Sunday, August 01, 2010

Target Practice

I spotted Gurok from across the square. He was sitting against his favorite wall with his thick galka legs folded in front of him and his head resting back. His eyes where closed but he didn’t look asleep. He rested alert like this often when he was waiting for his group of friends to gather for an all night expedition. The familiarity made me smile.

I glided up to him quietly and slipped into his lap. “Hello Alison.” He said as he put one arm around me and pinned me against his armored chest without lifting his head or opening his eyes. “What kind of trouble are you going to try to talk me into today?”

“Nothing.” I replied with mock offense. “How did you know it was me?”

“No tail.” He said with a mischievous grin.

With that I hit him, though I wasn’t sure why. It’s not like I had made any claim on him. If he had other women on his lap with tails, why did I have any right to be upset about it? My body stiffened and I suddenly felt the need to run hard in any direction, but his arm holding me down was enough to stop me.

He opened his eyes and looked at me as if he suspected what was on my mind, though he didn’t say and I was sure I expected too much of him to think he could know about my inner struggles. One callus finger softly pushed my disheveled bangs away from my face. “Anything you wanted to tell me then?” he asked as his eyes studied my face.

“You smell like burnt charcoal, leather and iron.” I said sharply as if I intended it to be an insult.

“I’m glad you like it.” He replied with a knowing grin. “Did you come all the way from San ‘D Oria to tell me that?”

“No, I just…” I hesitated, afraid to tell the guilty truth, “I just missed you.” I relaxed and leaned against him feeling his usual furnace like heat radiating hot on my cheek.

“I just left you this morning.” He chuckled softly and rested his cheek on the top of my head briefly. “It’s nice to see you too. I have awhile before I need to meet up with my group. I can help you practice your marksmanship.”

I nodded, relieved to have something to do and he stood up letting me fall from his lap to the ground, leaving me to get my feet under me quickly enough to avoid landing on the ground in a very unladylike pile. I resisted the urge to stab him and shoved him playfully instead as I followed him to the outer gate.

Once outside I pointed at an old watch house. “That will do fine. I’ll go scratch a target on the back side.”

“You need practice hitting something that moves.” Gurok frowned. “You’re already experienced enough at hitting walls.”

The idea that he was talking about more than arrows tickled the back of my mind, but I let that thought go. “So what would you suggest? I can only get one or two shots each on living targets before they get to me and I have to finish it close combat.”

“You have me.” He smiled. “I’ll hold their attention on me, while you TRY to hit it. The only thing I ask is that you focus enough that you do NOT hit me or I cannot be held accountable for any loss of temper.”

I shifted uneasily at the thought of his temper. I had seen it lash out on many occasions but he never directed to towards me even if it meant someone else would pay. Only recently had I witnessed what he was capable of when Kallo became the focus of revenge. My heart hurt to think of hitting him with my crossbow bolt. “It sounds too risky. You have to work tonight.”

“You worry too much. That crease in your forehead is going to become permanent if you don’t learn to relax. Try to be a little more focused and your aim might improve.”

I rolled my eyes and nodded my head. “Ok, your thick hide on the line. I’ll just hope the air stays still and you don’t move around too much and I don’t get distracted...”

With that he lumbered out towards a green eyed dragonfly with a six foot wing span resting nearby. With one swat of his great hand the fly was up in the air and looking furious.

I held up my loaded crossbow and took a shot that zipped just over the top of the fly’s back, not even catching its attention. Gurok raised an eyebrow at me and said plenty with his eyes. I reloaded and took at deep breath. Steadying myself and clearing my mind of worries, I took slow careful aim and squeezed the trigger. This time I hit my mark and Gurok quickly slapped the bug with his sword to keep it from flying after me. “Again!” he shouted.

I smiled with pride and reloaded. I hit my mark a dozen or more times only missing three. Not perfect, but an improvement on my previous and embarrassing rate.

Things were going pretty well and I was starting to think Gurok might be a genius for thinking of this new training technique when something hit me hard between the shoulders. My hand was on the trigger, just taking a shot when it happened and a bolt flew wildly through the air striking Gurok’s thigh just at a seam in his armor and biting into his muscle.

My vision blurred with panic. I turned and stabbed the fly that had rammed me until it was down and at least on the way to dying before running to Gurok who was finishing off the fly he had been holding for me.

“Ouch!” he shouted and sat down to pull the bloody bolt out of his leg angrily and threw it against a tree splintering the bolt in half.

I was to him and on the ground beside him as fast as my guilt driven legs could carry me. Unbuckling his leg armor I kissed the bloody wound and searched my bag franticly for a potion to pour into the hole.

He smiled at me with raised eyebrows and wiped his blood off my lips with his gloved finger. “You know this is not a big injury for me. I’ve had much worse. You can calm down.”

“I’m sorry.” I begged as I finally found the healing potion I was looking for and poured it slowly into the bolt wound. He gritted his teeth together quietly, his neck tightening as he waited out the pain of healing that was often worse than the original injury.

I rested my head down on his newly healed thigh and stared at the small silvery scar that I knew was small enough to disappear in a few months. I touched it and thought about how many hits we had both taken and survived together. He was my life boat in a world that haunted me with nightmares of black waters and death and I needed him desperately. I wouldn’t forget that not so long ago I nearly lost him when he nearly slid off a cliff into dark rocky ocean below. It horrified me to think that I could have lost him too.

He watched me trace my fingers over his scars and he took off his glove to pull my hair tie loose. Running his fingers through my red hair he pushed it out of the way to stroke my face. “You don’t have to act like you’ve killed me. In fact your fingers are getting my attention far more than a single arrow shot.”

My head shot up and I blushed and looked away from him. “I’m sorry.” I muttered.

Cupping my jaw in his massive hand he turned my face back to his and studied my face. I struggled to get air into my lungs as I tingled at his touch. It was hard to push aside my feelings for him when he looked into my soul like that and it was impossible to suppress my embarrassing blush.

When I thought I would faint from the effort of breathing, he leaned down and kissed me lightly. So long I had denied wanting this that when he finally broke the dam, there was no going back. My head spun dizzily and I kissed him hungrily letting my feelings flow from heart to lips. My fingers searched his armor for his warm skin and settled on the back of his neck, pulling him closer.

I could hear voices calling distantly but they didn’t register through my ecstatic mind. Gurok shifted his massive body to reach down and pull out his linkpearl, tossing it into the brush.

It then registered in my mind who I was hearing. I pulled back and laughed still drunk with affection. “Your dynamis party is calling you aren’t they?”

“I’m not available.” he grinned as he trapped me in his massive galka arms and kissed me.

I giggled in delight as my kisses turned playful. “Yes you are. I know how important you are to them on this mission.” I nuzzled his face affectionately and tried to let our heart beats calm as I let what was happening sink in. I already knew I loved him, but wise or not, it was no longer my secret.

“This is how we are meant to be.” He said passionately as he stared into my eyes as if he were afraid I wouldn’t hear him. “You and I just make good sense.”

I glowed happily at his effort to say he loved me and kissed his neck tenderly as I clung to him. “I’ll be waiting for you when you’re done with dynamis.” I whispered. What I really meant was I would watch the whole thing from a safe spying distance and then rush back to meet him before he knew how crazy about him I really was and how little tolerance I had for being apart from him. It would be hard for me to fight my tendency to protect myself including my heart.

Grinning, he lifted me into his arms and carried me a few steps toward the city before letting me down to my feet. I giggled softly in delight and wrapped my fingers around his hand letting myself sponge in all this happiness hoping this was the start of a lifelong love story and not my silly heart getting me into more trouble.

I sat with him near the residential area in San D’ Oria while Gurok’s group gathered and organized into teams to go into dynamis. I smiled and chatted politely with the group while trying to stay out of the way, though I was completely distracted by my fluttering chest and tingling lips after the kiss I had just recieved. I loved dynamis, but I was loyal to Digital Back Spin, my own mission team and wouldn’t be fighting with Gurok tonight.

I let them all enter and wished them luck and then with the skills that earned me the title of thief, I snuck in after them. I loved to watch him in action. All the shield bashing and grunting as he welded that enormous sword made me giggle like a silly teen. Protecting his allies was his main job tonight, and he was doing it beautifully. I was so proud of him.

He would have been furious if he knew I followed him in there. It was dangerous enough in a group, let alone sneaking in alone when no one knew I was there. I wondered if he suspected that I shadowed him as much as I did after I caught him tossing Kallo over a cliff with bags of gold coins tied to his ankles. Such a waste of gold and a skilled even if misguided fellow thief. Could he have been saved? I wondered.

I had already spent a good enough time justifying Kallo’s death, but it still troubled me that my beloved paladin had ended him in such a dark though poetic manner. Kallo had turned me over to evil men just for the meager reward after I thought we had become friends. Even though he knew it was an innocent unborn baby they really wanted he didn’t seem to care. But, I wondered if the greater casualty was the dark spot burned on my white knight’s heart. I hurt for the bad things my best friend felt had to do keep me safe. Maybe my heart was more that of a white mage than a thief ever since I became a mother. Maybe I was just going dangerously soft.

I lay flat and still on a roof as I watched them work their way around to the last attack of the night. It was dark and the tiles where cool on my skin. The sky was clear letting the stars the countless stars light the sky with the big blue moon. I breathed in the crisp evening air and felt pretty darn good. They had already cleared every threat from the area but the last one and it was safe for me to come down whenever I wanted. If it was any other area, I would have been tempted to sleep there under the stairs all night, but I needed to get out of there and meet Gurok like I promised before he knew where I had spent the evening.

Dancing through the shadows, I made my way back home, washed the day off and dressed for night. I was just tying my red hair up when I heard heavy paladin boots coming up to my door. Before he could touch the door I had opened it and leapt on him throwing my arms around his neck. Catching me with a chuckle he held me up. “Did you eat ALL the cookies? You’re full of spring.”

“I did save one for you.” I smiled and kissed his white cheek, watching for any sign that he regretted kissing me earlier.

“Really?” he looked surprised and it made me smile that he realized how rare it was for me to have the self control to save a cookie.

“Yes, and if you would like to wash the spatters off first, Moogle helped me make a dinner fit for a famished white knight after a long night of battling.” It had been all Moogle’s cooking, but I didn’t want him to wonder what I had really been up to all night while I waited for him. I loved how natural all of this felt.

“Yes Mam.” He said with a grin that told me he was up to something and he bowed and disappeared to wash up for dinner.

I breathed in the smell of hot bread, a galka proportioned roast and my favorite sautéed carrots and felt like I had died and gone to heaven as I listened to my best friend humming as he splashed around in the next room.

As soon as the thought of heaven crossed my mind, I stiffened as my heart jumped with painful guilt. How could I love him when I had already loved and lost the love of my life? It felt like I was betraying Brodie even though he had been murdered and was gone to me in this life. It seemed like it had happened an eternity ago and yesterday all at the same time.

My mind was wiped clean with a new focus when I smelled the steam and soap as he opened the door and came out for dinner still slightly damp and barefooted wearing only his in town slacks. I thought he looked like a great furry white angel with a thick galka tail. How could I worry when he was here with me sharing a hot meal with bare toes and happy hearts? I was so impossibly twiterpaited.


Stephen Monteith said...

Good to see you writing again. *smiles* This is a good piece.

Gurok the Paladin said...

This story turned out great. The extra parts you added after sending me a preview really were able to make the most of the last story. beautiful job Ali.

Guankim said...

Indeed. Welcome back to writing. Well done as always.

Jenn said...

O.O OMG YOUR BACK *pounces and purrrrs* ^^ hmmm looks like you guuie there are a thing now ;p hehe im just happy your not giving up on your wrighting ^^ *pounces on gurok and nips*
Love yah Jenn

Jonathan said...

hmm looks like someone had to let her back in here now there is hair all over the place... O.O IT'S EVEN IN MY COFFEE... *looks for the spray bottle of water, and grumbles about stupid cats*.
any how its good to see your back at it ali ^^ i have missed your storys alot i think we all have. ^^ *holds up a bag of cookies* im only letting you have this bag, if you want more you have to write more ^.~ (i know im a jurk)*trys to hide the chest full of cookies*

Alison the Amazing Thief said...

lol I love you guys. You crack me up. It's so good to hear from you all. Thanks for the comment candy. I have the start ideas for a little more writing, so check back once a week or so.

Zero teh mithra stealer! said... that was some super sappy stuff. Is the next one going to be you and Jenn sitting at a cafe being all giggly over your new found love and what not? I can just see that. And I just realized something...I read some of your older stuff and read Gurok's last I just comic relief? I mean if so I suppose that's good...I guess. Oh well, I always pictured myself more the lady's man...ha...I'm gonna go cry now.

Guankim said...

On the bright side, Zero, ladies love wit, so you'll end up with the girl in the end! (Whichever you choose!)

Gurok the Paladin said...

Now Zero, you were never just the comic relief but you were often the comedian. Plus you have to admit you did worry more then a bit about upsetting the girls :). True to her usual nature I doubt Alison will keep it too sappy for too long although it was nice to come out on top for once even if it only lasts so long lol. Jen, good to hear from you again (hug).