Should I be out with another story so soon? Probably not. But I just had to get started! Anyway, while it says Romance/Angst, this story will have a lot more than that. I can only pick two genres I went with that. But it does have more. And I hope you'll enjoy. And that you don't mind if it's romance. *Gulp* But I do love the pairing...


Without further ado, the first chapter of my new story! Please enjoy!'ll see.

EDIT: Some who have seen this story may be wondering why it was moved to the M section, rather than the T. This is because of some Graphic Violence (and a few other things) that can't be avoided in the story. It is NOT rated M for SEXUAL CONTENT. I hope you will all enjoy this story, regardless of it's new place. It's my first M fic...and it's not even for Sex. Weird huh?

Edit again: Sorry for so many edits. But here is some awesome news. Generalyao has been gracious enough to go over my old chapters and make comments at certain and fix any mistakes. I, in turn, have been going over the comments and adding to the fic, or taking away, as well as fixing awkward sentences and such. Basically, I've been making it better! At least I think so. So I hope this chapter seems better, and that you enjoy! Every chapter will be gone over, but we both have busy schedules, so changes will be gradual.

Edit 1: August 13, 2010 Edit 2: November 29, 2010.

And a big, special thanks to Generalyao! Without you, this would not be possible!

It was meant to be a routine job for the Guardian Corp. That was all. Simple…simple. Cocoon had died the moment it had fallen from the sky, a glittering mass of crystal plummeting toward Pulse that sat as a newly bloomed flower, shimmering blue hues reflecting off little lights. And in the wake of this beautiful crystal, this new life, it was left to those who remained to rebuild. The center of Cocoon seemed as good a place as any to restart, but it could easily be seen as a way to cling to something old in the unfamiliar land of Gran Pulse. They were left alone in a new and dangerous world, and as terrible and deceitful as Cocoon's leaders had been, the past was a welcome anchor.

The construction of the city dubbed New Bodhum had begun and was progressing well, the city slowly but surely forming around the remains of the crystallized Cocoon. It seemed to hug the crystal to itself, the buildings sparser the closer the circled around Cocoon, and the Crystal sent beautiful reflective rays of blue light on the city at night. And at dusk and dawn, the city was bathed in orange glows, burning like fire in a dying sun. New cities were already being talked about, and the idea of spreading farther into the unknowns of Gran Pulse was rampant. Yet always there was caution. Slow and steady…get settled first, then consider growing. Repair what was there, then look toward the new.

So they did.

A repair mission for the structure that held the great burning Fal'Cie Phoenix, former light source of Cocoon, had been called to be done. It was less than necessary, Cocoon was gone and Phoenix's purpose extinguished, but there was no such thing as being overly cautious in the days they were rebuilding. No one really wanted the structure to come down after all, so a joint job between the Guardian Corps. and NORA was called. Truthfully, the two groups were only there because of a recent attack by some of the more violent flying creatures of Pulse. The maintenance team had become antsy from the reports and so had requested the extra protection.

It was two whole years after the incident with Orphan, and on Hope's insistence, Lightning had brought him along to help. Once the arrangements had been made with the school, which was little considering how new and fresh everything was, Hope was already packing and talking excitedly of the trip. Lightning had an inkling though that the trip had less to do with the desire to battle, as it was unlikely to happen, but more for something to do on the anniversary of his father's death. The news had been a devastating blow to him and left the growing boy in Lightning's care. She could not, after all, leave him to the orphanages to pick him apart. There had been a lot of pain to heal though and she wasn't sure if it could ever be totally okay. There would be a scar, as there always was with a hard past, and it would sow the skin and make it harder. Tougher. Hope would be stronger for it.

It seemed hollow to her nonetheless.

However, Hope at sixteen was becoming quite the handful. He was growing like a weed, or at least it seemed so to Lightning as she made constant trips to buy the boy more clothes to accommodate his ever increasing height. He was still of slender build, and was not quite her size, which seemed to annoy him to no end. It was not as if he was particularly rebellious either, but sometimes he would stop and stare into nothing, a look of sorrow on his features. Other times, she would catch him staring at her, something behind his eyes she couldn't quite identify, but it made her heart thump a little too fast for her liking. It was not as if she had changed much after all. Her hair was still well kept and at the side, if a little longer, and her eyes still the same piercing blue. She had once feared she had been getting gray hairs, only to have her sister playfully remind her she was a little young for that sort of thing yet.

It was confusing all the same, and Lightning doubted very much that she was like that at his age. That wasn't saying much though, considering her rather strange upbringing, or lack thereof.

Regardless, this was a chance to let some of the Hope's frustrated steam out, so Lightning was not adverse to the thought of him coming. Seeing the rest of NORA again had also been refreshing in its own right, not that she would admit it. Snow would never let her hear the end of it.

"You're growing like a weed!" Snow cheered, ruffling Hope's hair. Said boy's platinum locks were only slightly longer, as he would often insist on a haircut when they started tickling too far down his neck. Lightning didn't really mind if he grew it out, although she did like it the way it was now. It was sticking in all directions thanks to Snow's hand, and Hope patted it down with an annoyed glance at the tall man. Snow had changed little as well, although sometimes he would look strangely tired or as he called it, "Emotionally drained". He donned his favorites coat constantly, but on rare occasions he would be without it, showing off his rather muscular build. This seemed to annoy Hope as well, perhaps for his own slender one, and Snow would take plenty of opportunities to remind him of Hope's own lack of real muscles.

"You see me every other day and you choose now to notice? It wasn't like I was gonna stay a runt forever!" Hope chided, beaming all the same.

"Don't say it like that! It makes me sound old."

"You're not Snow, stop worrying," Hope said, rolling his eyes.

"I bet he's getting gray hairs from the wife at home though!" Gadot teased, poking Snow in the back. "I hear pregnant women can be quite the nightmare. OW!" Gadot shouted, gingerly rubbing his ribs where Lebreau had elbowed him. He gave her a shy smile. "Sorry..."

"Better be!" she huffed, although there was no real malice in her voice. She looked up at Phoenix, her eyes glowing orange from the bright light it released. "It's pretty."

"Yeah, but I bet it takes a lot of machinery to keep it afloat and functioning right. I wish they'd let me tinker with it..." Maqui whined, bouncing on his feet.

"And that's probably why they won't Maqui," Yuj said, shrugging as he walked beside him.

Lightning watched the group silently, eyes returning to the repair team every now and again. NORA had changed a lot too, but in a lot of ways they hadn't. They were still loud, rowdy, and sometimes incredibly irresponsible. But Gadot had calmed down enough that he could mediate a bad disagreement, his muscles seemed just the smallest bit bigger, and he could hold a serious conversation, much to Lightning's surprise. Yuj had done anything but stay the same, his hair changing to multiple shades of various colors to keep up with trends, and this month sporting bright yellow with black streaks. Maqui was still the tech head, his goggles a horrible pink, and he was proud to say he was a little taller. And Lebreau's hair had grown out more, but Lightning was glad she at least seemed to be wearing more clothes.

Scantily clad, she believed she had called the girl it at one point.

Lightning kept her arms crossed and said nothing, although her thoughts drifted to Serah. She thought of how her sister was already pregnant...and how pregnant women seem to feel the need to bother their sister with things like love and marriage. And how Serah had said there were plenty of good prospects, even if she wasn't aware of it, and that she had to keep an open mind. If I have to hear one more of her little pep talks I'll-

But Lightning was too lost on the fact that she was going to be an Aunt to really give it much thought. Besides, she had Hope to look after so she didn't really have the time; although lately, he has been starting to voice his concerns. He had been saying how he seemed to be in the way, and how she didn't need to hold back just for him. When she said she'd preferred spending time with him anyway, he had looked really happy though...

"Whatcha thinking about?" Hope asked, startling her from her thoughts. She glanced over at him, her usual stoic expression up, but he knew better then to put too much merit to it. He'd been living with her for so long, it was impossible not to know when she actually tuning him out.

"Nothing too important," Lightning said, avoiding his gaze.

"Excited for Serah?" Hope said with a knowing smile. He bounced on the balls of his feet, smile widening.

How did he do that? "A little," she answered simply. Hope grinned, his eyes twinkling, and he grabbed her hand. Her heart skipped and he brow furrowed, but she allowed herself to be distracted by Hope.

"No, you're really excited, I can tell. You're gonna be an aunt! Aunt Claire! It has a nice ring to it," Hope said, grinning.

"Don't say it like that." Lightning frowned, slipping her hand away so she could cross her arms again, "I don't want them to call me that."

"You really think Serah will let her kid call you Aunt Lightning? If anything, she'll only teach them Claire." Lightning scowled at that, knowing he was right. She'd have to talk to Serah about it later, find out exactly what her sister planned to have her child call her.

She wasn't really sure what happened next. One second, Hope was laughing, a look in his eyes that suggested he wanted to tell her something. Lebreau and Maqui weren't far from them, leaning on the railing near them that separated them all from Phoenix, watching Snow, Gadot, and Yuj fool around. The repair team was working diligently, drills roaring in the air. The bellows and grinds of machinery echoed around the brightly lit area, Phoenix was still shining, nothing was wrong. They stood on the platforms, watching as the team worked closely on the thin bridge that let them access Phoenix. Some patches of blue sky were shining in, giving the area a more open feeling.

Then, in some brief feeling of self-awareness she knew something was coming. Hope seemed to sense it too, as his eyes widened a fraction before there was a great rumble. Before anyone could react, before she could shout and yell for them to get away, there was a great explosion.

Lightning felt a great pain in her arms, a searing one, and was thrown to the floor. He head cracked the on the metal and for a moment, through her barely open eyes, her world spun in circles. She heard Hope's scream, almost shrill, and she reached blindly for him despite the pain, brushing his arms just as he slid away. Her eyes snapped open and she grabbed his arm but felt herself being pulled with him until her shoulder crashed painfully with what was left of the railing. Blinking away the stars she saw, she looked around and saw Lebreau and Maqui hanging over the rail, feet dangling with a seemingly endless bottom beneath them. Lebreau was hanging on for dear life by a shard of metal, Maqui clinging to her hand, but she could see them slipping steadily. Lebreau's hand bled on the jagged metal, her grip slipping with each drop that stained the torn platform.

Lightning looked down at her own charge, trying to force her arm to work. Her muscles screamed, almost as if they were snapping, but she dug her nails into his hands and tried to pull him up. Tried…tried…

"Light..." Hope gasped, clearly pained. His arm was at a strange angle, dangling at his side, and his face was covered in soot. His eyes were bright and wet, and he swallowed hard, "Light...everything...hurts...what-what happened?" Dazed too...this looks bad.

Lightning shook her head, trying and failing to force her arm to lift him up. Instead it shook with the effort of holding Hope, her nails digging and scratching his sliding hand. She tried to ignore the way her arm began to bend and slip against the rail. "Not now Hope...we have to get everyone safe." As if in response, the railing began to creak, and Lightning squeezed.

"'re bleeding...and slipping!" Hope cried, wriggling in her grip. Lightning hissed, closing her eyes.

"Stop!" she snapped and he immediately stilled, looking down instead. She heard him whimper and tried to lift him again, but her muscles would not listen.

"Stupid. Fucking. Shoulder," Lightning ground out as she glanced at Lebreau and Maqui again. Snow was running at, his eyes bugged out as they slipped just a little more. There was pressure on her shoulder, sure and strong, and she thought she recognized Gadot's grip. But when she looked at the other two again, what she saw made her stomach drop. Lebreau cried out, screaming something unintelligible, and Maqui was shaking his head. The next moment, they were falling...falling...

Just falling...becoming specks…

"Light! Your arm!" Lightning gasped and looked at Hope, then her arm. It was bleeding profusely and parts of the railing were piercing her, digging into the flesh and making it immobile. She could feel herself slipping in Gadot's grip, and could hear the way Snow screamed out. The way he screamed her name...

"'ll fall too," Hope whispered, eyes wide as if it was some great revelation. Maybe it was, but Lightning didn't have time for it.

"Don't say that!" Gadot shouted from behind, "I'll figure this out," he called.

It didn't even seem like Hope was listening, even as Gadot struggled with them and Lightning's grip was beginning to loosen. It was as if her whole body suddenly hated her. It didn't want to listen to her brain that was desperately shouting, "Save Hope, Save Hope, SAVE HOPE!" Her whole arm was trembling and she felt Hope slowly easing his own arm out, felt the skin flapping off his arm, "You'll die'll die...Let me go..." He started shaking his head, the barest hint of a smile on his face. He looked peaceful. Ready.

He was letting go.

"Like fucking hell I will!" she shouted back. Why were her eyes stinging? Why did Hope look so damn sad?

Why wouldn't her arm fucking move!

"I won't let you die..." he whispered, more to himself than her, "I can't...I won't...Lightning can't die..." His whole body was trembling, she could feel it. It was making her body tremble too... His eyes were shining with tears and a few of them escaped, leaving tracks on his cheeks. His face was filled with so much sadness...and so Lightning gasped. His fingers continued to ease out of hers even as she fought to keep him there. Keep him with her. "I love you too let you die..." Her throat closed up, her brain barely able to register his words, and before she knew what was happening, Hope was falling...falling...She could see the way his hair blew from the speed, the way his face shined with tears and sweat...the eyes that held that love...and the quiet acceptance of death. She stared as long as she long as she was able...until she could no longer see him. She was screaming...screaming...Hope was dead...Hope was dead...and now she was dead too...her heart had stopped...

Hope was dead...

Hope was dead...

Hope was dead...

Over and over...over and over...he just kept falling...until there was nothing.

No Hope.

"NO! HOPE! HOPE!" Her own screaming woke Lightning from her dream...from her memory. Tears lined her face as she sat up in her bed, shaking and screaming. She was aware of the shuffling in the next room and before she knew it, Serah was at her bedside, rubbing circles into her back, not needing to ask why. Snow walked in shortly afterward, carrying a two-and-a-half year old girl in his arms and staring at Lightning with an expression that screamed understanding. Lightning's arms continued to tremble and she reached for the scars that the railing had left her. It was a constant reminder of her own ineptitude, of her failure, and of her loss. Something that did not deserve to be forgiven. Something that she would live to endure with as some form of atonement for Hope...for she knew that it was all she could do for him now.

It would never be enough though...

For three years now, she had lived without Hope...or tried to at least. Three years and she still had nightmares. Three years and it still stung like that day. The day she had lost everything... Truly everything...

He would be nineteen and going to a university, telling her that she needed to lighten up, saying that he was glad he was with her... trying not to make his crush obvious. Telling her that they should visit Snow and Serah more often in the home they had been living in at the time. Begging her to let him have that sip of alcohol a few years too early.

He would be living...

But no…things never seemed to work that way.