tootsiepopgurl - Hehe, well, he does have black hair. You can visualize him anyway you like, I suppose. :] I'm happy you like Maui! I'm planning on a sort of backstory on him.
Comancee-Ehhh, thank you, but I worry for this story. xD For example, this chapter isn't so hot in my opinion. ^^ Thanks for reading, though!
AssasinZAssasin- Thanks so much! I guess Bartholomew's letter got messed up somehow. I didn't really plan on it not to be italics afterwards. And it is 99 degrees Fahrenheit. xD Sorry for not clearing that up. I've been really busy lately, too.
Wanderer of Worlds- Who knows, who knows? xD I'm not so great at taking things slowly, either. Thanks for reading!
FFLightXHopeTifaXCloud- It's okay that you didn't know! Thanks for editing it for me. But where have you gone? D:
hetafan- Thank you so much!
PinkhairedSoldier- Yayy! This sounds terrible, but... I'm pretty happy everyone hates Princeton. :3 Sort of the point. Ehhhhehehe. Thanks for reviewing!
Lightning stood in front of the Estheim's estate, wearing casual clothes, a simple black tank top with jeans. Serah was behind her, dressed similarly, gazing anxiously at the door as Light knocked on the door impatiently, calling out, "Hope? It's us, Lightning and Serah. We heard you were sick, so we came to check up on you."
There were a few moments of silence, and then Lightning's ears picked up a small noise from behind the door. It was the sound of whining, and she twitched. She had never approved of keeping that monster in the house, even if he was a puppy. Times spent battling Pantherons had pretty much given Lightning a permanent distrust of them. Just tools of PSICOM, in her opinion.
Then she heard something she actually cared about. "Maui, stop... Back, okay?" There was a scuffle behind the door, and then it opened. Hope stood there, shaking back his silver locks. "Light, Serah! Hi... Thanks for coming, but really, I'm fine... You should probably go home, I might get you sick, and..."
"Oh, be quiet." Lightning said as she forced her way through the door, ignoring the prancing puppy that tried to get her attention.
Serah walked in after her, smiling apologetically. "You might as well just let Lightning have her way, Hope," She said, interrupting Hope's feeble protests. "We came all this way to make sure you were okay, anyways. Besides, your dad wanted us to check up on you, too."
"Well, apparently, you don't sound so lively on the phone." Serah patted Maui on the head. "Hi, Maui! Good boy, good boy!"
"Careful, Serah." Lightning snapped from the kitchen. "You never know what those things'll do." A popping suction-like noise could be heard. She appeared at the doorway, an open jar in one hand and the cap in the other.
"Oh, Sis, you're so paranoid. Hope and Mr. Estheim raised Maui, so he'll be fine." Serah stood and traipsed past her sister to the kitchen.
Hope shook his head. "C'mon, Light. You know Maui's never done anything bad." He shivered slightly, and stifled a cough behind his hand. "But you two should really leave before you catch something."
"Speaking of that," Lightning disappeared for a split second, then reappeared with a slab of bread covered in jam. She grabbed Hope's arm and dragged him out of the foyer. Taking him into his room, Light forced him onto the bed. "Lie down," She commanded. "Have you eaten, yet?"
"No, b-but, I... Mmf..." The piece of bread was forced into his mouth, cutting off his speech. Taking advantage of his disorientation, Lightning put a hand on his chest and pushed. Hope's head hit the pillow, and she nodded. "Stay." She said, before she left.
Serah looked up and turned from the stove when Lightning emerged from Hope's room. "Mission complete, soldier?"
"More or less." Lightning looked over Serah's shoulder to the pot of boiling hot water on the stove. "Are you making the spaghetti now?"
"Yep. When I'm done, you have to bring it to him, okay?"
Lightning raised an eyebrow. "Sure. But you could always do it, too."
"Ohhh, no, no, Sis. See, I have to go home soon, so you'll have to stay and care for him, okay?" Serah giggled before pouring in the noodles, the stiff, dry strips softening immediately to roil about in the bottom of the iron container.
"And that does not really explain why I have to do it. Besides, I have work tomorrow." Lightning took a loaf of bread from the many bags the sisters had brought and proceeded to cut it into slices.
Serah shook her head sadly at her elder sibling's foolishness. "Oh, c'mon, Lightning. It's so obvious that Hope thinks the world of you. He would much prefer you staying to take care of him than me."
Lightning was quite glad her back was to Serah as she muttered, "What are you talking about? I was only his mentor, and now I am simply his friend..." She felt a little warm, despite the fan that rotated on the ceiling above them. Serah grinned widely as she stirred the spaghetti.
Despite Serah's words, Lightning forced her to help bring the many things into Hope's room. It would've taken Lightning herself a couple of trips to get everything to the sick boy, anyways. There was the spaghetti, a mug of hot water, a few different pills to counteract the effects of the sickness, an ice pack, a towel, a bowl of water, and some other things. Hope, who had been dozing off, awoke with a start and stared in amazement at the supplies piling up on any available space near his bed.
"W-Wow... Um... You guys really didn't need to do all of this... But, thanks, really."
Serah smiled. "No problem, Hope. Anyways, I have to get home. I'm sorry to have to leave in the middle of trying to make you feel better."
"No, really, it's-"
"But!" Serah sang out, cutting across him, "Lightning is going to stay the night, okay? We can't leave a sick, underaged kid all by himself."
Hope began to choke on his own words, and Lightning hit him on the back, though she was likewise spluttering. "S-Serah, wh-what are you talking about?" That hadn't been planned.
"But, Sis, we can't just leave him all by himself." Serah waved a hand flippantly, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world. "Of course you're staying over. I've already called Mr. Amodar, and he said it was fine." Her eyes had a mischievous glint in them as she skipped out the door. "Bye!"
Before Lightning could collect her thoughts, the young woman was already out the front door. There was a bit of an awkward silence, and then Lightning said, "...Eat your spaghetti before it gets cold. Then sleep."
"Uhhh... Okay." Without another word, the boy took the bowl and started scarfing down the contents. Light made a small, annoyed noise, and he grinned sheepishly, a tiny bit of noodle dangling from one of the longer strands of his platinum hair.
"Sorry, but... I'm really hungry." He proceeded to eat, but in a slightly neater fashion. Lightning reached over and flicked the noodle off of his hair, and stood.
"I'm going to get some of the spaghetti, too. Hope you don't mind."
"'Course not!" Hope smiled cheerily. "You two are the ones who made it, anyways. Actually," he stifled a yawn behind his hand before continuing, "just help yourself to anything..." Hope chewed on a noodle, his eyelids drooping.
Lightning nodded, smiling slightly, and returned to the kitchen. Taking a bowl from a cabinet, she ladled some spaghetti into it. It smelled delicious, and her stomach fairly roared in anticipation. The noise was answered with a whine from behind her. and Lightning quickly turned around, backing up as far as she could against the stove. Maui sat on the floor directly in front of her, gazing up at her- or, the bowl she had in her hand- with perfect puppy dog eyes.
Which naturally had absolutely no effect on Lightning, of course, given her steely soldier nature. And her dislike for her former enemies, the Pantheron. No effect at all, given that she wanted to draw out her survival knife as protection.
She slowly backed edged along the stove, reaching the wall and then quickly hurrying to Hope's door, closing the door behind her. With a sigh of annoyance and relief, Lightning turned and saw that the sick, silver-haired teenager that she had been given the duty to care for had fallen asleep. His bowl, which still had a few strands of spaghetti at the bottom, lay cradled in the crook of his arm, while his head was slumped onto his shoulder. His breathing, deep and even, caused the edges of his long locks to flutter rhythmically.
Light tilted her head and let out another sigh escape her lips, which had lifted into another smile. She was strongly reminded of the time when, l'Cie at the time, she had allowed Hope to follow her about. While she had been out scouting, Hope had taken the chance to rest, and actually fallen asleep.
"Tch. Not by a longshot."
Lightning quietly stepped up to the bed and reached over, scooping the bowl from Hope's grasp. Then, she pulled the covers up over his shoulders. He mumbled, and she froze, watching his face apprehensively. The boy only rolled over, though, snuggling deeper into the sheets. Lightning quietly sat down and proceeded to eat her own lunch.
"Sis? Hope?" The bedroom door creaked open and Serah poked her head into the room. She covered her mouth when she saw Hope and as Lightning held a finger up to her lips. "Sorry...!" The pink-haired woman slipped in and closed the door.
"How'd you get in?"
"You never locked the door after I left. Really...!" Serah frowned, annoyed by her sister's sudden carelessness. "Anyways, I brought you your stuff." She held up a black bag.
"Of course! You're staying over, aren't you?"
"Oh yeah, speaking of that." Lightning's eyes narrowed. "What are you playing at, just forcing me to stay over tonight?"
"Whoa, Sis, don't get angry at me! It's only for Hope's good, and you need a break from work, too."
"You're always like that. I'm fine. I don't need so many breaks."
"Nonsense. Your job is so tiring." Serah paid her sister's irritation no more mind as she thrust the bag into Light's arms and proceeded to straighten up a bit of Hope's room. "Why don't you go take a shower now, while I'm here? I can watch over Hope for just a little before leaving."
Light opened her mouth to decline, then closed it again, reconsidering. She did feel like a bit of a shower... She had been watching over Hope for quite some time now, and felt like a bit of a "change."
"Alright, I suppose." She rifled through the bag, pulling out her change of clothes for the night; a pair of sweatpants and a short-sleeve shirt. Also taking her towel, Lightning headed out to the shower.
Twenty minutes later, she was back, rubbing at her hair with a smaller towel. Small droplets of water were scattered about the room as she gave her hair a little shake. She smiled at Serah, but then raised her eyebrows. The bed was empty. "Where's Hope?"
"Oh, he woke up while you were in the bathroom, and went off to take a shower of his own. Anyways, I have to get going now. I've got a bit of a date with Snow."
"Yes, yes... Have fun, I suppose." Lightning permitted her sister to give her a hug, then walked her to the door so she could lock it. Just as she was turning the lock, Hope emerged from the second bathroom, which was closer to the front door than the one Lightning had used.
"Huh? Serah left so soon?" Hope asked, rubbing at his hair with a towel similar to the one draped around Light's neck. He yawned, then paused. Squeezing his eyes shut, the boy frowned, then let loose a huge sneeze. Immediately, Lightning was at his side.
"Bed. Now." Light wrapped her fingers around the silver-haired boy's wrist and began dragging him towards his room.
"W-Wait, but Light, I'm not sleepy at all..." Lightning stopped and turned around to face him, her hand still on the boy's arm. The skeptical look she gave him made him hesitate.
"Don't lie to me, Hope. You didn't sleep nearly enough just now, and you'll get sick if you stay outside just after showering."
"I'll go to sleep later, okay? Please?" Hope pleaded. The area where Lightning's hand was holding his wrist felt warm, but he shivered slightly. Flushed, he shuffled his feet a little as the woman's brilliant blue eyes bore into his own.
"...Fine. But you're sitting." Giving the boy no chance to protest, Lightning spun Hope around and half-carried, half-dragged him over to the couch. Hope was so surprised he almost fell off the seat, but quickly regained his balance.
"What are you doing, Light?" Hope complained as she settled into the seat next to him with a sigh. He had grown so much that he was now taller than her, which remained true when they sat down. "...You're so strong, it's really surprising..."
"Well, that's what happens when you have a job like mine." Lightning tilted her head back and closed her eyes. While the awkward silence expanded and filled the house, Hope rubbed at his damp hair, shooting furtive, rather shy looks at Lightning from the corner of his eye.
Suddenly, Light sat up straight and, observing Hope with a sideways look. "So, how's school?"
"H-Huh? School... School's okay, I guess. I think Evi and Vince are in another fight. Tau is still scared of you showing up, so he's hesitant to go anywhere in the town with us."
"Really?" Lightning looked mildly surprised, then bowed her head slightly. "Sorry about that. Tau is... the other boy, right? Other than Vincent."
"Yeah, kind of big. Red-haired. Anyways, it's okay. He'll get over it." Hope put his hands on his knees and leaned back. "Tau's easily scared; he's just a big baby." He rubbed his right eye with the back of one hand. His lids felt like lead, and he blinked often to keep his eyes open.
Lightning frowned and pressed a hand to his forehead. Under her cool hand, Hope lost the battle and let his eyes close, slumping slightly. "You're still feverish. You need to go to bed and... Hope?"
He muttered something, and then his silver-haired head tilted. In a matter of seconds, he had fallen asleep. Lightning gasped and quickly gripped his shoulders as the teenager started to keel over. She had been able to make him sit on the sofa, but dealing with his dead weight would be too much. He had been growing like weed lately.
"Fine, it can't be helped..." Still keeping a hand on Hope's shoulder, Lightning leaned back in her seat, then carefully leaned his shoulder against her own. His head rested on her own, and she sighed. "You really did grow a lot... Though, this makes me pretty reminiscent. Back then, you were still shorter than me, though."
Hope sighed in his sleep and Light frowned as Maui jumped onto his lap.
"Geez, I don't need a babysitter, Dad!"
"Oh, but I still don't feel safe. You're still so young, after all, and it's not a babysitter. I'm just having someone watch over the house until I get back tonight." Bartholomew checked his phone, then closed it with a snap. Smiling at his young son, he gestured towards the door. "She's here. Why don't you go say hello?"
"O-kay." Hope stepped up to the front door and pulled it open. He gasped as a familiar figure stepped into the house.
"Excuse me for intruding."
"Not at all, not at all, my dear, since you're doing me a favor," Bartholomew hurried over, shaking the woman's hand. "I apologize, but I've got to run now." He put a hand on Hope's head and gave him an apologetic look. "Go to sleep earlier, okay? I'll see you later."
Hope frowned and looked down as Bartholomew exited the house. Then, he fixed a smile on his face and turned to his "babysitter."
"Hi, Light! Thanks for coming."
The woman's pink hair swished through the air as she shook her head. "No, it's fine. Your father works hard, so I was more than willing to come when he asked me to." She folded her arms over her chest and stared at Hope with her narrowed and piercing blue eyes. "...It isn't your father's fault he has to work so much, you know."
"Ahhh, I know, I know!" Hope put his hands behind his head and turned away, mussing up his hair in frustration. "But it's just like before... I want to spend more time with him, but he never has that! He never has any time to spare... It's like when it was just me and Mom... But now..." Hope shook his head, letting his hands fall to his sides. "Now I'm by myself."
He swallowed hard to keep the painful lump in his throat down. He didn't want Lightning Farron, of all people, to see him cry. He heard Lightning exhale and felt her hand come to rest on his left shoulder. "Try to understand, Hope." Her voice said behind him.
Hope remained rooted to the spot as Lightning stepped ahead of him, into the living room. She removed her overcoat and draped the white article of clothing over the armrest of one of the sofas. "I can put this here, right?"
Hope nodded soundlessly. His face was turned towards the ground, but Lightning seemed to have understood. "Sit, Hope," She commanded before going into the kitchen.
The boy obeyed, and smacked his cheeks with both hands. Confident that he no longer looked like he had been crying, he raised his head and then assumed a casual expression just as Lightning entered the living room again, holding a cup of hot water which she handed to Hope.
"Huh? Oh... T-Thanks." He hesitantly stretched out a hand and took the porcelain cup from the woman. Lightning nodded and then sat down next to him.
"Hope. Why don't you talk to your father like this?"
"Because it's just as you said!" Hope gritted his teeth. So much for regaining his composure. "He's working so hard for my sake, too! It'd be terrible for me to complain!"
Lightning was silent for awhile as the boy took a gulp of hot water, made a pained noise as the liquid scalded his throat, and set the cup on the coffee table. "...It's okay for you to cry. You really miss her, right?"
Hope felt tears welling up in his eyes, and tried to stop them to no avail. Lightning put an arm around him, and he gave in.
Ten minutes later, the boy's form was still and more peaceful, though the occasional shudder interrupted his steady breathing. Quietly, Lightning moved Hope's head from her shoulder, and picked him up, princess-style, the same way she had lifted Serah in the Pulse Vestige. She opened the door to his room and set him down on the bed. "Hmph." She sighed, her hands on her hips. She pulled the covers over his sleeping form, and then left the room, closing the door behind her.
"Things were so much easier when I could just pick you up..." Lightning smiled nostalgically, her chin on her fist. "I think I might miss the times when you were just a kid. But, I guess you're fine no matter what."
Later that night, Lightning lay in the guest bedroom. Warm and comfortable, she was about to completely succumb to sleep when a whining noise floated through her partially opened door. She tried to ignore it, but it persisted and she finally sat upright in bed. "Ugh, what is it…?"
Shivering as she stepped into the hallway, Light narrowed her eyes to peer through the gloom of the house. A small shape was standing in front of Hope's doorway, butting its head against it. Maui. Silently, Light stepped up behind the dog and reached over to push open the door. Surprised and ecstatic with the door's sudden surrender, the Pantheron puppy bounded into the room. The woman hesitated, then followed suit.
As she approached Hope's bed, a pained moan emitted from the mass of blankets. "…Hope?" Lightning tilted her head, blinking at the boy. He was silent before rolling onto his side, slowly lifting his head.
"Li…ght?" He croaked. His face was obscured in darkness, but he sounded terrible.
"Hope, what's wrong?" Lightning ran to his bedside as he collapsed once again. She quickly held a hand to his forehead to discover that his temperature had gone higher than any fever she had ever witnessed. It was too late to call Serah. What was she going to do…?
Ehhhh, I dunno! I don't really like this chapter... Hopefully the next one is better. I'll also try updating more. Thanks for reading!