G’raha Tia searched for Aria throughout the camp. He wanted to talk to her about a fascinating discovery of Allagan nature, to gain her insight to his possible theory after their expedition into the Labyrinth of the Ancients. He had long come to terms with the fact that Rammbroes was to bar his entry despite his wish of staying by the Warrior’s side. In fact, if it wasn’t for Cid strongly encouraging him of such in agreement to Rammbroes, he would prance through the Tower’s doors regardless of what they would say. If he could find anything to prepare Aria for the upcoming trials, for whatever else awaited her, he will gladly provide.
Thus, when he had found the Hyur woman with her back turned to him, G’raha’s ears and tail perked in excitement. He took steps towards her, her nickname catching in his throat when he had noticed her company.
Before her stood a Seeker with raven black hair, ashen eyes and similar markings on his face as he. From the way they stood, they were obviously acquainted with each other; maybe even more than that. It only gave evidence when the two of them burst into laughter and Aria doubled over to hold her stomach whilst the Miq’ote had to reach out and hold her steady.
G’raha felt his heart squeeze in his chest. Despite being so forward when he had decided to allow her to call him by his name without the clan association, their budding relationship had stagnated soon after. He hadn’t known how to approach her regarding physical touch; he’d been able to get away with things such as the brushing of fingertips whenever he would hand her something she requested or stand just a bit closer to her whenever they would reconvene with the others. For all he knew, she hadn’t noticed, his little actions going unacknowledged.
Now, here was another Seeker trying to take away that to which he was trying his best at.
So, with a huff in an attempt to will courage in his chest - and to make it seem all the bigger besides - G’raha strode towards the woman.
“Ia,” he called to her.
The Warrior had peered over his shoulder, her expression glowing at the sight of him. Her company had drifted his gaze to him, as well, offering him a kind smile that G’raha would have been baited into accepting had he not the sentiments he had now.
“Ah, Raha,” Aria answered in turn.
The Seeker laughed. “Ever as popular, aren’t ya, Aria?”
At the statement, Aria crossed her arms over her chest, leaning on one leg, and pouted at her companion. G’raha’s eyes widened slightly, not ever seeing the woman in such a state, and found it just as endearing as the childlike wonder she would have whenever she would discover something fascinating of Allagan nature.
“Like you’re one to talk, Tito ,” Aria retorted, earning her a snicker.
When she composed herself, she turned to G’raha and waved towards the Seeker.
“Raha, this is Tito,” she introduced the man. “He is the de facto leader and founder of the Free Company that I am bound to. Moreover, he is a fellow adventurer and a good friend of mine that I met during my journey in Ishgard.” Aria turned to Tito then, waving to G’raha. “Tito, this is G’raha Tia. Student of Baldesion and observer among the Sons of Saint Coinach that are investigating into the Crystal Tower.”
Tito saluted to G’raha. “Nice to finally meet ya, G’raha.”
G’raha blinked, looking dumbfounded. “The pleasure is mine. However… ‘finally’?”
At his inquiry, Aria seemed to have jumped in her heels and her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. Tito, sensing her distress, curled his lips to a mischievous smirk and took advantage of the situation faster than a blink of an eye.
“Oh yes, finally ,” Tito answered with feigned helplessness in his shrug. “You have no idea how much she speaks of you. I’m sure the other Scions in the Rising Stones have a field day, but whenever I stop by to deliver something she requested, all she would speak of is a passionate scholar whose eyes light up-”
“Tito, SHUT UP!” Aria shrieked in embarrassment. When G’raha shifted his gaze to the woman, she couldn’t help but bury her face in her hands.
Tito waved her away. “I wondered what it was that compelled her to demand I send her all the tomes from her study. Have you seen what a workaholic’s room looks like? You have yet to see hers in our headquarters. It would put regular scholars to shame. I can only imagine what her corner looks like in camp-”
Aria straightened her posture and turned towards Tito then. Without hesitation, she reached out and grabbed the man by the collar, lifting him up ever so slightly. In stark contrast to her actions, her face was as red as a rolanberry. Tito had hovered his arms above her figure, his expression contorted to fear.
“W-Wait, Aria, I-” Tito started in panic.
Aria snarled at him, her eyes glaring. G’raha recognized this look she gave, one where she felt genuine anger but behind the darkened eyes was a glint. He knew this glint, considering how playful and teasing she was to him - she was just eating up Tito’s distress under her charade.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m SORRY!” Tito exclaimed.
At the last of his apologies, Aria felt fit to loosen her grip of the man, in the form of flicking her wrist and tossing him ungracefully to the ground. He landed on his bottom, shaking his head, and pouted at her in turn, to which she answered with a huff.
“I swear, I understand why you and Estinien are friends now,” he grumbled as he got back to his feet.
Aria grunted. “Maybe if you weren’t such a bumbling arse - ”
“ Aye, aye, I get it, I get it,” Tito sighed in defeat, then dropped the teasing aura. “I left the next batch with F’lhaminn for whenever you want to pick it up. I’ll be around Revenant’s Toll for a while, along with Zeke and Valeria. From what I understand, your brother will be stopping by the Stones, as well.”
At the last part of his report, Aria blinked and turned towards Tito in surprise. He merely smiled and shrugged once more to her.
“Drop by to visit before he starts throwing a tantrum, alright?” the man pleaded. “Stryder misses you a lot. All the while, we can finally celebrate your nameday and drink to another year in the waiting.”
G’raha turned to Aria, who had a pensive look plastered on her face. He hadn’t known that her nameday had recently passed. Knowing Cid and how openly expressive he is when it came to things of concern, he doubted that the Ironworks engineer knew of it, either.
“Yes...yes, of course,” Aria answered after a spell with a small smile on her face. “We can do just that.”
Tito nodded in her direction, then turned to G’raha.
“Take care of her, will you? She tends to be a tad bit reckless when no one’s watching.”
G’raha inclined his head. “Leave it to me.”
Tito smiled. “You’re also welcome to join us in the festivities. I’m sure the others would be excited to finally meet the man Aria has been raving about for the last fortnight.”
Aria’s flush coloured her cheeks once more. “TITO!”
Before Aria could reach out to strangle the Miq’ote, Tito had jumped away and made a mad dash towards the town, raising a hand to wave in their direction in the meanwhile. Aria couldn’t help but sigh and shake her head, her hands on her hips all the while.
“That man, I swear,” Aria grumbled under her breath.
“Ia,” G’raha called out to her.
Aria blinked and turned towards G’raha. He wrung his hands together, even going so far as to brush his hands on his forearms as he coped with his shyness and hesitation. Taking a deep breath, he willed courage into his body and gazed right into her eyes.
“How long ago was your nameday?” he asked.
Aria blinked, then brushed a lock of her hair behind her ear.
“Ah, that?” she answered. “It’s been a week now. Why do you ask?”
G’raha inclined his head, then took one step closer to her. Then another. And another. Soon, he had but an ilm of space between the two of them. Aria’s eyes remained steadfast on his, not minding his intrusion into her personal bubble. In turn, he lifted his arms and wrapped them loosely around her waist and shoulders. As her head pressed against his shoulder, Aria couldn’t help but let out a startled gasp.
“Th-Then, happy nameday, Ia,” he congratulated her. “I’m quite happy to have met you.”
Aria was stiff in his arms and G’raha regretted his forwardness for a brief moment. That is, until she had lifted her arms to return his notion with an embrace of her own.
“Thank you, Raha,” she answered softly. “I am fortunate to have met you, as well.”
Rays of sunlight had peeked through the curtains of the private chambers, stirring G’raha Tia from slumber. The man had let out a soft groan and huff before his eyes fluttered open, a yawn accompanying his attempt at breaking away from sleep’s embrace. Against his chest, he felt the rhythmic rise and fall of a small figure in his arms and his gaze drifted towards it to find Aria asleep against him, an arm wrapped loosely around his torso.
G’raha smiled affectionately towards the woman. Not wanting to wake her, he gently reached over to brush a lock of hair that had fallen over her face. Satisfied, he leaned in to press a soft kiss on her forehead, which earned him a startle as she stirred but hadn’t awakened. When she had gone limp once more, G’raha slowly got up from the bed to get dressed and make his way to the kitchen.
As he prepared breakfast, he thought of the dream that he had. Indeed, he would never admit at the time that he was jealous of the man for how close he was to her. For how confident he was. For the new side he discovered of Aria that the man brought out of her.
However, G’raha would also have never admitted how much he wanted to thank the Companion of Light, for willing into him the courage to reach out his hand towards what he wanted the most. If it weren’t for the teasing, he may as well have continued the idle brushes against her skin that wouldn’t have gone anywhere. He wouldn’t have known the extent to which he felt and would have condemned himself to slumber with a myriad of regrets.
“Perhaps I can ask how he is,” G’raha spoke to himself as he prepared the morning meal.
Then, he smiled softly.
When he had finished, G’raha had ended up preparing blueberry and rolanberry scones, along with an omelette made from the eggs of the island rails of Kholousia. As always, he could never forget the steaming cup of coffee she was wont to have - strong, yet sweet - lest the poor inhabitants of the Crystarium be subject to her grouchy morning mood.
G’raha remembered. He remembered because he had once experienced all of it. The way she had snarled at him one morning because he had been quite forthcoming with his rants before she could even sip from her mug. The way she once returned to the camp with the baked goods and how she lit up when he complimented her on her handiwork. The way she asked him if he would cook for her when all was said and done before he realized that his destiny awaited in the future - a future without her.
Placing the food on a silvery tray, he carried the meal back towards their private chambers, a separate room within the Tower apart from the Umbilicus. While they had set up a bed in that quarter, she insisted they have a separate room with a window - so that they both would be able to admire the stars of the night sky she had fought valiantly to bring back. When he had returned to her, Aria had stirred once more at the scent of food and it made G’raha chuckle.
“Raha…?” Aria called out lazily to him.
G’raha placed the tray on the dresser and sat at the edge of the bed. He stretched out his hand to press his palm against Aria’s cheek. As her eyes fluttered open, she blinked away the haze of slumber until her gaze became focused. When she came to, she offered him a warm smile as she reached up to place her hand on his.
“Good morning, Ia,” G’raha greeted her.
Aria hummed. “Morning, Raha...what is all this…?”
Aria shifted her body to peek at the meal. Her eyes widened in pleasant surprise, or the attempt of considering she was still lost in sleep. G’raha only chuckled goodheartedly to her before he leaned down to press his lips on the crown of her head.
“Happy nameday, Ia,” he whispered softly to her.
“Ah, is it that time again…?” she answered. “How time flies…”
In these kinds of instances, G’raha is willing to admit himself to her. How she had taught him to limit his obsession with the past. To live for the present and look towards the future. He once told her that the future is where his destiny awaited. Now, he is in the future with his destiny.
Oh, how he’ll cherish the moments in between.