Because You Are Here…

… I can go forward.



I've made you guys wait sooo long! I AM SO UNBELIEVEABLY SORRY. I can't believe I haven't updated this entire winter! Since I've made you guys wait this long, I think you should at least know why...
I had my iPod stolen during fencing practice one day and I've been feeling so upset for a while, I got into D. gray-man, I also had fencing everyday afterschool (on the weekends sometimes too...) and it just ended, I also had mid-terms that lasted two weeks (Curse you, snoww!), then I got back into FFXIII and Hope/Lightning after hearing some verry exciting news, and now I have state issued tests that I'm almost done with. That's basically my entire winter in a nutshell.

Although this doesn't have anything to do with this story, I dedicate this chapter to the victims in the Japan earthquake and tsunami.


I dream of the day when you will accept me with open arms.

Chapter fourteen: Fool

Lightning groaned as she heard her phone vibrate on her nightstand. She turned in her blankets and reached up to snatch the phone off the cool surface. Her frown deepened as she squinted to see the familiar name flash across the LCD screen. She flipped it open and answered in an annoyed tone.

"What do you want?"

"Serah?" A loud, husky voice questioned through the phone.

"Is this a joke? I'm hanging up, Snow." Lightning huffed as she pulled the phone away from her ear ready to end the call when Snow's voice rang out again.

He laughed. "Jesus, you two sound almost exactly the same over the phone… just minus the whole negative tone you've got going on." Snow kept laughing as Lightning was still not amused. When it became quiet, Lightning took it as a chance to try to hang up again but he soon started to talk again. "By the way, why do you have Serah's phone? Are you that paranoid and bored to go looking through her phone?" He joked.

"This is my phone, you idiot." Lightning could just imagine the stupid look Snow must have had on his face.

"W-what? How can that be… I mean—" Lightning raised a brow when he suddenly paused mid-sentence.

"Fang." Snow grumbled murderously. "I knew something was up when I gave her my phone a couple days ago!"

"Why did you even give her your phone in the first place if you don't trust her with it in the first place?"

"No, no, no. You see, she told me that she got a new phone and she wanted to give me her new number but she said that she'll do it herself because, according to her, I'm too dumb to even use my own phone!"

"You were dumb enough to give your phone to Fang when you know that she loves to pull these kinds of pranks on you."

"Whatever… anyways, I've gotta go. Who knows what other contacts she's messed with. I'll talk to you later, sis!"

"I'm not your—!" And before she got to finish her sentence, Snow hung up.

Sighing, Lightning got out of her bed already in a bad mood. It never made her happy to hear Snow's voice, nevertheless waking up to it. She couldn't understand how Serah could deal with someone as noisy as Snow and still be able to love him…

She shook her head, sighing. She told herself that she wouldn't think about that anymore. Serah was old enough and mature enough to make her own decisions.

It wasn't as if Lightning didn't trust her; she just had trouble reminding herself that Serah was no longer that little girl in the past who needed her older sister to constantly hold her hand. It was time that she allowed Serah to become more independent.

Although she didn't trust Snow the way she trusted Serah, she could complain and yell as much as she wanted to her and nothing would change Serah's mind.

She was just as stubborn as she was.


Serah popped her head into the kitchen once she smelt something cooking from her room. Curiosity got the best of her as she wondered if Lightning was really cooking for once. Casually walking in humming, Serah skipped to Lightning's side to try to catch a glimpse of what was cooking on the stove. Lightning, already aware of Serah's presence long before she walked in, closed the lid on the pot as soon as Serah craned her head over it to look at the contains inside. As a response, she let out a small pout.

"Hey, I wanna see what's for lunch," she smiled.

"Why does it matter? You know it's not for you," Lightning said, aware that Serah was going to be hanging out with Snow for the afternoon.

Serah walked away from Lightning, grabbing a nearby cup on the counter, and headed towards the refrigerator. She pulled out a carton of orange juice and proceeded to pour herself a glass of it. She brought the cup to her lips and took a small sip while putting the orange juice back inside to its rightful place.

"Hm, are you really planning on eating that much food?" Serah questioned while leaning against the counter.

Lightning pulled the lid off one of the pots and started to fill one of the empty plates beside her with freshly cooked vegetables. Though Lightning wasn't such a bad cook herself, it was because Serah enjoyed cooking a lot more than Lightning that made her the chief of the house.

"Your idiot boyfriend called me this morning thinking I was you. I think he wants you to call him back," Lightning simply stated. She didn't get it; why he did try to call Serah when he'll see her in the afternoon?

"Hey, don't try to change the subject," Serah teased, grinning wildly. She suddenly placed a hand over her mouth, gasping. "Don't tell me, you finally found yourself a boyfriend and you invited him to over for lunch?" she asked excitedly, causing Lightning to throw a kitchen rag at Serah's face.

The rag fell into Serah's palms as she saw that Lightning's eyes were void of any embarrassment. "Don't be ridiculous, Serah. It's just Hope."

Apparently, stating that it was just Hope who was coming over didn't calm Serah down as Lightning hoped and thought it would. Instead, Serah looked even happier than before.

"What do you mean it's just Hope?" Serah asked, slightly imitating Lightning's voice. "Aw, but that's so cute though," she gushed, clasping her hands together with the kitchen rag still in her possession.

Lightning shook her head. Sometimes she regretted telling Serah stuff like this. "There is nothing cute about it. We're just going to have lunch together and that's it."

Serah froze. "Huh? That's it? It's not a date or anything?" she asked, a bit disappointed. Her eyes followed Lightning's figure to the dining table with two bowls of food in hand.

"Yes, Serah, it's not a date." She stated clearly. "Besides, I'm older than him. That much should be obvious."

"Well… yeah, but I don't see why that has to do with this."

Lightning turned around from the table, facing the younger Farron. "Serah… I'm twenty-one. He's sixteen. He's just a kid and I'm too old for him."

Serah huffed, walking to the sink to rinse her now empty cup. "Aw, that's too bad you're not interested. You two would've made such a cute couple." Lightning returned to the stove but kept her back to Serah.

"Don't be ridiculous, Serah." She repeated.


Hope just wanted to pull out his hair out of frustration.

On his bedside and floor was an array of clothing ranging from plain t-shirts to jeans scattered around. Hope stood in front of his bathroom mirror, hair still messy and all over the place from just waking up. His blue striped button-down shirt was wrinkled and buttoned in a messy manner. He had decided to just go with the dark jeans he already had on but he still couldn't decide on a matching shirt to wear. This was his seventh time going to the mirror to examine his outer appearance.

Now, it wasn't like Hope to worry about how he looked, especially since his hair was always so messy he just learned to deal with it. Plus the fact that all he wore on normal days was his school uniform.

But today wasn't a normal day.

Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew that Lightning would probably care less about what he wore today but he wanted to look nice for her. Whenever the thought of Lightning entered his mind, he always felt self-conscious on how he looked.

Annoyed with the buttons, he half unbuttoned his shirt and smoothed it out. He had a black t-shirt underneath, a previous outfit he had tried out but was too lazy to take off, and with the striped shirt partially unbutton, it was now visible.

Finally, Hope was somewhat content with his look and grabbed a nearby brush on the sink counter and quickly brushed his hair, attempting to smooth away a few fly-aways and strands that stood up messily on top of his head.

Once he was done, Hope quickly picked up the clothes on the floor and threw them back on the bed, reminding himself to put them all back in his closet when he returned home. He grabbed his keys and left the room.

Hope walked slowly to Lightning's door, feeling nervous about seeing her. He didn't realize how sweaty his palms were or how dry his throat was until he left his apartment room. The whole morning, he was excited about spending time with Lightning and having lunch with her, but that was only because he completely forgot about his plan to tell her how he felt about her. He suddenly felt his cheeks burn as he stood in front of her door like an idiot, now afraid to ring the bell.

Slowly, he brought his hand up and pressed the doorbell and waited. He tried to take deep breaths in order to calm his nerves. He felt his heart relax at a slower pace but felt it start racing again once he saw the door knob turning in front of him.

"Hope?" He shot his head just once he heard her voice, his face still red, and when he saw her, he felt his face burn even more. "You came earlier than I expected."

Hope froze. Being with Lightning always made Hope a little more paranoid than usual so when he heard that he started to panic slightly. He didn't want to seem too eager about seeing her today. He wanted to be calm and confident in front of her. But he should've realized by now that it never works.

"Well, I guess it's to be expected since I didn't really specify what time I would be ready." She smiled slightly and moved out of the way, signaling him to come in. Once he was in, she made her way back into the kitchen while he closed the door behind him and walked into the living room, making sure to remove his shoes before taking another step forward.

Hope took a look around his surroundings. Everything was neat and organized. Though he had been inside her apartment room before, he had never really realized how clean everything was. Nothing was found on the polished hardwood floor, books and CDs were neatly placed in a shelf that stood against the wall to his left, a simple painting hung on the wall that separated the living room from the kitchen, and nothing but the remotes to the TV and DVD player were found on the glass coffee table.

It seemed like Lightning really was sort of a neat freak like Serah had once mentioned.

Speaking of Serah…

"Where's Serah?" Hope asked.

He swore he heard a soft "hmph" escape from Lightning's lips. "She's out for the day with Snow," she almost said in a growl. Hope walked into the kitchen to help Lightning but she shook her head and directed him to the dining table and he went to sit in one of the chairs.

"Is there something wrong with Snow?" Though he could admit, spending a little too much time with Snow did really wear a person out and almost drive them crazy (he couldn't understand how Serah did it), but there was nothing awfully bad about the guy other than his nonstop talking. He was almost like a female Vanille for goodness sakes…

Lightning paused for a second before answering. "It's not like I despise him." Though she would never verbally admit it, the idiot did grow on her over the years that she'd known him. "I just don't really trust him." With what had happened before in the past, how could she learn to trust other males with Serah? "I don't think that he's the right person to keep Serah safe like he keeps promising."

Lightning was shocked to hear a slight chuckle escape from behind her and raised a brow. "I think you worry a little too much, Light. Though I may not know him as well as you do, but from what I do know of him, Snow is a person who is true to his words. He tries his best to make everyone happy." Hope played with the floral table cloth before continuing. "And he truly loves Serah, don't you think so?"

"I guess you're right," she said quietly, walking to where Hope was sitting and sat in the chair across from him.

Hope tried to look into her eyes but couldn't read her emotions at all.

It wasn't fair. She could read him like an open book while he struggled to do the same to her. She was unreadable, and he hated that about her.

Then, right at that second, he saw something.

A slight change in her eyes.

"Light…" he asked. "Are you… lonely?"

She almost snorted in response. "Don't be ridiculous—"

"It's okay, Light." She looked up to face Hope's small shy smile. Looking back down to her hands, she wondered when he had gotten up and taken a hold of her hands.

"I understand how you feel. I-I felt the same when my mom passed away. All I had left was my dad and we weren't really even that close. But—"

"He's the only dad you got so—so show him that you care about him and love him. Do it now… before it's too late."

"…but I soon realized that things weren't okay the way they were and someone convinced me to do something about it. And in the end, everything turned out okay," he smiled.

Lightning looked away for a moment. She knew what he was talking about, and who made him realize that.

She suddenly remembered why she invited him over in the first place.

Slowly pulling her hands out from his grasp, he dropped his hands to his side in response.

"B-but I don't understand, he deserves to know the truth…"

"Hope… I…," Lightning said softly but Hope didn't let her finish. He had to say it before he lost the nerve to tell her.

"I-it pains me to see that lonely look in your eyes. Lightning, I promise you that I will stay by your side…," Hope took in a deep breath before continuing. "B-because… I… I-I lo—"

The door bell rang loudly; interrupting the two from speaking any further… both of them so close into telling an important secret.

Hope briefly exchanged glances with Lightning before turning around and walking towards the door. In that moment they locked eyes Hope could see that she was just as curious as he, wondering who could possibly be at the door at such an important time.

Who ever was at the door better have had a good reason for interrupting, Hope thought.

He opened door and in front of him was a tall man with raven black hair with a stoic expression on his face, almost the same as the one Lightning usually wore. Not only did they have that in common, but he also looked to be around her age, maybe even a little older.

Hope stared at the man and realized that he had never seen him before. He wondered what business he could possibly have here.

He was just about to ask before the man beat him to it.

"Sorry for the intrusion…," he spoke politely in a low, clear voice. "I'm looking for someone." Hope raised a brow. Did Lightning invite another person over too? He didn't want to believe such a thing. "… Is Clai—"

Before the man could go on, Hope saw a flash of pink in the corner of his eyes and suddenly Lightning stood in between the two males. Hope was curious to see Lightning's face but the back of her head blocked his view.

"What do you think you're doing here, Cid?" she almost growled out. Hope was taken aback by how intimidating she sounded. Never had he ever heard her use that tone of voice before. Not even with Snow when he really got on her nerves. He felt fear take over even though he was well aware that she wasn't talking to him. Hope felt tense around the two.

His stoic face quickly changed into a small smile. "It's been a while."

From the side, Hope glanced over at Lightning to see a sick expression on her face then over to the man she called Cid. They spoke as if he wasn't even there anymore. The two stood in silence for a few seconds.

"Hope, you can start eating… I'll be right back."

He flinched a bit as he watched her leave with Cid. Once the door closed behind them, Hope couldn't help but feel abandoned and, of course, jealous at the man.

Just who was he? A relative? A friend?

An ex-boyfriend?

He shook his head. Though it was possible since she was just so beautiful, he didn't want to think about the possibilities of it being true.

But if he really was her ex-boyfriend, then he had no chance of being with her.

That man had and was everything Hope wanted to be. He was tall and easily surpassed Lightning in height. He was calm and collected (something Hope could never accomplish when he was around his crush), a charming smile, and not to mention extremely neat hair…

He also had the face of a man; a man worthy of being by Lightning's side.

Hope lifted his head to look at his reflection at a nearby mirror hanging on the living room wall.

He looked no different from a kid.

Hope took out the plates from the cabinet and started to set the table for when Lightning would return. As he stared at the chair Lightning was just sitting in, Hope remembered how close he was to telling her his feelings.

But then he showed up, Hope couldn't help but thought bitterly. The moment was perfect too. Who knew when he'll have the courage and chance to tell her again?

When the last of the dishes were set, Hope glanced to the side to see a pile of books and papers taking up half of the dining table. It looked unsightly and he decided to move it to a better location for now.

Hope carefully brought the papers over to the coffee table in the living room. He walked back to the dinner table ready to move more books into the next room when something caught his eye.

Taking a closer look, Hope saw that it was a photo wedged in between pages of a book. Curious, he carefully pulled the picture out to examine it.

His eyes widened as they scanned the photo and the people in it.

It seemed to be a family photo. There was a small girl who had a cheerful, toothy smile and was wrapped around the protective arms of someone who appeared to be her mother crouching down beside her with a loving smile.

Hope couldn't help but laugh when he saw that it was a young Serah clinging onto her mother. She even had her hair styled the same it was today. Looking to the side of Serah, Hope saw a taller girl with a small smile holding hands with the young Serah and a man in a Guardian Corps uniform.

For some reason, Hope couldn't look away from that girl holding hands with the man.

"Um, what about your dad?"

"I don't know… he died when I was six in a plane crash before I got to know him any better."

Suddenly, all the memories of Claire came flooding back; her voice, her face, her smile. Everything

"He was always busy with work since he was in the Guardian Corps."

Though that taller girl did remind Hope of Claire, she wasn't all that Hope was reminded of.

Why didn't I notice it before…?


Chapter fourteen [END]


A/n: Another cliffhanger... I don't know when the next chapter will be out but I don't think it'll take another 5+ months for it to come out... at least I hope it doesn't... on the bright side, Final Fantasy XIII-2 is coming out in the winter lol 8DDD

I hope you enjoyed the chapter! And I'm so sorry for the wait! And if you do see any spelling or grammar typos please tell me. I went over some of the past chapters and saw a lot of typos so I'll be going back and fixing/editing those chapters in the future. I also hope my writing hasn't gotten rusty since I haven't typed a fanfic in a while... (/shame)

Preview: "… Was it because of me?"

Please review~

[Last Edited: 3/17/11]