labyrinthmess: (brotp)
[personal profile] labyrinthmess
Title: (we’re) all stories in the end
Series: Final Fantasy XIII
Rating: T
Genre: Gen, Humour, Friendship/Family
Character(s)/Pairing(s): Hope Estheim + Lightning Farron, Hope Estheim/Lightning Farron (?? kinda sorta… just not in the conventional sense, I guess), Serah Farron/Snow Villiers, Alyssa Zaidelle, Sazh Katzroy, Dajh Katzroy, Noel Kreiss. Brief mentions of Yaag Rosch, Oerba Yun Fang,  Oerba Dia Vanille and Paddra Nsu-Yeul.
Warnings: Contains some minor violence with a butter knife, but nothing serious. Also, lots of HopeLight bromance and family/friendship feels.
Summary: In which the day is bright and glorious, and Hope decides to skip work for once (le gasp, shock, horror). Post-LR.

A/N: Written for my bros Hika and Digi, and for the FFXIII kinkmeme on DW. Prompt was ‘Hope/Light, post-LR making up for lost time.'This… probably wasn’t what the OP had in mind, but it was all I come up with. Plus, I really couldn’t resist writing some Hope+Lightning brotp moments and a family/friendship fic for this series. Inspired also by this song.



~.*.~


He could hardly suppress his laughter as she recounted the time when, out of her undying love for her little sister and against her better judgement, she’d agreed to babysit the Villiers’ little army of children, an overgrown Alsatian puppy and a crotchety one-eyed cat.

Needless to say, it had been the most excruciating three hours of her life in the New World.

It was days like this that he had come to appreciate the most – lazy, quiet days that began with Hope waking up to the soft chime of his iPhone buzzing on the nightstand and a blinking new message notification.

i hate mornings, the message read in tiny, bold letters.

Good morning, Light, Hope texted a reply back as he stifled a yawn, rubbing the sleep from his eyes with a knuckle. Sunlight peeked in from between the curtains, casting long, thin rays across his bed; he could already feel the warmth slowly seeping in through the blanket and sheets, to his toes and feet.

I did warn you against downing that last bottle in a single gulp. If it’s of any consolation to you, Fang and Snow are probably having a hangover as bad as yours and share your current sentiment about mornings.

ugh. ican”t shoe up at workl like this–

Hope smiled at the alcohol-induced typos; he could almost imagine (hear) Lightning’s muttered curses from her room beside his own.

Call in sick? You do still have a bunch of unclaimed days off. And really, when was the last time you took a break from all that work?

... So said Hope Estheim, CR1 researcher extraordinaire, who not only had been steadily making waves within the INSIS research community the past two years, but who had also garnered a reputation for camping overnight in the laboratory for weeks on end, where he would spend most of his time designing higher-efficiency photovoltaic cells. If he wasn’t busy fiddling with design schematics or synthesizing and assembling polymer blocks for the cell mock-ups, he’d be poring over countless reports and e-journals on his computer instead.

Often times, he would be so absorbed with his research he’d forego dinner entirely, surviving on a meal of sandwiches a day – that is, until his colleague and lab mate, Alyssa Zaidelle began grousing and kicking up a fuss about his terrible eating habits.

“Working for two weeks straight without proper food is not the same as two days, Estheim” she said the first time shebarged into his office during one of these ‘overnight camps’, promptly dumping the dinner she’d packed – basil and chicken pasta, fruit salad for dessert and some hot coffee – onto his table.

“I don’t want to be coming back the next morning to find a dead body sprawled over your desk, you know,” she chided him then, hands planted squarely on her hips as she fixed him with a disapproving frown. “Though... if you do decide to die tonight, that would make everything a whole lot easier for me. I’ll just take over your research, make it tons better and win the Nobel Prize. Yes, that sounds like a good plan. Hey, give me back that coffee and let me spike it with some poison first before you drink it!”

Hope shook his head at the memory of that particular incident; the thought sparked an idea, one that he was visited with from time to time, but which he rarely ever acted upon. After all, there was always work to be done – various new things to discover and learn in a world that was, in many ways, similar to his experiences (memories) of the beat and pulse of life during an old crystal age from long ago. Similar, and yet, so unfamiliar at the same time.

But today...

Today was bright and glorious; the sky a perfect, perfect blue.

Well, why not? He thought to himself, rolling himself out of bed and reaching for the water bottle by his bedside. He flicked through his phone contacts and made a quick call.

*

“I need a favour.”

“And a good morning to you too, Estheim,” Alyssa’s voice was bright and chirpy, as if she had been expecting this call. “It wouldn’t hurt to greet your fellow lab mate properly once in a while.”

Hope knew she was only teasing, like a cat would with prey, with a watchful gleam within its eyes as it considered how best to prolong his suffering for maximized entertainment.

“Ah, yes, right. Good morning. So, about that favour...”

“Hmm, let me guess. You’d like me to cover for you today.” Alyssa was already one step ahead, her tone smug and coy.

“Yes, could you please? I know it’s a bit of an inconvenience, but I promise, I’ll make it up to you.”

A quiet huff and–

“You knew it’d be an inconvenient for me and yet you still don’t hesitate to ask? This must be really important, huh? I wonder.”

“Well–” Hope began, before trailing off. He sipped at his water, brows furrowed as he wondered how best to explain.

“Oh, don’t worry!” Alyssa chirped in a sing-song voice. “I won’t tell anyone at work that you ditched them in favour of sleeping the morning away with Lightning.”

Hope nearly snorted water up his nose. “Wha– wait, no, it’s not like that. Light and I are not sleeping with each other.”

“Oh, it’s all right, Estheim. I completely understand!” Alyssa sounded like she was enjoying this conversation far too much. “It’s the whole ‘roomies’ cover-up, I get it!”

Damn it, he cursed silently. That completely backfired on him.

(So much for Serah and her suggestions).

“Of course, sometimes I can get a little forgetful – you know how it is, with all this work going on and with this much information; it’s so hard keep track of everything and still be all hush-hush about them! – I do hope I don’t accidentally let anything slip...”

Alyssa,” Hope cut in urgently. “All right – let’s compromise. You cover for me today and say nothing at all, and I’ll put in a word with Director Rosch to push your project to top priority for funding. Deal?”

Alyssa gave no immediate reply – for several seconds, there was only the sound of phone static crackling softly in the silence that hovered between them.

“Hmm,” Alyssa finally said, clicking her tongue in that way that Hope had come to dread. “Okay, I guess I could settle for that. But only after you say the magic words.”

Hope groaned, squeezing the space between his eyes with his fingers. “Alyssa, please.”

“It’ll really help me remember this agreement better. Come on, Hope! Do it for your extreme and somewhat obsessive love for Lightni–”

Hon hon hon baguette Eiffel Tower! There, I’ve said it. Now please, promise you won’t say a word about why I’m taking the day off, all right?”

“Hey, you should be thankful I didn’t ask for some oral instead.” Alyssa said with obvious glee in her voice now. He swore he could almost feel (see) her Cheshire grin radiating through his phone.

“And here I thought these things happen the other way around,” he grumbled, carding his fingers through his hair.

“Oh, Mister Estheim, oh my. I didn’t think you would have it in you to sink to that level; you never fail to surprise me sometimes.”

His reply in the form of a noncommittal sigh was only met with the sound of raucous laughter from the end of the other line.

“Don’t worry, Hope,” Alyssa cooed when she’d managed to stifle her laughter. “My lips are sealed.”

*

Once outside his room, he found Lightning at the dining area. She had her head rested sideways against the kitchen counter, watching the electric kettle burbling away with a gaze full of animosity, as if it had offended her somehow by being fully functional.

“Come one, Light,” Hope said brightly, reaching for her arm. “Let’s take the day off and have some breakfast. Toast and butter might do you some good right now.”

“Toast and butter?” Lightning frowned as she straightened up, massaging her fingers against her temples in a bid to ease away the dull throbbing courtesy of her hangover. “I’ll need a behemoth steak for this one.”


~.*.~

They found themselves seated at quiet bistro nestled in the corner of a small alley, three blocks from their flat and away from the bustling city crowd.

“You may be fine with indulging in over-priced coffee and fancy cheesecakes in spontaneous bursts of joie de vivre,” Lightning had said as they ambled about for a good twenty minutes, looking for a suitable eating spot. “But I’m not sitting in a café flocked by flustered tourists and screaming, hungry children – not with this hangover, anyway.”

Hope’s only reply was a look of mock injury and a slightly rebellious pout, before he muttered, “It’s the only place I get to eat non-dairy cheesecakes that aren’t made of soy.”

“For someone who has a knack for skipping meals at work, you sure are picky about cheesecakes,” Lightning pointed out.

“Lactose intolerance,” Hope offered by way of an excuse. “Besides, milk is bad for you. Do you realise how much unnecessary growth hormones a person ingests just from drinking two glasses of milk every day?”

“It seems to be fine for Snow. Look at his size, I mean – all that milk has to be doing him some good.”

“Well yeah, but Snow also sometimes has the maturity level of a six hundred pound calf.”

*

Hope wasn’t one for savoury meals in the morning. A cup of black coffee and a slice of baguette with fruit jam was standard fare for his breakfast on most days. But now that Lightning was less groggy, and her earlier irritable mood slowly dissipating, she was ravenous; they’d both decided on brunch instead.

As he watched her wolf down her steak with obvious relish, Hope felt his lips quirk into the tiniest of smiles, thinking about how similar her expression was to a child who had just been presented with the biggest birthday cake. He wasn’t surprised how acquaintances would have found it hard to imagine that this person – relaxed and calm as she was right now – was the stoic Lieutenant Claire Farron who patrolled the streets with the same grim intensity that she had as once Saviour of humanity, striking fear into the hearts of every misbehaving miscreant.

Even if tackling street thugs weren’t quite the same as facing down monsters and a god bent on world annihilation.

“Smiling and watching someone while they eat is creepy, Hope,” Lightning said, casually skewering a piece of steak with her fork.

Hope felt his cheeks colouring slightly, and coughed into his fist. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to – I was just thinking. Anyway,” he said, taking a sip from his glass, “How did the babysitting go last week?”

At the mention of ‘babysitting’, Lightning set her cutlery down, leaning back against her seat solemnly. With a pained expression and a hint of resigned annoyance in her voice, she recounted the whole episode to Hope, drawing much chuckling and laughter from him.

Midway through their conversation, a flash of blurred movement caught Hope’s attention from the corner of his eyes. He gazed sideways, noting the lone figure seated two tables from their right. At first glance, he had figured that the man was staring past them at the street behind them – perhaps he was looking out for a friend, or just marvelling at the scenery in quiet contemplation about the mysteries of life and his existence? It was hard to tell.

Ten minutes on into his conversation with Lightning however, it became all too apparent that the man wasn’t just staring at them, but was practically leering at Lightning, his gaze lewd and suggestive. Hope sighed, and decided, enough was enough. He frowned, rising from his seat, ready to defend his lady’s honour.

Only to notice that the lady in question was already three steps ahead of him, butter knife in hand, the promise of pain and anguish exuding from the very fibre of her being.

“Ah, chère, might you be here due to my irresistible charm?” the man said, winking devilishly as Lightning approached him, his lips curled into a smirk. “Is the little boy starting to bore you with his infantile talk? Come sit with me. A fine young thing like you needs a charming man like me to wine and dine with. And if that’s not enough, there’s always more fun to be had between the sheets later, oui?

Here, the man glanced over at Hope, fixing him with a brazen gaze and a challenging sneer. Hope met that sneer with a pitying smile of his own, raising his glass of Bordeaux politely in a mock toast.

Oh the poor, unsuspecting soul.

Hope knew he should feel sorry for the man. But a hundred years and more of mental trauma and torment at the hands of a merciless god had, perhaps, left a touch of schadenfreude within him. So he did not – though, really, he should, he really should...

Unlike Hope, Lightning didn’t return the smile. In fact, she did not even speak, perfectly content to let the butter knife convey her feelings about the comments spewing from his repulsive lips, plunging the pointy tip of the blade into the man's left thigh. The man jumped in his seat at the sharp pain, shrieking in surprise.

“Clearly, you’re as charming as scum at the bottom of a muddy pond,” Lightning said tersely, glaring daggers and flashing her police badge at the quelling man. She gave the butter knife a little twist, poking the man again, eliciting another yelp of pain from him.

“Now go home and learn some respect and manners before I arrest you for street harassment.” To emphasize she meant business, she raised the butter knife again at the cowering man and stabbed it into the bread roll on his plate. Turning away in a graceful circle, she stalked back to where Hope was still seated.

As the man fled fearfully from the scene, Hope nudged his shoulder softly against Lightning’s, whispering conspiratorially into her ear, “You’d imagined him as a behemoth when you stuck the butter knife into him, didn’t you?”

Light poked at her salad with her fork, her eyes still aglow with the fire of battle.

“He had it coming.”


~.*.~

The sun was blazing high in the sky by noon. They strolled along the river, lined by rows and rows of linden trees. The trees creaked and swayed gently in the breeze, casting a criss-cross of shadows upon the cobblestoned path before them. Here and there, handful of leaves, bright green and heart-shaped, would flutter in the wind and fall like snow on the passers-by.

They continued on upstream. After crossing a stony bridge leading to the other end of the river, they chanced upon a small flea market. Many colourful stalls lined the riverbank where sellers peddled their wares: bric-a-bracs, antiques and collectibles. It was however, the rows of second-hand bookstalls that caught Hope’s eye and soon enough, he was busy browsing through the yellowing pages, alternating between Middlemarch and The Divine Comedy.

While Hope struck up a conversation with two other customers (a young couple wearing very bizarre-looking hats and cameras slung around their necks) at the bookstall, Lightning decided to glance through shelves of handmade trinkets and accessories at the adjacent stall. As she pondered whether to purchase a gift for Serah and her children, she saw Hope walking up towards her, trailed closely by the couple – lost tourists, it seemed.

He held out two pairs of the most garish-looking sunglasses she’d ever had the misfortune to lay eyes on.

“It’s a gift, I think?” He explained, smiling sheepishly and nodding towards the couple, both who beamed cheerfully back at him. “They needed directions and were extremely relieved that I could speak a common language that they could understand perfectly.”

The couple gestured at Hope, pointing with fingers at the sunglasses to Lightning and then to their camera.

“I don’t suppose they’re asking us to be their designated tour guides now, are they?” she asked warily.

“No,” Hope chuckled, pulling her close to stand beside him. “They just thought we’d look cute in these awful sunglasses and I don’t quite have the heart to say no.”

He carefully placed on one of the sunglasses – a hot pink pair with heart-shaped and violet-tinted lenses – over her eyes, before putting on his own and smiled back at the excited couple.

Before she could protest, there was a click and a blinding flash–

And before long, Hope was waving goodbye to the happy couple while Lightning stared at the Polaroid photo in her hand.

The photo was washed out by the bright sunlight, making them both look as pale as vampires, but at least Hope looked like he was smiling genuinely, even if the sunglasses (a ghastly neon green) looked hideous on him.

“This is the worst photo of us ever,” she huffed, somewhat disappointed as she pocketed the photo.

Hope could only laugh.

~.*.~


A sudden afternoon rainstorm sent them running across the streets and back to their flat.

They took to watching sappy old soap opera reruns on the television, once they’d showered and dried themselves from the drizzle and changed into fresh clothes.

“How is it that we’ve completely failed to subscribe to any cable networks?” Lightning said, flicking between channels with every click of the remote. “There’s nothing else to watch on TV except commercials and all these cheesy soaps.”

Hope shrugged, one hand still towelling at his damp hair. “I hardly ever watch television anymore, to be honest. I don’t really see the point, since you can stream most series on the Internet now: documentaries, Japanese animation and even those foreign crime shows like Elementary.”

Two episodes later and midway through the climatic season finale, Hope had dozed off, lulled easily to comfort of sleep by the drowsy tune of raindrops against the window. Lightning, however, found herself being drawn into the story with each episode despite her initial perception. But Sabinѐ – once pious nun and now the most highly paid stripper in the city – had discovered she’s now pregnant with Arnaud the butcher’s baby, only to be informed by her mother that Arnaud is really her second cousin, and oh sweet merciful God, what will she do? Lightning had to know – she’d already sat through two and half episodes to come this far for a proper ending, dammit! Not have the season end with a bloody cliff-hanger.

Lightning fumed silently for several moments, watching the credits roll past the screen before she let out a quiet, dejected sigh… Maybe she would ask Hope if he could find a stream site for TV soaps. Not that she was interested or anything; she just wanted to find out what happened to poor Sabinѐ.

Before long, she began to feel the same drowsiness creeping upon her. With the sound of rain and commercial music tinkling in the backdrop, she too succumbed to sleep, her head resting against Hope’s.

*

He awoke with a crick in his neck and to the sound of a shrill ringing through the room. Hope yawned, blinking his eyes blearily as he reached for the telephone, only to find his other arm and shoulder still pinned to the sofa from Lightning’s dead weight resting against him. She snored away contentedly, oblivious to that fact that her designated pillow was starting to have the blood flow cut off to his left arm.

Just as Hope felt the pins and needles prickling along the length of his squashed arm, the ringing ended. The beep that followed after was loud enough to rouse a slightly annoyed Lightning from her sleep.

HEY SIS! HOPE!” the voice boomed through the speakers of the answering machine – which meant that the person on the other line was either an elephant dealing with a major sinus infection or just plain old Snow Villiers.

(Unfortunately, as it was with most things in Hope’s life, it was almost always Snow Villiers).

I heard from Alice… or was her name Adela–?

“Alyssa,” Hope corrected out of habit – it wasn’t as if Snow could actually hear him – feeling the familiar stab of vexation at the man’s inability to ever recall the names of his colleagues.

–Amelia? Well, anyway! She said that you both skipped out on work today and I figured you guys might be busy at home, since neither of you are picking up your mobiles.

Shifting slightly so he could reach for his iPhone from the coffee table, Hope spared a glance over the screen.

27 missed calls.

Oh.

Now, I don’t want to be nosy and ruining any fun times you two are having right now, but don’t forget about our plans this evening, okay? We’ll meet you guys at 6pm at the park. Oh and Serah says don’t forget to bring along the wine and that meat torpedo when you leave the house. It’s in the fridge, second shelf from the top. We’ll be picking up the rest of the stuff on the way!

“Meat torpedo..?” Lightning frowned in confusion before glancing questioningly at Hope, who had moved from the sofa to rummage through the fridge. The message ended with an obnoxiously loud BEEEEP. “What the heck is a meat torpedo?”

Hope held up half a leg of glazed ham towards her, the words jambon de torpille in cursive text printed on its packaging.

“With a name like that, this had better taste like the bomb,” he deadpanned.

Lightning could almost hear the crash of drumbeats and cymbals in her mind, grimacing at the terrible pun he’d just attempted, before she let out a short laugh, punching him lightly on the shoulder.


~.*.~



“Well, well, look who finally decided to show up!”

Even from a distance, there was no missing the grin plastered across Snow’s face. He had a small girl sitting upon his broad shoulders as he stood in the middle of the park, but that didn’t stop the bear of a man from raising one arm and waving ecstatically at the newcomers.

“What took you guys so long? Did you two fall asleep together or something?” Snow asked, watching as Hope and Lightning made their way across the grass before he chuckled at his own joke. The girl at his shoulder began to squirm, and he carefully lifted her off, depositing her into the arms of her Auntie Lightning.

Lightning pinned him with her usual scowl, but said nothing, deciding that best way to deal with Snow was to ignore him completely. She smiled at the little girl in her arms instead. “Let’s go find Mummy and report to her that your Dad’s misbehaving again, okay?”

“Huh?!” Snow said, confused and looking very much like a hurt puppy at the random accusation. “But Sis, I didn’t do anything bad!”

But Lightning was already out of earshot, heading to where her sister was playing with the other two Villiers children and with Vanille and Yeul. Snow shrugged then, throwing a heavy arm around Hope’s shoulders as he drew him into a crushing bear hug.

“Glad you made just in time, kid.” Snow said, ruffling Hope’s hair affectionately with a gloved hand, before lowering his voice a notch into a serious whisper. “Seriously, though… are you two fucking?”

Hope let out a pained groan, growing red with embarrassment and fixing Snow with the iciest glare he could muster. He shoved his friend’s arm off, breaking away from the stifling embrace. “For the last time, no, Light and I are not ‘fucking’, as you so crudely put it.”

“Hey now, you two might wanna watch your language.” Sazh quipped at the bickering men from under the shade of a beech tree where he was laying out a large red-and-blue-checked picnic mat over the grass. “Got minors around here too, you know, and we don’t want them picking up nasty words like that.”

Dajh – now ten years old and nearly as tall as Hope was when he was fourteen – was kneeling beside his father, helping to place the stack of paper plates and cups and plastic cutlery out on the mat. “Dad, what’s ‘fucking’?” The boy asked innocently.

Sazh made a loud, coughing sound at the back of his throat, a trickle of sweat dripping down the side of his temple as he threw an indignant glare at Snow. “Uh, we’ll talk about that some other time, okay Dajh? Now, help me lay out the food next.”

“Here,” Hope passed the glazed leg of ham he’d brought with him to Dajh. “It’s the meat torpedo–”

Sazh’s forehead landed spectacularly on his palm at Hope’s untimely slip-of-tongue.

“–ham! I-I mean, it’s ham. Uh, y-yeah.”

“Dad, was Miss Lightning and Mister Hope late because they were fucking with the meat torpedo?” Dajh asked again, turning innocent eyes at his father once more.

Goddamnit Hope,” Sazh swore, dropping the paper towels on the grass.

While Snow was bent over double and howling with mad laughter, Hope quickly excused himself, muttering several apologies to Sazh before retreating to where Lightning and Serah were playing with the children.

As he approached the women, he saw a blur of pink and blue dashing towards him and felt smallish arms wrapping themselves around his left leg.

“Hi there,” he smiled at the girl that Light had previously carried – Lyra, the youngest of the Villiers children. Unlike her older siblings, the twins River and Skye, who were always boisterous and energetic like storming hurricanes, Lyra was usually guarded, tentative and aloof around strangers and family alike. She was also the only one of children who shared her mother’s rose-tinted hair and her sky-blue eyes.

And while she had always been wary of most adults, she had immediately taken to Hope – she never strayed too far from his side whenever he visited her parents, her tiny fingers always wrapped around his hand fondly.

Light, Hope thought, his eyes warm with affection as he lifted the girl into his arms, letting her braid a thin lock of his hair. She looks just like Lightning.

“Hope, over here!” Serah’s voice rang out towards him, breaking him out of his reverie. She waved at him to join them, one hand holding out a fiery sparkler. The twins were not far away, circling a laughing Vanille and Yeul, waving sparklers of their own. Several metres ahead, he could see Lightning and Fang close by, watching in amusement as Noel tried to pry a Frisbee from the jaws of an overgrown Alsatian puppy.

“Come on, you mutt.” Noel hissed, tugging hard at the Frisbee. The Alsatian only growled happily as it gripped the Frisbee tighter between its teeth, wagging its fluffy tail.

“We can’t play catch–” Noel puffed, straining and pulling with all his might, “–if you don’t let go! W-whoa, hey, stop!

The puppy had finally released its hold on the Frisbee, sending Noel tumbling backwards into the grass and dirt, before it promptly decided to sit on his chest and slobber excitedly all over his face.

“Serah, your beast of a dog is trying to suffocate me,” Noel gasped amidst the sound of Lightning and Fang’s laughter, trying to push the puppy’s drooling snout away from his face. “And really, some help would be greatly appreciated!”

“Uncle Noel isn’t very good with animals, is he?” Lyra said, clumsily tying off the braid she’d made in Hope’s hair with a thin ribbon.

Hope could only chuckle at her observation. “Maybe he hasn’t realised how strong puppies can be…”

“Spot thought the tugging was part of the game,” the girl said matter-of-factly, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “All dogs do.”

Hope laughed softly, and figured that she was probably right.

There was an abrupt whistling sound, a loud whoosh and then–

“Look,” Lyra raised one hand, pointing far above them, her eyes wide with awe now.

Hope lifted his gaze, watching the brilliant flashes of fire crackle and whizz up, up, up into the sky. When the flaming streaks seemed to fizzle out of view, there was a loud, pop followed by a series of thunderous bangs. And then the sky was lit by a multitude of exploding colours – a spidery network of fiery shapes, petals unfurling, blossoming outwards before fading into dust and ash, leaving only a trail of sparks in its wake.

He could see the distant stars begin to wink into existence, the faint silhouette of the crescent moon peeking from the clouds as the sun began its slow descent across the wide blue expanse and evening set in. All around, there were gasps and shouts of wonder at the display of fireworks dancing across the sky.

As he continued watching the coloured sparks raining down over the park, and over the people who had become both his friends and his family – a dysfunctional family of sorts, yes, but a family still, nonetheless – he was visited by the briefest of visions (memories) of a lifetime years, centuries ago. A vision of a teeming seaside city celebrating, like today, with flashes of fireworks and the silvery sheen of crystal and dust; a vision of the unlikeliest band of people thrown into a whirlwind of adventure and tragedy, lending and sharing strength to each other, growing stronger, growing together; a vision of crystallised dust, of chaos and death, of fallings gods cast into the deep, deep darkness below, never to walk above again, so the world may once again begin anew.

He heard soft steps beside him and knew it was Lightning even before he felt her nudge him gently with her shoulder.

“Is everything all right?” she asked, a hint of concern in her voice as she gazed upwards at the fireworks before them.

“Yes,” Hope smiled, his eyes bright with memories. “Everything is fine.”

Today was bright and glorious; the sky a perfect meld of pink, orange and velvet blue.



–end–

_____

Notes:
- CR1 researcher: first-level researchers working under Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), a government research organisation in France.

- INSIS: Institute for Engineering and Systems Sciences, a division of CNRS.

- According to canon sources (notably the LR novella), Hope is supposed to be a social scientist/political analysts of sorts (which is mind-blowing really, because I’d always figured he was an engineer/physicists/architect of sorts. I mean, he's built a time-travelling pod, a Proto fal’Cie and a planet! FFXIII writers I don’t think you understand what social sciences actually deal with…) Buuut I'd already had ideas for everyone’s occupation post-LR before the novella was released, hence why Lightning is a police officer here. So let’s just say I’m taking creative liberties here and turning a blind eye to some novella information, oops.

- There’s a prequel oneshot to this, which I had wanted to write about Lightning’s first encounter with her friends in the new world. It might still be written someday. Maybe.

- Most people might already know this, but 'meat torpedo' is a bad euphemism for 'penis'. lol.


- Also also, I'm terrible with kid names; they probably deserve some normal sounding names, but then again this is Final Fantasy. Lyra's a  pretty awesome name though.

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