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First Kiss Farewell

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"Your work’s done." Nooj looked over his shoulder at Paine, then turned around with a small smile. "Why are you still recording?" He moved closer —- close enough that she caught the musk of his sweat, and the sweet undertones of gun oil that clung to his shoulder padding — and reached out to ruffle his hand along the top of her hair.

Her breath caught, and she lowered the camera, turning it off. “No real reason,” she said. “Habit, I guess.” But that wasn’t true, she realized as she spoke the words. Stopping the camera meant that it was really all over. That the last survivors of the Crimson Squad were going their separate ways. That she might never see them again.

She lowered her eyes, then lifted them again as Nooj touched her face, leaving a finger under her chin. Almost she jerked back in surprise, but he met her eyes, and she couldn’t look away. “Hey,” he said, softly.

"Hey," she said back, and then he lowered his mouth to hers and kissed her, with no hesitation, as if it were completely natural, as if she hadn’t been dreaming about this every day for the past three weeks. She wanted to grab him, throw her arms around him and press herself against his chest, feel his heartbeat and know he was still alive. Instead, she contented herself with raising a hand to his cheek and cupping her palm around his chin.

When he pulled back, he was no longer smiling, but his eyes remained warm. “I’m sorry I can’t take you with me.”

After a brief pause, Paine lifted a hand to the center of his chest, and he covered it with one of his. “It’s safer for both of us. I understand.”

He nodded, then lowered his head, pressing their foreheads together. “Fate won’t keep us apart for long,” he murmured. “I’ll find you. I promise.”

She came up on tiptoe and kissed him again, light as a chocobo feather. “You’d better.”