was a relaxing sound, and he felt as if he were sinking into it where he lay, the familiar chilly sensation welcoming against his skin. Wrapped in that gentle roar was a clear, melodic voice, singing something he couldn't quite hear but was nonetheless soothed by. To say the least, such tranquility was a welcome change from the stress that had been as constant as his heartbeat for the past few weeks. Right then, he wanted nothing more than to lay back and let the drone of the water and the ring of that voice engulf and fill him; whatever it took to make it last.

But the voice eventually faded away, sinking into the louder crash of the water, which also began to quiet. Soon enough, the soothing nature of the situation was gone as well, replaced with the uncomfortable sensation of sunlight baking his exposed shins.

Moaning sleepily, he slowly rubbed the corners of his eyes, coaxing them into opening only to have them assaulted by blazing sunshine. Throwing an arm over his face in a futile attempt to reinstate the comfortable darkness from before, he flipped onto his side, off a spring he hadn't realized until now had been digging painfully into his back-his spine would probably have an impressive indentation in it now.

Even though he managed to save his eyes from the sun's burning light, that was hardly enough to let him drift back to sleep, even as tired as he still was. Once again, the sun's rays quickly got to work roasting his skin, and he realized that no matter the position he tried, they couldn't be avoided. Grunting in resignation, he finally pulled himself upright, yawning as he rested his elbows against his knees and rubbed the corners of his eyes.

Though now it was much less distinct and relaxing than it had been before, the sound of running water from his dream remained, by now only a muffled hum and splash from behind the bathroom door. Instinctively, Shuyin growled in frustration, forcing himself to his feet and heading across the room with an incredibly irritated air. Yasuo again, he immediately concluded, as it had become an unfortunately frequent occurrence for the man to invite himself in and use Shuyin's shower whenever his old, broken one decided to go on the fritz. It was starting to get incredibly annoying (not that it hadn't started out that way, of course), especially when the strongest security measures that Shuyin had at his disposal were apparently failing him. How long had it been since he'd taken Yasuo off of his lock registry?

However, just as he was moving to open the door and metaphorically haul the other man over the coals, it opened from within, a hand quickly emerging and groping for the doorframe. A feminine, light-skinned hand, with thin, elegant fingers to which a few droplets of water still clung. Definitely not Yasuo's hand.

"Shuyin?" Lenne's voice sounded from inside, her hand tapping against the doorframe in an apparent attempt to get his attention. "Shuyin? Are you awake?"

Blinking in astonishment, he slowly said, "Yes," then almost immediately cleared his throat. He never knew he was a tenor. "Yes," he repeated.

"Oh, uh, good morning," she said, laughing awkwardly to mask her discomfiture. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yeah," Shuyin responded, though he could hardly make sense of what she said. His mind was currently too busy reeling to do much else, though it only contained one thought: Lenne was in the shower. Lenne was in his shower. "You?"

"Pretty well, yes," she responded with an equal amount of embarrassment. "Thank you." After a short, uncomfortable pause, Lenne cleared her throat, her grip on the doorframe tightening somewhat. "Um, hey, this will sound a little strange I know, but my clothes are kind of dirty and . . . can I borrow some of yours until I can get these clean? I won't need them for too long."

And the tenor in him was back with a vengeance. "Sure," he answered, again coughing awkwardly to recover his proper pitch. "Yeah, hold on a second." Turning, he ran a hand through his hair, moving it carefully as if his head might cave in were he to put too much pressure on it. Now effectively jogged from his bleary state, the memories of the previous night became foremost in his mind. Her singing, her hand in his, her lips . . .

A violent jab of fright running through him, he swiftly leafed through his recollections of the rest of the night, dreading what he might find (or worse, what he wouldn't be able to find). Thankfully, he couldn't recall anything worth fretting about, and there were no missing parts to worry over. It was all there, though a bit blurry, and rather uneventful. In fact, there wasn't much to it at all. Almost immediately after their somewhat awkward-yet still staggering-rendezvous, the two had uneasily wished each other goodnight, Shuyin retreating to the couch and Lenne to the bed, though it had taken some convincing on his part before she was willing to deprive him of it. That had been it, up until this interesting little escapade.

"They might not fit right," he said, more to break the heavy silence than to actually inform her of said inconvenience. As he spoke, he finally made a point of orienting himself, and headed for the closet door next to the bathroom that, until then, he had been utterly ignoring.

"That's fine," she answered, holding her hand up and waving it a bit for visual effect. "It won't matter."

"Right," he answered, quickly falling back into that uncomfortable silence as he pulled the door open, a few balled-up, wrinkled shirts falling out as he did so. At the same time, he was nearly smacked upside the head with Lenne's staff, when it too haphazardly came tumbling out. However, he was able to catch it before it did him any bodily harm, and set it back in the closet, balancing it carefully to keep it from falling again. Then, disregarding the clothes at his feet for the moment, he started rummaging through the ones that had managed to stay on their hangers, searching for a clean shirt and pair of pants that were small enough not to fall right off of her (while subsequently quashing the mental images that created. Bad Shuyin. Very bad Shuyin).

"Hey," he heard Lenne say from off to his side, accompanied by the sound of nervous, drumming fingers. "Thanks for letting me stay over last night. You didn't have to do that."

Last night . . . "No problem," he answered, though his words sounded distant as his mind was, for the most part, otherwise preoccupied.

Lenne was apparently entertaining the same train of thought as he was, for after the sound of her sucking air in through her teeth and slowly exhaling receded, she said, "Um, sorry about last night. I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I-,"

"No," Shuyin interrupted hastily, knocking a sloppily hung shirt from its hanger and sending it tumbling into the metaphorical void in the bottom of the closet. "I didn't. Really." That was a blatant lie, of course, and he knew that she knew it. After all, it would take someone much denser than her not to notice the amount of times he stumbled while walking from the keyboard to the couch last night. "Don't be sorry about it. I mean, I'm not. It was just-just . . ."

"Just what?" Lenne prodded gently, the door creaking as she pulled it open a bit to look at him.

"Aw, never mind," he finished gracelessly, waving his hands about to dismiss the issue. Pushing past a few more shirts, he added, "I'm not making any sense." Before she could say anything else (most likely in disagreement, as she was prone to do when he spoke of himself less than highly), he finally managed to extract a suitable pair of pants and a shirt from the mire that was his closet. "Here," he said, leaning over and placing the clothes him her hand. "Think those will work?"

"Yeah," she answered, though it wasn't until a few seconds later that she pulled them inside and actually got to look at them. "Thanks."

"Welcome," Shuyin answered casually as he scooped up the clothes that had managed to escape from the closet's acquisitive depths and unceremoniously tossed them back in. For a moment, the entire apartment was silent, apart from the sound of shifting cloth from both sides of the bathroom door. "So," Shuyin started slowly, glancing up toward said door as he wandered back over to the couch and splayed out across it. "Hey, uh, were you singing this morning?"

"Oh," she replied sheepishly. "Oh, um, you heard me?"

"Sort of. I was half asleep, so . . ."

"Oh, sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up. I thought-"

"No," he quickly interrupted. "No, you didn't. Besides," he glanced at the door, regardless of the fact that he couldn't see her through it, "I like listening to you sing. You should do it more when I'm awake."

A short, hummed laugh came from the other side of the door. "I'll remember that."

"Yeah," Shuyin finished, and the silence was reinstated, a few metallic clicks from various buckles joining the shifting sounds of before. "Lenne?" he said after another moment.


"Um, do you have to be home anytime soon?"

"Hm?" Lenne responded. "No, I don't think so. I don't have anything planned, if that's what you mean."

"Yeah," he said, nodding despite her not being able to see it. "Hey, how 'bout you just stick around here then? It's been a while since we actually spent some time together."

"It won't interrupt anything?" Came her soft, perceptive reply after a moment of silence.

Trying to ignore the twinge of remembrance that ran through him (which, he realized, she was probably sharing with him), he shook his head. "Not on my end," he answered, purposefully avoiding the question's undertones. "Come on, it'll be like a vacation. You've been working pretty hard lately, right?"

"Yeah. All right," she said. Then as an afterthought, "Thank you."

"You say that too much," he replied. "It's really no problem."

"All the same, I don't want to overstay my welcome."

A chuckle preceding his reply, Shuyin said, "Don't worry about that. I don't think you could if you tried."

The creak of scraping hinges met his ears in response, and he tilted his head back to see Lenne peeking from behind the now open door, the slightest hint of checkered cloth visible on her shoulder. "We'll see," she said, smiling amiably and appreciatively back at him.


At first, Shuyin was sure Lenne wouldn't even stay a second night. He expected that she would leave sometime in the afternoon, operating under the assumption that she was putting an unnecessary burden on him, as she was wont to claim. Even on a day like this, where the two did little more than laze about his apartment and talk in between short games of cards (during which Shuyin lost his training blitzball and just about every shoe he owned), he didn't doubt that she would somehow come to the conclusion that she was imposing on him and straining her welcome.

Therefore, it came as a pleasant surprise when instead of excusing herself and heading for home when the sun began to set, Lenne took a moment to glance between the bed and the couch, and then said, "You know, you should sleep in the bed tonight. That couch can't be that comfortable." Though she quickly followed it up by asking for clarification on the status of her welcome, just knowing that she was willing to stay-that she wanted to stay-was enough to turn the contents of Shuyin's abdomen seemingly to nothing.

"No, it's fine," he said, for the life of him unable to keep a fairly silly looking grin from his face. Instead, he sufficed to hiding it from view. "You take the bed. I don't mind the couch."

"Are you sure?" she asked, glancing skeptically at the piece of furniture in question.

"Yeah, no problem."

Though she still looked doubtful, Lenne slowly half-nodded, half-shrugged her acceptance of the situation. "If you say so," she answered incredulously.

The next day wasn't much different, excluding the regrettable absence of Lenne's voice in his dreams. Upon forcing his eyes open and propping himself up, he caught sight of her, still asleep and thoroughly tangled in the comforter. She was apparently aware of this as well, however subconsciously, for in sleep her face was twisted into a look of utmost frustration. As cruel as it was, he couldn't help but snicker at her misfortune. Aside from that, the second day of their pseudo-holiday was remarkably uneventful. That was, of course, until evening started to set in.

"Hey, do you hear that?"

Turning a little too swiftly from his futile task of probing the kitchen cabinets for something edible, Shuyin had to shield his eyes from the garish light of the setting sun. Blinking to clear his vision, he turned toward Lenne who, until a moment ago, had been leaning indolently across the back of the couch. Now, she was standing up straight, her head cocked slightly to the side, and her gaze directed at nothing in particular. Confused, Shuyin mirrored her, tilting his head to the side and letting his eyes drift as they would. He did hear something, something so quiet that he wouldn't have been able to pick it up had he still been sifting through the cabinets. His curiosity quipped, he turned toward the door where, though it was still somewhat muffled, the sound was at its loudest. Pushing it open and poking his head out, he directed his gaze down to the walkway carpet, eyes narrowed as if such might help him focus on the sound.

It was music, he realized after a moment. A gentle tune carrying over the breeze, dominated by the loud, lazy pluck of a guitar. Stepping fully from the apartment and leaning over the railing, Shuyin searched the street below, looking for the source of the music in the dim light. However, from where he stood, he could only see people bustling about as usual, for the most part impervious to the sound.

"I heard there was a show going on today," said Lenne, coming up beside Shuyin and glancing around a bit herself. Just as incapable of seeing where the music was coming from as Shuyin, she resigned to merely tilting her head to the side, shutting her eyes as she concentrated on the faint noise. "I think it's that amateur band from B-North." Then, with a confident nod, she added, "Yeah, it sounds like them."

"Are they any good?" Shuyin asked, cupping his hands behind his ears in what he realized was a futile and rather ridiculous looking display.

"I think so," answered Lenne, tapping her foot to the faint beat. "But don't take my word for it. Listen for yourself."

"Easier said than done." Regardless, he folded his arms over the railing and laid his head on them, trying to focus on the music and ignore the city's other random, constant noises. There was quite a bit of screaming going on to, mostly of the high-pitched, feminine variety. Despite that, the actual music was still decent. The vocalist was all right, though Shuyin had a hard time deciphering whatever it was that he was trying to say. The drummer was pretty good too, though the guitar overpowered them more often than not. Really, the song was nothing breathtaking or particularly noteworthy, but all right in the end.

Suddenly, his concentration was broken by a much louder, more distinct sound at his side, and a bit of movement in the corner of his eye. Turning, he spotted Lenne, a joyful smile on her face as she danced ecstatically about the walkway, swaying her hips, stepping rapidly, and ducking behind her arms only to throw them out with vigor. All in all, she looked rather ridiculous.

Catching Shuyin's eye, instead of abruptly ending her dance and withdrawing with a few sheepish mutters like most people would do, Lenne smiled even more brightly than before, bobbing some and brushing a few wild strands of hair from her eyes. "Hey, come here," she said, gently taking him by the forearm and pulling him from the railing. "Dance with me."

"Oh no," Shuyin responded, shaking his head decisively and waving the hand that hadn't been taken hostage by Lenne. "I can't dance. Two left feet."

"That doesn't matter," Lenne responded, jostling his arm a bit. "I'm the only one here to see."

"And that makes things less embarrassing?"

"Oh, come on. What am I going to do?"

"Be better than me."

"Don't say that. You'd do just fine. Here, I'll show you." Sliding her fingers along his forearm until she reached his hand, she grasped it tightly and held it up. "They've even started a slower song. It'll be easy." She was right, of course. The music had slowed significantly from the supercharged, guitar-smashing beat at which it had been moving before.

"All right," she said, taking a few steps back so that their arms stretched into a taut line. "We'll start slow, okay? "

"Yeah, that sounds good," Shuyin replied, trying to sound casual and keep the relief out of his voice. After all, adding to the fact that he would embarrass himself trying to dance to a fast song, the walkway they were standing on wasn't exactly suited for such an endeavor. Frankly, he had no desire to send them both spinning over the railing in an attempt to keep up.

Moving with a sort of gradualness and precision that a Tonberry would envy, Lenne stepped forward, twirling into the hollow that his arm created so slowly that her skirt didn't even flutter. Pausing with her back turned to him, she glanced over her shoulder, and instructed, "Now, you put your hand against my back-go ahead." Nodding, he followed her directions, placing his hand between her shoulder blades in what he hoped was the correct place. "And that pushes me back out," she finished, spinning in reverse just as slowly as before until the two were in their initial position. "And that's the first part, not too hard, right?"

"No, but you're taking it easy on me."

"Well, you have to start somewhere. You can't expect to be an expert that quick. Anyway, ready for the next part?"

And so they continued, Lenne counting the steps indistinctly under her breath and slowly guiding him through them, yet still pretending that he was leading. It really wasn't that difficult of a dance; just a couple of simple twirls and a hand switch toward the end (of course, Lenne quickly clarified that what she was teaching him was only the second part of the dance, as they would need more room to perform the first).

By now, Shuyin was completely oblivious to whether the same song was playing, or how many had gone by since the first had ended. He was too absorbed in the bliss of the moment to care: between the brief little touches that the dance required, the slip-ups that had them bumping into each other for roughly a second and laughing for ten, and just being near her, he suddenly didn't find the music all that important anymore.

As she once again spun from his arms, her hand still fixed securely in his, he abruptly tugged her back to him, the continuously practiced maneuver ending with the two bumping heads rather gracelessly. Yelping in surprise, Shuyin swiftly slapped a hand to his forehead, due more to reflex than to any actual pain. Simultaneously, Lenne did the same, as if the two were expertly coordinated even during their screw-ups. A moment of confused silence passed, the two staring rather dumbly at each other, before Lenne burst into a fit giggles. "Sorry, sorry," she said in between snickers. "I guess I got a little caught up. I'll go slower next time."

"Naw, wasn't your fault," Shuyin argued, gesturing with the hand that wasn't still at his forehead. "My bad."

"How about it's both our faults?" Lenne suggested, reaching up and sliding her fingers beneath his palm to gently feel the bump beginning to grow on his forehead. Ducking beneath her arm and smiling amiably at him, she added, "We did both take damage for it."

"Yeah," he answered softly, any witty response suddenly lost. Slowly, he closed his fingers around hers in a loose hold, a gesture that could very well be taken as an accident if it was unwelcome. However, instead of questioning him over it or pulling her hand away, her only reaction was to smile even wider.

"Hey," she said after a moment, leaning in a bit further unconsciously. "How about we go in? It's getting kind of cold out here." Glancing about, Shuyin noticed for the first time that the sun had completely set, and the cities millions of artificial lights had already moved in to take its place. In addition, just as Lenne said, it was starting to get cold, and he could feel gooseflesh beginning to spread across his arms and the bare parts of his legs. "Besides," she added, pulling away from him and gesturing off over the railing. "Sounds like the show is over."

Blinking in surprise, Shuyin tilted his head and listened intently, eyes narrowed in concentration. Sure enough, no matter how much he strained, all he could hear was the usual sounds of the city: a few trivial announcements coming through the intercoms, the thump of some bass-heavy techno from one of the various night clubs nearby, and occasionally a shout sounding above the other million voices that filled up the remaining silence like sand in a jar of rocks. Not even the faintest strum of a guitar met his ears. "How long's it been over?" he asked curiously, shocked that he had somehow missed its absence. Sure, he hadn't been paying much attention, but not even realizing there wasn't any music at all was a bit of a stretch.

"Um," Lenne hummed, rubbing her head seemingly to jog her memory. "I'm . . . not sure," she finished sheepishly.

"So, we were dancing to no music?" Shuyin concluded.

"That's what it looks like," she said, shrugging and laughing a bit at their silliness. "I guess we were having too much fun."

"Yeah," he replied, a smile spreading across his face at the sight of the one adorning hers, and at the declaration that he hadn't been the only one having too much fun. Sometimes, it was hard to tell with Lenne. Even though he'd gotten rather good at telling her real smiles from her fake ones, sometimes he just couldn't be sure whether she was actually happy, or just putting on a show for him. Hearing her say that, and seeing that wide, genuine smile turning her lips, made the whole affair that much better. "I guess we were."




"This is the third night in a row you've slept on the couch. You should sleep here tonight," Lenne said, turning onto her stomach and gesturing to the somewhat messy bed on which she was currently lying. "I know I've said this before, but that really doesn't look comfortable."

Pausing in his nearly ferocious punching of one of the couch cushions in an attempt to fluff it up, Shuyin shook his head casually. "Aw, it's all right," he answered, setting the cushion back in place and lying down on the now slightly less flat couch. "You're the guest here, right?"

"Yeah," Lenne answered carefully, picking at a blanket that was beginning to press an interesting indentation into her side. "But still, that doesn't mean you have to be uncomfortable."

"It doesn't bother me," Shuyin responded, grinding the heel of his hand into what was apparently a rather stubborn lump in the cushion near his ribs. Turning a smile her way, he said, "You should have seen the cots we got to sleep on when me and the team went out on weeklong blitz training sessions. Those things were about as big as toothpicks. Plus, there isn't a whole cabin-load of sweaty, snoring blitzball players to deal with here. Nirui, I swear, she could wake up people back on land. Compared to that, this thing's like sleeping in Yevon's bed."

"Well, I guess," Lenne finally conceded reluctantly, trying to conceal her disappointment. Despite what Shuyin thought, her intention hadn't been to switch with him. Unfortunately, he wasn't particularly good at picking up on subtleties, and it didn't help that her timidity kept her from being any more straightforward. Needless to say, she was beginning to get frustrated with what really was a simple and rather silly dilemma.

"'Night," Shuyin murmured, stifling an impressive yawn and rubbing his eyes before clumsily turning onto his other side. Returning the sentiment, Lenne sat up and snatched the pillow from the opposite side of the bed and laid it down, resting her head on it with a groan. Curling up in the unkempt blankets, she willed herself to put off thinking about her little predicament, at least until tomorrow. If she stopped to worry over it now, she'd never get any sleep.

Unfortunately, she couldn't stem the rebellious current of thoughts that engulfed her mind, and the aforementioned sleep was effectively made impossible. Even the blankets seemed to be working against her attempts at slumber: they smelled just like him.

With a long, resigned sigh, Lenne flipped over on her back, eyes fixed on a streak of light that had managed to bypass Shuyin's curtains. It was frustrating, that her timidity had become so much of a hindrance.

No, not timidity, she reminded herself. She was not a timid person. Her concerts were proof enough of that. Nervousness was a better word. Even better than that: fear of rejection. After all, she reminded herself, just working up the nerve to kiss him had been harder on her than some of the fayth-even proud Fenrir and rambunctious Moomba-for just that reason.

But then again, hadn't he already accepted her? Hadn't he invited her into his home with indefinite welcome? Didn't he shiver beneath her fingers when she touched him? Hadn't he held her hand? Hadn't he wanted her kiss?

Flipping back onto her stomach, Lenne buried her head in the pillow, sighing heavily into the cloth. This was so frustrating.

Suddenly, a loud bout of mumbling broke through her thoughts, and she swore she would have jumped clean off the bed had the blankets not had her so tightly confined. Blinking in surprise, she glanced off toward the couch, at the only possible source of the noise.

"Shuyin?" she muttered cautiously, leaning in some as if that would help him hear her. However, the only reply she received was a few slow, heavy breaths. Leaning forward a bit more, she watched incredulously for any delayed motion from him. He couldn't already be asleep, could he? After all, he'd only just wished her goodnight a few minutes before. He couldn't have been that tired.

After untangling herself from the blankets as quietly as possible, she slid from the bed and tiptoed the three or so feet to the couch, mentally cursing his wood floor the whole way. Leaning over him, she squinted, trying to see his face by the minimal light that trickled in through the window. "Shuyin," she whispered, half-expecting his eyes to snap open at the almost non-existent noise and thus put her in an overwhelmingly embarrassing position. However, no such reaction came. In fact, she got no reaction at all, save for the same breathing that had served as his reply before. So, he was asleep. Well, that solved that.

However, even though that question had been effectively answered and she should have been getting back to bed herself, she couldn't muster up the will to move. Instead, she continued to watch him, waiting as her eyes began to adjust more fully. She felt strange and a little guilty about it, like she was some sort of voyeur imposing on his privacy and personal space. Yet, somehow, she couldn't help herself. He looked so peaceful, his brow free of creases and a faint smile on his lips. It'd been a long time since she'd seen him so calm and happy. Ever since she'd told him about her imminent departure, he'd seemed so stressed and upset and completely lost. She hated seeing him like that, and sometimes she wished she hadn't told him at all. Maybe, for just a little while longer, she could have kept him from degenerating into the mess of anger and helplessness that he had become these past few weeks.

Gently, she brushed her fingers across his forehead. It was a bit awkward, given the small space between him and the back of the couch that she had to work with, but it didn't matter. She just wanted to touch him, be near him. After all, she reminded herself, she didn't have much time left to do it.

Sighing heavily at that thought, she pulled her hand back, staring at it and stretching her fingers absently. She really needed to get to bed, as much as she disliked the thought. Glancing at Shuyin again, she jokingly entertained the idea of simply picking him up and carrying him back to bed with her. Hardly the most romantic gesture, but it'd get the point across. Never mind that he was almost entirely made of muscle, and that she would probably collapse before carrying him more than a few inches. She could always drag him, she supposed, though that would most certainly wake him up, and that would be all kinds of awkward. Still, she couldn't help but smile at the thought, if for no other reason than it was completely ridiculous.

Then, just as she was finally about to resign to going back to the bed and trying to force herself to some semblance of sleep, she paused, glancing at the couch itself as well as the man lying on it. Though she hadn't paid it any attention before, she was suddenly aware of an obvious, yet very thin bit of space between Shuyin and the edge of the couch. A thin bit of space that could be made wider, were he to be nudged toward the back of the couch a little more. Maybe-and suddenly, that anxiety was upon her with ferocity, her stomach beginning to twist itself into a knot at the idea. However, unlike last night, she forced it back, pushing it into the corner of her mind where she could, for the most part, ignore it.

Maybe, she resumed, just enough for another body.


"Are you sure you're head's okay?"

"Positive. See? It wasn't that bad. Just five minutes with an icepack fixed it right up."

"Yeah, but-" Shuyin started, looking shamefaced. Though he didn't exactly know how waking up next to the girl you loved was supposed to go, he was pretty sure that knocking her down and nearly cracking her head on the floor wasn't anywhere close to right.

"It's okay, really," she interrupted, patting his shoulder comfortingly. "You didn't know I was there. That's my fault. I probably would have done the same thing."

Pausing briefly in his brooding, Shuyin turned an incredulous eye on her and briefly scanned her frame, which was, by all accounts, quite a bit smaller than his. Taking the hint, Lenne quickly amended, "Well, I might not have been able to actually knock you down, but . . . if you were hanging over the edge, I could have-never mind. Anyway, don't worry about it, okay?"

"All right," Shuyin replied, though hardly with the fervor he expected she wanted.

Obviously picking up on this lack of enthusiasm rather quickly, Lenne sighed and laced her fingers together, craning her neck to gaze up at the sky. "Do you think it's going to rain again?"

"It might," Shuyin answered vaguely, also lifting his gaze. The sky hadn't changed much from what it had looked like when they'd left the apartment. It was still a swirling gray mass of clouds from horizon to horizon. "Probably not for a while though." Glancing back at her and smirking, he added, "Did you think they were just gonna go away?"

"A little," she admitted, rubbing her head in a discomfited manner. "I didn't really see how bad it was."

"Well, it's not bad. Kind of a good thing in disguise." He gestured about at the beach, which was a bit dreary in correspondence with the sky, and utterly empty. "This place is always packed when it's sunny. I don't even come down here anymore on nice days."


"Never. It isn't worth it. You can't even swim there are so many people."

"That's why you go out to sea for blitzball training?" Lenne inferred, pausing and squatting down to poke at the broken remains of a shell.

"Yep," Shuyin confirmed, glancing out at the sea. "Out past the piers, all those buildings-" he squinted, pointing out beyond the nearby jetty for emphasis, "-out in the open sea, it's the best feeling in the world. Turn the other way, and it's just water as far as the eye can see. A whole ocean between you and all life's hassles. Nothing to do but enjoy yourself."

"That doesn't sound like training," Lenne pointed out humorously, coming up to stand beside him. "That sounds like goofing off."

"Um . . ." Shuyin said, the arm he was gesturing with slumping. "Er . . . don't tell Nirui about that." This quickly prompted a short bout of laughter from her, and consequently, a sheepish grin from him.

"That sounds like fun," she finally agreed, brushing a few uncooperative strands of hair from her eyes.

"It is. How about I take you sometime?"

"Take me?"

"Yeah," Shuyin said, nodding vigorously. "I mean, Nirui's been working at getting us back out there to practice some more. She never gives up, and those guys are going to crack eventually. So, when that happens, you should come with us."

"Do you think I'd be allowed?" Lenne asked, sounding doubtful. "After all, I'm not part of the team."

"Aw, that wouldn't matter," he assured, glancing off at the ocean again. "I mean, Nirui might put up a fight, but everyone else would love you, so she'd end up giving in in the end."

"But, um . . ." Lenne murmured shyly. "What if I couldn't swim?"

After a short, stunned pause, Shuyin whipped around with so much vigor that he had to throw his arms out to keep himself from face-planting into the cold, dry sand at his feet. "You can't swim?"

Slowly, she looked away, scratching the bridge of her nose and smiling sheepishly. "I can, just . . . not very well."

Though he knew it would hardly help her confidence, Shuyin couldn't help but laugh at her expense. "Really?" he asked, his tone divided almost equally between disbelief and humor. Frankly, the idea of not being able to swim was one he just couldn't comprehend.

"Really," she responded, brushing her hair back once again as the wind started to pick up.

"Well," he started awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. Then, with much more enthusiasm, he added, "Not a problem. I'll teach you how."

"You would?"

"I will," he corrected before plopping down on the sand and gesturing widely at the sea. However, the comment he was going to make about their being plenty of ocean at their disposal was cut short by a loud crack, as if someone had just simultaneously slammed down on a drum and snapped a chunk of wood right in his ear. After his and Lenne's almost concurrent jerk of fright, he glanced up at the sky, which had grown more sinister looking since he had last checked. "Uh oh," he managed to say, right before a drop of water splashed unceremoniously in his eye. As if that one tiny drop were the signal to open up the floodgates, another four drops came in quick succession, then seven, then another five, and soon enough it was as bad as if he and Lenne had been standing beneath a blitz sphere just when it had happened to burst.

"So much for it raining later," Lenne called out over the pounding of raindrops against the sand. Her arms were splayed haphazardly over her head in an attempt to keep herself dry, though it was doing her very little good.

"Um . . . yeah, sorry about that," Shuyin responded. Honestly, it hadn't looked like it was going to rain. Damn nature, playing tricks on him.

They should've been getting back to his apartment, he knew. It wouldn't be long until the rain got worse, and then the wind would pick up, the waves would get more and more powerful until they swallowed the entire beach (or at least most of it), and this was definitely not where he wanted to be when that happened. Yet, for just a moment, he couldn't help but lie back against the sand, the raindrops splashing against his face and the waves pounding in his ears.

How long had he gone without hearing that sound? He guessed it had been about a month now, ever since that last, unfortunately short blitzball practice. It'd been a pain then, being out at sea for what really was a useless bit of training, but now he missed it dearly. This was the closest he had been to the sound of the ocean and the feel of it around him since then, and even though he knew he had to get going before the weather got much worse, this just felt so good.

However, he had Lenne to worry about, and as much as he wanted to stay, putting her in harm's way just wasn't an option.

"You sure seem comfortable," he heard, and opened his eyes to see the object of his deliberations leaning over him, an amused smile on her face and one of her eyebrows arched curiously. Apparently, she'd long given up her effort to keep dry, and was by now thoroughly soaked (and as hard as Shuyin tried to be chivalrous, he couldn't help but notice the way her clothes formed to her as a result; was it really that cold out here?). Her hair-which was no longer the well-kept mane that he knew so well, but was instead a rather stringy tangle of fibers-hung down in her eyes in liberal chunks, and somehow, she'd managed to coat a decent amount of it with sand. There was a bit on her face too, dusting her cheek and forehead. Overall, she was a mess, and rightfully looked like she had almost been drowned.

And she was still gorgeous.

"Come on," she said, holding out her hand to him. "Even you'll drown in this rain."

"Yeah," Shuyin admitted, taking her hand (though, he was sure that if he was put to the test, he'd somehow manage to survive my sheer force of will). As she pulled him to his feet, that sweet smile was still on her face, even as the steadily worsening rain continued to pound relentlessly down on her. For the life of him, he couldn't think of another girl that would do that; smile even when the world was coming down on her like there was no tomorrow. A girl who would smile in the face of his oversights and suggestions, his weird little delight at lying around in a torrential rain, his keeping her out here even though she was getting absolutely drenched, and she was still so pretty.

When he was on his feet, his hand suddenly found the back of her head, his fingers tangling themselves in her soaked hair. In the next instance, his eyes were shut, and she was pulled to him just as tightly as his lips were pressed to hers. A sharp, nasally intact of breath was the only reaction he received from her, as the brevity of the kiss didn't leave time for much else. After a scant few moments, Shuyin pulled back, licking his lips and feeling as if he were about to choke on his heart.

As he looked at her, he realized that the smile that had so enthralled him a moment before was gone, a look of utmost surprise upon her face instead. However, said absence was brief, and the next moment she was smiling once again, a bit of color that was barely noticeable through the rain painting her cheeks. "This probably isn't the best place for that," she said humorously. "Let's go." Grabbing his hand, she turned and started sprinting up along the shore, pulling him with her until he finally found his feet and followed of his own accord.

Then, suddenly, Shuyin was reminded of another time very similar to this one; another time when she had been soaked to the bone but was still smiling and running to avoid the rain, even though it didn't really matter anymore. However, there were two subtle differences between then and now that he couldn't help but grin at: her smile was real, and she was holding his hand.


"So, you're already living together? Jeez, you two sure move fast."

"Oh, no, we don't-we don't live together yet. Shuyin's just letting me stay over for a few days."

"Ah, I see. And the clothes and bed sharing?"

"Uh well, we were out yesterday, and it was raining and I-um. . ."

A hearty laugh. "Ah, don't worry about it. I think it's good you two finally figured it out."

"Was it really obvious?"

"Well, he wasn't being too discrete about it, that's for sure. But maybe it was just around me. You seem too smart not to notice that kind of thing."

"You'd be surprised."


"You know, now that I'm thinking about it, I should probably change. My clothes should be dry by now. Can you wait a second?"

"Sure, no problem." A quick bout of silence. "So, uh . . . do you know when he bought the keyboard?"

"No actually. I was wondering if you-"

After that, the voices faded away, lost in the fen of Shuyin's barely awake mind. Sighing some he stretched his arms out arbitrarily, feeling about for Lenne.

As awkward as it had been at first (his right arm had managed to fall asleep at least three times before they found a position that worked, and more than once he'd ended up lying on her hair), it'd been nonetheless enjoyable. Frankly, with her head tucked beneath his chin and one of her legs thrown over his hip, it'd been impossible to fall asleep without a smile on his face.

However, when he reached out for her, she was nowhere to be found. A low, gurgling groan reverberating in his throat, he tried to lean over and extend his arms a little bit more, but found that his body was too heavy for the task. Reluctantly, he grew still once again, sluggishly letting his arms rest where they were, not bothering to pull them back to him. Then, as his mind slowly began to resign its state of relaxation and switch to a state of vigilance, the voices from before began to return. Though he'd taken them for the remnants of a dream the first time he heard them, they grew clearer as stirred, not fainter as dreams tended to do. So then, who was talking?

"-flats down in D-South. They're about, oh, what? Six, seven miles from the coastline? And they're all kind of scrunched together. Not the best place, but . . ." That voice seemed vaguely familiar, though his tired brain couldn't quite place a face to it yet.

"Oh, I know that place," said the second voice, a smooth alto that his further-stirred mind recognized as Lenne. "I almost moved in there when I was looking for an apartment."

"It's a good thing you didn't, trust me," said the first, still nameless yet familiar. "It's definitely not the place to be if you can help it. Everything's always breaking. Heat and hot water's been off for somewhere near two weeks now. Good thing it's still warm out, right?" Then, in a flash, the recognition Shuyin had been missing hit him like a brick to the face. Almost falling out of bed, he scrambled to see it he was right while praying to the contrary. It couldn't be him. The locks wouldn't work for him; Shuyin had made sure of that. It couldn't be-

And then it was, and Shuyin fell back to the mattress with an almighty groan.

"Nice to see you too, Shuyin," Yasuo laughed from where he was draped across the right half of the couch, smiling with that annoying, catlike smile of his. Beside him, occupying the other half the couch, was Lenne, staring at Shuyin in confusion.

"What's wrong Shuyin?" she asked, standing up and leaning over to see him past the blankets.

"It's too early in the morning for him," Shuyin moaned, waving a hand wearily in Yasuo's general direction.

"He knows, too," Shuyin heard Yasuo say, the smirk as evident in the man's voice as it had been upon his face. "He's woken up next to me more than once." This time, Shuyin actually did fall out of bed, though this time in utter horror instead of shock.

"I'm kidding, I'm kidding!" Yasuo clarified, though Shuyin quickly saw it was for Lenne's benefit instead of his. Her face was twisted into a look of utmost shock, though it was only a moment or two before relief and understanding took its place. "Jeez, Lenne," Yasuo said, waving his hand toward her casually and smiling reassuringly. "You need a sense of humor."

"It's not her fault your jokes suck," Shuyin growled as he unraveled himself from the blankets and got to his feet.

"Somebody's grumpy," Yasuo responded, glancing off somewhere behind the couch. "Maybe I'll just keep talking to Lenne. She's much nicer than you. She actually opens the door when I knock."

Refusing to respond to that assertion (mostly because he didn't feel like agreeing with Yasuo right now), he instead plopped back down on the bed, glancing up at Lenne. "He hasn't been bugging you too much, has he?" he asked, hoping it hadn't been very long since Yasuo had shown up. He was afraid that too much exposure to Yasuo after just meeting him might send her into some sort of coma.

"No, he wasn't bugging me at all," Lenne assured, waving a hand to refute the claim.

"Yeah Shuyin," Yasuo added, leaning against the arm of the couch and resting his chin in his palm. "I was just telling Lenne some embarrassing stories about you. Oh!" Snapping his fingers in realization, Yasuo turned toward Lenne, any interest in Shuyin immediately forgotten. "I didn't tell you about what happened on his eighteenth birthday yet. So, sweet little Shuyin here had never had a drink in his life right? So-"

In the next instance, Shuyin had all but vanished from his spot on the bed, and was instead right behind Yasuo, his hand clamped firmly over the man's mouth while the color rapidly drained from his own face. "You swore you'd never tell anyone about that!" Shuyin all but whined, not sounding nearly as threatening as he'd hoped he would.

"But it's funny!" Yasuo argued, his voice a bit muffled as he pulled Shuyin's hand away.

"Some friend you are!" Shuyin barked, quickly slapping his other hand over Yasuo's mouth in place of his other, captive hand.

"You're no fun," Yasuo whined before prying that hand off as well and holding it fast. Leaning forward and ignoring Shuyin's flailing attempts to free his hands, he looked back at Lenne, and started, "So, we were up in B-North right, and-"

"Shut up!" Shuyin growled, throwing his still confined hands in front of Yasuo's face to silence him.

"Oh, come on, Shuyin," Yasuo ribbed. "You should want to tell this story. Do you know how good it makes you look? That one guy even gave you his card."

"How about we tell some interesting little stories about you instead, huh? We'll only be at this for a couple of weeks!"

"But it's more fun telling stories about you! You get all worked up over it. I regret nothing."

"Pfft. That's not what she said at practice the next day."

". . .Oh Shuyin, that's low. You crush my fragile little heart."

"Oh poor, little, innocent Yasuo, right?"

"That's what I was going for, yes."

"Well, you're bad at it!"

His entire attention focused on his effort to shut Yasuo up as quickly and effectively as possible, it was a moment before Shuyin noticed the quiet tittering noise coming from the other side of the small room. However, by the time he did notice it, it had morphed from a titter to almost a belly laugh. Blinking in surprise at the distraction, he paused in his skirmish with Yasuo and quickly glanced up.

Lenne, who had moved from her spot between the bed and the couch sometime during the scuffle, was now leaning against the far wall for balance, wrapping her arms around her middle in an attempt to control her laughter. Catching Shuyin's confused gaze and wiping at the corner of her eye with a finger, she said, "You two seem like good friends."

"Oh yeah," Yasuo replied casually, releasing Shuyin's confined hands to gesture rather nonchalantly with his own. Glaring huffily at Yasuo, Shuyin briefly entertained the idea of nailing him in the back of the head. However, before he could even raise one of his newly reclaimed fists to do so, he was swiftly whipped around the edge of the couch, an arm instantly wrapping around his neck in a tight headlock.

"Ack!" he shouted indignantly, trying to pull away from Yasuo's firm hold and only succeeding in losing his balance.

"I love this guy. He's a prince," Yasuo continued, his voice still relaxed despite the fight Shuyin was putting up. "You know, once you get past the unneeded anger, the stubbornness, the complete lack of social perception-"

"Bite me!"

"-and the lack of manners," Yasuo finished, digging his knuckles into the top of Shuyin's head in a gratuitously brutal noogie. "You gotta love this guy."

"Yeah," Shuyin vaguely heard Lenne say as he broke free of Yasuo's hold, stumbling back a bit before hastily finding his balance and rubbing his sore head, glaring venomously at the other man. Oh, if he wasn't going to get it before, he was going to get it now!

A giggle from Lenne stole Shuyin's attention once again, and he glanced up to find her kind, benevolent smile being cast his way. As angry, embarrassed, and ready to beat the life out of Yasuo as he was, under that smile, Shuyin couldn't help but let such ferocity melt away.

"So," Shuyin said frigidly, brushing his hair back into place and giving Yasuo a glare that was hopefully intimidating enough to make the man keep any further stories to himself, "what are you really here for?"


One half hour and a decimated bathroom later, Yasuo was gone, leaving Lenne with the task of cheering up the particularly grumpy Shuyin that he had left in his wake.

"He didn't actually tell me anything embarrassing about you," she assured several minutes after Yasuo's departure, gazing out at the still dreary scene beyond Shuyin's window and running her fingers slowly along the glass.

"Somehow, I don't believe that," Shuyin mumbled in reply, staring up at the ceiling from where he lay sprawled across his unmade bed.

"What? You think I'm lying too you?" Lenne asked lightheartedly, turning from her task of tracing a dewdrop's path down the window to raise a mock-incredulous eyebrow at him.

Muttering out an indiscernible response, Shuyin turned on his side, resting his head in the cradle of his arm. Of course Yasuo told her something embarrassing about him. That wouldn't be like Yasuo at all, given his apparent life's goal to embarrass Shuyin whenever humanly possible-he still hadn't forgotten two years ago when Yasuo had tearfully announced to the entire locker room that Shuyin had finally hit puberty. There was no way the man would pass up the wonderful opportunity to embarrass Shuyin that Lenne presented, not in a million years. The rat bastard.

"No, really, it's the truth," Lenne insisted. Turning away from the window, she walked over to the bed, kneeling beside it and propping her elbows amongst its messy sheets. "He just asked stuff about me, about how you were doing, what you'd been up to . . ." She paused for a moment, rolling her eyes up toward the ceiling and smiling gently. ". . . How long we've been seeing each other, stuff like that."

"Bet he got a kick out of that," Shuyin muttered, and he couldn't help but roll his eyes.

"He did, actually," Lenne admitted, chuckling a bit and twirling a lock of hair around her finger. Then, as Shuyin sighed deeply and buried his face in his arm, she hastily added, "But not in a bad way. He was happy for us."

"Uh huh."

"Besides, it wouldn't matter, right?" He felt the mattress give a bit, and suddenly Lenne slipped beneath his arm and curled up against him, resting one hand gently against his back and tucking her head beneath his chin. "I mean, me knowing some embarrassing things about you wouldn't be too horrible. It's not like I'd get up and run away."

"It's just knowing that you know," Shuyin explained, though he was having trouble focusing on being grumpy with the way she was breathing on his neck and running her fingers lightly along the dip of his spine.

"You think I'm going to use it against you?"

"You would."

Chuckling quietly, she nodded, her hair brushing and tickling his neck. Under any other circumstances, this would have made Shuyin completely forget about the world. He wouldn't worry that the weather was bad, that Yasuo may or may not have revealed some of his most embarrassing secrets, or that there wasn't anything to eat anywhere in the apartment and he and Lenne would probably starve if they didn't go and pick something up soon. The only thing he would have to worry about was keeping his wits about him with Lenne as close as she was; the fact that she was only wearing a thin layer of lycra and a few inches of lace wasn't helping deter his wandering state of mind. Really, being around her was torture sometimes; torture that he enjoyed every second of.

However, as calm and contented as she seemed, Lenne's mind was obviously on a much different subject than his, even as she continued with her inadvertently enticing touches. Her next words made that evident, as well as crushed the serenity of the moment quite effectively.

"Shuyin," she started, tucking her fingers beneath the collar of his shirt and toying with it inattentively, "I'm going to have to leave tomorrow morning. There's . . . there's a meeting I'm going to have to be at. It's mandatory."

Shuyin abruptly tensed up at her words, the tips of his fingers beginning to curl and his shoulders scrunching as best they could with the right one supporting his weight. Then, much more gradually, he relaxed again, and he swore that he would sink straight into the mattress, as limp and heavy as he felt. Slowly, he curled the arm that had been lifelessly splayed across her shoulders, settling his hand on her back and pulling her up against him as if this new information somehow made the inch of mattress that separated them far too vast. "Why?" he asked simply, his voice practically a croak as he buried his face in the hair at the top of her head. Normally he would have been taken aback by how good it smelled even though the scent was just a combination of sea salt, tap water, and his shampoo, but right now he hardly had it in him.

"Well, it's mandatory," she answered jokingly, though the gentle, sad tone that she spoke it with clearly showed that even she found no genuine humor in her answer.

"No," he said, shifting some until he was able to look her in the eye. She held his steadfast gaze with a soft one of her own, her brows slanting some at whatever it was that she saw there. "Why do you have to do this?" he asked, nearly forlorn. "Why is it so important? Why-why do you have to do something that's going to get you-" Faltering as if even thinking the word burned his tongue, he cast his eyes downward, "-going to get you killed?"

Letting out a slow, deep sigh, Lenne ducked her head a bit, curling up against him once again and resting her head against his chest. "They way I think about it," she explained, flicking one of the buckles on his shirt, "it's like this: Bevelle's machina is immensely powerful, that we know for sure. If one of those machina managed to break through to Zanarkand, it could kill a thousand people or more before anyone could stop it. But, if I were to take out that machina, stop it before it could reach Zanarkand, I could save those thousand people. If I go, and I fight, I should be able to take care of at least one or two of their machina. Probably more if I'm careful. So, it's like for every machina that I manage to destroy, a thousand people are saved. That's a really good exchange, don't you think?"

Though the entirety of her explanation had helped to further the tightening in his chest, her last sentence practically choked him. A good exchange? A good exchange?!

"Really, I think it's worth it," she continued softly. "If I can actually do something to protect my people-" She paused for a moment, and he felt a gentle, barely discernable kiss against his throat, "-protect the people I care about," she continued, "then it's worth it, right?"

Truthfully, Shuyin suspected that he wouldn't have felt much different if she had gutted him with a spade. 'The people she cared about'? Of all things, hearing that made him want to scream. Just scream and scream and scream until he was completely hollow and there was nothing left in him to feel this hurt. Yet, he could find neither his voice, nor the energy to pull himself from her. Then again, it probably didn't matter. Even if he had nothing left in him to feel with, he still couldn't imagine this not hurting.

"Hey, hey," Lenne said comfortingly, apparently seeing something of what he was feeling in his features. Running a hand through the hair along the back of his head, she pulled him forward, meeting him halfway with a firm but quiet kiss. "It'll be all right. Really, it will. I don't have any regrets. I don't want you to have any either." A friendly, comforting smile graced her lips, her hand sliding from the back of his head and trailing across his cheek. "So, no regrets, okay?"

After a few moments of nothing but flabbergasted silence, he abruptly brought his hands behind her head and kissed her desperately, too clumsily and rough and no where near romantic but he didn't know what else to do. What did she mean, 'no regrets'? He loved her, and she was going to die. How could she even fathom that he could not have regrets? Besides that, he was her guardian. It was his job to protect her, and he'd failed. But then, hadn't he failed every step of the way? The scar on her forearm from the attack on the stadium, which he spotted upon pulling from the kiss with ragged breath and despondent eyes, was proof enough of that. So was the small, almost unnoticeable scar he knew was on her thigh, which she'd acquired during that first assault he'd seen at the shore. He'd failed her all those times, so why was it such a shock that he failed her now?

Burying that sorrow in another too-fierce kiss (which she returned, though he was sure she did it only for his benefit), he clamped his eyes shut tightly, feeling completely and utterly powerless. No matter what he did, no matter how hard he tried, he was useless. No matter how much he wanted there to be, there was absolutely nothing he could do to save her. Nothing.

Except . . .

Suddenly, he could almost feel the keyboard somewhere behind him, nearly forgotten after only four days' worth of disuse. Somewhere near it, packed away tightly where Lenne wouldn't see it and he wouldn't have to look at it, was a multitude of precious information. Flawed information perhaps, but information nonetheless. Then, there was the song. That infuriating song that had eaten away weeks of his life, while meanwhile he was no better to show for it. But, for all its difficulties, it was what he needed. What he needed to access the greatest and most powerful of Bevelle's weapons, to destroy the city, end the war . . .

Save Lenne.

Pulling away a second time, he let his head fall back to the mattress, his heavy breathing matching hers almost perfectly. At some point, one of the straps of her shirt had coyly slid from its original spot, falling away and leaving her shoulder bare. Her lips were kiss-bruised, and he felt guilty for all of a second before she swooped down on him for a third, her nimble fingers gently (and torturously) manipulating the muscles of his chest and stomach. As a result, he didn't feel quite so ungentlemanly when his hand managed to slide beneath the thin fabric of her shirt.

'No regrets', she'd said. Where mere seconds ago that had seemed like an utter impossibility, the thought of the information and music that were no more than ten feet behind him had made it seem a little less so. Whatever else he needed, he was sure he could get it somehow. He did live in Zanarkand, after all. Even in its current state of need, he didn't doubt that somewhere in the city, there was someone who could get him what he wanted, and whatever the price, it was worth it. She was worth it.

Just before he completely gave up on coherent thought and instead turned himself over to his senses and desires, he mentally made a promise to her, a promise to do just as she'd asked him. No regrets, Lenne. No regrets.
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