Some of Hope's favored and frequently revisited memories came from his time on Gran Pulse, when he, Light, Snow, Sazh, Fang, and Vanille were wandering the land as Pulse l'Cie, trying to find answers for their focus. He slowed them all down, but none of them cared. He knew after that day he summoned and face Alexander there was no need to tell them to leave him behind. He knew they wouldn't. If it so much crossed his mind, Vanille somehow knew and scolded him before he dwelled upon it any further.
One particular instance, he had caught some sort of virus for what seemed like the hundredth time in the few weeks they had been on Gran Pulse. Despite the group's best attempts at healing him, his fever persisted. The rocky ground felt terrible under his aching body. He squeezed his eyes shut, concentrating, willing his body to feel better. He shivered under his blanket.
Light walked over to him, carrying hers and Snow's blankets. She unfolded Snow's and placed it on the ground next to Hope. She helped him roll onto the blanket which offered a little more cushion from the small rocks on his back. She fixed his blanket, then threw her own on top of it.
He tightened the blankets around him, feeling a little warmer already. "You guys sure?" He mumbled, mildly delirious.
"Don't worry about it," Light said in her rare soft tone.
He heard her sit on the ground very close to him. She gently lifted his head and rested it on her lap, having him use her thigh as a pillow. He sighed contentedly. The comfort was immediate and welcomed.
"Just feel better," she said. Her hand found his head, idly brushing her fingers through his hair.
"Okay," he said, snuggling into her. Though everything still hurt, he felt better. It reminded him of the comfort of home in Palompolum and of his mother's affection. His mother might have died and his father might have been miles away in Cocoon, but there on Gran Pulse he had all of them. These strangers that had become his family, closer than family even. That moment he had decided he could accept their fate. He had lived more and seen more than so many others older than him ever would. He had never known the depths of friendship until he and Light had bonded in the Vile Peaks.
Hope had never slept better than that night, close to Light with her stroking his hair. It had been lovingly, like a mother to a child or an older sister to a little brother.
At some point in the ten years after they saved Cocoon and Light disappeared, the way he saw the memory and viewed Light changed. Maybe it was puberty finishing its course or Light's absence in his life, but his heart ached when he thought of her. Maybe he had always had something akin to a schoolboy crush on a teacher, but that grew into something more.
Sometimes Hope would watch the Oracle Drive just to see Light's image. It was reassurance that he was doing the right thing. The times the Oracle Drive didn't show her, his heart would pound and he would panic. Was he still on the right track? Would he see her again? He would watch the scratchy video clips obsessively until it changed again and she reappeared. Alyssa would watch him with pity in her eyes, but he didn't care if she or anyone else in Cocoon or Gran Pulse understood.
Serah and Noel understood.
Sazh's fatherly intuition picked up on it within seconds. It was even obvious to Snow's thick skull.
Hope was willing to bet that Vanille and Fang were aware and teasing him, despite their crystal stasis.
He might have been doing this for all of them, but Light was his inspiration. Whatever he could do was his part and his responsibility, but it never stopped him from wanting to do more. At times he longed for the ability to travel the timeline with Serah and Noel because he was sure that path would cross with Light's. But it was for the best, he knew, since he'd only hold them back in their battles. Back then, he had been the primary healer, but when he woke from his crystal stasis, his l'Cie brand had disappeared, taking his magic with it. His expertise now was technical and scientific. That was best done from his place there in Academia. That longing kept him up late nights in front of computers and eased the pain that once there in 400 AF, his father had passed away a long time ago.
It was hard to imagine that once upon a time, he had been scared of Light. Back then he had good reason, since it seemed like everyone but Snow was scared of the soldier. But she warmed up to him, to all of them. She called him and her partners and she trusted him to watch her back while she watched his. How could he have not clung to that bond after losing his mother?
Sometimes he wished he still had the knife that Light had let him borrow. He knew he did the right thing giving it back to Serah after they saved Cocoon and Light wasn't there, but he missed it. He wanted to have something of Light's to hold onto, an object to assure him that his memories were real. But he had nothing to cling to, so he remembered everything he could about her: her smile, her frown, her seriousness, the things she taught him and the comfort she provided.
There in Valhalla, was she able to watch him? He had a feeling that yes, she could. He had confidence the dream he had when he was sleeping through time to 400 AF. Could she see that he was thinking about her? After his dream where she came to him, late at night in his home or office he would do nothing but talk, imagining that Light was hanging out with him and listening. He wanted her to know that they missed her, that none of them had forgotten about her, and most of all, they couldn't wait to see her again.
During one of those talks, he realized that he wanted to give her a chance to rest. It dawned on him that she hadn't slept in a bed since before the Purge. They were always on the move, there was never a chance to rest soundly. While on the run they had only been able to take naps in between guard shifts and since he hadn't toughened up yet, she spent more time awake than should have been humanly possible. They camped all the time on Gran Pulse, the unwelcoming ground hard on their backs. Yet she never complained. Then after the fall of Cocoon, she disappeared to Valhalla where Serah had seen her engaged in battle. Was she constantly fighting with no chance to rest?
He clung to the hope that his work would be able to allow him to grant her a chance to take a deep breath and relax for once. Light might not even remember how to, but she had been fighting for so long that she deserved it more than any of them. He decided that as soon as he could, he would provide her with the same comfort that she had given him.
Hope imagined them in his home. He'd have an excessively large, soft bed for her to oversleep in, and when she did wake up, he'd bring her breakfast in bed. He'd sit on the edge of the bed, chewing on an apple, and they'd laugh together. The sunlight would come through the sheer curtains, warming the guest bedroom and illuminating her face. At the end of the day, they'd hang out together in the living room and watch television. He'd sit on one end of the couch and she'd lie down and stretch out on the couch. He'd move her head onto his lap. Their eyes would meet and a smile would be shared. He'd brush his fingers through her hair. He'd delicately coax the pink curls apart then twist them around again. The pads of his fingers would massage her scalp. He'd soothe her, the same way she once had done for him. He'd run his hand over her shoulder and arm and would be so happy just to have her around again.
He never dared to mention that idle fantasy of his aloud, in case Light was listening on him. One day, he might have the chance and the courage to tell her he loved her. Time changed his feelings, but it might not have for her. He was okay with that. He loved her and nothing could change that. If all his work could just give him the opportunity to tell her how he felt, then it would all be worth it, no matter her response. But to have her listen in on confessions, he considered that to be too embarrassing.
He decided to go forward to 500 AF because he wanted to be there when Cocoon fell. He wanted to be there to rescue Fang and Vanille before the crystal pillar collapsed and they were crushed and he needed to see his work on the new manmade ark come to life. Something told him that he would run into Serah and Noel there, a hundred more years in the future. Maybe it was his gut feeling, or maybe it was a subtle message from Light. But he cherished every time he crossed paths with Serah and Noel. He only saw Snow and Light through the Oracle Drive and could only visit Fang and Vanille in the pillar, so Serah and Noel were the living connection to that family. If they were there in 500 AF, then there might be the opportunity to see Light.
Hope knew when he woke up in 500 AF and chaos had torn Academia apart, that this would be it. This was the final showdown. Cocoon was about to fall. Everything he had worked on led to this moment. He believed they would succeed. They had to. When Serah and Noel arrived, he knew he was right. Sazh was there too. All the pieces were falling into place. Hope was sure that they'd save the timeline. When Serah and Noel took after Caius, Hope, Sazh and all the members of the Academy in that room with him focused on getting Fang and Vanille out of the pillar.
Sazh gave the good news and Hope felt he could breathe. They had succeeded there. If he kept believing, they could get through it. Everything would work out. He would get the future they worked so hard for. He knew it. Snow would be back so he and Serah could finally get married. And Light would come home, finally able to rest, the way he had been daydreaming about forever.
The launching was successful. Serah and Noel returned, successful. Hope was overjoyed.
But then Hope arrived on the deck of Sazh's airship to see Serah lifeless in Noel's arms. He looked away, holding his tears back. No, this wasn't supposed to be how the future was. What had gone wrong? What did he miss? What could he have done differently?
Maybe the timeline wasn't fixed yet. Serah and Noel had mentioned when they changed the timeline they saved his life. Maybe that's what needed to happen now. Maybe Noel needed to jump back and do something different to keep Serah alive.
He needed to keep hope. Wasn't that what Light was always telling him?
But things went from bad to worse when the clouds turned dark and the wind changed. Mog fell weak so Hope scrambled to catch him. His and Noel's eyes met and he knew they were both wondering what was going on. Chaos spread through the sky and the gates of Valhalla opened up. Sazh brought the airship up as close as was safe to. Noel pointed to it, but Hope had seen it before Noel did.
There was Light on a throne, legs crossed, her sword across her lap. Hope knew it was her. But that wasn't what he had wanted to see. No, she was supposed to be full of life, smiling and happy to seewith everyone again. She and Serah were supposed to be reunited. She was supposed to give her blessing for Serah and Snow to marry. They were all supposed to celebrate together. She wasn't supposed to be in a crystal stasis.
What happened to the future he hoped for? That he had worked so hard to attain? The one that he dreamed of for so long?
"Sazh! Can you get any closer?" Hope yelled, still clutching Mog to him.
"I don't think she's gonna hold, kid," Sazh replied.
"Let's get back for now," Noel said, taking a step towards Hope.
Hope's head snapped to face Noel. He almost let his emotions get the best of him, nearly screaming how this wasn't supposed to be the future. He had been waiting so long to be reunited with all of them, with Light. But one look at Noel and Hope knew that they were feeling the same thing. Hope couldn't yell at him. "For now," he said. "But we have to get to Light." They had promised each other they'd watch each others' backs. They'd protect each other. If she was in a crystal stasis, then that meant it was his turn to watch over her.
He turned back to the sky as Sazh pulled the airship down to safety. "Soon, Light," he promised. He'd get to her and talk to her while she dreamed the same she had done for him. There still had to be hope for the future, right? He had to believe.