Theme 53: Labels
Pairing: Squall Leonhart / Lightning Farron
His friends hailed him a hero.
It was a fallacy worthy of scorn, Squall thought, because the statement could not be further from the truth. They said it was because he broke the cycle, but Squall, powerless as he was, had only given in to what the godling desired.
"You want out?" He shouted over the roar of the dragon god. Cradled in his arms was the unconscious monk—his only companion in the space between worlds. "Fine! I'll let you out—but it's on my terms!"
A shrill whistle wailed in the rift—gears chugging loudly before the Phantom Train slammed into the back of the beast. The godling roared once more at the annoyance and held the deliverer of souls in its claws.
"You are no god!" The Phantom Train accused. "Falsehood! Blasphemy! You are not worthy of the souls you carry!" Its diabolic whistle shrieked, sending a torrent of reapers at the godling.
Squall stared down at his unconscious companion, and then at the seal behind him.
He let her go.
He broke the seal and, in doing so, broke his promise to a dear friend—something he swore he would never again do. He was just that, wasn't he? A powerless fraud—a man who could not even keep his word, much less hold anything more dear.
The world saw him a butcher.
In the months that followed the fusion of worlds, Squall saw turmoil. He saw unprepared towns raided by sky pirates; saw children tormented by mad wielders of magick; saw black-hearted guilds connive with corrupt civil servants to establish a new empire.
And he knew it was his fault that this had come to pass.
"Don't be so conceited." She grumbled, jabbing a finger at his chest. The glare she gave him was one that would cause entire armies to surrender. "This problem is more than you."
Naturally, he was stubborn.
So Squall did the one thing he knew he excelled at.
Murder and manslaughter.
His heart turned as black as those that he gouged out. He instigated wars and toppled governments—replacing regimes with those that his counsel deemed were just hands.
He was as the former heir of House Bunansa accused: a monster masquerading as human, fulfilling only his desires. The sky pirate persistently made his views known during their clandestine gatherings in Nabudis.
She saw him as her partner.
It puzzled him, therefore, that despite knowing the truth, she remained steadfast at his side.
She was a soldier and protector. She was his anti-thesis, and she should have been his natural enemy. There was no conceivable reason for her presence.
And yet, by his side she remained. Taunting him, fighting him, directing him, and reasoning with him. He felt the distaste she had for his chosen profession, and felt the heat behind her glare whenever he returned from another hit.
And still, by her side he remained. Communication was a product of two, and not once did the thought of leaving her cross his mind. Instead, he listened and worried and scurried about to meet her. She kept him grounded—she prevented him from being swept away in the river of death he was neck-deep into.
She was the one that brought him back to life.
It only came natural, then, that one winter night they had shared warmth and passion in the other. It only came natural, still, that they continued to bid the other's blood to run.
He swore he would protect the protector.
She was the true hero.
He could not exactly tell when her nightmares had started but only that it did. There were nights she would curl against him in cold sweat and labored breaths and he would shake her awake. There were nights when it was she that could not sleep—instead, she would be found sitting on the windowsill with eyes gazing at something only she could see, and the pale celestial light cast upon her somehow made her evermore distant.
He approached her, hesitantly. It was as if a surreal dream—dazed footsteps in the dark whilst soaking in her lonely sight. He'd occupy the opposite side, eyes searching for that which she saw, his hand encroaching over hers in as much comforting himself as he comforted her.
I am here.
I am with you.
Slowly, gently, she would move from her spot and a warm, living back would press against his chest. It was strange how it was through comforting her that he, himself, found comfort.
She could not prove it, of course, and even in the outrageous circumstances they had found themselves in, she would not volunteer to talk about it. Still, Squall had gently prodded, and waited, and believed every word she spoke.
Of a world near oblivion; of a dying god, time-travel and sorcery.
After all, who was he to deny such claims? But more than that, he knew it was real to her, and that was all the evidence he needed to know.
He knew she was the true hero.
Where others would have scoffed at her claim, and Lightning herself could not fully explain that which had transpired—had her faith in what was real shaken—Squall simply believed.
He would hold her in those nights. Never asking more than she was willing to give, no matter how certain he was that he could make her feel better. Trust was something that was special between them, and he trusted, implicitly, that Lightning knew what she was doing.
It was not even about returning the favor, as shallow others would accuse.
It went far deeper than that.
Because Squall had finally understood what it was that Lightning felt.
"You are my constant." Lightning would whisper when she was shaken. It was in those fevered times when her arms would wrap around him with the intent of assimilation. "Stay for the night."
He would. Even should the world would burn in that moment, he would.
The morning would finally come for them, of course. Streaks of light chasing away the twilight until the sky was alight and radiant.
Suddenly, they were no longer the butcher and the hero.
They were simply Squall and Lightning.
And it was in one of those mornings with her in his arms when his understanding turned into certainty.
She fussed over him while wearing only his white t-shirt.
"Can't wear a tie for the life of you." She grumbled. Squall had half the mind to point out that his tie was done perfectly, but he was more amused at her need to rant to care. "Don't see why. You've got all these useless skills." Her eyes flashed up and found his. "And what are you grinning about?"
The scowl on her face was impossibly endearing.
"I'm done." He instead said, managing not to melt under her gaze. His arms lowered, wrapping themselves around the small of her back, and Lightning pulled back from their intimacy just enough to observe, skeptically, the loose braid he had tied her hair in.
"…passable." She murmured, but even he could see the light dancing in her blue eyes.
He leaned forward, cradling her to him.
If she was surprised, she didn't show it.
Instead, she simply breathed.
"You'll be late." She whispered airily, eyes blissfully shut as she took all of him in with each breath.
"That's not really a reply." She said, pulling him closer.
Her face flushed. "You silly schoolboy."
It was then that Squall knew.
A/N: Was aiming for New Year Fluff, but ended up with this. Can't say I'm entirely satisfied with the outcome.
Yes, that's how LTRA was supposed to end. I'm not sure when I'll ever have time to sit down and type again—my daily cycle seems to be hospital work and sleep with writing up my Master's Thesis in-between, nowadays—hence my "spoiling" the ending.
I'll see when I can get around to typing something fluffy because, ugh, I'm just tired and I need some giggles to get my spirits up again.
Happy New Year, all! Hope this year will treat y'all better than the last!