A/N: There's something about me and masses of water and I truthfully don't know what. Plotless; written as a stress relief as explained in the closing A/N.
They had been making their way back from an extermination hunt, directed by the moogle guild, when they were ambushed by a group of manikins. The battle wasn't anything intense but the party did sustain injuries albeit minor ones. As dusk settled in, Squall- acting as the de facto leader of their little party- decided to set up camp and they'd all continue their journey after a night's rest. It didn't take long before the first sentry's shift started.
That was a few hours ago.
Squall Leonhart opened one eye and discreetly observed the pinkette as she stood up and took a quick glance across the clearing before silently making her way out of the camp site. He unfolded his arms as he too rose, eyes narrowed as he thought about the stubborn woman.
He started down her trail, making sure to not wake the rest of the sleeping warriors. As he walked past a tree where a certain sleeping sky pirate on watch duty leaned against, he resisted the urge to kick him awake. Since both he and Lightning were up, there was no point rousing the idle youth for sentry duty.
As he walked, he was mildly surprised how far the woman had travelled. Nevertheless, the brunet already had an idea where she was headed and so didn't fear not being able to find her. After all, he caught her gazing at the flowing mass earlier and he could actually see the gears turning in her head through her impassive blue eyes. It didn't take long before the pinkette glared at him when she realized he knew.
True enough, he spotted her sitting on a low boulder, illuminated by the cool moon's shine, her boots neatly tucked beside her as she dipped her bare feet in the cool stream. He stood back, hiding in the shadow as he leaned against the tree, keeping an eye out for her sake.
Several minutes passed before the pinkette acknowledged his presence.
"Come out." He heard her self-assuredly command. Though her back was turned on him, he could hear the frown in her voice. Squall would've ignored her until she continued with an edge in her voice. "Don't make me repeat myself."
The brunet pushed himself off the tree and walked into the moonlight. He noted that Lightning still had her back turned on him despite his approach. The brunet saw her pat the space beside her and, understanding her intent, he silently complied, sitting down beside the pinkette but facing in the opposite direction.
Squall gave her a quick sideway glance before slouching forward, resting his chin on his hands as he stared at the darkness of the forest. "How is your foot?" he asked, trying not to sound solicitous.
Lightning raised her leg, inspecting her swollen ankle, before submerging it in the water once more. "Getting better." She answered him curtly. She leaned back, using her arms for support, as she gave him a hard stare. "You didn't have to do that."
Squall grunted, feeling her eyes boring at him. "Your foot would have continued swelling." He pointed out.
The pinkette scoffed. "I could bear with it. We could've hit town by now."
Squall returned her gaze. "I'm not taking any chances. We could have been ambushed again while you are injured."
"This injury doesn't make me invalid." She stated, pushing herself forward. "I can barely feel it." She brought her good leg up to her chest and wrapped her arms around it to secure its position before she rested her cheek against her knee. "We should have just continued walking."
The brunet sighed, finding this entire argument pointless. "You should know unchecked sprains will only grow worse."
"And you should know I can deal with it."
Squall shifted. "Everyone else was tired."
"Everyone else could have kept on going." Lightning declared, her tone never betraying her defiance. "Don't try fooling me. You and I both know the only reason you decided to set up camp was because of this." She glared at the foot that was still submerged underwater.
Squall didn't reply. He remembered how the pink-haired soldier tried to hide her injury, acting as if everything was normal. If Squall hadn't noticed the slight limp in her first few steps, he would have not known anything was wrong.
"That was part of my decision." The brunet finally acquiesced. Squall frowned as he tried to figure out what the problem was.
Lightning continued, unconvinced. "I knew you'd check up on me."
Squall bit his tongue, knowing exactly what Lightning meant from that statement. She was declaring her confidence in her proclamations; that he did give his orders based on her predicament. Knowing when the battle was lost, Squall shifted their topic.
He stood up and discarded his jacket and gloves as he crouched down next to her. "Let me see your foot."
The pinkette replied with a glare. Squall shrugged it off nonchalantly, staring at her eyes determinedly. With a sigh, Lightning shifted her weight, pulling her leg out of the water before lowering her slightly swollen foot on his waiting hands.
Squall ran one hand against her ankle while his other held her foot in place. He felt Lightning tense despite her expression never changing and surmised that her foot was still tender and that she was still mad at him.
"Be honest; will we need to amputate?" she deadpanned. It took Squall a moment before he realized Lightning actually cracked a joke as she mocked him.
The brunet shot her a wry smirk. "Funny." He tightened his grip on her foot as he gently ran his other hand up and down her slightly reddened skin.
Lightning suppressed a wince at his administrations. "Stop that." Squall ignored her and the pain on her foot started to dull under his treatment. Nevertheless, she felt her pride calling out for his blood. "I said stop!" she raised her fist.
Squall glared at her, making her pause from delivering retribution on his currently unprotected skull. "We need to stretch your muscle fibers so that they will repair properly." He informed her. Lightning remained unconvinced and folded her arms across her chest angrily.
"You're really pissing me off." Lightning scowled at the man. Squall once again ignored her and returned his attention back to her foot and continued his therapy. "You're doing that again."
Squall looked up at her wonderingly. "Doing what?"
Lightning's scowl deepened. She tried to move her foot but Squall instinctively held firm. "Just stop that, Squall." She raised her voice.
The brunet's grip on her foot loosened and she swiftly dipped her foot back into the water. Squall frowned at her. "I wasn't done yet."
"I know." She stated simply.
Squall's eyes narrowed before becoming impassive, noticing that Lightning's gaze still remained hard. He dipped his hands in the stream and rubbed them together. "What's your problem?"
"My problem-" Lightning paused, reigning in her anger. "-is that you've been treating me like I am fragile."
Squall frowned. "I'm not." He denied, running through their interactions in his head for any evidence to back up his statement.
"You've been watching my every move." She continued. "And don't even think of denying it." She stared intently at the brunet's eyes when he finally looked at her.
"What proof do you have?" he scowled. In response, Lightning raised her recovering foot. "…anyone would have noticed that." He defended albeit lamely. He idly realized he was going to lose this argument as well.
She lowered her leg. "No. Only you did." Her voice finally calmed down. "Because your eyes have been on me." She averted her gaze. "And that's how you knew I'd be here."
Squall's lips thinned. He tried to think up an argument but none came. Reviewing his memory, he realized that he was looking after her even if he didn't intend it. Somewhere between battles and out, he had learned to trust in her and lower his guard around her. That trust eventually changed- they'd been there for each other- and he grew to … care for her.
His eyes widened marginally at the revelation- something the pinkette picked up.
"You finally figured it out?" her tone carried a hint of mirth.
"It's natural to look after the safety of a comrade." He tried to brush off the conversation, not liking where this was going.
"It's another thing to look after one comrade specifically." Clearly Lightning wouldn't let this go.
Squall sighed and leaned back, his posture slacking. Lightning almost felt sorry for the brunet but this was something she needed to get off her chest. Pressing on her advantage, she spoke heavily. "Look, Leonhart, I want you to stop this."
Lightning bit back a wince and regretted speaking when she realized that her words came off harsher than she had intended. She noticed Squall tensed for the briefest of moments and she inwardly cursed her poor choice in words.
A tense silenced bore down on the two warriors.
Lightning watched him intently, inwardly hoping he'd say something as she could clearly see his internal battle but had no idea what exactly he was thinking. At last, his body regained its usual rigidity as he finally looked at her, his eyes back to their neutral nonchalance.
"Alright." His tone came off evenly. Lightning saw through it; she heard the underlying stiffness in his tone. He picked up his gloves and jacket as he stood up.
Lightning realized he was preparing to leave and, not trusting her words for the moment, impulsively grabbed his hand. Wait!
Squall shot her an exasperated glare. What now?
Her grip tightened. Stay.
His lips thinned- he was clearly displeased at this turn of events. What for?
He tried to shrug off her hand but her grip remained steadfast. Stay.
Squall roughly jerked his hand free. For an instant, Lightning thought that she couldn't get through to him until he sat back down, arms folded as he stared at her expectantly. Fine. Talk.
Lightning took a deep breath and idly wondered if this sinking feeling was the same thing he felt earlier when she was prodding him into a corner. Pushing those thoughts away, Lightning tried to explain herself.
"I didn't mean for you to stop caring." She spoke lowly, trying to convince him. She saw Squall tilt his head in response, urging her to elaborate, and so she continued. "I want you to stop looking after me. I can take care of myself."
Squall's thoughts suddenly cleared as he finally understood what Lightning's problem was. She had already realized the same thing she made him acknowledge and she had no idea how to deal with it. It was one thing to trust a comrade with your life and another thing to depend on a person for support- especially for the both of them.
They were both too prideful and independent.
"I can't promise you that." He finally replied. The pinkette sighed, a wry pout on her lips. "But, I shall consult you. Next time."
Their tension finally broke. Squall shot Lightning a small, reassuring smile, which Lightning returned with a soft smirk. To anyone else, these things wouldn't mean a thing but to them- especially for them- these little things were what mattered.
"Thanks." Lightning acknowledged. She broke their gaze, instead looking anxiously at the shimmering stream. Squall could tell she was thinking of something once again. "For not worrying everyone else with this."
She drew small circles in the water with her leg; emphasizing what she meant and testing her limb.
"No problem." Squall answered, watching her movements but not commenting on them.
Lightning turned sharply in his direction, her eyes shining in determination. She raised her leg, droplets cascading down her foot and back into the stream, and Squall noted the swelling was subsiding. He saw the briefest of pouts mar her face before it vanished in a flash; clearly she was about to do something she wasn't used to doing.
She adjusted her posture so that she was fully facing him once again, keeping her sapphire eyes locked with his storm blues.
Squall understood her intent and he discarded his gloves once more before she lowered her recovering limb on his waiting palms. The kneeling brunet wordlessly continued his previous therapy to the secret delight of his comrade.
Lightning smiled softly- a rare moment Squall missed, his head bowed in concentration- as she wordlessly watched the man service her.
It was all the small things they treasured the most.
A/N: Written while I was feeling down about my exam; instead of moping around, I decided to do something semi-productive. I really hate synoptic essays =x and I actually mucked up one of the questions. Can't believe my mind blanked out on naming a hormonal contraceptive of all things and I ended up writing 'GnRH analogue' ~_~ what made it worse was I was thinking of progesterone but somehow convinced myself that was used for HRT only. Hopefully I'll be able to get away with it since GnRH analogues technically could work.
Now, while I realize applying real-life mechanisms to fantasy's, and more importantly gaming's, magic is stupid, I'll try to justify how cure spells work for this fic so that this will be more acceptable. And yes, I did spend time mulling over this little detail.
Cure spells close wounds by activating the usual haemostatic mechanism (platelet aggregation, formation of fibrin mesh, and fibrinolysis). By arguing its mechanism this way, you can justify how cure doesn't alleviate status effects. Cure treats wounds and bruises but doesn't treat muscle sores so that the body can grow stronger muscle fibers. The suspension of belief in this oneshot is Lightning actually spraining her ankle. While difficult considering her training and her attire, it's not impossible (I mean, NBA players run and jump more intensively than her and wear 'ankle supports' yet still are prone to sprains).
On another note, I finally found myself some Squall/Lightning shipping fanart after ages of hunting T^T happy me is happy, even if it's not much.
Thanks to all those that have reviewed my fics so far!