Not Quite An Ending
A nurse lifted the newborn from Lightning's breast and held him out to me. I snuggled his swaddled form, face still moist. Even though I was now holding him, Lightning lifted her tired arm to touch the top of his head. We'd been in awe of him for the past couple of minutes, not wanting to rush to the waiting room. I was more interested in admiring my son and being amazed by my wife. Everyone else would meet him soon enough.
"He has your father's hair." She stroked at the little brown wisps that clung to his forehead. "Should we name him Bartholomew? I think that'll make him happy." She looked up and gave me an exhausted smile. "I bet he and Serah are restless out there. She seems more excited about our kid than hers. Saying it's her turn to finally babysit. Like I'm ever gonna let this little guy out of my sight."
The baby considered crying, stretching his limbs and scrunching his face. Then he opened his eyes. They were grey, as some infants' are. But I knew with certainty they would ultimately turn blue, just like his mother's. Blue, completely Farron eyes. Brown, entirely Estheim hair.
I finally understood why she'd trusted him, of all people. Just like she'd dreamt of me, she'd dreamt of our child.
"You know, if you're ok with it, I have another name in mind," I said before kissing the top of Noel's head.
Lightning slowly descended almost as if suspended in the air. As she approached the ground, she felt her skin tighten and her muscles knot in place. Her world went black.
She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Her fingertips flexed involuntarily and she observed them. Hearing the padding of footsteps in the grass, she turned to see Hope approaching her. Had they all survived defeating Orphan?
For some reason, Hope captured all of her attention. His nose was adorably petite in his round face. His hair was long and wild. A breeze blew across the plains, causing his fringe to get into his eyes. He momentarily bent over to shake out his mane. Blades of grass and crystal dust fell from it. When he stood back up, he swished his hair out of the way with his hand. The wind brought with it a smell that she couldn't place, but felt comforted by. As he jogged closer, she realized the earthy fragrance wasn't anything particular to Pulse, but Hope himself.
She wanted to use her newly mobile limbs to reach out and pull him close. They'd survived, but she'd continue to keep him safe.
He looked up at her, eager to say something. Had his eyes always been that shade of green? Always near, always at the ready, he'd been her partner. He'd offered companionship, but she'd never truly believed they'd make it out alive. No. He would have; she'd promised him that. What she'd never anticipated was them reaching the end together.
Whatever expression she gave must've been the confirmation he was waiting for. Slipping his arms around her lower back, pressing his cheek to her chest, he hugged her tightly. All of the tension in her muscles released. She found it easy to slide her fingers past his ears and into the tangles of his hair.
"We made it," he said.
"Now's not the time for an 'I told you so.'"
Again, he glanced up at her. Up. He had to look upward to meet her eyes.
He was short.
"You sure are a tiny son of a bitch, aren't you?"
The tips of his ears grew red from embarrassment and anger.
"I won't always be. My dad is pretty tall." Before he could truly become cross, he noticed his wrist. "My brand, it's gone!"
Quickly, the return of Serah and Dajh provided another distraction. After their various reunions, Snow reminded the group of his vow to Serah. When Lightning gave her approval without punches, Sazh was unable to hold his tongue.
"'Congrats?' When did you warm up to weddings? I thought you'd tell him to wait 'til they were older."
"Age shouldn't dictate how you feel about someone," she answered.
Hope turned to look at her. He was filled with innocent curiosity, surprised to hear his own words in reference to Snow. Walking backwards, he stumbled on a rock trying to keep up with the group.
"Careful." Automatically, she reached out before he fully tripped. His youthful tendencies still got the better of him, l'Cie or not. Serah had already outgrown childishness. Hope would do the same in a matter of years. Though some playfulness would remain. When the pain they'd gone through had numbed, he'd smile more. His laughter would return. Lightning was certain of it.
"You can let go now," he whispered, cupping his hands over hers where they still gripped his hips.
She did as she was told. The two of them fell out of pace with the others. He'd felt so small, though he was the same size he'd always been. Discreetly trying to measure his height, she ran her fingertips over the top of his head. A spark, so explosive it singed his hair, startled the both of them. Neither of them thought much of it.
A Note From the Author:
We've finally reached the end of this two-part series.
I definitely didn't expect it would take this long. Three years. I always had intentions to follow up Eventual Destination with a sequel; I even started working on It's About Forking Time that December. I thought it would only take a couple of months just like its predecessor. But life stuff came up and this was the thing I chose to ignore. Even so, you folks kept leaving me kind reviews and following this thing. I cannot thank you enough for being patient. All of you are simply the best. I loved all of your various guesses on what the next chapters might hold. I hope I didn't disappoint you too much ;D
Also, I need to publicly thank my beta Yinuj. If you thought this story didn't make sense NOW, well, you have no idea what a mess the draft I subjected him to was like. It was missing chapters, the ones it did have were in a different order, and parts were confusing or completely irrelevant to the plot. The average person would have run for cover. He put up with screwy time travel, hideously hand drawn diagrams, and my inability to spell Caius correctly -ever-.
Most of all, once again, thank YOU for reading this!
All my love,