"So everything that makes me whole I'll now give to you…
…I'm yours"- My Dearest by Supercell
The air smelled of salt and ocean as she slowly blinked the dark spots from her sight away when she exited the foliage. The sun continued its descent, bathing everything under it with an orange glow. Shaking her head and taking a breath to savor the feel of the breeze caressing her cheeks gently, she peered around the sandy shore littered with the occasional rock and wood.
She found him sat atop a boulder by the beach, his brown locks swaying with the windswept tides as he gazed at the watery expanse ahead. Her standard-issue boots sounded softly against the grains of sand underfoot, the dull thuds where the metal met the mass muffled by the beach's symphony.
Her footprints gradually disappeared with each forward step made.
"Thought I'd find you here." Lightning spoke, her voice cool, collected, and matter-of-fact despite the undercurrent of annoyance his ears picked up.
Squall glanced in her direction before averting his gaze back towards the darkening horizon- dusk started to settle, purple slowly embracing the orange that painted the sky.
Undeterred by his silence, Lightning pushed onwards and observed pointedly, annoyance flickering in her light blue irises. "Brooding again."
There was a saying about a pot and a kettle that flittered through his mind, but Squall wasn't much of a philosopher and he promptly dropped the riposte before it could be voiced, and the pink-haired soldier frowned at his response. Steel blue eyes remained transfixed at that margin where the sky and sea met but never melded, no matter how infinitesimal the space between may be.
Lightning stopped beside the rock he was perched on and folded her arms. Squall felt her expectant gaze boring into the side of his head and his lips thinned before acquiescing to her wordless command. He moved over to the boulder's edge, allowing her a spot to rest on to his right.
Her arms remaining folded, Lightning's gaze was still fixed on the mercenary.
Silence passed between the pair of soldiers, one stubbornly stoic while the other persistently prodding, until Squall's will finally caved in against Lightning's unnerving stare and he snapped his head in her direction, not bothering to shy the annoyance from his steel blues. Unfazed by the narrowing of his eyes, Lightning merely tilted her head to the side though her eyes held not impatience but something warmer.
It was worry, and it made Squall's jaw clench almost painfully in obstinate resignation.
"I'm fine." His voice came gruffly as he once more averted his gaze from the prying woman, keeping his thoughts hidden from her observing glare. A frown formed on her lips; the strawberry-blonde soldier wasn't amused by the mercenary's posturing, especially not when he didn't put any effort to hide his lie.
It was as if he just didn't care anymore; as if everything they went through was carried away by the passing wind, forgotten by him in this one moment of childishness on his part.
Her arms unfolded to her sides, fists curled and trembling as she took a deep breath and mentally counted down from ten before exhaling slowly.
The sound of fabric shuffling drew his attention and he inconspicuously noticed through his peripheral vision that the woman had chosen to accept the spot, sitting herself on the boulder just close enough that her shoulder lightly brushed against his arm. He still refused to face her for fear of lashing out.
Hyne knew he had done enough lashing out for a day.
So the two warriors sat in silence, one's stubbornness wavering while the other's persistence continuing, and Squall sighed heavily and the edges of Lightning's lips twitched as she suppressed the triumphant smirk from forming.
The dark mercenary faced her, and her expectant eyes crossed with his midway. His lips still remained thin but she could see the struggle inside him through those proverbial windows of the soul, and her hands subconsciously balled into trembling fists on her lap as she resisted the urge to reach out to him.
He slowly blinked and those cutting blue orbs were once more clear.
"…I'm fine." He repeated in a resolute whisper.
Lightning nodded her head once and drew her right leg against her chest and leaned slightly further against his heat. If Squall was surprised by her action, he didn't show nor comment, and Lightning's gaze drifted to the horizon in front of them, seeing but unseeing as her mind drifted. The waves continued to caress the sandy shore, pushing and prodding with each meeting yet gingerly receding with the promise to continue for all eternity.
With one vestige of a glance, her eyelids pressed together blissfully.
"You're a coward." Lightning could feel the muscles on his arm tense against her head but he made no indication to pull away, and she was already adjusted to their closeness to move. It was true, and he knew that too, though she supposed his way of dealing with all things personal was less destructive than her own… they were getting better.
Her eyes briefly glanced over to the white fur of his jacket. "But I'm still on your side, Squall. I'm not moving."
The dull ache in his chest slowly lifted with her words and he hunched over slightly more towards her. The oppressive pressure of her body against his arm lightened with her weighted words. His head rolled backwards abruptly as he stared into the starry night, pleading with the celestial lights for strength.
"I wasn't wrong." The defiant words came out throatily and Lightning gazed up at him, her eyes quietly urging him to continue. "Tomorrow's siege is suicide. We're too beaten; everyone's too agitated. Am I the only one who sees this formula for failure?"
The stubborn, prideful part of her wanted to refute his claim but she quickly stilled her tongue before that gave voice to her heated thoughts. After Squall's harsh dressing down of their comrades, tempers ran amok against the most affected of individuals, the Warrior of Light being the most vocal of Squall's faults and half-hearted camaraderie, Lightning had paused and reassessed their situation and couldn't help but agree with the fuming mercenary marching off into the foliage in the guise of scouting ahead, leaving the gathered Warriors of Cosmos to their thoughts.
She smirked wryly at the reverie. 'Battle strength' was the phrase the scarred mercenary used to describe their cumulative gathering. It was as if they were nothing more than statistics to be calculated in his eyes; as if the bonds they formed through their struggles were mere rusted shackles to him.
When Cosmos was murdered before their very eyes by the madness-born God of Magick, despair clawed at their hearts until the Warrior of Light raised his sword and rallied everyone's anger at the sudden loss of the goddess they all loved- the mother, sister, and friend they all treasured-, and pointed the tempered weapon at the heart of Chaos' lair where they knew the remorseless mage resided.
She blamed herself for not being strong enough to protect the one who brought light to the demons that dwelt within her soul and she paved the road with merciless destruction as the group marched relentlessly. Lightning felt that Squall empathized with her same sentiments as he cut through their enemies with his cold steel.
It was why, when Squall's voice halted their advance, pointing out Cosmos' murder as Kefka's plotting like he was discussing the weather in his usual tactless manner, the gathered warriors immediately chewed into the unfeeling brunet.
Lightning was there in the aftermath, part of her disbelieving that Squall had spoken the words he said, while the logical part of her realized Squall was right. Another part of her, however, knew there was something the mercenary refused to say.
"…Maybe." She finally relented, answering his question. "You ready to talk?"
One black gloved hand stretched into the ocean before his revolver shimmered into his grasp- a trick the brunet had learned from the mimicking wanderer. Both warriors stared into the moonlight reflecting off the stainless silver steel.
"This pack mentality is stupid." There was no audible pulse through his arm but it didn't matter; she could hear the hate seep through his voice that made his blood run. "Isn't it obvious that Kefka has this all planned out? Everyone's too attached to Cosmos that they're blinded past her death."
It wasn't too obvious before, when their emotions ran high, and those that suspected it never commented. Though some were hit harder than others, the Warrior of Light, the man who grieved the most, remained steadfast in his stance to bring a swift end to Chaos' forces and bring justice to Cosmos' death. She supposed that the vast majority of them just refused to believe Cosmos was truly dead and thus they went through the motions and followed Cosmos' chosen knight.
Lightning extracted herself from her spot against his arm and placed a firm hand on his leg, drawing his attention to her piercing gaze. "So does that mean you don't care?"
There was a flicker of emotion in his eyes and Lightning refused to believe it was the trick of the light as she squeezed his leg reassuringly, prodding him as the waves did the shore. She gathered her own courage before clearing her throat.
"I was devastated... when Cosmos died." She paid no mind to the flicker of disbelief in his eyes and continued. "Right, so I may have not worshipped her the same way many other did, but that didn't mean I was impervious to her sincere actions." Light blue eyes briefly stared wistfully into the dark waters. "Did you know that when Cosmos granted us her blessing, she was sacrificing a part of herself?"
Squall's lips pursed before answering flatly. "I had a hunch."
"Of course you did." A wry smirk. "I felt ashamed of accusing Cosmos for manipulating us without joining the fight. It wasn't until her collapse after expending more of her own energy when I realized her remorse." It was her turn to stare up into the heavens, recalling that day the goddess saved her life. Cosmos had told her that she felt it was unjust that her warrios continued to fight while she sat in the Order's Sanctuary, and if sacrificing part of herself would help her treasured warriors through their struggles, then it was fine. "She just smiled back."
Their eyes met again. "I'm not gonna lie. Cosmos grew on me."
After a few more moments of staring, Squall realized Lightning was waiting for him to speak.
"I cared." Lightning stared at him flatly and he suppressed an annoyed growl. "She was a friend." Her arms folded with an unamused glare. "Her death struck me also, happy?"
Lightning unfolded her arms to rest them on her lap once more.
Squall sighed deeply. "I was powerless."
"We all were." Cool empathy.
Squall shot her a sideways glance. "It wasn't just that. I promised myself that nobody would die on my watch." He ignored her incredulous stare. "We'll all live to see the end of this war, is what I believed."
"Never thought you'd be so optimistic."
She didn't flinch under his glare.
"I just didn't want there to be any casualties."
Lightning leaned her head against his arm once more, hiding the smile on her lips from his gaze when everything finally clicked. It was a funny thought; Squall treasured his comrades much more than he let on.
Which was why he spoke the words he said and made everyone confront the reality of their rash actions and not bothering to blunt his cutting words. The mercenary just didn't want to see his treasured friends die.
It was a selfish notion, but she, too, was a selfish person and so she understood.
"Maybe you are right, Leonhart." His name rolled off her tongue with a sliver of affection and she pressed her eyes shut, leaning her side closer into his warmth. An arm snaked around her back to rest an awkward hand on her shoulder, shielding her away from the cool wind. "I believe you, so no matter what happens, I'll still be by your side."
He blinked owlishly at the woman's crown. "That's a given." Pointing the obvious with amusement. "We're partners."
"Partners." She echoed the binding word with a fond smirk as she looked up at the man. Squall couldn't tear his eyes from the moonlight shining off her skin, nor the amusement in her eyes. "So you'll have my back? Even if I can wipe the floor with you?"
It was a baiting question, they both knew.
"…No matter how strong you get, you still don't have eyes at the back of your head." Squall pointed out neutrally, drawing an amused huff out of her. "So yes, I've got your back."
She turned her head to stare up at him more, placing a hand on his leg for stability as she gravitated further into his embrace, crouched atop his lap and drawing his eyes into her own. His other hand subconsciously rested on the small of her back and her moist, full lips stretched warmly. "Then I'll always be on your side."
And she decided that she'll always be on this selfish man's, alone.
Lightning reached a gloved hand upwards to cup Squall's cheek.
The waves continued to caress the shore.
A/N: Apologies for not updating anything in a while. Uni's been rather hectic and I haven't been too inspired to write lately, and most of my free time has been spent juggling Xenoblade Chronicles (Melia3 I really, really, really want to read a Melia/Shulk/7th~!) and Skyward Sword (Holy Friggin' Fudge this game is epic! And I'm still trying to open the Temple of Time!). Nevertheless, I'll try to get another SCE chapter down within the week and, if work allows, LTRA's continuation.
Regarding this oneshot, I'll be honest; I wrote this just because "My Dearest" by Supercell wouldn't leave my head and I felt like writing a Squall/Lightning… ergo I didn't really have anything planned and decided to just wing it. I'm actually quite surprised this still managed to hit the 2k word mark. OOCness abound, I guess?
*shrugs* on another note, Traingham's Scents & Spices still continues to impress, and for all you Quall lovers, Jupiter's Promise has updated her A Modest Proposal. Check them both out if you haven't yet~!