Golden Feeling

Tifa was woken up by a loud bang from outside the Gold Saucer bedroom she was snoring away in. She groaned in annoyance, swiping to take off the Moogle-stitched night-mask that clung snugly to her eyes, attempting to keep her from worrying and go back to sleep. That wasn’t an option, unfortunately — even if the group was taking a bit of a break from their mission, they still needed to be alert.

Tifa finally managed to rip the mask off of her face, throwing it to the wall next to her in frustration. She took a look around the room and saw that none of the other girls were around, leaving her alone to investigate the disturbance.

“Thanks a lot, everyone,” she said to herself, rolling her eyes. She pushed herself off the bed, still groggy, and cautiously took a few steps to the entrance of the room.

Please don’t be a thing I actually have to deal with, Tifa thought, readying herself for a fight. I am…so tired.

Tifa took a beat, before kicking the door open and jumping into the hallway outside, fists raised.

“Eep!”

Aerith was standing in front of her, hands covering her face in a flinch. Tifa dropped her fists and relaxed her shoulders. A frown was still on her face, however.

“Aerith, what the hell are you doing out here? And what was that noise?”

When Aerith realized it was Tifa, she, too, relaxed her guard. “Oh, Tifa…sorry, I was on may back to the room to put some of the stuff that I won at the Wonder Square away, but I dropped some Materia…”

Sure enough, Tifa turned her gaze downward to see a few pieces of shattered glass, swirling with elemental energy that was already beginning to fade away. Tifa put a palm to her head, sighing.

“Oh boy…here, let me clean this up before someone gets nicked and turns into ice or something.”

Tifa withdrew into the Inn room, grabbing a pan and broom to sweep the mess away. Aerith stood awkwardly in the hallway, half-protecting passerby from stepping on the Materia, half-not knowing what to do with her hands.

“There,” Tifa said, wiping her hands as the last of the debris was cleared. “All better. I’m gonna head back to bed now. G’night!”

Before she could step through into the room, Tifa felt a small, delicate hand grab her own. She turned to see Aerith looking up at her with sparkling eyes.

“Well that won’t do after you helped me out! Come, come hang out with me!”

Tifa toyed with a strand of her hair. “Eh…I dunno…”

Please? Cloud and Barret are off to do whatever bro-nonsense they occupy themselves with, Yuffie won’t leave the Casino, Red stopped accepting my petting, and Vincent is…well he’s Vincent! I’m on my own here!”

Aerith gave the girl the best pout she could. Tifa’s face was scrunched in conflict, but she eventually had to acquiesce. How could you say no to a cute face like that?

“Fine, fine,” she said. Aerith squealed in happiness as Tifa went back inside to put on a full outfit to join her.


“So…what is there to do here?” Tifa asked as she and her date stood in the Gold Saucer’s Event Square. “Whenever we end up here I usually just use the time to catch up on sleep, so…”

“Oh, there’s so much!” Aerith replied, eyes glittering in excitement. “Here, I’ll take you to the best spots! Come on!” She grabbed the girl’s hand and half-pulled, half-dragged her to the Terminal Floor.

“Okay, so first is the Chocobo Square! Let’s go!” Aerith shoved Tifa through the tunnel that led to the feathered friends, catching the girl off guard — she sometimes forgot that Aerith’s strength belied her demure stature.

The pair appeared on the other side, greeted by the strong earthy smell of chocobo feathers, even though they were housed in stables far past the stadium and reception area. Despite herself, the scent sent Tifa’s memories tumbling back to Nibelheim for a brief moment. She shook her head, speaking to clear her thoughts.

“So…you watch the Chocobo Races here, then?” Tifa asked. Aerith shrugged her shoulders, hands behind her back as the pair climbed the steps to the stadium.

“Sometimes! Sometimes I race, too. But we aren’t doing either of those today!”

Tifa’s focus snapped to the girl. “Wait, you race at these things? Like, how often?”

Aerith gave a dismissive wave, preferring to not address the topic further. Tifa couldn’t stop staring at the girl. Aerith was a continuous surprise on all fronts.

And that would only further prove to be the case as the pair made their way past the Stadium’s front entrance, trailing around the main building and to the Chocobo Stables. Tifa glanced around nervously as Aerith swung the door to them open with a powerful shove. The warks of the chocobos increased in intensity as they stepped through.

“Uh…are we allowed to be here?” she asked. Aerith giggled.

“Yes, silly! All I had to do was bat my eyelashes at the stable-hand a little bit. Now I get to come in and pet the chocobos whenever I want!”

“Really? It was that easy?”

“Yep! Look!”

Tifa stopped examining the green chocobo in the stable in front of her to turn to Aerith. She gave a doe-like bat of her eyes, their emerald shine popping out even more than usual in the dusky light of the stables. A small, seductive smile was on her lips. Tifa gulped. Finally, Aerith broke the spell, throwing her head back with a laugh.

“See? Guys fall for this sort of thing so easily.”

“I don’t think just guys do…” Tifa muttered under her breath. Aerith turned back toward the girl.

“Did you say something, Tifa?” she asked.

“Uh, n-no! So, which chocobo here is your favorite?” she asked, hastily attempting to change the subject. Aerith clapped her hands in excitement, rushing over to a nearby crimson-colored chocobo.

“Here, here! Come pet him!” she shouted. Tifa sighed.

Crisis averted.


“Where to now?” Tifa asked, after petting the chocobos to Aerith’s satisfaction. The girl held a finger to her chin in thought.

“Hmm…oh, how about the Battle Square? I don’t go there very often.”

Tifa snorted. “Really? I would have guessed you were moonlighting as the arena champion if you hadn’t told me otherwise.

“Eh.” Aerith shrugged her shoulders as she and Tifa walked through the tunnel that led to the Battle Square. “We already fight so much on the road, I didn’t really want to do more of it on vacation, you know?”

“Fair. It’s good to take a break now and again.”

The duo found themselves in the Battle Square lobby. Though it was pretty late into the night by this point, there was still a large number of people roaming about, watching the monsters that were kept in see-through cages for spectators to look at in fear and awe. Aerith noticed a booth off to the corner of the area and skipped over to it, Tifa walking behind her while keeping a close watch on the people around them. She couldn’t help it — one of their enemies could have been planning a sneak-attack at any moment.

Tifa’s musings were interrupted by a gasp from Aerith. She turned to see the girl holding a giant cactaur plush.

“Oh my God, look at it Tifa! It’s adorable!”

Tifa nodded in agreement. “How much is it?” Aerith looked up at the shopkeeper expectantly.

“For you miss? 100 BP,” he said, stroking his moustache.

“BP?”

“Battle Points! You get them either by betting or participating in the Arena.”

“Oh, dang it!” Aerith said, dejected. “We don’t have any of those. Come on Tifa, let’s go.”

Tifa put a hand on her hip. “Now hang on a second. How much BP do you get in a fight?” she asked.

“About 1000 BP a match, all things considered,” the shopkeeper replied. “But the beasties in there are pretty tough, miss.”

Tifa snorted. “I’m gonna take a stab in the dark and say that I’ve probably fought tougher. I’m down.”

Aerith grabbed Tifa’s hand, a small frown on her face. “You don’t have to do that, Tifa. We just talked about enjoying our downtime!”

“You want the cactaur plush, right?”

“Well yeah, but—”

“Then you’re getting the cactaur plush. Go find a good spot to watch. I’ll see you after.”


The Arena in the Battle Square was musky and dank. In all honesty, they really needed to open a window. Such was Tifa’s first thought as she stood at the center of the ring — not that she could hear herself very well, with the crowd around her screaming in excitement. She wasn’t used to so much focus being put on her.

Tifa looked at the floor. On it, “The Brave Do Not Fear the Grave” was written in blocky yellow text. She scoffed at the message.

“If you’re not scared, you aren’t brave — you’re either not being challenged, or a total fool,” she muttered under her breath. A horn billowed, signifying the entrance of the monster. The gates in front of her opened, and a giant troll with a club stomped out onto the ring in front of her. Tifa sized the thing up. It was a slow-moving beast. She smiled.

This was going to be even more of a breeze than she thought.

Another horn billowed. The start of the match. Tifa lightly hopped from foot to foot, punching her fist into an open palm. The troll was only able to take a step forward before she broke into a sprint. The beast, caught off guard, went in for a swing. Tifa let her weight drop down, her momentum carrying her into a slide under the troll’s club. It whistled harmlessly over her hair as she moved through the troll’s legs. Tifa leapt into the air as the monster attempted to understand what was happening, giving a few flips as she did so — may as well entertain the crowd a bit while she was here, after all. At the apex of her jump, she readied her fist. Gravity lent her a hand as she shot downwards. She pulled back, slamming her fist into the troll’s face as she blew past it.

When Tifa landed on the ground, the troll was already collapsing behind her. She slammed a foot onto the monster’s corpse, throwing her arm into a flex and grabbing her bicep in triumph. The crowd erupted into cheers.


“No, I’m good. I’ll just take the Battle Points, please.”

Tifa was waving off a Golden Saucer Sponsor when Aerith found her. Her moves during the fight had garnered quite a bit of interest. The suited man walked away, dejected, when Aerith hopped in front of her in excitement.

“Tifa, that was incredible! You’re so strong!”

Tifa blushed, turning away from the girl.

“T-thanks.”

“Do that thing again!”

“What thing?”

“The thing you did at the end of the fight!”

“Oh, you mean, like this?”

Tifa flexed her bicep again. Without warning, Aerith grabbed onto it, poking and squeezing at Tifa’s large muscle. She flinched in surprise.

“Wha—”

“You know, I never really noticed before, but you’re really buff, huh Tifa?” Aerith asked. It didn’t really feel like a question.

“Yeah, I…I guess so,” Tifa sputtered. For a flash of a second, she thought she saw Aerith bite her bottom lip, but the moment flashed by so quickly, Tifa couldn’t be sure. She let go of Tifa’s arm.

“Come on, let’s go get the plush!” she said, rushing the pair over to the shop booth yet again. The shopkeeper was already holding out the cactaur plush for Aerith.

“I assume you’ve come for this, miss?”

“Yeah, but…that still leaves us with 900 points, now that I think about it…” Aerith and Tifa exchanged glances.


Tifa dropped the last of the giant stuffed animals they procured onto the desk next to her, before sighing and falling back onto her own bed.

“Where are we even going to put all this stuff?”

“Hmm…I dunno!” Aerith replied, dropping her own haul as well. Maybe we can send some of it back to Midgar. I bet Marlene would be pretty happy.”

“True.” Tifa adjusted so that she could stretch herself out on her bed in full.

“Well, that was fun, but I’m beat,” she said. She felt the weight on her bed shift. Aerith had hopped onto the bed, having kicked her boots off. Tifa’s heartrate suddenly sky-rocketed against her will.

“Scoot over, I’m tired too!” Aerith said. Tifa moved, trying to make word sounds come out of her mouth, but doing a terrible job. They lay like that for a while, staring up at the ceiling in silence, the only sounds Aerith’s breath, and the blood pounding in Tifa’s head. Ever so often, the flower-girl would kick her feet into the air, matching the motions of the fan above them. Finally, she spoke.

“Wanna know something?” she asked.

“What?”

“I heard what you said. In the stables.”

Tifa shot up, looking down on the girl frantically. “You did?”

Aerith giggled, sitting up as well. “Yeah, but I didn’t want to push it if you didn’t want to talk about it.”

Tifa stammered. “I-I’m sorry, I didn’t—”

“—You don’t have to apologize! You wanna know something else?”

“What?”

Aerith inched closer to Tifa. The hairs on the girl’s arms stood on end.

“I like you too,” she whispered.

“You do? Since…since when?”

“Hmm, I don’t know…when did we meet?”

“At Corneo’s.”

“So, then!”

“What!?”

Aerith pouted. “Is it really that much of a surprise? You’re a knock-out, Tifa — literally, sometimes! You’re really nice, and smart, and have you seen your muscles? Because I have, and let me tell you, phew—”

“—Wait, wait,” Tifa said, holding a hand up. “So we’ve been mutually crushing on each other this entire time? How long have you known that I like you? Did you figure it out at the Stables?”

Aerith interlocked her fingers. “No, I’ve known for a while.”

“Then why didn’t you say anything?”

“Because I wasn’t sure if you were ready or not! I don’t know if you noticed, but we’re kind of in the middle of some stuff right now…”

Tifa’s eyebrows furrowed. “Well that’s dumb. I’m definitely ready.”

Aerith’s eyes narrowed as she smiled. “Good. Then you won’t mind if I do this, then?”

Aerith leaned over Tifa, letting her lips press against hers for a fraction of a second before pulling back. She looked at Tifa questioningly, waiting for her consent. Tifa nodded.

“I don’t mind at all…” her cheeks were red, but for once, it wasn’t out of embarrassment. Aerith moved to kiss the girl again, with more force this time. Tifa shut her eyes as their lips met, grabbing Aerith’s waist to pull her closer. Feelings that had existed unrequited for so long were finally being realized as the pair fell backwards onto Tifa’s bed.


They lay together, blissfully, before Tifa’s eyes shot open in realization.

“We have to get ready before Yuffie comes back,” she said, starting to rise from the bed. Aerith grabbed the girl’s arm before she could move further, a lazy smile on her face.

“First of all, she won’t be back for a while. Second of all, she already knows.”

Tifa covered her face with her hands. “Is there anyone that didn’t know about us before me?”

Aerith looked upwards in thought.

“Hmm…Cloud, probably?”

The two girls looked at each other, before finally bursting into a fit of laughter. Aerith grabbed the her new girlfriend to kiss her a few more times before the night was over.

French Kisses

This was a piece for @bunnifuku, who you should definitely check out! She does super cute art and is really great!


There was an ethereal quality to the dusk Anais found herself walking in. It felt like at any moment the overcast clouds would give way to the sun could shine onto the cobblestone streets she was crossing. Though most were in their homes, there was a buzzing energy to the air — soon the tension would snap, and the day would begin in earnest. Normally the streets were filled with students on their way to class, their boots stamping through the spring-time rain, and various business owners opening up shop, getting their stalls ready for passerby. Instead, Anais was traveling alone. It was nice — like getting a second look at the town as if she were only just getting a better view of the trees and flowers that helped give it its beauty.

Anais had a reason to be out and about so early, and she was looking up at it with a proud gleam in her eyes by the end of her short walk. She could hardly believe it if you were to ask her. Years of sweat, work, disappointment, more work, more disappointment — and yes, even a few tears, though she’d never admit it — had led her to this moment. The French Kisses bakery was hers. It didn’t feel real, even as she ran a finger over the wooden sign that had its name emblazoned on it, lazily swinging in the air next to the door. She gave it a good tap, before stepping inside.

Everything inside the bakery was spotless. Anais had made sure of that beforehand, ruthlessly combing over every bit of dirt and dust she came across and forcing her boyfriend Donnie to wipe every surface of the building down somewhere between two and two-hundred times. What remained was a bright and open room that had the morning light filtering into it from the front windows, welcoming to any customer that happened to walk by and notice it.

Anais cracked her knuckles as she made her way past her bakery’s lobby and into the kitchen that sat behind it. Somehow, this section of French Kisses was even cleaner than outside, but that was inevitable — a clean bakery was a happy one. She tied her long, silver-blue hair into a ponytail to keep it out of the way, throwing on an apron and taking note of her stock. She had gone over what she wanted the first batch of goods to be in her head a hundred times the night before, but it was a different thing entirely to be making it. Sure, Anais had been baking for a while now — enough to open a shop, actually — but it was always for her, or her friends. This would be the first time she’d be serving a customer alone. She had to make sure that everything came out perfectly.

Thus she started with cookies. Not exactly a breakfast meal, but a good warm-up. Everyone loves a cookie, no matter the time of day. There were a million ways to make them and just as many ways to decorate them. Anais prepped the dough and frosting as the shadows outside grew longer, with the sun finally deciding to show a trace of its face to the world. As that first batch sat in the oven after Anais politely told the cookies to make sure they tasted delicious, she could feel herself getting into the groove, deciding to multitask with some croissants, moving between the butter that needed to be made while shaping them into petite crescents. Anais debated whether to give them a filling or not, before deciding to drizzle them with a chocolate syrup she had made up a few days ago as a happy compromise. Satisfied, she turned back to the now baked cookies, deftly frosting them with a variety of cute heart-shapes.

The bakery was beginning to fill with the smell of fresh goods, lulling Anais into an almost hypnotic state as she went from one pastry to the next, humming quietly to herself all the while. She was happy she had given herself enough time this morning to prepare, as she found herself making more than she anticipated. That wasn’t a huge issue, however — anything she didn’t sell she could take home with her. A perk of the job, she’d say.

Finished, Anais took the trays of food outside and meticulously placed them on the displays in front of the store, as well as next to the cash register. It was more work than using mock deserts, but she needed to make a good impression on opening day. And speaking of opening…

Anais took the “Closed” sign and held it in her hand for a moment, taking a deep breath. This was it! She flipped it so that “Open” faced towards the outside world, welcoming any and all to enjoy themselves at French Kisses.

…Oh dear.

Anais hadn’t thought this far ahead. What was she going to do while waiting for a customer to show up? She had already made everything she wanted to for the day. The girl paced back and forth for a few seconds in distress, before deciding to plop herself on the stool in front of the cash register. She smoothed her pleated skirt and tried to look as natural as possible, which was admittedly difficult, considering she was staring straight ahead and waiting for someone to walk through the door.

The day had finally begun for the rest of the town, as demonstrated by the foot traffic that Anais could see filtering past French Kisses’ windows. Each time someone walked past the store, her heart would jump just a little bit higher from her chest. She gulped, patting her knees in comfort. Anais had considered the possibility that the day would be slow, even with all of her marketing attempts.

Though hers was the first bakery on this side of town, it was always difficult to get the attention of people, let alone asking them to give you their money. Plus, they were probably busy…should she have started later in the day? Or waited for the weekend? Or maybe—

But before Anais could ruminate further, biting her nails with anxiety, she heard the tinkling of the bell at the front door. If her heart jumping in her chest before, it had now definitely leaped out of her body entirely and took a ride on the nearest roller- coaster. Anais shot up from the stool and gave a sharp bow to her potential first customer.

“Welcome to French Kisses!” she said. It might have been too loud. Was it too loud? Oh well, no turning back now. Anais looked back up to see a small old woman hunched over in front of her, leaning on a cane.

“French Kisses, huh? That’s quite the name…thank you dear, I didn’t realize this was a hot spring, as opposed to a bakery,” the woman said, rather drolly. Anais blushed a deep crimson, bouncing from one foot to the other.

“I…um, sorry. You’re my first customer.”

“Of the day?” the woman asked, an eyebrow raised. “E-ever!” Anais said, stuttering.

The woman clacked her cane lightly against the store’s stone tiles. “Ah! No wonder this place didn’t seem familiar. I’ve been in this neighborhood for decades, you know. Something or another is always changing or getting replaced. Oh but I’m rambling. First customer, ‘eh? That’s quite the honor.”

“The honor is mine, ma’am!” Anais said, bowing again. Such vigor was in her movements that her ponytail uncoiled itself back into its full length, reaching to her skirt. The older woman gestured at the girl dismissively.

“Cut that out before you hurt yourself. And my name is Gladys — it is most certainly not ‘ma’am.’”

“Oh! Mine is Anais.”

“Very good Anais. Do you mind if I take a look at what you’re selling?”

“Of course! I mean, of course not!”

Anais stepped aside and let the woman past to examine the display. She made to look busy, even though she absolutely wasn’t, while occasionally stealing glances at Gladys as she focused intensely on the food she had laid out. It was taking her quite a while. Anais was about to make a recommendation when the older woman finally spoke up.

“I’ll take one of each of these please,” she said, pointing.

Anais moved so quickly behind the display she may as well have materialized there. “One brownie and one croissant coming up!” she said. She took a small breath to calm her nerves so as not to drop the pastries as she pulled them out from the display and on to the counter.

“Will that be for here or to go?” Anais asked, finally starting to feel a bit more like a professional.

“For here, young lady. Lord knows I don’t have anything else to do.”

Anais couldn’t suppress a smile as she laid the pastries out on two plates and moved them over to the counter where Gladys was sitting.

“Thank you, Anais,” she said. Anais nodded. The woman looked up at her as silence grew between the two.

“Anais?”

“Yes?”

“Why are you standing there?”

Anais clasped her hands together. “I have to see you take the first bite!” “You do?”

“Yes, I do! I have to know if it’s good! You can always tell in the first bite, you know.”

“I…hmm. Fine,” Gladys said, shrugging her shoulders. She cut a piece of the brownie off with her fork and plopped it into her mouth. Anais held her breath while she waited.

Gladys chewed for a moment before her eyes widened in surprise. Anais leaned forward.

“Well?”

“This is…” the older woman started, before stopping. She took another bite of the brownie.

“Well!?” Anais repeated, her eyes glowing in excitement.

“I’ve been in this neighborhood a long time, Anais, as I’ve mentioned. And I have to say, this is the best dessert I’ve ever had here.”

Anais jumped into the air, clapping in excitement.

“That’s great to hear, thank you so much! Please enjoy the rest!” The girl retreated back to the counter while Gladys ate.

“Would you like some tea or anything?” she asked. The older woman waved her away. “No, no, I had some before I left this morning, thank you.”

“Where were you going before you stopped in?” Anais asked, leaning her chin on her hands behind the cash register.

“It’s the same routine every day, really: morning walk, then chess at a friend’s house.” “Wow, that sounds really nice!”

Gladys chuckled. “Well, it certainly keeps the mind sharp. But tell me, Anais — what got you to open a Bakery in this little town?”

Anais looked up at the ceiling, watching the fan above lazily spin to keep the bakery’s air from getting stale. She smiled.

“It’s always been a dream of mine! I just always thought the idea was cute, and I was always pretty good at baking, so…having a place where people could come enjoy themselves with a pastry after a busy day really appealed to me.”

“That’s quite the dream, especially for someone so young,” Gladys said, biting into her croissant. Anais shrugged.

“I guess! But it’s coming true! And that’s partly thanks to you. Thank you!”

“You might be giving me too much credit, but I suppose I’ll take it,” the old woman said, shaking her head with a laugh.

“What about you, Gladys? You’ve had a dream you always wanted to make come true, haven’t you?”

“I did.”

“Did you get to make it come true?”

“No. Don’t get me wrong,” Gladys said, waving away the frown that was spreading across Anais’ face. “I’m very happy with the life I’ve lived. No regrets there. But there’s always that ‘what if?’ that lingers in the back of your mind. I didn’t think I could make it happen, so I never tried. But you’re trying. I suppose that’s what’s so impressive about this little bakery.”

“What was it that you wanted to do?” Anais asked, leaning forward.

“Hmm…maybe I’ll tell you the next time I swing by. You are very easy to talk to, Anais.”

The girl grinned in response. “Thank you! I get that a lot.”

Gladys rose from her seat, having finished off her food. She handed the money to Anais, but the girl refused to accept it.

“You’re my first customer,” she said. “It’s on the house. Just tell your friends that French Kisses is open!”

Gladys nodded. “I most certainly will, Anais. Make sure to bake enough for all of them.”

“I will!”

Anais held the door open for the older woman to walk out of the bakery. As she let it swing closed, Anais looked out the window with a smile. Her dream officially wasn’t a dream anymore.

One down.

The rest of the town to go!

Nautilus Lights

The lights of Nautilus were blinding, obscuring the night sky above with a kaleidoscope of colors. Neon signs of all shapes dotted the walls, some pointing to Chocobo and Carbuncle plushes, others to different entertainment areas for guests. All of the combined light was almost harsh, but it didnt’ seem to bother Cocoon’s citizens at all, as they ran about from one section of the park to the next, not a care in the world. The cool breeze that came off the venue’s large lake certainly helped as well. When it brushed Vanille’s cheek as she stood in front of the city’s gates, it felt different from Pulse’s, though the wind that carried it was the same. The girl glanced at Fang, who was standing next to her with the all-knowing smile that she usually carried on full-display.

“Are you sure we should be doing this now?” Vanille asked, frowning. “We’re about to…you know…”

“What?” Fang asked, eyebrow raised. “Attack Eden?”

“Fang, shh!”

“Stop being such a worrywart! Eden’s not going anywhere, and your L’Cie mark hasn’t grown all that much. We deserve to take a break and have a little fun before we save the whole damn world, I think.”

Vanille’s gaze lowered to the floor.

“But…”

Before she could mope any further, Fang pushed the girl in front of her.

“Come on, then!” she said. “Everyone is already out having fun! Well, except for Lightning, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?”

With that, the pair made their way into Nautilus. The gate gave way to a flowing crowd of packed citizens making their way to everything from the Chocobo Ranch to the Arcade nearby. The buzz of excitement almost swept through Vanille, but her anxiousness of losing sight of Fang overrode it.

“Fang!” the girl shouted, twisting around and against the surge of bodies to search for her partner.

“Right here.” She appeared amongst the sea of citizens, grabbing Vanille’s hand and leading the two of them to a quieter area of the park. Vanille gasped, hands on her knees, when they finally broke free from the crowd.

“That was…a lot of people…” she said between breathes. Fang smirked.

“Yeah. I’m just happy nobody knocked the cloth off my arm,” she said, gesturing at the make-shift fabric she used to hide her L’Cie mark.

“That’s why I’m saying we shouldn’t be here!” Vanille replied, shooting upwards and pointing at the girl. “If we get caught, we’re done for!”

Fang scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, yeah…listen, the park seems pretty busy as is, so we don’t have to go anywhere too crowded. But I know a place we can go. Come on!”

She took Vanille’s hand again, leading her around the corner where they resting. They found themselves walking parallel to Nautilus’ lake. This part of the park was much quieter, and darker, with the only light coming from the street lamps that illuminated their passage as they walked under them. Only a few park-goers seemed to have made their way to this area, most of them more content to be swept up in the excitement of Nautilus’ main events.

Vanille took a deep breath.

“Ah, this is much nicer,” she said. Fang laughed.

“This isn’t the norm for you, is it V? You’re usually one to jump right into the action.”

“You’re right, but…I think I’m just nervous. Plus, who are you to talk about ‘the norm’? You’re not usually one to hold my hand!”

Fang, realizing that she was still clinging to the shorter girl’s hand, yanked herself away and cleared her throat.

“I just…wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost, is all.”

“In an empty section of the park?” Vanille asked, a mischievous smile dancing across her lips. She was amused — Fang wasn’t so easily riled up. It was a nice change of pace. On that note, Fang scoffed.

“Whatever! Do you want to see this spot or not?”

“Sure I do!” Vanille replied. She skipped ahead.

“Lead the way!”

Fang showed Vanille a side-path against the row of buildings that ran up against the lake, leading to a long, winding stairway that snaked its way upwards. When they finally made their way to the top, Vanille found herself gasping.

“It’s beautiful!”

It was. The stairway led onto a spaceous balcony that hung just above the lake, which stretched out beneath them. The glittering lights of Nautilus reflected off of the pool of water, creating a dazzling array of colors that shined back onto the balcony. And best of all — there wasn’t a single soul around. Vanille turned to Fang, beaming.

“How did you find this place?”

“Hope told me about it,” she replied, leaning against the balcony. His mother showed it to him when they came here, a long time ago.”

“Oh…”

Vanille frowned. It didn’t feel right to enjoy a spot that Nora found.

“Stop that,” Fang said, reading the girl’s mind.

“Wha—”

“—You can’t keep blaming yourself for everything that happened to everyone, Vanille,” she interrupted, pointing a finger at the girl. “Like everything, the Fal’Cie did this to us. Made us who we are, and hurt the people we care about. It’s not our burden to bear.”

“I know, but…”

Warmth blossomed against Vanille’s cheek as Fang held her hand against it.

“Listen to me,” she said, looking the most serious Vanille had ever seen her. “This is why we’re going to Eden. We’re going to change our fate, and make up for the things we’ve done, understand?”

Vanille nodded, closing her eyes, and letting herself fall into Fang’s hand a little further. Fang responded by grabbing the girl into a hug, catching Vanille by surprise.

“I’m glad we could spend this time together, before the end,” Fang whispered. Vanille leaned back, still wrapped in Fang’s arms.

“Fang…”

“Yes?”

Vanille poked her partner roughly, making her flinch.

“Ow! What was that for?”

“Don’t ever leave me like that again!” Vanille said, pouting. “I was so worried about you! You should have come with me!”

“Alright, alright,” Fang said gently, stroking the girl’s hair. Despite her attempt at chastising, Vanille felt a shiver go up her spine.

“P-promise!” she spluttered. Fang bent forward, pressing her lips against Vanille’s. The girl was shocked for a moment, before closing her eyes and kissing her in turn. Finally Fang stepped back.

“How’s that for a promise?” she asked, smirking.

Vanille’s heart was slamming against her chest, and heat rose up all the way to her forehead. A sort of dizzyness was overcoming her, but it didn’t feel bad — in fact, it felt amazing.

“I…I don’t think that promise was good enough, Fang,” the girl whispered.

“Oh?”

“Y-yeah. You’re gonna have to show me you really mean it.”

Fang put a finger on her chin. “Oh really? Let me try again.”

With that, Fang grabbed Vanille by the waist and lifted her into the air. As the girl yelped in surprise, Fang placed her on the balcony divider, before leaning forward to kiss her again.

“Fang!”


Fang and Vanille met the rest of the L’Cie at Nautilus’ center pavilion. Hope waved at the pair as they approached. Snow spoke first.

“Where’d you two run off to?” he asked. “And Vanille, why do you look so…riled up? Did someone see your L’Cie mark?

Someone did,” Fang said, smirking. Vanille’s embarrassment was such that she literally squealed in frustration, stomping away from the rest of the group. Snow was even more confused.

“What the heck? What’s her problem?” Snow asked. “If someone did see her mark, we should probably get out of here before PSICOM shows up.”

Fang burst into laughter, Sazh only shaking his head.

“Boy, you have a lot to learn,” he said, as the group went on to enjoy the rest of Nautilus’ entertainment, leaving Snow staring blankly.

“Why do I feel like I’m missing something!?”

The lights of Nautilus were blinding, obscuring the night sky above with a kaleidoscope of colors. Neon signs of all shapes dotted the walls, some pointing to Chocobo and Carbuncle plushies, others to different entertainment areas for guests. All of the combined light was almost harsh, but it didnt’ seem to bother Cocoon’s citizens at all, as they ran about from one section of the park to the next, not a care in the world. The cool breeze that came off the venue’s large lake certainly helped as well. When it brushed Vanille’s cheek as she stood in front of the city’s gates, it felt different from Pulse’s, though the wind that carried it was the same. The girl glanced at Fang, who was standing next to her with the all-knowing smile that she usually carried on full-display.

“Are you sure we should be doing this now?” Vanille asked, frowning. “We’re about to…you know…”

“What?” Fang asked, eyebrow raised. “Attack Eden?”

“Fang, shh!”

“Stop being such a worrywart! Eden’s not going anywhere, and your L’Cie mark hasn’t grown all that much. We deserve to take a break and have a little fun before we save the whole damn world, I think.”

Vanille’s gaze lowered to the floor.

“But…”

Before she could mope any further, Fang pushed the girl in front of her.

“Come on, then!” she said. “Everyone is already out having fun! Well, except for Lightning, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?”

With that, the pair made their way into Nautilus. The gate gave way to a flowing crowd of packed citizens making their way to everything from the Chocobo Ranch to the Arcade nearby. The buzz of excitement almost swept through Vanille, but her anxiousness of losing sight of Fang overrode it.

“Fang!” the girl shouted, twisting around and against the surge of bodies to search for her partner.

“Right here.” She appeared amongst the sea of citizens, grabbing Vanille’s hand and leading the two of them to a quieter area of the park. Vanille gasped, hands on her knees, when they finally broke free from the crowd.

“That was…a lot of people…” she said between breathes. Fang smirked.

“Yeah. I’m just happy nobody knocked the cloth off my arm,” she said, gesturing at the make-shift fabric she used to hide her L’Cie mark.

“That’s why I’m saying we shouldn’t be here!” Vanille replied, shooting upwards and pointing at the girl. “If we get caught, we’re done for!”

Fang scratched the back of her head. “Yeah, yeah…listen, the park seems pretty busy as is, so we don’t have to go anywhere too crowded. But I know a place we can go. Come on!”

She took Vanille’s hand again, leading her around the corner where they were resting. They found themselves walking parallel to Nautilus’ lake. This part of the park was much quieter, and darker, with the only light coming from the street lamps that illuminated their passage as they walked under them. Only a few park-goers seemed to have made their way to this area, most of them more content to be swept up in the excitement of Nautilus’ main events.

Vanille took a deep breath.

“Ah, this is much nicer,” she said. Fang laughed.

“This isn’t the norm for you, is it V? You’re usually one to jump right into the action.”

“You’re right, but…I think I’m just nervous. Plus, who are you to talk about ‘the norm’? You’re not usually one to hold my hand!”

Fang, realizing that she was still clinging to the shorter girl’s hand, yanked herself away and cleared her throat.

“I just…wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost, is all.”

“In an empty section of the park?” Vanille asked, a mischievous smile dancing across her lips. She was amused — Fang wasn’t so easily riled up. It was a nice change of pace. On that note, Fang scoffed.

“Whatever! Do you want to see this spot or not?”

“Sure I do!” Vanille replied. She skipped ahead.

“Lead the way!”

Fang showed Vanille a side-path against the row of buildings that ran up against the lake, leading to a long, winding stairway that snaked its way upwards. When they finally made their way to the top, Vanille found herself gasping.

“It’s beautiful!”

It was. The stairway led onto a spacious balcony that hung just above the lake, which stretched out beneath them. The glittering lights of Nautilus reflected off of the pool of water, creating a dazzling array of colors that shined back onto the balcony. And best of all — there wasn’t a single soul around. Vanille turned to Fang, beaming.

“How did you find this place?”

“Hope told me about it,” she replied, leaning against the balcony. His mother showed it to him when they came here, a long time ago.”

“Oh…”

Vanille frowned. It didn’t feel right to enjoy a spot that Nora found.

“Stop that,” Fang said, reading the girl’s mind.

“Wha—”

“—You can’t keep blaming yourself for everything that happened to everyone, Vanille,” she interrupted, pointing a finger at the girl. “Like everything, the Fal’Cie did this to us. Made us who we are, and hurt the people we care about. It’s not our burden to bear.”

“I know, but…”

Warmth blossomed against Vanille’s cheek as Fang held her hand against it.

“Listen to me,” she said, looking the most serious Vanille had ever seen her. “This is why we’re going to Eden. We’re going to change our fate, and make up for the things we’ve done, understand?”

Vanille nodded, closing her eyes, and letting herself fall into Fang’s hand a little further. Fang responded by grabbing the girl into a hug, catching Vanille by surprise.

“I’m glad we could spend this time together, before the end,” Fang whispered. Vanille leaned back, still wrapped in Fang’s arms.

“Fang…”

“Yes?”

Vanille poked her partner roughly, making her flinch.

“Ow! What was that for?”

“Don’t ever leave me like that again!” Vanille said, pouting. “I was so worried about you! You should have come with me!”

“Alright, alright,” Fang said gently, stroking the girl’s hair. Despite her attempt at chastising, Vanille felt a shiver go up her spine.

“P-promise!” she spluttered. Fang bent forward, pressing her lips against Vanille’s. The girl was shocked for a moment, before closing her eyes and kissing her in turn. Finally, Fang stepped back.

“How’s that for a promise?” she asked, smirking.

Vanille’s heart was slamming against her chest, and heat rose up all the way to her forehead. A sort of dizziness was overcoming her, but it didn’t feel bad — in fact, it felt amazing.

“I…I don’t think that promise was good enough, Fang,” the girl whispered.

“Oh?”

“Y-yeah. You’re gonna have to show me you really mean it.”

Fang put a finger on her chin. “Oh really? Let me try again.”

With that, Fang grabbed Vanille by the waist and lifted her into the air. As the girl yelped in surprise, Fang placed her on the balcony divider, before leaning forward to kiss her again.


“Fang!”

Fang and Vanille met the rest of the L’Cie at Nautilus’ center pavilion. Hope waved at the pair as they approached. Snow spoke first.

“Where’d you two run off to?” he asked. “And Vanille, why do you look so…riled up? Did someone see your L’Cie mark?

Someone did,” Fang said, smirking. Vanille’s embarrassment was such that she literally squealed in frustration, stomping away from the rest of the group. Snow was even more confused.

“What the heck? What’s her problem?” Snow asked. “If someone did see her mark, we should probably get out of here before PSICOM shows up.”

Fang burst into laughter, Sazh only shaking his head.

“Boy, you have a lot to learn,” he said, as the group went on to enjoy the rest of Nautilus’ entertainment, leaving Snow staring blankly.

“Why do I feel like I’m missing something!?”

When We First Met

Bubblegum’s place smelled like incense and perfume when I walked in. This usually meant that Aprajita was cooking something up and masking the smell to keep everything fresh. It smelled amazing, strong but also delicate, and not so intense that I felt my sinuses burning.

“Yo, I’m here!” I called out.

“One minute!” came Bubblegum’s reply.

The apartment was decorated with all sorts of pictures of Bubblegum and her partner. I picked one of the frames up, gazing at it absentmindedly as I waited. Bubblegum and Aprajita were sitting together on a boat off the coast of Malaysia, according to the inscription on the back. The former was decked out in all pink, per her usual style, with a grin so wide it almost took up the whole picture. Next to her was Aprajita — or as their girlfriend like to call them sometimes, “Api” — wearing a blue blazer that looked way too thick for the weather they must have been in. They had a tiny smile on their face — a momentous occasion, all things considered. The two expressions you most often get from Aprajita were usually “neutral” and “slight frown.”

Bubblegum came bustling through the door, an orange box in her hands.

“Alright, here it is!” she said, passing the box off to me. I nearly buckled under the weight of the thing, surprised by how heavy it was when it reached my hands. Bubblegum clasped her hands together, smiling.

“They’re not that far from here, so it should be quick!”

I gave an exasperated sigh.

“Bubbles, I know we’re band-mates, but that doesn’t mean I’m also your delivery girl!” I said, putting the package down next to me and placing my hands on my hips.

“Of course Mint, of course! Buuuut shipping is expensive, and if it’s a local delivery, me and the customer get a discount when you do it!”

“Yeah, and all I get is a sore back,” I muttered. “What’s in this thing anyway?” I asked, tapping the box with my boot. Bubblegum crossed her arms.

“I can’t tell you that, obviously. It’s against the law.”

“From what I’ve heard, the law isn’t a thing that’s stopped you before.”

“I will neither confirm nor deny the truth of those statements,” Bubblegum replied. It came out so quickly and rehearsed that I was almost worried about the sort of crap she got into before we met. But she’d never tell me, so it was never worth dwelling on.

“Ask them yourself!” she continued.

“That…would be weird,” I said, scrunching up my face.

“From what I’ve heard, being weird isn’t a thing that’s stopped you before.”

Touché,” I said. I lifted the package up and slung it over my shoulder.

“If nothing else, this courier gig is going to get me jacked,” I said as I made to exit Bubblegum’s place. “Tell Api to save some food for me, please!”

“Will do! If they’re feeling extra generous, they might even throw some curry in on the house.”

God, please.”

“But…only if you get that package there quick. Ciao!” The pink-haired woman shut the door behind me before I could protest.

“Well, curry’s a suitable enough bribe,” I said to myself. “May as well get to it now.”

My skateboard was waiting for me on the porch. I kicked it off of the wall and hopped on, kuh-kunking down the two stairs that led to Bubblegum’s home before getting onto the sidewalk. My friend wasn’t lying about her customer being close — they were only a block or two away. And the weather was perfect for a ride on my board. A breeze was running through the summer sun, preventing it from scalding the neighborhood with its heat. Clouds assisted in the endeavor, only letting the yellow orb peek through them now and again as they passed above me.

I lazily pushed myself left and right on my skateboard, mind elsewhere as I let muscle-memory kick in while I rode. I had been across these paths so many times before when coming to Bubblegum’s house for band practice, I could probably ride through them with my eyes closed. It was incredible to think that our little garage, grass-roots effort had gotten so popular so quickly. People were even starting to recognize me while I was out skating! I had no idea how I was going to deal with it if we really blew up…

Before I could ponder the effects of potential fame any further, I found myself standing in front of the client’s place. They were on the third floor of a narrow apartment complex, nestled between houses on either side. It looked to be a little cramped. I shrugged, hopping off my board and making my way through the lobby and onto the elevator. It spit me out where I needed to be, with the client’s apartment being only a few paces away.

I gave the door a swift knock, and waited.

Nothing.

I gave another quick rap with my knuckles, louder this time.

Still nothing.

“Hello?” I called out. It was then that I realized I could hear a faint sound on the other side of the door. I put the box down and leaned close to the door, ear pressed against the cool, black-painted wood.

It was music!

And not playing from speakers, either. A guitar was shredding somewhere inside, completely drowning out any sound of my knocking. While I admired the thing’s aggressive style, I had places to be. This just wouldn’t do.

“Hey!” I shouted, now finally pounding on the door. “I have a package for you, fam!”

The sound cut off. I let my hands fall to my sides, tapping them impatiently while I waited. I was just about ready to leave the package in front of the door and bounce when it finally swung open.

A taller girl stood in front of me. She had striking pink hair that swept forward, nearly obscuring her eyes. and shaved on one side. And she was dressed in a casual grey jumper that looked like something a mechanic might wear. The sleeves were rolled up to reveal chain-patterned tattoos on either of her arms. My eyes widened, a thought exploding through my head unannounced.

Holy shit she’s cute!

“C-can I help you?”

I gaped at the girl.

“Hello?”

“O-oh! Hi! Um, I…” I was sputtering. I was already screwing it up! Aprajita would roast me if she found out. I could already hear her words echoing in the back of my head. “Some top you are.” Noooo!

I tried to stick the landing as best I could. I gave a small wave. “Hi, I’m Haruko! My friends call me Mint.”

“Um…cool,” the girl replied. “I’m Queen. My friends call me Queen.”

“Oh, cool, cool…” So much for sticking the landing. I shot up straight.

“Oh right! I have a package for you. From Bubblegum? The Etsy lady?”

The girl — Queen — lit up at the realization. “Awesome! I’ve been super excited for this stuff.”

I passed the box to her, putting my hands behind my back afterwards. Queen gestured towards her apartment.

“You wanna come inside? It’s hot out, I can give you a glass of water or something.”

My heart shot up into my throat.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to intrude…”

“You aren’t. I’m here alone, so if anything, you’ll be brightening the place up. Come on in.”

I stepped into the apartment and past Queen, trying not to look too eager all the while. I caught the smell of metal coming off of her fingers from playing her guitar. When I walked through the hallway into the apartment, I let out a small gasp.

“Woah…”

The apartment was filled end-to-end with all kinds of fancy technology. A lot of it I couldn’t even describe to you. Stacks of computers were lined up like battle-stations, and multiple desks were strewn about with monitors on them displaying all kinds of information that I definitely did not understand one bit. Cables snaked their way pretty much everywhere — past monitors, coiled around desk legs, under tables and scattered on the ground. Queen stepped through the jungle of tech with ease, not bumping into a single thing as she walked from one end of the living room to the next.

“Sorry about the mess,” she said as she headed into the kitchen. “I don’t usually have guests over, so I’ve never had to clean up. It’s a bad habit of mine.”

“You’re good,” I said. “Do you work with all this stuff?”

“Yeah.” The kitchen was separated by the living room with a counter, so the tall girl was able to continue talking to me while she accessed her fridge. “Most of it is just diagnostic stuff, but the rest is for one kind of project or another, even if I’m never actually working on them as much as I’d like.”

I sighed in understanding. “I feel that. I have like three or four songs on my mind at any given time. Nine times out of ten I don’t work on any of them and veg out on the couch instead.”

“Oh, you play?” Queen asked, stepping over to me with a glass of water and gesturing towards a couch that I hadn’t noticed amidst the sea of electronics. I nodded.

“My friends and I started a band a couple of months ago, actually. Minty Fresh. I didn’t pick the name, by the way!” I quickly added as I sat down, waving a hand. It was Bubblegum’s idea. I promise I’m not that conceited…”

Queen seemed to have stopped listening to me. Suddenly she put her hands on her head, gasping.

“You’re the singer of Minty Fresh? What the hell?”

“Um…yes?” I replied, acting as a question more than an affirmation. Queen shot her hands out towards me, palms upward, as if I just broke one of her computers.

“That’s amazing! I was at one of your shows, like, two weeks ago, at Future First! You opened for Kanon!”

I gave a sheepish grin. “Yep, that’s me…”

“No wonder you looked so familiar! This is so cool! I always wanted to start a band, but the guitar has always been kind of a hobby for me. But you’re like, out here! Doing it!”

I laughed. “Don’t sell yourself short! You were shredding pretty hard just now from what I heard.” I was trying to turn the subject away from me, still unused to the fact that people were starting to recognize who I was. We were in a small enough town, but still…it was weird.

Luckily, Queen seemed fine with moving on. “Thanks. It’s a nice break between projects. Ah, speaking of!”

I sipped at the water Queen provided me while she jumped to the parcel I had delivered, pulling out a pocket knife that she used to swiftly cut the thing open. I sat up on my chair to look over her shoulder while she pulled everything out. It was more advanced-looking technology, as well as some sort of shiny block.

“Yes! This’ll do nicely.”

I kicked my legs idly on the couch as the girl examined all of her new toys. “What’re you gonna do with all that stuff?”

It seemed like Queen had to struggle to tear herself away from her present to focus her attention on me. “I’m trying to make a helmet. I want it to have a HUD, and maybe even interface with a couple of my other things.”

“Oh, I see, I see. A HUD, huh? Pretty cool.” I had no idea what a HUD was.

“Where does Bubblegum even get this stuff?” I asked. Queen laughed.

“It sounds like we shouldn’t ask. She was selling it for pennies, too, she may as well have been giving it away for free.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of her MO. I assume it’s a middle finger to…something.”

“Capitalism?”

I shrugged. “Oh hey, what’s that at the bottom of the box?”

Queen turned beet red. “This is, uh, just an extra thing that I got.”

“Can I see?” I was curious, but I didn’t want the girl to explode, which seemed very close to happening if you got a good look at her face.

“S…sure.”

She passed the thing to me. I could tell just by feeling it that it was made out of crocheted yarn of all sorts of colors. I ran it through my fingers and turned it around.

“Oh my God.”

It was a sweater. Emblazoned on the front was a cat hanging on a branch with text above it that said “Hang in There!”

Queen couldn’t meet my eyes as I looked up from the sweater and at her.

She’s…too cute!

“Did Bubblegum make this for you?” I asked as nonchalantly as possible. The girl nodded. “I knew I recognized the handiwork. This makes more sense to put in an Etsy shop, anyways.”

“This is so embarrassing…” Queen muttered. “But I guess I won’t see you again, so…”

I gave her the most innocent smile I could. “Oh, you won’t?” I asked.

Queen looked like she was about to faint. I almost felt bad for teasing her so much, but enjoyment beat out whatever little conscience I had.

“I mean…if you want to…oh, actually, I remembered something. At your concert, I saw you were struggling getting some of your equipment working.”

This time it was my turn to blush.

“Was it that obvious?” I asked, tapping my cheek.

“Oh, no no, it’s not your fault!” Queen was up and about again, moving to grab a sketchbook off of her desk. It was clear that she was always in her element talking about tech, which was, like everything else about her, extremely cute. She flopped onto the couch next to me, flipping the book open to a page with what looked like a pair of headphones, striped red near the top.

“That stuff is always really difficult to work with, especially in the moment. But see, I had this idea for a headset that sort of unifies everything it connects to, and lets you control it with minimal effort.”

“That’s…awesome.” I wasn’t even trying to flatter her at this point. It’d actually be really helpful for concerts too.

“Right!? So I was wondering if you’d wanna try it at your next show?”

I beamed. “Sure!”

“Awesome.” She was up again, pacing back and forth. “So I’ll need to get a look at all your instruments and amps and stuff, and definitely anything wireless you have on stage. Hmm…and I’ll need your measurements too.”

I crossed my arms, giving a sly smile.

“Measurements, huh?” I asked, coupled with an exaggerated eyebrow raise.

Queen stuttered yet again. “O-of your head, I mean. I don’t need, like, other measurements.”

I crossed one leg over the other. “Sure, but do you want them?”

She pretended not to hear the question. “Alright, so I definitely don’t have enough space to do this here…is it okay if I come to you?”

“Yep!” I replied, hopping from my seat. “It’s a date!”

“It is? I mean, it is. Right.”

I grabbed a marker off one of Queen’s desks and gently took her hand to scribble on it.

“Here’s my number. Call me whenever you wanna swing by, Q.”

“O-oh. I could have just put it in my phone.”

“I know,” I replied, grinning. “Well I won’t be taking any more of your time, and I have to get ready for practice.” I made for the exit, Queen following behind me. I turned to the girl as I kicked my board, letting it slide under my arm as I grabbed it from the air. I was absolutely trying to flex, and was very happy the thing didn’t slap my face, like it did pretty much every other time I tried to pull that move off.

“Feel free to order from Bubblegum again. I certainly wouldn’t mind,” I said as I waved my goodbye. As I left the apartment, Queen called out to me.

“Hey Mint!”

I turned. “What’s up?”

The girl had a hand in her pocket. “Oh, nothing, I just…I like your hair, that’s all. It suits you.”

“Oh! Thank you!”

“Yeah. Alright, see you later.”

The girl closed the door. I was able to contain myself all the way to the elevator, where I couldn’t stop myself from hugging my skateboard and squealing in excitement.

2B to Tea

Another flash fic request! It was hard to find a reason for these two to meet up and smooch at first, but it came together in the end. This isn’t 100% canon-compliant, but that’s okay.

Also I love 6O. She’s so cute!! This was a good request to get. 🙂


The clack of 2B’s heels echoed through the halls of the Bunker. It was relatively empty — most of the other androids were likely at Command, or on a mission on the surface. She couldn’t feel the cold that crept through each section of the base as she passed through, matched with the dark expanse of space that sat outside. 2B didn’t know why the Bunker had windows. Anything that needed to be seen could be through the numerous high-tech sensors that adorned the Bunker’s exterior. But she didn’t see the need in asking why, either. It seemed to have always been this way. And sometimes 2B would look out at the stars glittering out in front of her when she looked out the window. She would never admit it to anyone if they asked, but she enjoyed the view.

2B had a day off. It was a rarity in her line of work, but even androids needed to rest. As her Pod would constantly point out, work with no sign of stopping was detrimental to her performance, which in turn was detrimental to the mission as a whole. She would rather have been back out on the field, but the last thing 2B needed was a reprimand from the Commander. Plus, she had already been tied up with plans at this point.

2B made some cross between a grimace and a smirk when she remembered it. She and 9S were in the City Ruins on reconnaissance when 2B received a call.

“Operator 6O to Combat Unit 2B!” came the sing-song voice on the other end of the line. 2B accepted the communication.

“2B here. What do you need, 6O?”

“Command wanted to notify you that you have a mandatory day off tomorrow!”

2B flinched. “Is it…really mandatory?”

“Yes, 2B! Gosh, a bit of rest wouldn’t kill you you know!”

2B sighed at her operator’s admonishment. “I suppose so. Fine. I’ll report in for my rest day tomorrow.”

There was silence on the other end of the line. 2B frowned.

“You should still be on the line. Signal’s clear,” 9S said, checking his systems.

“6O? Can you hear me?” 2B asked.

“So then 2B…that means you don’t have any plans tomorrow, do you?” 6O said in whisper of a voice.

“What? Of course not. You just told me I have time off.”

“Great! So that means we can go on a date tomorrow, right?”

If 2B were human, she would have broken out into a cold sweat. It wasn’t that she wasn’t interested in 6O — she actually was, though she’d die before admitting it to anyone that asked. She just wasn’t prepared to go on a date so soon. And yet, she had no excuse to dodge the meeting. 2B was caught in 6O’s trap.

“I suppose…I don’t have a choice do —”

Before 2B could finish her sentence, 6O’s high-pitched squeal shot through on the other end of the line, nearly causing 2B to short-circuit. It was more powerful than some of the EMP blasts she had been subjected to in battle.

Yes! Okay, I’ll give you the details later, but we’ll meet tomorrow at 1600 hours! Don’t be late! Operator 6O out!”

The connection closed. 2B was left to look out at the horizon as a breeze ruffled her skirt, too shocked to move or speak.

Thusly did 2B make her way to 6O’s appointed coordinates. She was in a part of the Bunker she never found herself visiting. A pleasant smell was wafting through the door in front of her. This was probably the place.

2B opened the door to let herself in, and found herself face-to-face with…

“What is this?” 2B asked aloud.

It was unlike anything she had ever seen before. Rather than the usual silver and black walls, 2B had found herself in a small room with wooden panels on all sides. Pictures adorned the walls, and light blue and green streamers hung in the rafters above her. A handful of other androids were sitting at different tables, and they had drinks in their hands. This was some sort of…coffee shop?

Before 2B could ruminate further, she saw an overly energetic hand waving towards her from the corner of the room.

“Over here!” 6O called out. She had replaced her usual uniform with an elegant black and yellow dress. She looked more adorable than ever.

Subsequently, 2B felt very under-dressed.

The android cleared her throat, before making her way to 6O’s table.

“6O,” she said, giving a bow. Was it too polite? Oh damn, she was already messing up. 2B tried to bulldoze her way past her paralyzation and sat down.

“Has this place always been here?” she asked. 6O chuckled.

“Yes, silly! The Bunker Cafe has been here forever. It’s a spot where androids can relax when they’re not on the job. You’ve just never seen it because you never take a day off, and when you do you spend all your time sleeping in your room!”

“It seemed like the most optimal use of my time in regards to the mission…” 2B replied. 6O passed the woman a menu that she began to peruse.

“It’s built to mimic the same structures that humans would spend their time relaxing in,” 6O said as 2B examined the menu.

“They sure were strange creatures.” Still, she was intrigued by the whole concept. It seemed that Nines’ curious nature was beginning to rub off on her.

“What are you ordering?” 2B asked. She almost never ate human food, even though she had the capability, because it was unecessary. She figured it best to defer to 6O, who was fascinated by human meals.

“Lunar tea!” the girl replied, grinning. “It’s the best thing you can drink here!”

“I’ll get the same then,” 2B replied. “And a plate of biscuits as well.” She wasn’t interested in them, but she noticed 6O eyeing the ones on a table next to them a few times. 2B could tell she made the right decision when 6O’s eyes lit up.

“Make sure to share!” she said. 2B smiled.

“Of course.”

The Cafe wasn’t exactly busy, so the pair’s tea and snacks came to them quickly. 2B picked up one of the biscuits. It was circular, and had a face baked into it with two large round eyes and a wide grin spread across it.

“Creepy,” 2B said, before taking a bite.

“How’s field work going?” 6O asked. 2B crossed one leg over the other and took a sip from her drink, which was surprisingly tasty.

“Fine,” she replied. “There hasn’t been much in the way of unusual activity. We just perform our usual recon missions before returning to base.”

6O sighed. “I would kill to go to the surface,” she said, pouting. “It looks so beautiful. I wanna see it all in person!”

“Operators have no reason to go to the surface,” 2B said matter-of-factly. 6O stuck her tongue out at the woman, causing her to blink in surprise.

“Haven’t you ever wanted to do something just because you wanted to, 2B? Like yeah, missions are important, but isn’t there anything you want yourself?”

This was the part of 6O that 2B was always thrown off by. She seemed to not have a filter on anything she said, even for an Operator unit. 2B put her hand under her chin in thought.

“I suppose…I haven’t,” she said. “Oh!”

6O leaned forward. “Oh?”

“I did want to see you today. That was for myself.” 2B nodded, content with her answer. She noticed that 6O had covered her face with her hands.

“6O?” she asked, puzzled. “Are you alright?”

Blghhhaa, 2B!” she said, her voice muffled by her hands. “You can’t just say stuff like that out of nowhere!”

“I was answering your question,” 2B said. 6O waved her hands in front of her.

“Just forget about it!”

The two women went on with their cafe meals, chatting about missions they had worked on and Bunker gossip that 6O had heard while on the job. She idly spinned the straw in her tea, staring into its depths when she next spoke.

“I’m glad you said yes to this,” she said, quieter than she usually was. “I was afraid you wouldn’t.”

2B’s eyes widened. “Why wouldn’t I?”

“Well…the last girl I asked out turned me down…”

This was something 2B hadn’t heard about.

“Really?”

6O blushed. “Yeah…I kinda liked her, but…I don’t know, I guess I wasn’t good enough. Sorry, this isn’t exactly a date topic, is it?”

2B shook her head. “I’m glad she said no.”

“What?”

“If she had said yes, I wouldn’t have been able to be here with you.”

6O was near to tears. Her cheeks were flushed red.

“Two-beeeee,” she said, finally letting out a sob. 2B pat the girl’s hand, flustered herself.

“Get a hold of yourself, 6O,” she said as gently as she could muster.

The girls left the cafe twenty minutes later. 2B stretched, letting out a cat-like yawn.

“I have to admit. That was nice.”

“Wasn’t it?” 6O replied, bouncing on her toes. 2B nodded

“I’ll walk you back to Command,” she said.

The pair made their way through the Bunker’s hall. 2B had passed through them numerous times with collegues, but walking with 6O, she couldn’t help but perceive a sort of warmth in them, even if she knew it wasn’t there. She stopped herself from smiling before 6O could notice.

They arrived at the front entrance of Command a short while later. 6O turned to 2B, hands clasped together as she looked more at 2B’s feet than at 2B herself.

“Well, this is my stop,” she said, giving a nervous chuckle.

“It is,” 2B replied. “Oh yes, one last thing.”

2B popped open the containment slot built into her thigh, and pulled out a bright white flower. She offered it to 6O, who gasped.

“Is that…?”

“A Lunar Tear, yes. You mentioned wanting to see one before, so I got one on the way back to Base yesterday. It’s yours.”

2B placed the Lunar Tear in 6O’s hair. It blended brillianty with the girl’s blond locks. 2B took a step back, admiring her placement.

“I think it looks good. What about you, 6O?”

In answer, 6O rushed forward, pulling 2B into a hug before looking up to kiss her. 2B was shocked for half a second, before she wrapped her arms around the girl, kissing her in turn. They stayed like that for a while, held in each others arms, before finally letting each other go.

“I hope you get another day off soon, 2B,” 6O said. She turned on her heel and rushed into Command. 2B watched her leave.

“Me too,” she whispered.

Art by @astronauts321

It Suits You!





“That’s the stream everyone! Gotta cut it early, Queen and I have somewhere to be!”

Mint took her headset off and placed it on the table, running her hands through her hair. It always got messy when she was wearing it. The stream was good — it was a Tuesday, meaning it was quiet enough that Aprajita and Bubblegum didn’t have to stick around and moderate. And the game she was playing was pretty fun too. But, real life called, and she had to answer.

Mint leapt from her gaming chair, grabbed a nearby brush, and bounced lightly out of her room and across her house’s wooden panels. Her socks masked her sound. Good — she wanted to initiate a surprise attack.

The girl turned left at the end of the hallway and stopped outside the door. Queen, Mint’s girlfriend, could be heard inside, lightly strumming her guitar. Though she wasn’t inside, Mint could picture her face: pink hair masking her eyes, which were probably furrowed in concentration as she moved from one chord to another.

Sun filtered past the awning and through the window, warming Mint’s face. She smiled, turning to open the door to the studio slowly so as to not let it creak. Queen’s back was turned. She crept up on the girl, before letting out a bellow.

“Queen!”

The taller girl leapt off of the stool she was playing on, nearly dropping her guitar. She whirled at Mint.

“What?” she asked, concern written on her face. Mint almost felt bad for teasing her girlfriend, but it was too easy not to. She turned away from Queen, running her fingers through her green locks in a dramatic flourish.

“Brush my hair!” she commanded.

Queen sighed, letting her shoulders relax.

“Hell Mint, I thought someone broke into the place! You almost gave me a heart-attack. What if I dropped my guitar?”

“I wooooould buy you another one?” Mint asked. Queen sighed yet again. She sighed pretty often around Mint.

“Right. Can’t argue with that I guess.” She threw a hand out, gesturing at Mint’s brush in defeat.

“Get over here,” Queen said. Mint hopped over to the girl and sat on the floor, crossing her legs while Queen got back on her stool and began to brush. The girls sat in silence for a moment as Queen settled into a rhythm going through Mint’s sea of hair with the brush.

Mint’s eyes were shut in relaxation when she heard Queen begin to hum. It was the same few chords from before. She opened her eyes to look up at Queen, lost in thought. Mint smiled. Queen eventually noticed, blushing a deep crimson.

“What?” she asked.

“You’re cute when you get so into your work.”

“O-oh.”

“Is this for the next album?”

“Maybe. I’m trying to figure out the mid-section but I can’t seem to get it down.”

Mint stuck a hand out towards nothing in particular.

“Let me hear it tomorrow. Maybe I can help.”

“Alright.”

The pair sat in silence for a moment longer. Mint tapped on Queen’s knee.

“Have you thought about what you’re wearing tonight?” she asked. Queen looked away.

“I kinda thought…I wouldn’t have to go.”

“What!?”

Mint leapt to the air, nearly knocking Queen on the chin as she did so. She flipped around to look at her girlfriend, hands planted firmly on her hips.

“You have to go! I’m presenting an award! And it might be to Miku!”

Queen’s exasperation was palpable. “I know, I know, I just…”

Mint’s expression softened. She lightly lifted Queen’s chin up with a finger, who had resorted to staring at the floor.

“Just what?” she asked.

“I wanted…to wear…a suit.” Queen could barely get the words out. Mint tilted her head.

“That’s it?” she asked, puzzled. Queen ran a hand through the shaved half of her hair.

“Agh, see, I knew you wouldn’t get it!”

“Get what? You gotta tell me Queen!”

“I just…I feel like it’d be embarrassing, you know? But I don’t wanna wear a dress. I want to wear a suit. But no one’s ever seen me in formal clothes before. Just my usual punk stuff. What do they think I’m gonna wear? What do they think I should wear? What if people think I’m weird?”

Mint interrupted Queen’s rambling. She grabbed the girl’s hand and yanked her to her feet.

“Wha–“

“Come with me.”

Mint sped out of the room, nearly yanking Queen’s arm off as they half-walked, half ran to their shared room. She directed Queen to the dresser on the far wall and yanked it open. It was mostly filled with Queen’s things — Mint still grabbed most of her clothes out of her suitcase, since she was too lazy to hang them up after the girls had moved in together.

Mint pointed at the dresser.

“Where is it?”

Queen stared at the dresser, mouth open as if she were about to say something. She looked at Mint, then back at the dresser again. Mint crossed her arms.

“You must have it, if you wanted to wear it, right?”

Queen nodded. She pulled out a black bag that was hanging in the middle of the dresser.

“Put it on,” Mint said.

“What!?”

Mint tapped at her ear. “Huh. I didn’t think I was wearing my headset,” the girl said. “So there’s no audio feedback. Which means I definitely was clear in what I said. Put it on!”

“A-alright.”

Queen went to the bathroom to change. Mint rolled her eyes.

“She knows I’ve seen her undress, and that I’ve undressed her myself, right?” she asked the room’s dead air. It didn’t respond, leaving Mint to huff alone.

She waited.

And waited.

And waited.

Finally, before she thought to go and find the girl herself, Queen came back into the bedroom, dressed in a sharp white tuxedo.

“Sorry,” she said, giving a sheepish grin. “I had to talk myself out of the bathroom. Uh…Mint?”

Mint seemed to have short-circuited. She was, at the very least, speechless. She took a few steps forward, until she was face-to-face with Queen, and reached out to touch one of the suit’s buttons.

“It’s too much, isn’t it?” Queen said, her worst fears realized. “It’s –“

“It’s hot.”

“It’s what?” Queen sputtered.

“It’s. Hot.” Mint looked up to lock eyes with the girl, before getting on her tip-toes to kiss Queen. When Mint backed away, Queen was just as speechless as Mint was moments before.

“Uh, that was nice,” she finally managed to say. “You really like it?”

“Queenie,” Mint said, using the girl’s pet name. “The only thing stopping me tearing that thing off of you is the fact that it’d be a pain to get ready for the Award Show a second time.”

“Wow. You really like it.”

Mint smoothed her skirt down, seemingly more composed. “Sure I do Queen, but do you? It’s your opinion that matters. I don’t want to pull you one way or the other, I just want you to be comfortable. And happy.”

Queen examined the suit on her body again. “I feel…good,” she said. “But I’m still really nervous. I mean, you know me Minty. Big changes, big anxiety.” The girl let out a short laugh.

Mint had a hand under her chin. She wasn’t looking at Queen at all anymore, but rather the wall behind her — or, perhaps even further. Queen knew that when this was happening, it meant the girl was going into overdrive. Finally, her eyes lit up.

“Don’t go anywhere,” she said, before running out of the bedroom. She turned to poke her head back in.

“I mean, get ready to go, but don’t go anywhere!” she said. “And keep the suit on!” she added as she ran out of the house.

It was two hours until Mint returned, and when she did, she shooed Queen away from her. “Don’t look at me!” she shouted as she ran down the opposite end of the hallway and into the bathroom. Queen watched her zoom past.

“Are we…are we still going to the show?” she asked, confused. Mint didn’t answer.

More time passed. Queen looked at her watch. She knocked on the bathroom door.

“Hey, it’s almost time to go, but, I don’t think I’ll–“

The girl was interrupted by the bathroom door swinging open. Mint stood in front of her girlfriend wearing her own suit, cut slightly differently at the cuffs. She twirled for Queen, before ending with a pose.

“Well? How do I look?” she asked her girlfriend, winking.

It was Queen’s turn to short-circuit. She was beet-red this time around.

Mint continued, seeing as her girlfriend was verbally out of commission. “I didn’t want you to be nervous, so I figured, why don’t we match? I wasn’t sure at first, but I think I cut a pretty good figure in a suit, don’t you?”

Queen steadied herself on the bathroom door.

“Yes,” she said simply.

“So, you’ll go?”

“Yes.”

“In the suit?”

“Yes.”

Mint clapped her hands together.

“Great!” she said. And she meant it.

They were finally ready to go. The two girls stood at the front door, putting their dress shoes on. Queen mumbled something, but Mint couldn’t quite hear it.

“Huh? What?” she asked, leaning forward to hear her. Queen looked away before repeating herself.

“I said, ‘what did I do to deserve such a good girlfriend.'”

Mint’s eyes widened. She stared at Queen for a second, before finally speaking.

“I mean, if you got a girl like me, you’re probably not too shabby yourself, right?”

Mint reached up to kiss the girl again, before the two went on their way.

Mara and Rubrim – Patreon Story

Mara waited.

She had been sitting on the rock for a few hours now, but had been waiting far longer. Years, in fact, and seven to be precise. It was a lucky number for a lot of people.

Not for her.

Were she not so anxious, Mara could have taken a moment to appreciate the beach spray as the waves lapped up against the shore. The cove was always beautiful this time of year. On a weekday, everyone at the island would be working, and with her free period being the last one of the school-day, Mara was able to enjoy some of the stillness outside, with only the occasional passing car disturbing her bike ride. If you could fly, you’d be able to see how the cove formed into a crescent moon of sorts, almost perfectly. There was supposedly a mathematical beauty that could be applied to geography, but Mara wouldn’t know — it was her worst subject.

She checked her bag for the seventieth time.

Chalk: check.

Prism: check.

Pocket knife: check.

MP3 Player: a very expensive check.

Everything was there, she knew that, but it was the only thing keeping her sane while she waited.

Mara examined her wrist. 8 o’clock. 17 minutes to go.

It was time to start.

She hopped off of the rock, careful not to scuff her uniform shoes in the sand, and trudged over to the cliff wall. It was vined over, but that’s what the knife was for. With a deft hand, Mara flicked it open, cutting away at the foliage until there was nothing but cracked gray rock in front of her. Satisfied, she turned away and took seven steps forward, before pulling out the prism from her pack and laying it down on the sand, making sure the sun would shine on it.

10 minutes to go.

Mara took a deep breath, taking in the smell of the sun as well. No point in panicking — if it wasn’t perfect, it wouldn’t work. Not for another seven years. She returned to the wall, pulling out the chalk. The sigil wasn’t too complicated, but it required a steady hand. Mara didn’t need the Book to draw it — she had memorized it by heart in the past seven years. It dotted itself on every doodle she whittled away at in class. There was no way she was ever going to forget it.

She took a step back, admiring her handiwork. It was perfect, or at least as perfect as she could make it. And with 7 minutes to spare too. Not bad. Mara sat back on the rock. Nothing left to do but wait.

The last seven minutes were agonizingly slow. But it was finally time. The sun touched the horizon. A beam of light shot itself across the ocean waves, straight into the prism. A kaleidoscope of colors burst forth, painting the sigil on the wall in rainbow hues.

A moment passed.

The sun continued to set, but the colors were now burned into the wall. They sparkled, before bursting out, like a switch had been activated. Mara did her best to contain her excitement: it had worked.

The wall began to fade away. In its place stood a girl with brilliant red hair and a grin plastered on her face.

“Did you wait long?” she asked.

“Rubrum!” Mara shot forward, tackling the girl with a hug. She held her like that for at least a full minute, before Rubrum finally yanked free from the girl’s grasp, laughing all the while.

“I take it that’s a yes.”

“Seven years, seven hours and seventeen minutes, to be exact! I’ll be happy if I never have to see the number again. But forget that, come and sit down!”

Mara led the red-haired girl to a blanket she had spread out on the sand. There were two smoothies waiting for them.

“Wow, you’re actually prepared this time,” Rubrum said. Mara pouted.

“Shut up! I was ten last time, I barely knew how to tie my shoes.”

“I’m pretty sure ten year olds know how to tie their shoes, Mara.”

“I will shove you back into that hole if you don’t stop!”

“And miss out on a mango smoothie? You can try.” Rubrum plopped onto the blanket, taking a giant sip from the drink, before letting out a satisfying sigh.

“Ah! I missed this.”

Mara sat down next to the girl.

“What, they don’t have smoothies in your world?”

“They do, but nothing like this.” Rubrum took another sip. “Ours are all about revealing the secrets of the universe, and other such nonsense. I hope when they’re found, ‘add flavor to your food’ sits at the very top. See how dumb they feel.”

“If I had known, I would have brought more for you to take with you,” Mara said, trailing her finger in the sand.

“It’s all good!”

“Oh! I did bring this though.” Mara ruffled through her bag, and pulled out the MP3 Player.

“I filled it up with a whopping 30 gigs of Ska music, just for you. God knows why you like that stuff, but I guess somebody has to. Oh, and it’s red!”

“Holy crap, is that a Zune!?” Rubrum grabbed the music player out of the girl’s hand, examining it closely. “I was looking at these in my Scroll like a week ago! I can’t believe you got me one!”

“I can’t either,” Mara replied, unable to stop herself from grinning. “This was a year’s worth of savings, for your information. Don’t say I don’t do anything for you.”

This time it was Rubrum that put Mara into a choke-hold of a hug.

“Thankyouthankyouthankyou!”

Mara pushed the girl off her. “Yeah, yeah, you’re welcome.”

“I’ve actually got something for you too!” Rubrum pulled her satchel off from her robes, popping it open. She pulled out a green book.

“You said you were interested in flight techniques, so I figured I’d give you my old beginner’s book of runes! It’s really simple stuff, so you can do it, even without the aptitude. Just…make sure nobody’s around when you do it, or they’re going to ask questions.”

“Wow!” Mara took the book into her hands, flipping it open to check the pages.

“Yeah, I think I can make this work. Thank you!”

“Of course! Now take a sip of your smoothie, it’s starting to warm up.”

“Oh wow, you’re right.”

The girls drank and talked, regaling each other of the time they spent apart. Thought it had been so long, it was if no time had passed at all. The sun gave way to stars as the hours passed. They lay on the beach, staring up at them.

“It’s weird,” Mara said.

“What’s weird?”

“That we meet up like this, but…you know, we both look up at the same stars. It’s weird to think about.”

Rubrum snorted. “That’s corny as heck, Mara.”

Pft. Yeah, it is.”

“But it’s true.”

The girls sat in silence.

“Can I really not come see you?” Mara asked. Rubrum got up, the elbow she lent on slightly scraped by the sand.

“You know you can’t, Mara. If you did the Gate would get closed immediately. We’re already brushing up against dimensional law as is. I had to petition the Elders for a year and a half just for them to consider this.”

“I know…but I want to.”

“And I want you to…” Rubrum sighed.

“Fine. I will ask them. But no promises, do not get your hopes up!” she rushed to finish as Mara squealed in excitement. The red-haired girl got up, examining a rock of some sort on her wrist.

“That’s time. I better get back.”

Mara sat up, running her hand through her hair.

“Really? You can’t stay a little longer?”

“Hey, I’m about to ask the Elders to break a ten-thousand year law. We really shouldn’t push it, Mara.”

“Ooookaaaay,” she said, getting up herself. The two girls walked to the cove wall together. It shone its rainbow hues once more.

Rubrum turned to Mara grinning. “Same time, same place?”

Mara grabbed the girl into a hug. “Always. I’ll be waiting.”

Rubrum rubbed her eyes and quickly turned away, hoping that Mara didn’t see. She did.

“See you!”

The red-haired girl stepped towards the wall. And then she was gone.

Mara stood in front of it, waiting. She knew nothing was going to happen — that Rubrum wouldn’t suddenly reappear, that they’d get to go on further adventures together — but it didn’t hurt to wait.

Nothing happened. Mara grabbed her things together, hopped on her bike, and began to peddle. She had no idea what she’d be like seven years from now, but she knew that Rubrum would be waiting for her.

And Mara would be there.


Thanks to WagonStar for this request! If you want me to write a story for you, feel free to subscribe to my Patreon!

H’aanit x Primrose: A Hunting Trip

2019 is the year I write more overly-indulgent fanfiction of my favorite ships, baby.


“We have to wait for how long?”

Primrose clung tightly to the red furs she found herself layered in, attempting to trap every bit of heat she could in S’warkii’s frigid forest temperatures. The sun was shining through the forest trees, but it wasn’t enough to completely empty the place of snow, with melted water and slicked ice surrounding her. Primrose was more used to Sunshade’s deserts, and wasn’t happy with how different she looked in the change of clothes – like a lightly toasted marshmallow.

“As I said already, it will not reveal itself for a few more hours. We will have to wait.” H’aanit was too busy taking care of her bow on a nearby log to take notice of Primrose’s discomfort. She adjusted the strength of the bow’s string, carefully pulling it to check its weight against her hands without damaging the weapon. Primrose watched her, leaning against their tent. She loved seeing the woman work, fully absorbed in her task. It seemed like this was when H’aanit was most at peace, and it pleased Primrose to see her so.

“When I said ‘take me on a date,’ I didn’t exactly mean a hunting trip,” Primrose teased. H’aanit looked up, shaking her blonde braid out of the way.

“I have been to your home, but you have never been to mine. This is what we do. What I was raised to do.” It was true, of course — Primrose was the last to join the merry band of eight. She had warmed up to each of them individually — even Olberic, with all his stoicism. But Primrose was immediately smitten with H’aanit the minute she saw her, quietly sipping at her ale in the Sunshade tavern while the rest of the party…well, partied, her beautiful snow leopard curled up at her feet. Primrose always had trouble opening up to others, considering her past. Despite that, people were always so nosy.

But H’aanit…here was a woman who knew not to pry. She never pressed Primrose on anything, preferring to let her speak when she was ready. Her silence wasn’t that of contempt or disinterest, but a companionable warmth. It made Primrose feel safe to share her heart.

Prim lightly shook herself out of her reminiscing. “You’re right. And even if S’warkii is freezing, it’s still beautiful. How often did you come to these woods?”

“Nearly every morning, with my master.” H’aanit placed her bow in the snow next to her. With a deft hand she unsheathed a pocket knife, sharpening her arrows one after the other. “This place is beautiful in the spring. I didn’t take much notice of it at first, but Z’aanta encouraged me to find the beauty in it all: the dew on the grass, the way the sunlight comes in softer than it does in the summer. How pools of water disturb the forest’s silence just so…” H’aanit laughed.

“What?”

“That old man is a fool, but I’ve come to realize that he is the only reason I am with you now.”

Primrose’s eyes widened. “Really?”

“Really. I always felt that I needed to be…serious. Responsible. Perhaps it was due to never knowing my mother and father. Regardless, I always chose to ignore anything that wasn’t important to my role as village guardian. But I’ve come to realize that I don’t need to be like that all the time — that it was fine for me to enjoy myself, to open myself up to what I want, instead of what I needed to do. And if I hadn’t, I would not have been able to meet a girl as lovely as you.”

If Prim wasn’t wasn’t red from the cold, she was certainly scarlet now. The girl coughed into her mitted hands.

“That’s quite enough of that,” she muttered, her eyes shifting nervously. H’aanit tilted her head, a small smile on her lips.

“Are you embarrassed, perhaps?”

“I will walk all the way back to Sunshade by myself if you do not stop!”

“Were it not to disturb our prey, my laugh would be heard from here all the way to town,” H’aanit said. Her fist was clenched, as if she had captured the laughter like one of her many beast. Primrose stomped a foot.

“It’s so frustrating! I’m so used to being in control, but around you…well I am a mess, to put it simply.”

“Good.”

“It is very well not good!”

“It is.” H’aanit rose from the log and walked past Primrose to pull out her traps from her bag, making sure they were maintained as well. The scent of pine-needle and sandalwood   floated past Prim, causing her pulse to quicken.

“I am glad that you loosen your walls around me, Primrose. To keep them up at all times must be exhausting.”

The dancer shrugged her shoulders. “You get used to it, to be honest. I learned when to put on the mask of a smile when I was on stage, and after a while, I carried it wherever I went. I had to.”

H’aanit placed the traps back in the bag, turning to face Primrose, her jaw taunt.

“When the time comes that you must finish your journey, Linde and I will be by your side, ready to face what comes. I trust you know this?” Now it was Primrose’s turn to smile.

“Of course I do, H’aanit. Oh, that reminds me!” Prim snapped her fingers, before rummaging through her bag.

“What is it?”

“One second…” Eventually, the woman pulled two emerald green ribbons.

“A match! For you and Linde. I wasn’t sure what your favorite color was, so I just used my own judgment. If you don’t like them, the shopkeep promised that we could swap them out, but I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“They’re perfect,” H’aanit said. She took one of the ribbons from Primrose’s hands, lifting it up to the sun so the light could bounce off of it. Without warning, she leaned down, pressing her lips against Prim’s. The girl was startled for a moment, before she closed her eyes, kissing H’aanit back. The forest, if not the world, was silent, but for the two of them.

Finally Primrose drew back, taking a few sharp breathes.

“Okay, we must stop there, or I will melt through these furs. Now turn around for me.”

Primrose sat on the log, while H’aanit leaned up against the girl’s knees in the snow, letting the dancer do her hair for her and tying the ribbon along with it.

“Prim?”

“Hm?” Primrose hummed as she worked.

“After this, I would show you how to use a bow.”

Prim looked up into the trees. The sun would be setting soon, and after that, the hunt would begin in earnest. There was still so much to do. A promise that Primrose had yet to fulfill. But for now, she was content.

“Of course,” Primrose replied, stroking H’aanit’s hair.

My Street Fighter Academia

One time I wrote fanfiction about the kids from My Hero Academia playing Street Fighter. The real reason I wanted to do this was to test out whether it’d be possible to write a story about people playing fighting games. I think it worked out pretty well, and was actually quite fun to write!


Night had settled on Heights Alliance, and with it, so did the mood of the heroes-in-training that had taken residence there. After a busy day of unpacking and setting up, the students were exhausted, scattered about in the dorm’s common area. The drowsy feeling was shattered when Kaminari suddenly burst through the door, carrying a small box in his hand.

“I forgot I brought this!” the boy shouted, snapping Deku wide awake.

“Brought what?” the boy asked. Kaminari stuck the box out, displaying it proudly.

“*Street Fighter 5*! It’s a classic, but this is the newest one. You don’t play videogames, Deku?”

“No, not often…” Deku took the box from the boy, turning it over and reading the description.

“Ah, it’s a fighting game?” he asked.

Kirishima joined the conversation, punching the air this way and that. “Yeah! You fight your opponent one on one, and whoever’s stronger wins! It’s the manliest thing there is! Eh, besides hero-work, I guess.”

Deku pulled up his phone and began to do research as the rest of the boys set up the game and booted it up.

“Who do you play?” Kirishima asked Kaminari.

“Laura!” the boy replied. “Same electricity as me!”

“Zangief for me,” Kirishima replied. “He’s the manliest guy in the game!”

Iida, having been watching from afar, stepped over as well.

“All good choices! However, Chun Li is clearly the best character! She exemplifies every aspect of a hero!”

The two boys stared at Iida. Kaminari scratched his head.

“I honestly didn’t even know you played videogames, Iida. You don’t seem the type!”

Iida crossed his arms.

“Recreational activity is just as important as training! Balance is necessary to become a well-rounded person. There’s nothing wrong with videogames now and again!”

On a nearby couch, Deku’s eyes widened.

“There’s so much depth to this game!” he said in awe, scrolling through his phone even faster and taking in all of the info.

“Crush-counters…” he muttered. Kirishima waved to Todoroki and Bakugo.

“Come play you two!” he said. Todoroki shook his head.

“I’m no good with games. I’ve never even played one. It wouldn’t be very fun for you.”

Bakugo was much more direct.

“No.”

Kaminari smirked.

“Yeah, I guess you probably wouldn’t be very good at them either, would you Bakugo?”

The boy’s nostrils flared as he stomped over to the TV.

“I’ll show you who’s good!” he shouted, crashing to the floor and grabbing a controller next to Kirishima. The two picked their characters. Kirishima made good on his comment, immediately moving to Zangief. Bakugo, however picked —

“Menat?” Kirishima asked, in total disbelief. Bakugo looked ready to shoot fire from his mouth.

“Shut the hell up! She’s the best character in the game and wins all of the time, of course I’d pick her!”

Kirishima shrugged. The game loaded, and the match began. Kirishima took the first round easily, using Zangief’s unconventional grappling moves to beat Bakugo. The boy high-fived Kaminari as the two grinned. Bakugo growled.

“We have one more round! And I haven’t played in months!”

Kirishima whirled on the boy.

“Months?” he asked.

The second round began. Kirishima was able to get a few hits in, but he was soon getting outplayed by Bakugo. The boy used Menat’s orbs to great affect, juggling Zangief until his HP quickly ran out. He won the second round just as easily. Kirishima tossed his controller aside, crossing his arms.

“Dang it Bakugo! Can’t you just be not good at one thing, please?”

Bakugo stood up, cracking his shoulder.

“No.”

Iida took Bakugo’s place. “Kaminari! Let’s have a round!”

The two started their game, Iida picking Chun Li, Kaminari picking Laura. Iida easily took the boy down, using Chun Li’s swift kicks to finish him off.

“Why did you go easy on me?” Iida demanded. Kaminari put his hands up in defeat.

“I didn’t! I just don’t play very often.”

Kirishima gave a quizzical look from the couch he was stretched out on.

“Isn’t it your game?” he asked. Kaminari waved at the boy to be quiet. Iida turned to Deku.

“Midoriya! Would you like to give it a try?”

Deku’s head shot up from his phone, eyes bloodshot.

“I still need to figure out the tier list…” he replied, zombie-like. Iida frowned at the boy in concern, before moving on.

“What about you, Bakugo? Care to try a round?”

Bakugo scoffed, grabbing the controller that Kaminari had just put down.

“Hopefully you put up a bigger fight than that hard-head,” the boy said, grinning.

The two boys settled in for their fight. It was a sight to behold, and by the end of the second round, the whole class was standing behind the boys watching. It was a close match. Iida had Bakugo on the ropes, before eventually stunning his character. The group erupted with excitement, ready to see how Iida would follow up.

But he didn’t.

“Iida, use your special move!” Todoroki shouted, now surprisingly invested in the game.

“It is dishonerable to attack someone when they are already stunned beyond movement!” Iida shouted back. Bakugo took advantage of the momentary confusion and countered with his own special, knocking Chun Li out. The class clapped as the match ended.

“That’s right! I’m the best!” Bakugo said, stamping his foot on the ground. Aizawa showed up from the hallway to tell the group to settle down, before retreating back to his room. Iida pulled Deku over.

“Come on, Midoriya! Just one match!”

Bakugo turned his gaze on the boy, causing a chill to run down Deku’s spine.

“So? You gonna play or what?” Bakugo asked. Deku gulped.

“I mean…I’ve never even played before…”

Ochako, having watched the match with the rest of the class, grabbed Deku’s hand.

“Come on Deku! You can do it!”

Deku stared at the girl for a moment. He blushed, before clenching his fists.

“A-alright! I’ll play!”

The class erupted into cheers as the two boys took their places. Bakugo picked Menat yet again. Deku scrolled over, before tapping on Akuma. The man’s red, lion mane hair and seemingly permanent scowl appeared onscreen, causing the entire class gasped in response.

“Really?”

“Woah…”

“Akuma, huh?”

“That doesn’t seem like your type at all, Deku!” Ochako said, hand over her mouth in surprise. But Deku barely acknowledged her. He brain was moving at a million miles a minute.

“The Akuma versus Menat match-up isn’t great, but Akuma is top-tier and Bakugo’s never played me before…I can use the armor parry on any orbs he sends out, and since he plays so aggressively, when he sends the orb out…”

The match started. Deku’s play was cautious as he tapped the controller back and forth, letting Akuma almost dance across the stage while Bakugo tried to get a hit in. Deku barely attacked as Bakugo whittled down his hit points, and before long, the boy had won the round. The class groaned in protest.

“Midoriya, what are you doing?” Kirishima groaned. “Get in there and fight him!”

Iida, however, gave a knowing smile.

“The match isn’t over yet,” he said.

The second round began. Bakugo began to apply pressure with his orbs as he did previously. This time, however, it seemed Deku was ready. He carefully maneuvered around the attacks, before hitting Bakugo with a super.

“Isn’t it a little early to do that?” Kaminari asked Iida as the group cheered. Iida pointed a finger into the air as he explained.

“Normally, yes! But this is Deku’s first time ever playing a fighting game. He knows that he does not have the advantage of experience. So he is foregoing traditional traditional strategy in the hopes that it will throw Bakugo off. And by the looks of things, it seems to be working!”

Bakugo got Menat back up after she was knocked down and tried to hit Deku with a quick jab, but Akuma was already in the air, using a kick to knock Menat down again. The boy continued to mix up his moves, before he finally won the round.

The class was stunned for a second, before every student was shouting in excitement.

“He could still win it!” Kaminari said, pumping his fist.

“Go, Midoriya!” Iida shouted.

The third match began. Deku was a shaking mess. Bakugo, however, was tilted in anger, forgoing any strategy he had previously and bum-rushing Akuma with Menat. Unfortunately for him, Deku’s button-mashing was a bit more controlled, and Akuma’s ability to dish out stronger damage with his random attacks overtook Menat. Deku won the last round even easier than the first.

The dorm was almost shaking from the class’ cheers, with Kaminari and Kirishima lifting Deku up on their shoulders. Bakugo jumped from the ground and pointed at Deku, cutting the celebration short.

“You might have beat me at this stupid game, but see if you can take me on for real!” he shouted. Deku grimaced.

“It’s just a game, Kacchan…” he started to say. Bakugo crossed his arms.

“Whatever! I’ll practice and beat you, just like in real life!” With that, the boy left for his dorm room. Kirishima chuckled.

“Sheesh! So competitive! Well I’m beat, so I think I’ll head to bed too. Night all.”

Class 1A began to filter to their rooms, a signal that the night was over. Iida clapped Deku on the back.

“Congratulations, Midoriya! The first time you’ve played, and you win against Bakugo! A strong showing!”

Deku put his hand behind his head, staring at the ground in embarassment.

“Ah…it was nothing…”

But that wasn’t true. For at least a moment, Deku was happy — that he won against Bakugo, and that the class had a chance to forget the stress of their training.