Title: Understanding
Rating: T—just to be safe
Summary: Kain and Lightning make peace and come to an understanding over their actions.
Prompt: Kain and Lightning shared an unusual relationship, but how much different would it be if they still had their memories? Pre-game or post-game memory is up to you. Bonus points for romance between them.
A/N: This story was written for the challenge going on over at the ff-exchange community on livejournal and it's more friendship than romance. And it also happens to be a prompt for my best buddy ObsessiveCompulsiveValkyrie(read her fics!). Please keep in mind that this is AU-ish, and that I've never played FFIV, so I was going by what I read on Kain online, and what I saw in DD012. It didn't stop me from freaking out when trying to write him, so I hope I didn't disappoint. Please enjoy!

Disclaimer: I don't own Dissidia Duodecim or any of the Final Fantasy characters used in this piece of fiction. I am making no money off of them.

He had seen her walk into their make-shift camp with a slight limp to her step. She had said nothing to any of their companions, and this had prompted him to follow her as she had rounded one of the many rock formations surrounding them.

He found her washing blood from her arms, hands looking small without her gloves and bracers. Yet he knew that there was nothing fragile about the woman in front of him.

He had seen her fight, and while he had been quick to call her arrogant for being narrow-minded, he couldn't deny that she was a formidable opponent.

"I don't appreciate being watched while I'm trying to clean myself," her voice carried over to where he had been standing.

"It was not my intention to intrude," Kain replied, stepping close to where she was kneeling.

"Yet you're still here," Lightning muttered, cupping her hands into the cool water and bringing it up to wash her face of dirt and grime.

"Here," he said, pulling a blue bottle from some hidden spot in his armor.

Lightning stared at his hand for a moment and shifted to look up at him. "You're going to need that soon, so there's no reason to waste it now."

And practical, too, he mused. "Yes, but I was never one to stand by idly while a lady was in trouble."

Oh, brother, Lightning said, forcing her eyes to keep from rolling. "I've had worse injuries than this, so don't worry about me. Right now we need to focus on what's up ahead in our journey," Lightning said, staring at her distorted reflection in the water.

"What of the limp you have? It will not heal overnight, and you need to be at top shape with the enemies that we have been facing."

Damn, he's right. Lightning sighed and nodded, taking the bottle he offered once more. "Thanks," she muttered, pulling the top off and then taking a sip of the bitter-sweet liquid.

"The fights are becoming increasingly difficult as we move forward, and our companions are getting tired," Kain said quietly.

Lightning nodded, knowing that he was right. Tifa's smiles had become a little more weary, and Yuna's cheer wasn't coming as often; at least Vaan had stopped with his stupid jokes… Laguna seemed to be the only one of them who looked unaffected, but Lightning knew firsthand how people could pull on those masks of cheer.

They all had fights with people they had known in their own worlds, and it had taken a toll on most of them; Tifa and Yuna in particular. But they were at a point in their journey where not being alert and ready for any trouble would get them killed.

"You look troubled," Kain stated, and for a moment Lightning had forgotten that he had still been standing at her side.

Lightning shrugged and finished off the potion in one gulp, feeling a tingle spread throughout her body as the healing took effect. "I'm just wondering how much these people can take. Most of them are not soldiers and my biggest fear is that they'll break before we complete our goal."

"Laguna understands on some level, and I am sure that Jecht did as well, but without their memories there to fuel them, or to at least give them hope…"

"You speak as if you have your own memories to push you forward," Lightning said, matter-of-fact, staring at him expectantly.

Kain hesitated. "Why do you think I was capable of taking out our allies?" he asked in a low voice.

"You did what needed to be done," Lightning agreed with a small sigh.

He let out a small grunt and leaned back against the stone behind him. "Even though it earned me the distrust of my comrades. You included."

"We didn't exactly see eye to eye from the moment we met," Lightning reminded him with a small smirk.

"We're both headstrong and we're both soldiers. I suppose that our different training was what influenced our quarrel," said Kain, eyeing her now that she seemed at ease with his presence.

"I've done things that I'm not proud of," Lightning said, gaze becoming distant.

Kain shifted where he stood. "You… remember?"

"Some of my past, but not all. I just… I remembered that I caused the person I loved the most a lot of pain," Lightning replied. "I wonder… if this is some kind of punishment for it."

"We are fighting for the Goddess of Harmony. I do not think that this is a punishment for wrong doings. We aren't in hell," said Kain.

That's a matter of opinion, Lightning whispered inwardly, but she knew that she was just tired, sore, and grumpy. Cosmos could not control their situation and all she could do was bring forward the most powerful warriors to aid her in this war.

"I've done my fair share of wrong doing." His quiet tone cut right through her thoughts and Lightning couldn't help but glance up at him.

"Have you forgiven yourself for it yet?" Lightning asked.

Kain paused for a moment and then sighed. "It took me some time, but… yes. I still feel remorse, but I cannot go back in time to change my actions. No matter how much I wish I could."

Lightning nodded in understanding. It wasn't like she could go back and be a better sister, either. She also supposed that this had been a reason why the Goddess had brought them over without memories: she hadn't wanted them to be weighed down by their regrets in the fight against Chaos.

"You have… made peace with the fact that we may not survive this battle?" Kain asked after the silence had stretched long enough.

"It was something I came to accept from the moment I joined the military. It's no different now," Lightning said, crossing her arms over her chest and shrugging.

Kain couldn't help but sigh slightly in exasperation. Despite her aloof attitude, he could tell that the prospect of dying was one that unsettled the young woman before him. "The Goddess would not be cruel enough to kill us off permanently. We would just be returned to our respective worlds to continue the lives we led there."

This thought didn't sit well with Lightning, either. Despite wanting to return to make sure that her sister was okay… what if she didn't remember any of the people she had fought alongside with? "Look… I'm not good at saying these type of things," she started, muttering and hoping that she wasn't blushing like a schoolgirl. "But… I'm grateful to have fought by your side. You sacrificed your reputation to give the other warriors a chance in the next cycle."

"But I ensured our deaths as well," said Kain with a heavy sigh.

"A necessary sacrifice," she replied immediately.

Only this woman would understand, Kain realized with a small smile. "I am glad to have a warrior like yourself on our side, Lightning."

"Claire," she said.

When he only stared at her, she shrugged. "My name is Claire Farron." She extended her hand out to him trying to seem nonchalant and not as awkward as she felt.

Kain stared down at her slim, ungloved fingers and then nodded once before taking them in his. "Claire. The name suits you."

And she tensed slightly as his hand tightened around hers before turning it over. Her eyes widened as he bent at the waist and placed a soft kiss on her knuckles. "It was an honor knowing you as well, Claire Farron."

Pulling her hand back, she turned away to gather her gloves, hoping that her face didn't look as hot as it felt… but a little smile slipped across her lips as she felt his eyes on her back, watching her movements. In that moment she couldn't deny that a part of her wished that they had met in another time. Maybe then things could've been explored… But who was she kidding? Some time ago she would've punched him in the face for being a gentleman.

Together they walked back to camp and Lightning's eyes narrowed as she glanced over at Laguna, who was giving her a dirty grin. He nudged Tifa in the side and the brunette looked up with a smile as he whispered in her ear. Her eyes zeroed in on Lightning and Kain before she covered her lips and giggled quietly.

Glaring, Lightning silently promised him a gruesome death if he even opened his mouth or attempted to tease her about having been alone with Kain.

"He has to find his amusements somewhere," Kain murmured next to her.

"I suppose," Lightning replied. She just didn't like it when his amusements were at her expense.

Kain inclined his head and flashed her a small smile. "Get some rest, Lightning. We have a long day ahead of us."

She nodded and leaned back against the stone wall a small distance away, ignoring Laguna and his annoying raised eyebrow. She needed to make peace with her memories, and despite their behavior, she hoped that she wasn't made to forget this band of warriors who were unlike anyone she had ever met.

She would miss them, she realized. Starting from Laguna and his inane jokes, all the way down to Kain and his brooding silence. She understood him a little better now, because not only was he a soldier like her, but he understood pain and sacrifice as well. Above all, she wished that she wouldn't forget him.

Meeting his gaze from across their camp, she watched curiously as he reached up and tugged his helmet off carefully. She was met with a pair of deep purple eyes, eyes that reminded her of the polished hue of his impressive armor. Add to that the long blond hair…

Lightning blinked and forced herself to look away, again hoping that she wasn't blushing for having allowed herself to ogle him in front of the rest of their companions. She let out a small breath and leaned her head back against stone as her eyes slipped closed, ignoring the fervent whispers coming from Laguna and Tifa. She'd find a way to torture them into silence later on.

For now, she would take the peace offered to rest. And possibly think about Kain without his helmet on. Though if anyone asked her what was on her mind, she would say that she was thinking up battle strategies.

Kain watched on in amusement as her lips twitched into a smirk.