Disclaimer: I don't own Final Fantasy.
Notes: HOW MANY TIMES WILL THIS STORY CHANGE ITS NAME?! *slaps story with a SSBM fan repeatedly* Stop doing that, you! *whap whap whap*
Warnings: All of my usual warnings still apply.
Canti followed her father up to the front door of the Highwind Manor. She could barely remember the last time she'd ever come here. A lot of her memories were a tad fuzzy, but Leviathan did mention that was typical given the head injury she had sustained. She fixed her glasses for what felt like the millionth time as he pushed it open. There were no more servants or extra staff in the manor. Made it feel incredibly empty. Canti stared straight up at the gigantic chandelier above, how it lacked the shining that reminded her of the twinkling stars so many times before. The place smelled of dust. Just... how long had she been gone, exactly?
"Welcome home," Kain said, stepping into the main foyer.
"Kain!" Canti shouted happily, racing over to him to hug him so tightly that it was like he was being tackled. "I'm so glad to see you!"
"I'm just glad you're home," he said, gripping to her just as tight. "Looks like the plan worked. I'm glad I told Leviathan to do exactly what you needed." He felt an overwhelming sense of relief as he held onto her as she planted a kiss on his forehead. His eyes watered just a little, but no tears slid down his cheeks. "Forgive me for being unable-"
"Kain..." she said in a very scolding tone of voice. "...don't blame yourself. I was the stupid one, I led us both into danger. I thought we could..."
"Nonsense," he whispered. "It is my duty as your personal guard to see you safe... I will follow you through every layer of Hell without hesitation. I don't even have to think about it."
"That's stupid," she answered, pulling back away from him.
"What?" he gasped.
"If you're really my guardian, you should probably insist that what I'm doing might be dangerous," Canti said bluntly. "You didn't even bother telling me anything like that. I grabbed my spear, you grabbed yours, and that was that."
Kain cocked his head to the side. "Why, so you can ignore me and just go and do it regardless of what I say?"
"If you had been hesitant, I might have listened."
"That's not something you tend to do."
She used her left hand to lightly thwack him on the head. "You're right, but I should be listening to those who care about me more than I do. Honestly, cousin, I... I'm sorry I'm so stubborn."
"I should have protected you better," Kain muttered.
Cid nodded as he passed them having their reunion, sneaking back into the family room to access the Sphere terminal. There was quite a bit to work on, now that the family was back together. As he listened in on their conversation, he understood a lot more about those two than he did previously. Based on Canti's observations, he went with her without protesting, which meant that he wanted to enact revenge. It wasn't something that Kain would openly admit to - revenge was something that Richard highly regarded as something base and character defiling. Right now he was trying to separate himself from the image of his father left on him. And Canti, learned to be cautious, or at least at tad bit more than she had been before. He reached for the file that Leviathan had given him. "Hey, you two," he said, turning back to look at them.
"Yes, Papa?" Canti came over to where he was seated and Kain followed her a tad slower.
"Don't go outside the fence," he said. "Kain, no matter how much she says she wants to go somewhere else - the answer is no. Understood?"
"I don't want to go anywhere," Canti said. "Who knows what kind of trouble might start?"
"Good attitude to have," Cid said with a nod.
Kain took her hand and motioned towards upstairs. "We did set your room up while waiting for you."
"Not that all my stuff is here. I bet a lot of it was destroyed when. Well. You know."
"Not as much as you might think," he said, trying to be encouraging. "At least come and see it?"
"If you want me to come and see it that badly, I should," she said with a shrug.
Canti let Kain lead her to the room where she stayed the last time she slept over in the manor. It made sense that they'd repurpose it to be her room, now that she thought about it. It wasn't being used for anything before. He gestured for her to turn the doorknob, and she did. Canti knew that Kain wanted her to be happy with it. Even if he wasn't saying anything, she could read the way he was standing there with that dumb look on his face. She'd seen it in others before a few times - when they expected her to be a certain way. She was grateful knowing that despite all the things going on right now that he'd go out of his way to make sure she had something nice to come home to, but it was difficult for her to muster up even half a smile.
"What are you waiting for?" Kain asked.
"I've got a lot on my mind right now," Canti answered, not really wanting to go into all the things in the back of her mind. She couldn't help but let her mind go through what she told her friends back in the hospital, and recount Hikari's look of absolute desperation. She was horrified to hear those things. Was Canti really the only one to put things together? Certainly her friends were smart enough to figure it out! "I'm sorry, cousin, I-"
"You don't need to explain anything to me. We've... you've been through so much."
"You had it right the first time," she said as she reached over to place her other hand on his shoulder. "We both have been through a lot."
"I still feel it sometimes," Kain muttered. "The... electricity that ran along my nerves, similar yet so different from the usual sparks that keep us moving."
She couldn't handle him going into that. She wasn't ready to talk about that. So instead of hesitating further, she turned the knob to open the door and stepped into her new room. Canti stepped into it, noticing that many of her things from her old room were here, too. The baskets she hung up on the wall, the hammock full of most of her plush toys accumulated over the years, her bed was the same size and almost made up the same way. "Hey," she said. "It really isn't that different from the old place, huh?"
"I want you to be as home here at the Manor as I am," Kain said. "So I went and collected things that I could, and..."
"But shouldn't you have been in recovery?"
"Yeah, but I can't stand being in bed all the time," he answered. "I hate that. Have to keep moving. Keep the... thoughts of out of my head..."
She gasped as she turned to face him, suddenly clinging to him with all her might. "No, no, I understand. I- I really do..." Tears streamed down her face, landing on his shoulders.
"I won't let anyone else hurt you," Kain said, returning the affection. He put his forehead against hers. "They can sear my insides with magic all they like, I'll take it. I'll endure anything for you."
"Don't feel responsible for me," she said quietly.
"But I have to. That's my role now," he replied.
"What do you mean?"
"I'm not going to be the Grand Dragoon. I don't want to be Leviathan's puppet like my father was. There's... more to life than just keeping the peace."
"...won't the system come crumbling down if-"
"Let it." He pulled back enough so he could wipe the tears from her eyes. "When you were gone, all I could think of was you. All I wanted was to have you near me again. My instincts tell me that I should use all my power to protect you. I love you, Canti."
"I realize you might have someone else by now, and I accept that if you do. I'll be at your side even if you do."
She shook her head. "I know someone that has a crush, but... no, I'm not interested in anyone." Canti bit her lip as she realized that he might take that the wrong way. "Else, I mean. Anyone else."
"If you don't love me, just say so. I won't be mad about it."
"It's almost like you don't want me to."
"It's easy to be intimidated by something like love," he whispered.
She shook her head. "At least I know that if I'm intimidated by it, I'll have you here to make me feel that much safer."
He chuckled. He always did have an appreciation for her sense of humor. Must have been all that time living with Cid - his father wasn't the type to laugh about much of anything, even if things were actually funny. His mother tried to bring a smile to his father's face many times over the years, but as time went along, she stopped bothering with it. It made her grow that much more distant from him. Kain decided that he would much rather be laughing in life and enjoying himself, than not. "You will," he said to reassure her.
Canti stepped away for a moment. "I know there's going to be a lot to adjust to now," she said quietly. "Life isn't going to be the same."
"You don't have anything to be afraid of."
"I'm not afraid," she said, walking over to see that the bookshelf Cid built for her all on his own was there. She found it odd that every single book was put in the exact order she kept them in. "Kain, I don't think even you payed attention to every single detail in my room to know the exact way I organized my books."
"I didn't. I just put the books on the shelf. I just wanted to make sure everything was there."
"But how would you have known the way that I sorted them?" she asked. "These are in my exact order. Did Papa help you with this?"
She blinked as she stared at it. "That doesn't make any sense at all," she insisted.
"Isn't it a good thing that your books are in the order you prefer them to be?" Kain asked. "This means you don't have to reorder them yourself. It saves you time."
"The chances of you managing to organize my bookshelf in the exact way that I had it back home are so high... You didn't spend a lot of time in my room," Canti said, putting her hands on the heavy black cover of her favorite Choose-Your-Own adventure book, Undertale. She pulled it out, and as she opened it, the book let out a little crack the same way it always had when she read it before. She turned a few sheets to find a stain on the title page. The last time she read it, she was eating dragon meat pizza. This was her book, yes. But why did it feel so out of place?
"What's wrong?" he asked.
She put the book back. "A lot of things."
"Tell me about them so I can-"
"You can't do anything about this," she said. "And if I'm perfectly honest, I'd rather you not get hurt at all, Kain."
Kain went back to the door and closed it before looking back at her. He was grateful now more than ever that none of the house staff were around, which meant that upstairs they had utmost privacy. "Canti, can you really keep me from hurting when I am acting as the wall between you and the world?" he asked as he came to her side. They both sat on the edge of her bed. "Your father told me that I should break away from being the Grand Dragoon because he knew the weight of that position drove my father to becoming little more than Leviathan's errand boy. I don't care if I was being raised to fill that position. I will help you accomplish whatever it is that you set out to do. I don't care what it is. I will help you. Break every law this land has, and I will defend you as you do it."
"K-Kain... I... I can't let you..."
"Tell me what's on your mind. Please."
She sighed, looking away from him. "We're going past the barrier," she whispered. "We're going to the land outside."
"All right. We're going to the land outside, but if I may be allowed to inquire... why?"
"What little I remember about the things that happened with the Senator," she started to explain, "He wanted to break the barrier and go outside. That he had seen in his dreams a land that glittered of gold wherein he was the Emperor, and he knew that it existed. He was convinced it was real, even more real than this world. Uncle Richard went to stop him because all of the Warriors of the Water defend us from the evil that lurks out there." She took in a deep breath, looking around her room at other things she was sure wouldn't have survived a house invasion, knowing that something was off. There was a glass Mysidian Rabbit on one of the bookshelves. That thing was so fragile that if it was ever toppled, it would shatter. It was one of those things she was never allowed to play with because of that. How did that survive being knocked over?
"Yes. I had been training for that exact purpose."
"I've had dreams of the outside. Places that I know I've been. Things I know that I've done. My body remembers it all."
"Mmm. As have I," Kain confessed.
"I was older, oddly enough, but... that doesn't matter," she said, shrugging. "The point is, the world outside holds all my answers. Why I wasn't given a purpose to study for at Garden. Why I have to know Ancient Mysidian, why I have to study how to use Bard songs even if I find it frivolous and pointless in the effort to protect the people around me... I'm tired of just following directions. I need to know."
"...I don't want you to just blindly follow me. You followed your father your entire life, and I know you're looking for your own answers, but-"
Kain put his hand up for a moment and chuckled again. "Allowing myself to love you the way I do is the first decision I've ever made myself," he said, reaching over to ruffle her curly blue hair. "I've always envied you and your way of being able to be outside the box that continuing the legacy held me in my whole life."
"All I've ever wanted was to be a part of something," she said, leaning into him.
"You are now," he replied softly, using one of his arms to wrap around her.
"Thank you," she said as she nestled her head into his shoulder. Kain noticed how tired she was, so he moved just a bit so her head landed in his lap. She yawned and adjusted the glasses on her nose. "Hey. What are you-"
"You want to lie down."
"No, I don't," she said.
"I heard you yawn."
She looked up at him, staring into his wonderfully deep blue eyes. How, when he leaned over to look into her eyes, his face was framed by his falling blonde hair that he usually kept in a ponytail. It was something she'd seen before. "You're so beautiful."
"You are more beautiful than I."
"Hardly," Canti said. "Can I ask you a question?"
"Of course you can."
"You say you love me."
"In a way that isn't just between family."
"When we're adults, would you want to marry me?"
He blushed profusely. "I-if y-y-you'd have me! O-of course I would!"
She giggled just a bit, reaching up to cup her hand around her face. "Now that I know how that's going to work, I don't have to be scared of it."
"You were afraid to get married?"
"Yes... didn't you say something to the man that tortured us, how I was engaged to someone?"
"Oh that. Right." Kain nodded. "I did kind of force someone to accept your hand, but he doesn't want to get married anyway. It was before I was able to accept my feelings for you. I needed to have you protected by someone I knew would take care of you. Someone that understood exactly how to handle you."
"...who did you force to accept being engaged to me?"
"Minwu. He's the closest person I have that could possibly regarded as a friend."
"Oh shut up. He IS your friend."
"But I know he doesn't want to get married or have children."
"Is that something you want?"
Kain felt heat rush through him upon hearing that. He bit his lip, trying not to think about it. How he could have had her against naked against him, caressing every inch of her skin, feeling their hearts beat together as they rode to the rythym of their bodies... he couldn't help but imagine what her moans sounded like, how the sounds of her sighs of relief would echo through his mind. "I wouldn't force the issue," he said. "But if you wanted children, I would be more than happy to start a family with you." He reached over to run his fingers through his hair, eventually deciding to lie down next to her.
"I don't," she muttered. "I don't want to be responsible for not messing up another human being. I don't even know who my birth parents are, or-"
"It doesn't matter who they are," Kain said sternly. "I'm glad they didn't want you."
"Because if they kept you, who knows if I'd even know you at all? They gave you up! They don't deserve you, Canti."
"...I know it hurts to hear that. I don't know what it's like to be adopted, to go through the orphanage. I shouldn't have said that. Forgive me for being so harsh."
"No, no," she said, propping herself up on one of her arms. "Who needs a birth family that doesn't want me, when I have you and Papa Cid who do? Who needs..." Her eyes burned again and she took off her glasses despite not being able to see without them.
"Wait, no, I didn't mean to-" He sat back up. "Forgive me, I should have thought before speaking."
"...why didn't they want me?" she asked through her tears, falling against him in a desperate sob.
"I wish I had an answer, so I could tell them exactly why they were full of shit," Kain said, feeling his own tears form. "You are worth keeping, you are worth loving."
She cried into his chest, and he held onto her as he let his own silent tears fall.