Introduction: This is my first fanfic, so I am very excited about it. I hope you all enjoy reading it as much as I have been enjoying writing it. I always welcome constructive criticism as well as recommendations of other people's stories so by all means please keep in contact! :) I also want to extend a huge thank you to G-AnakinRPG for being my Beta - a lot of work was put into making sure I didn't suck my first time out. :)

Securing Insecurities

Stage One - His Saving Grace

Hope sat on the couch in his home in Felix Heights, Palumpolum. His father did not speak, but only made light sobs as he held his head in his hands, mourning his wife, Nora Estheim. Hope hadn't exactly broken the news gently - declaring that she was gone the moment his father opened the front door. Shock spread quickly over his face, his legs shaking, his palms sweating and a sudden panic seemed to surge through his veins. It was actually Lightning who stepped inside to steady the man, this strange woman not even seeming a concern as his only thoughts were that his wife was dead and his son was home. Fang half dragged Snow in, Hope pointing the way to his bedroom where Fang slung the heavy man onto the soft bed. Hope sat down quietly next to his father, silence stilling the room. The lack of sound made Lightning uncomfortable, but she felt uncertain about leaving Hope alone with his father just yet. It wasn't that she feared something may happen, but rather that she knew Hope looked to her as a pillar of strength, and just her presence in the room would bring him security.

Fang considered poking her head into the living room to ask where the bathroom and medical kit were, but the silence was stifling, so she decided to seek on her own. Two open doors and a light switch later, she stood in the bathroom, rummaging about the cabinets. "Hmm. Potions - ew, expired last month. Ah, there's a fresh one. Bandages, gauze, ointments, and... what the hell is this?" she exclaimed as she held up something that later she would discover to be a tubular replacement for menstrual pads. On Pulse they just used fabric that they washed in the river. Cocoon seemed a little less inviting after this new discovery. She returned to Snow in the other room.

"Open up, big boy," Fang teased in her deep Pulsian accent as she offered the tonic to the man. Snow rolled his eyes but complied, sitting on the side of Hope's bed. Fang watched him chug down the potion, grimacing at the bitter taste.

"You couldn't have at least found cherry flavor?" Snow joked.

"I could have just pissed in it for you but I thought that might be a little tasteless. Now take off your shirt and don't get excited." Snow complied, tossing his coat on the floor, followed by his shirt. Fang rolled her eyes; men could be so messy, just throwing things all over the place. She surprised Snow with her gentle touch as she cleaned off his wounds and wrapped his torso tightly with bandages and gauze.

"Hope's finally talking to his dad. Figured it was okay to split. The tension was getting thick," Lightning spoke softly as she entered Hope's room. She looked around , seeing the room of a typical fourteen year old boy. A poster for a rock band on one wall, a collection of various sized and shaped boomerangs on shelves on another wall. A dresser with drawers half open, obviously hurriedly stuffed with now wrinkled clothes. The only light came from a lamp on the bedside table on which sat a ragged looking book titled The Ancient Art of Throwing. She sat on the edge of the bed, addressing Snow.

"Before you two get all squishy talking with one another, I'm checking into the shower for a bit. Catch you kids later." Fang waved herself away back to the bathroom.

Hope had finished talking with his dad, their strained relationship only slightly bandaged by this newly found despair. Bartholomew Estheim still held his face in his hands, muffled sobs broke the silence, tears dripping from between his fingers. Hope had attempted to dismiss himself to his room once already, but ended up only talking more. This time he simply stated he needed to rest, and silently slipped out of the room. Once around the corner he let out a deep sigh that he hadn't realized he had been holding back. He wiped the tears from his eyes, sniffled, and stood outside his door, listening intently to Lightning and Snow. His eyes shot open with he felt a hand on his shoulder.

"Not nice to eavesdrop. But it is tempting, isn't it?" Fang scolded jokingly. She gave a half smile and stood there a moment, listening in as well. "Sounds like they're finished making peace. Now it's your turn, kid." Hope gave her the look of a chocobo caught in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. Hope shook his head. "You and Vanille are just the same. Always holding it in and never getting it out," she sighed. "You kids will learn one day."

Lightning came out of Hope's room, a half smile on her face. She and Snow had finally gotten things settled out for now, a weight lifted off of her shoulders. Wanting to avoid the uncomfortable silence of being around Bartholomew, the two women retreated to the kitchen. Fang gave Hope a little push toward the open door as she caught up with Lightning.

Hope pushed the door open the rest of the way, looking at Snow laying on his bed, shirtless and bandaged. Snow looked at the ceiling, feeling nervous about the young man's presence.

"How's your dad?" he asked. Hope just shook his head.

"He's gonna be okay. He always is. As long as he's okay, that's all that matters to him. He doesn't care what I feel," Hope blurted out. Snow didn't say anything - it wasn't his place to try and convince the kid differently. He didn't know their past - he had made the mistake of convincing others that their families loved them only to discover later that things were much worse than he was even told. For all he knew, Hope and his father could have an abusive relationship that was simply hidden from public view, though Snow really felt that could not be the case.

"Snow?" Snow nodded and closed his eyes, still facing the ceiling. "Thank you. For saving me I mean. I... I tried to kill you and you still protected me. I can't..."

Snow turned his head to look at the weary young man and gave one of his half smiles. His eyes softened, capturing the look of the confused boy as if to say that everything was alright. He started to speak, but Hope placed a finger on his lips. "Please, let's not... I want... No, I need..." His words were scattered; he wanted Snow to know he was trying to forgive him, that he was actually beginning to understand him. Snow understood, and sat up, pulling the boy into a hug. Hope was not a huggy person - he had shoved Vanille off of him on more than one occasion, but it felt so good to feel Snow's big, strong arms wrap around him, holding him tight in apology and reassurance. Hope could have stayed there forever. It was Snow who finally broke the embrace.

"Hey, do you think I could get washed up? I feel disgusting, and between you and me, I wasn't about to let Fang haul my ass into the shower. She's a little rough," Snow laughed. Hope nodded and pointed Snow to the bathroom. Hope left him alone to go find some towels and grab the med kit to re-wrap his bandages.

Hope lightly knocked on the bathroom door and announced himself.

"Come on in, Hope. It's okay," Snow said over the rush of water from the shower head. Hope slid the door open to find Snow, naked as the day he was born. He was facing the wall, so all that Hope could see was his nicely toned and smooth butt and muscled back.

"Oh! Uh sorry! I didn't realize..." Hope stuttered but Snow just laughed. He averted his eyes away from the sight of Snow's tanned body as the man stepped into the shower.

"It's no big deal, we're both guys. If it had been Light or Fang, Serah would jump right out of crystal stasis and kicked their asses right on the spot!" he chuckled at the thought.

"Yeah, that would be really awk-" Hope stopped mid-sentence as he saw Snow turn in the shower, getting a frontal and then side view of the grown man's body. The steam hid most of him from view, but the silhouette was enough to show off his body. "-ward," he finished his sentence. Luckily for him, Snow was washing his hair and didn't hear him stammer his words. Hope turned and put his hand on the door when Snow spoke up again.

"Hey, hold on. Can you help me fix these bandages again?" Hope nodded even though he probably couldn't be seen in the steam. Snow shut off the shower, grabbed one of the towels that Hope had brought in, and proceeded to dry off. The steam on the shower doors was fading and Hope tried to avert his eyes from watching as Snow dried off his crotch before wrapping the towel around his waist. Stepping out of the shower, Hope could see the bruising and abrasions that had previously been covered up when he had seen Snow laying down. The bruising was pretty bad - dark purple and black areas on his chest, his ribs obviously very tender as he winced while brushing himself off some more. Snow was so tall that he had to sit down on the edge of the toilet seat so that Hope could reach his chest. He gingerly rubbed ointment over his muscles, rubbing it in so that it would absorb into his skin; it was partially a painkiller and partially a cure-all.

"Ahh that feels so good," Snow sighed as Hope rubbed his chest. Neither was honestly sure if Snow was feeling the sensations of the painkiller, or the sensations that shot through Snow's body as Hopes gentle, almost feminine hands brushed over his nipples. Hope finished putting on the ointment and wrapped up his chest with the gauze and bandages.

"Thanks, kiddo." Snow smiled at him, picking up his pants off the floor. Just as Hope was turning to leave, he got one last glimpse of Snow's bare ass as he dropped the towel to put on his boxer shorts. It was then that Hope noticed the tingling down below, but was at a loss as to why he was feeling slightly aroused.

An hour later, Bartholomew sent Hope to ask Lightning and Snow to come to the living room. When Hope came into his bedroom, Snow was just finishing up polishing Hope's Airwing boomerang. Snow smiled and handed it to him.

"Thanks, Snow. It looks as good as new. Even if it does have a few notches chipped into it." He fingered the now smooth weapon, clicked it open and closed a couple of times to test the newly lubricated hinged. "Oh, my dad wants to talk to you. Both of you." Snow and Lightning exchanged nervous looks, Hope helping Snow put his coat back on. He ambled out of the room, followed by Lightning. She turned just as she got to the door.

"You know, a good fighter needs a well cared for weapon. Snow must think a lot of you to do that - he won't even wipe off my saber, let alone polish it." She smiled. "Don't let your head get too big, though. You may have improved, but you still got a ways to go."

"Thanks, Light." Hope grinned to himself. Finally, a little bit of recognition from the person who seemed to have judged him so harshly in the beginning.