Hope sighed, his chin resting on his hand as he leaned against the armrest of his chair, a notebook on his lap. "Why do we need to listen to a lecture..." It wasn't really a question, more like a complaining sort of statement. He and his friend Vincent were sitting in an auditorium, awaiting the start of a presentation that their school demanded an essay about. At an age of sixteen, after all, even Hope, who had aided in the salvation of Cocoon, had to attend school.
Vincent, an extremely tan boy with wild black hair and brown eyes, shrugged. "Might as well deal with it. It's an assignment, anyways." He was one of Hope's best friends at school, and was an upbeat, talented person. "Look, it's starting. Remember to take notes," He commented as the lights in the auditorium dimmed.
Hope grumbled a little, straightening up and readying his pencil as a tiny woman took the stage, starting with her introduction. "Good afternoon, everyone! My name is Dr. Lynne Masil, and I'm so glad that so many people came to attend today. I'll be talking to you today about mRNPs, messenger ribonucleoproteins that reside in mammalian cells. Now, there are two different types of these mRNPs..."
Hope and Vincent bent their head over their journals, scribbling furiously to keep up with the speaker. Halfway through the presentation, though, Hope's mind was already far away from the lecture, though his eyes continued to stare at the power point on the overhead, pencil tap tap tapping on his notebook.
Unbidden, his mind drifted towards a certain strawberry blond female who was, nowadays, always floating about in the back of his mind. Lightning Farron, whose real name was Claire, and was nicknamed Light, was one of Hope's companions on his journey as a l'Cie. She was a caring and kind person, though she tried to hide it behind a stoic, uncaring mask. Once you knew her, it was easy to look past the shell to her heart. Light was beautiful, too... Mesmerizing blue eyes, pink hair that was always draped across her left shoulder, and a heart-shaped face...
Hope's eyes widened, the consternation that he had missed at least five, detailed slides of the presentation rising within him. He quickly bent over his notebook, dedicating the next five minutes to paying close attention to Dr. Masil and the "interesting" things she had to say.
Lightning had been giving him training sessions once a week, and it was showing. Hope was a lot stronger now, and had a ton of endurance. Not to mention the fact that he was finally a tiny bit taller than Lightning giving him a lot of joy, and relief. Speaking of which, wasn't the next session tomorrow...? He would see her later today, though. He was picking her up from work, and driving her back to Serah's. Hope's heart gave a leap at the thought.
No, no, no! Damn it! Why was he thinking about her so much lately? Hope shook his head vigorously, silver hair flying about his head. Vincent gave his friend an exasperated look as Hope tried to peer at his notes. "Why can't you ever pay attention...?" Vincent hissed.
"I've got a lot on my mind, okay...?" Hope whispered right back, running a hand through his tousled locks. Vincent just rolled his eyes and turned back to the presentation.
"...nonsense-mediated mRNA decay, or NMD, mostly functions to destroy mRNAs that prematurely terminate translation..."
Shit, what the hell does that mean? An agitated Hope tapped his foot against the floor. Vincent spared him a look and finally hissed, furiously, "Fine. I'll let you copy my notes later. Otherwise, you'd be all pissed off and whiny later. Geez, you are such a..." This statement was followed by grumbles and incoherent noises made in a highly annoyed tone.
"Vince, you're the greatest." Hope thanked his friend, who merely grunted, and turned back to the powerpoint. Now, his mind could concentrate on more important things.
Hope had been thinking a lot about Lightning recently. Over the span of the two years, Hope had gotten a lot closer to Light. Sometimes, she would rant to him about her work, and Hope wouldn't mind. He sometimes, after all, went on a tyrant about school, and she would just listen and give some advice when she could. At times, they'd get a bit angry with each other, but quarrels never lasted long. Soon, they'd be joking with each other again, and Hope would see that rare smile of Light's, one that warmed his insides and made his own face grin. Lightning, sometimes with Serah and Snow, was a familiar face at the Estheim's, and Hope often visited Light at her house.
But lately, Hope had been feeling different around Light. It felt sort of like he was getting a mild, quick fever when they went out together to see a movie, or something, even when other friends and/or family tagged along, and he saw her in casual clothes. It really was a very different look from the uniform he was used to seeing her wear... He would always want to impress her, make that smile of hers come out. A few times, she even laughed out loud, giving him a feeling that couldn't be expressed in words.
Was he going nuts? Was this like... a crush? Was he in love? But, that couldn't be... Light was like a big sister to him, just like Serah. She was his tutor, his mentor, his best friend.
It wasn't love, was it?
Lightning sat at her desk, shuffling through a stack of papers of reports that she had to read through. Setting them aside for later, she picked up a folder labeled, "NEW RECRUITS," which held information on people signing up to become a Guardian Corps soldier. Flipping it open, she read the top of one application, before immediately stamping, "DENIED" on top of it and moving it to the side. The applicant was only seventeen. The minimum age requirement was eighteen.
She had been moved up through the ranks to 2nd Lieutenant, her Lieutenant's assistant, since she had been branded by a Pulse fal'Cie, been marked as a fugitive and public enemy, and helped save Cocoon. Amodar, Light's superior and the 1st Lieutenant, had attempted to push her rank higher, but she had stoutly refused, stating quite bluntly that she would not rise a single rank above him. Amodar was quite a kind man, and she was rather loyal to him, though she didn't seem the type to abide by such things.
Glancing at the clock, Light gave a tiny, almost unseeable smile before her face reverted back to her usual, unreadable expression. She stood and placed the papers back into the folder, shoving the folder back into the drawer from where she had pulled it from.
"Lieutenant Amodar, sir." Lightning stood at attention, saluting her superior. "I will be leaving now."
Her superior stood near the door, looking through some files in a metal cabinet. Upon hearing her, Amodar glanced up at the clock, before nodding and smiling, waving her off with a hand as he returned to his search within the drawer. "Yes, yes... Have fun. Tell Hope I said hello."
Lightning blinked. "S-Sir, I..." She heaved a sigh. "I will see you tomorrow, sir." She turned on her heel and left, trying to remain as composed as possible when small giggles could still be heard as she exited the office.
Tch. Why does everyone react that way when I'm leaving...? It's true I'm with Hope a lot, but we're just good friends, and I'm his mentor... Nothing else.
Safe within a bathroom stall, Light pulled off her Guardian Corps uniform, putting on some casual clothes she pulled from a bag, a lime green tank top and jeans. Stuffing the uniform into the bag as she left the bathroom, a sudden vibration shook the pocket of her jeans. The pink-haired woman, still preoccupied with forcing the clothes all the way into the bag, absentmindedly plucked the phone out of her pocket and rested it between her shoulder and chin. "Hello?"
"Light? It's me. I'm in the parking lot, 'kay?"
"Oh, Hope. Alright. Sorry you had to wait. I'll be out in a sec." Lightning pushed some hair out of her face, straightening hurriedly.
"Yeah, no rush. See you in a few."
"Mm." Lightning closed the phone with a snap and headed towards the door in a fast walk, slinging her bag over her shoulder.
She was halfway out the door before she stopped and looked at her reflection in the glass of the double doors. Tilting her head this way and that, she reached up a hand that hesitated slightly before fixing up some strands in the front and back. She turned her head this way and that, examining the effect.
Suddenly realizing that she was about to smile at her reflection, to see how it looked, Lightning gasped and her face developed a pink tinge. She whipped around to see if anyone was looking, before practically fleeing the scene.
Hope greeted Lightning with a wave before stopping and squinting at her. The woman blinked, her head jerked back a bit. "...What?"
"...You okay? Your face is red." Hope cocked his head at her as Lightning's vaguely rosy face grew even pinker.
"I-It is not. I was just in a rush to get here." Light slid into the seat beside Hope, setting her bag down on her lap decisively.
"Ohh, yeah~?" Hope butted his head up against her shoulder playfully. "Tell me~ What happened, Light?"
Still a bit rosier than usual, Light pushed the teen away, a small smile creeping onto her face. "I told you, nothing happened. Stop that. We'll be late if we don't leave right now. It's Serah and Snow's anniversary."
"Yeah, but it's gonna be private, right? Not like last year, on their first anniversary, when what must've been like, half the city came and celebrated with us."
"Don't remind me. Too many people, too rowdy. And Snow made that god awful speech. It's private, but we still don't want to be late. We don't want to give Serah f- a reason to worry." Good thing she had stopped herself. She had nearly said, "We don't want to give Serah funny ideas." What would that have implied?
Hope didn't seem to notice though, as he nodded and sat back in his seat, gearing the car into reverse mode and backing out of his parking spot. "Mmhm, alrighty..." He said absentmindedly, concentrating on the road.
"How was the lecture?"
"Um... I didn't get it, to put it bluntly."
"What was it on?"
"m...mRN...E's? U-Uh, something like that."
"...mRNE, huh? How are you going to write the paper?"
Hope sighed. Light could always see through any lie he told. He probably wasn't very good at it in the first place. "Well, Vince said he would help."
Lightning shook her head, pale bangs swaying. "That poor boy. Having to put up with you all the time." Hope thought she truly meant that and was hurt for a moment, before noticing that she had turned away and was shaking... in mirth.
"Light!" Hope laughed, pushing at the woman's shoulder. "You're terrible!"
"Stop that! Concentrate on driving! You'll kill us all."
"I passed my test on my first try!"
"Well, you did have practice with Alexander."
Their playful talk continued all the way to Serah's house. During this period of time, Lightning had whacked Hope on the head several times due to his mischievous comments, and Hope had protested, before threatening to crash them.
Yeah. Just best friends. This thought ran through both of their minds, as they got out of the car, heading towards the apartment where Snow and Serah lived.
Just best friends. Hope's hand twitched as he thought of her own hand, a very close distance from his.
Just friends. Lightning felt her face begin to flush again. ...Shit.