This is slightly AU. Post FF13. Ignores FF13-2. Assume they are doing well enough on Pulse, as that is not the focus here. Pairing wise: HopexSerah, one-sided HopexLightning, and slight SnowxSerah. Expect much angst.

Based on the idea of, What Are We? You do not have to read it to understand this fic.

Thank you in advance for reading.

Hope sighs and runs his hand through his silver locks, leaning against the concrete of the building and watching the rain fall behind the safety of the clear glass doors. He missed the bus and thought he could wait out the storm, but each ticking second proves to bolster the tempest's turbulence. Wind whips the rain at the glass, leaves sticking to the doors before being carried into the sky. Hope hears the rumble before the force of thunder thrums through the building, making his body quake.

"I guess I'll have to call her." He pulls out his cell phone, narrowing his eyes at the names as he scrolls down the list.

Dad's out of town for the next few months. Snow is at work or something. Lightning-

He stops at the name. His cheeks burn and he shrugs, pressing the number and pushing the phone to his ear before he loses his nerve. He taps his foot as he waits for an answer, trying not to think of the awkward conversation. And her utter, total silence.

And completely blank face.

If that doesn't say rejection, I have no idea what does. What am I even doing, calling her after-after that? I'm just-I'd rather walk! In the cold, pouring rain. And...and the terrible, bitter wind...

Hope nods to himself, ready to snap the phone shut when there's a click and a soft voice floats from the other end. "Hello?" Hope pauses and blinks at the voice.

"Um, hey?" He swallows and tries to deepen his voice. "You're not Lightning."

Giggles come from the other end and Hope's face burns anew. "No. I'm looking after the house for her. Kind of. She keeps forgetting to buy herself milk-she called from work, saying she forgot again." More giggles, then a pause for breath. "Guess who I am! Come on, you know this one."

Hope tilts his head to the side. "S-Serah?" he tries, jumping when there's a yelp on the other side.

"You got that right! Come on, you really didn't know? I can tell it's you, Hope." Hope pouts, shifting his feet.

"You sound different on the phone. A bit. Maybe. Well...sorry, I was looking for Lightning but I guess-"

He winces at the crackling on the other end, blinking when he hears the desperation in her high-pitched voice. "No! I mean, maybe I can help you? With...well, with whatever it is."

Hope swallows, looking outside as several twigs snap at the doors. "I-um-I need a ride back home. I missed the bus and I just-"

"No problem!" Hope shakes his head, opening his mouth to speak, but Serah cuts across him. "I'll be there in no time! It's New Eden, right? That's not too far from here."

The line goes dead before he can argue and Hope sighs, shaking his head and leaning against the wall for support.

"As if this wasn't awkward enough," he mumbles, taking his white hood and throwing it over his head. "This is going to be one weird car ride."

More thunder rolls in, making the glass shake. Hope gives the doors a worried glance, taking a step back. "But I guess it can't be that bad. Better than dying in some freak weather accident."

And it way beats talking to Lightning after-ugh, that stupid confession. She just stared at me! Stared. Like I grew two extra heads or something. I mean, I know I'm young and all, but I'm not that young. And I am totally legal now, no matter what Lebreau says.

Hope sighs and kicks at the black mat under his feet. All she did was stare. Then she gets up, leaves, and I have to walk home for the night. Does she even realize how far her house is from mine? A good three miles, if not more!

Hope continues to fume, but there is no real vigor in it. A dull ache settles in his chest, pulsing every now and again as he imagines blank blue eyes. A flat line for a mouth. Utterly no emotion, not even when he told her he liked her.

But that was stupid, wasn't it, Estheim? Like you actually had a shot with a girl like her. She just didn't know how to let you down easy, so she left to get away. She's never been much of a people person, so it's not so surprising.

What is surprising is how completely, absolutely stupid you were in thinking-


He jumps at her voice, nearly slamming into the wall as he trips over his feet. Serah brings a hand to her mouth and suppresses a giggle, flipping wet, strawberry blonde bangs from her eyes. Hope pauses, looking her up and down, and shudders when he realizes how much Lightning and Serah look alike.

Sure, she's softer than Lightning, but...the eyes, the hair, the frame. So, so similar! I mean, I get that they're siblings but-

"Hope?" Serah asks again, waving a hand in front of his face. Hope grins, his cheeks warming as he scratches the back of his neck.

"Sorry about that. I've been lost in thought." Another clap of thunder startles him, and Hope shakes his head. "And...sorry about this. I didn't mean to drag you out of the house."

Hope blinks when Serah's eyes darken, but she perks up as soon as he catches it. "It's no problem at all, Hope! I'm glad I could help. This storm is way too dangerous for you to be walking in anyway." She tugs at his arm, leading the way out of the safety of the school.

Wind barrels them instantly and Serah tightens her grip on Hope's arm. The rush of air leaves Hope winded and he tries to breathe out his mouth, shivering as icy rain pellets shoot down his throat. His hood flies down and a blast of cold sends chills to his feet. Serah's car is tantalizingly close, Serah already unlocking the door, but she stumbles at a strong gust of wind.

"Shi-" Hope's swear is swept up with twigs and leaves and he catches her fall with his chest, acting as a wall as she struggles with the car door. His body convulses, the cold creeping in despite the few seconds he's been outside. He feels his feet sliding on the sidewalk but can barely see with his bangs being slapped into his face.

"There! Get in, Hope, I can crawl in after you!"

Hope springs for the car, wincing when he feels his feet leave tracks on the seat. He drags himself over and grabs Serah's hand, pulling her in before he loses his grip on her cold and slippery fingers. Serah flails for the handle, slamming the door shut and muffling the howling wind.

Serah blinks, knees on her seat and hands in her lap. Her hair stands in all directions now, several loose strands sitting straight on her head. A twig has lodged itself in her hair and pokes at her neck, and leaves cling to her jacket.

Hope bites back a chuckle, figuring he's no worse for wear, but jumps when Serah starts giggling. She puts a hand to her mouth to stifle the bubbly noise, shaking her head at Hope's questioning look and reaching for his head. Hope closes his eyes, shuddering when a drop of water runs down his face.

"You had a leaf in your hair." Hope's eyes snap open and Serah waves the offending foliage in front of him. "It was sticking straight up. Like you suddenly had a tree growing out of your head."

Hope puffs his cheeks, pointing at her. "And what about you? Your hair is doing this-this-I don't know, claw thing." Hope claws at the air, narrowing his eyes. "And if anyone looks like a tree, it's you! You've got a twig in your hair! All I had was a leaf!"

"Okay, okay, you win. I'm the tree. You can be a bush or something," Serah says, righting herself in the seat and starting the car. She pulls her seatbelt over herself and glares at Hope until he follows suit.

"Why don't I feel any better about that?"

"Because trees are way better than bushes, that's why." Serah sticks her tongue out at him before bursting into another fit of giggles. Hope groans, shaking his head and leaning back into the seat. Warm air starts blasting him and he sighs, easing into the chair. Hot air begins filling his soggy shoes and warming his blued skin.

"Didn't know how cold I was," Hope mumbles, relaxing against the window.

Serah smiles, pulling away from the school and heading down the street. "You normally don't until you feel the warmth."

Hope hums in agreement, watching the bare streets flash by. "No one's on the road," Hope mumbles, shaking his head when his eyelids droop.

"Well, this is a pretty bad storm. And people are really antsy now that we don't have the Fal'Cie to protect us."

"You'd think a few years without them would have given us our confidence back." Hope stretches his legs out, body melting to the seat. "We can rebuild in less than a decade, but we jump at the smallest storm."

Serah narrows her eyes, nodding. "I guess-I guess everyone is afraid. Things like this didn't happen before. It's hard to adapt when you're still wishing for the old ways."

Hope's eyes harden. "I know. I just wish it was..." Hope shrugs, shoulders sagging. "I don't know what I wish."

Silence falls between them and Hope glances at Serah from the corner of his eye.

She's a little taller now, but not by much, and Hope is glad to notice he's a good few inches taller than her now. Her hair is longer too, hanging loosely from her side ponytail and just curling at the ends. Yet, Hope sees a hunched sort of look about her. Circles under her eyes that didn't seem to fit.


"It's been a while since we've actually seen each other, huh?" Serah asks, smiling. "I mostly heard about you from Snow and sis. We never get to talk face to face most of the time." She hums a bit, turning the wheel. Her eyes never leave the road.

Hope's eyes never leave her.

"How is Snow?" he tries, shifting when his heart rate starts picking up.

"Oh-well, I think he's all right. He and NORA wind up getting a lot of work from the military nowadays. He's on a really important mission right now. I guess there's a pack of behemoths nearby making a nest. They have to track them down and kill them off before they get too close to the city." Serah smiles through the whole explanation.

Hope doesn't know why it bother hims.

"That explains why I haven't heard from him...but, what about last month?"

"A different mission, that's all." Serah turns again. Hope narrows his eyes at her trembling hands. "Not as dangerous as this one though. Even with Snow and everyone else there, they may need to call for backup."

"Like Lightning?"

Serah nods, turning once more before easing the car to a stop. Hope blinks at her before glancing out the window. He raises his eyebrows, pointing at the house. "This isn't where I live."

"I know. But, you kinda live far away. And this storm. And the car. And-"

Hope shakes his head, holding a hand up. "It's all right, I understand. Beggars can't be choosers anyway." Hope smiles at her, eyes bright. "And since you saved me from the horrors of walking in this crap, please allow me to escort you inside."


"The wind nearly blew you over last time!" Hope throws the door open and the wind assaults him, blowing his hair in all directions and knocking the breath from him once more. He slams the door, silencing Serah's already feeble protests, but quickly maneuvers to the other side of the car. He yanks the door open and guides Serah out, grabbing her wrist and rushing her to the front step, kicking the car door shut as he ran.

"I'll wash your car later!" Hope shouts over the wind, glancing at the muddy shoeprint he left.

"It's all right! I have a feeling the rain will take care of it." Serah pulls ahead of Hope, thrusting her key into the door and throwing it open. She yanks Hope inside and they both slam the door behind them, breathing out sighs of relief at the sudden calm.

"I so love the rain," Hope mumbles, shaking his wet hair. He idly glances around, noting the long hallway that opens to a joined kitchen and dining room. Two doors sit at the very end of the hallway, cast in shadows, and there is an archway to what Hope guesses was the living room.

"Sorry it's so dark," Serah mumbles, throwing her coat on a nearby table. She turns to Hope, making him turn around as she works his off of him. "It just seems pointless to light the whole house when I'm the only one here."

Hope nods, staring hard at the white wall until his jacket is off and he's free to remove his shoes. "You didn't have to do that," he says, throwing his shows into a corner. He shudders at the water swishing in his socks and squishing between his toes. He glances once at Serah before ripping them off and stuffing them into his shoes.

"Doesn't mean I can't!" Serah sings, hurrying down the hallway and skipping through the archway.

Hope grins and follows her, closing his eyes and breathing in as long as he can to soak up the warmth of the house. His grin widens when he feels soft, plush carpet under his toes, and he opens his eyes to the living room.

Serah is huddled in a three-seater couch, rubbing her raw toes and staring at the blank television. Hope tilts his head but says nothing, dropping onto the couch and cracking his neck. He looks around the room through his bangs; catches that not one thing is dusty, spotted, or otherwise wrong with the room. No books are out of place, instead sitting neatly on the glass coffee table in front of him. There are no random clothes laying around, no boxes of tissues or forgotten keys or lost blankets. The only mess is their dripping clothes and hair.

The room is in complete and total order.

And completely and totally dead looking.

"So, I guess you don't use this room much?" Hope asks. He looks back at Serah, jumping when he sees her eyes welling up. He hurries to her side, falling off the couch in his haste. He kneels in front of her, clawing the couch fabric. "Did I say something wrong? I'm sorry, I have a bad habit of-"

"Do you really think they'd call Lightning away too?"

Hope blinks at the question. His mouth drys and he looks away, nodding. She says nothing and Hope forces his voice out. "I-I think they might. Behemoths are hard to kill and if they're tracking a whole nest of them."

"I see," Serah says, curling in on herself.

Hope swallows at her dark eyes and trembling lips. How did this happen? What did I say that was so bad? Oh crap, oh crap-

"Everyone is doing something useful, aren't they?" Serah asks, breaking Hope from his thoughts. "Everyone is out there making something of themselves or doing what they do best. Snow, Lightning, everyone from NORA."

"I'm not doing anything useful!" Hope tries, ignoring the clenching in his chest.

"But you are, Hope! College is totally useful! Never say anything otherwise." Hope blinks, slowly nodding at her. Serah returns the gesture, resting her head on her shoulder. "And-and I guess, I'm just sad that I'm here. By myself. Being no use to anyone. How can I heal Snow when he's so far away from me? And how can I make sis smile when she's almost always gone."

Her eyes water dangerously. Hope bites his lip. "I-I don't know why I'm even telling you this! I shouldn't-you must be cold!" Her voice is painfully chipper in under a second. The smile cracks her face and Hope's eyes snap to the ground.

Shame burns him and he doesn't know why.

"Yes, cold and hungry. Well, I can fix both of those things! A nice hot meal, just for you. It gets boring cooking just for me-"

"Serah," Hope hates how small his voice is. Quiet and timid. "Serah," he tries again, forcing volume, "are you lonely? I mean...if Snow really is gone that often, you must be." Hope doesn't catch Serah grip her engagement necklace or her glance at the gold band around her finger. He's too busy searching for the right words in his fingers.

"I know what that can feel like. Dad...even after mom was gone, dad was-is gone a lot. He's paying me through college and he's set me up in a nice house but-but he's not there." Hope looks up at her and Serah holds back a gasp at the way his eyes look. They are lost and dark and afraid. They are her own eyes when she looks in the mirror; dully searching for someone that isn't there. Sitting in the dark and cold and trying to make it sound all right when it's not.

And she wants to hug Hope for understanding. Wants to hug Hope for sharing so little and so much all at once. Feeling the pain of an empty house day after day, when it was supposed to be loud and cheerful and all those things it wasn't.

Hope understands this and it joys and saddens her.

"How about I come and visit? Every day. After school, the weekends, my days off." Hope's face is hot and his mouth is moving without his permission; but he knows he'll do it from the way her face brightens.

"Promise?" she asks, holding out her pinky.

Hope blinks, snorting a bit. "I haven't done this in a while. Like, fourth grade." He takes her pinky in his and they shake, Hope holding her eyes.