Author's Note: Hey everyone! Thanks for reading the story, sending in reviews, and adding this to your favorites and alerts. I'm glad to hear what you thought about the last chapter.
In response to a few reviews, I would have to agree about the age thing. One of the hardest things to write about this story was their ages because in the end, I wanted them to be a certain age as you'll read later on, and to show how their relationship grew before they got to that older age that I would leave them for the rest of the story. I thought that nine and twelve were a little too young and I was debating about it. Looking back, I see other ways I could probably have approached it.
As for the icon, I was inspired by another chapter coming a lot later on that will be posted. That is an older 21 year old Lightning.
I hope that you guys will enjoy the next chapter.
Chapter 5: An Unexpected Visit:
Within his Palumpolum home he shared with his parents, Hope stepped from his room into the kitchen. All ready there, his mother smiled at him as she was chopping up vegetables with a knife on a cutting board. "It's actually nice to see you every once in a while instead of being stuck in your room all day. I almost forgot what you looked like."
The now sixteen year old boy grabbed a glass and poured some milk before he sat down at the table. "I haven't been in my room that long." Hope replied to her exaggeration. He didn't deny that he was in his room a lot but between school and getting used to working with the Academy that he would eventually take over someday, it kept him pretty busy.
"Haven't you gone outside at all to get some fresh air or see your friends?" his mother asked concerned.
He kept his eyes toward the table. "Not really."
Nora stepped over toward the sink and turned on the water from the faucet. "Maybe after tomorrow, you'll get out more."
Hope arched his eyebrow as he gave his mother a confused stare. "What do you mean?"
Though her smile, his mother let out a look of disbelief. If anything, she thought that he would be more excited about the next day. "How could you forget? You don't remember? Tomorrow? Our little arrangement?"
"Mom I don't know what you're talking about. What was I supposed to remember?" Hope lifted his glass to take another mouthful of milk. Nora leaned back against the counter as she crossed her arms. "Are your studies making you forget that much? Tomorrow Claire will be here with her sister Serah."
Instantly, Hope spit out his milk as his eyes widened. His mother was surprised as she was pretty sure that she saw milk come out of his nose as well. "What?! Claire's coming tomorrow?!" Nora shook her head as she smiled. Hope stood out his seat. It was a bit of a struggle to stand since his knees felt a little weak from hearing the news. "Why didn't you tell me?!"
"I told you weeks ago. You weren't listening."
Hope walked over toward her. "Mom! If you mentioned Claire then of course I would've listened."
"She'll be here tomorrow afternoon. We're supposed to pick her and Serah up."
Hope's eyes traveled along the floor. "I can't. There's something I have to do. It can't wait or be put off." He sighed as he closed his eyes and crossed his arms. His mother could hear his disappointment. She smiled for him for comfort. "They will be here when you get back." He knew that his mom was right but still, he wanted to be there to see her right when she first got to his front door. It had been almost two years since he last saw her. For some reason, he and his family hadn't been able to visit Claire and Serah in Eden. Nora watched as Hope seemed lost in thought. Actually, the reaction that she received from Hope made her happy. It made it seem as if things were working out well between him and Claire. Maybe to the point that neither one of their families needed to remind them about the marriage agreement. "You must've missed her a lot."
Hope glanced at his mother but didn't give her a response. She smiled with her eyes closed, taking his silence as a yes. Soon, he headed to his room. There was a lot he needed to do before tomorrow came. Nora walked over and looked into the hallway. "Don't forget to clean up your room."
"I will!" Hope replied before he closed his door behind him. Right away, he went to his computer and began checking through the conversations that Claire and he had through his computer for some sort of clue that she told him that she was coming. He saw slight hints here and there but she didn't straight out tell him that she was coming by. Many questions crossed his mind such as how long were they going to be staying and what they would do while she was there? Still, he had to let the fact sink in that she was coming tomorrow. He placed his hands over his tired eyes. The girl he cared about most that was his all at once girlfriend, fiancée, and unofficial by Cocoon and Pulse but official that he married underneath the cherry blossom tree as children wife was going to be standing right in front of him. The thoughts were enough to make his head spin and eventually pass out from the weight of them all. It took some time but he relaxed as much as he could despite his excitement and anxious nature, and proceeded to get things ready for tomorrow. If anything, it was going to be hard for him to sleep tonight.
The next day, Hope returned home early from what he had to do. If he would have gotten out just a little sooner, he could have gone with his mother to pick up Claire and Serah. He relaxed against the couch once he settled in and waited since they would be back any second.
Minutes had turned into hours. He didn't want to call his mom to see where they were but his anxiousness got the best of him. When he called her, he let her know that he was back and checked to see where they were. His mother informed him that they made a few side trips along the way but that she had Claire and Serah with her. To hear that they were in Palumpolum made his heart race. Right in town, she would be there. He was pretty sure after he hung up that his mother told them that he called. He could just imagine her telling both of them, and Claire hopefully smiling when she heard and not thinking that he was going to call to check on where they were every five minutes.
No. He kept himself from doing so. Instead, he kept himself busy. For the time being, Hope traveled between the kitchen eating snacks here and there and doing some work in his room before he returned back to the couch and waited again. The sun was starting to set when he looked out the window. It wasn't long before he immersed his attention in watching television.
Suddenly, he heard the sound of keys in the doorway. Right away, he turned his head. When the door opened, his mother stepped through first. Once she saw him waiting in the living room, she smiled at him. "Look who I found." After her stepped in Serah who set her bags against the floor and walked over to Hope. "Hope!" She wrapped her arms around him.
He returned the hug. "Serah. It's nice to see you again." After they parted, Hope looked down at her. Certainly, she seemed different from when he last seen her. She was taller than he remembered.
"It's been a while. You look different." Her hand reached up and touched his soft silver hair.
Hope smiled. "Really?"
Serah nodded. "You've gotten really tall and bigger than what I remember."
He continued to smile but then his eyes drifted near the door. There was no sign of Claire. It was starting to worry him. His mother saw his concern and smiled. Little did Hope know that his mother wanted to see his reaction once he saw Claire again. She crossed her arms over her stomach and pointed her head toward the door. "Aren't you going to help a lady with her bags?"
Nervously, Hope nodded and walked over hoping that his legs wouldn't freeze up on him. "Right!" He stepped into the doorway in time to see a pink haired, fourteen year old girl placed two suitcases down on the floor. She stood up straight and opened her blue eyes. Instantly, she smiled once her eyes met his. "Hi Hope." The words left her lips softly which left his body stun. His lips parted but no words came out. He recognized the girl as one he always knew ever since they were little kids but now she was…different. Between the last time he saw her and now definitely had a noticeable difference. Her height wasn't the only thing that changed. No longer was she a girl but a… woman. Claire tilted her head as she gave him a confused stare. "Hope?"
He snapped out of his thoughts and began yelling at himself mentally to say something. He couldn't just stand there with his mouth open. He had to make a cool impression. It took some time but after a few awkward blinks between the two of them, he managed to get one thing out. "Hi!" Right away, he heard his voice crack and placed his hand over his mouth. Embarrassed, he closed the door right in front of her.
Nora and Serah who were smiling as the two saw each other were instantly met with shock once they saw that he closed the door without letting her in. "Hope?! What are you doing?!" His mother went over and opened the door again."Aren't you forgetting something?" She smiled nervously to a surprised Claire. "Sorry about that."
Quickly, Hope went out and grabbed the bags that were outside. "Sorry! I'll- I'll get those!" His eyes avoided contact with Claire's and paced inside to set their bags down in the guest room. Claire stepped over beside Serah as she was still trying to figure out what just happened. "That was weird." she spoke lowly between her and her younger sister.
"Yeah." Serah whispered back, agreeing. Nora closed the front door and showed them to where their room would be since they would be sharing. They took that time to unpack and settle in.
Inside his own room, Hope had his head buried in his arms hoping that his embarrassment would die down but it wouldn't. He didn't know what he was thinking. Still, he had to make up for it somehow. A few minutes later, there was a knock on his door. His head lifted off his desk and looked over toward the door. Apart of him wondered if it was Claire."Yeah?"
When the door opened, he saw his mother step in. "Just telling you that dinner is ready and yes Claire will be joining us as warning." Hope moaned. The last thing he wanted to hear was his own mother picking on him. "Very smooth move by the way." Hope placed his head down and buried his face again in his arms. Nora walked in and pressed her hands on his shoulders. She leaned in toward his ear. "I'm sure a girl likes it when you close the door right in front of her face after she was invited."
"It's not funny mom." she heard through his muffled voice. She pulled him back up so that he would sit up straight. "Come on." Still uneasy, he followed her into the kitchen where at the table Claire and Serah were sitting. Nervously, he sat beside Claire and they sat across from Serah and Nora. Claire looked over at him and smiled which he smiled back. Throughout dinner, Hope listened in on the conversations that were going on but his eyes couldn't help but gaze over at Claire a few times, each time longer than the last. He couldn't believe how much she grown. He took in every feature about her that he could see. The way she smiled. The way her pink lips moved as she spoke. Things that seemed new but just the same. Maybe it was because he hadn't seen her for a long time. Either way, she was still a vision of beauty to look upon.
A few times Claire glanced over at Hope and smiled. Nora's eyes traveled over and noticed that Hope barely touched his food. She called out for him twice but he didn't respond. He was stuck inside of his own world as he kept his eyes on Claire. He then noticed Claire turn to him as her smile faded. Had he been staring at her too long? "Hope? Are you okay?"
He looked surprised. "Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?"
"Because I've been calling you but you wouldn't answer." Hope lifted his eyes up to his mother. She seemed concerned. "You barely touched your plate and your food is getting cold."
He placed his head down as he picked up his fork. "Sorry about that." Everyone was a little concerned about him at first but then returned back to eating their dinners.
Later that night, Hope was sitting in the living room writing on a piece of paper and transferring some of his work onto a computer. A few times, he erased what he written down. It was hard to concentrate. There were very few words that he said to Claire. Less than he would have liked. He sighed as he scratched his head. Maybe it was a matter of taking time to get use to it all. A few minutes later, someone stepped out into the living room. He lifted his head once he noticed a figure out of the corner of his eye. "Serah?"
The eleven year old smiled at him. "You look like you're busy so I can-."
Hope shook his head. "No! It's okay. You can sit out here if you want."
She sat down on the couch beside him and peeked over to see what he was working on. "What are you doing?"
"Just a little bit of Academy work."
"Oh! Looks interesting." Some of the work was interesting and other times, it wasn't. "So? What have you been doing for the past two years?"
Hope shrugged a little. "Well. Not much really. Just school and I've just started working more with the Academy."
"What do you get to do there?" Hope was about to answer when he noticed someone else walk out into the living room. Instantly, the words that were on his mind had left him. Across the way, Claire headed into the kitchen toward the fridge. His eyes followed her. Serah leaned over looking at him, wondering why he stopped all of a sudden. "Hope?" Her voice didn't reach his ears. It was as if the world around him became silence and the only ones there were him and Claire. Again, he couldn't get over how much her body had developed. Certainly, there were differences than he remembered when she was a kid. Her hips and chest being most evident of all. More noticeable than most girls he knew her age. Suddenly, he felt someone shake him by his shoulder. "Hope!"
He turned his head over to Serah. "What?"
She frowned. "I was calling you but you didn't answer."
Hope figured that he zoned out again. It was uncanny how much her frown resembled that of Claire's. Besides their pink hair, you could probably tell that they were sisters by their upset looks. "Sorry. What were we talking about?"
Serah relaxed and pointed toward his paper. "You were telling me about what you were doing since we haven't seen you in a while. What's all of this for?" Hope stared down at his writing. No answer came to mind since there was only thing or really one person that occupied it now. Serah leaned over a little confused as he sat silence with his hand over his mouth. "Hope?"
"I'm not sure..."
Serah was surprised but mostly confused. "You don't know what you're working on?"
"Yeah… I should… do something… about that." his voice started to fade off. He stood up and headed toward the kitchen. "What…?" Serah whispered. She wasn't sure what he was saying. She watched as he approached her sister who still had her back turned. Hope was talking fine and paying attention until Claire came. Then, he started trailing off and getting a blank stare in his eyes whenever he spoke. "Hmm…"She was starting to notice a connection between the two.
"Hi!" Claire heard the familiar voice. She turned around surprised to see Hope standing behind her with a nervous smile. She closed the door to the fridge. "Hey."
"Um…? It's been a long time…"
She nodded. "Yeah."
Hope rubbed the back of his head. "Sorry about…closing the door with you still outside earlier."
"It's okay." Soon, she stepped over to him and wrapped her arms around his waist as she closed her eyes. "I'm glad…to see you too." Feeling her against him made him blush slightly and almost made his legs want to give out. It was weird to him how she was having that affect on him but he liked it. He returned the embrace. The sweet scent that rose off of her body filled his nose and made him melt against her. Claire was about to step away but Hope wouldn't let go of her. She was surprised and wondered how much he really missed her. "Hope?"
He separated from her nervously. "Sorry."
Claire walked out into the living room and sat on the floor as Hope took his place back on the couch. "So? What were you two talking about?" she asked.
Hope looked over at Serah. "Um?"
Serah arched her eyebrow wondering if he seriously forgot what he just said a few minutes ago. When he didn't give an answer, she gave him a hint. "We were talking about what you were doing over the two years that we didn't see you."
"Oh right! What did I say?"
"You were talking about school and the Academy." Serah reminded him.
Claire looked interested. "What did you do at the Academy?" Hope's eyes traveled over to her. At first he paused, trying to think of what to say, but mostly he got caught up staring at her again. "Just…some… stuff."
Things turned silence before Claire stood up. "Well I'm going to call it a night."
Serah stood up and stretched. "I'll join you."
Claire looked over at Hope and smiled. "Good night."
Hope gave a cheesy smile as he waved slightly. "Good night Claire." He kept his smile on as he watched her walk away.
"Good night Hope." Hope didn't hear the voice beside him as his eyes were locked on the direction that Claire went. A hand waved in front of his eyes. It took a few seconds before he blinked and realized what was going on. He looked over to see Serah beside him with a slight frown. He was just glad it wasn't as big as the one previously. "Good night Hope." her voice said louder than before.
Hope smiled nervously. "Good night Serah." Serah headed into her room that she shared with Claire.
Once the place was quiet, he leaned back against the couch. His head leaned off the top of it. He closed his eyes as he took the time to reflect the effect that Claire was having over him. Somehow, she was bringing out feelings that he didn't even know were there, and things he didn't normally do such as ignore the world around him whenever she was in the same room. Always he thought of her as a very cute girl while they were growing up but today changed his mind completely. It was time to admit it to himself. The most beautiful, attractive woman in all of the worlds he ever saw was right in his house and she with him.
Thanks for reading! I hope that you liked the chapter. As always, let me know what you think and I'll be back to update soon.