She lifted the last box and pushed it into place inside the trailer. With a smile on her face, she turned to receive the embrace from her sister. “Thanks Fang!” She couldn’t see through the smile to the chaos of thought caged behind it. It was better that way.
“Anytime Vanille.” She looked to the man who had stolen the younger girl’s interest in the last few years. He was a decent guy, she couldn’t deny that.. but part of her hated him for taking her sister away. She offered him a hand. “Don’t let me hear if you don’t take care of her..” She left the threat hanging, seeming just a joke, but they both knew it was completely serious.
Her gripped her hand strongly and nodded, smiling. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Oh Fang..” Vanille chuckled as she pulled them both together in a hug. “We’re not far if you need us..” She added, looking directly at her adoptive sister.
Fang nodded, still hiding behind her smile. “I’ll be fine.” Vanille hugged her again, tears twinkling in her eyes. It was like the end of an era. Before the tears became a contagious effort, Vanille bounced up to the front of the trailer to the small carlike craft it was attached to and hopped in. Fang could tell she was a bit emotional about it, but she certainly couldn’t blame her for that.. Fang herself was emotional about it too. Upset even; but she wouldn’t show it. She wouldn’t show the pain she felt watching her little sister grow up and move away. Maybe it wasn’t far.. but it was far enough.
“I will take care of her.” He reiterated as he stopped beside her on his way to the drivers seat.
She nodded somberly. “I know you will.”
She didn’t watch the car take off down the street as she closed the front door to the small house she had shared with her sister since they awoke from their crystal slumber. It looked so empty now. Fang wasn’t really one to accumulate material possessions, which meant most of the things that she was accustomed to being around the house were Vanille’s, and were now puttering their way to a new home.
With her back to the door, she slid to the floor, her tears finally slipping through. Her lonesome cry echoed through the nearly empty room.
After the third unanswered knock, Light was worried enough to fish for the extra key Fang had given her and let herself in. The room that greeted her was cold and empty, the only light coming from the moonlight streaming through the open window on the far end of the room. “Fang?”
She wished she had been able to be there for her, but as usual, work kept her busy. She was still in her uniform, as she had come straight to Fang’s when she was off. Had Vanille given them more notice about her impending move, she might have been able to get the day off, but unfortunately, that hadn’t been how it worked out.
She moved through the empty room and up the steps, listening for signs of her friend. Friends.. Over their time together, Fang had somehow pushed far enough into Light’s personal bubble to become her best friend. Through their time as l’cie, to the time after Fang and Vanille had awoken, that relationship had only grown and solidified. Fang had become her constant.. her dependable friend. But this time, it was Fang that needed her to be there.
She passed Vanille’s door, open and showing nothing but an empty room. She felt a pang of sadness in her heart, reminded of how she felt when Sarah had moved out. Fang had been there to help her through that time.
“C’mon now, she’s not gone entirely. We all have to grow up sometime yeah?” She held out the bottle in offering, and light held up her glass to be refilled. “Y’still got me.” She flashed her a cheeky smile as Light smirked and shook her head with a small chuckle. She sipped her wine and slid over just enough to be able to rest her head on Fang’s shoulder.
Wordlessly, Fang put an arm around her shoulders and held her close. Lighting felt comforted knowing Fang would be her rock. And Fang was comforted just to be close to her in her time of need.
Farther down the hall, she knocked lightly on Fang’s door, which was slightly open, and swung open a few more inches. “Fang?” The room was empty. Her frown deepened as she looked toward the open window at the end of the hall. There was a small balcony that allowed access to the roof. If she wasn’t there, Light wasn’t sure where to look.
Luckily, she was there, sitting on a small chair, reclined back and staring at the moonlit crystal form of Coccoon. Light didn’t say anything as she moved across the roof to kneel next to her. Their eyes met and Light could see how pained she was; how lonely. “You ok?”
Fang ignored her question as she moved her gaze back to the mass of crystal glinting in the dim light. “Didn’t think you were coming.”
“I would have been here sooner if I could. You know I wouldn’t leave you to do this alone.”
Fang was silent save for a few sniffles. Light leaned over and embraced her. “Hey, y’still got me.” She mirrored Fangs sentiment.
Fang just gave an indulgent if sad chuckle. ‘But I don’t.. not how I want you.’ She thought sadly to herself. Friends, even best friends just weren’t enough. Fang loved her. But she didn’t love her back; not like she wanted her to. It would have to be enough; but it wasn’t.
Lightning had never seen Fang so depressed before. Afraid to leave her alone for the night, she offered for her to stay at her place for the night. Fang felt weak for accepting, but there was nothing more comforting than being close to the one you loved.. Though in Fang’s case, it was like a dull ache. Sometimes, you could imagine it was gone, but others it hurt so bad you could think of nothing else..
She fell asleep with her head in her lap. They had been talking, relating old memories and new ideas. Light would speak of things Fang could do now, without having to worry about Vanille, while Fang’s replies would only be half hearted accounts that were a mix of memory and dreams.
Light ran her fingers through the sleeping woman’s hair, wondering if things would change. Would their agreement change?
They sat at the edge of the water. Fang had her boots off, her toes dipped into the shallow of the river just enough for the rushing water to crawl partway up her foot. They sat in companionable silence, as they often did. Fang leaned back, basking in the sun as she listened to the sounds of the small waterfall just down the river. Lightning’s eyes ventured up to watch her for a moment before looking back to her hands; busy cleaning her BlazeFire.
“Light?” She looked up to her companion again. They had sat in silence so long she wasn’t sure she’d actually spoken. Fang opened her eyes and looked back to her. “I love you.”
Her breath caught in her chest, unsure how to respond to such a statement, “Fang, I..” her gaze shifted to the water. She missed the sadness in Fang’s eyes before they too shifted to take in the expanse of the river.
“It’s ok. I won’t do anything.. I respect you too much as a friend to do anything you aren’t ready for.”
“And if I’m never ready?” She looked back to Fang now, feeling guilty for the obvious hurt that question had caused.
“Well,” she began, her voice only a little shaky, “Then I’ll always be here for you as a friend.”
They returned to their silence again as Lightning stared at her, thinking on that. After a few minutes, she slowly nodded. Fang was her friend. Probably the best she’d ever had; save for her sister. She didn’t feel awkward around her, didn’t feel the need to hide. “Best friends.” She stated, causing Fang to look back to her, a genuine smile blooming on her lips. Light couldn’t help but smile as well; a rare treat that Fang treasured.
Light drifted off to sleep, the comfortable weight in her lap. She always felt better when Fang was around.. she could only hope she did the same for her.
Fang moved around the house, cleaning mostly, removing the dusty impressions where Vanille’s possessions had once resided. She had invited Light over for dinner, and to her delight, she had accepted. For most of the week though, she hadn’t moved. In her depression and loss, she hadn’t done anything more than eat, sleep and go to work.
Work had sustained her when she awoke from her crystalline sleep. If gave her an outlet and kept her active in a world that seemed geared to finding every way to make life easier. Machines did most of the hard labor, and most of the food was farmed. Fang’s way of life, had died over 500 years ago, and she had a hard time adjusting. That is, until Light’s commander offered her a job. So she had taken up the position as a guide, teaching the Cocoon natives how to survive in the wilds of Pulse.
But unsurprisingly, the wilds were getting pushed farther and farther away as the cities began to sprawl. Fang’s position meant less and less with every passing month. She’d been reduced to going out with scout teams when new ruins were found, translating Pulsan scripts and teaching others how to read and write her native tongue. Mostly, she wasn’t needed anymore. She and Light joked every now and again about how she’d done her job too well, but she was sad to think she was giving them the knowledge that allowed them to destroy everything she knew at a faster pace. She’d only wanted to be sure that the story persevered even after her death.. She needed to know that an entire history of Pulsan life would at least live on in text and stories.
She picked up a lone, leather bound book off the shelf that had been littered with Vanille’s small library only a week ago. Its pages were hand written in Pulsan script. It was a journal of sorts.. Fang’s personal account of their time as l’cie, from the day they woke within Anima’s temple, displaced from what they knew. The Bodhum Vestage. She flipped through the pages, recalling how confused and angry she had felt then; lost, as she felt so often now. She shook her head and closed the volume, hiding it from her sight behind a small planter on the shelf. ‘Now is not the time to think of such things,’ she told herself as she went back to clearing the dust.
An hour later, the house looked as if it was ready to go up for sale. Somehow, that was even more depressing than the dust. She retreated to the kitchen to begin prepping dinner as she tried to distract herself from the time. Light was late.
Confident her friend wouldn’t stand her up, she readied the small table near the bay windows in the kitchen with a clean cloth. She hesitated as she reached for the candles, she knew their agreement, but she had to try. She settled them on the table and moved to cover the food to keep it warm.
As she was finishing that task, she heard an airbike settle outside. Her smile returned for the first time in days as she went to open the door.
Lightning slid out of the seat and unbuckled a plastic case from the rear seat, which she carried with her. “Sorry I’m late,” she stated as she approached the door. “I had to make a stop.” She lifted the case as she followed Fang inside and allowed the door to close behind her. She paused as she looked around. The house looked so.. desolate and foreign; another feeling she remembered from when Sarah moved, but Fang, having less possessions of her own, made it far more prominent.
“What’s that?” She asked curiously, trying to peer inside.
The question drew her attention back to Fang with a smile. “I thought this might help you adjust a bit.” She set the case down on the dark hardwood and opened the small door on the front. For a moment, there was nothing as they waited, then a small feline creature poked its head out of the opening.
It was dark grey with redish stripes, two little horns that weren’t yet grown poked out just before its ears and tiny little saber teeth were poking out from its gumline. It mewled at her, lifting a black booted paw toward her. With a smile, she knelt down to let it sniff at her fingers. Once it was satisfied, it rubbed against them, and she gently picked the small creature up and let it cuddle into her arms. “Where did you find a Canthor cub?”
“We found it out on the Steppe the other day. Unfortunately, the mother was badly injured by a behemoth and they couldn’t save her.. So we brought this little one back with us. She’s way too young to survive out there on her own.”
Fang chuckled softly as the kitten nibbled at her fingers. Light smiled, watching her.
“The lab couldn’t see anything wrong with her, but they are rare and no one was really sure how to take care of it. I figured if anyone did, it would be you.”
“A Canthor is a hunter’s pet. They were popular in my time.” Somehow, Fang had gotten over the sting she felt when she’d refer to the past as ‘her time’; it felt so natural now. She hummed softly as the little feline curled up in her arms, purring contently and looking a bit sleepy. It was that same tune she had first heard Fang humming when they had reached Oerba originally.
Light kicked Snow a little harder than she meant to as she returned from watch duty. “You’re up.” Snow slowly got to his feet and moved to take over for his shift as Light moved up the steps. The menfolk had been pushed downstairs to sleep, affording Fang and Vanille some private time while Light was out on her shift at watch.
As she began up the steps, she didn’t hear the sniffling that filled the hall when she’d left. She heard humming as she got closer to the top of the steps. Cautiously, she entered the top floor of the building, her eyes adjusting to the dim light. She could see Fang sitting on the bed, Vanille laying on the bunk with her head resting on Fang’s thighs.
“Fang?” She asked softly, not wanting to wake the younger girl.
The humming stopped as she looked up. “You’re in already?” She asked, equally low. Light just nodded, settling onto the bunk across from the pair. “Musta lost track of the time.”
Light watched as her hand idly rubbed the girl’s shoulder, humming once again. “How is she?”
“And you?” Light could tell how much it was effecting Fang to see her home in such a state.
“It kinda all hit me at once.” She spoke, barely loud enough for Light to hear. “It’s really been 500 years. Everything I knew is gone. Everyone I knew is gone. Vanille is all I have left.”
Leaning forward, Light placed a reassuring hand on Fang’s knee. “You have me. You have all of us. We’re all in this together.”
Fang smiled, though her sadness dulled it considerably. “Thanks Light. That.. means a lot to me.”
Light nodded and settled back on the bunk, watching her as she watched Vanille sleep. “You should get some sleep.”
“Soon.” She nodded, pushing a few strands of red hair away from Vanille’s eyes. After a moment, she began humming again as she rubbed the girl’s back.
“What are you humming?”
“Mm?” She looked over to a curious gaze from Light where she reclined on the bunk. “Just an old song. It used to comfort Vanille when we were little. Afraid I can’t remember the words.. just the melody.”
Light nodded as she tried to get more comfortable. “Its.. pretty. I can see how it comforted her.”
Lightning fell asleep listening to Fang humming. It certainly was comforting.
Light smiled, shaking herself from memories. She knew this would help Fang a bit. It was a convenient thing, but she’d wanted to get Fang a new companion to care for, and Fang just didn’t seem like the Chocobo type.
“What are you going to name her?”
“Mm?” She looked to Light. “What should we name her?” she stressed the ‘we’.
Light smiled again, moving close enough to rub the fuzz around the snoozing kitten’s horns. “Well, they’re nocturnal right?”
She nodded. “Mostly.”
“Nyx?” It seemed a lame copout of a name to Light, but Fang brightened and lifted the cub, waking her in the process.
“How’s that little one? Do you like the name Nyx?” it mewled back at her, waving her little paws. “She likes it!” Fang nodded, allowing the small creature to cuddle back up against her breasts. Little Nyx returned to her contented purring. She gave a little mewl of protest as Fang set her down on the small couch in the living room and pulled a blanket around her to cuddle into, but she quickly curled up in it and quieted, pawing softly at the blanket in her sleep.
Fang turned to Light and wrapped her arms around her in a chaste hug. “Thank you..” She released her, though she didn’t want to. “…For everything. For coming, for Nyx..”
Light smiled reassuringly. “It’s ok. I’m here for you.” Idly, Fang nodded, still saddened by the limitation that Light still clung to.
They moved into the kitchen and Light was caught breathless by the effort Fang had put into what she’d thought would be a friendly dinner. The table was lit by candlelight, the bay windows offering a beautiful view of the sunset. A bottle of wine sat chilling in a bucket of ice. On the counter, bowls of food were still steaming a bit through their covers. Whatever she’d made, it smelled excellent.
“Fang..” She found a finger over her lips, silencing her with an accompanying ‘shh’.
“Just.. let me have tonight.” Her eyes were nearly begging. It tugged at Light’s heartstrings. Silently, she nodded.
Dinner went smoothly. They chatted amicably, the mood lifting a bit more with each glass of wine. Light was pleasantly surprised at Fang’s ability to cook, and she didn’t find the candlelight setting uncomfortable at all.
After dinner, they moved to the roof, taking what was left of the bottle with them. Nyx woke and opted to follow them, only to curl up happily between them as they sat in silence, once again observing the glinting crystalline form of Cocoon.
“It’s so beautiful here,” Fang said softly, her speech barely impacted by the amount of wine she’d imbibed. “This moment, now.. This moment,” she continued, locking gazes with Light, “now..” she trailed off, lost in her azure eyes. She might not be slurring, but the alcohol had definitely impaired the way she thought.
Light felt a tug at her heart again. In this moment, it seemed.. right to be with Fang. She knew it was the alcohol, but she couldn’t remember why she’d refused to be anything more than best friends.. but she knew she had a reason. She broke her gaze away, dimly aware that they had been shifting closer and closer.. and looked to the bottle, now empty; thankfully. Her head was fuzzy.. but she didn’t want to do anything that would ruin their friendship.
“I.. should go.” She looked back to Fang in time to watch her practically deflate. It hurt Light to know she’d hurt her with that single small sentence, but she didn’t know what else to do.
“You shouldn’t drive now.. Stay.. please. Just tonight. You can sleep in my bed. I’ll take the couch.” Fang’s head seemed to clear somewhat quickly, perhaps the adrenaline rush of fear. Fear of being left alone? Light wasn’t sure. “Please? I won’t try anything..”
“Alright.” She couldn’t resist when she made that face. Leave it to Fang to be able to pout without actually doing so. She busied herself collecting the wine glasses and empty bottle as Fang gently picked up the sleeping kitten to take back inside.
True to her word, Fang settled onto the small couch once she was sure Lightning was settled in her room. Nyx opted to curl up with Fang, purring away as she hummed and stroked her fur. For the second time in her life, Lightning fell asleep comforted by the sound of Fang’s humming.
Light awoke to the smell of breakfast, the sound of small mewls and the weight of a kitten on her stomach. For a moment, she couldn’t remember where she was. But Fang’s scent was all around her and she recognized the woman’s bedroom. She glanced beside her, assuring herself that the woman had not slept with her. She wasn’t sure if she was happy for that fact, or saddened by it.
“Good morning Nyx.” She ground out sleepily as she sat up. Her head was spinning. Way too much wine.
“Mew!” The little Canthor jumped off the bed, hitting the floor with a thump, then ran off through the open door, apparently deciding that its job was complete.
Slowly she got up and pulled on her clothes before stumbling to the bathroom.
Shortly after she stumbled towards the kitchen, now ignoring the empty living room as she practically dropped into a chair at the table and put her head down.
“Morning Sunshine.” Fang stated as she turned some kind of breakfast meat on the stove.
“How can you be so…”
“Not hung over?” Fang finished for her as she grinned.
“Yeah that.” Light grumbled irritably as she lifted her head enough to watch her set a mug of something hot in front of her.
“Drink that, it’ll help.”
She eyed the steaming mug. “Tea?”
“It’s special tea, trust me.” She chuckled as she shut off the stove. She moved the meat to awaiting plates, then turned and set a third, already prepared plate or raw meat bits on the floor for Nyx to happily nom away at. She brought the two plates of cooked food over to the table and set one down before Light, and the other for herself.
Rather than continue feeling ill at the smell of breakfast, Light cautiously sipped at the tea, hoping it would help sooner, rather than later. She started to feel better within a few minutes. “Thanks.” She nodded slightly as she finally felt ok enough to pull her plate closer to her.
Fang nodded, slowly eating her own breakfast. Light noted she was being slow about it, as if something was bothering her. “Are you alright?” she ventured before sipping at her tea again.
She looked up, her confliction showing on her features. “I.. wanted to apologize.” She paused a moment before explaining, “for last night.”
Her suspicions were correct then, Fang had been trying again to get her to change her mind. “It’s alright.. I know how you’re feeling right now Fang. Desperately looking for something to make you less lonely.. You helped me with that when Sarah left, but I was afraid I couldn’t do that enough for you..”
“Which is why you brought Nyx.”
She nodded, if only a little. “Partially. Even if Vanille was still here, I would have brought her to you.”
Fang nodded as she stared out the window.
“Fang.. I’m sorry I can’t be what you want me to be.”
“You never even tried.” The clipped tone alerted her to the shift of the warrior’s mood. An angry Fang was a force to be reckoned with and she knew where this was going.
“Why?” She turned to her, eyes dark with a tumultuous mix of emotion. “What are you so afraid of?”
“I’m not gay Fang.”
“You’re not anything are you Captain?” She spit her rank as if it was a curse. Lightning put so much of herself into her job, she never dated anyone. She never even tried, or showed any interest in anyone.
It hurt to have it pointed out so bluntly. She felt guilty. She told herself that she was just too busy. Between work and her ex-l’cie family, she just didn’t have time for a relationship. Was that really the truth? She wasn’t even sure anymore.
“You’re nothing more than your Job. “ She shook her head, now standing and leaning against the wall next to the window, her back to Light.
“Just go. I think I’ve made enough of a fool of myself for the day.”
Slowly, Light stood, giving her a chance to change her mind. She watched as Fang knelt down to pick up Nyx, but never even glanced toward her. With a sigh, she turned to go, pausing long enough to say “I’m sorry,” before heading out to her awaiting airbike. She never saw the silent tears that slid down Fang’s cheeks as she clung to the little kitten as if she was her lifeline.
The phone rang again. And again. “Pick up damn you..” she breathed irritably as it rang again.
“Give up y’sod! “ the Pulsan drawl sounded, a few giggles in the background before an addendum followed, “or leave a message!” Light sighed as there was a beep to signal the recording. She closed the phone and tossed it on the table before running her hands through her hair in frustration.
‘She must really be mad,’ she thought to herself. It had been a week since Fang threw her out, and since, the raven haired woman had avoided her at every opportunity. She’d stopped answering her phone. At work, her tone remained cold and impersonal in the few times they’d had to speak, but mostly she made sure she was busy and not involved with Light at all.
It was somewhat infuriating; the woman could be so damned stubborn.
‘New strategy,’ she decided, reaching for her phone again. This time, she dialed a different number.
It rang twice before the perky redhead finally answered. “Hi Light! How are you?”
“Terrible. Vanille, have you spoken to Fang recently?”
Vanille seemed to hesitate on the other end. “Well… no, not really. I’ve been so busy and she’s been working at lot as far as I know.. Is something wrong?”
Lightning knew she was lying, but didn’t feel the need to call her out on it. Fang not talk to Vanille? That would be a cold day in Hell. “I upset her,” she admitted hurriedly, embarrassed to actually admit it. “Look, if you see her, just have her call me ok?”
“..Sure Light. I’ll go over tonight and see if everything is ok.”
“Thanks Vanille.” She didn’t wait for a reply, she just closed the phone, closing the connection. With a sigh she slumped over in her chair, hands over her face. She’d really done it this time.
She looked to her sister as she pressed a key on her phone to clear the screen before tucking it back into her pouch. “She sounded really worried Fang.”
“Let her. Maybe it’ll melt the glacier she calls a heart.”
“Maybe she’s afraid she’ll mess something up if your relationship changes..”
That got Fang’s attention enough for her to lift her head from where she was laying on the floor in front of the fire place. “Meaning?”
“Well.. like I was when we were little.” Fang raised a brow in curiosity, though she knew the story of Vanille’s crush on her that she’d never acted on. They’d spoken of it before, and then laughed at the idea of being anything other than sisters; it was just too weird after so long. “I was afraid to tell you how I felt.. partially because I was afraid you’d reject my feelings and leave me behind.. “ Fang knew that part. “But.. also because I was afraid that if you did reciprocate, I’d mess up and we’d never be able to just be friends again. I was so afraid you’d leave..” She looked down at her hands, toying with the ring on her finger. She was glad for how things turned out, she could never ask for a better sister than Fang.
Fang didn’t reply. She put her head back down and rolled over to face the fire, deep in thought.
“And now, here you are doing exactly that.”
“I’m not leaving you behind.” If she was honest with herself, she’d admit she felt that she was the one left behind.
“But you’re talking about leaving-“
She sat up abruptly, facing her adoptive sister. “I need to. I need to just.. get out of here. Find what I’m looking for.”
“And what are you looking for Fang?”
“Myself.” She stated, barely more than a whisper.
Light sat there, her stoic wall crumbling. That had never happened to her at work before, she’d always been able to school her emotions until she’d been able to leave. But now, she sat, staring slack jawed in shock at the letter of resignation she’d come to find on her desk.
In the year she’d been fully in charge of the Oerba post, she’d never had to deal with this. She’d never have thought the very first one to come to her would be Fang’s. Though Fang was technically not a soldier, she was employed by the corps, and therefore under the jurisdiction of whoever was in charge of the post. This was the part of the job Lightning didn’t want.
She hit a button on her intercom unit. “Daniels, has Yun Fang left yet?”
“She left a few hours ago Captain, we didn’t really have anything for her to do today since our history buffs are off to the main base for a few days.”
“Thank you Sergeant.” She let go of the button, allowing the channel to close. She pulled her jacket on and swiftly left her office. Daniels, seeming to know she was going to head out early, just waved a mock salute. She ignored him as she made her way to her airbike.
Since Fang still refused to answer her phone, she went directly to her place, only to be met with an empty house. Using her key, she made a quick circuit through the house, only to confirm that Fang wasn’t there. Even Nyx was missing.
She thought about venturing to Vanille’s to see if she was there, but no.. it was late, and unlikely Fang would bother her at this hour. She looked around Fang’s usual haunts, but she wasn’t anywhere. Of course, if she didn’t want to be found, then she wouldn’t be. With a sigh, she turned her airbike toward home.
To her surprise, Fang was waiting for her, sitting on the front step a sleepy Nyx curled up in her lap. She didn’t move as Light dismounted from the bike and approached her slowly. She never even looked up as Light sighed and sat down next to her.
Still, silence reigned between them. Light wasn’t sure what to say. She wasn’t sure what to do to fix the situation. Still, she knew something had to give.
“I was looking for you.”
“Well here I am.”
She nodded lamely, once again unsure where to go with the conversation. Fang’s gaze never lifted from Nyx as she watched her fingers run over the kitten’s soft fur as if it was the most interesting thing in the world. She only looked up when Light stood and extended a hand to her. “Come inside. We need to talk.”
Fang’s brow creased as she scrutinized the offered hand, but she softened and took it, allowing Light to pull her to her feet as she cradled the kitten so it wouldn’t fall. She followed the pink haired soldier inside, stopping at the couch to set Nyx down, then followed her into the kitchen where Light started heating water for tea.
“Why?” Light asked, her voice barely registering the quake she felt as she said it.
Fang took a slow breath, collecting her thoughts. She’d probably over thought the whole situation at this point, as she was no longer sure what to say. “I.. need to get away for awhile.”
Light spilled the sugar she had been spooning into the mugs. “Away?” She didn’t turn around. She couldn’t calm her expression enough.
“Yeah..” Fang nodded, though Light couldn’t see, and ran a nervous hand through her unruly black tresses. “I think.. I need to get in touch with myself. I need to remember who I am.”
Was Fang rethinking her feelings? The thought hurt. ‘It shouldn’t,’ she told herself, ‘I should be glad.. shouldn’t I?’ Aloud, she asked, “You need to go.. away for that? Away where?” She busied herself pouring tea into the cups and stirring them a little before bringing them over to the table and offering one to Fang.
“I need to find my roots.” She chuckled sourly. “500 years buried in the dust.. but I have to try I guess.”
“Oerba is right here.” She didn’t understand. “It might be different now.. but it’s still your home.”
Fang nodded, staring blankly into her tea, which she hadn’t touched. “It’s more than that.. I have to find out what happened to my Clan. Oerba is my home, but my Ancestral home is.. elsewhere.”
“Ancestral home.. where your clan is from?” Fang only nodded in reply. “Where is that?”
Fang hesitated. “…In the north. In the mountains.”
‘That would explain a few things,’ Light thought as she sipped her tea. ‘You have to be pretty hearty to live in the mountains, right?’ “Hmm. I could probably get you a transport-“
Fang shook her head and cut her off. “It’s something I need to do myself.”
Feeling that was fairly definitive as to her intentions, Light just nodded, not entirely happy about it. “What can I do?”
“Just.. approve my resignation.”
Her eyes swept up to meet her gaze. She only used her real name when she was serious. But a resignation instead of leave? Light knew what that meant. “Will you come back?” She asked softly, the burning in her chest not allowing much else.
Fang was silent for a moment, finally opting to lift her mug to her lips; stalling for time to think. Once she set it back down, she nodded slowly. “I plan to.”
“But you’re not sure.”
“Things have changed. It’ll be a test just finding the village. Etro knows what kind of nasties I’ll run into on the way.” Her voice dropped as she looked back to the steam arching from her mug. “Anything could happen.”
“That far out.. we’d never know.” They hadn’t scouted the mountains save for what they could see from aircraft, because something about them jammed their equipment. “You would.. really leave Vanille?” She paused, then added, “Leave me?” She couldn’t keep the hurt out of her voice.
“Now you choose to care?” She asked, but she didn’t sound angry, she sounded tired.
“You’re my best friend Fang. Am I supposed to not care that you’re just going to up and leave and possibly never return? Leaving us all to wonder if you’re even alive?”
“It hurts too much Light. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t get over you, and I can’t sit here pining for you if you’re never going to bend.” Now the hurt resonated in her voice.
Lightning couldn’t stop her heart from pounding in fear. Would she really leave? Just like that? She’d never realized she hurt Fang so much. She watched the taller women get up and silently walk into the livingroom to collect Nyx. She didn’t stop her as she headed for the door.
“I’m not leaving right away.” Receiving no answer, she allowed the door to close with a soft click behind her as she began the walk toward home.
The next day found Light doing something nearly unheard of; she called off. Conflicted, she found herself wandering throughout the morning, ending up at her sister’s place around lunchtime.
Sarah wordlessly hugged her sister and pulled her inside. Before Light could ask, the younger Farron smiled sadly. “I just got off the phone with Vanille..”
She nodded idly, unsure what to say.
“Is.. Is Fang really going to leave?” The thought worried her. She knew Fang was Light’s rock just as much as Light was hers. She wasn’t sure her sister could function properly without the woman she’d come to think of as another sister. Fang had done so much good for Lightning. She’d been able to draw Claire out of her shell. What would happen now?
“Seems like it.”
Sarah sighed, marveling at her sister’s stubbornness. “Why don’t you just ask her to stay? She’d stay for you. I’m sure of it.”
“She won’t.. it’s my fault she’s leaving.”
“Because you can’t admit how you feel?”
She wanted to reply, but stopped short as her sister’s meaning sunk in. Was everyone crazy? “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Really Claire.. everyone can tell how you feel for her. Why do you deny it?”
“I’m not denying anything!”
“Oh bullshit.” Lightning gaped at her; Sarah rarely ever swore. “You never date. You never go out. And your ‘I’m busy’ reason is bullshit too.”
“Oh really. And I suppose you know me better than I know myself.”
“I’m your sister. I know how you act. I know when you’re lying to yourself.”
“So why don’t I date then?” She crossed her arms over her chest in challenge.
Unfazed by her hostility, Sarah resisted the urge to roll her eyes before answering. “You’re in love with Fang. Even if it’s not official,” under her breath, she added, “because you’re a stubborn ass.”
“I am not-“
Sarah held up a hand, stopping her. “You are. And you can’t date because you’d feel like you were cheating. Maybe you’re even afraid she’d lose interest. You obviously want her around, you just don’t want to commit. You’re just as bad as you accused Snow of being.”
She nearly swallowed her tongue at her sister’s harsh, black and white version of how things were.
“Think about it Claire. Because she’s going to leave, and once she does, it’ll be too late.”
As nightfall came, Lightning found herself sitting at the edge of the water, watching the clouds roll over the water far off shore. She could smell the rain. It was such a refreshing scent, so unlike the how it had smelled on Cocoon. She’d found that she loved the rain, she loved that smell. It reminded her of Fang, wild and fresh.
She sighed again, watching the lightning roll through the cloud. Hand in hand with the rain. It was like even Pulse itself was trying to tell her something.
She’d never been attracted to a woman before Fang. But it wasn’t Fang herself, was it? She’d been impressed by the woman’s combat ability, her strength and her vitality. She’d never felt aroused by her presence, but she supposed that wasn’t much of a benchmark, as she’d never really felt aroused by anyone.
But it was so.. wrong. It was supposed to be wrong, right? She’d been taught as much. It was wrong and unnatural; a despicable practice.
She narrowed her eyes as another made a spider web of electricity along the swiftly darkening clouds. She didn’t want Fang to leave. Was she really as bad as Sarah had said? Why was it so difficult? If she really was in love with her, shouldn’t have been easy?
So many questions. Too many questions.
“Claire?” She looked up as her sister sat down next to her, looking out over the water at the impending storm. “I was worried about you.. I’m sorry for being so flat with you earlier.”
Light sighed as she sat back against the steps. “I deserved it I guess.”
“Then you-“ but Light cut her off.
“No. I don’t know. Nothing makes any sense.” There was nothing but defeated silence from Sarah as they sat for a few moments. “It’s wrong. Why are you ok with the idea? Everything we were taught-“
Now it was Sarah’s turn to cut her off. “We were also taught that Pulse was filled with barbarians just waiting for a chance to strike; that Pulse was Hell. We were taught that the Fal’cie were there to help us. But none of that was true.”
“But this is different.”
“Really? Because the whole world is different. Life itself is different for all of us. Maybe it’s time to learn a new way?” Lightning remained silent, though Sarah couldn’t tell if she was thinking on what she said or ignoring her. “It’s normal for Fang’s clan, who’s to say they’re wrong?”
That certainly got her attention, as light’s head jerked around so fast Sarah thought it would fall off. “What? How would you know that?”
“Vanille told me.” Idly light wondered if it was true, or if Vanille was trying to stack the deck in her sister’s favor. “You should ask her about it. It’s obviously important to her if she wants to leave to find out what happened to her clan.” She smiled and leaned against her sister a little. “Open up a little Claire. I won’t think any less of you.. I just want you to be happy.”
“You should head inside before the rain starts.”
Sarah sighed as she slowly got up. “I mean it Claire. It’s time to try something new. Work isn’t always going to sustain you.”
“It doesn’t now.” She muttered irritably, though Sarah didn’t hear her as she walked away.
A few minutes after Sarah left, the rain started, hard and fast. Light continued to sit there, her face tilted up to the clouds, telling herself that it was just the rain running down her face and nothing more.
She’d finally headed home, long after the the rain had soaked her clear to the marrow. The shower she’d taken did nothing to ease the chill she felt. She laid down in bed, but sleep was refusing to come.
She rolled over restlessly, pulling the blankets around her shivering form. Why couldn’t she get warm?
Sleep seemed impossible, so she irritably got out of bed and moved down to the kitchen to make tea. The house was eerily quiet with only the sound of the rain outside. For the first time in months, she felt lonely.
She glanced at her phone, the urge to call Fang rising to the front of her mind. But no, Fang was still mad at her, and waking her in the middle of the night probably wasn’t a good idea.
She went about making her tea, then sat near the window, watching the rain run down the glass as she thought about what her sister had said.
Could she be in love with Fang? She loved her, she knew that, but was she really in love with her? She wasn’t so sure. She only knew that she didn’t want to keep hurting her, yet the thought of letting her go hurt so much.
‘Maybe I deserve it. For all the pain I’ve caused her already.’ She signed to herself, knowing what she needed to do.
It was still on her desk, right where she’d left it; still waiting for her signature. Her hand shook as she picked up her pen. ‘I’m letting her go so I don’t hurt her anymore.’ She told herself as she pulled the paper toward her with shaking hands. ‘I can’t hurt her anymore..’ She closed her eyes as she sprawled her name on the line, approving Fang’s resignation.
Once she opened her eyes, she dropped the pen, shocked at what she’d just done. She was really letting her go. ‘I’m letting my best friend go.. so I can stop hurting her.’ It had to be enough. It had to. But it wasn’t.
She managed to hold it in until she got home. She slammed the door behind her before she collapsed in a heap on the hardwood floor.
She gasped in shock when a little Canthor mewled helplessly and licked her nose. Sniffling, she got control of herself, wiping her eyes before scooping up the little creature. “Why are you here Nyx? Is Fang here?” She called out as she made a quick run around the house. “Fang?” But there was no answer. After confirming Fang wasn’t there, she looked back to the kitten. “How did you get here?”
It mewled pitifully in reply. Worry filled her as she dug out her phone. She sat down on the couch as she hit the key to call Fang.
“Light, I can’t talk right now-“
“Fang, why is Nyx here?”
There was a relieved sigh from the other end. “Thank Etro. I’ve been looking all over for her. Can you just hold onto her till I get over there?”
“Of course.” She paused a moment, sparing a glance to the kitten, who was grooming itself a little too proudly. Her eyes narrowed just slightly, suspicious. “Are you saying she came over here on her own?”
“She ran off earlier. Little bugger is fast too. But she’s a hunter, even that tiny.. she probably caught your scent, recognized it and followed it. I’m on my way, just keep her there ok?”
“Right.” The line went dead. She closed the phone as she eyed the kitten, who looked back at her with none of the sadness that she’d had only moments ago. She looked.. proud of herself.
Fang arrived shortly after, looking a bit harried for all the stress. Light opened the door and let her in, feeling a little awkward without knowing what to say. Fang didn’t seem to share the sentiment, as she swept in and scooped up the little grey and red ball of fluff. “Silly little thing. Don’t you know how worried I was?”
It mewled at her pitifully. In the background, Light rolled her eyes. The act wasn’t fooling her now, she knew they’d underestimated the intelligence of a canthor. But Fang snuggled it like a plush toy. She wasn’t sure which was more pitiful.
“Sorry for the trouble.. she ran off when I told Vanille I couldn’t take her with me.”
Light stopped midstep to the kitchen, the impulse to make tea having been her chosen distraction. It was all but forgotten now. “What?”
“Yeah.. She’s still too young to take into the mountains.”
“..What are you going to do with her?”
Fang ran her hand through her hair. Light recognized it as a nervous action. “Actually, I was gonna ask if you could keep an eye on her. She seems to like you.”
Light wasn’t sure if she should be happy. “Why not Vanille?”
“Eh.. Vanille won’t be able to get her all the exercise she needs. I thought she could keep you company while I was gone too..” She looked down at the floor. “She’ll make a good partner for ya. Doesn’t talk back.”
Deciding it was best not to dwell on that remark, she returned to a previous one. “Keep an eye on her.. until you come back?” She asked for needless clarification.
Fangs head bobbed just enough to be recognized as a nod.
There was silence for awhile as her mind blanked and then focused on that thought alone. ‘Until she comes back. She’s coming back.’ Though she knew that physically, Fang returning was really dependant on what she ran into in the mountains. But she felt comforted in knowing she wanted to come back enough to speak as much. “I’ll.. take care of her for you.”
Fang nodded again. “Thanks Light.” Unknowing of what else to do, and now feeling the awkwardness of the situation, she turned to the door, only to be stopped by a hand on her arm. She turned, a slim brow raised in question.
“Look Fang.. we need to talk.”
She nodded slowly, then set Nyx down on the floor. “Alright.”
The moved to the couch and sat down, Fang sitting sideways with one leg bent so she was half sitting on it. Light sat straight, trying to clear her mind of stray thoughts. This was hard enough without the distraction.
“Hey, relax.” Fang told her, watching her with concern.
“Fang I..” she turned enough to face her, but her eyes were still downcast. “I’ve been thinking,” she made the mistake of looking up. Her eyes met Fang’s, the hazy jade green destroyed her thought process. She felt the woman was looking straight through her, straight to her core. She felt like her every thought was laid bare to her. But she could see, in turn how hopeful Fang looked. She too, was baring herself to the one she loved, anticipating what would either be the happiest moment of her life so far, or the most earth shattering one. She looked.. afraid.
She wasn’t sure when their hands had come together. She was vaguely aware that Fang was moving closer. Or was she the one getting closer? Her brain completely fogged over. Her mouth felt dry. She licked her lips.
Between that, and not pulling away, Fang took it as an invitation; or maybe she was just too afraid to hear what Lightning was going to say.
Their lips met, chastely at first. Light’s heart pounded in her chest. Her lips felt like they were on fire. Somewhere in the back of her mind, she wondered if this was normal. Fang was gentle, yet urgent as she massaged her lips with her own. Unknowing if what she was doing, Light opened her mouth just enough. Fang invaded. She felt light headed, unable to do anything but clumsily return the kiss.
Somehow, she ended up on her back, Fang above her, situated between her knees. Yet she touched nothing, keeping her hands on either side of Light, keeping her weight off her. Light blearily realized that meant her hands were free. As if they had a mind of their own, they moved, snaking around Fang’s sides to her back, pulling her down into her.
It was Fang who broke the kiss, lifting herself back up to look into Lights eyes once more. She was searching for something. But the passionate haze quickly turned to shock, and then anger. Fang braced herself as she realized she read that entire situation wrong.
The fist caught her in the jaw and she dropped off the couch and onto the floor. She hit the coffee table awkwardly; the glass top shattered, raining down upon the floor. Fang didn’t move. Breathing heavily, she couldn’t find the strength to move, even with the glass cutting into her skin.
Her eyes remained closed, refusing to cry, even when she heard Lightning storm up the steps and the door to her room slam behind her.
Vanille had been shocked to see Fang on her doorstep, bloody and bruised. She pulled her inside. “What happened?”
“Struck by Lightning,” she replied with sour chuckle. It was all worth it. At least now, if she died out there in the mountains, she could die with the memory of her touch, of her lips. A wispy smile crossed her lips. For the moment, she was happy, though it was destroyed by the memory of her blatant rejection. Fang went from a smile to a sob so quickly Vanille wasn’t able to catch her as she dropped to her knees.
Vanille was worried, to say the least. She shushed her, trying to sooth her without making her cuts worse. She needed to get the glass out of them.
Oddly, Fang quieted quickly, but she didn’t move. She sat there on her knees, a dejected lump that loosely resembled herself. Vanille resisted the urge to cry at seeing her sister so destroyed by a single action.
Instead, she focused on cleaning her wounds, trying to get her talking as they often had when they were little.
“Fang, what did you get into now?”
“I got a little too close to a brooding Wyvern.”
She chuckled at her friend’s worry. “It’s ok, see? I’m alright.”
Vanille frowned as she set about cleaning her wounds. She was getting good at it, with all the practice Fang gave her. “Well, was it worth it at least?”
“So.. what happened?” She asked, pulling out slivers of glass and dropping them into a bowl her husband wordlessly set beside her along with other supplies she needed to clean the cuts. She nodded gratefully to him, but kept her attention on what she was doing.
“Eh.. Nyx apparently ran off to her place.”
“I’m glad she was found,” Vanille mumbled, not wanting to interrupt too much.
“Yeah. So I went over to ask Light to take care of her while I‘m away. And it went fine.. she agreed. So I was going to leave, but she stopped me. Wanted to talk.” She looked down at her hands with a sigh. “I dunno what happened. One minute she was talking, the next I just..”
“Just what?” Vanille prompted as she pulled a larger shard of glass out, causing Fang to cringe.
“I kissed her.” She sounded conflicted, sad, yet happy.
“Oh Fang..” She would have hugged her if she wasn’t covered in blood and glass.
She took a deep breath and grinned, covering her hurt and fear with bravado. “It was totally worth it.”
Vanille chuckled, despite the tears that glistened in her eyes.
She paced. She paced so much, her sister would have told her to sit down before she wore a hole in the carpet. But her sister wasn’t here. She was alone; pacing, deep in thought.
Fang kissed her. Fang kissed her.
She was so conflicted. Her body had certainly responded. For a few scant moments, she had reacted, wanting more. She’d never reacted to anyone like that before. But she’d never been kissed like that before. Was it normal? Was the fire she felt normal?
She’d been ‘turned on’ for the first time.. by a woman. “Ugh. What a mess..” she mumbled to herself. Sarah was right, she needed to learn something new.. but change was hard. Would her parents look on from beyond the grave with disappointment?
She ran her hands through her hair in frustration. She wanted to punch something.
Punch something. Hadn’t she done that already? ‘Oh shit. Fang!’ She raced out of her bedroom and down the steps so fast she nearly toppled over herself, the thought of Fang unconscious and bleeding gripped her gut with a fear she was unaccustomed too.
But the scene that greeted her at the bottom of the steps was only slightly better than she expected. Glass littered the floor, the table still pushed away from the couch. Fang was gone. It did little to soothe her nerves.
She knew Fang well enough to know she’d go straight to Vanille. She’d want to talk to someone, need someone to help her with the glass.
She raced for the door.
Vanille opened the door, only mildly surprised to see Light standing there. “Oh-“ But Light didn’t wait for her to greet her or even invite her in. Upon spotting Fang, she pushed past Vanille, who wisely stepped aside so she didn’t get shoved. She closed the door with a faint smile, then turned to watch, hoping this wouldn’t go downhill faster than a Wyvern dive.
Fang was rotating her shoulder gingerly, making sure the bandages Vanille had wrapped her with weren’t too tight. She had pointedly ignored the door, figuring it either didn’t matter to her, or it was Light, who she was supposed to be angry with. But she relaxed with a sigh as she felt Lightning’s arms wrap around her from behind.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” she kept repeating in a tumble.
Fang stiffened a little. This certainly hadn’t been what she expected. It was probably the opposite of what she expected. She grunted and almost regretted the words she had to say. “Let go.”
Light’s eyes opened in a flash, but she hesitated, afraid Fang was really mad at her. She had every right to be after all.
“Light please, fresh bandages..” Her breath was tight. The pressure from Light’s desperate hug was tugging at her lacerations and it stung like hell.
Light immediately let go when she realized she was hurting her again. “I’m sorry,” she mumbled.
Vanille patted her on the shoulder reassuringly as she settled back down next to Fang. She returned to her task, fixing the bandages and applying some to the last few uncovered cuts. Fang managed to turn to face Light, though she got a look from Vanille for moving so much.
“Stoppit.” She told her irritably. Looking at her like this.. this was not Lightning. This was the broken down little girl Lightning had left behind. “Claire.” She met her gaze almost timidly. Fang sighed. “I’m ok. You’re ok. I’m not mad.” When her expression didn’t change, she continued, “I figure we’re even. I made a mistake, and so did you. Clean slate, yeah?”
Her eyes narrowed just a bit as she let that thought sink in. After a moment, she nodded, looking closer to her normal self. Mentally, Fang gave a sigh of relief. She didn’t like seeing her like that; it was just another hurt she didn’t need.
“We need to talk.” Fang nodded slowly in agreement. She was still afraid of what Light was going to say. Light seemed to calm. Trying to lighten the mood, both for her confidence and Fang’s, she smirked, “Think you can control yourself with a chaperone?”
Fang grinned in return, “Only if you promise not to make eyes at me!” Light rolled her eyes as Fang and Vanille both laughed.
“I’ve been thinking.. About all of this.” Fang nodded slowly, trying not to look as anxious as she felt. “I don’t.. “ Her breath caught and she closed her eyes, waiting for the killing blow. Light’s eyes were on her hands, oblivious to Fang’s struggle. “I don’t understand any of this. It’s so.. new to me.” She took a deep breath to steady herself for her next words. “I do love you Fang.” Fang’s eyes opened, her heart pounding away. “I just need to figure out how.” Fang exhaled slowly. “I need.. time. To figure it out.”
She didn’t answer right away. She ran a hand through her hair, now thankfully free of glass. Vanille had stilled throughout the exchange, a little shocked herself. Fang’s silence snapped her out of it and she pushed the bandage she was applying a little harder than necessary. Fang grunted, shooting her a glare which Vanille ignored. Fang understood, she was telling her she needed to say something. She wasn’t a total idiot, she just wasn’t sure what to say.
“You’ll have plenty of time to think about it while I’m gone.” That earned her a blatant elbow in the ribs. Apparently Vanille thought that was the wrong thing to say. Judging by Light’s expression, she agreed.
“You’re.. still leaving?”
“I don’t want you to be pushed into anything by guilt. I want you to understand your own heart, as well as mine.” She shook her head, “That’ll never happen if I’m here.”
“Isn’t that.. extreme? Can’t you just wait a bit..?”
Fang gave a sour laugh. “Says the woman who picked the name ‘Lightning’. You live on extremes. “ She shook her head again as she stood. “No.. it’s something I have to do anyhow. Time apart will help put things in perspective for both of us.”
“And you being in Crystal sleep for almost six months wasn’t enough time apart?”
“Eh. You said you missed me, but that was as a friend. Now you have to look at it for more than that. It’s different now.” Light nodded numbly. “Besides.. this is something I’ve been putting off. It’s important to me. If you still want me when I get back, then we both know it’s real, yeah?”
“And if you don’t come back?”
“I’ll be back.” She grinned, “I have family to come back to.”
It took several days for Fang to get her affairs in order. Light made a point of being there to help her every step of the way, even though it meant she was missing work at times. To Fang, that simple gesture meant a lot.
They moved all of Fang’s belongings to Lightning’s house for storage. An empty house did no one any favors, so Fang told Vanille she wanted her to rent it out while she was away. Vanille understood the motive behind it; if she couldn’t be there to protect and provide for her in person, at least she could help her out with some income this way. She’d argued, of course, but there’s just no winning when Fang had already made the decision.
Light set her up in the spare room for the few days she needed before she was ready to leave. She told her to make it like home, and not to worry about it. She would leave everything, awaiting her return. Fang was comforted by it, and she had a feeling Light was too, so she settled into the room with ease, even placing a nice sized pillow on the floor for Nyx. Nyx still opted to sleep with Fang on the bed, but during the day, she could be found curled up on the pillow happily sleeping in the patch of sun from the window.
Light watched her sleep. It was a nice distraction from watching Fang check over her lance in preparation of leaving. She listened to the soft click as the blades unfolded, then again as she retracted them. She refused to look, so she just leaned against the doorway, waiting for Fang to acknowledge her presence.
The last week had passed like a whirlwind; moving, packing, cleaning and readying the now empty house for occupation. Though she and Fang had technically been living together for several days, she could barely remember them. She was aware they’d had dinner together each night, but she couldn’t seem to dig up the memory of it.
The tears she remembered. Mostly Vanille’s; the girl was basically useless through the whole process, breaking down to cry every so often. Lightning, while understanding how Vanille felt, was a bit irritated by it all. If she had to be strong about losing Fang, shouldn’t Vanille have to as well? She refused to do anything to guilt Fang into staying. She wanted her to stay, of course, but guilt wasn’t a good reason to do so. She understood her reasons for leaving, even respected them. It didn’t take the hurt away. She accepted her decision, but that didn’t mean she had to like it.
Unknowingly, she let out an audible sigh.
“Something on your mind Sunshine?” Things hadn’t changed exactly. They kept each other at arms length, aware that any move made would be premature. Though Lightning had admitted to feeling something, she wouldn’t claim to more than that just yet. Fang allowed it, knowing that closing in on a cornered and hurt Lightning meant you were going to get struck. She kept her distance.
“I wish you’d take the survival pack. Or rations at least. I think you’re determined to make us all worry as much as possible.” She admitted to herself that was a bit snippy, they’d already had this argument.
“Traveling through the mountains is easier without all that weighting me down.” She flashed her a wry grin. Lightning wasn’t sure if it was her regular cockiness, or a film of bravado. “Y’think I can’t make it out there?”
Fang laughed softly as she set her lance aside. “I’ll be fine. I grew up doing this kinda thing.” She watched Light continue to stare stubbornly at Nyx. “Besides, it’s an ancient rite of passage. To cross the mountains with nothing but the clothes on your back and your chosen weapon is a show of strength. Besides, you know most of the equipment won’t work anyhow. Pointless to bother with it.”
She could only nod. It didn’t make her feel any better.
“I’ll be fine.” She repeated. “I could do it when I was ten, I think I can do it now.”
Light only nodded again. Fang was stronger than she’d ever been without l’cie power. She herself said the last time she crossed the mountain was before she’d been marked as l’cie. Fang was strong, she was tough and she was smart. Light knew she’d be fine; she just couldn’t stop the worry.
“Morning train tomorrow then?”
Fang nodded slowly. It was the only compromise she’d given. She would take the train to the small settlement nearest the base of the mountains.
Light nodded in reply. She’d already agreed to see her off. In her mind, there was nothing more to say as she quietly left the room.
They arrived at the train station early. The train had been one of the first Pulsan artifacts to be restored and out into use. It was a lot different than it had been so long ago. Notably, it carried passengers, which in Oerba’s previous life, it had not. Now, the tracks had been expanded and the station had been moved a bit, more toward the side of town, leaving the edge of the water to be taken up by a hotel and an apartment building.
To some degree, Fang hated it. She hated how the face of her childhood home had been defiled and changed. At the same time, she understood that it was inevitable. Oerba had to change or fade into history.
The station itself was huge, as it had to accommodate the increased amount of inhabitants, as well as travelers, and the traditional roles of the train as transport for equipment and materials. With construction still happening pretty much everywhere, those roles took on a new importance.
To their surprise, the rest of the family had turned out, braving the early morning to see Fang off. Tearful hugs were shared, joking threats of getting hunted down if she didn’t return were made. They laughed, everyone pretending this was normal; pretending there was no danger.
Lightning knew better. She knew how dangerous this was, and she was still rather upset at Fang for not reconsidering. In her heart, though, she knew she couldn’t be angry. Fang rarely let anyone see her fall apart, but Light had seen it several times, often revolving around loss. Loss of her home, friends and everything she’d ever known before turning to crystal the first time. No one else, not even Vanille knew how hard that loss had shaken Fang.
That was what they were for each other. They were the emotional stability, the pillar to lean against in their weakest moments, the shield to keep prying eyes from seeing too much. It was hard to show weakness in front of the family. It was more expected of Fang than Light, but it affected the group, and was therefore hidden more often than not.
Lightning watched as Dajh hugged Fang. He was sniffling a bit. Dajh, now getting into his preteen years, wasn’t really used to the idea of people going away for long periods of time. He didn’t really seem to know what to make of the whole situation. Sazh put a hand on his son’s shoulder as he backed away from Fang. “It’ll be ok.”
Dajh nodded slightly, a bright smile settling onto his face. “Yeah, Fang is the strongest ever!”
Everyone laughed, even Snow after a slighted, “Hey!” Well, everyone except Light.
“Tch.” She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away, feeling separate from the group for the first time in the last few years.
She felt Fang move closer to her. “Now now Sunshine.. no need to be sour.” She turned to look at her as Fang grinned, “You can be the strongest while I’m away yeah?” Again the group laughed, and this time, Light’s soft chuckle joined in.
They began to move inside, sharing stories and catching up on things since the last time they had all been together. Lightning trailed behind, taking the opportunity to look at them and think on how far they had all come.
Sazh had gone back to piloting; mostly running small, scenic tours to show people the beautiful landscapes that Gran Pulse offered. Dajh had grown up quite a bit, but he was a good kid. Sarah and Snow often watched him after school if Sazh was working.
Sarah and Snow had gotten married shortly after Fang and Vanille had woken from their crystal sleep. They seemed mostly the same, at least for now. Light knew that would change soon, as they’d finally decided things had settled enough for them to try for children.
Hope had grown into a fine young man, attending one of the small universities that had been set up. He was studying to be an engineer, which didn’t surprise her in the least. She was proud of him really. At first, she’d been afraid he would shut down after he lost his mother, but he’d grown so much during their time as l’cie, and now he was far better adjusted than she’d ever been since losing her parents.
Of course, he still had his father. Bartholomew had really connected with him once they were reunited. Everyone was glad to see he’d survived, and he was welcomed as part of the ‘family’. These days, he was doing government work, still fighting the good fight from the inside.
Vanille had certainly grown up. Though still as perky as she’d ever been, she definitely had a more adult air about her. She was more responsible these days. She married just recently. Light looked back on that somewhat bitterly. It had been Vanille’s marriage that had brought about Fang’s recent breakdown, and she wasn’t even aware of it. She couldn’t blame her though. Her husband was a good man, and had been accepted into the family easily. Besides, everyone had to grow up right?
Had she grown herself? Looking back, she realized that she and Fang had hardly changed at all, save for what the others had forced upon them. Light was forced to grow when Sarah moved out; and Fang, similarly when Vanille had. Fang had drawn Light out of her shell somewhat, but that was bound to happen after everything anyhow.
Had they really grown? They both begrudgingly accepted change, but neither of them really seemed to care for it; until recently anyhow. So much change between them in the span of little more than a week. Light suspected that Fang’s need for change was partially out of fear. The same fear Lightning now felt herself facing once again. Would she end up alone?
Fang was happy to see everyone turn out to wish her a safe trip, but she couldn’t shake the annoyance of their presence either. There was no way Lightning would say or do anything in front of all of them. She wasn’t even sure what she expected or wanted her to do, she only wished for a few more moments between them. She realized they had had nearly a week with little interruption, but somehow it hadn’t seemed enough. It had breezed by so quickly it was little more than a hazy memory.
She was barely listening to everyone as they talked and laughed. Vanille had moved to her side and took her hand. She smiled at her sister and the understanding inn her eyes. Vanille knew this was important to her. Having her support meant more than she could express. She hugged her to her side as they walked, but let her go after a moment. They shared a glance. Between them, it was enough.
She half turned, looking for her Sunshine, who she was saddened to see was trailing behind, as if she wasn’t part of the group. She looked lost in thought. She wondered what she was thinking about. Lightning met her eyes, but lowered her gaze to the ground. Fang frowned again and hesitated, but finally looked forward again, laughing half heartedly at some story Vanille was telling about their childhood.
Once inside, she broke off from the group to move toward the counter. Lightning followed her silently, while the others milled about some benches still laughing at Vanille’s story.
She placed the receipt for her ticket on the counter, along with the ID card she’d been issued shortly after she awoke. Silently, the clerk took the receipt and her ID. She checked the ID against the records, and then handed it back to her before moving to print her actual ticket. After a moment, she returned and handed her both the ticket and the receipt. “Unfortunately, the morning train is delayed.”
“Any idea how long?” she asked, partially happy to spend more time with the family, but partially annoyed with how things were getting so drawn out.
Beside her, Lightning crossed her arms over her chest, making her shoulder plate prominent to the clerk. “What caused the delay?” Fang saw the clerk look at the plate. She could tell he was trying to decide how much info he could give.
“There was a derailment somewhere near Paddra. They’re cleaning it up, but I’m not really sure how long it will take, or how bad it is. They’ll make an announcement when it pulls in.”
Light nodded, obviously a little irritated. As they moved away from the desk, she pulled out her com unit. “I could find out-“
Fang cut her off with a shake of her head and a hand on her wrist. “Leave it be. We have a little more time, let’s just enjoy it yeah?”
Light looked down at Fang’s hand on her wrist. “..Alright.”
Somehow, they ended up at a small diner within the station. Lightning wasn’t entirely sure how the decision had been made, but she supposed it would be good for Fang to eat before she headed out into the wilderness.
Everyone moved around the table, vying for seats. Light irritably noticed Vanille settle next to Fang, who had been more or less forced next to Snow, much to her obvious distaste. They shared a look, and for just a moment, Light could see the apology in Fang’s eyes. She nodded in return, missable by anyone who wasn’t looking for it; her way of letting her know that she wasn’t upset. Her gaze slid back over to Vanille, who was looking at her with an odd look on her face. She was smiling, but her eyes told a whole different story.
‘She’s still mad at me,’ she sighed mentally and settled between Sarah and Hope.
Breakfast turned into some fiasco as the others shared stories and recounted their adventures as L’Cie. Sarah, Dadj and Vanille’s husband were utterly fascinated while Bartholomew listened politely. Light had no idea how they could still be interested after hearing the same stories over and over again.
She stared down at her plate, ignoring the banter. She felt selfish. She didn’t want to be here, didn’t want to share what could be her last moments with Fang surrounded by others and kept at arms length by the quietly vengeful Vanille. Maybe she shouldn’t have argued about the train. Maybe she should have let Fang simply head out from Oerba on foot. She’d at least have been able to tag along for awhile, while she knew the others wouldn’t have done more than gather to see her off.
“-So then Light fell and Fang grabbed her. I swear she was flushed red from embarrassment but still looked outwardly cool and collected!” They all laughed as Lightning looked up, catching the conversation only because Hope had enthusiastically elbowed her in the side.
“Nah nah, she wasn’t flushed; she was covered in Hybrid Flora goop. Really, you guys are just tryin’ to start things.” Fang smirked.
“You could have warned me they were immune to physical damage.” Light spoke up, entering the conversation for the first time.
“I coulda, Vanille coulda; but it was just so damned amusing watching you hack at it with your gunblade.”
Now Fang laughed. “I was actually pretty surprised you didn’t hit it with Libra first anyhow.” Really, she hadn’t been. Lightning had been pissed off at the time; reckless.
“Lightning!” Hope called to her as she raced ahead. She didn’t stop, so he paused a moment to glare at Snow, who was scratching the back of his head sheepishly.
“Guess she’s touchy today huh?” he chuckled in that nervous way; the way he did when he knew he messed up.
“C’mon!” Vanille piped up, running between them, turning to move backward for a few steps as she spoke, “We should go back her up!”
Snow and Sazh looked to Fang, who didn’t seem in all that much of a hurry. She just shrugged. Lightning was angry. It happened a lot, especially when Snow couldn’t keep his gorilla mouth shut. His offhand comment about Sarah had set the elder Farron off- again. Fang was content to let her blow off some steam before catching up to join in whatever fight Lightning decided to pick. She moved to follow Vanille, but did so a bit slow. The others fell into step with her.
When they reached the ledge, Lightning was nowhere to be seen. They each scanned the small clearing and surrounding ledges. “There!” Hope called out, pointing to a shaded corner of the clearing.
Lightning had come across two Hybrid Flora, and apparently decided they looked good to kill in her ire. “She shouldn’t hit them commando..” Vanille commented as they watched Lightning approach them with her blade out, intentions obvious.
As Vanille moved to climb down to help, Fang put a hand on her shoulder. “Give ‘er a minute.”
“She’ll be fine.”
They watched as their leader began to cut into the goopy creatures, seemingly unaware that they were simply sealing up any damage she thought she was doing. When the moment of recognition flashed on Light’s face, Fang knew she was over her rage. “Alright, off we go then.” She jumped off the ledge, Vanille hot on her heels.
As she neared the fight, Fang tossed a ruinega spell, catching the Flora off guard and allowing her and Vanille enough time to move up next to her. “Hit ‘em with fire.”
“Right.” Lightning acknowledged, eying the pinkish ooze dripping from her blade. For a moment, their brands burned as they settled into their roles. Fang continued to taunt the two creatures together, making it easier for Lightning and Vanille to hit them at the same time with Fira.
They melted into a bubbly pool before the boys even caught up. “Hey, way to go!” Snow said enthusiastically as they approached. He moved a little too close to Lightning, who backed up a step to maintain her personal space. Her boot slipped on a stray glob of Flora ooze.
“Light!” Snow missed when he went to grab her. Luckily, Fang was more on her toes. She lunged over the side of the ledge and managed to grab Lightning’s hand, using her free one to hold onto her lance, which was keeping them both from falling further.
“Just another fun day, eh Sunshine?”
Fang smiled at the memory, then realized breakfast was over. Sazh was saying that he had to get Dadj to school. Vanille’s husband apparently hadn’t been able to take the day off work. Hope had some project he was working on for his university classes, and his dad had some meeting or another. Her smile shifted to a frown for only a moment before she stood and began to hug each of them goodbye.
Light watched as she thanked them for coming out, and they wished her a safe trip. Cards were swiped to pay for breakfast and the now smaller group moved out of the diner. They found some open space on some benches and got comfy.
“How long do you think it will be?” Sarah asked, glancing between Light and Fang, who were once again separated by Vanille. The contrast between them was amusing. Fang was slumped with her back against the wall, legs crossed and arms folded over her chest. Sarah half smiled at how grumpy she looked.
On the other side of Vanille, Light sat with her back straight, refusing to touch the wall. Her legs were crossed too, but her hands were clasped together and resting on her knee. Sarah could recognize that as a sign of her irritation.
She wasn’t entirely sure why Vanille was being petty. She knew the situation, and Vanille had even admitted that Light had apologized several times. So why step in in such a way? She didn’t understand, she thought Vanille wanted them to get together too. She gave Vanille a confused look, but her attention was drawn when Light spoke.
“They aren’t sure.”
“You guys don’t have to stick around if you have other things to do.. I’m grateful for ya comin’ out, but there’s no need t’sit around here.” She could tell Fang really was grateful, but also hopeful that they would leave. She looked to Snow.
"Well... I did tell Lebrau I would help her with some renovations at the cafe." Sarah nodded idly, she was supposed to help too, but she didn't want to leave Vanille with the not-quite couple since she was being a bit of a brat about it all. "Since the train was suppose to be here and gone already. we figured it wouldn't be an issue.."
Fang nodded and stood to say goodbye, not really giving him a chance to change his plans. But when she turned to Sarah, the smaller girl shook her head. "I'd like to stay.. I'll come by the cafe later ok?"
Snow nodded. "Ok. She'll understand. She was going to come out too, but was afraid Light might go on the offensive." They all chuckled, but Light looked sour. Lebreau's constant flirting with Fang was fairly well known. Light knew Fang wasn't interested in her, as true to her word, she'd remained faithful despite the lack of actual relationship. Fang would flirt back though, and Light wondered if she did it just to get a rise outof her. Often, when she witness said flirting,. her mood would swiftly and obviously shift. Once she started looking annoyed or angry, Fang usually shut Lebreau down, which she appreciated, but also made her wonder more.
An hour later, the four women continued to wait. The moment Vanille bounced up to go to the ladies room, Fang capitalized on the open space and moved next to Lightning.
The station was getting busier by the minute as the passengers piled up with the lack of trains. People were irritable, some trying to get back to other budding cities to go home, or visit family and friends. With the greater amount of people, the noise level continued to raise as well.
Vanille returned and wordlessly settled on the other side of Fang, even as Sarah moved to Light's free side. Fang was the first to lean over and rest her head on her shoulder, but Sarah wasn't far behind. A quick glance confirmed that Vanille was leaning against Fang as well. Mentally. she sighed, but physically she relaxed some, finally leaning back against the wall to find a more comfortable position.
It wasn't long before she realized all three of them had dozed off. Her sister had curled up more against her, her smaller form fitting under her arm. Fang on the other hand, was too tall to make that comfortable for either af them, and was still resting her head on her shoulder. She'd lulled forward just a little, her haid falling to hide some of her face from Lightning's view.
She watched her, breaking in and out, even and consitent; sleeping peacefully. Her eyes moved rapidly beneath the lids. Light wondered what she was dreaming of.
In her mind's eye,. a memory returned to her, unbidden.
"Oh, just say what's on your mind Sunshine." Fang stated playfully, her ever-present smirk softening just a bit.
"I hate that nickname." She replied with a smirk of her own.
"That's a start! Now tell me what was bothing you just a moment ago."
She hesitated. "I don't see why it's important. Saying things doesn't change how they are."
Fang tilted her head to the left, the small braid that peaked out from behind her ear shifted and provided Light with something to look at that wasn't the warriors eyes. "Words are important. Sometimes, they're everything." She shifted her hands almost in a shrug. "Sometimes, they're nothing. Sometimes. they're the first step to change."
Lights eyes narrowed in thought. It was a surprisingly insightful thing for Fang to say. She maintained her silence as she thought about it. Fang simply waited. "I was thinking on what difficulties lie ahead." Fang remained silent, her expression turning somber. She knew Lightning wasn't talking about this adventure they were all stuck on. "If we do survive this.. Everything is going to change."
"Change ain't necessarily bad."
"No. But it can be hard."
"That's what family is for. We help each other. Ease the pains and give a hand to the next step."
Words. Everything and nothing. The First steps to change.
She became aware of all the people around them; listened to snippets of conversations. A moment of anxiety made her wonder if anyone was talking about them, about her. She easily settled into her old standby role and got instantly defensive. Who were these people anyhow? Who was the man at the counter ordering his coffee? He wasn't anyone. He didn't matter. A woman was reading a map aloud to her spouce. She didn't matter either.
But even as she scrutinized everyone around her, she realized, she ought to be looking more at herself. These people didn't care. No one even spared them a second glance. Who was she? Who was she, being this woman's friend, all the while denying how she really felt?
The realization hit her rather hard. She had been denying her feelings. She loved Fang. She was in love with Fang.
Her attention moved back down to the woman sleeping on her shoulder. She'd slept through all the noise that Light could no longer filter out, oblivious to the epiphany she'd come to. Her heart caught in her throat. She was.. afraid. Afraid of this moment ending. Afraid that Fang would never return. Afraid of being along. Afraid that she couldn't even admit it, even if she knew it was true.
Vaguely she heard the clattering of the train in the background. A cheer ran through some of the crowed, others just quickly shuffled toward the platform. The noise began to wake the three.
Her family. Her sister and Fang were the most important people in her life, she realized. Extended beyond them was Snow and Vanille, and then the rest of their l'cie partners; family forged in fire. Now she understood.
Fang lifted off her shoulder, stretching and moving into an upright position once Vanille sat up. She rubbed idly at the indentation on her cheek where it had been pressed against Light's jacket too long. Slowly she realized the train had finally arrived.
They all stood and made their way toward the ramp to find out how things were going to go with so many passengers backed up.
A list of passengers from the earliest missed trains went up on the screens. They would be the first ones to board. Fang's name was listed. She turned to Light. "Guess this is it eh?"
Lightning couldn't even speak. Vanille and Sarah moved to hug Fang once again, wishing her a safe trip, and a speedy return home. She found herself staring at Fang, the words still refusing to come. Fang looked uncertain of what to think, and looked away to the people boarding the train before looking back to her again. "Well anyway.." She said as she hugged Light, though it wasn't returned, "I'll see you around.." She turned and headed for the train.
Sarah and Vanille were looking between Light and Fang, unsure what to say or do.
She wasn't sure if she was really hearing it or if it was just in her head, but she could hear Fang humming. Why would she be humming? For comfort? For who?
Lightning finally moved. It was, to her like time had fast forwarded from Fang sleeping on her shoulder to now. It was as if the world had passed her by, and now she had to catch up.
Blindly, she pushed her way through the crowed, desperate to catch up to her before she got onto the train. "FANG!" She called above the din.
Fang turned just in time to catch her as Light to ran into her. She held her like that as Light finally met her eyes. "I.. I love you. Come home soon."
Fang's gaze softened and her lips brushed against Light's for only a moment. "I promise."
Light watched the train pull away, Sarah and Vanille on either side of her, both trying to give her the support she needed. These were her sisters. She put and arm around both of the shorter girls' shoulders and pulled them a little closer. They would all get through this together.