A/N: Been a while, eh?
Lightning was not normally a woman that whined.
Curse the cards fate dealt her, yes, but never ever whine. Unlike her husband, who was prone to bouts of introspective musings, Lightning impulsively settled on a course of action and stubbornly followed through it.
And while she had learned not to act so rashly as the years went by, rising up in the ranks of Academia such that she was responsible for more than just her own life, Lightning still retained the mindset of acting first which, unfortunately, meant swallowing many a spoonful of regretful what ifs in the aftermath.
Introspection only did come after.
It was why one particular afternoon found Lightning laid supine on a couch, fingers interlaced as both her hands rested atop her abdomen, and eyes filled with uncertainty gazing up at the white ceiling. On a separate couch close to the mother of two sat her… therapist. Lightning didn't think much of the odd situation she found herself in; there was no other person she could find on such short notice, and, grudgingly, Lightning would admit that she was the most normal, well-adjusted person in her family.
"Tell me," the girl prodded gently, "What are you thinking about?"
"It's just not fair, you know?" The corners of Lightning's lips curled slightly into a pout. "I mean, I've put in a lot more effort." Lightning explained as if that settled the matter.
Clearly, it didn't, and her therapist managed to pick up on the unease.
Lightning raised one hand and began listing out with her fingers, "Sure, we split our duties, but I'm the one that carried her in my womb for nine months. I'm the one who breastfed her. I'm the one who's—who's actually trying to instill some discipline in her so that she will grow up to be a respectable member of society."
"I see." The therapist nodded her head while scribbling on the notepad. She took a sip of warm milk from her mug before prodding Lightning once more. "You say that you put in more effort but, apart from discipline, aren't you just doing what you are uniquely capable of doing?"
Lightning's eyes darted to her therapist in surprise. That… was a remarkably insightful and eloquently-worded response.
Maybe it was a fluke.
"That doesn't mean I didn't do more, right?"
"But that also means you only did what was asked of you."
Oh damn, she was good.
"I can see that this is something you'll need more time to think about." The girl continued when Lightning remained quiet. She took another sip of milk. "Back to the second part of what you mentioned earlier, you used the phrase respectable member of society. What did you mean by that?"
Reflecting content. Lightning realized. Her active listening skills are impressive.
"Exactly what it means." The mother of two stated. "Why do you ask?"
"Well," The girl scratched her head with the butt of her pencil. "It seems like you are worried that society won't respect her."
"Which society are you referring to?" She prodded.
"Does it matter? My children will grow up to be respected, regardless." Lightning nodded to herself before her mood soured. "It's why I'm worried about Raine. She's—it's not normal, how she acts."
It was only too late did Lightning realize that her youngest had problems making friends. The six year old was far too attached to her sibling, at the cost of mingling with the other children. Lightning knew that neither she nor husband could cast proverbial stones, of course, and while Lightning felt that they both had turned out alright despite everything they went through, she wanted better for her children.
So Lightning nudged the stubborn Raine, but as always the case with her dear troublemaker…
"Raine gets into far too many fights. Especially for a girl." Lightning sighed. "It would be nice if she didn't use her guns, but what can I do? Despite checking her every time she goes out, she still somehow manages to bring at least one handgun to school."
And, at one point, a real grenade launcher; be still my beating heart.
Lightning almost had a heart attack when the little-lest Leonhart took aim at that annoying dog near their house. Sure, she may have offhandedly commented that the world was better off without that nuisance trampling over their garden every day or barking up a storm in the evenings, but that didn't mean her daughter could take her words literally!
"Maybe it's the other case?" The young therapist prodded, unknowingly jolting Lightning from her reminiscing once more. "Maybe, because she feels pressured by you for simply liking guns and explosions and it manifests in this manner? Is it possible that she is rebelling?"
Her therapist's counsel made Lightning pause in thought. Could it be true?
Could Raine's trigger-happy nature truly be the outlet of all the pressure Lightning unknowingly placed upon her?
After minutes contemplating the conundrum, Lightning finally arrived at an answer. She shook her head and declared with absolute certainty, "No. Raine has always had an itchy trigger finger."
"How can you be so sure?"
"I just am." Lightning nodded to herself. "It's— you won't understand. It's a mother-thing."
"And," Lightning cut her off gently, "That wasn't the matter that brought me here."
"Oh…" the pink-haired girl trailed before her eyes fell to the page she had been scribbling on. A small pout formed upon her lips and she glanced back at Lightning hesitantly. "Ah, I ran out of paper."
Lightning blinked in surprise. Had she really said that much?
"Do you mind waiting here while I go get more?" The girl asked.
Placing a hand on the armrest she had been using to rest her head against, Lightning pushed herself off and twisted her upper body just enough to give her therapist a pleased look. "Thanks, but there's no need to take more notes." Lightning then scooted deeper into the couch and then patted the space she made and, with a beckoning smile, invited, "Come, Averia."
Her first child smiled brightly and quickly set her writing materials down so she could join her mother.
As soon as Averia was within arm's reach, Lightning snatched her eldest daughter and hugged her close.
"Mommy!" Came Averia's surprised giggle.
"Thanks for listening, Averia." Lightning said and ruffled her daughter's air.
"Uh-uhm!" The seven year old sounded before ducking out of her mother's arms just enough for her to level an expectant stare into Lightning's blue eyes. "You still haven't explained why you're sad, mommy."
"Must I really?" Lightning asked melodramatically, half-hoping it would distract Averia.
Her daughter giggled and then smiled. "Yes. We're family and family doesn't keep secrets."
"Oh, fine." Lightning rolled her eyes and conceded to her giggling daughter; Averia truly appeared to be the only one in her family with a full affect. "Raine said she hated me."
Averia stifled a gasp and reminded herself that she was being professional. "Do you know why she said that?"
"No." Lightning admitted, her eyes dimming slightly. "She's just lashing out, probably."
"How do you feel about what she said?"
Lightning didn't answer immediately. Instead, she glanced at her prodding daughter incredulously.
Is she just talking me through catharsis? If her daughter truly was talking her through the first part of the catharsis-education-action intervention, Lightning was incredibly impressed, proud, and fearful for Averia's rapid growth. Where did she learn these skills?
"A bit hurt." Lightning finally replied. "I know she didn't mean it but, well, it hurts a bit."
Averia nodded sympathetically. She knew that her mother loved both of them dearly and really only did what was best for them. Even at her young age, Averia had already understood that her parents didn't present a united front when it came to their discipline; her father tended to be somewhat lenient while her mother was very strict. To her introspective mind, the eldest Farron-Leonhart child knew that this disunity would naturally result with preferentialism, and no further effort is needed to deduce which parent was more approachable.
"You said that Rainy's lashing out hurt you." Averia began, all-the-while smiling at her mother comfortingly. "Is there anything you fear about what you're feeling?"
"It's okay, mommy." Averia gently cut her mother's expected protest. "You can tell me. It'll make you feel better."
Lightning fell silent and, once more, marveled at her daughter's psychiatric skill. Truly, Averia's emotional development was growing at a scarily rapid pace. Not that she wasn't grateful. While Lightning loved her husband, it actually felt good that her shrink no longer just grunted wordlessly.
"My fear, I guess…" Lightning murmured, thinking out loud while absently stroking Averia's curly pink hair, "It's probably Raine thinking that I'm a bad parent when she grows up. I fear her lashing out is proof of it." That thought unsettled her to no end. "I try to explain my actions to her but I don't think she understands… or she refuses to understand."
Raine was stubborn. Really, why couldn't her youngest just listen to her? Why did she have to be so difficult?
"I see…" Averia squeezed her mother comfortingly. "Is there anything else?"
"You're only getting that much from me, Averia." Lightning deadpanned.
"Averia." This time, it was her turn to cut her daughter off. Lightning shot her daughter a slightly pained smile. "At least allow me to retain some of my pride as your mother."
While Lightning and Squall had already learned to cohabitate years before their marriage, that did not mean they were completely different people after their marriage. If anything, marriage was just another stepping stone in their personal growth; they assumed new roles but who they were at their core remained the same.
Averia held her ground. "But mommy, pride isn't-"
"Averia." Lightning repeated, this time more firmly. "Please."
"…alright." The young shrink finally relented. Averia could tell that her mother was becoming uncomfortable and, she supposed, she had prodded enough already. Straightening herself as much as she could given her confinement against her mother's bosom, Averia decided to bring their session to a close. "So, if I were to summarize, you think that Rainy means it when she says that she hates you, and you're afraid that it's a sign of the future."
"I'd change your wording."
"…but that sounds right."
"Good. I'd like you to know that Rainy doesn't hate you and you're taking this too personally."
"You're jealous of daddy and it's affecting you." Averia bluntly stated and felt her mother's heart abruptly thunder.
"If your father is to be followed, you and Raine will grow up to be spoiled brats." Lightning stated bitterly. "Someone has to instill discipline."
"Daddy's not like that at all!" Averia defended.
"We're not discussing this right now, Averia."
"Fine." Averia conceded but resolved to tackle this issue with her mother someday. "But I really do think you're jealous of daddy."
"Averia…" Lightning sighed. "Your sister got in the way between me and your father this morning and declared she hated me. She also told me to stay away from my husband."
"Being more attached to the paternal figure is common for girls Rainy's age."
Lightning sorely wanted to point out that she and Raine were only one year apart and Averia, to her knowledge, didn't display such a complex, but decided that was simply a strawman argument that would needlessly derail their conversation.
Conversation? Lightning inwardly blinked. When Averia offered to speak with me about this, I never realized it would be with such seriousness.
"Mommy," Averia smiled empathically. "You just want to spend more time with Rainy, don't you?"
"Again, you could word that better…" Lightning murmured. It made her sound… needy, and Lightning liked to think that she already had everything she needed.
"I might be able to help."
"Oh?" Lightning raised an eyebrow. "How so?"
"You know how Rainy was saying that she wanted to watch a horror movie?" Her mother nodded, prompting her to continue. "That's going to be Rainy's first horror movie…"
"…and Raine was never really good at dealing with horror in the first place." Lightning finished with growing realization. This was it!
"Yes." Averia nodded. "You don't have to stop Rainy from watching the movie, mommy. All you have to do is be there for Rainy during the movie."
As a mother, Lightning felt that Raine, with her imaginative mind, was far too young to watch a horror movie. Who knew what sort of trauma it would impact on her daughter?
However, as this session showed her, her children were growing up quickly. Just as she trusted Averia with her feelings, maybe she could trust that Raine would turn out fine after all.
"Averia," Lightning smiled at her daughter with pride. "You are a genius."
"Ehehehehe…" Averia giggled with an adorable blush at her mother's praise. Both her parents were never normally so open with their recognition, so it always made her young heart flutter.
Planting an affectionate kiss upon her daughter's crown, Lightning pushed themselves off the couch. "Alright. I'll take this opportunity. Thanks, Averia. I need to go tell your father so he knows what will happen."
It wouldn't do for her husband to obliviously spoil her plan.
"You're welcome, mommy."
Of course, events did not unfold that simply.
When the movie began, Lightning made sure Raine was between her arms while Averia cuddled with her father. About midway through the movie, the six-year old Raine was brought to tears, at which point Squall decided to stop the movie while Lightning attempted to console her daughter, all-the-while feeling guilty at planning to use her daughter's fear to manipulate her into bonding time.
When Raine remained sobbing incoherently, muttering blames such as "What kind of mother lets her daughter watch something so scary!", Lightning turned to her husband with a pained look, and Squall wordlessly took Raine into his arms and comforted her. It was at that point that Raine finally calmed down.
Averia was right. It pained Lightning that Raine was far more comfortable with her father than with her. However, it pained Lightning more to see her daughter that distraught, and if being in her father's arms meant Raine wouldn't cry with such anguish, then so be it.
Everything she did, she did for her children.
"Are you alright?" Squall asked his wife.
The movie had ended hours ago, and now, they were already on the bed, preparing to sleep. Lightning had her arms wrapped around her husband's torso and made sure her face was obscured from Squall's view.
She couldn't face her husband after such a debacle.
Squall was surprised at Lightning's request to allow Raine to watch the horror film, and while he didn't know why his wife changed her mind, Squall didn't miss the pain behind the look she had given him.
There was turmoil racking his wife, and Squall needed to know what.
"I'm fine." Lightning stated.
Squall wanted to point out that she wasn't. Lightning was only ever like this when something was terribly wrong. But, rather than prod, Squall waited. He knew his wife. He knew that guilt would best her eventually.
"…alright, I'm not." Lightning finally amended.
"Care to talk about it?"
"Not now." Lightning denied. "Just— I don't mind if Raine spends more time with you than me, alright? So don't hold yourself back."
The gears in Squall's mind turned automatically in their quest to decipher Lightning's roundabout way with words. Vaguely, Squall recalled that the people of Spira had a particular term that described Lightning behavior— tsundere, if he remembered correctly.
"You wanted to spend more Raine?" Squall ventured his conclusion.
"It didn't work, obviously." She muttered, but nonetheless answered Squall's question. "And I think Raine hates me even more now."
After all, it was Lightning that held Raine in place and prevented her from bolting at the first sign of fear.
"She doesn't." Squall quickly denied.
"What do you know?" Lightning snapped, and suddenly wished she didn't.
The two parents remained silent. Squall didn't want to prod when his wife's mood was so volatile, while Lightning didn't want to speak because she might say something she would regret.
When he felt his wife calm down, Squall finally broke the silence.
"…you shouldn't be so quick to assume, Light."
"Can we not talk about this now?"
Like magick, those two words snapped Lightning out of her self-deprecation. Groggily, Lightning pushed herself off her husband and craned her head backwards so she could face him. He gazed down at her with that same stoic expression, but she could still see the gentle reassurance in his grey eyes.
"Fine." Lightning sighed. "I'm sorry, alright?"
Squall pulled his wife upwards, causing a surprised yelp to leave her throat, and, taking the smack to the shoulder for his effort, Squall planted a tender kiss on Lightning's forehead, causing his wife's features to light up with embarrassment.
"What was that for?" Lightning hissed.
"To remind you that you don't know everything. Even you can still be surprised, Claire."
Lightning smacked his shoulder once more and narrowed her eyes. "I thought we agreed that you can only call me that when we're intimate."
"Aren't we, now?" Squall challenged.
Needless to say, Lightning's blush intensified.
"A-anyway," Lightning inwardly cursed how her voice hitched, but she wouldn't give her cheeky husband the satisfaction of knowing he effortlessly stripped her of her guard, "I never proclaimed to know everything. I just— I assume based on facts."
"And what do your facts tell you about our daughters?"
"That both of them prefer you over me." Lightning stated. "And I'm fine with that."
"Claire…" Squall sighed. Her second statement only proved how bothered Lightning was by the matter that she had to convince herself otherwise. Squall shook his head and, in a reassuring tone, continued, "Lightning, listen."
Lightning waited. After a few seconds of silence and her husband remained quiet, Lightning glanced at him in confusion. "Squall-"
Squall silenced his wife with a finger upon her lips.
Taking that as a sign to be patient, Lightning complied. Her husband could be really strange at times.
Lightning's head snapped towards the door where she found, much to her surprise, the timid form of Raine peeking through the gap. Normally, her daughters would barge in, but…
"What is it, Raine?"
The young brunette took that as her cue to invite herself in.
"I'm—I'm sleeping with you tonight." Raine declared, though it lacked her usual fire.
Glancing at her husband, Lightning saw the reassurance in his eyes and, Lightning realized, she had really been silly all afternoon.
Averia was right.
"Of course." Lightning lifted the blanket with one hand. "Come."
Raine became a blur of brown and—
-settled herself between both her parents.
Lightning arched a brow but decided to let the matter slide.
This is good too, I suppose. Lightning inwardly sighed. While she knew it was petty, she had really been expecting that Raine would choose her side only.
"You okay there, shortstuff?"
"Don't call me that." Raine huffed at her mother before replying. "And yup."
"I love you, Raine." Lightning told her youngest.
"U-uh, yeah!" Raine agreed. Declarations like that always caused her no end of embarrassment.
It didn't take long before the tired child finally slept.
Turning her attention back towards her husband, Lightning smiled. "Thanks, Squall."
"Hnn." Squall nodded, accepting his wife's gratitude.
He then turned his gaze towards the door.
Lightning looked puzzled before she finally realized, "Are you waiting for Averia?"
"Yes." Squall answered. "It just… doesn't feel right, I guess, that she's not here."
"She's fine, you know." This time, it was Lightning's turn give reassurance. "She's a big girl now."
Still, despite her words, Lightning knew what Squall was feeling.
"I'll be right back." Lightning whispered to her husband.
Knowing what it was his wife planned to do, Squall nodded and waited. Lightning returned not too long after leaving, carrying a sleeping Averia in her arms. With Squall's assistance, she set their eldest daughter next to Raine, and finally crawled back to bed.
With her family complete, Lightning felt the day's exhaustion finally catch up to her, and her heavy eyelids finally closed.
Today was a decidedly weird day.
A/N: The Oedipus and Elektra Complexes are perfectly normal in young children. Don't take it to heart, Lightning! And besides, Squall really is at fault for not providing a united front when it comes to discipline~