Author's Note: So my first fanfic in over 5 years... It's only a oneshot but it's enough to make note of my horrid writing skills lol. I want to get back into the groove of things and build my vocabulary, but lately I have no time for it. Oh well, just an idea that has been in my head for the past few days so I wrote it out. This takes place after Hope goes off to follow Lightning after she splits from Sahz and Vanille in Final Fantasy XIII, right after Hope sits down and goes to sleep.

Enjoy~


"Mom…."

Lightning tensed her grasp on her gunblade slightly at the voice, momentarily shifting her gaze from the star-lit horizon to the silver-haired boy sleeping across from her. He shifted uneasily, still asleep, moving his head from one side to another. Lightning remained impassive, watching the boy.

"Not by a long shot," she murmured, more to herself than the boy before her.

His face contorted into a slight grimace, his frame trembling ever so slightly from time to time as he relived the nightmarish vision of his mother falling to her death in his dreams. He muttered her name over and over under his breath, his voice a mere whisper Lightning could barely hear.

Something deep within her stirred, unbidden. She forced the feeling back down and shifted the weight of the gunblade over her legs, her eyes still resting on Hope. He stirred once again, and she could've sworn she saw something glimmer at the corner of his eye, but it was gone as fast as it had appeared.

Light frowned ever so slightly. The thing within her rose again. It felt so foreign, like a feeling long forgotten, coming back to haunt her. Something she thought she wouldn't be able to feel anymore, something she had fought so long ago to repress. Lightning closed her eyes for a moment, trying to regain control as the feeling tried to tear at her mind, threatening to bring back memories she was not willing to remember. Memories of a past she had put behind her a long time ago and that she had no intentions of bringing back. This was not her…

A strange emotion invaded her before she could stop it and for a fleeting moment she found herself looking at Serah, and not Hope, just in front of her, her eyes closed, soft whimpers escaping her lips.

"Serah?" Claire whispered softly, resting a hand on her sister's pale cheek. "Serah, wake up…"

Her sister awoke with a start, a soft gasp leaving her lips, eyes wide. Upon looking at the face of her older sister, Serah relaxed and straightened on the bed, willing her heartbeat to return to its normal pace. Her face was pasty white, a cold sweat having broken on her forehead.

"Claire…" Serah whispered, relief in her voice. Claire looked at her little sister and she could see Serah's eyes gleaming as she fought an unwanted sadness away. Claire reached with a hand and gently stroked Serah's hair away from her eyes.

"Mom and dad?" Claire asked, staring hard into her young sister's eyes.

Serah stared back at Claire for a moment, her baby blue eyes swimming with a plethora of emotions she was trying hard to contain, but she was not strong… she was not as strong as Claire.

She gave a soft sniffle and nodded, lowering her head to hide the tears tugging at her eyes from her sister, her hands balling into fists around the bed sheets.

"They… they are not coming back…" Serah whispered, her voice breaking, "Are they?"

Claire's eyes softened and she reached a hand behind her sister's head, gently pulling her into an embrace. Serah suppressed a gasp at the sudden gesture, but gave into the embrace, wrapping her arms around Claire in a tight hug.

Ever since the illness took both their parents, Claire had immediately suppressed her own emotions, unwilling to let them take hold of her. She had steeled herself, locked her own feelings away to try and be strong for the both of them. They were the only family they had left.

Even at her young age of 15, Claire was already acting as a mother for Serah, taking care of her, listening to her, cooking for her… Claire had done everything she could to give a sense of normalcy to their broken little family despite the deep pain and sadness encasing her own heart. She had sacrificed her own life, her own childhood, and her own emotions for the sake of pulling Serah through it, through the loss, through the sadness, though the pain…

To make Serah happy, to see her smiling again… Claire sacrificed her own smile.

Serah gave a soft sob, nothing but the sound of the rain against the window and her own sniffling filling the darkened room. Thunder rumbled outside, and lightning cracked across the darkened sky, filling the room with light momentarily. Serah trembled unwillingly, digging her face into the nape of Claire's neck with a soft whimper. Claire eased herself onto Serah's bed, leaning against the wall and pulling her little sister closer to her.

"I'm here, Serah…" Claire said reassuringly, " I know mom and dad are not here… but I'll take care of you."

Serah nodded against Claire's shoulder, tears streaming down her young, rose tinted cheeks.

"I will join the military…" Claire whispered to her sister. "Once I turn 16, I'll join the Guardian Corps of Cocoon. I will train hard."

Serah paused her sniffling at this, blinking against the tears furiously as lightning still soared across the sky outside.

"I will become strong," Claire continued, her soft voice suddenly filled with determination, "I will train hard and protect you. Like…. like lightning."

Serah turned her tearstained face to look at her sister, eyes still gleaming with tears. "But… but lightning…" Serah mumbled, as light filled the room again and she trembled, "…lightning is scary…."

Claire nodded. Lightning cannot protect, she thought to herself… "But it can destroy…"

Serah cocked her head in confusion.

"I will destroy anything that wants to hurt you." Claire said, "I will not let anything happen to you."

"Nothing?" Serah asked.

"Nothing," Claire repeated with a reassuring smile.

"Will you stay with me? Tonight? I don't want to be alone," Serah whispered.

"'You will never be alone. I'll always stay with you," Claire reassured her, arms surrounding her sister protectively, "I promise. I will protect you."

Serah smiled, nodding and hugging her older sister as she drifted into sleep again.

"Thank you, Lightning…"

Lightning…

I'll protect you, Serah.

Lightning…

It cannot protect… only destroy…

But she would destroy to protect her, to protect herself from the pain.

But she had failed… she had failed to protect Serah…

White flash… call upon my name. Lightning read the inscription on her gun blade softly, reminiscing on the origin of her own name, trying to pull the memories back into the dark recesses of her mind as her heart tinged with emotions she didn't want to feel.

"Feh…"

"Light…"

Lightning looked up. Hope had rolled to his side, still asleep, leaning against the rock, her name playing softly upon his lips. She could see the emotions going through his mind on his face. Sorrow, confusion, pain, solitude… She could see the dreams assaulting him, memories of loss, of sadness…. Memories of a life he could no longer go back to… all this coursing through his face as Lightning regarded him impassively. All these emotions reverberating in her heart despite her effort to pull it back.

Pain… fear… loneliness…

"Tch…."

Giving something resembling an annoyed sigh, Lightning got slowly to her feet, walking over and taking a seat beside the sleeping boy. She shifted her gaze to the horizon again, intent on resuming her watch. Her body gave a small start as she felt something soft lean against her shoulder, but she barely acknowledged it, her eyes piercing the sky. She let the soft breathing of Hope's sleeping form drift into her ears, soothing, calming…. She risked a glance at the boy, slightly surprised to see the corners of his mouth curve slightly in semblance of a smile.

"Mom…"

Lightning scoffed, turning her gaze at the night sky once again…

…but did not correct him.