Title: Birds of a Feather
Pairing: Kain/Lightning, mentions of others.
Word Count: 7,167
Summary: It was a relief knowing that the New Year was going to start off very good for the both of them.
A/N: First off, this was written for the FFChaoticCosmos community on LJ. And second of all, special thanks to ObsessiveCompulsiveValkyrie for beta reading this(and for the title)! Also, it's late on the whole Christmas slash New Year angle, but I hope it's still good. Also, a lot of Final Fantasy characters make brief cameos, and there are also some different pairings in there, too. I everyone enjoys!
The Christmas holiday was supposed to be one of the merriest and happiest for everyone.
In actuality, it was a holiday filled with rabid shoppers, irritating family reunions, and crazy parents trying to get their snotty kids to take pictures with a fake Santa.
But maybe that was just her personal opinion, she supposed. Her sister enjoyed Christmas decorations, cooking, and having friends and family over to celebrate with because it was the one time where she could fill their home with warmth and laughter.
Despite that, Lightning Farron found herself suffering through her holiday job because she loved photography. Sometimes she wanted to chuck her camera out of her window in frustration, but she made sure to remind herself exactly how much it would cost to get a new one…
Sighing to herself, she started to open up her business for the day and hoped that she wasn't overwhelmed by the parents wanting to get in those last family holiday shots. She usually went by appointments, but there were times when she made exceptions for some people who really needed the pictures. Of course, they had to pay a little extra for it.
Beginning to set up her equipment, her eyes settled on the Santa Claus costume hanging off of the back door and she rolled her eyes at the image of Laguna in it. While the guy looked ridiculous wearing the suit and the fake belly, she had to admit that he was a total hit with the kids.
Organizing the photographs that were due to be picked up, she picked up her cell phone as it began to buzz on her desk. "Cloud."
"Yeah," replied her business partner. "I'm running late because the sitter is sick and Tifa couldn't miss work."
"Will you be taking the whole day off, then?" she asked, nearly sighing in annoyance. She understood that personal problems sometimes couldn't be avoided, but this meant that she would have to be in charge of the Santa pictures for the day… That also meant many long hours of Laguna's antics. She'd need a couple of coffees to help her make it.
"I'll drop by for a while and I'll bring Zack with me. Our back-up sitter will pick him up there. I was just calling to let you know that I was running late," Cloud replied.
"That's fine. You can stay in the studio and just see to those who will be picking up their pictures," Lightning replied.
"Okay, thanks, Light. See you in thirty," said Cloud before they both hung up.
Lightning sighed to herself and moved to begin preparing her camera and the laptop she would be using to store the images. She could've just called in their third photographer, but she knew that Kain had wanted the day off to spend it with his… lady friend.
"Now, what can possibly be causing that sour look on your face?"
Her gaze snapped up and she glared. Speak of the devil… "Laguna's late," Lightning replied, pointing a thumb at the clock behind her.
Kain smirked and nodded. "He just called me to tell me that he has a cold."
"Why the hell didn't he call me?" Lightning asked darkly.
"Because he feared that exact reaction," Kain supplied, ever so helpful
Lightning refrained from pinching the bridge of her nose and let out a sigh. "Well, it's good that he sent you to tell me, since now we don't have a Santa. And for being so helpful, you are going to take his place."
"No, I'm not."
"Yes, you are."
"No. I am not."
"Do I need to pull out the 'boss card' for this?"
"How about pulling out the 'ex-card,' Claire?"
She gave him a shrewd look. "Well, if you decide to use that card, then I'll just go ahead and remind you that you went out with Rosa one month after we broke up!"
Kain shrugged one shoulder. "Many would consider that acceptable."
"I'm not one of the many," Lightning snarked. "So, since you owe me—" Here she pushed the suit at him. "Get going, Santa."
Kain counted to ten and let out a slow breath. He knew that arguing with her was pointless, mostly because he knew that he could be a doormat for her most of the time. But that didn't mean that he would make her life any easier. "Fine. I will do this, but I will be calling someone to wear the elf costume as well."
Lightning could feel her eyebrow twitching in anger, though she knew that she couldn't complain. Kain was, after all, willing to suffer through the day wearing a stuffy Santa suit and dealing with screaming children. "Fine," she waved him off, grabbing her gear and making her way out and towards the area where the pictures would be taken.
Kain sighed to himself and pulled out his phone, dialing a number he knew quite well. "Good morning, Terra," he said in a smooth voice. "I have a great favor to ask of you. Are you available today?"
The children that had come by with their parents had so far been cooperative, and Lightning feared that it had something to do with the sweet, green haired woman Kain had brought in as an elf. Her kindness and smile put them at ease at the sight of the man with the huge belly and sometimes too sharp violet eyes. One child had already asked why his eyes were purple and not blue… Lightning had nearly facepalmed.
Ah, and here was a kicking and screaming one. She smirked as she readied her camera.
"If you stop crying then I will buy you an ice cream," the mother was cajoling.
An even louder shriek was her reply as the child kicked and screamed when his mother placed him on Kain's lap.
"What's your son's name?" asked Terra, smiling and shaking a frog with bells.
The woman sighed and offered a very wan smile. "His name is Vidina, and we wanted to send this picture to many of our friends, but if he's shrieking until he's blue, then I don't think it'll work."
As loath as she was to admit it, Lightning knew that Terra would work some magic. "Our elf seems to know how to handle all types of children," she commented, motioning toward the woman who had successfully gotten the toddler to stop screaming. "Since apparently our Santa is useless…"
Kain's violet eyes glinted in annoyance as he looked at her from behind the white beard and eyebrows. "Terra seems to have a magical touch with everyone she meets," he supplied. At the sound of his voice, the boy looked at him and Kain let out a strained, "Ho, ho, ho!"
"If only she could magically remove the puffy redness," muttered the child's mother.
"Oh, no," said Terra with a happy smile. "The one with that magical touch is Lightning. She takes wonderful pictures."
Damn it, why couldn't the woman make it easier to hate her? She was, after all, Kain's current flame, wasn't she? "I can take care of that, don't worry," Lightning said with a nod, readying her camera and shooting twice after Terra managed to get Vidina to smile.
"The pictures should be ready tomorrow morning," said Lightning, scribbling the name and a number onto a receipt and handing it over to her customer. "Happy holidays."
"Thank you," the woman replied, picking up her son, who was now cheerfully smiling and waving at Santa.
"Have a Merry Christmas!" Kain called.
Lightning glared at him once she was gone. "Look, you need to start interacting with the kids more. Laguna usually makes a big deal out of every kid that he takes a picture with."
"Might I remind you that I'm doing you a favor?" Kain asked, getting to his feet.
The photographer nearly broke into laughter at the sight of him again, especially with the big belly and the rounded glasses. "And might I remind you that I'm still your boss?" Her eyes narrowed when he moved to reply, but another customer walked up with two children.
"Santa! Santa! I know what I want for Christmas!" the little girl yelled, pulling on Kain's pant leg. "I want a chocobo chick, and the moogle doll house, a new moogle stuffed toy, a stuffed Cactuar, and—and a camera just like that one!"
Kain picked up the girl and placed her on his leg. "That is good, that you want so many things. Now smile for the picture… ho, ho, ho!"
"Oh! And I also want a phone, because my brother won't share with me, and I also want to go to Nautilus Park to see the big chocobos!" the girl continued, looking up at him.
"Yes, your mother will take you there if you are a good girl and eat your vegetables," Kain said, sighing at the look on Lightning's face. "Merry Christmas, little one," he said as the girl waved and ran back to her mother.
"That's one very sad Santa Claus," a low voice said from behind Lightning.
"Why is he sad? Did he lose one of his reindeer?" asked the girl by his side.
Lightning let out a small laugh. "I think that he might've put on some weight and that's why he's sad," she supplied.
"That's not what I meant at all, Marlene," said Cloud as he stepped into the Christmas set-up, pulling a one year old along with him.
"Why are they all here with you?" Lightning asked with a smirk.
Cloud looked at his two adopted children, plus his and Tifa's own. "They're off from school today and Tifa forgot to tell me. Besides, Marlene and Denzel wanted a picture with Santa." He paused and looked at Santa closely. "Is that… Kain?"
Lightning grunted and nodded. "If it hadn't been him, it would've been you instead."
"Yeah, right," muttered Cloud, eyes narrowed. "What happened to Laguna?"
"He said he was sick."
"Which explains why I saw Squall around here with his little sister Ellone. She might've been roping him into getting her a doll she wanted," said Cloud, picking up his youngest.
Lightning couldn't hide her grin at the big blue eyes peeking at her from under a cute tiger hat. "Are you sure he's yours?"
Cloud glared at her as he pulled the hat from the boy's head, displaying a head of brunet spikes that stuck in various directions, different from his own.
"I still don't see the resemblance," she said, shrugging.
"Isn't Santa supposed to have blue eyes?" They heard Denzel asking.
"I like his eyes," Marlene said shyly.
"This is the fakest Santa Claus I've ever seen," her brother muttered.
Terra giggled and helped to settle them with Kain so that Lightning could take their picture. Then a squirming Zack was added for a second picture.
"I don't think he likes you much," Lightning commented.
"He certainly likes me much better than he did you," Kain said.
Lightning could remember the first time she had seen the baby, and how Tifa had attempted to get her to carry the boy and how he had cried at the sight of her. Now he seemed much more at ease, she noted, and he didn't appear to like Kain much.
"If you want to watch over these three, I'll stay and take the rest of the pictures," Cloud offered, taking back his son.
"No, thanks," Lightning replied, setting down her camera and joining Cloud as they watched Marlene and Terra whispering and giggling at Kain. "There's a reason why I haven't had any of my own."
"The lack of a boyfriend?" Kain snarked.
"Oh, believe me, I haven't been lacking boyfriends," she informed him, eyes narrowed. "I just don't have the time for it."
"You never have, right, Lightning?"
Cloud frowned and wondered why they were being hostile with each other. "But… I thought that there was just one guy you'd ever been serious about."
"Really?" Kain asked in interest, moving to stand right next to Lightning.
Lightning sighed in exasperation and would've burned holes through the blond's head if she could… "Let's not talk about this—"
"What was his name? Cid? The one with the silvery hair?" Cloud filed away the fact that Light was blushing for later; this would be excellent blackmail material.
"He's ancient history," Lightning muttered, moving away to grab her camera as another set of parents approached with their children.
"You've known Lightning for a while, right?" Cloud asked Kain.
Kain glanced at her and nodded. "But we…went our separate ways many years ago. I do not know this… Cid."
"Oh, well, he was one of the ones who lasted the most. Though… he's the first and last one I saw around here," said Cloud.
"And Lightning, she was happy with him?" Kain asked before he could stop himself.
Before Cloud could answer, Zack let out a cry as he strained against his father's arms. "Fine, fine," he said, putting the boy down and holding onto his hand. "I need to go get breakfast for the kids."
"Well, it was nice seeing your family once again," said Kain, waving at the little boy.
"Thanks, fake-Santa!" Marlene exclaimed, hugging him quickly.
"Yeah, thanks," said Denzel with a small smile. "You make a more convincing Santa Claus than Cloud does, anyway."
The ladies present broke into giggles—with the exception of Lightning who only let out a scoff—at the boy's words.
"He is kind of short to pull it off, isn't he?" Lightning asked as she raised her hand for a high-five.
Denzel grinned and nodded, slapping his hand against hers.
"Enough of this," muttered Cloud, ushering the kids along. "I'll be back when Yuffie comes by to pick up the kids."
"Is this the same Yuffie who set your kitchen on fire?" Lightning asked.
Cloud shrugged. "Tifa trusts her, and to be fair, it was my fault." He shook his head when Lightning made to question him further and walked off with a wave.
Lightning turned to look at Kain and found him sitting on his cheerfully decorated chair, his eyes narrowed in thought. They hadn't really talked about the past since they had reunited, she realized. He had never known about her Warrior, or what he had meant to her once upon a time.
The next two hours seemed to pass by at a rather slow pace and Lightning could feel the beginnings of a headache coming. She had been trying to ignore Kain's probing looks and Terra's sweet banter with the children, but she needed food and soon.
The pink-haired woman narrowed her eyes and turned to look at the teens waving her over. "Yes?"
"Do you have some sort of age limit for this thing?" the girl asked.
"Yeah, because it looks kinda fun!" said her partner.
"…How old are you two?" Lightning asked, raising an eyebrow in amusement.
"Wellll… I'm sixteen, and Bartz is seventeen! Come on! Can we?"
"I guess," said Lightning. "I bet Santa Claus will be thrilled to have such big fans."
"Awesome!" Bartz exclaimed, grabbing his girlfriend's hand. "Come on, Prishe. We'll send this one to Shantotto."
"Are you crazy? She'll probably curse us so bad that our great-great grandbabies will feel it!" Prishe exclaimed.
"Well, we'll just hide it away for until after we get married."
"Aren't you two a little young to be thinking about marriage?" asked Santa.
"No… Bartz is my soul mate. He completes my pranks in a way no other guy has before," Prishe said, plopping down onto his lap. "You know, for a Santa, you're kinda cute!"
"Yes, thank you, little girl," said Kain dryly.
"He's also a grumpy one," Bartz stage whispered, hopping onto Kain's other leg.
"Well, they do look like a pair of happy children," said Terra with a smile, moving back to stand next to Lightning.
Lightning just shook her head and swallowed down a laugh as she took the picture of the grinning teens. She'd never considered the things that Cloud and Laguna were witness to whenever they did the holiday pictures, but this was getting to be too much for her. As mentally tiring as it was to deal with children and their parents, she had to admit that it was turning out to be quite funny. Especially at the sight of a very annoyed Kain.
"Thank you!" Prishe called as she and Bartz skipped off, hand in hand.
"Isn't it about time that we had a lunch break?" Kain asked, pulling at the scratchy beard over his face, disturbed with the pair that had just left.
Lightning looked at her watch and nodded. "I suppose it is." She moved over to set up a sign that said they would return in about two hours from their break. Maybe by then Cloud would be back and ready to take over the rest of the shift.
"Did you want to eat anything specific today?" Kain asked Terra.
"No, thank you. I brought lunch with me, in case you wanted to share," she replied, smiling.
Lightning nearly rolled her eyes in exasperation and pulled out her phone so that she could get some delivery. Well, if he was going to be a jerk and ignore her, then she'd do the same to him.
"Lightning? Would you like to join us for lunch?" Terra asked her.
The other woman shook her head. "No, thanks. I'll have something delivered. And sorry for not asking before… but did you want something?"
"Thank you, but I brought lunch for Kain and myself," said Terra with a smile.
"Okay," Lightning said, settling onto her desk in the back of her studio so that she could take a look at the current pictures that needed editing.
Meanwhile, Terra heated a large plastic container which held her leftover lasagna in the backroom of the studio. "What's going on with you and Lightning?" she asked in a low voice.
She raised an eyebrow and placed her hands on her hips. "You two are at each other's throats, and don't tell me that there's no reason for that."
Kain shrugged one shoulder. "We seem to have… unfinished business. I found out today that Lightning had a man that she might've been serious about."
"But they broke up?" Terra asked, interested.
"I have no idea, really. Cloud was a little preoccupied with his children to tell me. On one hand she berates me for dating after we broke up, but then I learn that she did the same and dated another man seriously. I don't know what to think anymore," he said, removing the fake beard, eyebrows, and reading glasses.
The young woman shook her head and sighed. "I think that you and Lightning need to have a serious talk. You're making her think that you and I are together when we're not. Lying to her will just make it that much harder for you to win her back."
"Now is not the time for this—"
"Now is the best time for this!" Terra interrupted, planting her hands on her hips and glaring.
Kain tried to hold in a smile at the sight of her. In fake, pointy ears and wearing red and white striped stockings did not help her look more intimidating. If a real Santa existed, he'd be feeding Terra cookies for how cute she looked.
"The two of you obviously haven't been able to be happy with other people, don't you think it's time to be happy with each other?" Terra asked him with a smile.
"It's not as easy as you make it sound, Terra. Nothing is ever easy with Lightning. She is the single most stubborn person I've ever met and she believes that I wronged her by dating Rosa," said Kain, taking the hot food she offered as they sat down at the table.
Terra touched his hand, making him look her in the eyes. "But wouldn't it be good for you to at least try?"
Unfortunately for the two, Lightning chose that moment to enter the back room, catching them holding hands. Her sharp gaze settled on their hands and she nearly rolled her eyes when Terra pulled away quickly.
"Don't stop the couple stuff on my account," said Lightning snidely. She grabbed a plate and utensils before she walked out of the room just as quickly as she had entered.
Kain let out a heavy sigh and picked at his lunch.
"I told you so," said Terra quietly. "Besides, it looks like my presence bothers her, so this means that she still feels something for you."
"Yes, unadulterated rage," murmured Kain.
Terra let out an exasperated sigh and proceeded to have her lunch, tired of trying to convince the stubborn man before her. Maybe she'd have to plan a holiday party just to get the two of them in a room, alone together.
Kain noted that Terra was now angry with him, if her forked eyebrows were anything to go by, but she just didn't understand how hard it had been to become involved with Claire to begin with. She'd been closed off, hostile, and somewhat violent when they had first met in senior year of high school. It had taken him about a year to get her to warm up to him and by then they had graduated, though he'd been pleasantly surprised to see that they had pursued the same career as photographers.
A year after they started college, they had started to date. The next year, they had moved in together and had remained together until the age of twenty, when she had received a scholarship to study in an accelerated program for her major.
He hadn't wanted to hold her back when she had asked him what he thought of her going to a different school a great distance away. His mistake then had been to accept her idea of breaking-up because long distance relationships never seemed to work. He should've fought for her then, but he had been somewhat hurt over the fact that she hadn't even wanted to try maintaining their relationship. This had been the reason why he had first accepted a friend's offer at a blind date only a month after he and Lightning had broken up.
How she had learned of this was beyond him, even now. Kain sighed heavily and took a forkful of his lunch, chewing thoughtfully. Maybe Terra was right and now would be a good time to clear the air between himself and Lightning.
The worst that could happen would be that she'd punch him in the face… And he hated to admit it, but he'd survived that ordeal once already, back when they had started to date. "You might be right," he commented, off-handed.
Terra smiled in satisfaction and took a sip from her juice container. "I don't usually like to brag, but this time I will."
There was a knock at the door leading to the outside of the studio and Lightning stepped in. "I'm not interrupting anything, am I?" she asked, a touch of sarcasm in her voice.
"Of course not," Terra said, smiling.
"Oh, good. This came for you," said Lightning, handing the green haired woman a long box.
"Who brought it?" Terra asked, wide-eyed as she opened it. She gasped in pleasant surprise at the sight of a beautiful red rose placed on a bed of white tissue paper. The petals were soft to the touch, but the stem was filled with thorns.
Lightning shrugged. "Some guy. He didn't tell me his name or who it was from."
Terra was still staring at the rose, and Lightning glanced at Kain before leaving the room.
"Who do you think it's from?" Kain asked her.
Terra smiled to herself and carefully lifted the rose to take in its scent. "I think I have an idea, but I'm not very sure yet. I've seen this guy around a few times, but he's too shy to talk to me."
"And this… appeals to you?" Kain asked, raising his eyebrow in question.
"He's a sweetheart and if only he'd ask me out then I would gladly accept," she said dreamily.
Women were such strange creatures, Kain thought to himself, returning to his lunch.
By the time Kain returned to taking more pictures with children, Cloud had returned and would replace Lightning. The children in the afternoon seemed to be more out of control. One had attempted to bite him, while another would pull at his fake beard, and the next had nearly burst his eardrum with her screams.
The behavior he had seen had made him double think whether he wanted his own children in the future. They were loud, messy, and sometimes even violent. He didn't know how Laguna could deal with this on a daily basis during the holidays.
He hadn't seen Lightning for a good two hours now, and he was starting to lose his resolve to speak to her.
Terra seemed to be on cloud nine at the moment, imagining her suitor and thinking of the rose he had sent her, and this caused her to be more bubbly than she had been earlier in the morning.
And Cloud just looked relieved that he had sent off his children… Kain wondered what Tifa would think of this.
"You know, you kind of look too imposing for a Santa Claus," Cloud commented as he replaced the battery to the camera in his hand.
Kain shrugged one shoulder. "This was not what I had in mind when I came in to work today."
"Yes, but you also did this to get on Lightning's good side, didn't you?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
"No," Kain said, voice low.
"Look, whatever is going on between you two, it needs to get fixed and soon. Light isn't a patient woman and if she's having issue with you, she'll cut you loose soon," said Cloud.
"Even when you were the one to hire me?"
"She'll make my life a living hell, too."
"I will fix this soon," said Kain, waving a hand.
"Good," Cloud said, nodding. "Maybe once you two make-up Tifa will invite you over for dinner at the same time."
Kain was not amused with the blond. "I was under the impression that you knew nothing of my past with Lightning."
"Yeah, well, Light talks to Tifa sometimes."
"And Tifa tells you about it?"
This meant that Cloud eavesdropped on his wife's conversations… Kain shook his head.
"Hey, I only heard that conversation by accident!"
"I don't want to know," Kain replied.
Cloud shrugged and continued to ready his camera for the next customer.
Kain sat brooding for a few minutes, annoyed that Strife now knew about Lightning's personal life, too. He knew how secretive Claire could be, and if she learned this then she'd close herself off even more. Looking up, his eyes widened in surprise and he felt himself fidget at the sight of an old friend approaching, his arms full with his infant son.
A smile spread across Kain's lips under his fake beard at the sight of little Ceodore. He had only seen the boy when he had been born, since his old friend and his wife lived a good distance away, but the baby seemed to be much bigger. He'd be… about nine months now?
And Rosa… she looked beautiful as always. Motherhood suited her, thought Kain. Cecil, on the other hand, looked like a besotted fool.
"Welcome," said Cloud. "Would you like to have your son take a picture with Santa?"
"That sounds like an excellent idea," said Cecil, smiling broadly.
Rosa nodded and placed a ridiculous hat on Ceodore's head. "It's not the prettiest hat, but Uncle Theodor did get it for you and I'm sure he would love to see it," she cooed.
Kain nearly let out a sigh of exasperation. Rosa was still too good to ever say anything negative to anyone, including her strange brother-in-law. Who gave a baby a hat with horns? Or were those ears? He took the baby up when Cecil handed him over and gave the infant a curious look. He was blond like Rosa, but he had Cecil's eyes. "Your uncle Theodor gave you the hat, boy?" he asked quietly. "I will have to visit you with the only intention of losing it somewhere it cannot be found."
"A little more merriment, Santa," said Lightning's voice nearby.
When Kain looked up, he spotted her standing right next to Cecil. He sighed and hoped that his old friend didn't give out any of his own information to her…
Lightning looked at the man next to her and found that he looked familiar. Then her eyes widened in realization. "Yes?" he asked, looking up at her. Then his eyes widened. "Claire?"
"Did you come to visit Kain?" she asked, taking a look at the man in red holding the baby.
"Yes, but he's not answering his phone," said Cecil with a frown. "I wonder if he's too busy."
Lightning smirked to herself. "I'm sure you'll find him soon enough. Is that your baby?"
Cecil seemed to preen with fatherly pride. "His name is Ceodore. Rosa and I had him rather quickly," he said, blushing. "But I can't imagine my life without him."
Rosa? As if summoned by her thoughts, the woman approached them and slipped a hand around Cecil's waist, a kind smile slipping across her lips.
"Hello," said Rosa, holding out her hand to shake. "I'm Rosa, Cecil's wife."
"It's good to meet you. I'm Lightning," she replied, shaking her hand. She could definitely see what Kain had been attracted to. It didn't make it any easier though. Kain knew how to pick the sweet ones that you couldn't hate no matter what…
"Lightning?" Cecil asked, confused.
She nodded. "Yes, Lightning."
"Oh, look, Cecil! Doesn't Ceodore look precious?" she asked before walking away to coo at her baby.
"Yes, especially with that silly hat on his head," muttered Cecil.
Lightning smirked. "I'm sure he'll thank you for keeping the memory present once he's older."
Cecil chuckled and nodded. "It was Rosa's idea. But anyway, you gave a different name to Rosa… Why?"
"It's the name I go by now," Lightning said, shrugging.
"And it's not because you wanted to hide your identity from her?"
Lightning gave him a blank look. "I don't need to hide away from anyone, Cecil. But I also don't wish to delve into my past with Kain, especially with an ex-girlfriend of his, and the woman who is now your wife."
Cecil chuckled and shook his head. "You must be mistaken."
"About what?" she asked, eyes narrowed; she'd never liked it when people laughed at her.
"Kain and Rosa were never serious," Cecil clarified, noting that her shoulders were stiff and her eyes frosty.
"What?" Lightning asked, losing some of her cool.
"You heard me correctly. He agreed to date her, but he never asked her to be serious. Kain never got over you," said Cecil quietly, eyes darting to the Santa Claus as he stood up and approached them, Rosa clinging to his arm.
"Guess who I just realized this is?" Rosa asked happily.
Lightning couldn't wrap her mind around what she had just learned. One of the main reasons why she hadn't tried to salvage her relationship with Kain after she left had been because a friend had told her that he had been dating Rosa quite seriously. Damn it, she was going to kill that idiot Mateus for sending her false information!
"Kain?" Cecil asked in pleasant surprise. "What are you doing dressed up like that?"
"Never mind that," Kain's voice replied. "I didn't think Ceodore had grown so big. The last time I saw him I could hold him in one arm."
Lightning stared at him with the baby in his arms, even in the ridiculous getup and swallowed hard. She'd been the stupid one to dump him in the first place, thinking that their relationship wouldn't have lasted, but she knew now that she hadn't wanted to even try. Then when longing for him had finally settled in, she had been informed that he had been happily dating.
Then she had met Cid and she had tried to love him, had almost managed to forget Kain, but her heart had never been truly into that relationship. When he had asked her to marry him, she had said no… And that had been the end of a relationship that could've been something good in her life. She'd broken a good man's heart.
Kain gave her a curious look as she excused herself, not meeting her gaze or even saying goodbye. Something was off about her and he wondered what could've happened. What… Cecil could've said to her. "What were you telling her?" Kain asked, voice low.
Cecil appeared alarmed. "I cleared something up for her. That's it."
"What?" Kain prodded.
Cecil shrugged. "You might want to talk to her about it."
"You shouldn't meddle, Cecil," Kain said with a heavy sigh.
"Why not? It's obvious that this is the one girl you were never able to get over," muttered his friend.
"Wait… was that Claire?" Rosa asked, eyes wide. When her husband nodded she gasped. "Why did she say her name was Lightning?"
"It's pseudonym she goes by," said Kain, bouncing the baby. He glanced in the direction she had gone and knew that now he had no chance at backing away from talking to her. He knew this day had been coming, but now that it was here, he felt the apprehension grip him.
His day honestly couldn't get any worse. As soon as he thought it, he felt something warm and smelly slide right down his sleeve and hand.
"Oh, dear," said Rosa.
Kain looked down.
Ceodore had gone and thrown up on him. This was just an excellent way to end a very stressful day.
When the day had finally ended and the shops had begun to close, Lightning began to pack up her things, wondering where Kain and Cloud were. She knew Tifa worried when Cloud was late, so she didn't usually ask him to stay behind to help her out. As for Kain, he was usually around to pester her after she closed up the shop.
While she put away her camera, she looked up in time to see the both of them entering the store, Kain turning to lock the door for safety.
"How did it go?" Lightning asked, adjusting the color in a shot.
"Cecil's baby threw up on Kain," said Cloud in a tone that meant he was hiding a laugh.
Lightning smirked to herself. "I'm sure that's the kid's way of telling you he likes you," she said.
"Ha, ha," said Kain flatly. He stood by her desk and began to remove the top half of the Santa suit, leaving him in a rather tight black t-shirt.
Lightning averted her eyes from the sinewy muscles of his arms and let out a sigh.
"Tifa wanted me to tell you both that we're having a Christmas party this weekend and you're invited," said Cloud as he packed up his things, too.
"I don't know if I'll be able to make it," said Lightning.
Cloud's eyes darted from Lightning to Kain. "Tifa says that there's some guy she wants you to meet."
Kain felt his eyebrow twitch at the smug look on Cloud's face and turned away to grab his pack where his regular clothes were.
"Why are you trying to provoke him?" Lightning asked when Kain had left to use the restroom to change.
"Provoke him?" Cloud asked, feigning puzzlement.
Lightning was not amused.
"Look, just show up at the party. You know that Tifa wants you to be happy, so she'll do her best to introduce you to new guys. Be safe when you leave!" Cloud called, making for the door.
"Tell Tifa that I don't need her to set me up with a man, and that if she drops it, I'll make it to the party."
"Will do," Cloud said before he was gone.
Shutting off all of the lights except the ones at the front of her studio, Lightning grabbed her bags and her keys, ready to go as soon as Kain returned. She wanted to get home as soon as humanly possible so that she could take a long and relaxing bath. She didn't think she could handle having the conversation with Kain tonight.
"You look tired. Are you sleeping properly?"
His voice startled her into realizing that he was standing very close to her, making her jump slightly. "That's not your business."
Kain sighed and stopped her as she turned for the door. "I think you and I need to talk about a few things."
"Not tonight, Kain."
"If not tonight, then when? Another four years from now?" he asked, growing irritated with her attitude.
"As you said, I'm tired and all I want to do is go home right now," she said.
"I know that Cecil informed you about my involvement with Rosa."
"Why would you allow me to continue believing that you were deeply involved with her?" Lightning asked, turning to glare at him. "I… hated you for moving on so quickly. You could've told me that it wasn't true!"
"Claire," he started, shaking his head. "Would you have believed me then?"
No. Lightning sighed. "You could've at least tried," she muttered, rubbing a hand across her face.
"Ah, but I am not the only one guilty of not trying," he countered.
"You're right," Lightning relented. "I didn't fight for our relationship, and on some level I probably didn't want to. Maybe I didn't want to hold you back, or maybe I wanted to try something new. But then I learned that you were dating another woman and I thought of moving on, too."
"How important was he to you?" Kain asked, even though he honestly didn't want to know.
"He asked me to marry him."
"Did you accept?"
"Do you see me married now?" she asked, snide.
Kain's eyes narrowed. "That is not what I asked. Did you accept?"
Lightning shook her head. "No."
She sighed and crossed her arms over her chest. "Because I couldn't love him the way he deserved."
Kain took a step forward and forced their eyes to meet. "You couldn't love him the way that you loved me."
"That doesn't matter anymore," Lightning replied, looking away from his violet gaze.
"Not even after Cecil clarified the fact that I never felt for Rosa the way I did for you?"
"What about Terra?" she asked, eyes narrowed. "The two of you seemed quite cozy earlier today."
"Are you jealous?"
"Good, because you have no reason to be. Terra is the closest friend I've had since you left. She and I have nothing going on, either. I… am guilty of allowing you to believe this, too," said Kain, looking somewhat apologetic.
Lightning scoffed at his words. "I never knew you could be such a damned liar, Kain Highwind. It makes me wonder what else you lied about while we were together."
"Well, I lied about liking that stew you made for our first anniversary."
"Joke's on you… my neighbor Fang made it," Lightning muttered.
Kain sighed in amusement and crossed his arms over his chest. "That is not such a bad lie, is it?"
"I guess not. But the ones that came after are," Lightning said, losing the lightness she had begun to feel.
"Would it help if I apologized?"
"I am very sorry for hurting you, and for not clearing up all of these misunderstandings with you when we met once again," said Kain, looking sincere.
Lightning raised an eyebrow. "It's not helping," she muttered.
Kain glared mildly at her and took up her hand, bringing it to his lips. "Please forgive me, Claire Farron. In these last four years there hasn't been a single woman who has ever made my heart race the way that you could."
"I promise to live the rest of my life making this up to you."
"You're not alone," Lightning replied.
"In the stuff that you said."
She nodded, pushing her bangs away from her eyes. "I was guilty in all of this, too. I didn't do my part and I hurt you just as much as you hurt me. And I'm sorry."
Kain sighed, thumb rubbing across her jaw, his heart jumping when he felt her lean into his touch a little.
"But I... I'm willing to start from the beginning if you are, too."
"Do you mean to start dating as if we were two complete strangers?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I mean."
Kain looked thoughtful for a moment before he smiled, a quick quirk of the lips, and moved forward to plant a chaste kiss on her lips. "In that case, would you accept to be my date to Tifa and Cloud's party this weekend?"
She didn't look too thrilled at the mention of the party, but she nodded. "I guess. We can pretend to get caught under the mistletoe," she said with an evil smile. "That way Tifa can get the picture and she won't try to introduce me to any of her friends. Have I told you what a disaster it was when she attempted to set me up with Sephiroth. Sephiroth."
Despite her words, he looked nothing but amused at this fact. "Sephiroth is rather special."
"That's one way of putting it," said Lightning, opening the door herself and walking out in front of him.
Kain followed with a chuckle and waited for her to set the alarm and lock the door.
"You do know that if Laguna is out tomorrow, you'll have to wear the suit again, right?"
"I don't think so. As much as I still love you, Claire, you will have to find yourself another person for that job," Kain replied, slipping a hand across her shoulders.
She warmed at his words and allowed him to keep his arm around her for a few short minutes. "You know, I can fire you if you refuse an order."
"But you won't."
"Won't I? Why not?"
"Because, technically, Cloud was the one who hired me."
Lightning shoved off his arm and swallowed a chuckle. "Smartass."
"And yet despite that, you still love me."
"Yeah, I guess you're right. But only because you love me, bitchiness and all."
Kain smiled to himself and pulled her in for another short kiss. It was a relief knowing that the New Year was going to start off very good for the both of them. They would begin to build their lives once more, and this time he wouldn't let her slip through his fingers.