Summary: Not all types of brands come from unfortunate encounters. FFXIII2. HopexVanille. Fluff.
It was a scorching hot afternoon in the Yaschas Massif, and Hope Estheim was on his hands and knees digging into a rock bed. He and his team had only been set up in the camp for a few days. He wasn't even entirely sure why he had chosen to excavate here, but it simply felt right. And oddly enough, he felt motivated. So motivated in fact, that he himself was digging away. Normally he left the digging to the excavators, but this time he needed both the privacy and the distraction.
He had had another dream about her last night. Not that dreaming of her curly flame-colored hair or bright green eyes was anything new to Hope, but last night's dream was just so vivid. In his dream, he replayed a scene from ten years ago. They were in the Yaschas Massif, like now, only the sky was beginning to darken. He remembered, it was right after he had teased Vanille by telling her that he felt happy when she smiled.
They were supposed to be collecting firewood, but were dawdling instead. He was dozing beneath a tree, and she was running around fiddling with different plants. He had passed out at some point, and awoke to feel a strange poking sensation on his upper arm. His eyes opened to reveal Vanille, hovering over him, holding his sleeve up, and drawing on him.
"Vanille! What are you doing?!" he barked in a mixture of confusion and shock.
She giggled beside him. "Just doodling on your arm," she admitted completely unabashedly. "There! All done!" she cheered.
He sighed in exasperation. Just what was she up to this time? He would have to pay her back for this one...
He reluctantly peeked at his arm. The rich burgundy pigment of the ink matched the color of the flowers that she had been picking earlier. However, it wasn't the color that surprised him, it was what she had drawn. On his upper arm was an intricate swirled design that closely resembled the flowers around them. The design was actually quite impressive.
"That's... actually kind of cool," he reluctantly admitted. But then another worry settled into his mind: "That ink's not permanent, is it?"
"No idea!" she answered cheerfully, putting her utensil down onto the ground beside her. "But look! I drew one on myself, too!" She proudly announced as she began to lift her skirt up higher on her thigh...
"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Vanille!" he stuttered, covering his embarrassed face with his hands.
He heard her laugh. "Don't be so embarrassed, silly! It's just a leg. Nothing scary here at all!" she said as he felt her hands grab onto each of his wrists. He fought back for a moment, but eventually allowed her to pull his hands down. He made damn certain to keep his eyes averted from her exposed thigh.
"It's okay, you can look," she encouraged him, "All of my girl parts are completely covered."
"Are you sure?" he asked apprehensively.
"Promise!" she answered.
Reluctantly, he allowed his eyes to find the pale, exposed skin of her leg. There it was. Just above her l'Cie brand rested a burgundy flower design that was practically identical to the one on his upper arm.
With his embarrassment now beginning to fade, he ventured to ask her a question. "So why did you draw them on the same body parts as our brands?"
She pulled her skirt back down, and replied seriously, "Because I want us to have something pretty to look at someday when our brands are gone. I want to lose our brands, but at the same time, I don't want us to forget any of this, either. It's a part of who we are now."
"Are you going to try and draw on anybody else, too?" he asked curiously.
She shook her head and smiled. "Nope. They'd all probably murder me in my sleep if I did!"
"Who's to say I won't?" he asked in jest.
She stood up between him and the setting sun. She winked an emerald eye at him and said, "I'll take my chances," before running off toward camp. He rolled his sleeve back down and chased after her.
They never did collect any firewood that day.
Hope smiled at the memory, but was soon brought back to the present by the oppressive Yaschas Massif heat. He could feel his shirt becoming soaked with sweat. It was officially time to ditch his coat. Soon both his toolbelt and coat were carelessly flung to the ground behind him. He then proceeded to roll up the sleeves of his white dress shirt. He felt a wave of relief as the wind wrapped around his skin, and rolled the cuffs up high on his arms.
He grinned as a few swirls of slightly faded burgundy ink peeked out from beneath the sleeve. Happily, he set back to work.
After a while of undisturbed and peaceful digging, a bottle of water was pushed in front of his face. His eyes followed the hand that held it to discover that his assistant, Alyssa, was the source of disruption to his blissful state.
"You ready to get back to the computers, yet?" she asked as she smiled down at him.
"Just another minute," he answered as he took the water from her gratefully.
She sighed, but reluctantly let him be. However, he heard her footsteps pause. She giggled.
"Well, Director, I never would have seen you as the type to get a tattoo!" she commented, "Let me guess: a remnant from a rebellious teenage phase?"
He smiled. "More or less," he answered, "An old friend drew it herself. She had one just like it."
Again, Alyssa giggled. "What happened to her?"
"We had to go our separate ways for a while," he replied ambiguously before standing up and changing the subject.
Inspired by a line from the song "Smile" by Avril Lavigne: "I woke up with a new tattoo/ Your name was on me and my name was on you/ I would do it all over again"