A single, humorless laugh left the young woman's lips as she sped down an empty road. It was getting late, and in the silence of her car, she couldn't help but reflect on her terrible day.
Snobby lieutenants, new assignments that take me away from home…And serving under the commanders I hate most. The Guardian Corps ticks me off sometimes. This is going to be so terrific.
Lightning tightened her grip on the steering wheel in anger, eyes narrowed and locked on the road. She wasn't really seeing it, though. She was too wrapped up in her thoughts. She was twenty-one, and even though she had been working hard in the Corps for years, she was starting to wonder if the sacrifices were worth it. Going away from home was never what Lightning wanted, even if nothing was left for her at home. Serah was marrying somebody soon, but Lightning still wanted to cling to her life where her sister was an active part of her life.
There were two things Lightning didn't like: Being alone, and change. And both were about to occur within the next week.
"Change isn't all bad, Farron," Lieutenant Amador said to her earlier that day. "Think of it this way: You're moving to a new station as your sister's moving out. You won't have to get used to an empty house."
"Tch." Lightning only grunted at the memory. He was partially right, but she still didn't like being repositioned at a time like this. If she had to live in a home without Serah, she wanted to do it right away and not avoid it. Running away from a problem wasn't her style, not anymore.
What she was running from right now was the storm that was threatening to start at any time. She didn't want to drive for another hour, in the middle of nowhere, through a storm. But it looked like she had no other choice. The storm wasn't going to wait for her to get home to Bodhum. That was what she should have expected, since today was already so unlucky for her.
A rumble of thunder was enough to get her out of her thoughts, and as soon as she heard the noise, she knew what was about to come. "Darn it," she mumbled. The rain suddenly started pouring down suddenly, coming down in strength that Lightning should have expected. Bad luck yet again.
She drove down the straight, empty road and kept her eyes forward as the rain pelted her car. Just icing on the cake for this terrible day.
A single laugh left the young man's lips at the sight of the rain, though that laugh wasn't humorous in the slightest.
A storm, terrific, he thought sarcastically. He tightened his grip on the steering wheel as he drove north on the straight road, no other vehicle in sight. This is just icing on the cake for a terrible day like this. First I move into my new apartment and find out the landlord didn't have furniture like he promised, then my registration to the Corps takes three hours instead of three minutes.
Riku lifted his hand and used it to hit the wheel lightly in frustration. He hated it when things didn't go as planned. He hadn't planned to run into this storm, either. But that would be his luck. Now getting back to the outskirts of Nautilus would take longer, since he should have driven cautiously in such a terrible storm.
"Screw caution," the young man muttered under his breath. He drove the gas pedal hard to the ground and ran his car much faster than the speed limit on the slick, empty highway. Granted, he couldn't see too far ahead of him because of the heavy rain that was falling, but the road had been empty all night. Single lanes both ways, and the road wasn't ever used from what he heard. So, he wasn't worried about running into anybody from behind.
He was more worried about the turn his life was taking right now. The twenty-two year old tried college back in Destiny Islands for a while, but it didn't feel right. He didn't want education; he wanted strength to defend those that he loved. That was why he moved to Cocoon and joined the Guardian Corps.
Of course, Sora and Kairi weren't happy about that. His two childhood friends didn't like that he was moving so far away, but this was something that he had to do. It was time that he found his purpose in life…and maybe a girl. Sora and Kairi were just married a year ago, and while they still had their trio, Riku felt like he was intruding sometimes. But he couldn't tell them that; it'd make them feel guilty.
He'd be a loner, like he always was.
Like he always would be.
Lightning quite suddenly became aware that she wasn't the only person on this empty road. And it was at a terrible place, because this part of the road was really narrow. And even worse than that, the road was so slick that she was going to have trouble getting out of this car's way.
A crash was inevitable.
Her adrenaline started flowing immediately, her heart pounding as she quickly swerved her car to the side even though the headlights of the other car were only a few yards away from hers. She slammed on the breaks and felt her car skid on the slick road so that her back end was closer to the center of the road. "Crap!"
The other car swerved to try and avoid her, but he also had trouble because of the rain. His turning of the wheel was exaggerated, clearly. Even within a second, Lightning could tell that he hadn't seen her coming as well. Because of the rain, his car spun around in a half-circle on the road and the nose hit Lightning's left rear.
The young woman grunted at the impact that moved her car a few feet to the side, into the grass. She hardly noticed that, though, the side of her head hitting her window. It was hard enough to make her feel slightly dazed. But the soldier in her took control of the situation. She lifted a hand to her head and felt for any blood that could have come as a result of the impact. She didn't feel anything.
Sighing, she turned on the blinkers and put her car in park. She needed to go check on the other driver, whose car now sat so it was blocking the whole road.
A tap on her window stopped her from getting out and checking on the other driver, though. She looked over and saw him already standing there, looking awfully concerned and guilty. But he had no reason to be that way; the accident was her fault in a way. She had been speeding.
She undid her seatbelt and then opened the door, stepping out into the pouring rain with the stranger. She didn't even have time to get in a word edgewise, because he was suddenly talking to her.
"Hey, you okay? I'm so sorry, I didn't see your lights until we were within a few yards of each other."
"I have a headache, but I'm fine. And don't worry about it; I'm at fault too. Are you alright?"
"Think I got whiplash, but I'm good too. We got lucky that this wasn't a head on collision."
"We did," Lightning agreed. She looked past the rain and her soaking wet bangs to the young man who stood before her. His shoulder-length silver hair was drenched, and so was his dark shirt and jeans. If the shirt didn't cling to his features enough before being wet, they sure did now. He was buff.
"Guess my day wasn't crappy enough," he said somewhat sheepishly. "I thought the rain was the icing on the cake for today, but wrecking my car may top that."
"Yeah?" the soldier asked in curiosity. "I had the same thoughts."
"Today must be a terrible day altogether, then. Still, at least things can't get much worse." As if on cue, the front of his car starting smoking excessively. The engine was blown; Lightning knew that even if she didn't know much about cars. And the stranger, no matter what knowledge he had about cars, must have realized that things got worse in that instant. "…Nevermind."
Lightning smiled, partially in pity and partially in amusement. This guy really DID have bad luck. "We'd better move your car out of the road," she said in seriousness. "You already did that for mine."
The two of them moved over to the back of the man's car and started pushing it. It was a fairly big car in size, but pushing it wasn't too hard. He was obviously strong, and even if she didn't appear it, she was very strong as well. She had to be, considering she was in the Guardian Corps.
"How's a little girl like you so strong? I feel like I'm not pushing this car at all."
"Hmph," Light hummed in amusement. She liked the way he put it; most mucho guys like him wouldn't have been able to admit that a girl was so strong. "Looks can be deceiving, huh?"
"That they can," he agreed. "But I think our cars are accurately showing the damage. We won't be driving away in them tonight."
Looking at both the cars, Lightning was compelled to agree. One of her tires went flat, and she had no spares. And obviously the stranger's car was in worse shape than hers was. "Have a phone so we can call a tow company?"
Lightning frowned. "Neither do I." She didn't carry a phone on her, no matter how much Serah insisted she did. When her sister heard this, she would definitely get Lightning a phone. But fortunately for Lightning, she knew this road well. And so she knew she and the stranger weren't completely trapped here. "There's a payphone a few miles down the road, so we'll have to go there."
"Sounds good," the young man said, grunting as they shoved the car into the grass. "Let's get going."
"Better take out your car keys. With your luck, somebody would come by and steal the car."
"Hah. Good point." He moved to get his keys out of his car, and Lightning did the same with her own car. She was thinking about the stranger while she did, though. She had never seen him around, not once. If she had seen him, she would have remembered. She didn't even know his name and yet she could tell that however mad he was about his bad luck today, he was taking it in stride. That was good.
She turned off her car, shoved her keys into her pocket, and then made sure she also had her wallet. Yeah; it was in the other pocket of her skirt. She shut the door to her car and then walked over to the other guy's car. He was just opening his trunk and pulling something out. Out of curiosity, she stepped closer to see just what it was.
"Here," he said, holding it out for her. "I know you're already soaked, and the blanket'll get soaked too, but it should help for a while."
Lightning nodded and accepted the blanket, surprised again by this guy's character. He wasn't a total jerk like a lot of the other people she knew. It was refreshing to meet a strong guy who wasn't egotistical. "Thanks, stranger."
He smiled and took the bait she threw out to him. "I'm Riku."
"Lightning," she said in response, wrapping the blanket around her shoulders casually.
"'Lightning' out in a storm, huh?" he asked with a smirk. "You do this often?"
"Hmph. I try to avoid it, but I'm running short on luck today, like you."
"Like I said, seems like a terrible day altogether. And I'm not going to be stupid and say that things can't get worse."
"I can guarantee they will get worse if we don't start towards the payphone," Light said with a small smirk. "Come on." She started walking, and Riku quickly caught up to her so he was walking by her side. She liked his sense of humor already, his wit something she hardly saw in a place as serious as the Guardian Corps.
The two of them walked through the pouring rain, and as they did, the blanket around Lightning's shoulder kept getting wetter and wetter. Within a few minutes, it was as soaked as she was underneath the fabric Riku gave her. But she appreciated the thought nonetheless.
"So, Lightning, what makes your day so bad?"
She looked over at him in surprise, giving him a look. Not many people she knew took an interest in somebody they didn't know, especially if they would never meet that person again. "You expect me to open up about my life to somebody I just met?" she asked with arched brow.
Riku only shrugged. "You said we had a few miles. I figured conversation would be a good way to pass the time."
Lightning nodded and looked ahead, squinting because of the rain. "Work," she said after a moment. "That's what made my day so bad."
"Not to sound like a creep, but…Are you in the Guardian Corps?" Lightning looked over and gave him another look. He understood what she meant immediately and elaborated. "I noticed your shoulder guard. That's…sergeant?"
"Yeah…But I'm impressed you know that," the soldier confessed. "Not many civs know what colors represent which rank."
"Well, I'm not just a 'civ'. At least, not anymore. I applied for the Guardian Corps earlier today. I'm being stationed on the…Linblum?"
"What? What'd I say?" Riku asked with an arched brow.
"That's where I got reassigned earlier today. I'll be moving there Monday."
"Really. That's good news for me, since I don't know anybody in the Corps. …Maybe my luck's changed."
"I have the power to change that? I'm touched," Lightning said with a small smirk. She heard Riku "hmph" in either amusement or agreement, but she continued to speak her thoughts aloud. "But the feeling's mutual. Being torn away from home isn't fun, but I guess being on an airship with the guy who ruined my car won't be too bad."
"Hey!" Riku cried in protest. "You said you were responsible for the crash too, you know."
"Don't worry, cadet, I'm just preparing you for the treatment you'll receive in the Corps," Lightning replied smoothly. "Noobs like you are victim to bad treatment from superiors, but then again, I think that follows you no matter what rank you are."
"You get treated badly?"
Lightning shrugged. "Bad in the sense I'm being dragged away from my home for the first time to serve in another part of the Corps. But I guess it's okay. My sister's moving out within a month, so my house would have been lonely without her anyway. I hate change, but…this could be okay, I guess."
The two of them walked in silence for a minute, a minute where Lightning reflected on what she just said. The change wouldn't be too bad. As much as she was stressing over the problem, she realized that maybe what she said was true. Her current lifestyle wasn't leaving her too satisfied, so maybe life onboard the Lindblum would change that. Maybe…the change was necessary.
"I don't mind change so much," Riku said after a minute or two. "I hate it more when things don't go as planned. Like signing up for the Corps today. They said it would take three minutes, but it took three hours. And the apartment I'm staying in—courtesy of the Corps—doesn't have the furniture they promised. And crashing my car obviously wasn't planned…"
"I should hope not," Light said in reference to the car accident. "You'd have to pretty twisted to crash into somebody's car just for the heck of it."
"Even if that girl happens to be pretty charming and pretty?" Riku asked boldly, smiling genuinely as he gazed at Lightning. She looked over at him, again, and had the same look of surprise she had on her face a few times that night. Not only was this guy attractive and funny, but he was also bold and sincere. But he knew his limits as well. "Yeah, I guess that would be pretty twisted."
"Yeah." That was all Lightning could think to say, the soldier a little flustered. She wasn't used to a guy talking to her like this, and she wasn't used to talking to a guy the way that she was. She thought relationships were dumb for a long, long time, but this guy was starting to prove her wrong. Not all guys were arrogant, prideful, jerks.
They walked in silence for only ten seconds before Riku spoke again. "Hey, look," he said over the rain, nodding his head to the side of the road. "There's the payphone."
"Finally," Lightning sighed, walking over it and reaching into her wallet for some quarters.
"What, is my presence that terrible? Here I thought we were getting along," Riku teased.
"I meant the rain, stupid." Lightning smiled faintly at the name, clearly not meaning it in an offensive way. She didn't think she could be offensive to Riku right now, not after he listened to her and made her feel like something other than a soldier. For once, she felt like a human being, having a normal conversation with somebody who didn't care about what rank she was in the Guardian Corps. She felt like she made a friend based on personality instead of personal gain.
It only took a few minutes for Lightning to do what she had to do. Even if she enjoyed Riku's company, she wasn't enjoying the rain that continued to pour down on them. She called in the accident and told the tow trucks where to pick her and Riku up. And although they were in the middle of nowhere, the trucks arrived within twenty minutes. They picked them up from their spot, took them back to their cars, and then hooked the cars up to their trucks to take them away. Fortunately for her and Riku, the cars would be towed to their homes, so they had a way to get where they belonged.
Right before they were about to part ways, Lightning walked away from her car back to Riku. "Here," she said, holding out the soaking wet blanket.
"Gee, thanks," he said sarcastically. He smirked at her jokingly, but then his smile turned genuine as he changed the subject. "It was nice to meet you, Lightning. Despite the circumstances. I'll see you on the Linblum?"
Lightning smiled faintly, unable to help it. "Yeah, I'll see you there. And it was nice to meet you too."
The two of them stared at each for longer than what was called for, but the feeling wasn't unnatural to Lightning. A small smile—a rare jewel of hers—lingered on her expression for a few seconds longer before the two of them both returned to their cars and parted ways. Lightning got into hers and Riku got into his, the tow trucks leading them in completely opposite ways.
The young woman looked ahead of her as her car was dragged home without realizing that she wore a small smile for a long time. Riku had said something about his luck changing, and she now realized that hers had changed too. Her problems suddenly seemed so trivial—so insignificant in the long run. Instead of dreading the change, she was actually looking forward to it. Whether Riku knew it or not, he had given her a new perspective about change. He showed her that change wasn't always bad.
I guess today wasn't such an unlucky day after all.
Author's note: Woo-hoo for Riku/Lightning fics! There are so few out there that I need to add to the number. I have to admit, this one was written all in one day. But I think that it turned out pretty well. I adore this pairing. (: And if you adore it, review my Riku/Lightning stories and start writing your own ones as well. Thanks for taking the time to read my story.