Notes: Contains spoilers for Lightning Returns (duh) as well as content from the novel.
Lightning was a sexy sleeper.
Hope discovered this about his longtime friend not long after finally reuniting with her in the new world. One would think that having known her for so long and adventuring alongside her, he would have discovered this fact long ago, however it wasn't until times of peace that Hope had the opportunity to witness Lightning truly at rest. The woman had rarely closed her eyes back when they'd been l'Cie running from danger at every turn, but now that they had finally—finally—run out of enemies to fight, Hope was seeing a whole new side of the tough as nails soldier girl. The side that enjoyed taking naps on his couch.
Lightning was like a cat, Hope soon learned. She was standoffish and mistrustful around people she didn't know, but while in the presence of those she trusted—really trusted—she became quite relaxed. Few people knew this about her, however, as the list of people who fell into this category was an exceptionally short one. Truthfully, Hope wasn't sure if that list included any names other than Serah's and his own, and he counted himself very lucky to have claimed a spot so near to her heart. However, a relaxed Lightning could be a very difficult Lightning to share a room with as all modesty seemed to flee the premises whenever they were alone together.
The ex-soldier spent much of her free time at his place keeping him company while he sorted through his research and perused heavy new world historical tomes and wrote reports on his findings and ate dinner and vacuumed his living room and… Well, she pretty much always found an excuse to be over at his place. According to her, she just felt more comfortable around him than she did around their other friends—she had spent thirteen straight days attached to him by wireless communicator, after all. She claimed that she had simply grown used to having him around. Hope personally theorized that after centuries of living in isolation in Valhalla she just enjoyed having someone to keep her company. Whatever the case, her professed comfort in his presence clearly wasn't a lie. Hope had lost count of the number of times he'd looked up from his work after several hours' dedicated devotion only to find her snoozing on his living room sofa, her soft blouse fastened by only a single button in the middle leaving both the bottom and top gaping open and treating his eyes to a seductive show of milky flesh.
Lightning Farron was beautiful enough to rival any goddess—and indeed, she would've made a splendid one, though Hope outright and unbudgingly refused to entertain that particular line of thought. In Hope's mind, no other woman would ever come close to matching Lightning's artistry. It both pleased and pained him that she didn't particularly feel the need to cover herself while in his presence. He loved the show but he wondered if her disregard for modesty while in his presence meant that she didn't see him as a sexual creature. Perhaps in her mind he was still just her fourteen year old little brother; the boy who adored her unconditionally but would never dream of harboring fantasies more mature than a fond peck on the cheek.
Hope had never been what one would call libidinous. After the fall of cocoon, he had been too busy helping humanity adjust to life on Gran Pulse to spare much thought to girls or dating. And, in fact, after everything he'd been through, the girls he met simply didn't hold much interest for him. Having been on a journey so spectacular, he'd lost the common ground he'd once shared with his peers. He simply had nothing to talk about with them. Indeed, the only people he could have a stimulating conversation with after the Fall had been the other ex-l'Cie who had shared his adventure, his father, and a few of the ex-PSICOM soldiers who had taken up the rebuilding effort. As the years passed, he'd become more and more involved with his studies, and not long after that, research took over his life. Some part of him must have figured that he'd have time to date and extend his social life after he'd rescued his friends from inside the crystal pillar that supported cocoon, but the years continued to pass him by, and aside from a scattering of polite dinner dates with female colleagues, he estranged himself from the dating scene.
Sometimes he'd wondered if he was broken. His lack of a romantic life was a mystery to all who knew him. How could he pass twenty-seven years without ever taking a woman to bed, they wondered. And he did too. Why did the idea of women and dating and sex not appeal to him like it did his peers? It mystified him for the longest time. Before he'd been branded, he'd had crushes on girls the same as any other adolescent boy, but somewhere along the line, that had changed. One night, as he'd lain in bed pondering the matter, his mind returned to his days as a l'Cie and fighting alongside his friends and Lightning, and as he pictured those days in his mind—as he pictured her in his mind—his chest tightened and his stomach coiled and he knew.
None of those women were Lightning. None of those women were what his heart and body ached for. And wasn't it just his luck that his whole being was devoted to a woman who, at the time, had been completely and possibly eternally out of his reach.
Now, after a thousand years of researching and fighting and leading and suffering and being tortured and manipulated at the hands of a tyrannical god at the end of a dying world, Lightning was finally here with him again, snoozing on his sofa with her hands sprawled lazily over her head and her shirt wide open and all she had to say for herself was, "You've seen me in kitty ears and a bustier, I have nothing left to hide from you."
He pushed himself off the floor by his bookshelf where he'd been sitting and analyzing his own research against another prominent scientist's and padded over to the couch where the rose-haired beauty slumbered. He plopped down on the carpet in front of the large piece of furniture and leaned his back against it. He laid his cheek on the armrest next to Lightning's head and observed her quietly for a few minutes, watching her chest rise and fall and her breath disturb the few rogue strands of hair that fell over her face.
"I think that Miqo'te outfit suited you better than you thought it did," he told her sleeping form quietly. "I wonder... If I were to pet you right now—"
"I'm not going to start purring," Lightning said, startling him. He'd been sure she was fast asleep. "But nice try."
"Ah, you're awake," he commented, not bothering to lift his head from the armrest.
"Seems so," she agreed, watching him lazily. "What time is it?"
Hope glanced at the clock on the wall across the room. "Six."
Lightning smiled slightly. "Oh, good. I made my curfew."
Hope's own lips turned up at her small stab at humor. He quietly loved this part of Lightning; the part that was dry and witty and only came out to play when she was feeling truly at ease. "That's AM, not PM," he reminded her with an amused smile. "Not that you can't stay until then, if you want, but Serah might have a problem with you not returning home."
Lightning grunted. "Serah knows I'm here. She won't be worried."
It was very curious, Hope thought, how Lightning was always finding excuses to spend time at his pace rather than the house she shared with her sister and Snow. "I'd think you'd want to spend time with Serah after finally getting to be with her again. Isn't that what you always wanted?" he questioned.
Lightning shrugged. "I'm happy enough just seeing her every day and knowing that she's safe," she admitted. "Besides, I want to give her and Snow a little extra space, considering..." She trailed off meaningfully.
Hope's eyes widened slightly in realization. Had he been younger, he might have blushed. "I see. That's kind of you," he said, a little shocked that Lightning would go out of her way to give her sister and Snow the green light.
As if reading his mind, Lightning said, "I guess...after everything that's happened, they deserve to be happy together."
Hope nodded thoughtfully and let his mind wander briefly to Lightning's younger sister and the giant of a man he'd once loathed to the point of wanting to kill in cold blood. So much had changed since back then. Both of them had become irreplaceable friends to the young scientist. "I'm happy for them," he said. And really, he was.
Lightning grunted noncommittally, but Hope knew that she'd long since changed her view on her sister's relationship with the large fist-fighter.
"But what about you?" he asked, curious. "Don't you think Serah wants you to find happiness as well? She's not going to be happy if she finds out you're escaping to my place just to give her some space."
Lightning actually smirked at this, and Hope was thrown by such an unexpected expression crossing the stoic ex-soldier's face. "Serah is convinced that you and I are involved in some torrid love affair. She's positively ecstatic about me spending time here."
This time Hope did blush. "What? Seriously?" The thought that Serah might think of his relationship with Lightning...that way was positively mortifying. If that was the case, how was he ever going to be able to look the younger Farron in the face again?
Lightning rolled her eyes. "Unfortunately, yes. She's legitimately expecting me to come home and reveal that I'm pregnant any day now.
Hope lifted his head off the couch so that he could hide his face in his hands. Serah thought that? Really? Did Snow think that too? Did everyone think that? Oh lord. Why hadn't Lightning mentioned this before? What did she think about it? Well, she couldn't be bothered that much, since she still continued to hang out at his place, but... "Why would she think that?" he asked finally. He really wanted to know what could've given Serah the impression that he and Lightning were sleeping together.
To Hope's astonishment, Lightning's cheeks reddened slightly. "I...may have made a comment suggesting that you would be a better father than Snow."
Hope's face reddened again, though he was flattered by the compliment. However, he was still confused. "But how would that translate to us having a 'torrid love affair'?" he asked, not seeing her logic.
Lightning embarrassedly turned her head to hide her face in the back of the couch. When she spoke again, her voice was flat. "I may have also said something about preferring to have your children over any of our other shared male associates."
Hope had previously thought there was a limit to the amount of blood that could be contained in a person's face, but he strongly suspected that limit had just been broken. Was that how Lightning actually felt? Did she consider him a good match or had she just been making a dig at Snow?
"Just how long ago did this conversation happen, exactly?" he asked. Of course is real inquiry pertained to how long his friends had been under the impression that he was screwing Lightning... or probably more realistically, vice versa.
Lightning didn't remove her face from the couch cushions. "About three months."
Hope blanched. Three months? Oh god. Bhunivelze come back and take him now. He'd go willingly. "You didn't correct her?" he asked incredulously.
"Of course I tried," Lightning responded grumpily. "But Serah's not one to give up on a juicy notion so easily." She paused for a long moment, but Hope got the impression that she still had something to say, so he waited. When Lightning spoke again, her voice was softer and almost a little timid sounding. "Besides," she continued, "this way, if I ever did come home pregnant, at least nobody would be surprised."
Lightning's softly spoken confession shocked Hope so much that he swiftly scrambled to his knees and turned around to face her, though her face was still hidden in the couch. "Wha–what? You mean you'd...with me...you'd..." Words deserted his flustered brain. She couldn't possibly be implying what it sounded like she was implying.
Lightning turned away from the cushions to look at him earnestly. "It's not that I'm saying I would," she declared, her embarrassment clear on her red face. "Maybe I'm just fine with never doing...that," she said defensively, like this was something that had been brought up more than once to her. "Just that if I ever did do it, you...wouldn't be such a bad option...is all I'm saying." Her face was so flushed, she could convincingly pass for a flanbanero. "But don't think that means anything! It's pretty clear that you don't feel that way about me, and I wouldn't want to ruin what we have anyway, so..."
Hope grabbed her hands and clasped them tightly in his own. Before his brain could catch up with his mouth, he passionately proclaimed, "I would be honored to father your children."
Lightning's eyes opened wide and she looked at him like he'd suddenly grown two more heads. Only then did Hope realize exactly what he'd said. "Ah! I mean, no-! I mean, not no, but, you know...I think...no, no..." Hope had always prided himself on being articulate, but the train of his thoughts had derailed and was now speeding toward a grisly end. "I'm sorry," he apologized, hanging his head in shame.
Lightning's hands flexed in his grip and Hope realized that he was still holding them. He quickly let go, not wanting to further incur her wrath. Lightning cleared her throat and looked away from him shyly. "Well...that got really awkward really fast," she remarked.
"Yeah," he agreed, wishing the blood in his cheeks would hurry up and return to the rest of his body. At least Lighting's face matched.
They were both silent for a couple minutes, neither knowing what to say after such an embarrassing string of confessions. Finally, Lightning broke the silence. "This is my fault. I shouldn't have told you that."
Hope shook his head vigorously. "No, no! I was the one who pried." He swallowed thickly and added, "And I'm a little bit glad you did, truthfully. It's probably better to be open about...things."
Lightning examined him for a moment and then nodded, agreeing with him. "You're right. There's no point in being dishonest or hiding things from each other. If there's something to say, we should just come out and say it." She followed this with an earnest look. It was a look that told Hope that she was going somewhere with this statement.
He smiled encouragingly. "There are some things in life you just do, right?"
Lightning nodded again, and the faintest of smiles lifted the corners of her own mouth. "That's right. So I'm going to be honest and say what I feel," she stated, fixing her gaze on his. "Hope, you're my partner. You're the only person apart from my sister who's ever stood at my side." She closed her eyes and took a breath before opening them again and continuing. "And you're the only man I want there."
It was a barefaced confession that Hope had never dared to dream to hear from her, and it took a moment for her words to sink in. When they did, though, Hope did not stumble to grasp their meaning. She wanted him. Lightning wanted him. She couldn't have said it any clearer.
Hope didn't think his heart had ever felt so full. This woman...this beautiful, strong, amazing woman whom he had yearned for and searched for and waited for, even when all of their friends had found her except for him, wanted him by her side. Just him. "Light..." he started, but she cut him off.
"I'm not trying to push you into anything, Hope," she assured him. "Given our history, I know this probably seems kind of weird, so—"
Hope grinned widely and stopped her by leaning down and wrapping his arms around her. His smile only grew when she let him without any resistance. "There's nowhere else I'd rather be," he said, pressing his cheek to hers. "You have to know that. Ever since I was fourteen years old, you're the woman I strove to stand beside. Never once did you stop being the most important person in my life."
Lightning's arms hesitantly came to rest on his back. Her touch was light and unsure. "Hope, I...I had no idea you felt that way," she confessed. "I knew you looked up to me, but I didn't think..."
"That's because you're a foolish woman who always keeps her eyes front," he teased, tightening his hold around her. "You didn't spare any thought to the rear."
Lightning's grip on his back tightened as well. "I didn't have to worry about the rear because you were there."
"That's right. I was," he said lowly.
"I'm sorry. I should have paid better attention," she apologized.
Hope released his hold and eased out of her grip to sit back on his heels so that he could look at her face. "You did everything you could back then to look out for me and keep me safe. I could never ask for more." He reached forward and cupped her cheek in his palm, watching her gemstone eyes fondly.
Lightning covered his hand with her own. She glanced away in thought for a moment, and when she looked back at him again, her expression was dusted with guilt. "I made you suffer over and over and over again, didn't I."
He certainly couldn't deny it. Chasing Lightning had been painful far more than it had been pleasing—being made to think that she had died, that she'd been trapped in crystal with Vanille and Fang; learning that she was trapped in another realm where he could never reach her; dealing with her disappearance after the influx of chaos into the mortal realm; living for too many years haunted by a phantom with her likeness; suffering thirteen long days of finally being able to interact with her, but only at the ends of a mad god's puppet strings; talking with her as himself for the first time in a thousand years only to say goodbye; knowing that he was the last person to meet her after they all arrived in the new world... It was hard. It was hard and painful and sometimes it hurt so much that he could hardly stand it. But... "It was worth it," he said honestly. "I would do it all again."
Lightning smiled beautifully and clasped his hand with both of hers, nuzzling her cheek deeper into his palm. She looked satisfied. Hope felt warmth flood his chest.
"So, where do we go from here?" she questioned, looking up at him with warmth of her own in her gaze.
"You could unbutton that last button," he suggested, wiggling his eyebrows.
Lightning's expression blanked. She stared up at him unblinkingly for a good several seconds, then suddenly her eyes crinkled at the edges and she let go of his hand to let out a choked laugh into her fist.
"What?" he said, confused by her reaction. That was certainly not the reaction he'd been expecting.
Lightning smiled up at him. "Sorry, it's just that I kept dressing like this to get a reaction out of you and it's been months and I'd all but given up and only now are you finally saying something."
Hope's eyes widened. "Wait, what?" he exclaimed. "You mean you've been intentionally trying to seduce me this whole time?"
Lightning rolled her eyes. "You think women just naturally fall asleep in sexy positions?" She huffed. "You wish."
"And that's the story of how you were conceived," Hope finished, smiling down at his one-year-old daughter who now lay peacefully slumbering in her crib. "Ow!" he yelped as his wife punched him hard in the shoulder.
"I was wrong," she muttered as she dragged him by his arm out of the baby's room. "You're a terrible father."
Haha, so this was meant to go in my Hoperai minific collection, Tales From the New World, but it got way too long.
I hope you enjoyed it! Leave me a comment and I'll dedicate a skittle from my tropical explosion pack to you. Mmmm. Such honor.