shamera: merlin: taming the great dragon (merlin: dragonlord)
Shamera K. Tsukishirou ([personal profile] shamera) wrote2015-07-27 03:14 am

[FFXIII] Nexus (2320words)

Title: Nexus
Fandom: Final Fantasy XIII series
Character/Pairing(s): Noel, Yeul, EVERYONE ELSE (no, really, everyone. Even Lumina).
Rating: PG-13
Warning: AU? Or at least, a vague idea I have. PRETTY LOW ON MY PRIORITIES LIST.
Summary: Noel and Yeul come across the little town of New Bodhum...


“What is it?” Yeul asked from the back seat, and Noel sighed as he smacked the steering wheel once more vindictively, huffing slightly as there was no positive response, the engine continuing to sputter for a few more seconds before dying out completely. It shouldn’t be doing that— he still had half a tank and while he hadn’t exactly seen a mechanic recently, the vehicle had been purring like a kitten for the past several months… so he didn’t need to get it checked out, right?

Apparently the answer was in the negative, seeing as he and Yeul were now stranded out in just about the middle of nowhere.

“Engine failure.” He grumbled, although the tension on his shoulders eased a bit as Yeul laughed behind him and he heard her shuffle her way forward to press her shoulder against his as she pushed her upper body between the front seats. “We’re stuck.”

“It’s not too bad.” She told him, and he made another grumbling noise just because he could before turning his head toward her to face her soft and knowing smile. “It’s not the middle of nowhere. We’re in a town. They’re bound to have an auto repair shop somewhere, and maybe a cafe. We could call Caius to pick us up.”

Despite her smile being able to light up the sky, the words only made Noel grimace. Caius. What he wouldn’t give to call someone else instead. That smug bastard would never let him live this down: would probably cite back to it for the rest of Noel’s life as that time where he got Yeul stranded in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t it a good thing that Caius came in to help bail them out?

‘C’mon.” Yeul told him, and patted his shoulder before she shuffled back and opened the back door. “I was getting hungry anyway. We could get lunch!”

He gave another sigh, but then decided that it was probably best just to follow Yeul’s lead. It wasn’t that bad. They were only a bit away from a small town that he could see in the distance. At the very least, they’d have some phones there since he forgot to charge his last night and Yeul claimed she didn’t need one when the only people she spoke to regularly were himself and Caius. He turned his keys and pulled them out before slipping them into his pocket and opened the door, stepping out onto the hot road.

Yeul was already pulling several hair ties off her wrist, twisting her long blue-silver hair into an elaborate bun at the back of her head to keep it out of the way. Her fingers were deft and she smiled when she caught him looking, before squinting up at the sky.

“Maybe we turned the air conditioning up too high.” She commented, and Noel had to agree that the change in temperature between the inside and outside of the car was striking. But it was the middle of the summer in one of the more arid places of Gran Pulse, and the land around them was barren of all life except the most resilient plants. He doubted that they’d see any predators around here, not where they were so little animals to begin with.

“Maybe.” He agreed, and then offered her his elbow as Yeul finished off with her hair. “Doesn’t matter now. Should we get going then?”

“Let’s.” She said with a smile and looped her arm around his. “Lunch. Or maybe call Caius first. It might take him a while to get here, and we could get lunch in the mean time. It’ll be an adventure. I’ve never been here before.”

“Yeah, neither have I.”

There was a good reason, too. Noel frowned at the small smattering of dilapidated buildings as they approached town, the road nothing but packed dirt and the houses looking rather rickety and unstable. They came from a small town themselves, but it looked more… cared for than this place did.

“...New Bodhum.” Yeul read out as they passed a dusty sign, not stopping, “population: 196. Wow, this place is really small. I hope they have a restaurant. Or a diner. Or at least a shop with food.”

“I’m sure they do.” Noel reassured her, although his attention was taken up by what looked like an area of craggy land, the dirt forming spirals upwards as if a very large lake had once bordered this town and dried up. “If they don’t, I’ll hunt something.”

Yeul giggled, and squeezed his elbow as they walked further into the tiny town.

There was a strange vibe that made Noel stand up straighter as he walked, as if he were being watched, but the eyes weren’t human. It felt like a herd of cats were eying him from the shadows, and was glad to see a sign for LENORA CAFE close to the edge of town.

“Oh, we’re in luck.” Yeul breathed out at his shoulder.

They were— the cafe looked almost new, with older wood panelling that showed it was a building that survived the test of time rather than something that was newly established. There was something about the mishmash of the paint job that made it look like it had undergone dozens of renovations, and there were even other vehicles parked out front. It was Yeul who detached herself from his arm first, lightly jogging toward the door as if to reach it first, but Noel managed to overcome her gait with several strides (without speeding up his walk much) and open the door for her as she huffed her cheeks out at him.

“Ladies first.” He told her with a grin, and watched as she deliberately made a face at him when she passed, only to have her expression smooth itself out into something blissful as the rush of air conditioner hit her heated skin.

The inside of the cafe was separated into a section for a bar and another area with small tables where a handful of customers sat and talked with each other while eating. There was even the soothing lull of soft music on the speakers and the bright lights almost made him forget the strange feeling he got outside in the streets.

Now that he was inside, New Bodhum looked like any other sleepy town on the edge of the highways with quietly content citizens and the soft ambiance of a life that didn’t have to follow the rushed hours of the city. It was a feeling he liked a lot.

Yeul, on the other hand, was already at the bar and leaning on the edge of the counter to give a wide smile to the lady who was cleaning glasses.

“Good morning, sweetie.” The lady greeted her, her tone only carrying the slightest hint of a Cocoon accent. Her hair had the start of greying at the roots, and there were laugh lines around her mouth and eyes. “We don’t get much visitors around here these days.”

“Our car broke down.” Yeul offered with a shrug. “But I wanted to stop for lunch anyway. Can we get a menu?”

“And use the phone?” Noel interrupted, even as the lady smiled and handed over two large and laminated menus over to them. “Thanks.”

“You’re very welcome.” The lady behind the counter responded, and then pointed at the wall toward the kitchen. “There’s a landline phone at the corner over them, you kids help yourself to it.”

As Yeul settled herself down at the bar and scanned over the menu, Noel made his way over to the phone and rustled through his pockets for some change, trying to figure out exactly how to word his request to Caius: ‘hey, our car broke down and we need you to pick us up?’ Urg. No way. He didn’t want to think of the words need and Caius in the same sentence.

‘Hey, so we decided to check out this town, you should come see too.’ No, he’d never fall for that. He’d probably poke and prod and deny coming along until Noel was forced to admit why they stopped in town in the first place.

He stood at the old payphone for a good amount of time, just glaring at the receiver and trying to come up with a good way to phrase the request. He barely even reacted as Yeul came up from behind him and reached around him for the phone, laughing at his expression.

“I’ll do it.” She said. “I ordered lunch for you already, but if we wait for you to volunteer to talk to Caius on your own, we might need to ask if they have a hotel for us to stay the night.”

“The problem isn’t my talking to him.” He protested, although he didn’t move to take the receiver away from her. “The problem is what he says back.”

“‘Sure I’ll come pick you guys up’?” Yeul asked, placing the phone against her ear and holding out a hand for the change Noel had already dug from his pockets. He handed it over with a grumble, and she smiled at him before inserting the coins and dialing. “You’re over-thinking it. He won’t mind. We’re his favorite people in the world.”

You’re his favorite person in the world, and the only person he actually likes.”

Yeul only laughed at him while waiting, before she visibly brightened. “Caius? It’s me. Can you come pick us up from New Bodhum? The car broke down, and— these things happen.” She paused and gave Noel a thumbs up sign before making a sweet humming noise even as Noel made a face and ran a hand through his hair. “Uh-huh. Yeah. It’s just Noel and me. We’re getting lunch now, want us to get you anything? Are you sure? Mm-hmm. Okay, sure. I’m always careful! I’ll see you in a bit, then… and thanks.”

“See?” He told her before she had to chance to say anything after Yeul hung up the phone. “You’re the only person he likes.”

She just laughed at him, and gave him a hug around the waist.

“So are you guys just passing through, then?” The bartender asked them as he placed down two trays of food in front of them, the sides nearly overflowing with fries. “First time to New Bodhum?”

“Yeah.” Yeul answered for the both of them, already reaching to dip a fry in the ketchup container she readied in anticipation of food. “This place is nice, though. Didn’t think there were people from the outside!”

“Ahh, yeah, we look pretty deserted.” The bartender admitted, pushing a strand of dark brown hair behind her ear as she leaned on the counter, clearly eager to hear more about the outsiders. “Not many new people come along, and we tend to stay indoors when we can. Not much point of playing outside with the ocean dried up and all.”

“The ocean?” Noel asked, as Yeul only made a fascinated noise around her mouthful of food. He hadn’t known the desert had once been an ocean. “Is it…?”

“One of those that dried up two hundred years ago? Sure is. Used to be a bit of a vacation spot, this place. Beautiful beaches and all. But ever since that anomaly back then, we’ve been a bit of a strange sight. Had to change our usual catch— suddenly, New Bodhum was known as the ‘ghost town’ because of how spooky our place looked.” The bartender wiggled her fingers at them and chuckled. “We had all sorts of people visiting back then. Even had a few people claimed that their loved ones went missing here.”

“What happened?” Yeul asked.

There was a shrug. “A holovid crew can through a few years after the haunted craze. Visitors always said they felt like there were eyes watching them, so some popular show came here and— well, they debunked the idea. Turned out we had the lower than average amount of missing persons for a town of our popularity back then, even if the claims did happen to be true. Whole crew couldn’t find anything at all that even suggested this place could be haunted. We don’t get many visitors nowadays, and most who come are here because of the old rumors.”

Noel felt an involuntary shiver. He had felt like he was being watched outside…

“That’s too bad.” Yeul said sympathetically, then brightened a bit. “Ghosts would have been cool.”

The bartender chuckled at her, leaning forward to place her elbows on the counter. “Sorry to disappoint. But I can pretend this town is haunted and give you the spiel if you’d like?”

Yeul glanced over at Noel, who only shrugged in amusement. He never quite understood her fascination with all things supernatural— it was like she was convinced that she was supposed to be in the center of it somehow, and kept looking for that story which would allow her to play heroine.

Why it couldn’t have been in a story that involved the same fairy tale happy endings and good things happening to good girls that most kids her age wanted, he didn’t know. But he was always up for indulging her whims.

“Sure,” she told the bartender eagerly, having all but forgotten the plate of food she had been clamoring for earlier. “I’d love to hear all about it.”

“Well!” The bartender brightened and dropped her elbows down to the counters closer to them in a conspiratorial manner, smiling and spreading her hands out as she started her story. “It all started about seven hundred years ago, back when Cocoon first fell. This story starts in our little town’s namesake, on one very normal day where things were about to get very wrong…”