Summary: Since I need periodic breaks from DoS, a 50 prompt drabble series. Each will be about 1500 words long.
Special Note: This will be Kain and Light-centric, but because I've got a short attention span, ample attention will be paid to other pairings - both romantic and non - and characters. I can't write about one pairing exclusively, no matter how much I love them.
Setting: Mostly dissidia-verse, although a few special ones will be beloved AUs.
Dedications: To Distant Glory, Zazzy and Sunne, who are remarkable.
Requests: I will take them, even for characters and pairings I hate, if they're creative. I like to stretch myself. One and a time and by PM please.
Genre: Flangst? If you read my work, you know where I play. Adult characterizations.
The night's grease-black. It's grease black, and it's drafty, and it smears Lightning's bedroom window with oily clouds. Even the hospital-light glow of Sanctuary itself can't push the darkness back, and midnight creeps through the glass and over Lightning's skin as she sits on the edge of her bed, thinking.
It's haunted, this place, she thinks, bowing her head. Her hands clutch her bare, dry knees until the flesh dents and pulls. Completely fucking haunted.
Closing her eyes, Lightning shuts the world out. She's focusing on all the not-dreams she keeps having, the images that taunt her whether she's awake or asleep. And because they're not dreams, she can't blow them off. No matter how hard she tries, she can't pretend they're not real.
It's always the same. The little boy screams. She can't shake the guilt. Did I really do that? Was that really me?
She doesn't want to see the light fade from the soldier's eyes anymore. She doesn't want to see the sky fall.
Lightning hears the rattle of her own breath bounce around her bedroom. Bowing her head lower, she lifts her hands to squeeze the sleep-sticky flesh at the back of her neck. The pieces don't fit together. Out of context, the half-memories bully through her mind, knock over the little sense she's managed to make of her life.
Empty. She pulls in a long, sucking breath and wishes the air tasted like something - anything other than too-clean stone. Everything here's just so damn empty. This room, her past, her mind. She fidgets on her bed and almost laughs when the silk sheets tickle the sensitive skin stretching out from under her shorts. Cosmos kidnaps them to a ruined world and an arbitrary war and then makes them – of all things – silk sheets.
The irony's brutal. Out of respect, Lightning exhales a short, humorless laugh.
Pinching a stiff cord of muscle in her neck, she shakes her head before opening her eyes. The mirror in front of her holds a shadow-soaked reflection of someone she doesn't recognize. Without a past or a real good shot at a future, it's like she's looking at a her-shaped shell. Lightning fidgets with the strap of her camisole, averts her eyes in disgust.
There's a knife on her nightstand. It has curves like water has curves, and its distinctive shadow winds in and out of the dark. Picking it up, she presses the night-cold steel to her brow. Bad trade, she thinks. Risk your life just to get it back.
It dawns on her she's a pawn to a thief, and she squeezes the metal until it warms with her rage.
Fuck you,Cosmos.The thought's impotent and stupid, but she thinks it anyway. "Fuck you," she repeats – out loud this time, but it doesn't help.
Jumping to her feet, Lightning's muscles tense and uncoil without orders from her brain. It's pure frustration that guides her arm, but there's something about that crunch; the bright, familiar shatter of breaking glass that calms her down. It sounds clean, she thinks. Right.
Glimmering shrapnel captures and scatters the limited light, and for a second there's a starburst in a starless night.
Spiderweb cracks in the mirror break her slow smile.
Long seconds gather into longer minutes, and Lightning watches the splintered breast of her reflection rise and fall. Her bleached brand peaks above the thin linen, and it's as messed-up as she is. She doesn't want to look but she can't stop staring. Eventually, she places her hand over it and just breathes.
It's not until another broken image joins her in the mirror that she lifts her eyes. And then it's only to roll them. Of course it's him. It's always him. He's got a knack for showing up when she needs him the least.
His reflected gaze is fractured, shadow-strewn amethyst. She meets it and doesn't look away.
"What do you want?" She asks the question through gritted teeth.
"To see if you're still alive." Kain's faking disinterest, but Lightning can tell he rushed here. Ash blond hair is a tangled mess over his face, and his spear's ready to hand. Dressed only in loose linen slacks that cling to the lowest part of narrow hips, he's not wearing any shoes.
Shadows carve powerful shoulders, interrupted only by whitish, cruel-seeming scars. She watches concern flash over her own face. She watches him notice and smirk.
Typical. The hand over her brand clenches to a fist. He's better at pushing people away than anyone she's ever met. Her included.
"I'm fine," she says finally, not turning and not responding to the sympathy rising to her throat. "Now, get out."
"That noise. What – "
"I'm fine," she repeats. "It wasn't an attack, if that's what you're worried about."
In the mirror she sees Kain's eyes swing from where her knife sits among the mirror shards and then back to her again. "No," he assesses, "unless you were attacked by a temper tantrum."
"Shut up, Kain," Lightning spits back. "Don't you have better things to do than piss me off?"
"No." Undeterred, he settles Gungir on his shoulder and steps through the door-frame. "Now tell me what's wrong, Lightning. Or shall I assume you woke me out of spite?"
Lightning considers a retort but abandons it. There's no point. They've been through this before, Kain and she. In spite of everything, they see each other too well, she thinks.
Her eyes stay on him as he comes up behind her. When he reaches her, heat crawls down her back.
"I got tired of staring at someone I don't know," she answers.
Kain breathes a soft laugh, and the rise of his chest brushes her back. He leans in to answer, and his voice gathers in her ear, hot and quiet. "Then why are you still looking?"
Clicking her tongue against the back of her teeth, Lightning inclines her head until it rests – just barely – against his jaw. The ruined mirror cracks their expressions. Point. "Who the hell knows," she replies. "I don't."
"Hmpf," Kain mutters. Stepping past her and over broken glass, he bends down for her knife. He's got his back towards her, but she can see him cut his finger and pause to suck up the blood. The scars the mirror hinted at are fully visible now, and Lightning's shocked by how deep they are, how far into his skin they dig.
She doesn't want to know what happened to him. Wounds like that, you only get screaming.
If Kain notices her sharp intake of breath, he doesn't let on. "Then perhaps you should stop," he says, coming back to stand in front of her. Pulling her fist from her breast, he unlocks her fingers, presses her knife into her palm. His voice is low and secret-telling. "Perhaps you should look at something else."
It's such a bullshit, condescending answer that ordinarily, Lightning would yank her hand away. She'd spit something back at him, or grab her knife and smack him with it. But this isn't an ordinary night, and there's something in his voice, the way he's cradling her hand, that makes her think he's not saying what he means.
Darkening eyes ask her a question that she avoids answering. Lightning doesn't understand how they can be so different and so alike; why it's so much easier to let him touch her hand when steel lies between them.
The thought that it shouldn't be that way touches her mind and then vanishes.
His index finger – the one he cut – draws a half-moon shape over the inside of her wrist. She can feel the ragged edge of the flesh he tore, the lingering saliva from when he'd sucked the blood away. At the point of contact, wetness seals their skin.
It's a little too sticky. It's a little too warm.
Lightning looks up. "Thanks. Got any suggestions, smartass?"
Stepping forward, he pushes a lock of hair behind her ear before he traces her jaw. The eyes that look at her are indecipherable, but they push heat through her stomach.
They're so close, she can smell the sleep on his skin; so quiet she can hear him breathe.
Leaning in, Kain's response slides over her lips, wet. "Possibly…"
Smirking, Lightning drops her knife, hears her past clatter on the floor. For now, she doesn't need it. For now, she'll…look at something else.
This is probably a mistake, she thinks pushing herself up on her toes and hooking her elbow around his neck. But as she lowers her eyelids against cutting fragments of mirror and memory, she figures it's not her first, not her worst.
"Whatever, Highwind." The hand at her back sneaks under her camisole and traces her spine. Hard and insistent, it still trembles. Lightning thinks it's sweet, almost. Sweet as he gets, anyway. Carefully, her fingers follow a long scar on his neck. She's careful not to push too hard.
"So show me," she says.