City of Academia in 505 AF:

A platinum haired man, about the age of 27 years of age looked at a picture of a family of three. On the left, there was a man, appearing to be in his thirties huggling his beautiful wife. The father seemed to be happy, and his wife looked as sweet and social as ever. In the center, there was a teenager, facial features of the man, but enough of the woman that it was apparent that he was their son. There was a smile on the youth's face, but it didn't quite match with his eyes.

That picture was taken a few weeks before it happened, the purge of Bodhum. The event that took the life of the woman in the picture. The teenager thought he had problems from home, only to find out the hard way that it could have been worse. There was no way to prepare for the insanity that felt like it happened in mere moments. When Hope had to learn the hard way how to fight, or find his end in the turmoil that was living as a lacie. Fortunately, young Esthiem had managed to impress a member of the Guardian Corps with his determination to not die. There were also times that he really missed the thrill of summoning his Eidolon, Alexander.

Even if he was going on running as if he were a train heading into a crash, now that it's in his past He could have learned to live without the nightmares that have found themselves embedded in his soul. However, it was doubtful that Hope would have traded those days for anything, except for one thing... That in which was a paradox in thinking. Could it have been possible to save his mother? If she wouldn't have died, would he have chased after Snow, eventually to be branded?

Hope had assumed that without Nora, his mother's death, he wouldn't have been interested in pursuing Snow. Vanille wouldn't have had to worry about keeping him going since he would have been happy with his mom. Stay close to her, and live a normal life. Chances are, Hope would have never had a chance to meet Light or any of the others. Instead, they would have returned home and just be moved when the troops ordered that evacuation. If they would have made it out of there, they would have ended up in New Palom Polum where his father took up residence. Hope wouldn't have known anything but being angry at his father.

"Got to live in here and now. I still miss you though, I miss you both." Hope spoke, wiping a tear away from his eyes, talking to the picture, of his father and his mother. "I had the ability to try to save you, but I ended up saving the world. Again! Knowing you, mother, father, if I would have been selfish and save you, you would have been ashamed of me. That you would be prouder if I saw the bigger picture and kept the world from going to ruin."

Granted, he knew that nothing was absolute. He protected the world from a threat twice, and change was inevitable. The best that anyone could have done is work with the twists that they are given and make the best choices that they can. With a choice like the one that he made, thate could be no room for regret, or anyone could risk their sanity stolen from them. Even knowing this, Esthiem was prone to moments of wishing that he could have done both, and still be the respected man that Hope was today.

Esthiem wondered what it would be like. To be married to a woman that you could show love and affection on a day to day basis. Not just a facade for the sake of the public view. Hope spent his life with someone, a woman that he held a great amount of respect for. It started out as a favor, a lie that both of them needed for their own reasons. The web just started to get more complex that a wedding eventually became a reality. What the public doesn't know is that it isn't much more than an act.

Most of the time, his job kept his mind off things, kept him busy enough to not fret over what is or is not reality. Hope and Lightning are friends, they keep tabs on what is going on in the other's life to know what's going on with the other. What their thoughts are, and ask if anything is troubling the other. Because, despite what feels like an elaborate circus act, the two of them care about eachother on that much of a level to know what's going on.

So far, the greatest obstacle is the paparazzi. Annoying group of so called news magazines that like to try to get in everyone's buisness with invasive tactics... Claiming that it's in the rights of free speech to harass everyone and their dog to get information. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad if they didn't manipulate it to sound the way they want to. Amusing side to that however, is watching Gardot convince them that they should leave the property when they show up.

You see, they do have security, but only the top ranking officers of Nora know what really goes on outside of the public eye. Members that keep an eye for trouble around their private and personal land that Hope and Lightning could trust and relax around. Something the both of them needed if they were going to keep up the act and not be at each other's throats from the stress.

Stepping away from his reverie, Esthiem had started to get ready, putting on his uniform. Everything, including his boomerang. It was still strange to be very far away from home without it. While Hope was living in the expanse of Gran Pulse, a weapon was generally a handy thing to have around. It was sometimes the difference between life and death there. The place was beautiful, and beautiful things were often some of the most dangerous. Now, it could get dangerous, with assassinations and other threats that should be taken seriously, but the weapon was mostly just carried out of habit these days.

Note: Yeesh... I am glad I actually decided to take a look at this chapter and touch it up. It really looked sloppy. However, the former chapter was my first in a long time of writing a fic, so won't worry about it too harshly.