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Second Chances


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The rafters high above in Val's room had never seemed more interesting to him than now. Perhaps it was the intricate way that each had been shaped, built the perfect length and size in order to correctly fit in and around one another. Maybe it was the randomness of the dark stripes that made up each beam, all unique and coming in a variety of shapes and sizes. More than likely, it was the fact that Val had only recently recovered from his first truly near-death experience. He'd begun to pay closer attention to the things around him and do some soul searching of his own.


When Val's head often became muddled with weird thoughts and things he'd rather not be thinking about, he took off to train or let the bustling crowd of the Quicksand ease his thoughts. Now, he couldn't do that. He'd barely managed to make it down the stairs for a drink, much less finding the time to travel to a nearby bar or actually make the journey back to his house. Other times, he'd find some poor soul to laugh at or pick a fight with in order to make himself feel better. No, he wasn't a good person and he never tried to pretend that he was. He often corrected people when they tried to tell him that they saw good in him. None of them ever seemed to quite understand that the only reason he did what he did was to make her smile. That, to him, was worth everything in the world.


That's what he'd often told himself, at least. Over time, he'd begun to change. Once the Company accepted him as a member and the soldiers adopted him as a mentor, Val began to see them as family. Where before he helped people in it because it was something that she wanted to do, now he simply wanted to ensure that his members were safe. ..And now, thanks to the aftermath of recent events, he was left crippled and bedridden. He'd never felt so useless in his life.


Val blinked back the tears as they threatened to resurface. He was not a very emotional person, usually. Even on the rare occasions that he was, the Seeker's sobs were soft and silent. A rogue tear had slipped from his glossy eyes here and there, leaving a damp trail down his cheek and ultimately falling to the sheets below. Sometimes he would glance to the large box that rest on the floor beside his bed in disgust. It was more a device than a box, though it was at least box-shaped. Mimiru, their new Support Saint, had given it a name. 


The Loaded Comrade Box, or Boxie for short, was a silvery metallic box that was precisely one foot tall and one foot wide with four rounded, blue crystals embedded in each side. The box was relatively heavy to lug around, which immediately ruined Val's chances at maneuvering around the estate with ease. His right wrist now sported a bracelet fashioned in the same manner as the box itself, also with its own crystal that linked him with the box. Its entire purpose was to act as an aetheric battery and supercharge Val's own pool of rapidly dwindling aether, thanks to the poison that was inside of him. He didn't pay too much attention after that, mostly because he didn't understand how any of it worked and didn't care to do so. The one thing he did get out of the explanation is that he was to keep the bracelet on at all times. If he took it off, he would die.


He was far too worried about what this meant. He couldn't train. He couldn't spend time with his soldiers. He couldn't take trips to Ul'dah or Limsa Lominsa or even relax out on the beach. He couldn't keep his lover safe, despite initially being hired to be her guard. What's more, he couldn't read or write to pass the time because he was so thoroughly inept in the subject. There was nothing he could do but lay in bed and quietly wilt away while the others went about their business. And why should they stop to see him? If he were them, he certainly wouldn't. After all, the box did little more than buy Val some time. It didn't cure him. Eventually, the poison that fed on his aether would grow stronger and, soon, they'd need to upgrade to a large one. ..And then, after a while, one larger than that. Eventually, it would beat technology and he would perish. So why bother trying when the outcome was inevitable?


Val was too lost in his thoughts to notice that Faye had entered the office. It was the sweet scent of her perfume that gave away her presence, and perhaps the way she settled down on the bed at his side. She looked down to him with a soft smile on her face, though he seemed to be unable to return it. 


"M'sorry," he managed as he looked up to her, his right arm stretching out as if to beckon her closer. She leaned forward to nuzzle against his hand.


"Sorry?" she asked, confused. "You have nothing to apologize for, love. You didn't do anything wrong. I'm just glad you're doing better."


He shook his head and looked away from her, unable to face how incredibly positive she was being. In the past, she was often the only one that could calm his rising temper or cure his aching heart. She quelled the feeling of loneliness far before he even realized that he was alone. He'd since devoted his life to her, and now he had nothing to give.


"I can barely walk down th'damn stairs, Princess. I can't do m'job an' I can't keep y'safe like I promised. ..Ya ain' got no reason t'keep me hired or in th'Company, so.. I understand f'ya need t'move on. Y'need someone what can be there f'ya an' stuff an'.. yer too busy t'have t'worry 'bout takin' care'f m'ass all yer life."


Faye stared at him for some time, trying in vain to blink back the tears that came at his words. She leaned over to wrap her arms around him as they floodgates opened, holding herself tightly to him and shaking her head. "Val.. the whole time, I've wanted nothing more than for you to be able to hold me and tell me everything will be okay. And if that's all you can do for the rest of your life, I'll be overjoyed. You're not useless. I don't want anyone else. Even if this is it, I'll stay by your side. You just.. you just need to rest and recover, so take things easy, all right? The company will help look after me, and Lan can care for the Martial Branch."


The two remained silent together, she holding on to him and he staring at the opposing wall while he mulled over the thoughts in his head. His right hand finally lifted to wrap around her form and weakly keep her against his chest.


"I don't wanna be away from ya," he spoke after a while. "I don't wanna be unable t'be there an' keep ya safe an'.. I don't wanna lose ya t'someone better than me. An' now, everyone is. I mean, what if.. what if I can't get better? What if this is it? Th'rest'f m'life?"


"There's no one better," the Midlander said as she looked up at him, offering a reassuring smile despite the tears. "I'm not going anywhere, Val. I love you. I -- I was so scared I was going to lose you." The admittance forced her tears to flow harder and she buried her head into his chest once again.


Val allowed her to cry, cradling her head against his chest in a soft hug even as he felt her dampened tears fall to his skin. He looked down to watch her, a frown etching its way across his features. ...What was he doing? How could he have allowed himself to show such signs of weakness in front of her? He'd never given up this easily before, even when things got tough. He'd faced death on numerous occasions due to his previous lines of work, so why now when the most important thing in the world to him needed him to be strong for her?


"I love you too, Princess," he managed through his own sadness and forced himself to continue to offer words of encouragement, even if he didn't thoroughly believe them himself. "..Ya ain' got no reason t'worry. A while back, I told ya I ain' goin' nowhere, an' I ain'. ..M'gonna work hard an' do whatever Mimi says an' we're gonna get through this. I.. m'sory y'had t'go through everythin' y'have. ..I shoulda been there f'ya, but I promise ya it ain' gonna happen again."


Faye only sniffled and nodded meekly before she began to cover every inch of his skin that she could reach with kisses, almost as if she were worshiping the man. He wrapped his arms around her as tightly as he could and ever so carefully guided her up and away from his chest. In many ways, Val had thought her to be stronger than him. Sure, he could probably beat her up if it came to a direct confrontation, but she was far more intelligent than he could ever be and knew how to win people over without so much as lifting a finger. That, to him, was far more admirable than being able to just beat your way through things. ..Granted, that was also pretty impressive, but watching her work never ceased to amaze him. And he almost never got to see her again.


He cupped his hands over her cheeks as she drew near and the two lovers became lost in each other's eyes. For the first time since everything had happened, they gave a genuine smile to one another and clung tightly to each other's forms -- or as tightly as they could manage, in Val's case. 


"I wanna have ya by m'side f'ever," Val managed as he nuzzled his cheek to hers. "An' if it's okay wi' you, I wanna divorce ya so's I can get married t'ya again an' again an' again'. ..An' I just wanna see y'smile an' wake up wi' ya by m'side so I can watch ya sleep an' see how beautiful ya are an' see how th'light bounces off yer eyes an'--"


Faye knew, by now, that he would have gone on forever if she'd let him. When Val began to ramble, he seemed to do so until he was either out of breath or ran out of things to say. Instead of hushing him, she pressed her lips to his in a needy, hungering kiss. Val was rather glad that she managed to interrupt him, having ran out of things to tell her not long after he started. It was not due to having nothing to tell her. His vocabulary was admittedly very small and, even if he'd been gifted with a great intellect, not all the words in their spoken language would have been enough to describe to the woman how she made him feel.


The kiss that they shared was comforting and soft, their lips gently undulating together as they became lost in each other's arms. For Val, the woman was his strength. She was his passion and his reason for living, his Princess and his wife. And, most importantly, she was here with him now. He couldn't imagine what hell she'd been forced to endure the past several suns with him gone, and how could he be so selfish to worry about him when she'd likely done enough worrying for the both of them?


Just as easily as he'd opened his eyes this night, they could have remained shut. The kiss that they currently shared could have never happened. The warmth he felt from looking in her eyes could have never existed, and the sensation he felt when she was near him -- his heart beating rapidly in his chest and the sudden feeling of his stomach floating in the air -- would have never been felt. But, he was alive. She was here, and he certainly experienced all of those things. He knew that he didn't have time to be sad about his condition; he could only work to improve it to the best of his abilities.


The two lovers eventually, albeit reluctantly, allowed their kiss to end. She would happily rest her head on his chest and he held her against him, offering soft words of encouragement to one another and catching up on things that had passed while they were gone. Every now and then things would go silent as they became lost in each other's eyes, several long moments of silence passing before they fell into a fit of laughs and giggles like little teenagers in love. When they grew tired, they fought off sleep as long as they could for nothing more than to have just a bit more time together. Eventually, the two fell into a quiet slumber in each other's arms with smiles on their faces.

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