Series: Final Fantasy XIII
Word Count: 1,014
Characters: Lightning, Hope (with Hope/Lightning overtones)
Summary: Nostalgia has brought her here—the smile on his lips bids her to stay.
Warnings: cuteness, fluff.
Notes: enemytosleep requested “Hope/Lightning: You’ve done a lot of growing up since we first met.” Non-compliant with Final Fantasy XIII: Episode I. Takes place a year and some few months after FFXIII.
It is the strange, twisted mix of nostalgia and ten-thousand other as-of-yet unnamed emotions that bids her to travel streets that she hasn’t set foot on in over a year now—streets that are at once familiar and unfamiliar. She notes that the cleanup and repairs have gone smoothly. Palumpolum is not the town it once was, although Cocoon as a whole is not the same as it once was.
It’s still home, though, and she supposes that that is what matters most.
She finds the home that she’s looking for without the aid of a map; she’s always been good at remembering important locations anyway, and this particular place is of great importance to her, though one would probably think otherwise, considering how long she’d avoided visiting this very area.
His house is as different as the rest of the town, but she knows it all the same, and she doesn’t give herself time to worry over whether she should have called beforehand—she simply lifts her hand, makes a fist, and she knocks softly.
The first thing she notices when the door is opened is that the person who came to greet her is not Hope’s father, but Hope himself. The second thing she notices is that Hope has had a growth spurt; he’s now taller than she is by an inch or two, obviously well past the awkward, gangly phase that comes with being a young teenager.
His smile is still the same.
“Been a while,” he tells her, and his voice is deeper, but very soothing (like the scent of lavender or the sound of a gentle waterfall).
Her answer is softly-spoken, and not really an answer at all: “You’ve done a lot of growing up since we first met.”
Hope shrugs – and easy roll of the shoulders – and then steps aside, giving her room to enter. “I’m still me,” he tells her, and he seems happier, like so much weight has been lifted from him and she is glad for that; he’d been so lost and angry and hurt when they’d first met all those months ago.
“You’ll always be Hope,” she replies, surprised to note that the corners of her own lips are curving upwards into a smile as well; but then again, perhaps she shouldn’t be surprised at all.
She finds herself sitting on the couch in the living room, a mug of hot cocoa in her hands. When her eyes aren’t on him, they’re on the pictures lining the nearby coffee table. Pictures of Hope and his father, and of Hope and his mother, and of the three of them together. She wonders if the pain of their shared loss has ebbed over time, but she doesn’t ask. Instead, they talk about safer topics: every-day things, little things.
Hope’s father makes an appearance shortly thereafter, smiling brightly at her and offering her a quick ‘hello’ and an offer to help herself to whatever she wants before he disappears again, heading once more for his study.
They fall silent after a few more moments, and she finds herself gazing into her nearly-empty cup, lost in memories and thoughts of ‘what next?’ before he gently settles beside her, sending her thoughts careening back into the here-and-now.
His hand hesitantly reaches for hers. “I’ve missed you, Light.” His words are as earnest as the look in his eyes, and as warm as the hand over her own.
Her breath catches for a moment, and then she releases it on a soft, contented sigh, fingers twining with his as if they were meant to. “I’ve missed you, too.”
The silence creeps up on them yet again, although it isn’t unpleasant or awkward, and she is just finishing her cocoa when he speaks again: “Today’s my birthday, you know.”
She does a brief calculation in her head, knowing that he is sixteen now, and then she frowns apologetically. “Happy Birthday, but I didn’t get you anything. I’m sorry.”
He smiles unexpectedly, squeezing her hand gently. “You’re here, though, and that’s the best birthday present I’ve gotten today.”
She doesn’t try to argue with him. Instead, they talk about other things—more serious, less every-day things, and she feels admiration and affection swell within her when he explains how he and his father have stumbled through their grief together, and how he wants his dad to be happy, and how he wants to keep his hometown (and the rest of Cocoon) safe.
Gone is all of that discontent and insecurity, and before she even realizes what she’s doing, she’s leaning into him, embracing him as she had before (when they’d been in the middle of a fight for their survival and he’d been an uncertain and frightened boy and she’d been a stubborn and cunning young woman), only things are quite different now, aren’t they?
His arms slide around her and his embrace is strong and comforting. She doesn’t know how long they stay that way, but when she finally pulls away, she tells him: “I don’t want to, but I should get going… it’s getting late.”
She stands and she stretches, but as soon as her hands are by her sides again, his hands are reaching for hers, and she doesn’t pull away.
“A little longer won’t hurt, will it?” he queries, and he flashes that sweet smile again.
Of course, she can’t say no—not to that smile, not to the way his hands hold onto hers. Not to the way he looks at her with such utter adoration (and that alone makes her heart skip a beat and makes her stomach do oddly pleasant flip-flops).
“…Okay,” she finally agrees as she sits back down beside him, their shoulders lightly brushing. “But only because it’s your birthday.”
It’s a lie, of course, and he calls her bluff, smiling as he draws her closer to himself.
And as she tucks her head comfortably under his chin, she comes to the realization that she doesn’t really mind that he can see right through her now.
No—she doesn’t really mind at all.
I’m not exactly happy with this. >.<;;;;;;