Thanks to TacticianMagician for the inspiration!
While I’ve always thought of Lightning and Hope to have more of a mother and son relationship, the game leads me to believe that it’ll actually be romantic because the age question is thrown out the window since Hope should return to age 27 and will actually be slightly older than Lightning now. That’s not quite my crazy headcanon though…
To me, the biggest evidence of this is Hope giving her the Amazon Warrior garb. Just look at how revealing it is! Look! My headcanon is that Hope’s crush on her was in full swing by the events of LR and when he went shopping one day and saw this garb, his pervy mind desperately wanted to see her in it.
Shippers might actually misunderstand Hope and Lightning’s relationship, but I can see why they might think this. Throughout the game, they go through the same development that you’d see characters go through in a romcom. At first, one member doesn’t like the other and seems like a bother. Then, they start to warm on each other until something blooms. They even bond over a mutual hatred for Snow.
Problem is the age difference. In Final Fantasy XIII, Lightning’s 21, whereas Hope is 14 – a seven-year difference between the two. And he’s only a teenager.
Consider the way they act towards each other. Hope looks up to Lightning like a substitute mother figure. She’s older and seen as more mature than him. He lost his mother not too long ago, and he’s looking for some type of guidance. Lightning provides some type of mentorship to Hope, even going so far as to lend him her survival knife to boost his confidence. But she’ll always see Hope as the younger child who followed her around, like a baby duckling.
Ironically, Hope treats Alyssa like a lost puppy who he just can’t seem to shake off. It’s almost another piece that states Lightning is truly the only woman for her. Lightning is off in Vanhalla as Etro’s Knight in a seemingly timeless place. Meanwhile, Hope grows older in Cocoon. The oldest he’ll be this time is 27, while Lightning will remain 21.
But if romantic feelings are developing, Lightning doesn’t reciprocate. Most of the hints come near the end of the trilogy, from Hope, probably for fan service. Examples include being happy he got to spend time with Lightning after her 500-year absence and grasping her hand.
Otherwise, it really doesn’t seem like anything other than a mother-son relationship. But I guess Hope does have some wild fantasies if he wishes to dress Lightning in this.