Some random pseudo-fluff I pulled for the dissidia kink meme that I thought some of you might like :) This pairing is criminal fun to write, btw. The snark and the angst possibilities are endless. Oh Kain, why aren't you in FFXIII? The modern games are sorely missing characters like you. Sigh. And Squeenix wasted them on the jaw-droppingly terrible script they put together for dissidia 012. Just a disastrously sloppy production, that.
Anyway, all disclaimers applicable. Rights of SQE Holdings completely in effect. And I promise OB&G will be the next thing I update. And soon (I know you don't trust me, but nevertheless).
Lightning Farron pushed the rain soaked hair from her eyes, spat out the water as it dribbled between her lips. Around her, the storm was descending in sheets, and every silhouette in her field of vision was grey and distorted. Shapes took on an indeterminate edge. Anything could be anything else. And someone, something was watching her. Alert, her eyes hunted over the horizon. As she pivoted in place, her boots sunk inches into the mud. Her heart began pounding in her chest. To still her accelerating dread, she held her Blaze Edge steady in her right hand; clammy skin over cold, wet steel. She scanned the blackened hills in the distance for anything, any rustle or movement that could be one of them.
Prey. Her hate for them was visceral. It sang in her blood. Half the time she actually enjoyed killing them. It gave her a chance to send them back to the hell they crawled out of.
A target's a target. Her lips curled.
And then, as if on command, there they were. Shapes ahead of her (or were they beside) that fluttered and shimmered through the darkness. The things were attempting subterfuge, whispering among themselves in those scratched, deformed voices of theirs. Angling her body to a ready position, she waited as the circle started closing around her. Watched as the bleary figures lurched in fits and starts towards her. Dummy Jechts, it looked like, although the rain dripping from her eyelids obscured her view. A Vaan too, it looked like. Five or six, total.
And her alone. The rest of her party at least a half day behind.
Whatever. She smiled, a slow, wicked smile. This was why she always took point anyway. Come and get me, you little bastards, the familiar rush of battle a living thing in her veins. I'm in that type of mood.
For long moments, thunder incubated in the clouds, and then erupted to shatter the sky.
In a single fluid motion, Lightning snapped the Blaze Edge into gun form. She wasn't going to wait until they cornered her. The volley of gunfire cracked the air, got lost in the rolling thunder around her. "Eat lead," she muttered, glorying in the bracing recoil, the heat, the smoky, metallic smell of carbon. The growling whispers around her escalated to screeching keens as the manikin party splintered, drops of silver mercury dissolving into the rain.
She exhaled deeply, relishing the solitary second of respite her weapon had bought her. For a moment, there was only the sluicing sound of the rain, the feel of it as it slid heavy and thick over her flesh. Knowing what was coming, she flipped her Blaze Edge back to sword form and brought the blade level with her eyes. Looking out over top of it between wetted tendrils of hair, she crouched, tense. Somewhere in the sky, the clouds were painted by lightning.
A good sign, she thought. She parted her lips, tasted the rain. It was clean and cold and sweet.
And then a black sword screamed and sparked against the steel of her blade and the battle was joined in earnest.
It seemed to Lightning that they were everywhere at once, the dolls. The heat of a half dozen anti-matter beams scorched the air, set the rain steaming. Lightning could no longer tell if the moisture on her brow was water or sweat. She'd been at this for what seemed like hours. Desperate, and losing momentum she flipped backwards, her Blaze Edge now abandoned in favor of Zantetsuken. Need to cut a path, she thought, her muscles screaming from the exertion. With an undulating twist, Lightning whirled the blade over her head forcing her attackers back, and then plunged forward. Beneath her sword, she felt the sickening crunch of bone, the thin resistance of whatever passed for manikin skin as it was shorn away.
Lightning didn't know who she was killing. She didn't care, so long as they were dead. By the time she lowered her sword, she was alone in the field.
Gathering herself for a moment, she inhaled, her lungs heavy and burning. An incongruous peace settled around her as she sucked in as much oxygen as she could bear. Is that it? But then her senses piqued and she swirled on her heel. Something was wrong. A high pitched sound in the distance pricked her skin, set her nerves dancing. Oh Shit. The Vaan mankin had stayed behind the fray, cackling. Squinting through the blurring rain, she could see him now on a further outcropping, gathering light into his hands. The deep blue of the electricity molding around his fists was unmistakable, distorting the air around it with quivering power.
Quickening. Damn it.
Lightning was breathing heavily. Several of the Jechts were shattereed, but more were descending around her. She was badly out of position, now, and her arms felt like lead. There was no way she had the strength to dodge what she was certain was coming her way. Crouching low, she drew her swords across her body to shield it from what would likely be a killing blow. Casually, she noticed the way the rainwater lavished the steel of Zantetsuken into gleaming light. It was beautiful, almost. Not the worst thing to see before signing off. She closed her eyes, prepared.
"Lightning!" a voice, reminiscent of the thunder, but smoother, more liquid, rolled out from behind her. "Move. Now." Looking back, she saw him. Even through the veil of the storm, an unmistakable silhouette, spear drawn and pointed before him. Kain. Where the hell…?
"Claire!" he called again, insistent this time, angry. Her real name lashed through the driving rain, commanded her attention. "Enough. Jump!"
Too exhausted to second guess, or to even figure out where he'd come from (it wasn't like the creak of his armor was subtle) she followed his command instinctively, using the last of her strength to launch herself upwards. But it was too little, too late. The heat of Quickening preceded the ray itself, and the tongues of it set her long red cape ablaze. Flames raced up the fabric, riotous and suffocating hot, indifferent to the rain. Through the clash of steel below her, she could hear the fabric sear and flap as it burned.
"Great," she muttered, teeth clenched. She struggled to unlatch the bolt of cloth. More than the heat, the cape was heavy now, slowing her down. With steady fingers, she found the latch and released it, watched as it fluttered to the earth, silken with water and flame. Like a butterfly, impaled on the wind. She felt herself lighten immediately, but it didn't matter. Quickening was still descending on her. And there was no way out but through.
She braced herself.
It was then that she felt it, the characteristic rush of air that was Kain Highwind jumping. He was ahead of her suddenly, and she thought she caught a glimpse of his wild, ice blue eyes looking back at her from underneath his helm before he grabbed her arm and pulled her up hard into his breastplate. The air roared in her ears, a crescendo of wind and pummeling rain. But even through the maelstrom, she could hear him. Muttering in that liquid baritone of his something about her poor jumping and impetuousness. They were rushing higher together now, the speed bordering on insane as they surged past manikin-Vaan's first burst of power. The air sizzled and cracked with the mineral tang of magic, but still they throttled higher.
As they sliced upward through the atmosphere, Lightning was suddenly dizzy with adrenaline. She had never felt anything like this acceleration; this velocity; this perfect, imperfect flight. The air was thin up here. Delicious. Higher, she gloried. Faster. The rain pounded her face, hard and painful and cleansing. Heady with momentum, she threw her head back and laughed. A full peeling sound that rippled through the wind. Kain's hand around her waist was like iron. But his voice in her ear was like silk.
"Enjoying yourself?" If a fleshy dragon helm could smirk, surely it was now.
"Shut up Kain." Her reply was breathless, the lingering, incongruous remains of laughter warming its edges. "Could be you're useful for something after all…"
The Vaan-manikin's squealing giggles from the earth below her interrupted Lightning's exhilaration. Sharply, she looked down, all joy in the moment evaporating immediately. It was preparing again. Lightning felt more than heard Kain's grunting notice of the same, the rumble coming from deep in his chest.
"Move when I tell you," he almost spat, his breath warm on her skin. It tingled, feather-light over cold, wet flesh. "Or we are both dead."
Lightning struggled in his arms, glaring. "I can handle him myself. Let me go. ."
The helm nod against her face, wet and leathery; its red, waxy eyes dulled by the rain. "In due course. Ready your sword."
Lightning smiled then, understanding. They had a number of differences, Highwind and her. Her heat clashed with his cold; her pride with his arrogance, but still. In battle, in this, they understood one another perfectly. They fit. She turned in his arms and faced him, nodding. In return, he smiled back, a faint, imperial turn of his lips. Screaming through the air, the rain beating against their faces, she felt him loosen his grip on her waist enough for her to draw Zantetsuken again. She braced agile arms against his midnight blue armor, polished scythe-bright by the rain. His knee came up beneath her feet, and she let the air lift her up so she could steady herself on his thigh. The thud of her boots against armored steel reverberated through her legs. Excitement burned. She was ready now.
Around them, still accelerating, lightning seared the sky.
"Go," he whispered. In Kain's way, the word was almost a caress.
And go she did. Launching herself off the platform of Kain's body, Lightning pulled the twin swords across her body, sent her power blazing into them. Her eyes burned with electricity as she surveyed the field below. In addition to the Vaan-manikin, two Jechts remained below, each firing their anti-matter pulses indiscriminately at the empty air. It doesn't matter, Lightning almost laughed again. You are all dead.
Magic, light and quick, charged through her blood. As she descended, she began to spin, over and over and over again until she was dizzy with power. Zantetsuken split the sky around her with electricity, and ornamented it with rose petals. In the wasteland of her perception, she could hear the manikins screaming.
By the time she hit the ground, they were dead.
Landing on the earth with a dull thud, Lighting turned around, evaluated her work. Nothing was left but discarded weapons, steaming, broken shards of crystal, and the white noise of the rain. A small smile tugged the corner of her lips. Not bad, Highwind, she thought, satisfied. But when she pivoted to face the sky in salute, she was choked by terror. Kain had reached the apex of his leap and was finally descending. But on a collision course with manikin-Vaan's last smoldering bolt of Quickening. Nothing could stop what was going to happen next, but she couldn't bring herself to avert her eyes. Bolted in place by helplesseness, she watched in slow motion horror as it charged through the air towards him, struck him squarely in the chest. The resulting impact sent him reeling, uncontrolled through the clouds. The sick-making sound of crunching metal and splintering bone screamed over the thunder as it rolled through the storm.
In horror, she watched him fall.
The dragon, its wings clipped.
"Kain!" she felt the word torn from her throat. Dropping Zantetsuken where she stood, she ran.
When Lightning finally reached him, he wasn't moving.
"Damn it Highwind," she said through gritted teeth. "Who the fuck asked you to come after me anyway?"
Kain was unresponsive. She tried to move him, but his size and the weight of his armor rendered him dead weight on the ground. Rain poured over him, and his thin, violet stained lips were still; robbed of their usual laconic twist. Stilling her panic, she rifled through her pack. No potions. No elixirs. Nothing. "Shit," she muttered, heart racing in her throat. Eventually he groaned, low and throaty, and her stomach lurched. Still alive.
"Stay with me Kain," her voice was hash, commanding. "You can't die before I kill you for following me."
A low chuckle escaped the collapsed pile of armor. Even weak, it was sonorous, cavalier. "I would hate…" he breathed, "to disappoint you Claire. You are…not appealing…when you sulk."
"Shut up already," she exhaled, frustrated. Even now he had to test her patience. But she couldn't stop the warm relief in her gut from spreading to the rest of her body. "For a 'stoic knight' you talk way too much."
"Perhaps only…compared with you." His laugh was interrupted by a wracking cough. The aspirations were dotted with droplets of blood. But the rain washed them away as soon as they appeared.
"You wanna live, you really got to shut up. Right now." A hazy memory insinuated itself back into her brain. His lungs were punctured. If she didn't do something soon, he'd drown in his own blood.
Lightning breathed out explosively. Her nerves threatned revolt, but years of training crushed the accelerating panic. She only had one option now. She just hoped she remembered how to do it. The Blaze Edge was one thing, but this other trick was different. Harder for her. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she remembered a girl with a musical voice and hair the color of copper whispering to her, Healing is like giving a part of yourself back to someone. Fair enough, she thought, pulling her slick gloves off with her teeth and abandoning them to the mud. She would never admit it, but being in this godforsaken dying world without Kain Highwind was not an option.
He, at the very least, kept her on her toes.
She leaned over him, wet hair forming a dripping veil over his face. Her lips were inches from his ear, and she tried to keep her voice steady. "You owe me for this, Highwind. And you better hope I don't screw up."
With that, she placed her hands on the slick steel of his breastplate and started pumping cure spells into his chest, offering a silent prayer to Cosmos that she wasn't turning one of his internal organs into a moogle. It was exhausting, as if she were pulling her own bones from her body, but she kept going. It wasn't until she felt even, regular breathing return beneath her fingers that she stopped and breathed a small, shuddering sigh. Weakly, her hands shook, quivered until Kain covered them softly with his own. The heat of them burned through the rain.
"Exacting favors from a man on his deathbed" he muttered, strength returning to his voice. The words were acerbic, but he continued stroking her hand. "Charming as always."
She could have punched him. But instead, she let the exhalation she'd been holding whistle from her lungs. She looked away, unwilling to let him see the look of relief that painted her face.
"Idiot," she said. "I thought you knew how to dodge."
But she squeezed his hand back, eventually.
It took them a while to find shelter.
Lurching through the rain, they were ragged silhouettes of exhaustion. Blind pilgrims, searching for nothing in particular. By the time they located a small cavern beneath an outcropping, they were both on the brink of collapse. The second they had walked a few feet into the cavern, Kain slid back against a wall in a crash of armor and exhaustion. Lightning fared a little better, managing to strip off her overcoat and pauldron before crumbling to the ground in a heap.
From beneath the rain soaked helm, Kain chuckled lowly. "How graceful."
"Can I ask you something Kain?" Lightning managed, irritated and bone tired. She rolled over and sat up. Water rolled from her hair,over high, elegant cheekbones to rain down her face like tears. Amongst the rivers, agate hard eyes flashed.
"Anything." Kain replied, lackadaisical. If his face hadn't been obscured by his helm, she would have sworn he was grinning at her. As it was, the red eyes of the dragon were impassive, shielding. Sometimes she envited him his masks. Sometimes she wanted to tear them off and slap him.
"What makes you such an asshole?"
Working the dragon helm off, Kain chuckled softly again, and then winced. He inclined his head slightly towards her, in that odd, courtly manner he shared with Cecil. "Talent," he replied, not missing a beat. "Unadulterated talent."
The motion of his head caused blond hair to cling to sharp, patrician features. His bright blue eyes gleamed in the darkness, and Lightning found herself looking at him for longer than she wanted to. It was always shocking to see his face. In many ways, the helm was Kain Highwind. It was the haughty, striking man in front of her that was the imposter.
"Talent for getting punched in the face, maybe." she finally answered. "And why did you follow me anyway? I told you to stay back."
Leaning his head back against the cave wall, Kain sighed, and then winced again, his left hand at his ribs. "You should know by now that what you tell me has no bearing on what I do," he groaned. "And I followed you because I've always said it is moronic for you to go ahead of the group into unfamiliar terrain…it's not…." His breath hitched, and he doubled over slightly. The sentence hung in the air, unfinished.
"You're still hurt." Lightning cut him off. She crawled over to him, puddles of water trailing behind her. Swatting away his protesting hands, she leaned over him, charging another cure spell in her hand. "By the way, what's moronic is limping around for an hour without telling anyone you're injured."
"I'm fine," he muttered, capturing her wrist and throwing it to the side. Despite the show of contempt, he seemed almost embarrassed. Lightning had to stifle a smirk So he wasn't made of nails after all.
"No, you're a stubborn fool," she replied. "And it's just me, so drop the tough-guy act. I can see right through it. Now how do you get this contraption you're wearing off."
Kain's eyes snapped back to meet hers, one side of his fine lips pulled into a snide smile. "Why Lightning, if you so want to get my armor off, I'll happily oblige." Weakly, he reached over his body to run a mocking finger over her slender arm. "You need but ask."
Lightning made a small sound of disgust and jerked away. She wasn't used to touch anymore, unless it was on the field. And his skin was flushed. Hers, cold. The contradiction made her shiver.
"Right. Asshole," she muttered. "Now, do you want to get healed or not? I need to see where the injury is." Her voice softened slightly. "And if you're going to insist on following me, I can't have you falling apart. It's a liability."
"I wasn't aware you cared." The tone grated on her ears. Lofty and cold.
"Well now you are," she snapped, the words knifed out of her mouth before she could stop them.
For once, Kain was without reply. Outside the cavern mouth, lightning cascaded through the sky, deadly and beautiful and distant. For a moment, its brightness cast Kain's articulate features in sharp relief, and she thought she caught a hint of suprise. It dawned on Lightning then that he was probably unused to being cared for. Maybe almost as much as she was.
"Very well then Lightning," he replied finally, the bite gone from his voice. "As you wish."
Making a low sound of discomfort, Kain pulled himself up from the wall and slowly began peeling his soaking armor off. Lightning sat by, silent as he stripped off breastplate and gardbrace and pauldron, undid the worn leather buckle that secured his rerebrace to his upper arm. Lightning observed the whole process clinically. How does he even move in that getup? Leaving his arm greaves in place, he finally pulled his light mail shirt off, revealing a perfectly trained torso, slick and bright with rainwater, embroidered lightly with scars. A soldier's body, tested and honed. She knew it well. Lightning flushed a little at the intimacy, but stopped when she saw the spreading purple bruises racing down the left side of his body. She studied them intently, eyebrows knotting.
"Shit," she said.
"I understand I'm impressive," Kain whispered through gritted teeth. He was in more pain than he was letting on. "But are you just going to stare?"
"I can take my time and get it right," she retorted, untroubled. "Or I can get it wrong and heal one of your ribs backwards. You choose."
"Maybe," she muttered under her breath. "But you'll be lucky if the swelling doesn't collapse one of your lungs. Again. So vile or not, I guess you'll just have to trust me."
Forgetting about shyness, Lightning threw her leg over both of his to straddle him facing forward. Softly, she lay her small hands over his skin. It was burning to the touch. Fever was beginning to set in. She wondered how he'd been able to walk as long as he did.
Lightning whistled through her teeth, assessing the full extent of the damage. "How'd I miss all this…"
Kain cut her off before she could continue. In time with the lightning, his blue eyes flashed. "Do not chide yourself on my account," there was a hoarseness his voice that sent a shiver down Lightning's spine. "You saved my life."
Looking up to meet his gaze, she nodded. "Then I guess we're even."
Kain said nothing in response, but she thought she saw the ghost of a smile play over his lips. After a time, he lay his hand over hers and lowered his head.
"As my lady decrees," he said, finally.
Lightning Farron was no white mage. Healing spells were difficult for her, and she bit her lower lip in concentration as she summoned the light to her fingers. What she had done on the field was the quick and dirty patch-job necessary to keep Kain from dying. The specific work of knitting together fractured bone was tricky, and her hands trembled a bit as she lay them over his chest. The soft green glow around them flickered, as uncertain as she was.
Noticing her discomfort, Kain drew his left hand to her cheek, gently pushed away a stray tendril of rose pink hair. "Take your time," he said softly. "White magic saps from the user. Conserve your strength."
Lightning scowled at him, but blush warmed her cheeks nonetheless. "Thanks for the tip. But I'm in control here."
Kain nodded. And when he captured her gaze, it was with intense blue eyes that sliced through the dark. He whispered, his voice warm with appreciation. "Of that I've no doubt."
For a long moment their eyes conspired. Sapphire and ice. Then, without warning Kain slid her hands firmly ver his shattered ribs. Face twisting in pain, he muttered. "So do it then."
Nodding, Lightning closed her eyes, sent the healing spells out through her fingers. She was navigating by touch and sound now, letting the magic guide her. Beneath her agile fingers, Kain's body was a contradiction, steel and softness; indentations and swells. Beautiful, she thought, unbidden. Like a language for the blind.
When she drew her hands over his pectoral muscles, she felt his pulse flutter against her skin. As she descended over his abdominal column, her palms followed the rise and fall of his breath. By shape and depth, she could identify the weapon that had given him every scar. Here, the long, light ridge of a dark knight's sword. There, the slash of another spear. A katana. A shruiken. An arrow. Warmth radiated between them. And as she continued drawing her hands back and forth across his body, she found her fingers lingering. On the deep crevices of his shoulders; the corded muscles of his obliques; his now racing heart. If he felt any discomfort, he masked it well; his pain betrayed only by soft grunts and quick exhalations. He cried out only once, when a stubborn rib refused to reform, twisting and cruching as the cure spell struggled with its work.
"Shh," she said soothingly. The gentleness in her voice surprised even her. "It's okay Kain. I've got this."
Lighting could hear him let his breath out slowly. She thought she heard him whisper her name. More cure spells spilled from her hands, stronger and more confident than before. Under her touch, bone knitted, blood clotted, things healed.
After a while, Kain stopped wincing under her touch, and she let the spells quietly dissolve. Her hands however, she left limply on his chest. Although she kept her eyes firmly shut, she could feel the weight of his stare.
They were both breathing heavily now. The air around them tingled and snapped with ozone and magic.
"Better?" she said finally, her voice a bit gruff.
Kain was quiet for a moment. Ever a traitor, his heart hammered beneath her fingertips. "Yes, actually," his reply was choked. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," she mumbled, averting her eyes.
"No, wait." Before she could pull away, she felt Kain catch her hard around the waist, locking her in place where she was kneeling. When he spoke, his voice was soft, pulsing. "I want you to know I…appreciate it."
Lightning froze in his grasp. Still soaking wet from the rain, droplets of water descended from her hair to drip, drop by swollen drop, over his stomach. He pulled her closer, until her knees straddled his narrow waist; flesh against slippery flesh. She struggled, but with his strength returned, and hers depleted, she found that she couldn't break free. Or perhaps that she didn't want to.
Desire spiked through her, sinuous, quick, unwanted. She pushed him. He didn't move. She angled her arm up to punch him. He caught her fist. Eventually he unfurled his fingers, knotted them with hers.
"Don't move," he whispered.
Heavy seconds passed with their hands thus intertwined. Outside, the indifferent rain still fell, muscular and deep.
When Kain started moving again, his hands were deliberate. They slipped from her hands to her arms, from her waist to her ribs. Long fingers danced with grace and lightness. She would never have guessed they could be so tender. Not when they had killed so many.
"What do you think you're doing?" Lightning's demand was a dangerous whisper, slitting the tension. "Get your hands off of me, Highwind."
"I think not." Kain's voice was an eloquent rumble. Through the gathering darkness, she could see the aristocratic features soften. He leaned in further, his breath now hot against her throat. "Unless you want me to Claire. I have not descended so far, as to take anything not being offered."
Lightning shuddered. Wrapped herself in silence. Pressing his advantage, Kain continued, hoarse. "It's not easy for me…but I…value your alliance..."
"What are you talking about Kain?" Lightning's reply was sharp, even as she relaxed into his embrace. "You act like you're trapped in this mess alone."
"Perhaps I am at that." For once he was unguarded. And when he spoke again, it was pensive, half to himself. One of his hands tangled itself loosely in her the ends of her hair. Gently. Too gently for the type of man she had always assumed Kain was. "I fear the cast of a long shadow…I am not a good man, Lightning, where I come from."
"Yeah well," Lightning's response was soft. Her mind grasped at a tattered memory. Of a girl, shrouded in crystal, one she'd failed to believe. Of a boy, standing in a wasteland, one she'd almost left behind. The faces of so many soldiers, caught in the crossfire. Her heart constricted, whether at the present or the past, she couldn't tell. "We're not all angels, you know. Least of all me. But we go on, anyway. Hope, anyway. There's no other choice."
"Perhaps. Perhaps not." Kain's fingers trailed up her spine, firm and unrelenting. A long, slow caress that pierced the core of loneliness that always seemed shroud them both. "But either way, it seems we might understand each other after all."
Lightning shuddered. It was a fleeting flash of intimacy. A strange peace, in a world of madness.
When Lighting spoke again, her voice was trembling. She cursed herself for it. "Why are you doing this to me?"
"You're a smart woman Claire," he replied, seemingly enchanted with a wet tendril of her hair. He curled it around a long finger, the small gesture inexplicably cherishing. But when he answered her, the knowing snark was back in his voice. "You know I do not risk my neck for anyone. Shall I spell it out for you?"
She arched a small pink eyebrow, challenging him. "Go ahead," she muttered roughly, leaning into his arms for the first time. "I'm listening."
Through the hiss of the rain, she heard him laugh a low, relaxed laugh. "Presumptuous wench…"
As his greedy lips captured hers, she realized she was smiling.