The Final Facade

The decorations: Gorgeous.

The atmosphere: Full of mystery and wonder.

The people…Too energetic for one soldier's taste.

Lightning sighed, leaning her back against the wall of the ballroom as she stayed secluded from the rest of the crowd. She was invited here for this party, and she was forced to come at her sister's insisting. A masquerade ball! People meet their true loves at events like this! Go, it'll be so much fun! Serah had said.

Yeah, this is so much fun, Light thought sarcastically, fighting the urge to roll her eyes as her arms were folded over her chest. Yeah, people were having fun and dancing and blah blah blah. But Lightning didn't know anybody here except for a few people, Cloud Strife being one of them. But he was being forced to dance with a girl named Tifa. Fine with her; Strife wasn't too fun to hang out with anyway. He was always depressed.

But then again, maybe that was just a stereotype. Lightning came across as being depressed, uptight, mean…She really wasn't. She was a very hopeful person, who sought hope even when it seemed like it didn't exist. Uptight…well, she could be that way. It depended on the situation. And the same with being mean. She as trying to cool things down since she always chased people away.

I'm even doing that tonight, she thought. Just standing away from the crowd with her back against the wall, arms folded over her chest…she didn't look too friendly. Even if she looked beautiful in her silky deep purple dress, she hadn't spoken to anybody she didn't know. She definitely fit in with all the people here, dressed in full-length gowns with fancy hairdos and masks. It was her aloof nature that was intimidating people.

Oh well. The party would end eventually. She just wished she wasn't dressed up like this. She hated being in any clothing that she couldn't fight a battle in. There were no battles here, but…still.

"Excuse me?"

Lightning blinked at the voice directed at her, her gaze lifting from the ground to the young man who was standing in front of her. He was in a tuxedo and wearing a black mask, which was a contrast to the silver hair that reached his shoulders.

"Yeah?" Lightning asked, not quite coming across as nice. If Serah was here, she would kill me for using that tone of voice.

"You want to dance?" he asked without being intimidated by her tone.

Again, Light blinked in surprise, looking behind him to the dance floor. "…Um, I don't dance."

"Neither do I," the stranger responded with a smirk. "But my friends are gonna kill me if I don't get in at least one dance tonight."

"Ah," she said with a smirk, finding his bluntness appealing. Not many guys could walk up to a girl like her, who was aloof and seemingly intimidating. But maybe she wasn't too intimidating after all, considering what he said next.

"That, and my mother taught me to never leave a pretty girl by herself."

"Smart woman," Lightning replied, her smirk growing.

"Yeah," he agreed with a smile. "So, I figured I'd kill two birds with one stone. Get my friends to back off and ask a pretty, single girl to dance."

"What makes you think I'm single?"

"Um, common sense?" he said bluntly, though his tone wasn't harsh. It was pretty obvious she was here alone.

"Hmph." Lightning's smirk remained, her pale blue eyes on the aqua ones of the man in front of her. If she had to guess his age…He was probably 19. He was taller than her, well built, and the silver hair that reached his shoulders somehow helped make him look older. She had never seen him before tonight, but it made sense. She didn't know most of the people at this party.

The young man studied her when she studied him, but after a moment, he spoke. "So, dance with me?" he asked, his smile turning sheepish. "Save me from the humiliation of being turned down by the first girl I ask to dance?"

"That would be pretty embarrassing, wouldn't it," she said, making a face. "Well, lucky for you, my sister's going to ask me if I danced with anyone when I get home. And if I don't…it won't be pleasant."

"I'll take that as a yes, then," he said then, smirking and offering her a hand. She accepted it, lifting her ungloved hand and setting it in his. When he gripped it, his grip was firm but not overwhelmingly tight. And when he turned and started leading her to the dance floor, it only backed up what Lightning thought. He was confident.

The pair reached an open area, and the man kept a grip on her hand while moving the other to her waist. "Hope you don't mind," he said, referring to the dance stance. She didn't even know his name and yet he was setting his hand on her hip. But she wasn't protesting because…he was different. He was somebody she was interested in knowing more about.

"Gotta put on a good show for your friends," Lightning returned, lifting her hand and setting it on his shoulder.

"Right."

Lightning swayed to the music along with the stranger, her eyes wandering away from his after a minute. She had danced before, of course; she was trained to dance because of the military. She had to be able to fit into various situations, including parties. But she had no desire to put that training into use. Even dancing with this guy, she still wished she could have skipped out on this.

"Don't look too unhappy," the guy muttered to her, though his voice wasn't harsh. "My friends are gonna think I threatened you into doing this."

"Sorry," Light said, lifting her gaze to his eyes again. "Parties aren't my thing."

"But you seem comfortable enough wearing the mask," he said randomly.

She only shrugged. "Everyone wears a mask, literally or figuratively."

"What's your mask hiding?"

"You're going into dangerous territory, Stranger," she said, smirking to cover up her thoughts.

He took the hint, knowing that it was time to actually introduce himself. It was about time, considering how long they had been speaking and how they were dancing in their second song by now. "I'm Riku. And you are…"

"Lightning."

"Interesting name, Lightning," Riku said, his voice showing both curiosity and amusement. "Is that a part of your mask?"

"You could say that."

"What's your real name?" he asked, bold like he had been earlier. But his boldness wasn't going to give him the answer that he wanted; because that wasn't information that Lightning gave out freely.

"Not many people get the privilege of knowing that," she responded in seriousness, shaking her head.

"Understandable," Riku replied with a nod, taking it surprisingly well and letting the question go. "A lot goes along with a name."

"Yes it does," she said softly, looking away. She changed her name to escape her past and become a new, stronger person. Some days, she still felt like her old self was there, haunting her. That girl was weak, and she wanted nothing to do with her. Simple as that.

"I changed my name at one point too," he said.

"Hm," Light hummed. "Not many people can say that."

"Not really," he agreed. "But that's the truth of the matter."

Lightning lifted her gaze to behind Riku, catching a brunet with spiky hair and a redhead by his side point out Riku. "Another truth is that I think I've spotted your friends," she said, looking to her partner again. "He seems excited to see you dancing."

"Ah, typical Sora," Riku said with a sigh, going along with the subject change. "He's the one who's forcing me to dance, and yet later he'll tease me for being sappy enough to ask a girl to dance."

"You're bigger than him. Pound him," Light said, wishing she could take back the words at the surprised look Riku gave her. She forgot it wasn't normal for girls to talk like that.

"Not quite what I'd expect to hear from a small girl, but I'll take the advice into consideration," he said while smirking.

"Looks are deceiving, Riku," Light returned with a smirk of her own.

"That they are," he agreed quietly.

The song came to a close, the DJ then saying that he was going to start a slow song. A slow song? Psh, like either of us are going to stick around for that. We just met.

Lightning looked back to Riku at the same time that he looked at her, and strangely, it seemed as if they thought the same thing at the exact same time. They both released each other and nodded formally, though neither of them made any move to walk away.

For the first moment or so, it wasn't awkward. Then it was.

"Heh," Riku said, lifting a hand and ruffling his hair. "It's hot in here…"

Light glanced away, seeing a door that led to an outdoor balcony. "I'm going outside for some air," she said, agreeing with Riku about the temperature. She was suddenly burning up.

"Mind if I steal your idea?"

"As long as you're not following to stalk me," she returned with a smirk, starting that way without waiting for a response. She believed she heard Riku hum in amusement before he followed, the two of them weaving their way out of the crowd. It didn't take long to reach the outside area, where cooler night air waited for them.

The young woman couldn't help but sigh in contentment, looking up at the sky and seeing the stars and the moon. It was a clear night, with the stars shining brightly and the clearness of the sky reflecting the peaceful aura outside. She set her hand on the fence at the edge of the balcony, aware that Riku came up beside her and did the same.

"I like nighttime," he said randomly.

"Me too. It's easier to take off the mask."

"You never answered my question from earlier. What's your mask keeping hidden, Lightning?" he asked again.

"What's yours keeping hidden?" she returned without answering, turning her head to face him.

"Ladies first," he insisted.

"Nah," she said right back.

Riku sighed as he gave in, lifting his hands to remove the black mask on his face. He untied the strap behind his head and then pulled it away, holding it in his hand and looking at Lightning. "This is all that you're going to see tonight—what my literal mask kept hidden. Can I at least see that much from you?"

"Sounds fair," Lightning said, lifting her hands to the straps on the back of her head that kept her gray mask on her face. She untied it carefully with consideration to her curly hair before she took it away, her pink bangs getting in her eyes again once the mask was out of the way. She, like Riku, held it in front of her and held his gaze.

"…You're uh…"

"What?" Light asked with an arched brow.

"…You're really beautiful without the mask on," he responded shyly. When she blinked and looked away, shy and caught off guard, Riku spoke again. "Sorry. I thought you could handle my boldness."

"I thought I could too," she responded sheepishly.

Riku chuckled, shaking his head. "Ah, well, I'm dumb. Forget I said anything."

"Nah," Lightning said again, looking up at him. "…If I can be bold for a moment, I have something to say too."

"Hm?"

"You're an interesting guy."

Riku smirked, his confidence coming back through. "You're pretty interesting yourself, Lightning."

"…Light," she said. She caught onto Riku's confused look immediately, knowing that she had to explain. "Call me Light."

"That your real name?"

"Nope. But that's the closest you're going to get to a real name."

"Hmph. …I'm okay with that."

Light hummed, shifting her gaze out over the balcony again and gazing at the stars. Riku did the same, and neither of them spoke. Wasn't silence supposed to be awkward when people just met each other? Because this silence wasn't awkward in the slightest. It was actually nice, since Lightning was used to people wanting to talk her ear off. It was obnoxious. But Riku was different…interesting, like she said before.

What brought him to this dance, other than his friends? Did he come willingly, or was he dragged here?

And what made him so different from everybody else at this masquerade? Or every other person that she met in general?

"Well, Light," Riku said after a few moments of silence, the young man shifting his gaze to the party behind them. "Sora's making a fool of himself on the dance floor, so that's my cue to go tease him. I'll see you around, okay?"

Light smirked, Riku's boldness making itself present again. That, and his good nature. Obviously he wasn't teasing his friend out of the meanness of his heart. From what she could tell, it was just something that the two friends did.

"Yeah, see you around," she said with a nod, though she wasn't sure if that was true or not. …She hoped it would be.

Riku waved faintly, a weak smile on his lips as he turned around and went back to the dance. She didn't watch him go, instead looking to the moon.

Well, this masquerade wasn't a complete waste of my time after all, Light thought, gazing at the moon while the light of the orb shone down on her figure. She was serious at first, but then another thought came into her head, one that made her smirk return again.

Looks like Serah was wrong about me chasing away everybody with my "Lone-wolf" personality. Wait 'till she hears my methods actually ATTRACTED somebody. Lightning smiled to herself as she gazed at the moon, hearing laughter from inside but feeling laughter of her own within her heart. Somebody actually got her to smile…

Whether he knew it or not, Riku removed a part of her mask.

You're something else, Riku.


Author's note: SURPRISE, MY LOYAL READERS! I wasn't planning on releasing a oneshot, but after agonizing over writer's block, I came up with this. All in one night! Yes, I am a fan of Riku/Lightning. Most people never considered it, but I came up with it a while ago. It's one of my favorite pairings now!

Now, I have a question for you guys. Should this be continued as a full-length story? If I get enough reviews, I might just do it! (: