Chapter one

She was there – right beside him, her face shining in complete joy – her hand grasping his, running through a white field. There was no sun, trees, grass, or sky. Only Lightning and Hope were present, running together through a dense expanse of light. Her skin was matte with its porcelain features; meanwhile no sweat was there to moisten her pores. Hope's face was similar, only his eye's pigments were more vibrant, more exuberant; his lips widened to his open smile and laughter as the two paced through the nothingness. And suddenly, a blood curdling scream rang in his ears.

His field of vision panned to Lightning as the void's color of pure white transformed to a deafening pitch-black. Her face was coated in the darkest, most crimson blood- even as she smiled to him; her teeth glistened with the red liquid and the pain in her eyes was seen by the child. The pace turned into a slow motion speed and Lightning slowly fell at his side, his vision blurring and his heart thumping beneath his chest. He couldn't stop; even as he screamed as loudly as he could, his voice never reached her ears. Her silhouette began to decrease to a smaller size a Hope ran further. He turned his head facing forward, his focus deeming from Lightning. His face immediately met with a face he was more familiar with than anyone's; his mother's.

"Hope?" She asked, her body standing directly in front of her son's, simply smiling at him.

"…Mom?" Hope's confusion deepened as he gazed in awe at his mother, his tears stinging as they fell down his cheeks. His hearts' beat sounded in his brain. The sweat of his forehead trickled downward the sides of his face.

Nora's smile shone through. Hope watched his mother as her scalp suddenly began to bleed, her forehead seeping first, and then her eyelids next; her teeth began to turn red as the blood began to waterfall out from her lips. Horrified, Hope widened his eyes as his body grew numb, his vision blurring even more. She continued to smile at him, even as the blood pooled beneath her. Feeling his weakened knees give out, he fell to the floor in the puddle and shut his eyes closed.

Hope's body shot forward instantly as he gripped his chest. He frantically scanned the campsite, whose central flame had almost burned out. Standing on his knees, he then lowered his chest to crawl to the dark shadow that was Lightning's makeshift bed. Her form was not to be seen, and only the black shadow that cast upon the tree they lay under reached his vision. Hovering closer to the darkness, his heart skipped a beat as he felt an empty blanket before him.

His legs shot his body forward through a nearby bush, storming into the dense wildlife forest that surrounded them. Gran Pulse was a much larger landmass than he would have ever expected; he had no idea as to how far this forest would reach. He ran as fast as he could, his fear and adrenaline pumping through his blood, his mind retracing his dream's steps as he ran even faster. His shins began to feel slight stings of pain as he brushed his shins against flashing branches and thorns. His arms pushed away the leaves and branches in front of him; this running was useless, and only put Hope in even more danger than he was already in. He felt cold tears leave his tear ducts. He suddenly felt his arms drift through thin air, and opened his eyes more widely to view a clearing. And there Lightning was, standing at the cliffs edge, holding Serah's tear up to the brightness that was Cocoon.

"Light!" He cried, quickly hoarding his body towards her. Lightning instantly felt an alertness through her body and stood in a guarded stance. The small boy charging for her smashed his frail body against her center, pushing her backward.

"Hope, what are you doing out here?" She asked, staring down at Hope. He nuzzled his cheek against the clothing rubbing against her torso. His arms gripped her waist rather tightly, meanwhile Lightning leaving him untouched. She gripped his shoulders and pulled him back, falling to let one of her knees lean against the dirt. Lightning lifted her chin to stare upward into his eyes, noting the glistening moisture on his cheeks left behind. She took her thumbs on each hand and lightly caressed his skin where the moisture lay. His cheeks burned slightly as spots of light pink pigments appeared.

"I was just scared." He stuttered. "Um… can I see your teeth?" Lightning's brows furrowed.

"What? Why?" She questioned, keeping her puzzled look steady towards Hope.

"Just, could I… Smile, just for a second. Please."

Keeping her gaze on Hope, she forced a small giggle, opening her mouth to reveal her teeth with a smile. His face somewhat looked relieved, although Lightning still didn't know what was bothering him.

"Why did you need to see that?"

"…This is going to sound stupid." He suggested.

"I don't care. Tell me."

"I… was having a bad dream." He shrugged.


"And…" Hope continued. "I saw you get hurt. Killed, maybe. I couldn't tell." He stepped forward, circling his arms to hug her neck. "I was so scared, Light."

Lightning felt his warmth press against her body, and proceeded to return the hug. She rubbed his upper back with one hand, nestling her chin into his shoulder.

"It's okay. You know that won't happen." She comforted. "But, still. Why did you need to see my teeth?"

"So I won't have to picture them covered in blood every time I see them." He replied. Snuggled into the embrace, Hope closed his eyes in comfort. Just having her tighten her arms' grip around his tiny figure was all it took to forget a good portion of the nightmare. "But, then again, you don't… smile that often. So…" Almost immediately, Lightning pulled away from Hope and gaped at him in disbelief.

"I do too smile!"

"Then tell me. When was the last time you smiled? Seriously smiled?" She continued to stare at him, her brows furrowed and his face completely content. He held his arms at his sides. The silence that followed continued on for a few short moments, meanwhile Lightning searching through nearby memories for a legitimate reply to his question.

"This morning." She responded. Hope exhaled out of his nostrils as he painted a hopeless expression on his face, staring at Light, who simply shrugged at the reaction. Suddenly, an idea popped into his mind.

"Stay still." He commanded. Lifting his hands to her face, he directed each of his index fingers to the vertex's of her lips. Applying pressure on each side, he pulled his fingers away from each other, stretching her lips to form a smile to her face. Consequently, Lightning's cheeks burned as she began to chuckle, opening her mouth to reveal her pearly whites.

"Oh, Hope." She exasperated. Her smile remained as Hope pulled his fingers away. Realizing his intentions, she quickly pulled him into a tight embrace. She folded her arms tightly around his neck, nestling her cheek against the side of his head. His small, feeble arms found their way to her waistline. "It's just… hard to stay positive." She admitted. Hope nodded, agreeing in reply. "I'm just as scared as you are, Hope. I don't know how I could have gotten as far as you have if I were your age." Only silence followed as the two kept close in each other's arms.

"…I'm not afraid, Light." Pulling back, Lightning's expression contorted into a worried, but transfixed tone.

"You aren't?" She asked.

"No. Not when I have you." He replied sternly. Lightning sighed as she let a limp smile cross her lips. She placed both of her hands on his shoulder softly, and then leaned herself forward to gently plant a kiss on his forehead.

I'll always be yours.