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100 Things

By Jo Oram

Other / Romance

100 Things

I. Introduction

Noah was just a kid when you met him, sweet and shy, nothing to foreshadow the kind of man he would become. You knew that sweetness was still inside him somewhere or he would have thrown you away a long time ago. You were the last link to his past.

II. Love

Had it ever been love he felt for you? You knew it had once been mutual, but you weren't sure any more. You loved him regardless and there was nothing you could do to stop yourself, even at those times when he felt distant. Even when it felt like he resented your existence. Even when it hurt.

III. Light

The lightest days always preceded the dark. Tomorrow would bring nothing good as he, unarmoured, chased you up the field, pressing his icy cold hands against the back of your neck and making you yelp as he dragged you down, tumbling into the grass. He laughed as he held you.

VI. Dark

A building was burning and you knew he was there. You could only watch as the warm glow of the flames cast shadows so dark that stepping into them felt like iced death. You watched, hoping he would return safely. No light could ever combat the darkness of his absence.

V. Seeking Solace

"Leave me be!" His voice was firm, but his words were empty: an anti-request.

You edge forwards, hands sliding over his shoulders and crossing over his chest. He needs this.

"Whatever you need, I'm here," you whisper, kissing the back of his neck. "I'm always here. You know that, right?"

VI. Break Away

"You know, you do not have to do this. You could leave."

"There is no shame in escaping from this."

"I would not blame you. You deserve better."

"I wish you would go."

Sometimes you said it to him about his job.

Sometimes he said it to you about himself.

VII. Heaven

You stare up at the sky, speculating on the destinations of the airships and pointing out shapes in the clouds. He pulls you close and wraps his arms around you.

"Please don't let this end," you whisper.

"Heaven can't last forever," came his reply. "What would you look forward to?"

VIII. Innocence

Watching him train knocked the air from your lungs: the way he controlled himself; the energy charging through his swords; the speed he moved. Innocence: four blades of light that sliced through the air, cutting down anything that dared to stand in their path. Innocence: his attacks. Innocence: a misnomer.

IX. Drive

"Hatred is what drives me." You heard him say it a lot.

"Hatred for what?" you once asked.

He had laughed. "My brother. Landis. Archadia. This job. You. Myself." He had laughed again and stormed from the room. Sometimes you wondered if there was anything left inside him worth loving.

X. Breathe Again

He was late home again and it was suffocating you. The later it became, the tighter fear's hold grew, like hands around your throat. Every footstep outside the door had you jumping. Midnight passed before the door opened, his presence bringing light into the room and letting you breathe again.

XI. Memory

The first time you met was the first time Noah had ridden a chocobo. You remember the terror in his eyes, his fear of getting hurt, worrying that his mother would shout if he was late home. That day, he had needed you more than you needed him. Sometimes, it felt like he no longer needed you at all.

XII. Insanity

Sometimes he made you feel insane for caring about him. Sometimes, he was a stranger, like everything you knew about him had been stripped away. There were times when he was so abrasive that you felt like wrapping your hands around his throat until he choked. Sometimes, you hated him.

XIII. Misfortune

Maybe you were just unlucky. Maybe if the war had never happened, he wouldn't have shut himself away. Maybe if Basch had stayed with you, Noah would have stayed too. Instead, you got Gabranth, a frightened boy trapped inside a warrior's body. Only you seemed to know he was there.

XIV. Smile

"Promise me you will leave me if you find someone else who makes you smile."

You had shaken your head. "I just need you to smile more."

All the pain melted away when you saw him smile. When he smiled, you smiled. That smile would keep you with him forever.

XV. Silence

You didn't need to ask if something was wrong. He refused to speak to you and wouldn't look you in the eye. Standing in from of him, you tried to hold his hands. He put an arm around you and pulled you close, still saying nothing. His silence was unnerving.

XVI. Questioning

"Please, tell me what happened." You ducked to look him in the eye.

"I…" He was angry. Hurt.

"Has someone said something? Did something happen?" You paused. "Whatever it is, you can tell me."

"Emperor Gramis has been murdered."

"But—"

"I'm sorry." He dropped his sword onto the table.

XVII. Blood

There was blood on his blade.

"But why would you—?"

"I did not."

"There's blood—"

"I killed Drace."

"But she's your friend…"

"They made me kill Drace." He turned and tried to walk away, but you tugged him into your arms, and kissed him.

"I am so sorry."

XVIII. Rainbow

You watched from the aerodrome as the imperial fleet took flight beneath the inappropriate beauty of the rainbow, taking Gabranth from you and towards Mt Bur-Omisace. You could never have made him stay – didn't try. His duty to Lord Larsa had to come first. You prayed he would return alive.

XIX. Grey

The cloudy sky reflected your feelings in Gabranth's absence. Bergan was headed for Bur-Omisace in the same fleet with much the same purpose: bring Larsa to Archades. If he and Gabranth found themselves in conflict… You feared Bergan, more so after Gabranth had fully explained the story of Drace's death. And the way Vayne had spoken to him… More than fearing the judges, you began to fear the Empire. What hope was there of a peaceful future when that was the way the new autocrat spoke to those sworn to protect him? There wasn't much left to have faith in.

XX. Fortitude

It was important to stay strong for him, no matter what rumours you heard of a judge magister killed in Bur-Omisace. You convinced yourself that he would return, that it was Bergan they said was dead. He'd come home. You were sure of it. You just had to stay strong.

XXI. Vacation

The Phon Coast was one of your favourite places. Noah had taken you there shortly before he had stopped using that name. The coastline was beautiful and full of beasts to keep your skills sharp. You talked about becoming hunters. Memories like that kept you going when he was away.

XXII. Mother Nature

Your first mark was a rogue wyrdhare in the Salikawood. It was cute – until it turned its attention to Noah, throwing magicks and ailments at him. A few well-aimed slices and the creature was yours, as was the three hundred gil bounty. Nothing was cute enough to hurt your Noah.

XXIII. Cat

Your second mark was a panther, far meaner and less cute than the wyrdhare. Noah was at your side to take it down. It reminded you of your childhood. It had taken more than just the two of you to bring the beasts down back then. It had taken three.

XXIV. Trouble Lurking

"Can you hear that?" Noah asked. "I've got a bad feeling."

You pushed your back against him, both drawing swords as countless blue, gelatinous blobs oozed from the cave roof, overwhelming you. A huge ball of flame spread from the cave mouth, melting the flan and receding to reveal Basch.

XXV. No Time

"I can't find Basch."

"He'll turn up. Don't worry." You grabbed his hand to stop him running. "We have to go, Noah. If they find us, they'll kill us."

The Archadian army were marching on Landis. The first wave had taken the men. The second would kill anyone still standing.

XXVI. Tears

"Why are you crying?" Noah cocked his head and pulled your chin around to look at you. "What happened‽"

You turned away, hiding the black eye your father had given you as a parting gift. "It's fine."

"No, it's not. Nothing that makes a pretty girl cry is ever fine."

XXVII. Foreign

"I'm moving to Archades. Come with me."

You agreed, but changed your mind the moment you got there. For the first few months, you found yourself amongst the vulgars of Old Archades, while the people of the city sneered from their lofty perches. Things changed when Noah joined the military.

XXVIII. Sorrow

Gabranth's return brought you little joy – relief he was alive, yes, but sadness at the news of the destruction of Mt Bur Omisace. You had never been, but you had heard stories of the Kiltias and the way they embraced all refugees. It had been where you planned to run, should the worst happen to Noah. Not anymore. You wouldn't be able to face those peace-loving people, knowing who laid waste to their settlement.

XXIX. Happiness

"Noah?"

"Yeah?"

"I…uh…" You blushed and looked away. "The spring dance…"

"I'm not going."

"Oh." You frowned at him. "Why?"

"Basch is going to ask the girl I wanted to go with."

You shrugged and pulled up a handful of grass. "Would you go with me instead?"

Noah laughed.

XXX. Under the Rain

It began to rain, a cold, heavy, inescapable downpour. You ran for a nearby tree, fat drops falling from the leaves, soaking you both.

"What will you say when Basch asks you to go?"

"I'll say 'I already have a date'."

You looked at each other, dripping wet and laughed.

XXXI. Flowers

He was at the door, flowers in his hand, but he hadn't knocked. He was nervous, adjusting his shirt and shoes. But so were you. Your heart raced. Was that dress really your best? Was your hair tidy? You came away from the window and moved to open the door.

XXXII. Night

"I'm not a good dancer," Noah apologised as he stepped on your toes for the third time.

"I don't care. I'm glad you came."

"I thought you'd want to go with Basch."

You shook your head. "Why?"

"He always gets picked first. Basch is always the favourite."

"Yeah? Well he's not mine. You are my favourite, Noah."

He blushed and stared at his feet. "Really?"

You leant over and kissed him on the cheek. "Really."

XXXIII. Expectations

"Can I walk you home?" Noah asked as the evening ended.

"Isn't it a bit out of your way?"

"I've got to make sure you get home safe."

You smiled. "So, are you glad you came?"

"Yes." Noah nodded. "How about you? Was I okay?"

You grinned. "You were perfect."

XXXIV. Stars

You walked home beneath the stars.

"I wonder what it is like to live among them. To fly like a bird…"

"You've never been in an airship?" Noah frowned. "Isn't your father a sky pirate?"

You laughed. "I'll never fly with him."

"You get left home alone?"

You nodded. "Always."

XXXV. Hold My Hand

"I didn't realise." He held out his hand to you. "I'm sorry."

You blushed and accepted it. "Don't be. When he's not around, I can do what I like. I can stay out with you."

"I really like you," he blurted, surprised at himself.

"Good. Because I really like you."

XXXVI. Precious Treasure

Your father valued gil and shiny stones, but all his 'treasure' was worthless to you. You knew the real value was in your relationships and your memories. The most precious was the time Noah had snuck in through your bedroom window that night for your first kiss. Your father had chased him away with a shovel, thinking him a thief. Yes. That was where the real treasure lay and it would last well after his treasure was spent and gone.

XXXVII. Eyes

The first time you looked into his eyes, he was frightened. The third time, you blushed and the fifth lasted an age.

After your first kiss, you memorised every variation in their hazel hue.

The last time was before he left for Mt Bur-Omisace; you didn't feel him looking back.

XXXVIII. Abandoned

Abandoned. He should never have needed to feel that way, not when he was so close with his twin. They would face any hardship together and you'd be right behind them.

Apart from the fall of Landis.

That was just for you and Noah. Basch ran and left you behind.

XXXIX. Dreams

You wonder what he dreams about when you can't sleep. Sometimes he whimpers, as if he is just a frightened boy. Sometimes he growls, as if battling a fearsome foe. And sometimes he screams, like there is no pain worse in the entire world. You hold him, unable to help.

XL. Rated

"Am I good at my job?" Gabranth asked.

You nodded. "Of course."

"They are putting forward for review. I'm not sure if they want to promote me or throw me back into the gutter."

"They'll promote you."

He smiled and moved across the room to rub your shoulders. "Thank you."

XLI. Teamwork

"Are you two ready to—oh!"

Noah and Basch sat at the table wearing identical clothes. They smiled at you but said nothing, challenging you to identify them. You knew immediately, but played along. You kissed them both on the lips. Basch blushed. Noah scowled at him.

You smirked. "Foolproof."

XLII. Standing Still

The house crumbled after your father left. The roof began to leak. Damp soaked into the walls until they were wet. The paint peeled and mould set in.

"You cannot stay here," Noah warned. "It's dangerous."

You went back last year. Much to your surprise, the house was standing still.

XLIII. Dying

"Mother is ill." Noah handed you a potion. "Will you stay with her while I am away?"

You nodded. "Certainly."

Since the invasion, Noah's mother had become bitter and spiteful. But she had taken you in, so you would look after her, even as she blamed you for her illness.

XLIV. Two Roads

"It's not my fault Basch fled," you repeated for the seventh time.

"You ruined their lives. Basch loved Noah. You came between them."

"I'm sorry you feel that way—"

"Sorry won't bring my son home."

"He chose to leave and Noah chose to stay."

"I wish you had gone."

XLV. Illusion

"She hates me, Noah."

You stood outside the house, keeping your voice low.

"But she took you in. She doesn't hate you."

"She threw a bowl at me this morning."

"Why?"

"I don't know. It was like she blamed me for the war."

Noah took your hand. "I'm so sorry.

XLVI. Family

"Hey. Noah sent me to talk to you. He says you won't come out."

You looked up at Basch from your seat at your kitchen table. "This is my home."

"This house is dangerous. The roof could collapse at any minute. We don't want you to get hurt."

"I've got nowhere else to go."

"Come back with us. We can be your new family. Two brothers for the price of one." He smiled.

You sniffed. "Thanks, but I don't need two brothers."

"Just Noah?"

You shook you head. Noah couldn't be your brother. "I don't love him like a brother."

XLVII. Creation

"I'm changing my name."

You stared at him. "Why?"

"I don't want to be fon Ronsenburg anymore."

"You'll still be Noah?"

"Yeah. Noah Gabranth, I thought. After mother."

"Noah Gabranth," you said. "Feels weird."

He shrugged. "I need to change if I'm going to be able to look after you."

XLVIII. Childhood

The Imperial soldier had you pinned against the bedroom wall, his leering face inches from yours.

"Please… Let me go."

"Or what? Who's gonna make me?"

His breath smelt like hot garbage. You turned your face away, powerless to stop him. His hand on your leg. And next?

Childhood ends.

XLIX. Stripes

"They accepted me."

You wrapped your arms around his waist. "Congratulations!" You kissed him on the lips.

"Here. Take these." He pushed a pair of pine chops into your hand. "Go into the city. Buy yourself something nice."

"We can barely afford to eat, No."

"Things are changing. Trust me."

L. Breaking the Rules

He would always protect you. You knew he would do anything for you. As a kid, he had once promised to steal you diamonds. Since he became an imperial, you knew he never be so reckless. Unless you were in real trouble. Only for you, would he break the rules.

LI. Danger Ahead

The first few days in your new home in Archades were terrifying. Trant was on the edge of the Old Town and you knew that one wrong move would see you back there. Noah was out every day risking his life. There was danger ahead, but if you made it…

LII. Sacrifice

"They've made me a Judge."

"Noah, that's—"

He held up his hand and shook his head. "Please don't call me that. I'm Judge Gabranth now."

You frowned. "But…"

"I hate Noah." He sighed. "It's a small sacrifice to secure our future."

You shook your head. "I don't like it."

LIII. Sport

Shortly after Gabranth became a judge, you gave up your job as a hunter. His wage alone was enough to support you both and it stopped the ardents' whispering. But you worried when he went away; picking up a mark or two for sport passed the time until he returned.

LIV. Deep in Thought

"Do you remember when we were in love?" you asked.

"Were?" Gabranth frowned. "Do you no longer love me?"

"I fear you have stopped loving me."

"I am unworthy of your affection." He wrapped his arms around you. "I never tell you that I still love you." He kissed you.

LV. Rejection

"He's alive."

"Who?" You frowned.

"Basch, the bastard. He lives – in Dalmasca."

You stared at him. "But… Why has he not tried to find us?"

"Because he doesn't care. He left. Threw us away."

You held him. Somehow, finding his twin was alive was worse than finding he was dead.

LVI. Fairy Tale

If your life had been a fairy tale, Basch would have returned to you. Gabranth would still be Noah. The stress of war would not have killed their mother. If your life had been a fairy tale, your family wouldn't have been torn apart and you wouldn't still be unmarried.

LVII. Keeping a Secret

"I have to go away."

"Why?"

Gabranth knelt beside you and took hold of your hands. "Speak of this to no one. They wish me to go after Lady Ashe—"

"She lives?"

"Yes. She travels with Basch to the Pharos at Ridorana."

"Why?"

"That is what I must uncover."

LVIII. Tower

The devastating blast from the Sun Cryst was felt as far away as Jahara. You had no idea what it was; you only discovered that later. All you knew was that Gabranth was at its centre – and probably the Princess of Dalmasca too. Had he caused it or had they?

LIX. Waiting

Waiting for news. Waiting for Gabranth's return. Waiting for the fear to go. You hated waiting. The longer you waited, the more certain you became that you'd be waiting forever. The news would come that he was dead but you'd wait for him to come back anyway. As Basch had.

LX. Kick in the Head

There were two sure-fire ways to pull his undivided attention and both hurt you just as much as they hurt him. 'I miss you, Noah' was the first, the sound of the name he never used snapping him from whatever rage was consuming him. 'I wish I had gone with Basch' was the other. You had said it only once and he had stared at you as if you had kicked him in the head.

LXI. No Way Out

Sometimes, you consider running. You wonder if he would even notice you were gone. But there was no way you were going to run out on him. Not now Drace was gone. Not when Vayne would sacrifice him for a minor advantage. You'd stay until one of you was dead.

LXII. Magic

"Hey. Look what I bought." Noah held out his hand, showing you a tiny scroll.

"What is it?"

"Fire. And we've both got enough licence points to use it."

You watched as Noah concentrated, forming a small of flame in his hand.

"Let's see what the flans make of that!"

LXIII. Do Not Disturb

Your first time was with each other. Nervous and excited, you lay naked together in his single bed, hearts racing. He kissed you softly, holding you like he was afraid you'd break. Never letting go.

"I love you," he said. "I will always love you."

"I love you too, Noah."

LXIV. Multitasking

There was always so much to do. Gabranth always needed clothes washed, food needed to be bought and maintaining your reputation was easier said than done. And all while constantly worrying for his safety. But you could never let it show. Society demanded you were perfect: perfect, you would be.

LXV. Horror

"They'll make me Judge Magister. We'll have good lives."

"He's still your brother."

Gabranth wanted to frame his own brother for the murder of a king.

He shook his head. "He stopped being my brother when he abandoned us. He's a traitor and he deserves to be recognised as such."

LXVI. Traps

"Look out!" Noah shouted, but it was too late to react.

Blinding smoke surrounded you, leaving you in darkness. You felt his hand on your arm.

"Are you okay?"

"Noah, I think I set off a trap."

"Yeah. It got me too. Hold on." Slowly, the lights and colours returned.

LXVII. Playing the Melody

His voice had beautiful as a child. When he cast magicks, it was like he was singing. You had once caught him singing when he didn't know you were home. You used to wish he would sing to you. But his voice was different now. Broken, by loss and war.

LXVIII. Hero

The night the soldiers invaded your home was the night Noah became your hero, stopping the men from assaulting you. It was the same night that he let go of Landis and joined the Archadian forces. You knew part of it was to protect you. He was always your hero.

LXIX. Annoyance

They played the same trick on everyone at some point. It had only worked on you once and only when they weren't working together. To everyone else, it was annoying, but you found it funny – most of the time. That was the trouble with identical twins. Impossible to tell apart.

LXX. Craving

You craved his touch. The feel of his fingers in the back of your knee, telling you he wanted you. You longed for the feel of his arms around your waist, his lips against your neck, his teeth in your shoulder. You ached for him to just touch you again.

LXXI. Obsession

Ever since he had discovered Basch was alive, he had been looking for revenge. He would never admit to it, of course, but you had watched him sit in silence, plotting, obsessing. You hoped he would never find a way, but he was driven. He wanted to make Basch suffer.

LXXII. Mischief Managed

"Do you feel up to taking a walk through the woods?" Noah blushed and smiled shyly.

You nodded. "Sure."

"I don't know if I've said this before, but that scarf looks really good on you."

"Thank you." You smiled and kissed him, making him blush more. Behind you, you became aware of a voice, shouting.

"Basch!"

You turned to see another Noah running towards you and you blushed, looking back at the boy you had kissed now running away from you. Not Noah.

"I told you I could make her kiss me!" Basch yelled.

"Basch! Give me back my hat!"

LXXIII. I Can't

"I can't let you do this." You stood between Gabranth and the door.

"Get out of my way."

"Think about when they invaded Landis. That is what you are doing to Dalmasca."

He sighed. "The Empire is my priority."

"And me?"

"You are committing treason."

"I can't let you go."

LXXIV. Are You Challenging Me?

"Are you challenging me?" His eyes burned into you, daring you to engage him.

"If that's what it takes."

"Don't make me do this. I am a Judge. You are no match for me."

"I have to try."

He pushed you aside, gently at first, then forcefully, knocking you down. The door slammed behind him.

LXXV. Mirror

"I'm sorry."

You saw him in the mirror, standing in the bedroom door. He wore the armour of a Dalmascan knight. It could have been Basch standing there were it not for the look of regret in his eyes.

You shrugged. "It's fine."

"Nothing that makes a pretty girl cry is ever fine."

"Then I guess it's not fine." You sighed. "It makes no difference. It's not going to stop you doing this, is it?"

LXXVI. Broken Pieces

He had blood in his hair when he returned, dressed as Judge Magister.

"Aren't you going to congratulate me?"

"For killing your brother? Well done."

Gabranth sighed. "He is alive in Nalbina."

You shrugged his hand away. Like that was going to help mend the broken pieces of your heart.

LXXVII. Test

"You really can't tell us apart?" Noah panted as he caught up with you.

"He was wearing your hat. I thought he was you."

"He said it was a test: if you really loved me, you wouldn't fall for it."

"And if you really loved me, you wouldn't believe him."

LXXVIII. Drink

He left the apartment as soon as he had washed and changed. He was going to celebrate with his fellow Judges. A night of drinking mark the betrayal of his own twin. Two could play at that. You swigged from the bottle of Bhujerban Madhu. You'd drink until you forgot.

LXXIX. Starvation

"He refuses food. I don't know how much longer he'll survive."

"I don't want to hear it."

"Can you think of anything that would make him talk?"

"I will not help you torture him." You sighed. "Basch was my friend, Gabranth. Before he left Landis, he was my brother too."

LXXX. Words

Somehow, words were not enough anymore. He didn't seem to hear you.

"I need you, Gabranth. I miss you."

It was difficult to find the right words.

"I don't want to lose you."

You needed to find a way to tell him that he was losing you.

"Please come back."

LXXXI. Pen and Paper

You knew the missive would not be delivered, but you wrote the letter anyway. Finished, you would hide it away in a drawer, never to see the light of day. Just like the recipient.

"Dear Basch,

I wish I could have convinced him to stop. But he doesn't listen anymore…"

LXXXII. Can You Hear Me?

"Noah?"

Noah had stopped running. He had been defending you from a malboro but the creature's foul breath had stunned him.

"Noah, can you hear me?"

You cast fire at the beast, before it could attack Noah. As long as you stayed back, you could defeat it and protect Noah.

LXXXIII. Heal

"Noah, wake up!" You punched him, bringing him around.

"Ow! That hurt!" He stumbled. "I don't feel well."

"That malboro hit you pretty hard, huh?" You cast cure on him.

"Thanks." He began to walk again. "Did you kill it all by yourself?"

"I couldn't have done it without you."

LXXXIV. Out Cold

Noah smiled. "You'd make a good hunter. I—" His face became pained, his knees buckled and he fell.

"Noah?"

He was unconscious – poisoned. You searched your pockets, for a phoenix down. As soon as you used it, Noah sat up.

"Maybe I need a ribbon too," he groaned. "Thanks."

LXXXV. Spiral

He had gone berserk when he learnt that Basch had escaped his cell in Nalbina.

"Everyone thinks he is dead. What are the chances we will find him? This is a disaster. If the truth gets out…"

You put your hand on his shoulder. "It'll be okay. He's not stupid..."

LXXXVI. Seeing Red

"She's mine." Noah's voice was different, filled with an alien aggression you'd never imagined.

The man holding you turned. Blood spattered across your face before he fell, Noah's blade slashing his throat. You called his name, but he didn't stop, chasing the soldiers, striking them down in a berserker rage.

LXXXVII. Food

In Old Archades, food had been scarce. Now, you had all the choice in the world, but it was tainted. The food didn't taste as good in Tsenoble as it had back in Old Archades. Blood had been spilt to get that food to your table. It spoilt your appetite.

LXXXVII. Pain

"Don't pretend you know how I feel. How can you know this pain?"

"Do you think you are the only one who ever lost anything, Noah?"

"Stop calling me that!"

"Everyone I know is dead. At least you still have me."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You still have me, but I lost everything. Even you."

"I'm right here."

"But you're dead inside." You laugh. "You can't know my pain."

LXXXIX. Triangle

The day after the spring dance, you went to Noah's for lunch. Basch sat at the kitchen table, watching you.

"He just went out," Basch said. "He'll be back soon."

"Oh."

"So you really like my brother?"

You nodded. "It's not a problem, is it?"

Basch shrugged. "Didn't expect it."

XC. Drowning

He can't hear you shout anymore. He doesn't even see you throwing him the lifelines. He is going to drown in hatred and you are going to watch him tear himself apart.

XCI. All That I Have

"Please don't go. I need you."

He stands at the door, helmet beneath his arm. "I must."

"You are all that I have, No—Gabranth." You sigh. "Noah."

"Judge Magister Gabranth."

"What's in a name anyway?" You laugh to fight back the tears. "I don't know who you are anymore."

XCII. Give Up

There is nothing left of the Noah you once knew, save the memories he tries so hard to forget. Perhaps, without you, he could have destroyed the past, forgot Noah and his hatred for Basch and became Gabranth. Perhaps the best thing you can do for him is give up.

XCIII. Last Hope

"I'm going to Bhujerba," you tell him. "If you're going to Rabanastre…" Words fail you.

"I must. Lord Larsa will be aboard the Bahamut and I must protect him."

"At the cost of an entire city?"

"House Solidor is the Empire's last hope."

"And this was mine." You turn away.

XCIV. Advertisement

There was a bill requesting a hunter to dispatch a wyvern in the Salikawood – your way out of Archades. From there, you would cross to Nalbina and board an airship to Bhujerba. You wouldn't collect the reward. Gabranth would be happy without you; that was all the reward you needed.

XCV. In the Storm

"Gabranth?"

Lightning lit up the sky and thunder growled like a hungry humbaba. You shuffle across the bed, closer to him, expecting him to push you away.

"It is just weather. You're not afraid. You're a hunter."

"Maybe I just want you to hold me. Maybe if I pretend I'm afraid, you'll pretend to comfort me."

He pulls you closer. "If I can't stop you leaving, might we at least make the most of this last night together?"

You feel his hand on the back of your knee. You push yourself against him and kiss his neck.

"One last time."

XCVI. Safety First

"I have something for you." Gabranth's voice was strained. "A parting gift, if you like."

"I have one for you." You took a small bottle from your pocket. "Bahamut will be dangerous."

Gabranth opened his hand to reveal an identical bottle. "Bhujerba will be dangerous."

"Thank you." You exchanged potions. "Stay safe, Gabranth. And live."

XCVII. Puzzle

A messenger stopped you before you could reach the alley to Old Archades: 'Meet me in Highgarden. B'

You went, frowning when you saw the Judge Magister sat on a bench.

"Gabranth?"

"Yes but no." He shook his head and removed the helmet. The same face, but different. A scar crossed over his eye. He looked older.

"Basch."

"Sorry to disappoint."

"Why are you-?"

"He challenged Vayne. He asked me to take his place as Judge Magister and protect Larsa." He smiled at you. "You should go home."

"I'm relocating to Bhujerba."

"Perhaps there is something you have forgotten."

XCVIII. Solitude

You push open the door to the apartment. The room felt still and empty, the hands of fear that usually gripped you over Gabranth's absence themselves missing, replaced with pressing loneliness.

But you aren't alone. From the bedroom, you hear a cough. You open the door, your eyes settling on a man on the bed.

XCIX. Through the Fire

"You live?" you whisper.

"You have been crying," he replies.

You nod. "The man I love died."

"I am sorry."

You rush to his side. Not dead. He was right there, on the bed. Crippled, but alive.

"But Basch said…" You shake your head. "He knew."

"Please stay with me."

C. Relaxation

"Call me Noah," he says, staring into the sea. "I want to be Noah fon Ronsenburg again."

You smile. It was all you'd wanted.

"I want to walk you down the aisle. I want you to be Mrs fon Ronsenburg."

"I know." You push his wheelchair towards the White Cap tavern. "Just relax and enjoy the sun. I can wait for you to walk."

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Ro-Ange Olson: Loved it and couldn't put it down. I really hope there is a sequel. Well written and the plot really moves forward.

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Jessie: I wrote a review on fanfiction but I thought it would be fitting to write on on here too :) This story was honestly stunning. I am a budding writer myself and to read this- to FEEL this- reminded me of why I am honoured to have this passion and drive for a craft that is just so raw and beautiful.

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PurpleInkling: Hippocrite is spelt hypocrite.Also it is an awesome story! A good one after so long. I was hoping someone would write a good fanficiton playing off what Ron said at the station. You are doing a remarkable job. It would have been interesting if Albus had also ended up in Ravenclaw though that mig...

263Adder: Okay so I adore this story. I only knocked one star off plot for historical inaccuracies because I'm a bit of a stickler for that. The ending broke my heart though, considering you already changed history couldn't you (SPOILER) change it a bit more and have them together!!!! I want an alternative...

Jean Tryon: As a beta, I found this story outstanding!! Plot, grammar, phraseology, etc Rachel gives us it all. She takes the story into the future from where due South ends. She is an exacting and thoughtful author.

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