A/N: I had some time, teehee!

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It is said that there are three stages to love.

The first was romance. It was a time of temporary insanity—of being so enamored with your lover that you forget that his morning breath is somewhat pungent or that her womanly musk smelled just a bit like stale fish. It was a time when you wouldn't mind his irritation at your attempts at reconciling him with the stranger his father had become, or when she snapped at you despite making sure the female colleague you drove home stayed in the backseat. You wouldn't even mind if she hogged the blanket at night or when he'd fall asleep next to you in his day clothes.

Intellect was mercilessly strapped onto the bitchseat and made to shut up while attraction took the wheel and drove.

Those particular realizations came at the second stage: disillusionment. If romance was falling head-first in love, then disillusionment was when your head met the cold hard pavement of reality. Disillusionment was a stage filled with regrets and second thoughts. It was when conflicts rose as minor differences were picked up—superego boundaries unintentionally but nonetheless carelessly breached—and sometimes blown out of proportion.

It was the stage the passionate Lightning Farron found herself in after another spat with her lover.

It went without saying that all men were stubborn-headed fools, but Squall Leonhart could be even more stubborn than the collective of the Besaid Aurochs team in the face of their losing streak.

Why couldn't he just apologize for forgetting Serah's birthday—and leaving her waiting for a date that never bothered to come?

Worst still, the unapologetic bastard child appeared as if nothing had ever happened! What sort of lover did that!

Her stomach suddenly growled and the disgruntled woman let out a low curse.

All this frustration made her hungry, and now she'd have to sneak passed the living room she had sentenced her dragon-scaled boyfriend to for the night if she were to calm herself down or she'd never get to sleep.

Etro-damnit.

Throwing her blanket off her, Lightning threw her feet off the bed, grabbed her cotton robe and slipped on her slippers as she made her way past her bedroom door. She frowned at the light emanating from the living room.

Just great. The jerk was still awake.

With a resigned breath and a mental note to see how much it would cost to renovate her place such that there would be a way to access her kitchen from her room that bypassed the living room, Lightning entered with full intent on ignoring her lover.

That intent crumbled quickly when a colors of predominantly green and red on the living room table caught her eye and she instinctively glanced in Squall's direction, who she found looking up at her from the Weapons Monthly in his hands with tired grey eyes.

Lightning blinked in surprise at the snack Squall had prepared for her. Her eyes glanced sharply at the wall clock on the far wall and a troubled frown tugged on her lips. It had been three hours since their spat; had he been waiting for her all this time?

Squall cleared his throat—a sound that was only made audible by the stillness of their stare-off.

"I… don't know what set you off." He set his magazine down and stood up from his spot on the couch to regard her fully. "But I know you get hungry after you vent. This is… a peace offering." He gestured to the inviting salad topped with sweet pickles and jalapenos. "I want to know what happened."

Lightning stared back at him before accepting his… bribe. Kneeling down opposite the table from him, she took the fork in hand and ate.

Squall took his seat once more and folded his arms. Patiently, he waited for his lover to finish the meal he had prepared; it would be minutes of silence later before Lightning finally set the silver utensil down and glanced up at him with narrowed icy eyes.

"Didn't you receive my message?" Lightning asked pointedly in a tone filled with accusation.

Squall tilted his head slightly to the side in confusion. "About what?"

"Serah's birthday."

"Oh." Squall paused before his eyes widened, and a small part of Lightning wished she brought a camera to capture the gobsmacked face of her normally stoic lover. "OH."

"Yes." Lightning pressed. "You promised."

"I'm sorry."

Hearing the apology she had been waiting for somehow ticked her off even more.

"You're not going to make an excuse?"

"Would you be less angry if I did?"

"Stop being such a smartass, asshole."

"…"

His silence-! Was he shutting her out?

"Just so you know," The disgruntled woman began, her tone picking up fire once more. "We take our birthdays seriously—Serah and I."

It was the truth. Birthdays were something special to the two orphaned Farron sisters. Birthdays were proof that they were still alive after all the hardships they went through together. Another year, another chance, and another opportunity that they would grasp together, side-by-side—as sisters; as family.

It was a very, very special occasion.

"…sorry." And Squall meant it. There was a short pause before he added to explain his situation. "I can't remember my own birthday."

It was the truth. Whether it was because of the Guardian Forces eating away at his memories, or growing up in SeeD without celebrating it, if not for Matron and Ellone, Squall wouldn't even know he had a birthday. Balamb Garden, during his formative years, was run by a money-seeking Shumi who was more interested in honing perfect weapons of war for the highest bidder rather than developing well-adjusted members of society—or even fulfilling SeeD's original purpose.

Hell, Ellone could even attest that the only accurate number in the date of birth in his Garden profile was the year… which was why Squall tried and struggled to comprehend why his irate lover was so fixated on a set of digits.

"That doesn't mean you can forget your girlfriend's." Lightning glared at him crossly before adding in a displeased tone. "Or your girlfriend's family's."

Squall bit the inside of his cheek before he could retort something harsh. His blood was boiling at her reprimanding words. It frustrated him when Lightning was like this—when Lightning wouldn't compromise. It was unfair. Lightning took and took, but she never seemed to give!

Hyne-damnit. What was it about this frustrating woman that drew him to her? What was it about her that, in spite of all the crap he had to put up with, made him fear losing her more than his and his friends' lives?

He was never this open—not even to Rinoa, who casually brushed aside all his moods and baggage with a bright smile and a dance. His time with the lovely Sorceress was like a dream—an insidious fantasy where everything seemed possible…

…and maybe that was why.

With Lightning, he felt grounded. Inadvertently or otherwise, she made him open up and confront all of his failings—insecurities and weaknesses—that he repressed.

Lightning was the shock that jolted him back to reality.

Squall pressed his eyes shut and tilted his head away from the quietly furious woman.

"Don't run away from me!" Lightning glowered, but Squall remained firm in trying to still the storm inside him.

"Lightning, please." He threw away his pride and begged. "I'm sorry—I didn't know, I-"

Lightning's breath lodged itself in her throat at the pain in her lover's grey eyes.

"I didn't know it meant this much to you… and I'm sorry."

Lightning felt her eyes suddenly water and found all this so very unfair. Why should she feel guilty for her lover's careless trampling on a tradition she and Serah held dear?

He seemed capable of reading her so thoroughly, so why now when it counted the most?

It was then that Lightning remembered that no matter how similar two people were; no matter how well they got along together; no matter how two people appeared to read each other's minds, the fact of the matter was, they still were two separate people.

They were two separate people with their own life stories and wills and cultures and ideologies.

They were two separate people and all the more their union could never be perfect.

One had to reconcile the good with the bad, and judge if all the good outweighed the bad.

Squall reached out in concern when he saw his lover's eyes glisten but halted halfway; he waited.

Lightning was grateful for that.

Whether her lover truly understood her or otherwise, Lightning was glad Squall waited because this was something she had to ascertain for and by herself.

It is said that there are three stages to love. The first was romance—a period of ecstasy and highs that only made crashing down into the next stage of disillusionment that much harder.

But sometimes, when lovers are able to decide to love despite disillusionments, and then stretch their hands out towards their lover, then the third stage was possible. Love—true love—needn't be a phenomenon that bypassed intellect.

Love could be a decision.

Lightning felt that they were stuck in stage two, but this small act showed her that Squall was ready for the next stage.

Deciding to love.

With a gentle smile on her lips, Lightning reached out over the table towards her lover and tenderly cupped his chin. The smile on her lips widened ever so slightly with affection at his surprise, and she moved in to brush her lips against his cheek before he could say anything.

"Wh-whuh?" Squall stammered in confusion as his face lit up like a lantern.

"That was embarrassing." Lightning mumbled as she buried her equally rosy cheeks against his neck.

"…whatever." Squall muttered when he finally got over the pleasant shock. His arm snaked around his lover's waist, supporting her as she moved to his side, and pulled her closer. Though his heart raced when the one he loved was curled up against him, Squall still whispered to her softly, "I'm sorry."

Her embrace tightened.

"I know."

"I honestly didn't know."

"I know."

"I'll pay more attention next year."

She shook her head and smiled to herself wryly; it was a start.

Still…

"Do you truly not know when your birthday is?"

"I-…I think Ellone would know. Or Matron."

Lightning snorted.

"That's silly."

It was also something she'd have to change.

Squall's brows knitted again. "That's-!"

"I'm sorry, too."

"…"

It was unfair. Lightning always seemed to know when to strike just to render him speechless.

"…whatever."

"You're still sleeping down here, Squall." Lightning reminded as she finally pulled away from him to gaze affectionately into his eyes.

"I know." There was no regret or protest in his voice.

Molding herself back into the warmth of his body, Lightning whispered to him softly. "But I'm staying down here with you."

"The bed too big for one?"

"I got one enough for two for a reason." She told him with a tired yawn. "And unless you're willing to carry me back, I don't see how I'll be sleeping there with how cozy I am here."

"…I like sleeping with you, too." Squall admitted.

Lightning rolled her eyes half-heartedly before pecking her lover's lips. She gave him points for being so direct where she couldn't be, but, "No hanky-panky tonight. I'm tired, you're tired, and we both can agree that sleep is our esuna."

"That wasn't what I-" Came Squall's knee-jerk reaction to defend himself before abruptly giving up. "Whatever."

He set his magazine down before pulling the blanket over the both of them. It was a futile gesture, he knew, and he would be proven right again when he woke up blanket-less next to a cocooned Lightning Farron, but he found himself accepting this as part of loving such a demanding woman.

Lightning decided that she and Squall were in stage three, and they'd both do this together.

Just as her idiot decided to love her despite their differences, she, too, decided that she could love this idiot.

Forever and more.

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A/N: I'm no psychologist or relationship therapist. This idea did come from one of the latter, though. I honestly didn't believe much of what she said, but there are some truths to her words. I was gonna put this in SCE so that it will finally have an update, but the lack of boinking, implied or otherwise, meant that this doesn't even have a place in the M-section…

On an entirely different note, Bravely Default is such an awesome game. I had this brief idea of turning Tiz into Dissidia's WoL until I remembered where WoL came from according to DDFF Lore... darn it!

Anyways, finite. Until next time!