The characters and settings are the sole property of Square-Enix.
A/N: I am well aware that this may be considered OOC by some. It is a part of a series of experiments I am playing with, exploring various aspects and possibilities.
Paine was the only one who had heard him laugh for such a long time that others had almost forgotten what it sounded like. At best, a grudging smile was the way he expressed both amusement and approval. Gippal had once said that when he was a great grandfather, he would entertain his progeny by telling them that he had lived far enough in the past to have heard the actual laughter of Nooj. The young ones would not believe him, of course, but it would make a good story.
Yet here he was laughing. In public. At Youth League headquarters on Mushroom Rock Road. Out loud and without trying to hide it. It was unheard of and yet, here it was. It was the laughter of a young man, the sort of joy he must have expressed during his days as a student on the savannas of the Calm Lands. It swooped and sang, pealed and flew, inviting those who heard to join in, even without knowing the cause.
He stood in front of the large tent, his arms spread as though to embrace everything before him, his head thrown back, shouting his laughter into the brilliance of the blue sky. Light caught the length of the cane held in his raised left hand, making it glitter like a scepter. His spectacles reflected the sun’s rays, painting his face with gold. And his long hair swirled almost into the dust at his feet. He seemed enveloped in a glowing aura.
Lucil hastily detached herself from a small group of awestruck Leaguers near the gate and tentatively approached the laughing man.
“Is there something we should know, Meyvn?” His delight was so contagious, she found herself smiling broadly as she touched his sleeve and softly asked her question, pitching her voice so that only he could hear.
“I’m going to be a father!” He didn’t bother to lower his voice to match that of his lieutenant. “Have you ever heard of a more cosmic joke? I, Taydrcaagan, am going to be a father! I never expected to last through my youth and now I’m going to see the beginning of my own continuation. Did you hear me?”
She grinned at his enthusiasm and thought how different his face looked when he smiled, white teeth flashing against his tanned skin. Was this the face Paine saw? “It think everyone from Luca to Djose has heard you, Meyvn. Congratulations. Let me guess, she just told you?”
“How did you know?” He returned her grin and she almost did not recognize her leader, usually so stern and saturnine, in this excited and joy filled man.
“Oh, it was just a wild stab in the dark.” Suddenly she felt herself picked up and spun around in a lurching dance. “Sir, careful; it’s rough ground here.”
He let her go and looked at her intently, the dark eyes behind the spectacles crinkled with a glee he was quite unable to contain. “It’s a miracle, a wonder. It’s the most hilarious thing I’ve ever heard.” He started laughing again. “I thought to be dead by this time and now I’m going to be immortal. I’ve sought Death and stumbled across Life. Do you think it’ll be a boy?”
“I don’t know. You want a boy?”
“Doesn’t matter. Pay no attention to me. I had to tell the universe. Now, I need to get back to Paine.”
“Yes, of course.” Lucil turned him around and gave him a little shove toward the tent.
Before he could reach the entrance, Paine strolled out, a portrait in casualness. She was wearing her usual black leathers, firmly laced around her slim figure. She greeted Nooj with the restraint she normally showed in public and Lucil was oddly relieved to see the Meyvn had once more become the controlled, solemn man to whom she was accustomed.
“So there you are. You took off so fast I was worried.” Paine faced Nooj sternly.
“No need to worry. I just remembered something I had to do.”
“And did you get it done?” She let a smile lift the corner of her mouth. For a moment their eyes met and the look which passed between them was incandescent with meaning.
“Yes. I got it done. Shall we go back inside?” He offered his arm in a courtly gesture. She linked her own arm with his and they progressed toward the entrance of the tent. Nooj seemed somehow lighter on his feet, his limp less pronounced. Just before they passed into the interior dimness, he turned his head and Lucil was sure she saw him wink.